Visualizing Information

Part of an Infographic about handwriting (source: educatorstechnology.com)

Part of an Infographic about handwriting

Infographics. Do you remember them? Have you seen any lately?

In our internet, SEO-obsessed world, the question arises from time to time, should we bother with the graphics, especially something like an infographic?

Courtney Gordner  asked “are infographics dead?” at tweakyourbiz.com recently. Seems that many feel that graphically conveying the information is a dying art because SEO cannot really read text in a graphic. Well, my question to you is, are you looking for SEO points or are you looking to make your information useful to others? Courtney points to evidence that they are not, because of the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook or Pinterest. Courtney points out five reasons you ought to use them:

  1. Statistical data is more compelling and easier to understand when placed in charts and graphs
  2. Visual stimulation is the highest sensory detail we have, since 90% of our daily information intake is visual
  3. Most social networks are built on picture oriented platforms
  4. Pictures reach a wider demographic
  5. When someone uses your infographic, they link back to your page

Let’s face it, connecting with others takes work. Infographics take work to create. (If you want to read the one on this page, click the infographic or here to see the full-sized version. It is quite interesting.) But as John Maxwell says, connecting takes work and connectors are willing to do the hard work of creating connection.

If you are interested in infographics, there are plenty of places to learn more. I did a post a few months back on the subject.

Also, if you are really interested in learning to visually display information, you should consider getting one of Dr. Edward Tufte’s books, or even better, attend one of his marvelous seminars. I attended one some years back and, while I have always appreciated the power of the visual arts, Dr. Tufte helps you really understand how to make information live visually.

If you find a way to make information interesting and compelling, you will have no problem with SEO. Rather, you will have people flocking to your site to see more about your compelling information.

Using Infographics For Your Company by Courtney Gordner at tweakyourbiz.com

In the End, Business IS Service

Miracle on 34th Street (1994 film)

Is your team as committed to customer service as Kris Kringle? (source: Wikipedia)

How would you like to have 75% of your business be repeat customers who seek you out to get things? Most businesses would be thrilled, especially if those customers checked in regularly to see what you have. As Jeanne Bliss shared at smallbiztrends.com recently, when your company is clear about who it is and what it does, amazing things can happen.

Using internet retailer Zappos.com as an example, Bliss explores how clarity from the boardroom to the customer service floor can make a big difference in the decisions made, which create a trusted relationship between retailer and customer, keeping them coming back. The company was founded on the idea of great customer service after its founder, Nick Swinmurn, couldn’t find a pair of shoes he wanted back in 1999.

Today, if Zappos does not offer what you are looking for, their customer service reps will help you find it elsewhere on the web–sort of like Kris Kringle in the Miracle on 34th Street sending people to Gimbels when Macy’s didn’t have what they were looking for. As Zig Ziglar said, “when you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” When your customers know you are looking out for their interests, you create an emotional connection with your customers and they will patronize you loyally–even becoming your evangelists.

Are you one of those people who has “internal customers” — other organizations within your company that you serve? They may be forced to come to you for service, but what if you treated them with all of the respect and courtesy of an outside customer? Treating others with respect and providing them great service will also make these people fans of you and your organization, making it easier for your company to meet its mission and creating valuable contacts who might be able to help you in the future.

In the end, business is service because the best businesses in every field realize they must create a relationship with people about an offering. They may have to buy from you the first go-round for any number of reasons, but they will come back because of the relationship. Service provides a means to create that relationship. Clarity about this essential truth will help your organization grow.

Clarity of Purpose: What’s Your Promise? by Jeanne Bliss at smallbiztrends.com

Why You Should Say No

No! No! No!I was reading a blog post at fourhourworkweek.com talking about why creative people should say “no” more often. The author, Kevin Ashton, shared several rejections to the invitation a researcher sent to creative people because he was studying the creative process. The one that stuck with me was from Peter Drucker:

One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours–productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.

For a several years I fancied myself a leader, and a decent one at that. But my true journey as a leader did not start until the day I realized that, in spite of all my education and skill at problem solving, I was not leading because I was always pursuing someone else’s agenda. Sure, I had goals: I wanted to make lots of money so I could take care of my family; I wanted to be the best at something; I wanted to be loved and respected. Nice ideals, but vague and unfocused. Consequently, my plan was to find and solve problems. “Just tell me what problem you need solved and I will take care of it!” was my mantra. I didn’t realize I was surrendering my agenda to other people.

I had to figure out what I really wanted, then I had to start saying ‘no.’

Saying no is hard. By nature we want to help others. Further, most of our social training teaches us it is rude to decline to help someone in need. If someone is truly in need — really cannot take care of him/herself — then we should help. But there is a difference between someone truly wanting and someone wanting you to help with the community yard sale…or the Christmas Party Committee. Mind you, doing either of those activities because they will help you and your agenda is a reason to do them. But if there is nothing in it for you, then saying yes is only taking time away from the big things you are supposed to accomplish.

So, first, figure out your purpose. Next, figure out how to do it. Finally, consider others’ invitations to help them, but consider whether the time taken away from your goals is worth the price.

Why (and How) Creative People Need to Say “No” by Kevin Ashton at fourhourworkweek.com

 

Introverts Are Leaders, Too…

Are you an introvert? Maybe you have taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test and know that your fourth and last digit in your type is an “I”… (I am a borderline I). Maybe you are shy… but shy is more about not knowing what to do in a situation than about being an introvert.

As humans, we all need some company from time to time. Extroverts get their batteries recharged when they are around people, while introverts tend to get their batteries recharged when they can get time alone for a while. (But yes, more shy people are introverts than extroverts.)

The blog at Inc. Magazine had a great article recently about five ways introverted leaders can embrace their tendencies to become better leaders:

  1. Spend solo time thinking about strategy. Since you like to be alone to recharge, why not spend that time thinking about your goals? Focus your vision. Develop specifics. Divine your motivations. These can then be taken back to your team and help it move ahead.
  2. Use the power of one-on-one conversations. You don’t really like big meetings, so why not do one-on-ones. A tip I learned as a management consultant is to try to avoid using meetings to figure things out. Use them to confirm decisions already made. To do that you need to get with people and talk with them ahead of the big meeting. You might not always be able to get thing figured out beforehand, but one-on-one people might say or be open to things they cannot afford to politically when caught by surprise in a meeting.
  3. Notice who the other “Quiet Influencers” are. Introverts often have well-developed observation skills. In meetings, look beyond the loud ones to see who is quietly putting ideas out that move the group forward. Spend time with these people one-on-one to bring out their best ideas.
  4. Identify what you want to change. This is another take on your strong observational skills, introverts. You probably can very quickly figure out what needs to change so that you can keep moving forward. You may need help executing what needs to be done, but awareness is a start.
  5. Make the most of social networking. So, you don’t necessarily like to get in front of people? Well, social media is a way of interacting with them without having to be physically present. How can you use it to help you? Your personal brand?

There are some great things to think about here. If you are an introvert, or you work regularly with introverted leaders, why tips do you have?

5 Leadership Tips for Introverts by Stephanie Meyers at Inc.com

Those Pesky Salespeople!

Bad salespeople may get sales, but they often do it at someone’s expense. In the short-term, that might be the customer, but in the long run poor salespeople hurt their own companies. In a recent post at the Inc.com blogs, John Treace makes this point, sharing the 5 Worst Mistakes That Salespeople Make:

  1. Blaming the company for mistakes. Sure, sometimes the company is to blame, but shouldn’t a sales professional be seeking a solution instead of blame?
  2. Failing to recommend a competitor. Your product isn’t the best for all customers all the time. Sales professionals are trusted advisors, so tell the truth when the competitor is better for a particular situation.
  3. Putting the sale first. When a sale becomes about what the salesperson wants and not the customer, it puts the relationship at risk. You might get that sale, but will you ever get another one with them?
  4. Not honoring commitments. Sales professionals keep their commitments because that builds trust. If customers cannot count on you, they will go elsewhere.
  5. Making “trap” presentations. Nobody wants to be goaded into a purchase they aren’t ready to make, so avoid “If I could show you X, would you buy today?” presentations.

As you can see, good sales professionals work to create relationships based on trust with clients. They take responsibility and put the customer first, always. Are you a sales professional? What do you do to create trust in your relationships with customers?

5 Worst Mistakes That Salespeople Make by John Treace at Inc.com

Failing to Acknowledge Failure

How many of us as we start to set goals and create plans stop to analyze the possibility of failure? Adrienne Asselmeier, a guest blogger at bplans.com, in her recent post, Failure is an Option, commented recently that “When all you can think about is success, goals, and growth, then you’re not going to have a Plan B.”

“Dren” is right when she comments that people don’t really want to think about failure, but inevitably any plan will have some little failures in it. She points out that lots of people are starting to talk about failure in blogs and on the conference circuit. Failure is actually good, and our friend, if we learn from it. If we understand that we are likely to fail at first, it won’t bother us to do so–it is part of the process of learning. Setbacks are part of achievement.

While we should expect we will face setbacks, we should not use this as an excuse to inadequately plan. We should be looking at our plans and asking questions, challenging our assumptions. For example, Why do I believe my sales projections are accurate? How do I know it will take this long to manufacture my product? Why should I believe I can recruit the team in the time allotted?

The management discipline that addresses the real challenges any plan or organization faces and deals with threats, active and potential is Risk Management. It is all part of grounding yourself in the realities of the market. You want to understand what you face so that you can adequately plan.

I think a lot of people confuse what is Plan B. For many the thinking goes, “If I fail at starting this software company, I can always be a bartender.” If you want to run a nightclub, bartending so you can learn more about running a club might be something of a Plan B. But real Plan B’s are about taking a different approach to getting your dream. I wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy for college. I wanted to be a Marine Officer. Knowing that the academic standards were rigorous, my Plan B was not to become a Music major at the local college. I enlisted in the armed forces and got some education to prepare me. This plan also kept me near my dream, keeping me focused on my mission. I entered the Naval Academy 1 year to the day after I entered enlisted service. Sure there was hard work in there, it didn’t happen by magic. But I knew what I wanted and was not going to accept failure. It was an option, but not one I had to settle for.

Failure is an Option by Adrienne Asselmeier at bplans.com

How to Ruin a Business (or Any other) Relationship

Woman-profile-trashOver at the Inc.com blogs, Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick recently posted a great piece about how to mess up business relationships. They share two great ways to screw up a business relationship: inattention, and not being 100% present.

To illustrate their first point, they share a story about a friend, “Sam,” a great guy but he doesn’t get around to responding to responding to emails or phone calls with any rhyme or reason. This can threaten relationships if people begin to believe you don’t really care about them. They then point to a survey their company did with 10’s of thousands of employees for client companies and found that one of the biggest problems affecting employee satisfaction was perceived disrespect from their bosses. When you are too busy to make time for people, they perceive that you don’t value them. Don’t be careless with your relationships, like Sam. Decide what is important to you and work on those things. Don’t let the urgent get in the way of doing what is important.

Which brings us to the other thought, being 100% present. There are tons of things that scream for our attention during the day, especially with 24/7 access to information, it is easy to let the urgent chirp or vibration of a text or email distract us from meetings or other work we may be doing. But is it wise to sneak that peek or tap that quick reply. When you do, you are telling those around you that they are really not as important as that other message. Once again, you are showing disrespect, however unintentional it may be.

John Maxwell says that connecting with people is hard work. If you value a relationship, give it the attention it deserves, and show respect for your connection. This is true whether a colleague, customer, or significant other.

…I guess I need to catch up with some people this next week! How about you?

How to Ruin Business Relationships by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick at Inc.com

Are You Holding Yourself Back?

Have you ever seen the rush hour in a major metropolitan area? I used to work in downtown Washington, DC. Lots of people, regardless of economic status use public transportation, at least part of the time. Why? Because it works very efficiently.

Suzanne Lucas, another Inc.com blogger lives in Basel, Switzerland, another town with an excellent public transportation network. She noticed that out-of-towners tend to take cabs when arriving in town. It was going to take them more time waiting for a taxi than to take public transportation. Why? It was what they knew.

Is your thinking holding you back?

Do you always rely on what you already know when approaching a problem or situation? I am not suggesting you not develop habits and use them to manage and control your life. But do you take time to check new situations to see if your assumptions still hold?

When encountering a new situation, ask yourself questions. Think things through. You might know the answers, but maybe not. Research those things. Don’t rely on assumptions, find the better way.

Will You Leave Your Comfort Zone? Ask Yourself This Question by Suzanne Lucas at inc.com

The King of Happiness

Chip Conley at TED. From chipconley.com

Chip Conley at TED. From chipconley.comI was stuck, looking for some inspiration on a project today and sought out some TED talks for inspiration. If you aren’t familiar with TED, it is a non-profit and acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Well, I came across a talk called Measuring what makes life worthwhile by Chip Conley. It did not disappoint.

While Chip had lots of great points to make about how people and organizations struggle to move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he brought it all into sharp focus talking about the King of Bhutan. Shortly after the 17-year-old assumed the throne in the early 1970’s he was asked about his country’s Gross National Product (GNP – today called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP). The king responded, asking why should we focus on GNP, when we ought to be focused on the happiness and satisfaction of people? This has led to a movement called “Gross National Happiness.”

Of course, you cannot achieve what you do not measure, and for many it is especially difficult to measure an intangible such as happiness. However, the pursuit of happiness is exactly what Jefferson reminded us was a natural right. So, why shouldn’t we find a way to measure it?

In the end, Chip doesn’t offer any specific prescriptions for what people should measure, but he does offer questions you can ask yourself to begin to move in this direction, “…what less obvious metrics could we use to actually evaluate our employee’s sense of meaning, or our customers’ sense of connection with us?”  There are many things you can study to increase employee satisfaction with their jobs and customer/client connection with your company.

A key point is that you don’t have to choose between having either a great culture with happy workers and customers or a very profitable organization. Both are possible with some planning. And wouldn’t happy workers who find meaning in their work serving clients who value your products and services, not just for what they do but for how they make the customer’s life better lead to opportunities to make a fair profit for giving so much value to so many people?

What intangibles do you think show happiness and satisfaction for your life? For your organization? For your customers? Why not share some of your ideas in the comments section below?

And if you have about 15 minutes, why not enjoy Chip Conley’s TED Talk. You will be glad you did.

Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile at TED.com

Connecting as a Solo-preneur

Are you a “solo-preneur” – someone who is charging off on that grand adventure of entrepreneurship all by yourself? You have probably realized that you cannot do it all by yourself, but need a supportive team if you are going to realize your vision and make your dreams come true. Antonio Neves, blogging at entrepreneur.com has some advice for you — ways to create community so that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself:

  • Meet with like-minded masterminds: there are groups all over the country that offer opportunities to “mastermind” with like-minded people to get fresh perspectives on your problems and possible solutions. Some are open-ended, others focus on books or systems. I have run both types, and they have helped clients move businesses in directions they never realized were possible.
  • Seek out formal training and support: Neves points out that you probably need to learn skills as an entrepreneur. All across the country there are opportunities popping up to help nascent entrepreneurs, including incubators, accelerators, and formal schooling like MBA programs. Besides getting knowledge to help you will have an opportunity to expand your network.
  • Problem-solve with people who aren’t exactly like you: Our tendency is to surround ourselves with people just like us. Why not seek others in allied professions and get their reaction? You can probably help each other expand your thinking and insight.
  • Network with people you wouldn’t normally meet:  Neves mentions an event called Wok+Wine which brings people together who are interested in good food, wine, and conversation and allowing the magic to happen because you are now having to explain your concept to people who aren’t necessarily like you. Seek out ways to interact with people who aren’t just like you and see if you can’t get a fresh perspective on what you do, and maybe even some support, too.

What are you doing to create a community to help you succeed? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Where to Find a Community If You’re a Solopreneur by Antonio Neves at entrepreneur.com