Corporations Who Are Blogging

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If you work for a big corporation and still think that big corporations don’t blog – or that they don’t receive any benefit from blogging – then take a look at Josh Catone’s blog, “15 Companies That Really Get Corporate Blogging.” Among the 15 listed are Dell, Southwest Airlines, Marriott International, General Motors and Quicken Loans.

Top companies are leveraging social media for communications. Lists like this one help dispel the notion that social media is fluff. These companies are leveraging social media to get their messages out to the public – and, isn’t that the point? To be heard? And, to be heard in an authentic, real and real-time way?

And, just as interesting as Cantone’s blog are the comments he received in response to his post. Not only are these companies blogging, but they’re actively monitoring the blog-ways.

For instance, someone at General Motors responded, “Like the others who’ve weighed in here, GM is psyched to be on your list – and we’re grateful for the recognition. It’s good company… several of the companies on this list are companies we’ve admired for a long time. It’s also good to see a couple that I hadn’t known about — more people to learn from.
 Not that I want to get into doing cheap plugs, but this fall we’ll be doing a video post series that I hope will be as relevant and interesting as anything we’ve ever done on FastLane. We’d love to hear people’s opinions on the series, once we get going. (I am hoping end of August, but it could be into September.) 
Thanks again for the shout-out, and for placing us in such strong company.”

From Quicken Loans: “Great post and thanks for the Quicken Loans mention. We’ve really tried hard to make our blogs interesting, fun, and something that accurately reflect who we are here at Quicken Loans. Blogging hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had some rough times and a few disappointments, but overall it’s been a great experience and we absolutely understand the value of corporate blogging. My only question – why doesn’t everyone?”

And, here’s a general response about a blog often-mentioned, but I’ve never personally checked it out, but maybe I’ll have to:

“Speaking of CEO blogs, I’m perhaps a little embarrassed to admit that I visit GoDaddy CEO Bob Parson’s blog every now and then, and not just for the girls in bikinis. Well maybe that’s part of it. But the sheer cheese in the way he sells himself I find hilarious. Sometimes I laugh with him, sometimes I laugh at him. I’m sure I’m not alone.”

For more on companies who are blogging, , here is another blog post discussing Yum! Brands’ CEO blog: “Blogging Is Serious Business for Leadership”

Women Bullies?

glovesThe media keeps reporting on the rise of women bullies in the workplace, and I’ve been following these stories with interest. There’s been a feature on “The Today Show” and an article in The New York Times, to name some of the coverage. Of course, to me, it seems realistic to assume there are women bullies in the workplace, but no more in number than men. And, although the news reports that women bullies generally target women and not men, I wonder if that could be attributed to the fact that women are more likely to report being pushed around than their male counterparts. I know that the tough-as-nails women who I’ve run across are tough on everyone they meet and make no distinction between sexes.

So, my gut instinct is to say, “Give me a break. Bullies are a problem. Period. Don’t try to pin it on women after all of this time.”

But maybe, being a woman, I’m just being touchy, so I took an informal poll of 10 colleagues in different industries, and only one of them said that they thought women bullies were a problem, but that person couldn’t think of anybody specifically. Just that it was probably a problem.

One gentleman said, “I know one colleague of mine who’s considered pretty tough. But, she’s a product of her industry. We’re pretty rough and tumble. And, she’s just living up to the expectation and demands of the men she works with day in and day out.”

Another colleague said, “Nope, don’t know any women bullies, but they are out there, I’m sure.”

Just one last thing, when asked to name bullies who were men, nobody had a problem doing that, regardless of whether the response came from a man or woman.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Social Media for Old Folks

SocialMeCardsI graduated from college before some of my most accomplished employees were even born. I’m headed back to Chapel Hill this weekend for my 30-year high school reunion. I’ve been noticing that a whole bunch of friends and business acquaintances my age seem to be flummoxed by this whole social media thing.

In the past week, I’ve had two phone calls from friends asking if they could take me to lunch so I could teach them all about social media. They know they ought to get on board, but they can’t figure out where to start or how. It’s kind of like getting on an escalator as a kid, when the steps are moving away from you faster than you can figure out where to hop on.

One of these friends is a serial entrepreneur who recently sold her specialty medical equipment company for several million. Kim’s now launching a change management company specializing in nursing homes. The other is a well-connected fundraiser in the area of world poverty. Carol spent  many years at CARE, and now works with a foundation at Emory University, our alma mater where we met as sorority sisters. (Kappa Kappa Gamma. Secret handshake, anyone?)

Both of these people are naturals for social media. Kim is people person in the extreme. She talks to people wherever she goes, and leaves them laughing, every time. The governor appointed her to the board of public health, so now she hob knobs with everyone down at the capitol, sharing yucks with politicos from all over Georgia. Carol knows every influential person in Atlanta and can work a cocktail party like nobody’s business.

But she’s been reluctant to even fill out a LinkedIn profile. Carol seems a little suspicious of social media, like maybe there’s a big brother factor that kind of gives her the creeps. Or maybe she’s worried she just can’t parse it, despite her astronomically high I.Q.

Coincidentally, these two friends called when I was in the middle of developing a new Starter Cards deck titled “Build Your Brand with Social Media.” Two other titles we halfway seriously considered were “Social Media for People Over 30” and “Blogging for Boomers.” The deck breaks down the basics of social media into 52 manageable steps, one step per card, from joining social networks to promoting your own blog.

As I’ve been writing these cards, I’ve imagined that I’m explaining the process to these two friends. Not Millennials, no spring chickens. But smart, interesting people who could power their success by making connections and sharing their expertise.

Both lunches have had to be rescheduled, thanks to the various scheduling conflicts of busy people. I’m thinking that by the time we actually get together, this deck of Starter Cards SocialMeCardswill be back from the printer and already in their hands. And then we can spend our lunch dates just sharing personal news and telling funny stories. Anything, that is, that we haven’t already shared on Facebook.

Agency Workflow Appeals to Gen Y

naked final no faceI’ve recently finished producing a press kit for a client who is releasing a new album. It is the first piece of work that I’ve done here for which I can truly say that I had my hands in every part of the project from the design and creation of the piece to the communication with the client. Even though it wasn’t much of a large-scale project and I was dealing with a very amiable client, there were still a fair amount of challenges and it was pretty gratifying to see it through to the end. I think that is one facet of this business that really intrigues me; walking a project through all the necessary steps and watching it grow into something that both the agency and the client can take pride in.

Whether it is work for a new client or new work for an existing client, this sense of gratification repeats itself with every new campaign or project that you work on. This sort of work deals with lots of smaller projects over a period of time rather than one massive objective to be achieved over the course of a year or so, which appeals to people in my generation for a number of reasons. For instance, a workload that consists of a variety of shorter projects versus a single large project allows one to step back and look at a body of work that they are proud of much more regularly, reinforcing confidence and a sense of value to the company they work for. I’ve also found that this type of work eliminates the possibility of monotony in the workplace and allows employees to start fresh with each client, giving them an opportunity to learn from and improve upon any mistakes that may have been made during previous work. With this in mind, it makes sense why so many Gen Y folks like me are attracted to agency jobs, and as a result, why so few of us are able to find agency jobs in an economic climate such as this one.

Generational Harmony: Are We Leveraging the Common Ground?

37472413I don’t think there’s as much focus on leveraging the common ground between different generations as the fact that there are different generations. This seems like a lost opportunity as everyone tailors this and that to one generation or another. Some of that needs to happen, but not to the extent of ever being exclusionary of certain age groups. After all, many of the qualities newer generations bring to the table benefit everyone – and the companies they work for.

Here are some insights from The UPS Foundation President Ken Sternad on the topic, followed by some on-the-job counsel that works for any generation (in my opinion):

What are your thoughts about the different generations in the workplace? “Hmmm. I’m thinking about how to say this because I don’t think that entitlement is the right word. Clearly the newer generation wants to be challenged. Their expectation is that the work is going to be rewarding. That they’re going to have the opportunity to do something that matters, that’s cool, and that uses their unique talents. That expectation of personal satisfaction makes younger generations tick differently than someone my age. And, I think that’s a healthy thing.

“You know, the thing is that when I was younger, generational differences just weren’t that huge. I don’t think I was that different than the generation before me. They were like, ‘You have a job. You’re blessed. Do it.’ If someone had said to me, ‘Just shut up and do the work,’ – that wouldn’t have bothered me.

“And, there are certain things that make people tick. Those things haven’t changed for 200 years. Take the current generation. They’re service oriented. They want to make a difference in the world. I have three kids, 21, 21, 22 – and they’re a lot like me. They care as much about having a great job and being successful as they do about working for a company that’s doing great things. And, they say, ‘I have a life outside of work that’s more important.’

What are the qualities of a successful employee? 
“First, let your performance speak for itself,” said Sternad. “Don’t be consumed with needing the glory or advancing your career. Don’t make decisions from that place.

“Second, understand the value and ask for the participation of those around you. Teamwork allows you to do the task at hand better. And your ability to include others demonstrates the kind of leadership and approach that will get you to the next level.

“And, let me tell you this, I’ve seen lots of people who are good at what they do. They knock it out of the park every time. They keep their nose to the grindstone all of the time. But they have to do everything themselves. They like being the one at the bottom of the ninth inning who has to hit a home run to win the game. They put this force field around them to shut everyone out so they can get all the glory.

“It’s great to hit it out of the park, but not if you’re doing it in a silo time and time again. It’s not about hitting the home run. It’s about working as a team.

“Then there are those people who relish the fact that they have others around them to help take it to next level. Those are the people who I look for.”

How do you identify those people? “There’s a question I always ask during interviews when hiring people, especially from the outside. I say, ‘Tell me something that you achieved successfully.’ I know this is a typical question. But what I’m interested in is what they choose to talk about. I want to see if it’s, ‘I did this and I did that. I hit the home run at the bottom of the ninth inning.’ Or if it’s, ‘Here’s something my team achieved collectively.’

“I look for that. UPS is not a place for glory hounds. If you listen to people who rose to higher levels, they always talk about how they accomplished things with other people collectively. In every Chairman’s retirement speech, they talk about how they were able to help other people along the way. About how much pleasure they received from watching other people grow and succeed.”

Can You Be a Super Star and a Team Player?

28719633It’s an interesting dynamic in today’s workplace – we’re asking employees to be super stars, plus team players. Can you truly be both?

Companies are asking employees to do more with less, so they’re asking for more from employees on an individual level. At the same time, employees must work exceptionally well as part of a team towards a common purpose – make it through the recession (and come out positioned for strong and fast growth – which requires employees to understand and always remember their role in the big picture.

Here are some insights from The UPS Foundation’s President Ken Sternad on aspiring to the be the best while remembering that you can’t do it all by yourself.


What do you tell someone who deep down wants all of the credit? “You should aspire to be the best, of course, but you have to remember that you’re part of something bigger. When I say teamwork is important, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be sure that by your actions every day you have clearly demonstrated your value. You want to have people know if you’re the first one there and the last to leave. That you don’t miss a deadline. That you make sure everything is spelled right instead of simply running spell check. You still have to demonstrate that you’re the best. That you’re a superstar. You have to perform individually at your best to be a ‘Hall of Famer.’ But do that and recognize that you’re part of a team. As you move up, you want to pull others along with you. You don’t let others fail because you want to stand out.

“In 99.9 percent of cases, great work will stand out. Add to that the quality that you want to make those around you successful – and you’ve got it all.

“And, absolutely, the individual has to be recognized. And, never more so than in this time right now, with this economy, when other rewards are not as tangible. Every industry is asking people to deliver in new ways, and people are not getting compensated in the same way they used to or would expect.

“Really, it’s just a matter of stopping and taking the time to say, ‘Great job. We couldn’t have done it without you.’ Usually that’s all it takes.”

The Origin of the Humble Leader

16010537Which comes first – the humble leader or the humble brand? I think in the beginning, it’s the leader. But long term, it’s the brand. I believe that if you’re looking for people who lead with humility, look for them at brands that are respected and well liked inside and out. Don’t look for them at brands that are first and foremost cool or fun, although that can be, well, cool and fun.

I’m getting more and more interested in the dynamic and origin of the humble leader, as you can probably tell from some of my other blogs. And, you know, when you want to learn about something, go to the expert. That’s why I interviewed The UPS Foundation President Ken Sternad, formerly the head of UPS Public Relations, who is so humble that it’s hard to get him talking about leadership because it’s so counter-intuitive to talk about himself.

Tell me about leadership at UPS. “Number one – that’s difficult. That’s a tough one because so much of our culture is about being humble. [See what I mean? Humble – right off the bat.] What comes to mind is that it’s not about me. With a company like UPS, part of leadership’s job is to help people understand that what the company does has a purpose they can rally behind.

“Former UPS CEO Mike Eskew used to talk about what we do at UPS as being noble. We are connecting commerce. And, we’re delivering things that are vital to life itself. Everything we do here at UPS has a purpose. This is the secret to our brand.

“Running the PR department for so long, part of my job was to let people understand they’re part of something special. Sure, they could do what they do for UPS for other companies. They maybe could get more money somewhere else. But when you’re offering people the opportunity to be a part of something special, then that makes it easier for leadership. Then the expectations for employees to go the extra mile are just part of it. You don’t have to be apologetic when you ask someone for more. People want to be asked to do something extra. They take pride in doing a great job.

“You know, I’m 54. I’ve worked at UPS for 32 years. That’s all I’ve ever known. Other companies and entities don’t have that noble purpose. It’s made my job easier.”

What about when the message is difficult? Like during the strike?  “I would say is that you never have to worry if you’re telling the straight story. That’s how UPS works. That’s what I’ve always done. If you’re telling the straight story, then you never have to worry about, ‘What did I say yesterday or the day before?’

“It all goes back to that noble purpose and sustaining that special something you’re a part of.”

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Hell Yes to Work-life Balance, from Judy Martin

img2judy_martin_photoI’ve just discovered Judy Martin, who seems like a kindred spirit in the area of work-life balance. She’s also an Emmy award-winning journalist with 2o years of broadcast news under her belt. You may have seen or heard her on Marketplace Report, National Public Radio, CNBC Business Radio, The World Vision Report or News 12 TV Networks. She now writes and speaks about the merging of the working and living experience. HellYesBookCoverSmall

Judy posted a great review yesterday (follows below) of my “Hell Yes” book in her blog at Work Life Nation: 

Work Life Balance: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no

“Just say no.” The phrase is arguably one of the most sacred with regard to the eternal quest for work life balance. Now Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, CEO and creative director of ad agency Tribe Inc., takes the phrase a tad deeper in her book, Hell Yes: Two Little Words for a Simpler, Happier Life

Hell Yes is a simple book. It’s shy of a hundred pages, but filled with richly written phrases that directly drive home the premise of the book:  cut to the chase of what truly matters in any given choice. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no. The book offers a haiku-like take on more conscious steps in the decision making process of daily life, at home and at work.

The wisdom is not necessarily anything you haven’t heard before, but it’s the delivery that catches ones eye and heart. You could pick this book up over and over again for some thought provoking contemplative exercises. I’d like to slip it onto the desk of a few news producers I know.

Baskin asks this question throughout the book, “Is it a hell yes?” Her responses cover everything from ego, to time management, to food choices and project decisions. As she says, “This one simple question serves as the sharpest razor, swiftly and completely cutting away anything in the gray area.”

In our changing times, every decision, especially with regard to career and work can have numerous implications down the road. We are constantly faced with change and challenges. Baskin has experience in that area. She is well versed in transition and reinvention as a branding specialist with a cache of national and global clients like UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Chick-fil-A and Porsche.

What I particularly like about the book is Baksin’s brevity.  In our sensory overloaded society,  it’s refreshing to be able to just pick up a book, hit any page – and get a shot of know-how, to make the day go a little easier. It should be required reading for anyone trying to merge ones work life journey in a more positive way.

Interview Questions That Get to the Heart of the Matter

Questions_1Evaluating a candidate’s experience is far easier than figuring out if their personality makes them a good fit for the job and existing co-workers. I know, you can’t hire or promote someone just because you like them, but wouldn’t the world run smoother if teams worked together seamlessly? Don’t you ever want to ask, “Can you leave your personal baggage at home?” Or, “Can you check your ego at the door?”

Turns out, some execs do ask questions like that, and they say their teams are high-performers because they get the mix right in the first place. Here’s what one top exec in the hospitality industry shared with me about his tricks for feeling out candidates and getting a glimpse of their true selves:

What’s the first thing you look for? “Once, I was speaking at a social media conference in San Francisco. They’d asked the panel the question, ‘What’s the first thing you look for in a candidate?’ Everyone else on the panel gave these really long explanations about experience. I said, ‘I look for someone who’s a really good cook.’ The audience was mostly in their 20s and 30s. They just looked at me like I was crazy.” 

“People who love to cook have a zest for life. They’re constantly experimenting to make things better.”

What kinds of questions do you ask during interviews? 
“In interviews, one of the things I ask is, ‘What brings you joy?’ If they say cooking, then I completely open up and say, ‘Tell me about it.’ It’s a connection between the two of us.

“And, what I really want to know is if they can roll with it. If they have a sense of humor. I have a list of 50 questions I ask candidates. They’re irreverent questions, but they also test kindness. I like to pepper these more irreverent questions between serious, hard-hitting business questions. I’ll ask three or four pointed questions, and then I’ll say, ‘Give me an example of something nice you’ve done lately.’ You’d be shocked at how some people have nothing to say. I’m thinking, ‘Make something up!’ But they can’t even do that. I don’t think that’s a good sign.

“‘Sometimes I ask, ‘Who won the 1940 World Series?’ You’d be surprised at how many people will say, ‘I don’t know what that has to do with this job!’ In my mind, I’m picturing a lever being pulled and the floor disappears beneath them, they go through a series of shoots and out the front door. I’m interested in people who can have fun with a question like that. I receive a lot of thank you cards with notes saying, ‘It was the Cincinnati Reds!’ It doesn’t matter what the answer is. I just want to see their reaction.”