Get Real: Authenticity and Merging Personality & Professional Life

So much research has indicated that in this new world of online relationship building, authenticity is one of the top ingredients in any recipe of success.

Being authentic means being honest and genuine, which then makes people (prospects, peers, clients) trust you naturally. People respond to people who feel “real” to them. Nobody likes a phony, and people get nervous and mistrustful when they can’t “read” a person. If people read you as authentic, they will trust you, value you, and look to you for leadership and guidance.

Authenticity is about how you conduct yourself, how you treat others, and the way you work and fit in to your corporate culture. It’s not about being “too nice’ or insincere; it’s about being real. I read that authenticity can be broken down into these five qualities:

Confidence + Self-awareness + Transparency + Consistency = Authenticity

In other words, authenticity is about establishing and showing an honest and consistent alignment between your personality, your words, and your actions. Much like other personal and professional skills, authenticity can be developed. Here are five ways to develop your authenticity:

1. Be honest. This does not mean you can be rude or disrespectful. You can be honest and still be respectful, diplomatic, and professional. The key is to express yourself well and use kind, constructive, and inclusive language when you speak.

2. Engage in active listening. Part of being authentic means you care about more than just yourself, so it is important to engage other people. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Ask questions. Practice reflective listening. Really listen to what they tell you. Resist the temptation to talk about yourself.

3. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Treating other people well is the surest sign of someone who is confident, collected, and genuine. Be gracious, polite, and respectful to everyone, from the janitor to the vice president, from the secretaries to the baristas, from your co-workers to the garage attendants. The real test is to view the way you treat people who can do nothing for you.

4. Take a personality test. Becoming more aware of yourself, how you operate in the world, how you behave, and how you impact people is the key to using your authentic self in business. A good way to learn about yourself is to take a personality test like the Meyers-Briggs. That test and others like it are an excellent tool for self-awareness, as long as you get the proper training around the assessment. Make sure a professional is able to go over the results with you so you can understand and use the information properly.

5. Look at others. Studying traits of successful but authentic business people is also a good way to understand what being real looks like. How do these folks approach life and work? Are they passionate about what they do? Are they consistent in what they say and what they do? Do they have confidence is being themselves even if nobody else does things their way? Do they integrate their personal qualities into their work life? It’s a sense we have about someone which tells us if they’re an authentic person or not.

Being authentic means you are honest and real. It means you are trusted and counted on. And it is so important to your success in modern business.

Just Say No to Multi-tasking

We live in an age of multitasking. We spend our days immersed in computers, tablets, phones and other devices that let us do ten things at once, while staying up-to-date on the latest news, sports, emails and tweets from around the world.

There’s just one problem: our brains aren’t built for multitasking.

Many people think they’re good at multitasking, but the research says it simply isn’t true. We get less done, and we do it less accurately and effectively, when we try to multitask. And the people who think they’re good at multitasking are actually the worst at it.

“Switching from task to task, you think you're actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you're actually not,” said Earl Miller, Neuroscience Professor at MIT, in an NPR article. “You're not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”

This switching has a cost, in terms of time, attention and effectiveness. A study reported in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology found students were 40% slower solving complicated math problems when they had to switch to other tasks. And research by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London found multitasking with electronic media temporarily reduces your IQ by 10 points. 

Instead of trying to do everything at once, try to intentionally, consciously do ONE THING AT A TIME and to completion.  What a concept?! Try time-blocking for one week and come back to tell me how much more productive you were.

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a technique that involves scheduling blocks of time designated for specific actions or tasks throughout the day, week, month or year. These tasks should be associated with your short-term and long-term goals, and must be blocked out in accordance with the realistic number of hours available each day. Time blocking is a productivity technique that can help to keep your life in balance and less stressful.

At first, the idea of rigidly scheduling tasks in such a way may seem counter-intuitive. But for those of you with a build-up of assignments to get through or a tight deadline to meet, time blocking can keep you focused on your top priorities while keeping interruptions, procrastination and fruitless multitasking at a minimum.

BENEFITS OF TIME BLOCKING OVER MULTI-TASKING
Mental preparedness

Scheduling a task for the future allows you to be mentally prepared for it. If the task at hand is a complex one, you can prepare for each step in advance. By taking the time to plan out the task in advance, you may think of ways to complete the task that are quicker and easier.

Greater Focus on Each Task
Time blocking allows you to focus on one task at a time. You have probably already noticed a difference in your work when you focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do multiple things at the same time. Focusing on a single task produces better results in less time.

Improved productivity
When you work in a focused manner, you improve your productivity. You will begin to mark tasks off your To-Do list in quick succession, which will make everyone happy.

Less Stress
Once you realize that your tasks are getting done, you will feel less overwhelmed and stressed, even in situations with tight deadlines.

TIME BLOCKING PROCESS
Start by writing out 3-5 of your most important and urgent tasks along with any other necessary (though not always important) tasks that must be accomplished. Then, split those tasks into the amount of hours you will have each day (8 for most working days). Make sure to allot different-sized chunks for each task depending on how long you need to dedicate to it. Each chunk of time should be dedicated to a specific task (or set of tasks) that are important and necessary.

Google Calendar is a perfect tool for this, but a piece of paper will work just as well.

  1. Define the block of time
  2. Define the date & time
  3. Define the location
  4. Be descriptive
  5. Set reminders

EFFICIENCY IN TIME BLOCKING TIPS
Be honest
.
Don’t try to pack too many tasks into one day. Most people tend to underestimate how long tasks actually take. If you’ve never tracked your time before, it may take a while to get an accurate understanding of how long it actually takes to accomplish your tasks.

Schedule blocks of time for returning emails and calls
Make sure to assign blocks of time for this reactive work in order to avoid the usual distractions of answering phone calls and responding to emails.

Greatly reduce or remove distractions.
While blocking out time is a good method in theory, if you don’t stick to it in practice, then you are destined to fail. Sitting down for a couple of hours of deep focused work with a Twitter tab open, your phone notifications on, and your co-workers thinking that they can interrupt you at any time, is setting yourself up for failure.

Don’t be too specific.
This tip is based on our natural inability to realistically predict how long tasks will actually take. Keep your time blocks relatively vague, but in line with a very specific goal. For example, use “1 hour to work on ABC project” as opposed to “1 hour to write out my top 5 objectives”. That’s the cool thing about time-blocking…you just need to generalize your blocks and then get into action.

Create a Vision Board to Aid Accomplishing Your Goals

A vision board is a powerful visualization tool that you can use as inspiration for your journey toward your ideal life. Some people refer to it as a “dream board” or an “inspiration board.” No matter what you call it, it’s basically a collage of pictures, words and quotes that serve to remind you of your passion and purpose.

The inspirational collages serve as your image of the future - a tangible example, idea or representation of where you are going. They should represent your dreams, your goals, and your ideal life.

Your brain will work tirelessly to achieve the statements you give your subconscious mind. And when those statements are the affirmations and images of your goals, you are destined to achieve them.

By representing your goals with pictures and images you will strengthen and stimulate your emotions because your mind responds strongly to visual stimulation...  and your emotions are the vibrational energy that activates the Law of Attraction. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” certainly holds true here.

If you have already defined your dreams, it’s time to illustrate them visually.

As you can see, you don’t have to be an artist to make a vision board! All you need are a few basic supplies and instructions to get started.

You’ll need:

  • a poster board, cork board or small canvas
  • a stack of old magazines
  • scissors
  • markers or paint
  • glue, tape, thumbtacks or pins
  • a photo of yourself (optional)

STEP 1:

Set aside about an hour to complete your vision board. Go to a quiet space in your home where you can concentrate on yourself for a little while.

STEP 2:

Create a relaxing atmosphere. Put on music. Light a few candles. Close your eyes and take a moment to reflect on your big goals and dreams. What do you want your ideal life to look like? Brainstorm. Journal. Or, just wing it!

STEP 3:

Cut out images from magazines that represent the life you want to live. For example, if you want to become financially independent and work from anywhere you might clip a picture of someone working on a boat with a laptop. If you want to find a great romantic partner, you might snip pictures of happy couples smiling at each other.

STEP 4:

Place the photo of yourself in the middle of the board (optional). Then, paste or pin your magazine images on your board. There’s no “right way” to arrange your images. You can fill the board with pictures or just have a few posted all over on the board.

STEP 5:

Use your markers or paint to write some special quotes your vision board. You can also just cut out words or phrases from the magazines to paste on your board that remind you of the life you want to live.

STEP 6:

Display your vision board somewhere you’ll see it every day and feel inspired! If you like, you can also frame your vision board and hang it on your wall.

And there you have it – an easy, step-by-step process for creating a vision board to help you reach your goals. I hope it’s useful to you!

5 Things: Keys to Fabulous Emails

If you want your subscribers to look forward to your emails, you should consider behaving more like a friend. You know, like, and trust your friends … right? Try toning down that corporate look, and create a more minimalist email design. Write in a conversational, respectful voice.

Follow these 5 magnificent tips for friendly, eagerly anticipated emails:

  1. Stop talking about your list. Stop talking about subscribers. Write as if you’re emailing one person only. It instantly makes your emails more personal.
  2. Quit wasting people’s time. Only email when you have something truly valuable or helpful to say.
  3. Be useful. Don’t just email when you need something from your readers. Be helpful. Be generous. Be friendly. Be like real friend.
  4. Don’t be creepy. Feel free to personalize emails, but don’t repeat people’s name too often, because it makes you sound like a call center script.
  5. Give people a reward for readingMake sure people benefit from reading your emails. How? Share a useful tip. Make them feel better. Inspire them.

Have a great day, y'all!

K.I.S.S. in Ad Design (please)

The initial ad or postcard is to introduce your business in the hopes the reader will want to learn more and go to your web site. Putting everything about you into your ad is like meeting someone for the first time who tells you all about themselves, their life story and their current goals and restrictions. It’s too much. Ads are not for “reading.” Web sites and brochures are for reading. Ads are for grabbing attention with images, typeface and color in order to provoke the viewers to want to learn more.

In advertising and marketing, consistency helps convey a cohesive message and provide clarity and order for the viewer. Too much information may overwhelm a passive viewer and cause them to skip over the ad altogether.

As human beings, we look for patterns. We subconsciously attempt to create order out of chaos, make sense of what we’re looking at or experiencing. We assign meaning to elements we see are repeated. An ad with too many variations and too much information defies this basic human trait and we move on to the next page without much thought— or even a negative thought. The last thing we want your ad to do is evoke a negative response.

5 Tips to Make Your Customers Feel Loved

People won’t remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

Every time I visit a certain local shop, I smile because I can feel the culture--a certain "vibe" that defines place--the moment I walk in the door, it’s there.  I was curious because something told me it was intentional. I finally asked how they created that feeling in me every time, and their response was they simply empower employees to be themselves.

What a concept! Be yourselves. And free your employees to be themselves. We interact with so many people every day – either online or in person – but when we sense someone is being authentic, who they truly are, it’s very refreshing!

This doesn’t mean uniforms are out the door or your bullet point scripts aren’t important. It simply means let the employees’ personalities shine in the way they transmit your brand to the customers they come in contact with.

There are many small things we do to create, sustain, and improve our customers’ experience when they walk in our door. Here are, “5 Ways to Make Your Customers Feel at Home:”

1. Dress up the lobby. 

Paint. Always fresh paint. Spotless clean, of course. Always have low, upbeat, happy music playing. Visitors can see from the moment they walk in that this is a fun place. Fresh flowers. Pay close attention to the color palette of the entrance.

2. Don't hire a "receptionist."

Instead, hire a "director of first impressions.”  This employee’s job is to take great pride in making visitors and customers feel comfortable.  Treats them like family and friends the moment they walk in the door. This person should be able to sense whether a customer is an introvert or an extrovert and respond accordingly.

3. Serve food and/or drinks.

Always have chilled bottled waters available or a hot cup of coffee. And no matter the time of day, always make good food available.  Don't assume visitors have eaten.  If the food you have goes untouched, people on your team will always be happy with leftovers.

4. Make introductions to the owner/manager.

Regardless of who visitors are coming to meet, you'll make a great impression if you bring your top dog into the room, even if just for a quick greeting.  Show your visitors how important they are.

5. Offer a send-off gift and a smile.

To cap off a wonderful visit, send guests off with a sweet piece of company swag and a bottled water for the road. Every employee that greets your visitors should do so with direct eye contact and a smile.  Lead by example.  If you treat your employees well and make them happy, they'll do the same for every customer they interact with.

Changes at LinkedIn

Yesterday I attended a networking/business lunch at The Georgia Golf Club as part of the Alpharetta Business Association's monthly educational series. The topic was "LinkedIn," and the speaker was none other than the "LinkedIn Guy," Gregg Burkhalter.

Microsoft is the proud new owner of LinkedIn, so changes are underway to integrate the personal and company profiles into Office 365 products, Skype, Lynda.com and anything else controlled by the giant software people. Next month, you'll be able to walk into a convention hall and pull up on your phone which of your LinkedIn contacts are in attendance. How cool (or creepy?) is that!?

According to Mr. Burkhalter, "The secret to building a solid LinkedIn reputation for you and your company is to be helpful, humble and consistent." 

If you are not very active on LinkedIn already, start slowly. On your personal profile page simply begin with sharing one update per week and be sure to "like" or "comment" on your connections' posts occasionally. The best time to post are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7am to 9am and from 5pm to 6pm.

Burkhalter reminded us that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful social media channels for B2B marketers and professionals. It is also one of the hub/homes of your personal brand.

The personal profile page is the foundation of your LinkedIn presence and serves as the hub of your professional personal brand for your career. Be sure to use a professional image/headshot. Use your personal page to share information or knowledge that will help others. Do not use your personal page to sell products or services. Reserve that for your business page.

Fonts Have Feelings, Too

Fonts have feelings, too. Depending on which font you choose for your logo, your web site, ad designs, and brochures you'll need to keep in mind that certain font evoke specific feelings in viewers of the font.  

Chose a typeface that sings the song of your content. Typefaces with rounded edges are usually friendlier note; hard-edged geometric fonts (sans serifs) are solid and strong; while serifs convey an elegant and sophisticated look.

When selecting a typeface or font for headings, subtitles and body text, use easy to read fonts for simple and effective graphic design. The eye finds it hard to scan multiple typefaces, so stick to a simple collection of fonts. This design uses variants from the Aileron font family, a geometric sans serif typeface that has a simple and modern aesthetic.

Create visual uniformity by applying one typeface or font family to text. Use a typeface or font family that has a selection of variants, such as italic, bold, condensed, to keep options open. This image combines Libre Baskerville Bold, Light and Italic.

Small Business Saturday in 5 Days!

Most any local small business would benefit from advertising in our magazines. But, there are a lot of other local options these businesses can choose among.  Coupon magazines, full-size high gloss magazines, Facebook, Blogging, sponsoring special events, radio, billboard, signage, and direct mail are all excellent ways to reach local customers.

The day of the Groupon deal of the day advertising has waned to almost nothing. (thank goodness—in hindsight this was not good for small business)

At LLP our focus is you, the small business owner. We want to help your drive as many local customers as possible to your organization. Of course we’d love for you to advertise with us; but we’ll use this blog to educate local marketers on how to use all available means of marketing locally.

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY is in five days, November 28th

American Express encourages small business owners to take charge of the day, helping them promote their businesses with free personalized ads, which appeared millions of times across the web. We received our free box of marketing materials delivered via fedex complimentary! 50 tote bangs, banners, balloons, pens, flags, door mats and more.  AMEX really puts a lot into this day each year.

We love Small Business Saturday because the whole country focuses on the ‘little’ guys. We would be considered one of the little guys, too! We do accept AMEX, but we’re not a B to C business. So we do what we can, which is promote the day and encourage our readers to shop locally for Hanukkah and Christmas.

At LLP we commit to shop local as much as possible this holiday season. Shopping local supports our customers. And we’re all about that.