Kids Teaching the Workplace: Three Tips to Getting Along

Business Communications, Communications, Leadership, Life

It’s that time of year again where students of all ages head back to school.  From kindergarten to grad school, brilliant minds are being molded and shaped. So why are office dynamics still so challenging? Why is it that seemingly grown adults still get caught in “I don’t like so and so from marketing, they just have it out for me.”

I wish I had the one solution…I’d be an instant “business guru” making $50k a day on the corporate speaking circuit. (*Note here- I may not be a guru but if you like this post, I’m significantly cheaper that the $50k crowd. Call me.)  Thus, like any good communications professional, I went to my best source.  I asked my wonderful, brilliant daughter to share how people should work to get along.  Her points are brilliantly simple and truly do remind me of the principle of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  Really, after years of study we should all know this but here goes.

1) We get along because we’re one class.  We’re a team.

An honest point and realistic understanding that, unless you’re the CEO, you aren’t going to have the ability to build your team *exactly* as you might like.  Fact is you’re always going to have different personalities, styles, and talents on any team.  It’s not always fun to work with, or for, people who you may not love but the sooner you can accept that life isn’t always a bed of roses the better.  You’ve got your team, the key is to best fit in and make the team better in any way you can.

2) If we disagree, we still get along.

Really? Kids at five and six get this, why don’t we?  Disagreement happens and in the grown-up world it can actually be a good thing.  In my experience, if you never disagree it means that you’re probably not trying hard enough and thinking about ideas that will really make a difference.

There are ways to disagree professionally.  It shouldn’t be a personal issue when someone questions an idea or a particular effort.  Give feedback that will move you toward the ultimate good of the company and accept feedback or questions that do the same.

3)  If we have problems, we talk to the person first.  Then you go to a teacher after you try to work it out.

Seriously, if everyone did this there’d be so much less drama at the office.  It is so much more effective to go to “Bob” in accounting if you’re having an issue than complaining to your boss about Bob. Nobody (CEO’s, Presidents, Exec Directors) likes a crybaby.  If you haven’t even made an effort to professionally resolve a potential issue with a colleague before raising the issue with your boss and making it a high corporate priority you very much risk damaging your own reputation as much or more than that of the person you’re discussing.  Obviously there will be times in your career when higher-level intervention is needed and there are cases when a co-worker is seriously inappropriate and in need of an attitude adjustment.  Just be sure you’ve done all you can reasonably can do to solve the issue directly first before pointing fingers.

I had a blast hearing how simple this all seems to a child.  What else have you learned and what other tips do you have to avoid needless office headaches?

The Growing Pains of Growth

Business Communications, Communications, Life

I’m going to go way back in my bank of stories for this one but that’s part of the point. In one of my high school history classes, which is getting far too long ago for my comfort, I had a teacher that would push us in all kinds of ways.  He was a former member of the military and you’d better believe that you *were* going to listen and behave in class.  If not, you could wind up standing with a foot in a garbage can during class, perhaps doing push-ups, or (my personal favorite) running laps around the parking lot…clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on the day of the week and you got it right or you did it again.  He could be both extremely funny and brutally tough on you as well.

One day in class, he was looking for a response on the War of 1812 that he wasn’t getting.  A few people threw out guesses but nobody had struck on the right approach to get the answer he wanted.  Eventually, after thinking for a while, I got a bit tired of the silence and thought I’d give it whirl.  The question?  Who was most responsible for the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.  My answer- Napoleon.  Well, his response was enough to make a relatively quiet student like myself squirm more than a little bit.  In a tone eerily similar to Jim Mora’s famous “Playoffs?” rant, I received “What, Napoleon is French?!?”  How could he be responsible for the war?

At that point, I began mumbling my rationale and was summarily cut off with “France wasn’t even in the war.  You awake over there?”  The nervous teen embarrassment heartbeat began.  Not sure what the pulse rate was but I’m sure it’d be the equivalent of a great workout today.  My already dim dating hopes dashed, surely my academic future was now on thin ice,  perhaps I’d wind up in a garbage can for such crazy thinking the rest of the hour.  Some of my other classmates then tried jump in and save me, throwing out other names to move the discussion along.  Each one shot down as the teacher went through the events of the war.  I was hoping for the bell to ring soon, kind of like a beaten boxer just hanging on to survive.

Finally, after seemingly four hours in a 45 minute class, he came back and said “You know who was responsible for the war?” Everyone was more than ready to take our lumps and move on…”Napoleon.”  He looked and smiled a bit at me.  At that, a chorus of “he said that” went up to the heavens.  For goodness sake, why had we all (and mostly me) been subjected to the torture and embarrassment for an extra ten minutes??

The teacher wanted us to think critically and be confident in our opinions.  It was another in a long line of tests and challenges that we needed to meet.  I *had* the right answer but he could tell I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my view.  How was a guy not directly involved with the war responsible– well, my thinking had something to do with destabilizing a region and then encouraging the upstart U.S. with trade agreements and support.  However, the most important lesson I learned that day of challenging each other and how we think is one that applies equally well today in the business world.  It’s not easy, really it can be agonizingly difficult like those moments I sat sweating out my high school future and reputation as the “Napoleon idiot” from history class.

Challenges help us grow.  And, in an era of shorter attention spans and more distractions than ever, spending a little more time thinking critically and challenging how we think is essential to advance the work we do each day.

P.S.- I have a story about this teacher and nearly having to wash a car too if you’re interested. ;)

Some Public Relations for Public Good

Life, Public Relations, Social Media

In recent weeks I’ve been impressed by a trend of blog posts from people I’ve met online who are doing some great work to help or lift up others.  This is one of the most positive aspects of social media that can be lost amongst the negative stories (Facebook privacy issues, security challenges, and sites that may put your information at risk like Spokes) that accompany use of new technology.  However, for each horror story, I’m guessing there is an equally positive case of social media connecting good people or advancing important change.

I want to share a few examples with you illustrating the concept of good:

Erica Mayer:  Erica began a campaign for Charity Water to celebrate her birthday.  She created a page that outlined her reasons for getting involved and began sharing the page with her online network. What happened? Well, over $10,000 later, Erica has changed a lot of lives for her birthday.

Jeanne Bowerman: Inspiration also comes in the form of inspiration and insight. On her blog, Jeanne outlined a moving experience she had by connecting with a single person…who is often overlooked. Through her kind actions, Jeanne created a moment that changed his life, hers, and those that read her story.

Danny Brown: I couldn’t leave out one of my favorite social media for change guys. Danny is the driving force behind The 12for12k Challenge.  Over the last couple years, Danny has raised well over $100k to help out a number of worthy charities and connect a huge list of supporters that also work together to create change.

These are all just a few top of mind examples in my world of people making a real difference in their communities. Chances are if you’re reading this blog you’re working in a professional job, likely college educated, and connected with a variety of different networks. While we each have our own struggles, between a tough economy and the business known as life, there’s also a good chance you’re in a position to make a difference to someone.  It doesn’t have to be a gigantic commitment, it may be a single event that helps someone (much like Jeanne’s example) but in finding an issue that is meaningful to you, it actually engages others to help too.  I am blown away by many of the kind and smart people I’ve met in my community (both physical and online) and feel so blessed to say that you all inspire me. When you’re in a position to help someone, you can truly change lives…including your own.

Enough with the Hate

Life, Social Media

After playing in social media for a couple of years now I have to ask: why so angry folks?  Isn’t social media built on the premise of social connection?  Over the past couple week I’ve been fortunate to spend time with a number very smart social media supporters.  In chatting, it’s funny how often a post or tweet comes up in conversation that is instantly recognized.  The hater post.  

Photo courtesy *_Abhi_* via Creative Commons

Every so often it becomes trendy to bash people who have become well-recognized in the social media industry.  You’ll see these kinds of posts all over if you keep an eye out for them.  Chris Brogan this and Guy Kawasaki that.  Perhaps concern that Mashable did, or didn’t, pick up on a certain story? 

But why?  If someone is producing content you don’t feel is quality, sharing ideas you don’t like,  or hitting the same points repeatedly then just ignore them.  Rather than fixate on them and try to tear them down maybe there is something more productive you can do to positively influence the industry? 

  • Don’t sit and say nobody is coming up with unique ideas- go create a new program.
  • Don’t heckle big names who are successful- spend time figuring what unmet need you can fill.
  • If it seems too simple to you, don’t dwell on it- go help someone who needs it or take it up a level for advanced users.

Now, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be able to have credible discussions around social media and question assumptions that currently exist.  (The fear to do that will be covered in the next post here.  Shameless, subtle hint right?)  However, I think there is too often an undercurrent of envy or resentment that seems to lie below the surface of the collaborative spirit that is a foundation of social media.  I’d like to see social media continue to grow and evolve and I believe the only way that will happen is if the community is able to put personal issues aside and support those that are driving innovation, whomever it is.

HAPPO to Help Out

Life, Public Relations

The opportunity to help out is always a great privilege.   I’m very thankful to so many people who took time out from their careers to teach me or offer advice that has helped me along the way.  They didn’t have to do so, but they did.  The PR industry is extremely competitive at times but, at its best, there is a sense of community around the fact that we’re all working to improve the quality of the profession.

Looking for a way you can help?  How about paying it forward a bit by supporting Help A PR Pro Out (HAPPO) to assist some of our fellow PR pros connect with employers that could benefit from their skills.  The idea for HAPPO was created by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon as a community-based initiative to help friends and colleagues who are struggling to find jobs in the current economic climate. 

On Friday, February 19, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. PR bloggers, agency leaders and PR professionals from across the country will donate their time and talents to help fellow PR pros connect with employers.  With the help of the global PR community, we believe we can make a significant difference for PR job seekers everywhere. Even if HAPPO doesn’t land candidates a job, we hope it will provide considerable momentum to their search and connect them with new and different opportunities and great people.

Leading up to Feb. 19, job seekers are encouraged to develop creative blog posts, pitching themselves to prospective employers and sharing via Twitter during the event on Feb. 19 using the hashtag #HAPPO.

This is one of those times you can make a real difference in someone’s career.  If you’re in a position to help, please do so.  If you’re looking for new opportunities in Minneapolis, please let me know.  Seeking a forum to highlight yourself? You’re welcome to use the virtual real estate right here at CommUnity Business.

Not in the Twin Cities?  That’s o.k. too as a laundry list of prominent PR bloggers and influencers have been engaged across the U.S.  Let me know and we’ll find a contact for you.

Let’s work together to improve the profession and see if we can change a few lives along the way.