Leadership Requires a Positive Charge

Yesterday I had the honor of being recognized by Dell as an “Inspiring Leader.” It was a wonderful moment, further enhanced by the Dell Legacy of Good report that followed and again made me incredibly proud to be a part of something much bigger than myself. My reaction was gratitude for my team and the people I am privileged to work with. It’s easy to feel inspired and reflect it when you work with kind and intelligent people who contribute their time and talents every day in an effort to make a difference.

I recently heard a talk, given by Mark Bragg, SVP at Bank of America, which resonated with me: “While I was working for a large bank, I was invited to attend an executive program at the University of Michigan. During the program, Professor Kim Cameron taught the concept of positive leadership and its heliotropic effect. He explained: and away from negative energy [darkness]. From single-cell organisms to complex human systems, everything alf a successful workplace culture:

This refers to the tendency in all living systems toward positive energy [light] and away from negative energy [darkness]. From single-cell organisms to complex human systems, everything alive has an inherent inclination toward the positive and away from the negative.

  1. compassion,
  2. forgiveness, and
  3. gratitude.”

These are simple principles and ones that any leader can remember – we are naturally inclined to the positive. So, what are some stepping stones to ensure we lead with a positive charge?

  1. Start by listening. Create safe spaces for your people to speak up. Ensure they have a voice and are able to leverage it in order to drive strategy and operations. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – which means to me, that you, as a leader are just one part but you have the ability to unify and organize the talent around you to create something meaningful.
  2. Set your people up for success. Make sure they have what they need. When you meet with your team, make sure you are genuinely present. Get off of email, text, etc. Take action items and follow-up – you are just as accountable to them as they are to you. Be invested in them and they will be invested in you and your organization.
  3. Be transparent. Share relevant information. Be as neutral and fair as possible. Coach them when they fall down – and be honest when you fall down. Failure is part of the building process. Focus on allowing your team to think through their own possible solutions to when they do fall down or hit roadblocks. And make sure you are always clear in communicating expectations – I’ve found that most people really want to succeed and do the right thing – if you help them to know what that looks like, everyone will be better equipped and feel more value.
  4. Maintain a positive approach. Make sure that you are focusing on what matters. Ensure that maintaining strong ethics and decorum are part of your personal and team brand. Be solutions oriented. If others play dirty, do not get sucked in. Lead your team this way. Treat others this way. Eventually, your leadership will create a ripple effect. The kind of ripple effect that is the best one. [By the way, this doesn’t mean be naive or blind to wrongdoing or abuse within the work environment. Stand tall and defend. You have a stewardship over your people to provide them with a work environment that reflects your values and the stated values of your company for good.]

Within all of these, ensure that compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude are core elements of your successful workplace culture. If you live these daily, not only will you personally be happier, but your team will also enjoy the benefits, reflect them, and create a more engaged and productive environment.

This Is How You Win at Executive Meetings

I recently went through an executive coaching session on communicating effectively. During that session, a few truth bombs were delivered. One in particular truly resonated that day.

Be Brilliant, Be Brief, Be Gone.

I had heard this truth before and thought it valuable but thought it was cold or even a bit hierarchical at the time. Today’s truth is that as I have progressed in my career, my time is highly limited. I spend my days in back-to-back meetings, many times without time to stop for a snack or lunch break. It’s not a matter of not caring or a lack of appreciation for the hard work and time of others, but is born of necessity. Executives are trained to make decisions all day long. Typically, the reason they are where they are is because they have honed their ability to listen, analyze, and direct the next steps. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they are focused in on efficiency and effectiveness.

This brings us back to the phrase that can aid your success.

Be Brilliant:

  • Learn your executive’s style if possible. Take the time to understand if she wants her information delivered a certain way. Does he always ask for a PDF of the presentation in advance? Does she prefer to have a more conversational approach?
  • Answer first. What is the problem and how do you propose it be solved? Get to the point quickly and hook their interest so they can focus in on how the puzzle pieces come together.
  • Present the facts. Make sure you have all the data (qualitative and/or quantitative) on anything relevant. What will the cost be? What will the forecasted benefit be? Have competitors enacted anything similar? Is this a pilot? Has this been proven? What is the timeline and the milestones?
  • Take notes on any comments, questions, or follow-up items that arise during the meeting. This will help you on the last step. Also, it’s okay to not know the answer. I don’t expect everyone I meet with to know everything – and frankly, find it refreshing when people are honest and tell me they will check on that item and make sure they deliver the RIGHT answer.

Be Brief

  • Again, ask questions and take the time to learn more about your executive’s style [note: use the network around the executive, do not ask the executive directly]. Some may like a moment of introduction and friendly background while others want to dive in. Be sensitive to this but also realize that time is a limited resource and you are burning time as we speak.
  • Make the point quickly and clearly. Make your ask clear. Make sure your executive knows at the beginning what action you expect them to take.
  • Don’t overschedule. Make yourself known for delivering the message in an efficient manner. If you schedule 30 minutes, but only use 20 minutes – great! If you schedule 30 minutes but end up needing 40, do not keep going. Pause and mention that you are at time and allow the executive to decide if they would like to keep going or schedule additional time. Human’s attention spans are short and we all do better in shorter meetings [plus there seems to be a magical ability to take as much time as is scheduled, even when not necessary].

Be Gone

  • This one is pretty simple. Get in, make your point, get out. As a follow-up, make sure you send an email recap of your conversation, making sure to include any action items [along with owners of assignments], next steps, and relevant information to the conversation.

You Win!

When you show your leadership team that you come prepared, deliver a problem and an answer, clear expectations, and are respectful of their time, you make it easy for you to win and for the executive to win. Your reputation and career will benefit.

How Targeting Can Help You Move Onward and Upward

This Way Up Moving Boxes

Can you imagine career changes before the digital era? I vaguely remember looking in newspapers for job postings – but for many – this is something they will never know.

In the age of soon-to-be complete world interconnectedness and for many, an always-on digital device, there are some pretty simple ways to make sure you get your name and message in front of the right person who can get you to where you want to go.

It’s simple, really. Target those in a position to hire you or help you get hired. Where? Answer: The places they hang out. Start with Facebook and expand from there.

  1. Determine your desired outcome

  2. Research audience (hiring managers, recruiters, company descriptions, etc.)

  3. Create impactful content specific to audience. Make sure you tell your story. Make it interesting. Know who you are and your value proposition.

  4. Get those ads [potential engagements] flowing!

I did this right before attending SXSW as a test and it was pretty fun to watch the impact. Soon, I saw recruiters begin to view and send requests to me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter (I utilized both Facebook and Twitter for awareness and drove clicks to my LinkedIn profile).

Now, realize, this is a first step. This is a fun, creative (and smart) way to get in front of the right people without having to compete with an application process that most never get through and that will kick you out if you do not match exact criteria or keywords. You will need to invest in relationship research next, but use this as a way to get the right eyeballs and get noticed for something other than a Word doc resume.

My friend Dennis Yu, CTO of Blitzmetrics, has a simple guide that teaches users to spend only $1 a day to reach their intended audience. Take this model and tailor it to your need.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!


Alison J. Herzog directs global social business and strategy at Dell. Herzog is known for innovation, being data-driven, and tactical straightforwardness.  Oh, and she’s equally left and right-brained.  Freak of nature, maybe. Lover of numbers and beauty? Definitely.

Connect with her at @alisonjherzog on Twitter.

Image credit: io2@flickr

5 Values to Build the Bottom Line for Your Work Culture


Human -Centered Organiation


If you’ve ever wondered how to more effectively engage your employees/associates/team members/whatever your corporation calls their workforce, the answer is simple.  Get to know your people. What do they value? How can you invest in them?  The amazing result is that as companies invest in their people, a return on investment exhibits through a more innovative and productive workforce.

So what do people value?

Over the past year, I have researched work cultures.  Some positive, some negative.  Among them, clear themes arose.

1. Trust

Vulnerability breeds trust.  So does the following value of transparency.  Trust means allowing employees to do the job they were hired to do and spreading their wings when ready.  A strong employer-employee relationship also means coaching employees when a failure has occurred.  Failure is valuable.  Employees should not fear repercussion but feel freedom to acknowledge when something hasn’t gone according to plan and how the future will be impacted by what they learned.  Managers should be present to support employees by kicking barriers out of the way but also offering guidance when it is invited. Relationships require an investment from all parties of trust, respect, and appreciation.

2. Transparency

It’s difficult to create a meaningful relationship of any type when it is built on lies or fog.  An organization that is open with its employees about business decisions, financial health, and other important corporate components invests in a relationship with its people.  Buffer recently went so far as to create Open Salaries.  You can read their insightful perspective on transparency here.

3. A Meaningful Mission

Allow your employees to feel like they are doing something of impact and you will fuel their fire.  FamilySearch isn’t just about building a family tree.  It’s about connecting families and bringing them closer together.  Did you know that knowing about your ancestors is the single best predictor of a child’s emotional health and happiness?

You can also involve your employees in the creation of the mission or mission supports.  Amazon is a great example of this.  They strive to be the “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Amazonians (the nickname for Amazon employees) are passionate about what they do. You see this in details such as Subscribe and Save, Recommendations, or AmazonSmile. These features and benefits make life easier for the customer and allow the customer to be philanthropic while making necessary purchases.

4. People Building

I would propose that instead of “managers” we have “people builders.”  An organization built with the mentality of building every individual trickles down to every level.  Training ranked high in every successful organization, with the average top 100 companies to work for providing 80 hours of training annually for employees.  When employees are built up, they not only have the resources and capability to perform their job function, but they also feel valued and are more likely to be engaged in their work.  Other ways to invest in employees is through internal job opportunities, digital network building, benefits, and supportive policies.  A relatively inexpensive people-builder is simply getting to know your people. Now, clearly this needs to be done through a network – but it can be bi-directional for information flow.  A recent interview by a top employer mentioned a special gift for an employee who had recently realized a significant achievement.  This employee had told a story of a football player he met at a young age and who read to him.  The company surprised him with a signed jersey and helmet of this football player.  They listened and they showed they cared.

5. Work-Life Balance

In this digital age, it is increasingly difficult to leave work at work.  Companies who foster work-life balance are gaged as employers of choice.  Employees who take regular vacations report better mental and physical health.  As employees expand their families, parental leave becomes increasingly important.  Currently the United States ranks in the bottom three next to Swaziland and Lesotho for parental leave policies.  Employers of choice offer paid parental leave, day care options, and flexible work (compressed work week, flex hours, remote working) which support working families.  The expectation of the workforce is changing as a new generation emerges.  Just as personalization is key in marketing efforts, personalization in a work environment is increasing in importance.

That’s It

So there you go.  Five values to build off of.  Value your people and they will value you.

4 Steps To Create Internal Brand Advocates

People matter. People have value.  And yet, sometimes we treat those we interact with on a daily basis with the largest range of emotion, positive to negative.  It’s a frequent issue that individuals take the most constant or valuable constituent for granted.  Nevertheless, when relationships are properly fed and watered, a brand’s own workforce can serve as its best advocates.


How to create internal brand advocates:

1. Build your employees internally

How can a management implement this concept?  Build employees’ careers through the freedom to make decisions and to learn from outcomes.  Actively motivate your employees to seek out opportunities for personal development.  This might translate to attending a conference, pursuing a professional certification, or working cross-functionally with other units to learn new skills or gain perspective in their current roles.

2. Build your employees externally

While for some, it may seem counterintuitive to build employees so that they are more appealing to others, including competing corporations, by building your employees externally, you indicate that you are investing in your people.  An investment indicates that you associate value with an individual.  In return, employees will be more invested in your organization thereby creating a brand advocate at the base level.  I call these first responders.

Build an employee’s digital presence.  Provide training on key social media platforms, including best practices specific to employee involvement surrounding the brand.  Clearly message your employees that you value their input, reiterating the value you recognized at their hire, and that you wish to enable their communication with your internal and external brand community.

3. Provide a communication toolkit

Communicate with your people!  Without clear internal communication, you are at risk of misalignment.  If employees are not up to speed with both high-level and low-level strategy, goals, objectives, and tactics, then your company limits the ability of employees to amplify your message and its intended purpose.  Valued employees want to support internal goals.  It is the corporation’s responsibility to provide the toolkit to enable success.

4. Engage your employees in the full customer experience

Finally, one of the greatest benefits of inviting your employees to engage in social media and the interwebs, is that it connects your employees to your customer audience.  What better way to help your workforce understand pain points and the benefits of beloved features then by asking your people to listen to those they are asked to serve.  The internet is a beautiful thing. It enables communication across the globe and can enhance honest and direct feedback so you can have a direct impact on your bottom line while providing a more engaging and delightful experience to your customer.

Brand Management in Paradise

Lately, I’ve heard the term “moderating” tossed around.  Every time I hear the term and the associated conversation, I can’t help but feel I’ve time traveled.  When social media and brands first started the getting to know you phase of their relationship, it made sense that there was a bit of awkwardness and a need to test the waters before full trust existed.

In 2014, brands can no longer simply moderate the discussions happening online.  At least, not if they would expect to be productive.

Consider this scenario.  A colleague walks up to you and incites a conversation.  You try to answer their question and engage in the conversation but they either A) continue talking at you or B) walk away.  This happens every time you see this colleague.  After some time, you learn that this individual is not actually interested in a relationship and seems to have a narcissistic streak.  You give up attempting to engage and perhaps even avoid them whenever you see them headed your way.

Now, if this the scenario above with your co-worker is not what an ideal relationship looks like and does not add value, then what type of relationship would?

This same concept applies directly to B2B and B2C marketing.  Don’t talk at people, engage them. This happens through relationship building which involves a human connection, an exchange, if you will.

Paradise Bakery provides a perfect example of relationship building through social media.  I tweeted, I grammed.  I checked in on Foursquare.  I did not tag Paradise Bakery on Twitter.  But they were listening. And respond and engage they did.  And because they listened and engaged, I responded.  The result? Paradise Bakery has now gained my respect for them as a brand but I also feel a connection with them.  I can trust that when they walk up to me and ask a question, when I respond, they will listen.  And they will not interrupt me to inform me about their promotions.

Paradise Bakery, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Paradise Bakery responds to untagged tweet and demonstrates that they listen