How Twitter Went from a Fad to a Trend

In this  video episode of Karen McCullough’s Lessons from the Road Karen explores the difference between a fad and a trend.

A Fad is something new that people are doing while a Trend is a new way of doing things.

Trends rise slowly, whereas fads spike—and  die out— quickly. Take Twitter – Twitter has been called the pulse of the planet — Twitter is best friends with  Katy Perry, Ashton Kusher, LeBron, the Arab Spring, journalists, freaks, geeks and  even the Pope. But it didn’t start off with a bang when is was created by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass and launched by July 2006. It was a really slow go until January 2009 when a man named Janus Krums was on a ferry when US Airway flight 1549 had engine failure and landed in the Hudson.  He snapped a photeo and posted it on Twitter sending it out to his 170 followers…and it spread and spread across the world.  Krums along with Twitter scooped the media.

It has beed said that this one incident made Twitter  the #1 the source of how many get their news each day.  Is Twitter a Fad or a Trend?

 

3 Reasons to Rebrand

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When my web analytics team told me I had 12 thousand hits on my website using the keyword “rebranding” I was blown away. Sure, I knew many organizations  and associations were in the midst of redefining their brand, but this level of interest did catch me off guard.

As a result of learning about the volume of inquiry regarding rebranding, I sat up, listened, and got excited! I decided to do a deep dive into the subject to learn more about rebranding and what people are saying about it. Here is what I found to be the major drivers for this massive rebranding trend.

 

The Customer Drives the Marketplace
We know that the customer has always been in charge of their decisions. What is different today is how the Internet has empowered customers to know more about making purchases and to react to buying decisions in a whole different way.

Today’s customer has the following traits:
• Always connected—many sleep with their phones!
• Hyper-informed: they know what they want before they buy.
• Have a choice overloaded: the competition is seconds away.
• Highly influenced by peer opinions.

 

This new customer behavior crosses all types of organizations. It’s true for large corporate industries and massive destination-city promotions. It’s true for nonprofit organizations and the mom-and-pop retail outlets. It’s true for anyone who depends on customers parting with their money in exchange for any goods or services.
Narrow Niche Target Audiences
Because the empowered customer has the attention span of a goldfish (thank you,Sally Hogshead), most organizations are forced to narrow their niche in order to be found by their target audience.
Take music, for example, you may not be noticed at all if your niche is simply music. But if you want to keep followers on their toes noticing your constant reinvention, target the audience who loves to see you break all the rules and wants you to find your own path. Lady Gaga has followed that road map to fame and fortune. Lady Gaga didn’t become the success she is today based solely on her ability to belt out a great song. She did so by as Jacki Hubba shares, creating a hugely loyal fan base through not only her music, but her message, and her community of fans (her tribe). She has a loyal group of fans that she lovingly calls her “monsters,” and she actually treats them as if they are Rock Stars! No one can beat her ability to brand herself effectively.

Success with the new customer means you must acutely listen to what your customers want.
Create systems to listen everywhere:
• Listen to the comments made to your personnel.
• Listen to the customer service call topics.
• Listen to the search terms used to find you.
• Listen to social media and get engaged in conversations there.
• Listen to internal customers (employees).

 

Change is the New Normal
Just this week I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of successful business owners. After my presentation, several of the attendees shared with me that they hated change—social media and technology—and they weren’t going to budge. They were a tough crowd! They reminded me of some of the audiences I had back in the early days of my speaking career—those successful business leaders who told me that they weren’t going to learn how to send emails because that’s what they had secretaries for!
I wonder how they are doing today?

In one of my “Lessons from the Road,” I talk about the most common myths about change.

The question is not “Will you change?” the question is “How will you respond to change?

Once we understand change is inevitable, rebranding becomes a natural reaction to those changes. Your rebranding today is not the final time you will need to change perceptions of your brand, so fully understand it is much more than hiring a graphic artist to develop a new logo and slogan for you.

Rebranding is a process of following the needs, desires, and patterns of your best customers and prospects. Notice the word “process.” Rebranding is not an event. It is a way of doing your business … and everyone in your organization is part of the brand.

LFTR #25 Big Lesson on Rebranding – The 4 questions you need to ask

In this episode of Karen McCullough’s Lessons from the Road Karen shares her 4 Branding Questions that every organization and individual needs to address when they go through their re-branding process.

Karen also reminds the viewer that when you are in the thick of rebranding you may get so into it, that you want to change everything, STOP- Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water! Your loyal year after yeat customer needs something to connect to.

Managing & Marketing to Millennials

Managing & Marketing to Millennials

Southwest Airlines Taught me the True Meaning of Inclusion! Thanks Ellen, Jeff, Gary, Liji, and the whole SWA team. You walk your talk.

I travel across the country speaking on change and generations in the workplace and I can assure you that there is no silver bullet when it comes to managing and marketing to  Millennials—people born after 1980 and especially those now leaving college. The key to successfully managing—and marketing to—this generation begins with understanding them. They look at their world, lifestyle, and work very differently than the generations preceding them do. The unpopular news is that you have to meet Millennials where they are. Yes, it does take more energy, but if you invest the extra time, you’re more likely to keep them in your organization and grow their talent. The bottom line is that forcing them to conform to your way will only push them away.

Workplace expectations that Millennials have include:

Change is Good- Leaders Go First!

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Recently I watched the Academy Award nominated movie “The Theory of Everything.” I love it and I became fascinated by the way Stephen Hawking thinks.  I began to dig a little deeper and found this quote:

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” ~ —Stephen Hawking

Wow! … what a gutsy statement.  It implies inversely, that those who are not willing to change are not intelligent.  I know that is not true., but  think about it.

We are in a time of tremendous change and there are some people in leadership roles  not responding well.

Change happens anyway.

Between customer empowerment, expectations of the Millennial generation and technology, NOTHING is staying the same.  The constantly shifting marketplace is screaming, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”  Companies and the teams within the company cannot afford to be complacent about change unless they are planning on going the way of the dinosaur. Complacency is a silent killer of a team and its organization as well as a career. One way to fight complacency is by challenging one’s self t hear new ways of thinking and ideas. Today’s leaders must be open to collaboration and inclusion to truly understand what each team member brings to the table.

 

The Fear Factor

shutterstock_76982275Many organizations are in full-blown transformation mode right now.  Some members of the team might not be comfortable with the shifting sands beneath them. Many see change as a way of moving them out and that is a paralyzing and frightening thought.   People are looking for help from leaders who will need to tackle the changes head-on and those leaders need to reassure each person that they are a valued member of the team.
Here are a few things we all need in a changing environment:

1. Clarity – When left to their own way of viewing changes, the employee may be frozen into inaction.  When their leader is able to help them understand the objectives and assure them of how all “what-if” situations will be handled, it helps everyone identify a path toward resolving issues as they come up during the change.
2. Collaboration – Each employee wants to feel empowered to bring their own strengths to the task and feel confident that other team members will “have their back” in areas where they feel a vulnerability or weakness.
3. Constructive Disruption – Unexpected things are going to happen.  Seeing opportunity in everything allows the team to anticipate the unexpected and work toward the clear goals identified by the leadership.
4. Adaptability -– In a rapidly changing marketplace, work teams benefit from knowing “What’s next.”.  They must change the lens from looking internally for direction and purpose to looking outwardly. A solid, adaptable ecosystem can challenge the old ways of doing things and develop a real competitive advantage.

 

Leadership’s Role in Change
Let’s get down to the essence of how a strong leader facilitates change.  It’s much more than getting out in front of the your people and telling them changes are going to take place and to get on board the “change train.”
Opportunities are everywhere, and strong leaders can see them.  Not only can strong change leaders see current opportunities, they recognize that great opportunities will continue and only a team prepared for those changes will be able to maximize those opportunities.
Strong change leaders will build effective teams with different points of view.  They will reach out to all generations and all cultures.  When given free expression, diversity of thought converges into giving rise to unbeatable companies.  It unleashes a passionate pursuit of excellence with each team member., and  will allows each member of the team to feel part of creating a legacy together.shutterstock_104867063

Diversity of thought fuels discovery and collaboration leads to fresh, new ideas to keep the spirit of change alive and well in the workplace.  It builds entire ecosystems within the company to provide the flexibility needed to grasp new opportunities as they are recognized.Strong change leaders will anticipate constructive disruption and never forget the customer along the way.  With a clear vision of the desired outcome, the team will combine diverse talents into a powerful, adaptive ecosystem in the midst of drastic change.

 

It’s Not Too Late
Complacency will become a silent killer to any organization.  You must wake up each morning eager to discover what your customers want from you and how you are going to deliver it.  As a change agent, you must also know how to sell change to employees and get them engaged.  You want them to be excited about it to the point that they bring fresh insight into the process of transformation.
Become a change leader for your organization, its employees, and your industry at large.  Encourage everyone to think differently in the face of a rapidly changing marketplace.

5 Tips to Help Make Your Story Sticky

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Recently I spoke to a fantastic group of around 200 emerging leaders in the Hospitality Industry at the 70th Annual Short Course. In my keynote, I did a piece on telling your story, and I had them get into pairs and share their personal story of,  “How they got into the hotel business.”

They say that facts tell but stories sell… So, move over Brothers Grimm, storytelling is not just for kids anymore. Your story is a powerful tool that can help you advance your career, step into your leadership potential, and build a meaningful professional brand.

We each have a story inside us waiting to be told. Powerful stories do more than entertain – they establish rapport, develop teams, make the sale, attract talent, relieve stress, build trust, manage expectations, and they make us smile.

If you want to get really good at telling your story here are a few tips to think about:

1. Tim Sanders will tell you that first off  you need to be likeable, so don’t brag or over compliment yourself. A little self-deprecating humor never hurts. Remember that friendliness, relevance, empathy , and authenticity matter.

 

2. People identify with characters- so if you are telling a story that involves someone else such as a teacher, parent, or good friend, embellish on that person and create a real and descriptive character that is memorable.

 

3.  Great stories have emotions and are inspiring. When you are thinking about your story, take the listener on a short journey. In your life you may have been faced with a challenge or a roadblock. Share with us what you did to overcome that challenge, and ultimately when you emerged, you were  happier, more successful or maybe even transformed.

 

4.  Great stories are memorable so make your story “sticky” by referring to an iconic  place, famous person or event. Sticky stories hold the audience’s attention and they are remembered and retold time and again.

People continually ask me  to retell my “Sting Story”

5.  Ultimately, we are remembered by our stories, but no one will tell your story if you don’t first tell it yourself.

So, what are you waiting for?

Get going and start telling your story!

5 Undeniable Truths about Diversity

 

Diversity training can be uncomfortable for many of us because we have a fear of either being judged or seen as judging others. Even popular and forward thinking television shows reveal our discomfort with the subject. Although it’s hysterically funny and a bit over the top, this episode of The Office, shows how totally off track perceptions of diversity and the experiences of others appear.

Both Saturday Night Live and Jerry Seinfield TV shows have been called out for their lack of diversity. SNL’s absence of a black female cast member on the show since Maya Rudolph left, and Jerry uses the defense “Funny is the world I live in…I have no interest in gender or race…Are you making us laugh or not?”

 

The diversity challenge goes way beyond your company’s legal obligations to comply with legislation for equal opportunity and non-discrimination.   A diverse workforce has lower turnover, better employee morale, higher sales and increased profits.

When it comes to living out diversity, the truth is, we find it much easier to simply keep ourselves surrounded by people like us even though, the benefits of a diverse workforce are HUGE!

 

Truth One – Where there is Diversity there is profit!

Study after study proves diversity adds to the bottom line. In fact, way back in 2009, a study was published in the “American Sociological Review”. When the researchers compared the workplaces with the most diversity to those with lowest levels of racial diversity, the workforces with a mix of races had 15 times more sales. That’s impressive…and we are only talking about racial diversity in this study.

True diversity is not that simple. It is much more than a mixture of races and genders. It encompasses ethnic groups, age, personality type, cognitive style, ability, tenure, education, lifestyle, organizational function and a whole host of other things.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”

~ Stephen Covey

Neil Lenane is Business Leader Talent Management with Progressive Insurance. He is quoted as saying, “If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.” He says the company does not see diversity as a program. Instead it is a cultural movement with measurable results.   The team is able to overcome inhibitions and apprehensions to become more innovative. With innovation comes the ability to better understand customer needs.

As a bonus, he believes this core principle allows the company to cast a wider net to reach the best talent too. This is a claim you will often hear from companies who have successfully implemented diversity into the company culture.

Diversity brings profits in the television industry too. Although many see the entertainment industry to be liberal and progressive, true diversity in this industry is in its infancy. Data from ratings shows the highest-rated dramas and comedies were shows with 41 to 50 percent Black/Latino/Asian casts and had a median household rating of 5.84. Shows casting the least diverse mix had a median household rating of 3.79. So, this season we can look for shows like Blackish, Christela, The Goldbergs, and the newest featuring an Asian-American family, Fresh Off the Boat to prosper.

 

 

 

Truth Two: Diversity can be Messy

With all this data supporting the fact diversity is a profitable undertaking, why do we still need to talk about it? The bottom line truth of bringing diversity into the workplace is uncomfortable and it’s challenging.

Newer companies begin the hiring process with an intentional focus on incorporating diversity into the company culture. It is one reason why many new start ups are making higher profits. When your company is large and well established, diversity is a bigger challenge. Here is why:

  • Communication Barriers: When the workforce is made up of people with different perceptions, cultures and native languages it can often spiral into ineffective communication. Team members may be confused, have trouble working as a team and eventually lead to low morale.
  • Resistance to Change: In every established company you will have employees who refuse to accept change. The mentality of “we’ve always done it this way” destroys any new ideas and stops progress in its tracks.
  • Leadership Weaknesses: Having a workshop about diversity does not prepare the leadership for managing a diverse workforce. Although they may be armed with assessment data of employees, creating an implementation plan for their particular team is no small task.

Sad to say, exclusion is a human instinct. People tend to cluster in tightly knit groups because they want to be with others who think like them. Gender diversity often falls prey to this bias. Men, who dominate the upper management positions, tend to spend time together casually. They may all go to lunch together for example. Asking the upwardly mobile female to join them may feel uncomfortable to everyone involved. Yet, relationships are deepened, business is discussed and decisions are made in these informal encounters.

Formal mentoring can be an effective way to address the subtle prejudices that sabotage diversity efforts. Mentors provide advice, feedback and career coaching , and almost no one is blatant about their discriminatory attitudes.   It shows up in subtle habits that are harder to diagnose and very hard to cure.

The next step after mentoring is sponsorship. Sponsors are advocates in positions of authority who use their influence intentionally to help others advance. Both are important to advancement as employees navigate the workplace and earn opportunities for growth.

 

 

Truth Three: Your Brain is to Blame

Even when a change of habits is life or death, humans are resistant to making drastic changes. Studies show that about one out of nine patients who undergo coronary bypass surgery actually changed their habits. Although the number of studies to support lifestyle changes is abundant, these patients settle back into their familiar lifestyle and took their chances.

If people won’t change their behavior to save their own lives, how can we expect them to change their work habits just because it will make them happier, more innovative and provide massive profits to the company where they work?

Here is the scientific answer: the interplay between working memory and focused attention are at odds with each other. Working memory, the holding area where new information can be used, engages the prefrontal cortex. It is the brain’s area for rational thinking. It is energy-intensive and fatigues easily.

The brain is wired to recognize perceived differences between an expected outcome and actual outcomes. When it perceives differences, it fires off neurons connected to fear. With the fear circuitry engaged, it quickly morphs into anger and counterproductive behaviors.

Humans love to do what is easiest and the brain supports the easy way of perceiving. When you are doing known tasks, the basal ganglia, located deep in the brains core, is in performance. These behaviors take less energy than what is needed by the prefrontal cortex. No real conscious thought is required, so diverse ideas are quickly and easily rejected.

Without the ability to intentionally overcome our brain’s reaction to outside perceptions, it becomes really hard to collaborate with people who think differently. Understanding how the brain is wired will help empower your actions toward diversity goals.

 

Truth Four: The World is Getting Smaller

As the world of business becomes more globalized, the need for diversity increases. Technology has allowed business to be conducted across borders easily. Expanding into foreign markets is absolutely essential for success in world-class companies. Otherwise, smaller companies from across the world who were “born global” will drain away market share.

Decisions made during the process of globalization walk a thin line between efficiency, with consistent processes, and adapting to the markets of different cultures. Having a diverse workforce gives these companies a competitive advantage. When employees come from diverse backgrounds it gives the company a wider perspective. A diverse customer base pushes innovation to develop new products and services to meet the needs of a diverse marketplace.

 

Truth Five: Trust the Process

The inherent discomfort of diversity can be overcome when it is part of a company’s everyday process. Four primary processes can be remembered with 4C’s – Commitment, Collaboration, Communication and Competence. When these 4C’s are applied to the goal of diversity in the workplace, trust is developed.

“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are a product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” ~ James Surowiecki

Trust is critical to the success of a diverse team because they will be constantly interacting to reach company goals. In a blog article, Emergenetics explains how they have developed a process called the WE approach to collaboration. Their methods show how high-level teams tap into the different brains of individuals to establish trust.

  • Credible resources are used to support facts and conclusions which open up the analytical pathways in the brain.
  • Procedures are established for everyone to follow with a process to create realistic timelines and expectations. The processes and procedures protect the brain from feelings of fear.
  • Social consideration is given to how certain behaviors may impact other people and validate their feelings and emotions.
  • Exploring new concepts opens the conceptual pathways in the brain to allow each member to communicate their vision of the future.

The article goes on to say, “The combining of thoughts and behaviors in a way that expresses respect and understanding to those around us enables us to build and maintain trust over time.”

In an article in Inc magazine, Geil Browning, brain researcher and founder of Emergenetics shares her lessons in diversity.

  1. Communicate openly about cognitive diversity.
  2. Deliberately hire all thinking and behavior types.
  3. Put your diversity to work.
  4. Make cognitive diversity a core part of your culture.

As more and more companies are uncovering the benefits of a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment in which each member of the team is valued, respected, and is able to fully contribute their talents, the conversations will become easier.

 

When we reach the point we can see diversity and inclusion as a normal ways to build successful companies, our world will be better for it.

In the words of Commander Spock in Star Trek: “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations…symbolizing the elements that create truth and beauty.”

Karen’s Top 5 Lessons from the Road

A few years back I decided to make short, informative, and fun videos sharing a lesson that I (a professional speaker) learned while on the road.  Partnering with videographer Mike Svat we strive to create stories that will put a smile on your face,information in your head,and a little motivation in your belly!

Here they are: The Top 5 Lessons from the Road Videos that had the most views:

#1. Gen X always a winner: Lessons from the Road #11 – Gen X Is the Bridge between Boomers and Millennials

#2. Turn a Negative into a Positive- Dealing with rejections

#3.Stress Relief – I need a to-do list

#4. Push Yourself to the Edge

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#5. She Left Just before LeBron Came Back (My sister Patty made the list!)

Women Rock like a Rocken’ RockStar

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A few weeks ago I had the honor and privilege to keynote at  the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council in the Woodlands, Texas.
The theme of the event was, “Women Who Rock.” The previous year they had my good friend and Houston Rock Star, Dayna Steele keynote, so I new I had some big shoes to fill. More than 450 women attended this fantastic luncheon with the purpose of supporting the United Way Women’s Leadership Council Young
Mother’s Daycare Scholarship. Since the theme was Women Who Rock, my Rock like a rocken’ RockStar story was the perfect ending for their conference. I was psyched!
 

I was enjoying interacting with the attendees, and was especially have fun with Ms. Retta Bobo, discovering that we both have great taste and the exact same glasses frames- IMG_2686

When Retta took the stage I was thrilled that she was the first speaker. She opened saying that we were there to support the Montgomerycounty United Way and break the cycle of poverty and dependence through education.She then told her story sharing the difficulty of having an infant while trying to finish her college education. The cost of quality daycare is one of the greatest obstacles young mothers face if they want to continue their education.

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Then the two scholarship recipients spoke and brought the audience to tears and amazement as they shared their stories of love, passion, challenges, determination and achievement. One of the women said it best, “The daycare obstacle was the 20-foot-tall cement wall standing between me and my education, and the daycare scholarship crumbled that wall.” She is now studying nursing at Lone Star College and hopes to continue her education by completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees to become an anesthesiologist.

 

When it was my time to speak, I took the emotion and the inspiration from the scholarship recipients I delivered my message, sharing that we just heard proof that it is how we face our challenges that matter. I said, “Through our coming together today we can see that we are not facing any of these challenges alone. And that it is vital that we encourage, support and elevate each other. “

The conference title, Women Who Rock, was right on, not only for the attendees but  for all women. Women are not small, we are not insignificant, and we are not “less than”- we are ENOUGH! Actually, we are more than enough, and the world needs to see more of us. More of our inner awareness, more of our self confidence, creativity, youthfulness, open-mindedness, more of our feminine spirit and our wisdom.

Because as women we all ROCK like  ROCKEN’ ROCKSTARS!

 

 

Millennial Women Have Landed!

Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of speaking at several women’s conferences and I am excited to announce that, “Millennial Women Have Landed!”

Millennial women (AKA Gen Y ages 21-35) are redefining what success looks like. This generation of women feel they are defined by what they do –  blending their work/careers and their personal lives. They are embracing “The Slash”: Career (banker)/yoga instructor/dog-walker/loving wife and mother/preschool volunteer/weekend gourmet/blogger/and so on!

Pew research tells us that Gen Y women are enthusiastic, optimistic, and ambitious. So, Hats off to you Boomer women for paving the way and to you Gen X for telling the world what’s important to women. Millennial women have reaped the benefits and are showing up “In Charge”.