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Jun 09 2011

8 Things You Need To Know About Social Networking

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Social networking has taken the business world by storm. From Facebook sharing to tweeting to actually attending seminars and meet-ups, the goal has always been to be more visible. Social networking is more than just having a consistent online presence. Offline interaction is as important as online engagement.

Social networking should not in any way be misconstrued as a replacement for face-to-face interaction. It is a marriage of your business’ on and offline persona. Belonging in communities which foster growth for your business is not only a way to let people know that your business is “out there”, it would also serve as your support group, your security blanket for a very unpredictable and often harsh realities of the business industry.

In an increasingly fast-paced digital world, it seems that everybody is milking those social networking sites for all they are worth. Marketing is at an all-time high and competitions continue to grow stiff as various businesses vie to be in the top spot. Before going all out on your marketing efforts, here are some points you need to consider about social networking:

  1. When posting on any online networking site, your main concern should be how valuable your post is. Posting the same link, tweet or article a hundred times over may be your way of getting people to visit your site but if it does not have any real value, you would lose a potential customer’s interest and they might even tag your post as spam.
  2. You’re human so you should act like one. Social networking is all about building relationships and sustaining them. People generally listen to people who is also an attentive listener both online and offline.
  3. It is important to be well connected especially to the local community that your business caters to.
  4. Social networking is all about sharing ideas, events, activities and interests with like-minded individuals or groups. It’s about asking and receiving help from people who have had more experience than you and paying it forward.
  5. The relationships you have struggled to develop should be sustained and nurtured. Handing out business cards is not the end-all and be-all of social networking. It is just the start of what can be a promising business relationship.
  6. Do not expect to be an overnight sensation. Being controversial is a far cry from being relevant. You need to be the latter.
  7. Connect with experts in your field as they will enable you to be better in the industry. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it and don’t let your voice be stifled if you have any ideas on how to help others.
  8. Patience, commitment and dedication would get you a long way. There may be quite a few seminars or networking meet-ups you need to attend, social media communities you need to break into but in time, your name (as well as your business) would be familiar that it might as well have been etched in stone.

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Jun 04 2011

8 things you should never say to employees

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Your employees constantly watch you.

Say the wrong thing, no matter how unintentionally, and at the very least you send the wrong message. Sometimes what you say can even destroy employee morale.

Here are 8 things a good leader should never say to employees:
“I’m in charge, so this is what we’re going to do.” Dealing with different opinions or even open dissent is challenging for any leader and can make you feel defensive and insecure. When that happens you might be tempted to fall back on the golden rule: She who has the gold makes the rules. Don’t. Everyone knows you’re in charge; saying you are instantly destroys any feelings of collaboration, teamwork, and esprit de corps. When you can’t back up a decision with data or logic, possibly that decision isn’t the right decision. Don’t be afraid to back down and be wrong. Employees respect you even more when you admit you make a mistake.
“I have a great opportunity for you.” No, you don’t; you just want the employee to agree to take on additional work or the project no one wants. If you say, “Mary, next week I’m assigning you to work on a new project with our best customer,” she immediately knows it’s a great opportunity. If you say, “Mary, I have a great opportunity for you; next week I’m assigning you to sort out the problems in our warehouse,” she knows she just got stuck with a less-than-plum assignment. Any opportunity that really is great requires no preface or setup. Don’t sell.
“Man, this has been a long day. I’ll see you guys. It’s time for me to get out of here.” No employee wants to feel your pain. From your perspective, running a business can be stressful, draining, and overwhelming. From the employee’s perspective you have it made because you make all the rules. Don’t expect employee empathy; instead talk about how today was challenging and everyone pulled together, or how you really appreciate that employee’s help.
“Hey, that’s a great idea — and if we do it this way…” As BNET colleagues Kelly and Marshall Goldsmith note, successful people often try too hard to add value. (Unsuccessful people do too, by the way.) You may be able to improve an employee’s idea and lay out a specific path for implementation, but in the process you kill their enthusiasm. Instead, say, “Hey, that’s a great idea,” then ask questions: How they came up with the idea, the data or reasoning they used, how they think the idea should be implemented, etc. In the process the employee may identify small tweaks on her own, and if not you can gently guide him in the right direction. The best ideas, from an employee’s point of view, are not your ideas. The best ideas are always their ideas, and rightfully so. Make sure employees’ ideas stay their ideas, and everyone benefits.
“Sure, I’ll be happy to talk to your brother about a job.” The smaller the company the less you can afford interpersonal problems, especially those created by cliques and “alliances.” (Doesn’t running a small business sometimes feel like an episode of “Survivor”?) There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but think carefully before you hire an employee’s family member. Blood is always thicker than business.
“No.” Actually, “no” can be okay — as long as it is always followed with an explanation. Still, better choices are “I don’t think we can, and here’s why…” or “I would like to, but here’s why we can’t…” or “That sounds like a great idea, but we’ll need to do a couple of things first…” Explain, explain, explain: As a leader, explaining is near the top of your job description.
“I can’t wait to go to Cancun next week.” Don’t assume your employees will be inspired by and hope to emulate your success. They won’t. Leave your Porsche in the garage. I’ve consulted for a number of family-run businesses, and in every instance (sometimes when I was on-site less than a day), at least one employee spoke of resenting how “good” the owners have it — at the expense of underpaid employees. Is resenting your success, even if you don’t flaunt it, fair? No. Is it a real issue for employees? Absolutely.
“We.” This one is conditional: Use “we” when it fits, but never use the royal “we.” Employees are aware there is no “I” in team, but they know when you are paying lip service to “we.” Just as it’s incredibly obvious to employees when you take an insincere, obligatory tour to “check in” and show how much you seem to care, it’s just as obvious when you say “we” just because you think you should. Build a real sense of teamwork first and using “we” comes naturally. Teamwork actions speak much louder than any theoretically inclusive words.

I know there are plenty more. Feel free to share things on your “do not say” list — and things you wish had never been said to you.

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Jun 04 2011

8 things you should always say to employees

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Make it easy and get your unwritten rules out in the open. In contrast to my post 8 Things You Should Never Say to Employees, here are 8 things you should always say to employees:

“What you say during your performance review is more important – especially to me – than anything I have to say.” A great performance evaluation is a two-way street. Sure, you need to give specific, actionable feedback, but you also want to hear the employee’s view of their performance along with their personal development and career goals. Let every employee know their performance evaluation is their time to talk, not just to listen.
“Remind me later.” Employees will typically understand if you don’t have time to respond to a question or suggestion. What they won’t understand is if you never follow up, so have the employee follow up with you. Shifting the follow up “burden” works as long as the employee feels good about it. Say, “I don’t have time to discuss it now. but that sounds like a great idea. Grab me later because I definitely want to hear your thoughts. Don’t let me forget!” It works.
“Raising issues is good. Solving problems is better.” As a leader you want employees to bring problems and issues to you. But what you really want is for employees to take care of problems and then tell you what they did. Create decision-making and authority parameters and encourage employees to solve problems on their own. (If they make mistakes, give feedback and instruction but don’t scold them for taking initiative.)
“Superstars are important, but people with great attitudes are just as important.” Great individual contributors with terrible interpersonal skills can often ruin a team. Every employee may not be capable of incredible achievement, but every employee can be a good team player. Let everyone know working well together is a key expectation.
“Always give me the bad news first.” We like to hear good news, but we need to hear bad news as soon as possible. If parts won’t arrive on time, jeopardizing a customer ship date, don’t aim any frustration at the employee. Instead say, for example, “Thanks for letting me know as soon as you did. First we’ll call the customer. Then we’ll.” Turn bad news into a positive, proactive call to action and you’ll hear about problems much earlier.
“Hey, that’s great – tell me how you did it.” Employees who toot their own horns usually aren’t egotistical, they’re often insecure. When an employee tells you about a personal accomplishment don’t just say, “Good job,” and move on. Ask for details. Ask for the whole story and not just the ending. You’ll boost employee self confidence and motivate them to accomplish even more.
“Please tell me when I mess up.” A key indication of a great leader (and a great work environment) is when employees feel comfortable giving their bosses feedback. Establishing that level of trust takes time, though, so you may have to repeatedly ask for constructive feedback – and never give employees reason to regret having done so.
“I’m sorry.” When you make a mistake, apologize. Don’t blame others, don’t make excuses – just say you’re sorry, in as few words as possible. Then do what you can to correct the mistake. Isn’t that what you want your employees to do?

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