12 ways to increase your creativity

Build on your creative ideas.

Build on your creative ideas.

Researchers recently confirmed the creative power of the effects of boredom by subjecting one group of study participants to the mundane task of copying out the telephone book for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, the study subjects were given a standard test of creativity in which they were asked to list, as many as they could, uses for a plastic cup.  Their results were compared to those of a control group that hadn’t been subjected to copying from a phone book.  The telephone book copiers were more creative.  While perhaps not a conclusive study, it provides interesting fodder for today’s company managers.  For more information on this study refer to “The Creative Benefits of Boredom” published by Harvard Business Review Blog.

A follow-up study concluded that boredom plus daydreaming may even provide a greater productivity boost.

It is important to note that this study did not refer to extended periods of boredom and daydreaming which in a company environment requires other strategies and action.

What is the Takeaway for Employees and Managers?

The author of the telephone book study, Dr Sandi Mann, commented that “boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it in order to enhance our creativity.”

Therefore, managers or company personnel who demand or expect constant busyness may actually be stifling their team’s creativity.  It appears that some employer’s are working under the assumption that any downtime is a problem that needs to be eliminated through increased activities, tasks, shorter timelines and what feels like a hurried and stressful environment.  

Besides requiring boredom which is, of course, unrealistic here are some things your employees can do to enhance creativity.

1) Take breaks.
It’s great to be in the moment, engaged and productive but when you or your employees feel like they hit the wall a break is welcome and in the long run productive.

2) Get out in nature.
Take a walk. Depending on the weather and applicable areas, have a meeting outside.  Being outside can add energy and stimulate the imagination. 

3) Write using pen and paper.
Try visually displaying the problem. Within the academic community, there is debate on what it better, electronic devises or pen and paper writing. Electronic devices are efficient to collect and store information.  But with email, Facebook, Twitter and a growing assortment of social media and apps it is also an opportunity for distractions and multitasking. 

In the academic arena, recent studies show that students taking notes with laptops performed poorly on conceptual questions than if the students took notes by longhand.   

How does this relate to creativity, the practice of writing ideas, problems and solution ideas by hand could help us better understand the information and therefore generate more applicable ideas and solutions.

4) Meditate.  
Meditation practice is a step to being more creative.  With meditation benefits of increased focus, increased concentration, calmness, clarity, insight and in the moment thinking, creativity is enhanced with meditation practice.

5) Mind mapping. 
What Are Mind Maps? A mind map is a diagram that connects information around a central subject.  The center encompasses the main idea and the branches are subtopics or ideas.

Mind mapping is one of the best ways to capture your thoughts and bring them to life in visual form. Beyond just note-taking, mind maps can help you become more creative, remember more, and solve problems more effectively. 

I use the mind mapping technique allot and have discovered Coggle which is a Google tool that is a simple mind mapping application. Sign in with a Google account and you are ready to access Coggle.

6) Write freely.
Ask team members to take 10 minutes to jot down anything and everything that comes to mind without judgment, a technique called “free-writing” or “free association”. Then go back over the notes and see which ideas are worth keeping.

7) Encourage openness and acceptance of new and different ideas.
Encourage employees to build on their ideas and those of other team members.

8) Engage and encourage social interaction.
When we spend time with people we work with and get to know them it leads to a more trusting relationship and the potential of a more, relaxed, sharing environment.

9) Exercise.
This is my particular favorite.  I find taking time on the treadmill and in the weight room helps me relax and come up with some of my best ideas.   It has been noted that regular exercisers performed better on creative tasks than their less active peers did.

10) Try something new.
Doing things out of habit tends to stop our creative thoughts.  We get in the habit and just do the task without thinking or experiencing . 

I recently took a creativity class and one of the assignments was to eat something different.  A simple yet creative exercise to get participants open to new experiences and tastes.  Opening and searching for new, novel experiences is associated with increased creativity.

11) Yoga is another of my personal favorites.   
Poses like child’s pose, corpse pose and downward facing dog among others facilitate creativity. Even just physically stretching can offer a big boost.

12) Get enough sleep.
If you’re trying to solve a problem, think about it before you go to bed and keep a recording device by your bed so in the morning you can write down the idea or solution before you forget it.  This might not always work but sleep does restructure new memory representations and can help us think about experiences and problems in a new way.

Or, at work, find a safe, private and quiet place and take a short power nap, which also stimulates and regenerates brain activity. 

This list is a start and I am sure as you and your team explore ways to enhance creativity you will add your own unique ideas.

 

What is innovation?

Thinking about innovative ideasInnovation defined.

Not surprisingly, innovation means different things to different people.  In one case, your audience might be thinking of a large, breakthrough change in technology or in the way an employee or consumer functions in their daily lives.  To someone else, an innovation may be a small step that seems small to the producer but makes a big change in enhancing the user experience.  In another case, it might be a small change that doesn’t appear to make allot of difference but over the long run and with additional changes makes a big difference. It could also mean a change in system or procedure that affects the employees in your company.  This list could go on and on.

If you read anywhere there’s lots of discussion about innovation to the point where the term seems overused.  So when you talk about innovation, it is a good idea to start by defining what innovation means to you and ask what it means to your audience, what the purpose of a new innovation might be and what lengths you or your customer is  interested or willing to go to incorporate a new innovation.

As an innovator, I hope for and work towards breakthrough innovation.  However, in tough economic times, innovation may require too much risk and expense for an organization.  It is also not uncommon for customers to resist change and therefore companies have a difficult time innovating product changes even if it is clearly a benefit to the customer.

So instead of dreaming about the next big thing for your product incorporate a step-by-step plan to develop and implement the innovation.  Focus on smaller changes and make changes easier to implement and easier for the customer to accept.  Use inexpensive and small experiments to test your new ideas. For example, add or make a small product improvement and test that improvement by watching users try the new feature.  Then evaluate how well, how significant, and how beneficial the audience considers this change to be.  Is it worth the money if the innovation affects your product’s price or the time needed for your customers to learn how to use the new feature?

In many cases, difficult economic times require product innovations that are easily adapted and cannot require a large investment either by the company or the consumer.

If you want to have the best possible outcome, have a plan for product innovation or for a major innovation as a series of palatable building blocks that moves toward and reaches your bigger goal. This approach, if the innovation is beneficial and is communicated that way,  should be met with less resistance from either  the company itself, company employees or their consumers.   This approach will allow for a smoother transition and incorporation of the innovation.

 

 

 

Why is a content strategy really necessary?

network-star-crop-527Because it is the foundation of your marketing program and by creating quality branded content and posting that across your applicable media outlets you can deliver a consistent message which provides your customers and potential customers with engaging material and value added information. This is not only valuable for your target but also for your company. Advantages are many including a positive brand image, the opportunity to build trust, increases sales and the ability to save money and time in the creation of marketing materials.

How do I build a content strategy?

Here is a step by step approach.

1. Outline objectives
First, conduct an audit of your current content strategy program. Is the graphic identity as well as message consistent? Is it the image you want to portray? Does it communicate your unique selling proposition? Is is geared to your target audience? When you have a clear picture of what you are currently doing you can start to evaluate weak areas and needs. Start by defining the over reaching content strategy objectives and then take each media outlet you are using and define the specific objective for each medium.

2. Define your audience(s)
Do you have a good idea of who your target audience is? What do they want to hear? What does this audience need or want from your company? What content would benefit the target as well as your company? This is a time to set objectives that will provide a focus as well as positive results. Include how you are going to measure the success of each program. Research what other communications your customers receive from you and your competitors. Where does your target audience get information about the category that you are involved in?

3. Consider targeting opportunities
Targeting different types of customer through segmented content can make the process much more efficient and cost-effective, so consider producing different versions of your publication and digital content. But if you want to segment, you will need a database or list that offers that segmented information. If you don’t have one, consider what you need and start building the database that allows for segmentation. This can be as simple as utilizing a spreadsheet to begin this process. Once you have finalized what data and criteria you need then you can look for a more sophisticated, productive method of handling your customer database.

4. Establish your distribution strategy
How will your content reach your customers? What combination of media channels best fit your target audience? From print to online, digital to video, there are a huge range of channels to choose from. If you don’t trust the accuracy of your customer database (or you don’t have one), consider buying a list that matches the profile of your customers.

5. Establish measurements
Having regular, high-quality content can be a significant investment of time and money for your company, so establish benchmarks for success based on your objectives. Your objective should include measurable results. If you can plan or estimate how this approach will benefit the bottom line or the brand image of your company. You then need establish a workable budget. Next, get internal buy-in from all relevant departments, especially if you are expecting them to contribute to the budget.

6. Consider contracting with a content marketing agency
Very few client companies have the resources or expertise to create effective content in-house, so you may need to hire an outside agency. Be specific with the agency on what you are looking for and include the items that are important to you and your company including project criteria and potential working budget. Choose wisely not every consulting content marketing agency will fit your needs. Invite several to meet with and learn about all their services and what they can offer your company. For more information on selecting and working with an outside agency read blog post.

7. Create content
Once an agency has been selected, as them to provide a full content plan for your approval before they start creating any content. At these initial meetings you should agree to a communication plan between you and the agency including working arrangements, deciding such issues as how you want the content to be presented and who will approve the content within your organization.

8. Agree to a launch strategy
Do you have a launch date in mind. Are you going to include any research or user feedback from a sample group of your trusted, loyal customers and get their opinion. Also be sure to include introducing the content program to your internal company audience.

9. Launch systematically
Take the time to launch systematically-just in case there is something that you did not anticipate.

10. Debrief/Evaluate
With the introduction of the launch and initial results gathered, you and your agency should now have a debrief meeting in which you go over all aspects of the content. With any new information and feedback, your agency can then start on the next phase of the campaign. Meanwhile, review your targeting strategy and ensure any internal results or opinions are communicated to your agency.

11. Move forward!!

 

10 tips for free exposure

stock-illustration-20941241-social-network960Once you have pinpointed your audience and understand their motivation, wants and needs, defined content and developed a media strategy then you are ready to use that information to get not only free but effective exposure for your business and your products.

1. Share your knowledge-Offer free workshops and classes.

While this option may seem challenging, it doesn’t have to be nor does it have to be a big or elaborate production.  Invite people for a class or workshop incorporating the services or products you sell. For example, if you are an auto shop offer a class in car maintenance or handling emergency road situations.  Or if you have a thrift or hobby shop use classes as a way to incorporate your product as well as offering new and fun information to your audience.  Tax preparers or accountants can offer seminars on tax tips or how to avoid an audit.

Offer classes or workshops that let customers incorporate your product, educate your target audience and/or learn how to use your services.

For inventive thinkers, the possibilities are endless.

2. Sponsor, donate or volunteer for a charitable event that you are passionate about.  If there is not an event that you feel passionate about —create one.

There are numerous benefits both for you, your business, and your community in supporting a good cause that you are passionate about. This action provides networking and marketing opportunities while also increasing your business’s presence in the community. If you want you can also encourage employees to participate, you will see workplace morale improve as each person feels as though they are making a difference in your community and people will remember your organization for giving back to the community.

3. Offer advice or tips.

Write about how your services or products can help everyday life and post them on your website and on social media. Become the expert your audience is looking for when they have a question pertaining to your products and/or services.

Add a blog to your website.  Keep blog posts short and include visuals (either photos or videos) when applicable.  Provide valuable content for your target audience, write consistently and provide the opportunity for your audience to add comments.  Do this only if you have the manpower to monitor those comments and address them if necessary.  Due to spam and perhaps inappropriate comments, be sure to enable your sites filtering devices so that you see the comment first and have the ability to post it if helpful or delete if not.

Repurpose blog posts by editing them for the use in social media outlets.  With Facebook and Twitter, you can link to the blog post on your site.  If Pinterest works for you that is another resource to add a company page and link the Pinterest pin to your site.  Using the photos, Instagram is another option.

4. Periodically update your website.

It is a great business practice to keep your website fresh and updated.  This is a good reason to incorporate blogging because it does keep your website fresh with new information and you can add your ideas, photos, videos, product updates, event notices, and company news.

5. Offer current loyal customers incentives and rewards.

I was at a seminar recently where a retail establishment I use and have been a loyal customer for years offered a 20% off on a one time purchase specifically for new customers.  I understand the logic wanting new customers but it is a good idea to make offers also available to your ongoing, loyal customers.  Remember that old saying “ a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

Consider giving your VIP customers access to a private membership page on your website that gives them even further advice or suggestions or form a users group.  Ask for their feedback.

6. Speak at applicable events.

Where does your target audience meet either online or in a physical location?  Does your target audience attend events that dovetail nicely with the product and services that you offer?  Use this opportunity to establish your organization as the expert offering valuable advice and educating the audience.  Leave the sales pitch and product demonstrations for another time unless that is what your audience came to hear.

7. Plan and implement a public relations program.

Develop a PR strategy that serves as a foundation for your PR activities. Get to know the editor and publisher of the local newspapers.  Explore the online versions of those media outlets for “free” event listing areas.  In many cases, you can post your events to the sites yourself.  Target your news releases by providing newsworthy events or information that are important to your community.

Even with all the online resources, personal relationships are still key and need to be built continuously. In the changing media environment, the best way to build a relationship is through relevant content and the submission of interesting, educational content.

8. Social media offers a cost cost-effective way of interacting with current and potential customers and promoting your brand.  

There are many ways to use social media and online resources to provide“free” exposure.

Combining an appealing, user friendly website, a social media presence and great content develops your brand positively in your customers’ minds.

Consider embedding your Twitter or Facebook feed on your website for more exposure to your postings.  Use Twitter and Facebook to link back to your business website, promote your blog, educate, mention products or promotions and increase traffic to your site.

9. Host an educational webinar.

Hosting webinar establishes credibility and gives people the opportunity to feel like they personally know you and your company. And since people do business with people they know and trust—it can be a plus for your business.  Once you’ve created your webinar, you can repurpose the material as a series of You Tube videos and post to other social media outlets.

The advantages of creating a webinar includes offering a cost-effective way of communicating to your target audience. – either live or on demand – quickly and efficiently. A webinar can be viewed on a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone.  User-friendly for participants: no travel or accommodation costs involved, and webinars can be searched and referred to for specific content afterwards.

10. Offer free samples.

If your business can make samples of your product for consumers to try, this is helpful “free” exposure. Two rules apply—be sure your samples are well made since people will assume that the samples reflect your best work and make sure they align with the work you want to do. For example, if you want to attract more branding work it would make sense to publish an ebook on branding. It wouldn’t make sense to release a photo retouching kit.

Free exposure is a powerful way to boost your business.  And, there are many interesting and fun ways to get your business organization and potential and existing customers to learn from it.

Engaging customers with an effective content strategy.

iStock_000019172466SmallWhat is  “content strategy” versus “content marketing”?
The term “content strategy” has been around since the late 1990’s and refers to the planning, development and management of content in written and/or digital media.

Today, content strategy focuses on how organizations (for-profit, non-profit and government) use stories and smart-data to get important information to specific internal and external target audiences.

Although the “content strategy” is related to “content marketing’ it is different.  “Content Marketing” is designed to drive “profitable customer action”.   “Content Strategy” is primarily designed to help the target audience be better informed.  A content strategy includes credible, believable, trustworthy, transparent content that build’s on your organization’s strategic goals.

Why does there need to be such an emphasize on developing and sticking to a “Content Strategy”?

Today more than any other time in history there is a glut of information hitting your audience from every angle and every media that they participate in or come in contact with.

These 3 key factors apply.
1)  There is increasing mounds of information that your target audience has access to. According to IBM statistics, all of the world’s data from the beginning of history through 2003 has been doubling every two days since 2004.
2) Our time is limited.  We only have 24 hours a day or 1,440 minutes per day and much of that time is already committed to our jobs, eating, sleeping and keeping relationships with family and friends.
3) Add to that, the very complex communications messages that we get everyday from everywhere and our attention is sparse at best.

Why is knowing and understanding your organization’s strategic direction important when developing the “Content Strategy”?

Knowing and focusing on your organization’s strategic direction is important to developing an effective content strategy.  Your company strategy is a road map to the future.  Your content strategy should include and revolve around the direction and goals that the leaders of your organization have outlined.   Those goals are where the organization is going in the next 1-3 years.

What are the tactics?

The tactics are the steps that are needed to fulfill on the overall strategy.  The strategy is important and planning on how to implement that strategy is also important.

What is the first step to developing an effective “Content Strategy”?

The foundation to developing an effective content strategy lies in knowing and understanding your organization’s target audience(s).  The better your understanding of this audience or audiences the better you can develop content that is of value and perceived value to your target audience.

What information should I know about my target?

To really know and understand your audience, you should know what matters to them not only in their work environment but also in their personal lives.

Many companies have a good handle on the demographics (age, gender, life-cycle stage, income and occupation of the population) and geographic (where they live) but they don’t always have a good idea of the psychographics (what they think, feel, what is important to them).  Getting psychographic information is challenging but well worth the time.

How do I gather psychographic information about my targets?

You go where they go.  You spend time with them and you really listen both to what they say and to what they do.  Get really curious about your target. Human beings make decisions based on themselves and their time.

Why is this information important to my “Content Strategy”?

The more content that you give people that they want the more they will spend time on content that matters to you.  In addition, this valuable content must be convenient to your target and easily accessed and shared.

What are the foundational steps I need to take to create an effective “Content Strategy” ?

Start by learning your organization’s strategic goals.  Where does your leadership see your organization in 1-3 years.

Know and understand your target audience. Providing content that your audience deems valuable is key and the way to valuable content creation is  knowing and understanding your audience and what is of value to them.  How do they think and feel?   What is important to them?   What information (that your company can provide) would this audience find interesting? What content needs can your organization fulfill for your target audience?

Analyze where your audience gets their information? What and where is the best place to reach them?

Test your messages to see which resonate with your target.

What is your competition doing?  Complete a competitive analysis to see what and where your competition is providing information.

There are no quick answers.  This stage takes time and effort.

Then, develop a “Content Strategy” based on the information you and/or your company representatives collected.  And test, test and test.

Content should be story driven, useful, findable, current, engaging, flexible and sharable.

Why is gathering this information time well spent?

You can write all the content that you want and distribute it over many channels however if it can’t be found by your target and if they do find it and it isn’t valued by your target they won’t pay attention to your message.  Then, when you do develop valuable content for them they may disregard it because of their past experiences with your organization’s content.


Busy, overwhelmed, complicated

speak-bubble-960Every client I work with wants to be assured that their content and message is being found, heard, understood and acted upon.  I do too!

The challenge is to get customers attention at the right time, in the right place with an engaging message.  That is often a tall order.

As we look at the marketplace,  let’s start with the 3 basic points that all organizations need to understand and deal with when developing a content strategy.

1) There is an overwhelming wave of readily available information about anything and everything. With more technology advances, our access to information has become increasingly easier and almost limitless. Search “communication” and there are 290,000,000 results or “content strategy” with 563,000,000 or “spoon” 32,600,000 results. These numbers are only going to increase. I am sure we would all agree and recognize the depth of information and how that affects our content strategy.

2) Time is limited. All of us have only 24 hours a day or 1,440 minutes a day. And, all of us are prioritizing our time as best we can to include the basics of eating, sleeping, taking care of ourselves and keeping relationships with loved ones, colleagues and friends.   No one can add to their time.

3) The marketing environment is complicated. There are many communications vehicles and marketing messages are around us all the time.

So, we are all busy, inundated with information and overwhelmed by the complicated options and information available to us.

What does that mean and what can we do?

Start by developing a deeper understanding of your audience.  This is definitely not easy but worth the time and effort.  In the past, companies have relied on demographics (age, race, gender, annual income) and geographic (where they live) to segment their audience sometimes psychographic elements were added but since psychographics is more difficult to define it has been a smaller part of the mix.  However, psychographics is really important to a more thorough and in depth knowledge of the audience.  Psychographics is also more effective at getting to the real motivators–it includes a study of how your target audience thinks, feels, acts and what they believe.

This requires that we acquire a deeper (much deeper) knowledge of our audience and that the communications message not only be delivered when, how and where our audience is but also be compelling and engaging to get the little time and attention that is currently being filled with vast amounts of information.

8 Steps to Identifying Relevant Marketing Content

people-target-fullsize-960What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is an ongoing process that involves creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience.

The primary objective is to attract current and potential consumers to engage, take action and support your product or service by sales and positive referrals and reviews.

Content marketing is not only an art but a creative process that provides relevant communication to your customers and prospects without overtly selling and potentially driving the consumer away. Instead of talking only about your products or services, you deliver information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, consumers ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

To identify relevant content, I recommend using an 8 step content mapping approach that defines a process to gather appropriate, relevant information for the purposes of identifying and implementing the right content.

8 step content mapping process

Step 1.  Identify key personas.

In a previous post, I identified key identifiers for your target persona.  These identifiers include title, time in job, works with, daily tasks, responsibilities, likes as well as dislikes, frustrations, pressures, needs, activities, emotional mindset and role in buying process. For more information regarding identifiers refer to my previous blog post on building personas.

Step 2. Information/questions

What information or questions is the persona or personas, identified in step 1,  asking at each stage of the buying process?  The buying process includes 6 steps–awareness, interest, research, desire, user and finally evangelism.

Step 3.  What are the answers to their questions?

What answers can you provide for each of the questions identified?  Answer specifically and in depth those questions you anticipate your persona to be asking.

Step 4.  Review

Carefully look at your answers and identify what value added information you can provide that would be beneficial to your persona.   How are the products or services you provide able to tie into this process?

Step 5.  Map

Now take the time to mind map this information and see what content you have available or could research that would help your persona answer their questions and learn more in the process.  Take this time to identify steps to answering the questions-if the questions have multiple parts to the answer.

Step 6.  Research and Analyze

Look for places where more information is needed. Look at areas where you might be missing content.  Research and find answers to the holes in the content.

Step 7.  Create

Start creating content to fill the holes, answer the questions and add value to your customers with your product or service.

Step 8.  Evaluate

Keep track of the content you provide and evaluate analytically what benefit this information provided your company.

As with anything, this process takes time, effort and work but is well worth doing.

Building Personas– Part 1

people-network-blue-960x300What information should be included in developing a complete ideal persona?

 

Recently a client asked me to create a persona of their company’s key buyers.  He wanted to focus on the small percentage of consumers that spend the most and prove to be great advocates when talking about and working with his company.

Because this practice was new to the company, I started with a profile template that is familiar to me.  There are a number of persona templates available online and any would provide information needed.  However, some are more complex then others and can be a deterrent to getting the persona done and functional.

The first step included outlining the types of information that are helpful in the persona.  The second step was taking the template and talking to key buyers and advocates for this company.  In our exercise, we were able to fill in much of the information and only asked  customers about information not readily available or we weren’t sure about.

Information to include in a persona.

•    Title–If your major buyers work in small companies you may find that titles are a thing of the past.  So while identifying a specific title may be difficult, you can specify function which is still a valid selection.
•    Time in the job–How long have they been at their present job and how long have they been in the field?  This is a good indication of the group to target.
•    Who do they work with directly?  Who do they work with indirectly?
•    Responsibilities and daily tasks.  What are the daily job tasks and what are their key responsibilities?
•    Likes/dislikes include items relating to their job as well as personal likes/dislikes.  Review things this audience might appreciate during the sales process and things that they will definitely dislike if included in the sales process.
•    Frustrations and Concerns include both personal and job frustrations and concerns.
•    Pressures.  Again include both job and personal pressures.
•    Needs.  What needs is this person looking to fill both tangible and intangible.
•    Role in buying process and at what stage does the persona get involved.–The buying process consists of 6 stages.  Those stages are awareness, interest, research, desire, user and evangelist.  Which stage or stages is your persona involved in?
•    Key Drivers–What drives this persona to make the buying decision for your company’s products or services?  Include both tangible and intangible.

Once you have this information it helps to come up with a name and image.  Having a name and image of the persona helps all team members to think of this buyer as a real person.  I like to have the image available for meetings.  Or, as Steve Jobs did, designate an empty chair where the key persona joins in during meetings.

Remember that in the buyer persona, we are trying to learn who this person is both at a rational and emotional level.  We often make buying decisions by rationalizing our decisions but the emotional component is a strong influencer of behavior and should be studied.

Creating a name, image and persona is a bit like getting to know a friend so you can really understand your key customers.

Lifelong Learner

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”     Will Rogers

One of the keys to success, in both your professional and personal life, is making a commitment to be a lifelong learner.

LQThumb_116587314483430413Once you’ve internalized this mindset, you’ll find that you’re willing to invest time in yourself and your development. This goal doesn’t take away from what you are doing in your organization; it makes that time more valuable by making you more valuable as you increase your skill set and knowledge level.

Start by setting goals for your professional and personal development during your personal goal setting planning. Decide how often you’ll be meeting with your mentor, make a commitment to engage in a professional association, set a goal for the number of applicable books that you’ll read each year, and know how much time or how many newsletters you can commit to each week.

Write down your goals and record what you do. Recording your progress is the best way to see if you’re doing what you’ve committed to do.

And always take opportunities to keep on learning.

Enhancing your reputation and personal brand

Starting with an obvious sstock-illustration-12961409-reach-the-solutiontatement, many companies are reducing their workforce. These reductions add to a highly competitive environment workplace environment.   This makes it more important than ever to make the best impression possible to management, employers and potential clients and customers.  A recent Harvard University study found that 85% of workplace success is due to personal skills.
Workplace etiquette is important.  Here are a few pointers to improving your workplace impression.
1.  Don’t burn bridges.

Every person in your company can affect every other person.  Jobs are interconnected.  The person who you are rude to today could be the person you work for tomorrow or someone you may need to ask for help. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.  This goes along way to gaining a good reputation.

2.  Make meeting time useful.

When you need to have a meeting, keep in mind other participants are busy too and be prepared with materials or information needed for the meeting.  Thank attendees for their contributions and send out a meeting recap that summarizes what was discussed, agreed to and action items.

3.  Communicate promptly

When you receive a phone call or email, whether internally or from a client, be sure to respond in a timely manner.  If the answer requires more time then let the sender know that you are working on the answer and that you will keep them posted as to your progress. Don’t leave either your employer or client wondering what is happening with their request or they will assume you have dropped the ball.

4.  Using email or any electronic communication

Take time to carefully craft your message.  This includes checking spelling, punctuation, grammar and capitalization. Be specific, avoid unclear questions or one-word answers.  Email has a tone of it’s own so be aware of the tone of your communication.

5.  Respect Others’ Time

When you need to interrupt someone,  be polite and get to the point quickly, to allow them to get back to his work in progress.  Avoid interrupting meetings unless it is absolutely necessary.

6.  Dress for Success

Even in a casual environment, err on the side of caution.  Your appearance can imply to clients and coworkers that the situation, company or people involved aren’t worth the effort to present yourself respectably.

7.  No surprises–Keep Your Manager Informed

Be authentic and be sincere.  Don’t overdo compliments and agreements. Treat coworkers and managers with respect. Provide your boss with information, since your manager is ultimately responsible for your performance.  Inform your manager of delays, setbacks, new developments or concerns.

8.  Be timely

Time is almost always a factor in anything business related, from a deadline for a project or a meeting set to begin, don’t be late. It implies that you have things more pressing than your coworkers or clients, and more worthy of your attention.

9.  Remember the Basics

Remember your manners. “Please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” are some of the most basic spoken manners.  Avoid raising your voice and offensive language. Disrespectful, yelling and offensive language should be avoided.  That type of behaviour leaves a lasting impression that you don’t want.

A very simple way to look at it is treat others like you want to be treated.