Tips to Become a More Decisive Leader

Leadership Concepts

Each January, people set New Year’s resolutions, embrace a visionary attitude for the year, or dream about possibilities for the future.

Some people thrive due to this natural “reset,” but others ignore it altogether. And some people just feel stuck. They wrestle with questions like these:

  •    “I’d like to write a book, but where would I start?”
  •    “I want to be more organized, but what is the best scheduling system?”
  •    “I want to quit my job, but what would I do next?”

Do you feel stuck as a leader?

Twenty years from now, you won’t remember how many loads of laundry you did or which Netflix series you binge-watched in 2019. What will matter is the relationships you cherished and the challenges you overcame. You’ll feel pride when you look back at goals you achieved or significant contributions you made. And this begins with action!

Your habits compound over time to shape your identity and to impact others. But this starts with an action-oriented, decisive mindset.

Here are several catalysts to help you become a more decisive leader.

The worst decision is no decision.

Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.

But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes we make in the process. Though some decisions matter more than others, often the decision not to act is the most costly choice of all. Don’t worry about doing the wrong thing or obsess over details. Make up your mind to be an action-oriented person and to learn from both your success and your missteps.

Action trumps the “perfect” plan.

It’s easier to steer a car that is moving than one that is parked.

Often, we over-prepare or over-think things, which is really just a form of procrastination. Taking action may mean prioritizing undesirable tasks above all others, or refusing to do things you enjoy until you solve a stalled problem. Momentum is powerful, so pick one area to begin and get started!

Narrow the field.

Sometimes the hardest part of a decision is the plethora of options before you.

It takes time to evaluate the pros and cons of every choice, so pare down choices (or have your team do this for you) until you have only a handful of options to consider. It’s easier to select one choice from two options than it is to select two options from 200!

Set deadlines.

When you struggle with passivity in a certain area, don’t keep kicking this pain point down the road.

Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting “deliberation dates” on the calendar transforms possibilities into realities.

Delegate more.

As you start a new season, challenge yourself to stop doing just one thing, and to empower just one person.

Step back to evaluate your schedule or ask someone to help you do this. What is sucking unnecessary time or energy? Could you purge this or share more of your load with your team?

Delegate authority to a trusted staff member and empower leaders around you by training and trusting them. And don’t micromanage people, even if their style is different than your own. This discourages others because it suggests you don’t trust them or you desire control more than you want growth!

Failure to make a decision or take quick action can sometimes hurt your business more than miscalculations along the way. Improve your decision-making capabilities and make this your most productive year yet!

We are making critical decisions as well. Removing all clutter, all unused equipment and pressing more into digital equipment and promoting your business on new substrates. CCPRESS.NET is building for the next decade.

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Boost Online Reviews to Drive Profitable Consumer Action

Customer Experience Concept, Happy Businessman Client with Question Mark Icon on Paper Bag, Crossed arms and wearing Suit. Concrete Wall with Wording of Positive and Negative Reviews

How do you grab a lifeline on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

You ask the audience!

While experts tend to get a trivia question right two-thirds of the time, the audience gets that answer right 91 percent of the time. Why? Because individually we are limited, but collectively we are genius.

In today’s global economy, buyers understand the importance of collective intelligence. People rely on other consumers to help them decide what movies to see, which vet to use for their pets, or the best software to buy.

Recent studies show more than half of adults under age 50 consult online reviews before making a purchase decision. People trust and rely on these reviews, and products or companies that receive positive reviews increase the quality and quantity of their website traffic.

Gather and Manage Your Own Online Reviews

Customer reviews are an incredibly valuable asset in today’s world, and businesses have more power over these reviews than they may think.

Don’t leave your reputation in the hands of third-party sites like Google, Facebook, or Yelp! As you seek to generate leads and engage prospects, work to:

  • Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Can you interview a brand loyalist personally? Have you launched an e-mail campaign to ask customers for reviews on recent purchases? Have you tried incentives to prompt greater response?
  • Get notified of new customer reviews and efficiently respond. Reply directly online or send a personal message to the reviewer to express gratitude or interest in their concern.
  • Aggregate and embed reviews on your business website. This increases the chance of positive reviews showing up in online searches by interested prospects.
  • Learn from reviews and improve service. Even negative feedback can signal customer engagement. The more you listen and respond to your customers, the more relevant and successful you will be.

As you flush out and manage reviews, don’t assume that search engines and review sites aren’t important. According to Mike Bluementhal, online marketing co-founder of GatherUp, Google is crucial:

“We advise small businesses to think of Google as your new Home page. Your Google brand result is one of your most important pages on the internet. That is not to say it can replace your website. It can’t. But your Google presence should reflect the best your business has to offer. People searching will see how you appear in Google and make immediate judgments.”

A Winning Formula

Bluemental says that 70 percent of new leads start at Google.

While traditionally word-of-mouth marketing the most powerful referral option, online reviews now hold tremendous influence. From phone calls, driving directions, or contact form fills, Google is the number one spot for new users to take action to connect with a business. And this behavior is strongly influenced by the customer reviews Google posts from the business website or social media pages.

In other words, manage your content and take great care of your customers! Care about what they think and streamline your service to their needs. Encourage them to share compliments. And when they do, give that content a boost so it appears far and wide online. Bluementhal says this will help entrepreneurs to improve weak areas while simultaneously growing areas of strength:

“It’s a winning formula in today’s landscape.”

Call us at 410-574-0780. We can be your lifeline.

Craft First-Class Flyers with 5 Quick Tricks

Rock Night Party Poster. Flyer. Vintage Styled Vector Illustration.

Want to grab attention for your event, promotion, or group?

Flyers are a low-cost form of mass communication that can be personally delivered, distributed through mail, posted in public places, or sent via e-mail. Flyers are fun to create and provide a great place to experiment with unusual images or layouts. As you explore the possibilities, here are five areas to sharpen your design:

1. Magnetic Focal Point

When you begin your design, clearly identify the theme of your message.

Look for an image or headline that best communicates this, and build your entire design around it. Every flyer should have one thing on the page that is huge, dominant, or captivating. If you catch their eye with this focal point, they are more likely to read the rest of your text.

2. Logical Design Flow

After the focal point, your flyer design should have a sensible layout that intentionally leads the reader through the page.

Strong subheads should allow viewers to quickly scan the flyer. If the skim layers don’t interest them, people won’t read the copy. Designs should include engaging color and graphic contrast. If everything is large, nothing can really grab a reader’s attention. Sequence a logical flow: left to right, top to bottom, or using visual cues like numbers, arrows, or a “map” of dashed lines.

3. Strategic Repetition

Whether your headline uses a playful typeface, script style, or an ordinary font with unusual colors, consider bringing a little of that font into the body of the text for repetition.

This may mean using one letter or one word in that typeface or highlighting key words or phrases in each section of the design to make them pop. A strong contrast of typefaces will add interest to your flyer, but intentional design repetition will bring a sense of integrity and solidarity to your piece.

4. Cohesive Alignment

Choose one alignment for the entire flyer.

Don’t center the headline then set the body copy flush left. Don’t center everything on the page but also squish extra elements in the bottom corners. Be confident in your layouts: try all flush left or flush right. Your design should feel brave and bold!

5. Appropriate Content

What should you include in a flyer?

While brochures or foldable flyers come in a variety of formats, a basic rule of thumb is this: the “where” determines the “what.” The delivery of your publication has everything to do with its content. If your piece arrives in the mail to someone on your mailing list, you can include much more on it. If it is to been seen on a display board as people stroll by, your main feature must be readable at a glance.

Flyers are fun to create because they allow you to abandon restraint.

Your flyer will often go head-to-head with dozens of competing pages, so grab their attention and really go wild. Anything out of the ordinary will make people stop and look, and that is 90 percent of your goal. Call 410-574-0780.

Build a Culture of Success Through Kindness

Customer care, support (help) and personal development concepts

Stephen Cannon became president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz in 2012. Though he was convinced about the quality of his cars, he recognized the success of his brand was rooted in the kindness of his people.

Cannon understood that the company, the true essence of Mercedes-Benz, was embodied by the people who sold and serviced the cars, including how generously they behaved.

“Every encounter with the brand must be as extraordinary as the machine itself,” Cannon said.

Cannon believed almost every touchpoint of the brand involved a personal encounter with a human being in a dealership. Representatives could act in ways that were memorable and honoring, or repetitive and dismissive. This was a grand vision, but how could Cannon impart a culture of connection and compassion to 23,000 employees at dealerships nationwide?

“There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary,” Cannon said. “The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

Kindness is Contagious

In this leap of faith, Cannon challenged dealers and employees to perpetuate a grassroots movement that scattered kindness like a contagion.

This included spontaneous acts of generosity, like a dealer who noticed a buyer’s birthday on his closing documents and included a personalized cake when the customer came for the car. Or for a woman who panicked over a flat tire on the way to her son’s graduation. When mechanics could not locate a replacement tire for her model, the service manager jacked up the showroom model, removed one of its tires, and sent this mom on her way in a flash.

“We have so many stories like this,” Cannon says. “They’re about people going out of their way because they care enough to do something special.”

Beyond encouraging “extra mile” efforts, companies can build a culture of kindness in three areas:

Giving Back to the Community

Businesses that sponsor volunteer days enjoy team building, civic pride, and a more personal investment in their neighbors.

Today a growing number of companies participate in a one-for-one model: for every product sold, they give one matching item (or dollar amount) to a person in need. Or for every hour an employee volunteers, a matching dollar donation can be given as well. For example, Microsoft employees serving as Boy Scout leaders can simultaneously “bank” corporate dollars into scout scholarship accounts for those in need.

Offer Employee Autonomy

If you want generous employees, healthy working conditions are essential.

Younger people especially enjoy working for companies that allow flex scheduling, remote working options, or some ability to shape their physical environment. When employees feel empowered, they generate better results. When you convey a sense of trust in your employees, they’ll perform beyond expectations.

Build Personal Ownership

It is more natural for employees to show kindness if they are motivated by pride in what they do.

When Mercedes-Benz realized that nearly 70 percent of its front-line employees had never driven a car out of the dealership, the company put 800 new cars in the field, offering 48 hours of fun to each staff member. People drove their daughters for sweet 16 parties, chaperoned grandma on her 90th birthday, and snapped selfies to chronicle the adventure.

“The reactions were out of this world,” said general manager Harry Hynekamp said. “Sure, people got to know the cars very well. But the biggest piece was the pride piece.”

How to Succeed in Remote Working Environments

Female student working on net-book after her lectures in University

In the past, ideas of “virtual work” might have included colleagues from a different country or visions of mysterious IT specialists who hacked your computer by day and only crept out at night.

Today, virtual work is woven into the fabric of our experience. Remote working is essentially using technology to conduct business, often with nearby colleagues. This may include:

  • Using e-mail or IM to conduct business with nearby colleagues (in your city or down your hallway)
  • Multi-site meetings involving video-conferencing or simulcast options
  • Flex-scheduling that allows employees to work part of the week from home

Virtual work is on the rise: a 2017 Gallup report found 43% percent of Americans work remotely to some degree. Fifty-six percent of software startups worldwide have outsourced their work (contributing to the demand for remote workers) and, according to research by Gartner, organizations that embrace remote working will increase employee retention rates by 10%.

While there are many advantages to enhanced technology, there are unique difficulties to overcome. Whether you’re keeping a team accountable or sharing instructions (but can’t point at someone’s computer screen over their shoulder), the demand for good communication has significantly increased!

Productive Virtual Relationships

What communication skills will you need to succeed in remote working relationships?

Whether you’re e-mailing your colleague across the table or uploading blueprints to a design specialist in another time zone, here are some guidelines to grow your skills:

Establish Rules of Engagement

When working face-to-face, the style of communication evolves naturally.

You don’t barge through a door when it is shut or get offended if someone pauses after you ask a question. But since we lose non-verbal cues in remote working, it’s important to establish connection guidelines. Your team should discuss what technology you will use, how often to correspond, and the preferred method of communication. If one person enjoys e-mail but another sends 10 texts per hour, tension can build quickly. A multi-tasking supervisor may prefer to connect once a day, while a project manager might want hourly updates. If you’re not sure where to begin, ask your team:

  •    What time of the day is best to catch you?
  •    What times are off limits?
  •    Is it ever ok to send a text message?
  •    What is the best way to share files?
  •    How should we connect offline if confusion arises?
  •    How will we eliminate lost or duplicated work?

Build Trust

Before starting a project, it’s important for colleagues to establish a foundation.

To build relational trust, have one face-to-face (or video-conference) meeting to gain confidence in each other. Include simple social elements (questions that are sincere but not overly personal), share some of your own interests and career aspirations, and let a friendship develop naturally.

When colleagues work remotely, they’re not as confident that you are looking out for their best interests. Seek to affirm good work or have a little fun, even just light-hearted online banter.

Demonstrate Competence

Take the initiative in giving regular progress updates, completing projects on time, or voicing questions and concerns before they spiral out of control.

Without nonverbal cues, silence can be damaging, so respond to e-mails quickly and honestly, even if you need more time to resolve an issue. Restate questions in your own words to ensure you are understanding any problems and be honest if you feel someone is hindering the workflow of your team.

Maintaining strong, productive virtual relationships takes extra tact and attention, but these contacts can lead to years of fruitfulness. Sow seeds of intentionality now and enjoy a high yield in years to come.

7 Signs That You are A Bad Boss (and 4 Ways to Grow

Angry business man boss screaming at himself small in megaphone

If you haven’t had a frustrating boss in your life, then you are part of a slim minority.

Most of us have experienced a manager that’s driven us to frustration or brought us to tears. Here are some “Bonehead Boss” stories from CBS News to make you grimace:

1 – After months of hard work, I closed a deal for $7,000,000. My customer bought the equipment because of our strong personal relationship and my company’s technical capabilities. Six months later they doubled the order. My bosses, thinking that they had closed the deal, limited my commission to a fraction of what it should have been. I found a new job and quit. A week later my customer moved the order to my new company.

2 – I had worked at a camp for five summers during college when my best friend unexpectedly died from heart failure. When I returned from the funeral, my grandfather was on his deathbed. Obviously upset, I approached my boss and explained the situation. She said “Well, you’ll have to get over it and get on with your life. I can’t let you go again.” My grandfather died the next week. When I told my boss about his upcoming funeral she said, “You should have planned better, you have no bereavement time left.”

Ouch.

What if the Bad Boss is You?

Whether its disrespect, micro-managing, or verbal abuse, bad experiences with a boss can make people dread going to work each day.

But what if the bad boss is you?

According to the 2017 “Bad Boss Index” from Bamboo HR, here are seven mistakes managers frequently make. They:

  • Take credit for stuff they didn’t do
  • Don’t appear to trust or empower their employees
  • Don’t seem to care if their people are overworked
  • Don’t advocate for employee compensation
  • Don’t back up employees when there’s a dispute between staff and company clients
  • Don’t set clear expectations or provide proper direction on assignments/roles
  • Focus more on employee weaknesses than strengths

How many of these characteristics apply to your leadership?

If you can relate, consider talking with your employees and asking how you can improve. Try to understand the impact of your faults and use this as motivation to change. People will trust you more when you are honest about your weakness.

Four Steps For Growth as a Leader

As you listen and implement change, here are four steps toward positive change:

1. Ask honest questions and listen without becoming defensive.

Even if only a part of the criticism is true, your ability to sift through exaggeration (without rejecting feedback entirely) will grow you in leadership and character.

2. Deal with feedback directly.

Don’t discount a complaint or place the blame on others. Seek accountability and ownership for how others perceive you.

3. Take immediate action.

Give affirmation to the feelings and requests of others and look for two or three quick changes you can make to remedy frustration.

Try to sow in the opposite spirit: if you micromanage, be more intentional about delegating. If you criticize too often, seek to encourage more.

4. Establish weekly leadership goals and share them with someone you trust.

Have someone (a neutral friend or respected co-worker) hold you accountable for necessary changes, and schedule check-ins for at least one month as you move ahead.

Remember, a person who feels appreciate will often do more than you expect. Take ownership over your leadership and your team will flourish as you grow!

Build Momentum with Contests that Make Your Customers Smile

Vector Box Giveaway Competition Template

Baltimorons (I’m one)  can’t stand talking about the Yankees and the Sox but Boston was overjoyed again as their darling RedSox capped off a 5-1 series victory over the Dodgers to take the 2018 World Series title.

The championship was well deserved, as Boston won a record 119 games, more victories than any World Series champion except the 1998 Yankees. “Now we deserve to be known as the greatest Red Sox team of all time,” said infielder Brock Holt.

If the RedSox are not the greatest, they are certainly the most loved. According to numbers crunched by Bundle, Boston fans are “America’s most obsessed baseball fans.” Bundle’s stats include money spent on tickets, food, and merchandise, including neighborhood restaurants and bars. From May of 2003 to April 2013, the Red Sox sold out every home-game seat – a total of 820 games for a major professional sports record!

The “Perfect Game” Promotion

One Boston retailer recognized this passion and tapped into the momentum.

In 2013, Jordan’s Furniture held a “Perfect Game” promotion with one simple premise: any fan buying furniture or merchandise before May 5 would receive the furniture for free if a Red Sox pitcher threw a perfect game between July 17 and October 1. While that perfect game never materialized, the contest was certainly a home run. In 2014, Jordan’s offered a new promotion: if the Sox could repeat their 2013 World Series victory, everyone who bought furniture between before May 18, 2014, would get a full rebate on their purchase!

Jordan’s grabbed local excitement and used it as fuel for sales. And why not? A wonderful way to build brand loyalty is by making your customers smile. Like a “kiss a pig” contest generates giving, you can grow marketing engagement with an entertaining contest of your own. Here are three examples to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Get Them Snapping.

People love to snap and share photos, especially of themselves.

Capitalize on that obsession with personalized photo contests! Any photo contest can begin with these words: “Show us your _____.” Contestants then take photos that demonstrate their best, their worst, their ugliest, their cutest, etc.

Perhaps the winner of the ugliest couch gets a free upgrade from your showroom. Maybe the cutest baby picture nets a year of free diapers. The craziest bedhead gets a free cut and style from your salon. Get them sharing and enjoy the results!

2. Get Them to Go Wild.

In this scenario, customers capture shots of themselves using your product “in the wild.”

This contest could include video or traditional photo categories and might also be used as a monthly or bi-annual promotion. Winners receive a prize, a service credit, or a gift card.

When you publicize the contest, include questions that might draw fun testimonials as well. Feature results in your newsletters, social media posts, or in hilarious product reviews!

3. Get Them Celebrating.

What food do you adore? Do others love it too?

Get their taste buds tingling by building contests around minor secular observances like national doughnut day, coffee day, s’more day, etc. (Run a quick internet search of “national food days” for inspiration!)

Seasonal contests allow you to foster anticipation every year, especially during your off seasons. Ask people to vote on their favorite pie flavor then serve samples. Ask contestants to guess the number of Ghiradelli chocolates in your vase on National Chocolate Day. Ask for sweetest first date stories and give away a Valentine’s Day package at a local restaurant or hotel.

Your city, like ours doesn’t have the best teams but we still have things to root for. Make customers smile and keep your name front and center all year!