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Relax Your Way to Creativity

Image of glass of water being poured with Maya Angelou quote overtop: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

Taking time for yourself can have myriad benefits.

When we rest, we open up our minds to opportunities to be creative and productive.

Although it might look like we are doing one thing, our minds remain hard at work⁠. We are puzzling over problems, thinking creatively, and free-associating.

“The critical thing to recognize is that when we are mind-wandering, when our minds don’t have any particular thing they have to focus on, our brains are pretty darn active,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, tells Scientific American. “When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems.”

Pang, who is also founder of the Restful Company, a consulting company in SIlicon Valley, differentiates between resting and engaging in restorative activity.

Mindlessly binge-watching television may help us wind down, but that’s passive. Active hobbies that help your mind wander are important. That’s why walking can be such great exercise, for both the mind and the body.

Another way to think of this is in terms of helpful distractions.

As Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson explains in The Boston Globe, “a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.’’

When we focus on a problem, we can have trouble finding the solution. This is because we aren’t opening ourselves up to different solutions.

Carson, also the author of Your Creative Brain, argues everyone can benefit from flexing their creativity muscles. It can make us feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and effective. Creativity inspires us.

But taking time for active rest or creating opportunities for helpful distraction can be tough.

This is especially true when, as Geoffrey James points out on Inc.com, we live in a society where people where their stress as a badge of honor.

His advice?

“Be brave enough to give your brain the leisure it needs to carry your ideas, your career or your company to the next level.”

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Put Your Heart In It

Photo of small glowing hearts with bigger heart illustration over top

It makes sense why we become attached to our offices, coworkers and clients.

Studies suggest a third of our adult lives are spent at work. We may spend more time with our work colleagues than with our own friends and families.

You may feel you put your heart into your work. But do you put your heart into interactions with coworkers and clients? There is so much being said. Are you sharing and listening effectively?

We’re talking about empathy in the workplace.

This isn’t about being agreeable or creating a pleasant culture. It’s about interacting with others in a thoughtful way. Why? Because it can benefit everyone.

Empathy can be the secret sauce that unleashes productivity and performance.

In Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence, author Minter Dial considers how we can encode empathy into our business practices. Dial suggests empathy can improve our own relationships, as well as help businesses perform better.

When you do what you say and say what you mean, you build trust and followers inside and outside your company.

“Though empathy can be perceived as weakness, especially in a command and control culture, it can also be the secret sauce that unleashes productivity and performance,” Dial writes. “Empathy doesn’t mean being weak. It doesn’t even necessarily mean being nice. It is about understanding the other and, when having to pass along tough orders, can help their reception, even when there’s no choice in the matter.”

So, how can you encourage empathy in the office?

Explore empathy in your company’s culture.

Ask clients, “Are you being listened to?” Ask coworkers, “Do you feel valued in the company?” Listen thoughtfully, put yourself in their shoes, and consider what changes might be beneficial for everyone.

Create an environment where exercising empathy is accepted.

Make it OK to have conversations, explore professional development, and access learning opportunities. This doesn’t have to be formal. It can be as simple as chatting with others while waiting in line.

Do what you can to make this an easy, natural process.

Don’t force change. Share an article. Invite others on a coffee break. Ask for other opinions. Little steps and practices can go a long way to encourage thoughtful actions.

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Growth Is Hard! Here’s Our Advice

Graphic design of flowers in bloom

It’s scary to put yourself out there.

All too often, we might know in our hearts what we want, but be afraid of the path to get there.

Perhaps you are the person in your office who is always intrigued by the latest gadgets and reports. Do you have an idea for a new way to do things? Do you think your audience could benefit from finding you on a different platform?

Maybe you are thinking about changing jobs. Is what you dream about doing the complete opposite of your current path? Is another position calling your name?

Possibly you are worried about taking a stand. Where do you find the confidence to speak up and become a leader?

Expert advice can be a wonderful help, and so often ultimately reminds us to follow our guts and do what we believe to be best. If you are thinking of trying a new path, experimenting with an idea, or exploring a fresh direction, remember you are in control.

“I describe my career path as a zigzag—not a ladder with a straight trajectory up.”

When asked on the Simmons Leadership blog if there was a turning point in her career, Denise Morrison, who served as CEO of Campbell Soup Company from 2011 to 2018 (and was the first woman to do so), responded that she’s “jumped the curve to seek new experiences.” When life served her an unexpected move to California, she took it as an opportunity to take on a new challenge and gain experience.

“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’

In his well-known self-help book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shares that we have the power to control our paths by the way we respond to situations around us. If you lead your life with emotional strength and integrity, Covey believes we can shape better lives for ourselves.

“I’m like a tree. My leaves might change color, but my roots are the same.”

Athlete Rose Namajunas reminded her fans that we remain ourselves at our core. We may win or lose, gain insights or skills, but experience and knowledge only add on to who we are. When we think this way, we have the freedom to change our leaves. We can still be ourselves even if we try on a different set of colors to see how they work for us.

So feel motivated to get out there, be yourself, and work hard to chart your own course!

And remember: “He who never makes an effort, never risks a failure.”

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Leaders Share Digital Lessons

Chalkboard with "LEADERSHIP" written in multiple colors

Good leaders inspire us. They motivate us and encourage us to be our best selves. Thanks to the connections we can make today online, at any moment we are close to potential mentors and managers who can help us find the right path, answer our needed questions, and consider something anew.

If you have a few minutes and are in need of some leadership, we suggest these TEDTalks themed around leadership in the digital age for inspiration and motivation.

We hope you’ll check them out or explore the leadership topic on your own!

Efficient leadership in the digital era with Charlene Li

According to Charlene Li, “The biggest barrier to digital transformation is culture—and leadership drives culture.” A social media and innovation thinker who encourages leaders to thrive in an age of digital disruption, Li encourages people to rethink what they know.

In this TEDTalk, Li, questions how today’s culture of rapid decision-making and technology has changed leadership. What does it mean to be an effective leader today? For Li, it’s about empowering employees.

How diversity makes teams more innovative with Rocío Lorenzo

Is it true that diverse companies better at creatively pushing the envelope? Media and telecommunications consultant Rocío Lorenzo and her team surveyed 171 companies to find out.

“My personal experience working with diverse teams had been that while they require a little bit more effort at the beginning, they did bring fresher, more creative ideas,” Lorenzo shares in this TEDTalk. “So I wanted to know: Are diverse organizations really more innovative, and can diversity be more than something to comply with? Can it be a real competitive advantage?”

What I learned from giving up everything I knew as a leader with Jim Whitehurst

Jim Whitehurst, former Chief Operating Officer of Delta, had long looked at leadership one way. “I thought I was the person ultimately responsible for solving the problems facing my organization,” Whitehurst says in this TEDTalk. “I was the one who was supposed to bring order and structure.”

But, when he changed organizations, he got a lesson in leadership. As CEO of Red Hat, an open-source software company, Whitehurst discovered unexpected changes and challenges.

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Yes, You Can Use Video on LinkedIn

Laptop with speech bubble saying "Let's connect"

Everybody’s on LinkedIn—even celebrities are on this social platform known for networking. And while this may not be the platform you go to for fun, it is the platform you should be on for professional connections.

According to numbers from LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Marketers Guide, there are more than 400 million professionals are on the platform. If you want to talk to leaders, savvy thinkers, ideators, marketers, communicators, head to LinkedIn. If you want to grow your business, and show off your skills to current and potential employees and clients, head to LinkedIn.

But don’t just be there—be part of the community.

This is how you can set yourself apart from the millions of users. This is how you can position yourself and your company as a thought leader and drive your business.

Increasingly, one way to do this is through native video on LinkedIn, which launched in 2017. You can start a video ad campaign, embed videos or upload and create on LinkedIn’s platform, which, it should be noted, are often more effective. You can share product launches, promote company news, drop insider offers and exclusive looks, and tell stories and introduce key figures.

Sure, you could similarly share these updates through static images or text. Video is one more avenue to connect. Additionally, data from LinkedIn suggests viewers spend more time with video and may be more likely to start conversations around video content.

LinkedIn is interested in pushing its community toward using more video too: In February, the company launched a live video feature in beta. The company continues to pilot live video streaming with a few broadcasters. The feature isn’t currently available to all members, but LinkedIn does offer an option to apply to become a live video broadcaster.

For everyone else, LinkedIn also offers support and encouragement to pursue the creation and uploading of original videos.

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions has a quick guide to using video on LinkedIn, and even goes as far as helping participants consider why video might be important to their strategy. (There’s also LinkedIn’s special Tech Marketer’s Guide to B2B Video.)

If your objectives include building brand awareness, encouraging clicks and new viewers or driving leads to your website, LinkedIn argues posting video on the social media platform is good for you.

As with any video strategy, it’s important to do what’s right for you and your audience. Come up with an idea and see it through, then look at the feedback and adjust. Adding in video doesn’t mean eliminating all other content and touch points. But it does offer a way to set yourself apart from others and create another opportunity for viewers to connect with you.

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4 Quotes to Inspire Your Entrepreneurial Habits

Resilience, curiosity, focus and follow through—the skills required to be an entrepreneur are good ones to have no matter what industry you’re in, and no matter whether you own your own business.

Working with an entrepreneurial outlook can be beneficial even if you’ve never considered writing “entrepreneur” as your job description. It means you aren’t afraid to tackle a challenge, won’t easily give up and always ready with an idea.

So, whether you aspire to officially call yourself an entrepreneur or not, there are still a few things to learn from this mindset. Take it from the quotes of the entrepreneurs below and read their stories for inspiration.

What will you be able to do with a little push?

“Being an entrepreneur can be learned, and that is exactly what I have done. You don’t have to be born with it or have had the ‘lemonade stand.’ But, you do need to have the passion, devotion, conviction, and sheer will and drive to make it happen.”

Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, in Entrepreneur

“A person who sees a problem is a human being; a person who finds a solution is visionary; and the person who goes out and does something about it is an entrepreneur.”

Naveen Jain, founder of several companies, including Moon Express, Viome, Bluedot, TalentWise, Intelius and InfoSpace, in Inc.

“As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned how crucial it is to be able to call a spade a spade and avoid falling in love with a particular strategy or product. Instead, you need to let the customer tell you what she needs—and to change her as she changes.”

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, in Fast Company

“Being an entrepreneur is a mindset. You have to see things as opportunities all the time. I like to do interviews. I like to push people on certain topics. I like to dig into the stories where there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer.”

Soledad O’Brien, journalist and CEO of Starfish Media Group, in Mediabistro
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3 TEDTalks to Pique Your Social Media Curiosity

As marketers, we love to think about why and how. How can we connect with this group? Why is this connection special? It’s important to stay sharp and remain open so we can absorb all the information and data. At the same time, that overload of content can be a lot to sort through.

When this happens, sometimes it’s important to take a break for yourself. Find an outlet that will excite and motivate you. Checking in with a TEDTalk, especially one that’s only about 10 minutes long, can be a powerful way to recharge without losing focus on your tasks at hand.

The three below caught our attention for the creative ways they delve into social media needs and interests. Sure, you can learn a thing or two while watching, but they’re also simply fun.

What makes something go viral? with Dao Nguyen

From baby goats in the office to exploding watermelons, Buzzfeed publisher Dao Nguyen explores viral videos, which, Nguyen says, is really about understanding what videos do for viewers. Do they want to laugh? Are they looking for affirmation?

“The question I get most frequently is: How do you make something go viral? The question itself is misplaced; it’s not about the something. It’s about what the people doing the something, reading or watching—what are they thinking?” Nguyen shares.

A funny look at the unintended consequences of technology with Chuck Nice

“So are we more connected, or are we just more connected to our devices?” asks comedian Chuck Nice in this TEDTalk. If you’ve ever scratched your head at the thought of designer babies, driverless cars and trolls, Nice has a lighthearted look at how we can navigate the future and remember to laugh at the technology that scares us.

3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand with Tim Leberecht

As more and more companies push to empower their employees through social media and turn their clients and staff into their biggest brand advocates, author and marketer Tim Leberecht’s TEDTalk can only become more applicable.

“I’m a marketer, and as a marketer, I know that I’ve never really been in control,” Leberecht shares. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room, the saying goes. Hyperconnectivity and transparency allow companies to be in that room now, 24/7. They can listen and join the conversation. In fact, they have more control over the loss of control than ever before. They can design for it. But how?”

Surprise campaigns, humble companies and free publicity all come up in this talk.

Remember, TEDTalks are also searchable by topic and length, so you can explore 3,000-plus videos and transcripts for the motivation you need. And, since the talks already happened but remain part of the community online, you can comment and continue the conversation no matter when you watch.

Stay curious, friends!

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Inspired to Go Viral

Mobile phone about to watch video

When it comes to going viral, there’s a certain X factor that remains unknown.

Sometimes, it seems that going viral isn’t something that one so much achieves as inadvertently accomplishes. It’s as if, suddenly, it’s happened to you! Even more confusing is that, over the years, the definition of “going viral” has included earning a million hits to generating noteworthy buzz.

Today, going viral has become even harder, and there’s no permanent definition as to what it means. Although there’s an unpredictability to viral videos, there’s always a heavy dose of hard work and application required.

Launching your own video efforts can feel like a herculean task, especially if you feel overwhelmed by everything else that is out there. Seeing the amazing responses others receive can make tackling your own videos feel daunting. Additionally, you may find you measure your video success differently for your niche than other video-makers. So instead of looking at viral videos as something to copy or repeat, look behind the creativity and tenacity for motivation.

Let these video pros and their stories inspire you. What stories will you tell? What will you make the markers of your success?

“Viral videos aren’t just about being funny. They’re about identity creation. You send the video to your friends to say something about yourself. You’re saying, ‘I get this. Do you get it?’”

Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of CollegeHumor and current head of global creative strategy with Facebook in New York magazine

“It’s very easy to make a viral video, but longevity and consistency, that’s hard.”

Michelle Phan, YouTuber and makeup entrepreneur in Vox

“The number one question I’m asked as a YouTuber every day is, ‘How can I get my videos out there; how can I make my videos go viral?’”

Todrick Hall, entertainer and YouTube personality, in Screener for The Daily Dot

“When I gave a talk at TEDx, I thought that if I did a good job, the video might go viral. But…it has 140,000 views while Colin Powell’s (who spoke at the same event) has only 2,700.”

Cameron Russell, model and activist, on the TEDBlog

“We live in an age where people are becoming more aware of their own creativity and their own interest in visual expression and sharing of their experiences.”

Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, to Mashable
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Trying too hard to be perfect?

Why you can find success by keeping it real.

Crisp, clean, curated. There’s no denying the certain pleasure attached to a well-thought-out Instagram feed. After all, brands-and individuals-work to truly develop their own signature look, building trust and followers along the way.

But in a world of highly curated images, imperfections are drawing attention in a good way.

Take, for instance, the work of Lomography, a company that makes vintage-inspired cameras. The collective, which creates equipment that draws on vintage-style lenses as inspiration. While marketing their latest art lens, the Lomography team encouraged photographers to embrace imperfections in their quest to find the perfect shot.

“Most of the lenses on the market now have perfected image quality,” Lomography marketing and PR manager, Birgit Buchart, shared with Kickstarter. “We saw there was an opportunity to bring people back into embracing the aberrations you get in historic lenses.”

Embracing perfections is proven to create a unique visual identity. It has worked for British photographer Richard Learoyd. When The Iris, the behind-the-scenes blog from The Getty museum, asked Learoyd why physical imperfections often appear his work, he replied: “Because people aren’t perfect.”

“I’m not interested in smoothing people out,” Leayroyd continued. “I’ll choose people purposely because of their scars and their imperfections. I like things like that in photographs; it’s human.”

Authenticity is all part of a bigger trend in visual communications-as well as marketing and advertising-that’s taken root in the last few years. In 2017, a post on Forbes’ from digital marketer Lauren Stephens declared, “Imperfect is Perfect: The New Advertising Standard.” She pointed not only to “real” models appearing in advertisements, but also to the push to add platforms like Facebook and Pinterest to advertising strategies, where viewers are already gathering.

“With an increasing number of people shopping online and having a better eye for the disingenuous, trust has become a must-have quality for brands to be successful,” Stephens wrote. “To build trust, brands have to engage with consumers in real, honest and relatable ways – showing an understanding of the individual needs of the customer during the various stages of the shopping journey.”

A dose of “authentic imperfection” can help tell stories and build connections, Ozan Varol, a law professor and author, wrote on his blog. That can already be seen in the work of current artists, YouTubers, and podcasters. Varol, a self-described “recovering perfectionist,” encourages innovation in his writings, and brought in a personal experience to illustrate his point.

“Perfection is for robots. Human beings come with flaws,” Varol wrote. “When we cover up these flaws, we also conceal what makes us human. About a year ago, I gave my weekly newsletter a facelift by adding a fancy headshot, photos, and graphics. My open rates-which track how many of my subscribers open my emails-plummeted. The open rates recovered only after I went back to a simple text format that looks more like a rough email from a friend.”

Even without overhauling your marketing strategy, there are still ways to bring a dose of reality into your feeds. Consider partnering with a micro or nano influencer-someone in your community or company who has a genuine, although smaller, following on social media-to connect with your followers on a personal, local level. Keep storytelling front and center, and remember that more casual or spur-of-the-moment updates delivered through a medium like Instagram Stories can be plenty effective. Share local events and news stories on your Facebook page to encourage community.

Remind your followers there are people behind the content, and remember to stay true to your own mission and style. Simply by being yourself, you can stand out.

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