What is the most important lesson you have learned about being a good leader?
Developing Leadership Presence is the topic for Professor Lori Coakley’s class on Organizational Behavior next week at Bryant University.
For this class, I was asked to share some things I’ve learned about developing leadership presence. I became a manager long before I felt ready at the ripe old age of 22.
Taking a walk down memory lane has been a CRINGE-WORTHY rewind to 2002, remembering the many mistakes I made as a new leader.
My biggest discoveries from my 20s:
1. Learn who you are as a leader by forcing yourself to get outside of your comfort zone and do hard things—as often as possible. 2. It’s not about you. Being a leader is about helping others to become successful. 3. Be a role model—but don’t forget to be yourself.
You can hear more on these lessons (and some personal stories!) in the full talk here.
What is big data? And why should we care? In this talk for TEDxProvidence, BetaXAnalytics co-founder Shannon Shallcross explores how big data is the “great power” of our society and why it is our duty to use this power to make our world a better place.
I once had a boss named Allison who was incredibly energizing. Talking to her was like plugging into an electric socket. When she talked to you, it was like you were the only person in the world. She never made it seem like an impromptu knock on her door was an interruption. Even though I knew she had a full schedule, she would drop everything to have a conversation and would make me feel like she was truly listening and that what I had to say was important. I was no one special; she treated everyone this way. If she had a free moment she would make her rounds in the office and it seemed she would attract a small crowd everywhere she went. She would tell funny stories and would encourage others to do the same. Whether we were talking about something work-related or telling a personal story was inconsequential. Any interaction with her was one where you felt important, you felt like you were part of a winning team, and you felt motivated.
When I became a manager, I no longer had an Allison around to energize me. It was just me. Not only was I missing my energy source, but I felt the responsibility of being that revitalizing force for my team that Allison had been for me. This sent me on my quest to find out how I could be an energy source for the people around me.
Where does a leader get their energy to rally their team? Over the years, I asked this question of people in leadership roles, from leaders in small companies right up to Fortune 10 leaders. Here is a sampling of the top responses I collected from leaders on how they kept their energy at an optimal level:
Keep yourself in check with a daily question: “What did I do to earn my paycheck and add value?” This one question holds you accountable to producing results. If you can’t answer this question on a given day, find something outside the box that adds value. This could be setting the wheels in motion towards a goal you had previously put on the back-burner, generating a new idea, or strengthening a relationship with a key colleague or client—anything that helps to advance your work.
Keep your eyes 6 months ahead. When feeling bogged down in some of the less exciting aspects of their role, some leaders opt to remind themselves to take the long-term view. Reminding yourself of your big-picture objectives keeps you from getting mired in the temporary drudgery of short-term tasks that lower your energy. The practice of reminding yourself daily of how you are moving closer to achieving your goals helps to reveal the big-picture meaning in every day.
Diversify what you’re involved in so you can constantly be doing something that shows results. Every job, even at the highest levels, can have potholes that veer things off course. And getting caught in the weeds can be discouraging, particularly if you are spending large amounts of time on things that take a long time to show value. Diversifying your areas of focus keeps things changing so you can come back to key tasks with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm. Some leaders build time into their day to step away to go for a run, to be involved in a charity or even to just walk around and have casual conversation with people. Afterwards they come back to ongoing priorities with new energy and a fresh perspective.
Expect to work outside of your comfort zone. Living outside of your comfort zone will challenge you on a daily basis because it forces you to do things that you would not normally do. For instance, if you are an introvert, maybe you challenge yourself to initiate conversation with someone new each day. While this may seem exhausting on the surface, what it actually does is it conditions you to become more dynamic and flexible. This way, the things that used to drain your energy are now more of a conscious habit. Once this is your baseline, you will constantly extend yourself beyond your default, and this practice can take you places you never would normally go.
Have your own personal board of advisers. Many leaders find it energizing to surround themselves with mentors, work colleagues, and friends who challenge and inspire them. These are people they trust with whom they can share challenges, solve problems, and learn. Building relationships like this helps to harness the experience of others and to gain insight from people with a different perspective. These people become your cheerleaders as they encourage and challenge you.
What I learned from asking leaders how they stay energized is that the answer is not the same for everyone–each leader had a different way to keep their energy high. So the key for any leader is that you first need to know the answer to the question, “what energizes you?” Because knowing your answer to this question helps to make you the electrical socket for your team. And when it comes to achieving your goals, in the words of Emerson, “enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.”
How about you? What strategies have you used to keep yourself energized?
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How many times have you heard the phrase, “You’ve got to love what you do”? Loving what you do for a living is often touted as the key to success. After all, if you love what you’re doing, work never feels like work. Along with a love of your work comes a passion that is infectious. It helps to build momentum behind what you’re working to accomplish as your enthusiasm rubs off on those around you. Without passion for your mission, you might as well be rolling a huge boulder up a hill. Without enthusiasm for what you do every day, the days are so long and the work is incredibly difficult. But passion…passion turns the tables and suddenly your boulder has gravity working in its favor and it is rolling downhill in the direction of your goals. The energy that comes from loving what you do is both inspiring and infectious.
Do you love what you do? How does your energy affect those around you?
You may or may not love what you do. But as a manager (read: leader) your energy is the fuel for your team’s performance. Is it possible that you could help your team to love what they do? Ultimately, the leader sets the tone for the entire team. Leaders of high-performance teams help to ignite excitement for the team’s objectives. Enthusiastic team spirit comes from the leader. A passion to be part of a shared mission comes from the leader. No half-hearted leader is going to be able to rally their team to achieve difficult goals. A leader is the fuel source for their team. If your energy level is at 70% every day, it’s safe to assume that your team’s energy is below 50%; your team’s energy will exist in proportion to yours. This is why, as a leader, bringing fresh energy to your work makes a marked impact on others.
So how do you know that your energy is fueling your team’s performance? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself:
Do I have a passion for reaching my goals? The sum of your team’s enthusiasm will be gauged based on your passion.
Do I speak positively about my team, when they are present and when they are not in the room?This communicates your belief in your team’s ability to reach their goals.
Do my team members all know what big-picture goals they’re working towards? Many leaders are surprised to find that not everyone understands the key objectives of the team. Breakdowns in communication, competing priorities, or ambiguity in the workplace can get in the way of people understanding the team’s battle cry.
Do I see signs of commitment from my team members in reaching these shared goals? A motivated team will show their drive in their actions. If you have ever felt like you were pulling teeth trying to get people to stay late to hit a deadline, this may be a sign that your team needs an energy boost.
It is critically important for every leader to actively work on the magnitude and quality of their energy, since this energy is fuel for their team. Keeping your enthusiasm high is important not only in order to bring your best self to what you do every day, but also to help those around you to bring their best selves.
So how does a leader keep their energy high to ignite performance in their team? For more on this topic, look for Part II of this post on LinkedIn or subscribe below to updates on shannonshallcross.com.
For a little inspiration right in your inbox, leave your email below and we’ll drop you a line. Thanks for reading!
It’s no longer wise for businesses to ignore America’s fastest-growing millennial social media platform.
If you’re like me, scrolling through daily news feeds you’ve suddenly been seeing a little yellow and white ghost icon everywhere. The icon for Snapchat. Some of you may have even seen this logo during your morning commute as part of a confusing albeit successful ad campaign. Up until now every time I’ve heard Snapchat come up in passing, I’ve immediately put it out of my mind as a passing trend by “kids these days” (cue the image of an old man on his porch shaking his fist at the neighborhood kids on his lawn). But then I saw Forbes change their icon to this on my daily newsfeed. Then the White House joined Snapchat in early 2016. The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN and a myriad of other media outlets are on Snapchat. Then I realized this is serious. A Harvard IOP Poll has called Snapchat the fastest growing social media platform for millennials. So now it’s finally time to stop pooh-poohing this trend and to understand what it means for businesses today.
I don’t know about you, but it seems I’m often last to the game with new technology. In fact, I remember hearing about Facebook in 2005 (which I ironically also thought was the trend of “kids these days”) and thought, “who would be interested in that?” Now that they have reached 1.6 billion monthly active users with their December 2015 Q4 earnings at $5.841 billion, I admit I’ll not be giving stock tips anytime soon!
To give you a sense for what Snapchat means to the evolution of social media, two years after Snapchat’s 2011 launch, Facebook tried to buy it for $3 billion, an offer that was turned down by Snapchat’s founders. For reference, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion. Even at that early stage, both Snapchat and Facebook understood the growth potential of the platform…and they were right.
What is Snapchat – a 1 Minute Explanation:
It’s easiest to think of Snapchat as an app for self-destructing texts and media. Here are some ways that people use it:
Snap: A snap is a self-destructing text that you send to a specific person with words and/or video that lasts 1 to 10 seconds before it disappears. You can “chat” with an individual using text or by sending a snap, and each of these “chats” disappear after you view them.
Stories: Users can also create “stories” which is a collection of snaps from throughout that day that can be viewed for 24 hours by any of your followers. Stories can be viewed by all your followers, unlike Snaps which are like texts sent directly to an individual.
Discover: Snapchat launched the Discover feature in 2015, which allows users to receive media from select outlets (which currently include WSJ, CNN, ESPN, The Food Network, People, and Mashable, to name a few). This feature is fascinating for marketers, as the content style mirrors the informal, spontaneous and eye-catching spirit of Snapchat. Consumer online attention span has dwindled down to 8 seconds, and the Discover feature plays to the need for content to be quickly digested. To show you what this looks like, here is a snippet from the Wall Street Journal:
Lenses: Lenses are a daily collection of ways you can morph your face when you send a snap of yourself to someone. It’s a pretty clever way to give yourself rabbit ears, googly eyes or an Elmer Fudd face. Ironically, yesterday Facebook just acquired Masquerade (MSQRD), a similar face-swapping selfie app, in a move to likely compete with this addictive feature on Snapchat.
Lenses – the surprisingly addictive face-morphing feature of Snapchat.
Why Snapchat is different from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
Snapchat is a different kind of social media platform, and that’s why it has filled an untapped niche. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel explained, “It’s much more for sharing personal moments than it is about this public display.” In social media terms, Twitter is all about sharing thoughts, Instagram is about sharing eye-catching photos, and Facebook is where people share life events. Snapchat is spontaneous, unfiltered communication that is not cataloged. There is no “timeline” or “feed” where you can visit past posts or communication. It’s in-the-moment, quick, informal (and sometimes silly) communication that disappears after it has occurred.
And so…why do I care?
Businesses need to take Snapchat seriously. Business leaders need to know what it is and marketers need to make decisions on how, if at all, it will be included in their social media strategy. If you are still skeptical, consider the following:
Snapchat represents a business opportunity to speak to a large, younger audience. Snapchat has over 100 million users with over 7 billion daily video views. This means Snapchat has the same number of daily video views as Facebook, which has over 10 times as many users as Snapchat. 36% of Americans aged 18-29 have a Snapchat account, which makes this the fastest growing social network for millennials. 45% of Snapchat users are under 25, and the number of individuals over 25 who are using the service is rapidly growing. According to Nielsen, 41% of adults in the U.S. under 35 spend time on Snapchat. For companies looking to target millennials, Snapchat is a dynamic platform to reach this demographic.
Snapchat represents the need for ever-evolving marketing strategies. Snapchat’s wildfire adoption represents the rapidly changing mediums that capture the public’s attention. Companies cannot stay afloat using their marketing plan from 5 years ago. To illustrate the evolution of marketing to millennials, Snapchat’s Discover feature with their short collections of catchy and easily-digestible content snippets represents a completely new way to market to a captive audience and it holds a lot of potential.
Gone are the days where we can disregard the rapid pace of technology changes around us. Gary Vaynerchuk, a social media guru, author and investor who predicted the success of today’s most popular social media platforms said,
“It took thirty-eight years before 50 million people gained access to radios. It took television thirteen years to earn an audience that size. It took Instagram a year and a half.”
Today’s most popular social media platforms have gained an audience so quickly that businesses need to sprint in order to stay in front of their customers. Snapchat’s adoption by millennials has taken off, and this reality holds great marketing potential for your business…and that of your competitors. So many companies have been late to table where social media is concerned, but the ones who have understood what social media means for their marketing strategy and have evolved are the ones that win in expanding their market share. Snapchat may not be right for every business. But every business should understand what Snapchat means to their customers.