Channeling the wisdom of others, I’ve incorporated the following seven quotes into my everyday worldview. I hope you enjoy each one, and that they inspire you as well.
To frame this blogpost, I honor my Mom who used to say to me, “Learn something new everyday.” To which I would irreverently reply, “…so that I’m really smart when I die?” Mom would simply smile, and say, “yes.”
Here we go:
I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” – Michael J. Fox
I am fixated on excellence. Think Excellence, Not Difference continues to serve as my foundation philosophy for building an enterprise. We all want excellence, in all aspects of our lives. That’s what we should expect, of most people and most actions, most of the time. Leave your standards of perfection to the almighty, but always reach for excellence.
“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Phil Condit
If you and I always agree, one of us isn’t needed. Together, we’ll accomplish much more than any of us on our own. Life is a team sport; get on board.
Do, or do not…there is no try.” – Yoda
I do not believe in giving every child a “participation” trophy. There are winners, and there are losers. Winners need to learn humility; losers need to learn to work harder to become winners. In the real world, effort alone isn’t enough. Never confuse activity for productivity. Get it done.
“You can’t build your reputation on what you’re going to do.” – Henry Ford
I wish all of our elected leaders truly embraced this fundamental concept. We all build our personal brands through our rearview mirror…it’s a reflection of what you’ve already accomplished, not a promise of the future. Do it now. We frequently say, “do good, and get caught.”
“People have been misnamed. We’re called ‘human beings.’ But aren’t we almost always ‘human doings?’” We need more time just to ‘be.’” – Rabbi Mark Levin
This is so true. How much time in your day is spent simply “being” and absorbing everything around you? If we turn down life’s noise, we can hear and see so much. Try to be a “being” for 15 minutes everyday. Find a place, and go there. To be or not to be…yup, ol’ Bill Shakespeare had it right.
“If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
I’m always amazed at the downhill skiers at the Olympics. They train for most of their lives for a one-minute run on the brink of disaster. Watch them before they start…you can see in their faces how they are visualizing their run. Each turn. Every dip. We are all our own worst enemy…or best friend. The only thing we can ever truly control is our attitude. Make it a good one, with a positive inclination. Nobody wants to be around Negative Nancy or Downer David. Envision success, and you’ll achieve it.
“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point-of-view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The person I call a terrorist, others call a freedom fighter. Was Darth Vadar a good or bad guy? Is Obama a good president? Is the economy “good” right now? Was that meal worth the cost? All of our “truths” are rooted in our point-of-view. As a communications professional, I’ve learned one of the most important aspects of effective communication is focusing on the recipient, not the sender. Essentially, it’s not what I WANT you to know; it’s what you NEED to hear. Everyone owns their own point-of-view.
What are your favorite quotes, and why? What inspires your worldview?
Here’s to “ever better” as we all move through the journey we call life. Onward and upward.Tagged Eric Morgenstern, Executive Insights
Last week, I came across an interesting article in The Kansas City Star explaining why women make better corporate leaders than men. I was intrigued, considering I know many successful female leaders. Then it got me thinking. Which qualities do women possess that make them such excellent leaders? The article lists the following reasons:
1. Women are inquisitive. They are excellent at determining which questions need to be asked and as a result, are able to find more than one solution to a problem.
2. Women take competing interests into consideration and take a cooperative approach when making decisions, according to a study, conducted by A.T. Still University in Arizona and McMaster University in Canada. This can lead to well-rounded decisions that are in the best interest of the company.
3. Women are not afraid to think outside the box. They take a creative approach when confronting an issue, which allows for unique solutions that aren’t limited by tradition.
While the article focuses on female leaders in the corporate world, I believe the qualities described are found in women, in every sector whether it is a startup, nonprofit, agency or corporate.
What other leadership qualities do you think women are likely to possess?Tagged Leadership, Morningstar Communications, Tricia Jaworski
This week in Parade, the front-page story featured a story on happy families.
The story included a quiz on attributes of happy families. One question in particular caught my attention. It asked: Difficult conversations among groups of family members go best if you have two what? The answer: women. It went on to explain that researchers analyzed nearly 700 people working in groups and found those with more women than men were better accepting input from everyone, more capable of reaching a compromise and more efficient.
It stands to reason that some of those same attributes serve women well in business, and firms that embrace women as leaders could benefit from this different style of leadership. In fact, a Harvard Business Review shows women excel in business, are better communicators and are more likely to take initiative to make change. And those are just a few reasons women make better business leaders. Firms with women on their boards saw a 42 percent higher sales return, a 56 percent return on invested capital and a 53 percent higher return on equity than those without, according to the study.
Here in Kansas City, the Win Win campaign set a goal of increasing gender diversity at the top of area companies by 20 percent by 2015. I don’t know about you, but I think businesses should be taking a hard look at how diversifying their leadership can lead to real ROI.Tagged Leadership, Sheri Johnson, strategic insight, women’s issues
There’s an art to facilitating a panel discussion. As a facilitator, your overarching goal is to help the smart panelists share the most information in the shortest amount of time. Importantly, your role as moderator also includes a responsibility to connect the dots between the panelists for a smooth flow of information.
How come so many people have it wrong?
First of all, the most important point of view is that of the audience, not the panelists’. With that in mind, here are the five keys to facilitate a terrific panel discussion:
1. Require all panelists to participate in a brief conference call about a week before the event.
Having each panelist spend just a few minutes preparing for the event helps ensure they have carefully thought about what they want to say, instead of just waking up the morning of the event and saying whatever is on their mind. During the call, ask each panelist to think about the single main point they want the attendees to learn from them. Have them send you an email with a simple paragraph / bullet points about their main point. That’s their “home run” answer. Also, ask them to email you just one or two other questions / comments they’d like to make. The panelists are usually the best source for content, but only if you ask ahead of time, and in time to use it effectively.
2. Provide written bios that are distributed before the panel discussion begins.
Attendees want to learn from the panelists, not just about them. One surefire way to kill the energy in the room is to introduce each panelist with a laudatory list of accolades. What a waste of time. Simply say at the beginning, “Each of the panelists has provided a bio (perhaps you’ve had to edit them all into a consistent style or length) so you can learn about them. We’re going to focus our discussion on learning from them, instead of acknowledging their exceptional qualifications.”
3. Deliver a “home run” answer with the first question.
Determine the most logical order for the panelists to deliver their home run answers. That should be the first question each panelist gets. It’s much easier to ask a good question when you already know the answer. For example, instead of a generic question like, “What’s the most important attribute you seek when looking for a consultant in your industry?” try something like, “I know Mary has a short list of key attributes when seeking a consultant, but at the top of the list is integrity. Mary, help us understand why integrity is more important to you than expertise?” Yes, that’s a leading question, but that’s the point. This isn’t “60 Minutes” or a nightly newscast. Remember, the goal is to share the information. This approach connects questions with answers in a more meaningful manner.
4. Create dialogue between panelists…help connect the dots.
After the first round of questions, you should have a handful of prepared and approved questions. Here’s what separates good from great: connecting the dots. As Frank Kingdom said, “Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.” A truly skilled facilitator will bridge the conversation with questions such as, “Fred mentioned passion and Mary focuses on integrity, but I know one of the most important traits for you, Joe, is inquisitiveness. How do you balance?” Great facilitation requires a marine-like mindset. America sends the marines into hostile territory first. They’re taught to “read and react.” Is that a baby in the carriage or a bomb? Great facilitation requires reacting – more than just planning.
5. Give each panelist a “final comment.”
As the panel nears the end, offer each panelist a final comment. The question can be as simple as, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” This question will not surprise the panelists because you will have told them during the advance conference call that they will be given this opportunity. Suggest they use the final comment question in one of three ways:
This creates a bookend from the home run and provides a sense of closure to the discussion.
Again, the goal is to help facilitate the knowledge transfer from the panelists to the attendees. There should never be a “gotcha” or a question they didn’t expect.
Focus on the audience and help the panelists share the most important points. Remember, it’s about the audience, not the panelists.
Onward and upward.Tagged Eric Morgenstern, meeting facilitation, panel, panel discussion, panel facilitation, panelist
A recent Towers Watson study indicates employees need three things to outperform their peers: Engagement, enablement and energy.
Towers Watson defines engagement as an attachment to the company and willingness to give extra effort. Enabled employees work in an environment that supports productivity and performance. Energized employees enjoy individual physical, social and emotional well-being at work. Sustained engagement requires all three.
These three key elements become increasingly important during times when basic engagement alone simply isn’t enough to ensure the long-term benefits that come from an engaged workforce. Towers Watson found even engaged employees lose their effectiveness in times of dramatic change and fluctuating economic situations.
If you take stock of your organization and find a culture shift is in order to achieve sustained engagement, take a lesson from the Public Service of New Hampshire or Eagle Star Insurance Company. Rather than spending countless resources and energy on huge culture change, they focused on immediate issues and achieved results much more quickly. Setting incremental goals and addressing specific issues first allowed for immediate steps toward success, and the ability to focus on more strategic challenges later. Importantly, the process enabled employees to address issues, set direction and achieve results.
Our client, Hallmark Business Connections, encourages companies to create a culture of enrichment to achieve the energized state Towers Watson mentions. As author Simon Senik describes, “People who love going to work are more productive and creative. They go home happy and have happier families. Inspired employees make for stronger companies and stronger economies.”
As your business closes the book on 2012, what plans have you made to foster sustained engagement in in the New Year?Tagged Culture, employee engagement, enrichment, Executive Insights, Morningstar Communications, Sheri Johnson
All of us have a To-Do list. We keep track of what we need to accomplish and enjoy a sense of satisfaction after completing each task. In fact, my colleague Sheri Johnson often makes a list that includes a few items already completed just so she can start by scratching a few things off!
But where’s your To-Don’t list?
We don’t do blast faxes anymore. Nor do we use paper maps, or even go online to prepare and print directions. Now we just jump in our car and let our smart phones tell us where to go, step-by-step.
So what are you still doing, that you simply shouldn’t do anymore? What tasks aren’t relevant or important anymore? I’m not talking about delegating or postponing; I’m talking about eliminating.
This is concurrently both a terrifying and liberating process for business executives. I’ve personally coached a number of execs through this process. It really works. Here’s how to proceed:
Start with a blank sheet and, from memory, make a list of all the To-Dos that come to mind. Stop when you reach 10 or so. Then, step back and reflect. I’ve found at least 10 percent of our tasks don’t need to be done anymore, whether it’s that mid-month meeting or report, the pre-planning meeting for the meeting or a status update that nobody really needs.
Here’s an example. As a company updated its software throughout the month various people issued update notices. At the end of the month the head of the communications department wanted to make sure that everyone understood what changes had been made that month, so he consolidated all of the update notices into one summary. But he wondered how much value his colleagues received from the summary. He surveyed all 300 of his colleagues, and he only got nine responses. And the ninth one told him, “…I never read this report, but I really like you, and wanted to respond.”
Clearly, this activity should slide immediately to his To Don’t list.
Can you trim 10 percent off your list?
I contend that at least 10 percent of everyone’s To-Do list can simply be eliminated, and with no real loss.
What are the characteristics of good things to put on a To-Don’t list? I believe they fall into one of three categories:
Stop doing a regular task and see if anyone notices. Or complains. If they do, just start right back up again. But you might be pleasantly surprised how many tasks you simply don’t have to do anymore. And you’ll find at least 10 percent more time every day!
Create your personal To-Don’t list today. And then scratch that one off your To-Do list.
Onward and upward.
(For more on To-Don’t lists, check out this article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterbregman/2012/06/26/whats-on-your-to-dont-list/)Tagged Eric Morgenstern, Executive Insights, Morningstar Communications, To-Don't Lists
I don’t believe in “can’t win” situations.
As a life-long Star Trek fan I often couch my philosophies in terms of lessons I have learned from Star Trek. One of those lessons is the Kobayashi Maru. It refers to a no-win situation that can only be won by changing the rules, in effect cheating. The Kobayashi Maru is a small ship featured in a Star Fleet Academy training simulation. The Kobayashi Maru sends out a distress signal and the student plays the role of a starship captain who comes to the rescue. However, the scenario is rigged so that no matter what the captain does, the starship gets destroyed by enemy forces. The purpose of the test is to see how the student faces defeat, however James T. Kirk refused to accept defeat and he reprogrammed the simulation so that he would be successful.
I don’t advocate cheating, but in business, there’s almost always “another way” to find success.
You win some and you lose some in business. But often, people accept defeat gracefully when they could have been successful by changing the parameters. We find ourselves in a situation where we feel compelled to choose between Bad Choice A and Bad Choice B.
I say, never settle, pull a “Kobayashi Maru,” change the parameters, look at the situation differently and then come up with a Good Choice C.
Gregory Conti and James Caroland are military security experts and they recently published an article entitled Embracing the Kobayashi Maru: Why You Should Teach Your Students to Cheat. They advocated how important it is to learn to think creatively when considering adversary behavior.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet Julia Dandolova, the Director of the Jewish Distribution Committee in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian people are masters at the Kobayashi Maru – although I doubt they would use that term. When the Nazis occupied Bulgaria in World War II they forbid anyone to harbor any Jews in their homes. Their work around was to move into neighbor’s homes, leaving their own homes vacant so that Jewish families could move in.
They say life is a battlefield
I say bring it on
If you wanna know how I feel
Live it till it’s gone
I’m just saying that what don’t kill
Only makes you strong.
Never give up. Never surrender. Always look for a Kobayashi Maru. It’s there, you just have to look a little harder.
Live long and prosper.Tagged Executive Insights, Kobayashi Maru, Morningstar Communications, Shanny Morgenstern, Star Trek
My Mom used to say, “Learn something new everyday.” To which, I would reply irreverently, “…so I’ll be really smart when I die?” And my Mom would simply smile, and say, “yes.”
Be a lifelong learner. I’ve taken Mom’s advice to heart. As Morningstar Communications celebrates our 15th anniversary today, I offer you these 15 lessons learned from building our business.
I hope these words of advice help you through the journey called life.
I’ll close this post with a bonus tip: when posed with an important business decision I suggest that you consider these three questions first:
We’re truly honored to have reached our 15th anniversary. We’re confident and optimistic for the future and we so appreciate your support. Unparalleled thanks to my life and business partner, our COO, Shanny Morgenstern. Incredible appreciation for Sheri, Tricia, Rachel, Suchitra, and the entire team at Morningstar Communications. And a special shout-out to all our alums, who have left an indelible impact on our firm and our clients.
And to our clients, who have trusted us to strengthen and grow your business – thank you.
Onward and upward.Tagged business lessons, Eric Morgenstern, Executive Insights, Morningstar Communications, tips and tricks
I find all the recent stories about the age of professionals running social media programs an interesting debate. A student from the University of Iowa was slammed recently for her assertion that all social media managers should be under 25. Another more recent story from Inc. negates the idea such a young individual has the professional life experience to manage a brand online. It was countered by a story authored by a 23-year-old social media manager in Ragan’s PR Daily.
I think skills and experience should be the primary consideration when determining the right person to handle a social media program. And, I believe pulling together the right team makes all the difference.
At Morningstar Communications, the social media programs we manage for clients are developed and implemented as one part of a broad communications strategy – a strategy crafted and driven by a team with a range of expertise and experience. It makes for the best balance between effective brand management and cutting-edge implementation when it comes to social media. By defining roles and parameters, responding quickly to conversations and understanding the brand and its audience, we’re able to create robust and successful programs, where the age of the person curating and posting content is the least relevant issue.
What do you think? Is social media management only for the younger generations?Tagged Executive Insights, millennials, Morningstar Communications, Sheri Johnson, social media, Strategic Communications
When I started training for the Waddell and Reed half-marathon this summer, I was surprised to find that some of the lessons I learned from running paralleled lessons I was learning from my internship here at Morningstar Communications. Here are a handful of my favorites:
Make a plan. The most important part of training for any long-distance run is making sure you have a plan of action leading up to the race. Setting weekly goals makes the end result of 13 miles all at once seem less daunting and gives me a sense of accomplishment with every run.
Sitting down each day and making a plan of attack allows me to manage my time more effectively and break down tasks into smaller bites. Talking to my supervisor in our weekly one-on-ones also helps me set reachable goals each week.
Invest early. One of the most-shared pieces of advice I’ve heard about training for a marathon is to register early. Every time my alarm goes off on Saturday morning, that registration fee motivates me to get out of bed instead of hitting snooze.
The same is true at my job. I’m more likely to do my best work or volunteer for tasks when I am genuinely invested in the client, my coworkers or the project.
When I start a new job, class or project, one of my biggest worries is messing up. Once I get past that fear, I realize making a mistake is okay as long as I’m willing to fix it, learn from it and move on.
Push the limits. On my really long runs, I’m often tempted to take shortcuts or go slower than my goal pace. It’s always easy to find ways to rationalize not going as hard as I am capable of. The problem is that not pushing myself during training means that on race day, I won’t be able to run my best race.
Internships work the same way. It’s very tempting to take it easy when employment has a definite end-date. Challenging myself during internships allows me to learn more during this training period and become better prepared for a post-graduation job.