We spend more of our waking hours at the office than we do at home. That’s why we focus so much on creating great space for our team and our clients.
We recently moved into our new office, 12701 Metcalf. After just a few weeks, we’re settling in nicely. Last week, one of our clients told me, “…your love of nature and natural light really shows…it’s as if you put your office in a treehouse.”
Works for me.
We’ll share additional pictures later, but we wanted to give you a quick glimpse of the view from my desk.
We only moved physically four blocks south, but we’ve “moved” miles in terms of improving our work environment. We gave away all of the cubicles, and invested in much more collaborative benching office furnishings for our team. There is much more natural light. We invested heavily in technology and communications infrastructure, including wireless connectivity for all mobile devices to project on our large TV in the board room. No more separate projectors. And screaming fast wired connections, in addition to wireless everywhere. We’re continuing to eliminate as much paper as possible; we only moved one filing cabinet! Scan and save. That’s our motto.
We’re adjacent to Deer Creek, and enjoy all the trees, birds and critters you could ever want.
I often smile, and say, “Work is a four-letter word.” But when you’re working in a treehouse, it makes the days fly by, with a smile on your face.
Onward and upward.Tagged Deer Creek, Eric Morgenstern, Kansas City, Metcalf, Morningstar Communications, new office, Overland Park
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
I’ve always been heavy. Overweight. Big. Call it what you will.
Back in grade school, my mom would take me to the “husky” department to buy new pants. You know those bell-shaped curves that show your proper weight based on your height? Yup, I’ve always been “outside” the bulk of the curve.
And now, for the first time, I’m committed to losing weight and improving my overall health.
Shanny and I are participating in the Not So “Big KC” Challenge, phase two (NSBKC2). We are among 25 civic leaders who have joined Mayor Sly James and KC Chamber President and CEO Jim Heeter in phase two of this healthy living program, powered by BlueKC.
As a member of the KC Chamber Board and CEO of Blue KC’s strategic communications firm, I feel compelled to participate, show personal leadership, and support this important initiative. On a personal level, I’ll feel better, live longer and have less pain. Transcending those responsibilities, leadership simply needs to set a better example.
And that’s the purpose of this post: to educate and inspire you to move further down your own personal path toward a healthier life.
Since the NSBKC2 official kick off on February 5, I’ve substantially changed two fundamental aspects of my life: activity and diet.
“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
As Dori said in “Finding Nemo,” my version is “just keep moving, moving, moving…” As part of this program, I now carry a Fitbit, a small device about the size of a thumb drive. Men put it in a pants pocket and women clip it to their bra. It’s amazing technology; it tracks each step, floor, distance and calories burned. It then syncs those stats with your smartphone and uploads to the website. “They” are monitoring me. Daily. This automatic system works. Carrying the Fitbit has changed my behavior.
I now talk on my mobile phone and walk laps around my conference room (obviously when nobody else is in there!). I park far away. I take the stairs. We are supposed to walk at least 10,000 steps every single day. I’ve averaged above 10k so far, and with spring around the corner, I’m eager to continue that trend.
I’ve also started a new kind of movement I call Rhythmic Walking. It’s not really Dance Walking (see this fun video), but I walk in a serpentine pattern along with the beat of great tunes. And every time I see someone as I’m out in the ‘hood with our dog Raia, they smile. Sure, they might be laughing at me, but I choose to think they’re inspired and encouraged to do their own exercise.
Because I have chronic knee, hip and back pain, I reached out to Matt Condon and the amazing team at the Athletic & Rehabilitation Center (ARC) to see how they could help. They’re providing customized therapy to help me strengthen and stretch. If you need any kind of rehab, I strongly endorse ARC.
It’s not a diet; it’s a new food lifestyle.
Diets don’t work. They never last. Once they’re over, people go back to their old habits. That’s why this program is all about healthy living, not dieting. I’ve learned a lot about food in the last six weeks. Here are six quick tips that work for me; hopefully, they’ll resonate with you:
Eat more fish. We all know we should eat fish, but do you know why? Omega-3 oils. Yes, but what do those oils do for you? The science shows that people who eat fish three times each week have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The fish oil keeps your brain elastic. I’m eating a lot more salmon these days.
Nuts are nature’s hunger killer. I eat 1/4 cup of almonds most afternoons. Packed with protein, nuts really work.
Avoid the “great white hazards” – white flour, white rice, white potatoes and sugar. I’m eating whole grains, sweet potatoes and brown rice. Almost exclusively.
Eat your fruit, don’t drink it. No more O.J. or apple juice for me!
Stop eating when you’re full. That’s a new one for me.
Drink a lot of water. This one’s easy for me, since I’ve already given up soda.
Many of these tips come from Dr. Ann Kulze, MD, and her Eat Right for Life approach. It’s brilliant and it’s resonated with me…perhaps it will work for you. Visit her website. Read her book. Do what she says. She simplifies her philosophy into five directives:
Not once have I felt undernourished. But I have learned (for the first time) that when I’m a little hungry, that’s a good thing – my body is telling me, “I’ll burn some fat for you now.” Ahhh, music to my ears. And waist.
Obesity is horrific, pervasive and (please pardon the pun) expanding.
The obesity issue in America is horrific, and it’s particularly rampant in Kansas and Missouri, including Kansas City. Here’s a link to a quick presentation that shows the terrible trend line and the correlation to healthcare costs as a percentage of GDP.
Obesity is a business issue. This program will help stem that tide.
Special shout-out to The KC Chamber and its commitment to building an ever-better KC. I’m so proud of BlueKC and of my friend David Gentile, CEO, whose vision and commitment makes this program work, and who personally encouraged my participation. Thank you, David. Also, thanks to the terrific nutritionists, trainers and coaches at BlueKC…they’re top-notch!
When you say you will do something publicly, we all know we’re much more likely to stay the course. So, please check back with me in July when this phase is completed. But more importantly, let’s see how I’m doing in a year. Or two. Or 10.
I will succeed.
Onward and upward.Tagged ARC, BlueKC, Dr. Ann Kulze, Eric Morgenstern, Fitbit, Hitch Fit, KC Chamber, Morningstar Communications, Not So "Big KC" Challenge, Your Wellness Connection
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
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
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 recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Shawnee and Kansas City Kansas Area Chambers of Commerce Joint Luncheon on how to establish and strengthen lasting connections through intentional networking. This opportunity helped me better define networking and re-think how to make lasting connections in today’s day and age. Here are a few highlights:
What networking is all about
I often see people go to a networking event for the purpose of receiving career advice. While receiving career advice is beneficial for the person on the receiving end, it’s not the same as networking.
Here is my preferred definition of networking:
Networking – Building or strengthening personal relationships with no pre-determined end-in-mind, which becomes a win-win for both people.
You might be thinking, “Where do we start?”
Start with the concept of ‘Share/Get’
Come prepared when you attend a networking event. Knowing what you want to share and what you want to get will help you succeed at making connections. (I’ve written about this in a previous post on networking.) Walk in with three things you want to share. That way, when someone asks, “How are you?” you will have a better answer than, “Fine.” I usually reply with, “Excellent,” then say something interesting to spur conversation – “I just went to Seasons 52. Have you been there? It’s great!” The topic doesn’t have to be business-related – you may be looking for a house painter, or want information about where to take your teenage niece when she visits. It’s easy to get to know someone when asking for referrals and suggestions.
Make one stretch networking goal each month
We all like to socialize with friends, but networking requires us to get out of that comfort zone. To truly make the most out of networking, we should give ourselves a stretch goal. Make a list of key people you want to get to know, and then have the courage to reach out to them one at a time. Make sure you think in terms of quality, not quantity. It’s all about making a few really good connections, not just gathering 30 business cards.
A lesson learned on being memorable
Once when I was at a networking event, I met a lady on my target list I really wanted to meet. I was so excited to finally meet her. I followed up with a phone call the next day and said, “Hi, this is Eric. It was so nice meeting you last night…” And she stopped me to say she didn’t remember meeting me. I was hugely disappointed. However, it taught me a lesson that you must be memorable. And be memorable for something good.
It’s not who you know…it’s who knows you
We hire people we know. For everything else, we seem to listen to other people. When deciding whether or not to see a certain movie, we used to listen to two people – Siskel and Ebert. Now we use Rotten Tomatoes, Trip Adviser, Urban Spoon etc., and we’re listening to recommendations from hundreds of people we don’t know. Yet, when it comes to hiring, we still hire people we know.
Lasting connections generate referrals
At Morningstar Communications, all it took was an Excel spreadsheet for us to track all of our new clients to see 94 percent of our new business comes to us through referrals. Build relationships, and when someone needs something, they’ll call you. When networking, realize the relationships that matter go beyond the initial interaction. They offer lifetime value. That’s why we work with each other to accomplish goals.
Intentional networking is essential to establishing and strengthening lasting connections. It builds your personal and company brand by helping you expand your reach and connection to potential partners and clients.
Onward and upward.Tagged Community Involvement, Connections, Eric Morgenstern, Hand-Written Notes, LinkedIn, Morningstar Communications, Networking
Remember when you were first learning to drive? Your mentor probably told you to place your hands at 10 and 2, and hold the steering wheel steady. But if you hold it completely still, eventually, you’ll veer off the road.
Ahh, this is so true in life.
How many times do we say to ourselves, “Everything is all right; it’s all good. Now, if we can just keep things ‘as is,’ we’ll be fine.”
But things never stay exactly as is. It takes constant course corrections to keep moving forward in an intentional manner. And we’re never too old to keep learning.
For more than 20 years, we’ve attended Spring Conference for PRSA Counselors Academy, the annual professional development event that has taught us more than any other single resource. We learn and share our best secrets with our peers from around the country. And each year, we hear that small, continuous changes are the key to keeping moving forward. Part of that change includes how we look at our business.
For example, all months aren’t created equal. In 2012, February (even with the leap day) has only 21 workdays, while August has 23. That’s a 10 percent difference, but at Morningstar Communications, we’ve never accounted for this before. Duh. This is what I call a B.F.O. (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). It’s time for us to make a course correction on our expectations, now factoring in how many workdays there are in each month. This is just one pearl we learned at Spring Conference this year.
I’ve led agencies for decades (wow, that makes me sound old – but if you call me a FOSSIL, I’ll take that as a compliment because fossils are Fabulous, Often-Sought, Still Inspiring Leaders!) and I’m always learning new things.
But some things don’t change, including our foundation employee philosophy:
Hire excellent people. Empower them. Be there when they need help. Otherwise, stay out of their way and sing their praises.
That’s been our approach at Morningstar Communications, and that core philosophy doesn’t change. But how we apply our philosophies is constantly evolving.
Singers know they need to push increasingly more air to maintain the same sound. Athletes know as the competition wears on, it takes more effort to get the same results. And all business leaders understand that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Small changes lead to big results. As Dori from “Finding Nemo” told herself frequently, “Just keep swimming.” I’d add – we all need to look up from time-to-time to recalibrate our position – and make the appropriate small corrections that keep us on the pathway for success.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Will RogersTagged Eric Morgenstern, LIfelong learning, Morningstar Communications
It’s a classic scenario. Young “Susie” is great at English, but struggles with math. What do we typically do? We get a tutor or extra help to improve her math skills.
Everyone should have a minimum level of proficiency in basic math skills, but instead of forcing Susie to “get” math, I think we should pour fuel on her passion for English, build on her strengths and simply accept she’ll need help with math.
The same can be said for business. Stop focusing on your weaknesses, recognize what you’re great at and do more of it. Hmmm, sounds a lot like the serenity prayer.
I often think about a parenting class we attended shortly after our first son was born, more than 20 years ago. The teacher began by asking all parents of “average” children to raise their hands.
Obviously, not a single hand went up in the air.
We all think our kids (insert our job, our business, our lives) are “above average.” He went on to suggest average isn’t bad, it’s just the middle of the pack. These days, I often say I aspire to average, particularly when receiving reports on my health!
The teacher continued to explain that if your kid loves making music … or being entrepreneurial … or is fascinated by history, well, give them more of that. Ignite those embers!
The reality is that all of us are truly “average” at most things, but we’re all “above average” on some things, just as we are “below average” at others.
A simpler approach to growing your business
We used to start with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Think differently – focus on the S and skim over the rest. Our foundation positioning philosophy is Think Excellence, Not Difference, which is diametrically opposed to traditional marketing thinking that espouses differentiation and niches. So you can see, I’m used to thinking differently.
My goal for my business is focus on what we do great, and work toward making ourselves even greater. For example, our clients appreciate our holistic integration of all marketing and communications touch points – so, let’s do more of that!
We know our strengths and we build on them. It’s the most effective strategy to grow a business, just as it’s the best approach to helping your children succeed.
I never could hit a curve ball. I stopped playing baseball in seventh grade.
My stick figures barely represent people. I try not to draw in public.
But we’re pretty darn good at helping our clients clarify their messages, connect with the people who matter most, and change opinions and behaviors.
Do what you do best, and you’ll not only be more successful, you’ll have more fun along the way.
Onward and upward.Tagged Eric Morgenstern, Executive Insights, Morningstar Communications, strengths
I was proud to represent Morningstar Communications at the 2012 KC/IABC Bronze Quill Awards ceremony on May 3 at The Uptown Theatre.
The Bronze Quill Awards promote personal and professional growth and recognize excellence in the field of business communication. Various agencies and corporations around the area entered their work into the contest and, just as in years past, there were some outstanding entries.
Morningstar Communications brought home two awards for excellent client work:
Our client, Stinson Morrison Hecker, also received an award of Merit for its 2011 Holiday Greeting e-card.
The night also featured special individual awards honoring leaders in the communications community. Along with other former Arthur E. Lowell award recipients, our own Eric Morgenstern co-presented the 2012 Arthur E. Lowell award to Mike Goff, who was most recently vice president of corporate marketing for Sprint.
Thursday’s event was a great celebration acknowledging winning nominees’ hard work over the past year. It was also a wonderful networking event where I was able to meet some of the best business communicators in the city as well as spend time away from the office with my wonderful, intelligent clients and co-workers.Tagged Eric Morgenstern, KC/IABC, Meg Schulte, Morningstar Communications