5 Ways To Get Your MOOC On

People love acronyms and one of the newest one in the learning industry is MOOC.  What is a MOOC you ask?  Maybe this illustration can help:

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

Image: “MOOC poster mathplourde” by Mathieu Plourde

The internet is an incredible vehicle for teaching and learning.  Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, became popular about two years ago when colleges and universities realized the potential of this creative way to reach a lot of students at once. A MOOC basically is a course online that is open to many people at the same time.. Originally they were free and no-credit courses, but that has been changing.  There are all kinds of courses now available on the internet, from Chemistry to Pottery, and most of the top educational organizations in the world are developing them.  Sooner or later, you probably will take a MOOC.

Online education can be a real win for many students, especially those that can’t get to a classroom, but (based on the statistics that I am seeing), this type of learning has its challenges. According to research done by Shanna Smith Jaggars, Assistant Director of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, 32% of students failed or withdrew from for-credit online courses (compared with 19% for equivalent in-person courses) 1 and, according to educational researcher Katy Jordan, MOOCs have generated 50,000 enrollments on average but with a completion rate below 10%. 2  Reading those statistics got me to thinking about how to help students do better (and maybe want to complete the course).

Here are my five suggestions on how to be successful when taking a MOOC:

1.  Practice Good Time Management

Knowing how to manage your time is critical when it comes to online learning.  It is just to easy to do everything else before you sit down to do your course work.  Everyday physical demands, like work, family, and community obligations, can get in the way of virtual activities.  To better manage your time you need to:

  • Understand the syllabus of the class and when assignments are due. (I actually print it out and put it in the front of my notebook – and yes, I take notes).
  • Add assignment due dates to your everyday calendar.  You need to make sure you allow yourself enough time to get the work done.
  • Make a ‘to-do’ list daily and make sure some MOOC activity is in there, every day.

2. Manage Your Work Environment

womanatdeskYour physical space is a critical factor of success when working online. A good study environment without distractions is essential to any student’s success but especially an online student.

  • Build a quiet space. Make sure that you have a private and quiet space to get your work done.  If you have kids, they should be somewhere else and pets should be walked before you sit down to work.
  • Build a functional space.  Make sure that the lighting in your space is sufficient and that you pay attention to the ergonomics of your computer/chair/screen/keyboard for maximum comfort.
  • Turn off your phone.  Make sure that people know you are taking a class between the hours of X and Y, so they leave you alone.
  • Turn off the TV and avoid games.  Control temptations by removing them from your reach during study time.  You might even consider uninstalling computer games if you find yourself playing “solitaire” instead of studying.
  • Shut down your browser (except for the class, of course).  It is easy to get lost on the internet, so make sure that you have no tabs open other than the class.  You can check Facebook later, when you are not in school.

3. Commitment and Motivation

Like with all schooling, the motivation and commitment to attend to what needs to be done to succeed is important.  But with online classes it may be the biggest success factor of all.  Unlike a class room course where you are surrounded by your peers and an instructor that can give immediate support, online students must figure a lot of things out on their own.  You have to be your own technical guru, know when to ask questions and how, do your online classwork every day no matter what, and keep working through stumbling blocks that come up.

  • Be committed to the process and understand what you want from the course.  What is your MOTIVATION?  There are many reasons to take classes, make sure that you have the willingness to succeed.
  • Understand how the classroom software works, especially when it comes to asking questions and requesting help.
  • Log in every day and make progress on your course, even if it is just a bit.  Students that do the best in online learning are those that make daily progress.
  • Persevere through the technical and other challenges that the online learning environment may pose to you.  Just keep at it.

4. Communications Skills

32661230When you are learning in an online environment, your written communication skills and reading ability are extremely valuable. It is up to the student to communicate their needs in writing almost exclusively because in online classes you are rarely seen or heard.  Unlike a physical class, the virtual world does not allow for non-verbal cues to tell the teacher that you don’t understand something, it will be up to you to ask, in writing.  Also, make sure that you are ready for a great deal of screen reading, though there may be some hard copy books as well.

  • Understand how the teacher and staff want to be communicated with.  Usually, online instructors allow for multiple ways to reach them. There should be instructions in the beginning of any course detailing things like when to email, what the instructor and teaching assistant’s office hours are, how to join discussion groups, team chat rooms, etc. By following the instructions and using the tools provided by the course, you will have the easiest time communicating with the staff.
  • Use your best business like communication style.  Unless told otherwise, the informal style of text messages and chats is not very effective when working with teachers and staff online. The more you can write in full sentences in a courteous tone, the better received your communication will be.  Even if you are frustrated or angry about something, remember that the teachers and staff at the other end of your communication deserve to be treated as the professionals.

5. Technical Understanding

You don’t need to be a geek to take a MOOC, but you do need to know your way around your computer and the software that the course is given in.

  • Take the course orientation on how to use the learning system, if one is offered.
  • Make sure the equipment you are working on meets the hardware and software requirements stated by the course.  If it does not you will want to fix your technical issues before you ever get started.
  • Make sure you are familiar with a few of the standard tools used in MOOCs: word processing software, spreadsheets, browsers (specifically how to get to places on the internet and how to download information).

 Have you taken a MOOC yet?  What worked for you?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

 

 

 

Lorian’s Social Connections

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

Website: http://www.digitalattitudellc.com

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References

Image 1: “MOOC poster mathplourde” by Mathieu Plourde {(Mathplourde on Flickr) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mathplourde/8620174342/sizes/l/in/photostream/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg#mediaviewer/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg

1. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/presentation/moocs-unbundling-implications.html

2. http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

3 Spring Training Tips For Business Coaches

Coaching-Cloud-Image

It is great to see all the coaches out there with the kids on the fields now that it is spring in the east.  All the little sweaty people running back and forth trying to build up stamina for the big game to come.  Drills and drills and laps and more drills. Practice, practice, practice.  It made me think about my role as a leader and how I coach other people to their personal best.

The word ‘coach’ brings to mind sports heros like, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi.  And, when I think of a sports coach, I think of someone who is focused on one thing: winning.  Even though the great coaches care about the players, everything they are doing is to drive the team to the win at the end of the game.  Vince Lombardi, Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers, said “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing.”  He accepted nothing less than first place and said that second place was the ‘first loser.’

Here is an example of the most driven coach in history:

I learned a great deal studying sports coaches, and one of those things is that organizational coaching is completely different.  The goal for organizational coaching is about the individual and what they learn through the process. “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” (John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance).  There is a lot to be learned from the sports analogy but in the workplace, coaching is about the relationship between me and the person I am coaching.  There are several things that are important from my side as the coach:

coaching-e13078629095151.  I must be fully engaged with the process and make sure that I am pushing my protege in such a way as to get them to be moving forward.  Too many times people wait until the other person brings them problems.  When I coach, I set up an agreement with the protege upfront and have defined things that s/he is working on.  This relationship is about challenging the other person to improve, to develop new skills or new capabilities.  The responsibility to figure out how to get them going sits with me.

2.  I must be an active listener and come prepared with the right questions to engage the protege.  Sometimes it is hard with all the distractions around, especially when 90% of my coaching is over the phone and on-line, but the other person deserves my undivided attention.  If I am not paying attention, then why am I doing this and who is it benefiting.  I make sure to block off sufficient time in my calendar to focus on the protege and the challenge.

3.  Coaching for me is also about providing guidance that the other person could not get on their own (or at least not easily). I am here to teach them to fish, not to fish for them.  My goal is to provide my protege with tools that they can use going forward that will enhance their abilities, help them make decisions and solve problems, so that over time, they can be self sustaining.

Do you Coach? Do you have a Coach?  If you could only give one piece of advice to your next protege, what would it be?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

 

Free PDU’s @ International Project Management Day

I just got back from a great meeting with International Institute for Learning in New York City.  They are a global leader in training, coaching and customized course development.  On November 7, 2013 they will be holding a free full day event for INTERNATIONAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT DAY.

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Register for free  (how easy is that!!!!)

You can earn free PDU’s if you are a PMI PMP –  but more importantly, there is an impressive group of really good speakers and sessions.

animationfinalSee you there.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

OMG!! You Want Me to Open What?

Oh My Goodness!  Many Project Managers are cringing when I talk about their teams being more open and transparent and leveraging social technologies. Has everything we know about project communications changed?  I think I finally understand why they worry, but let me assure you, a good communications strategy is still a key to project success, you just need to tweak it a little.

Fear

I know that it may feel like trying to manage projects with transparent and open communications is the antithesis of everything that we were ever taught as project managers about communications.  Being open just feels risky (kind of like buying something off of Craig’s List and meeting the person in an abandon building).

The principles of social collaboration seem to challenge all the conventional ideas that we have as PMs for project communications. Traditional guidance on project communications tells us that one of it’s main principles, is identifying what information is to be shared, when it should be distributed, to whom, and how it should be prepared.  How do you control communications in the open?

Yes, social collaboration means that the team, and maybe even the client, might have access to the non-confidential information about the project that is being worked on.  But, there is a tremendous benefit to working project details out in the open.  This allows the team to participate, collaborate, and react in a just-in-time way.  As PMs we need to embrace the fast-moving business environment that we work in, harness the reality of the current technologies we deploy, and leverage the globalization of our project teams.

What Transparency Means

Our communications job as Project Leaders is to ensure the team and the stakeholders have current information (status) on what, where, and when.  Being transparent, in the project context, means having an open and honest dialogue on the current state of your project.  Many projects run behind and even fail, because teams don’t want to tell each other, or the customer, the truth about scope creep, schedule slippage, resource challenges.  But, that is the reality of the project and once the team can embrace being real, all the time, in real-time, magic happens.  Being transparent is not about getting positive or negative feedback on an item, it is about disseminating information quickly so that all players can digest it, discuss it,  and react to it.  Some examples of transparent communications are:
communications 2

  • Open planning sessions to discussion and gather new ideas
  • Show milestones so everyone knows where you are going and can comment on their parts
  • Open discussions about issues; ask the team to comment regardless of if they are part of that subteam or not (solutions come from many places)
  • Show schedule and dependencies and let others own their commitments instead of being bottle necked by the PMs weekly status round-up.
  • Open your status meetings and let the extended team comment. Status now becomes ubiquitous.  There is no longer a need for lengthy status reports because it is up-to-date all the time. (Gee, I love this as a PM because it sure makes my reporting easier.)

Business today is very agile and the old top-down communications models don’t always work anymore.  The new social technologies allow teams to provide a continuous loop of feedback and ideas at the speed never before possible.  This transparent feedback loop can help a project manager, or the executives of a company,  make quicker course corrections, which means better response time to customer requirements or industry changes.

Recently, I was moderating the webcast of a global panel on Social Project Management (with 4 speakers and over 700 participants) for IBM. With only 4 weeks to put it together, all the planning, scheduling details, resource needs, were coordinated through a Lotus Connections Community.  Everyone knew what was going on, what was needed, who needed what, when, and even, how we did after the event.  Though the panelists sat in different countries throughout the world, that caused no problems because everyone checked in and chimed it, at their convenience. Issues were handled immediately (like people dropping out, or equipment not arriving).  And, except for one conference call before the event (yes, I still hang on to some old school needs like making sure people are not robots – LOL), everything was discussed, resolved, and documented in our open space.  We had a 98% participation satisfaction rating.  I know this wasn’t a big project example, but I wanted to give you a flavor of how it works.

Just try it on a small subproject first.  Let me know how it goes.

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: http://facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

2 Keys To Rebranding Yourself After A Lay-Off

If you already have your digital brand in place then there isn’t much you have to do after a lay-off.  But, I found two areas that I need to tweak  to  free myself from anything that may not be authentically me.

keysAs discussed in previous posts, the first step in personal branding is to focus on what makes you unique.  Whether you worked for a public or private company, or even for yourself, if you have your digital presence in good shape, the task to tune yourself up is not as daunting as it may seem.

When ‘Big Blue’ laid me off earlier this month, I had this nightmare that I had to totally reinvent how I looked digitally for the business world.  I was chained to my desk and reworking my profile, again and again and again.  This scared me awake!  A big piece of how I define myself and my brand is my work, and for the last 18 years I have defined myself as being part of a big corporate machine.  Once I started looking at my actual digital footprint however, I realized that there was little I had to change.

Your brand is your personal message.  This message is picked up by the people you interact with (physically and virtually). Branding has less to do with ‘who you work for,’ and is more about ‘what makes you unique.’  So, as I was reviewing my dossier for my resume rewrite and social network profile updates, I realize that most of me is the same as I was a month ago (before unemployment). My competency has not diminished: my knowledge and skills haven’t changed; my critical thinking capability is the same as it was; my technical knowledge didn’t disappear overnight.  My appearance is the same; my great sense of style, my infectious smile, the way I enter a room.

So what really needs to change in my brand?

Here are 2 keys areas to look at when reworking your brand after leaving a company:

return to sender1.  Give your old company it’s ‘Point of View’ back.  An important part of your brand is your personal opinions on things, also known as, your POINT OF VIEW (POV). You communicate to the world what you value through your opinions and positions on matters of interest. This is your attitude or the way you view things.

Companies, and even departments within companies, also have POVs.  And, when we work in them and do business for them, we take on the company’s POV along with our own.  They may call it – company values, organizational culture – but you know what I am talking about.  When you negotiate a deal for a particular company, you are doing it from the POV of the company you are representing.  If you write blogs or post things on a company site, you are (or should be) representing the company’s POV.

With the large push in digital marketing on the internet, most companies are aware that having a clear POV that the customer’s understand, is a critical success factor. Howard Shutz, CEO and founder of Starbucks, in his book Onward, talks about how he needed to re-communicate Starbuck’s point of view when he returned to the company in 2008 to ensure that customer’s knew exactly what Starbuck’s stood for.  When you think about certain companies (Starbuck’s, Walmart, IBM)  their POV in business is very loud.

That, is the first hurdle.  Being able to identify your own POV after being part of a larger and louder voice for a long time.  Many people, when first trying to define their personal brand outside their company’s, have trouble finding their social ‘voice.’ (Hatch and Schultz)

As an employee, we take on our companies POV (which is what we’re supposed to do), but when we leave, we need to make sure we re-find our own. 

answeringmachine2.  Update Your Message.  I don’t mean your answering machine tape (no offense meant to those of you that still have them).

After a while in any company, we figure out what the communications expectations are and how to work within the company’s culture. Even sentence structure and vocabulary is influenced by a company through years of interaction.  How information is delivered is influenced by the culture and acceptance practices of an organization.

Dale Cyphert, PhD, in a paper about business communications, relates operating in a corporate culture to traveling in a foreign country.  She says that “successful travel through foreign lands involves learning to eat, talk and behave the way the natives do.  Similarly, success in a business involves acting, communicating, and thinking ‘like a businessperson.” (Dale Cyphert)

We all learn how to communicate in our company cultures through an “exchange of information and transmission of meaning” (Daniel Katz and Robert L Kahn).   We learn how to operate through our communications with co-workers and colleagues, as well as, across boundaries of departments, regions, and organizations themselves.  Over time, the corporate way of communicating becomes part of who we are and, many times, part of our personal POV.  No matter how comfortable you are with your old company, it is time to find your personal voice.  It is like coming home after being in a foreign country for a long time.  You may still like to eat the foods of that land, but you have more options now, so is that still your POV?.

Your values and perspectives are uniquely your own.  There is nothing wrong with holding on to many of the values and ideas that came from your previous work, but now you get to decide if they really fit who you are.  This is your chance to tweak your message – to speak with your own voice.

I learned how to speak from my company’s point of view and how to communicate based on their rules – I am just looking at whether that still fits the newly independent me.

Have you thought of any other areas of your personal brand that may need tweaking to raise your unique voice?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

References

  1. Relationship Between Organizational Culture, Identity and Image, Mary Jo Hatch, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University,Cranfield, UK, and Majken Schultz, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 5/6, 1997, p p. 356-365 © MCB University Press, 0309-056
  2. Business Communications Self Study, University of Northern Iowa, College of Business Administration, Dale Cyphert, PhD, 2007.
  3. The Social Psychology of Organizations, Daniel Katz and Robert L Kahn, 2d ed, New York, Wiley, 1978
  4. Images courtesy of Google Images

Want Team Engagement? Embrace Ambient Awareness

team1Project Management, by its nature, is social. Communications is at the heart of what we do as project managers. We project managers are constantly talking to people. influencing, proposing, negotiating, mediating and, our favorite, updating. We are über communicators, and that will not change – but HOW we communicate, at least on my projects with my team – has.

Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner, recently wrote a post on “How social tools work for project management, saying “Good project managers communicate, build consensus, persuade, and influence others to achieve goals. With the rise of social software platforms, many of them are coming to believe that transparent collaboration and planning make for faster work flow, better results and happier teams.”  And at the end of the day, adopting social project management practices means more engaged and happier teams which translates into better delivery and happier clients.

Using social software with your project team makes a difference. Mostly because of what the psychologist’s call  ambient awareness. User experience designer, Leisa Reichelt, says that ambient awareness “is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.”[1] If you missed it, I first talked about ambient awareness in my post on Solving the Project Managers Social Dilemma – Part 2.

Using social software on projects allows teams to experience a level of connectivity never before realized, even in physical co-location.  Reality theorist Sheldon Renan calls it “loosely but deeply entangled.”  It reminds me of the Jungian psychology concept of ‘collective unconsciousness,” where a part of the unconscious mind is shared by a society, a people, or all humankind.  I’ll call what happens to the project team. the ‘collective present.‘  Everyone on a project collectively participates in the dynamic flow of the information and is accountable for their parts in a way they never were before.  They are responsible for creating and keeping up the data flow.  And, as part of this ‘collective present’ on a project, the connections are wider and contain more possible touch points for interaction.  The team, the client, the stakeholders, all those that are part of the collaborative process through social media, now are part of the ‘collective present’ of the project and have data-driven information (and accountability), elevating the project knowledge to a new level of engagement.

teensTo help you visualize this concept of ambient awareness, think about young people today and how they use their mobile devices.  They are in constant contact with their cohort.  They know where everyone is almost all the time because they ‘check in’ on social networks[2], they ‘Geo-tag,’ and they Tweet. No one has to update anyone on the who, what, where, and how, because ‘they just know.’ This new awareness is bringing back the dynamics of small-town life; where everybody knew your business and therefore, you had to be genuine and honest.  Think about it: you probably know more about your Facebook friends than you do the neighbor down the street, unless of course, the neighbor is on Facebook.  You know what is going on from your News Feeds [3], and you can pick and choose what to act on (“Gee, I need to call my sister about that”) or not (“Do I really care that Howard’s kid winning the science fair?”).

Incorporating the work styles of the digital generation into the more traditional business models, even into project management, is showing good rewards.  Ambient awareness improves the communications and project knowledge of the team, which in the end, translates into better delivery of the project. Being ‘in’ the project versus being ‘told about’ the project, changes the speed of understanding and the sense of personal engagement.  Seems like a ‘win’ to me.

Still don’t believe me?  Think about the traditional project manager – usually the single point person that updates the plans and milestones, creates Gantt charts, holds endless status meetings, and updates the team and client, maybe weekly. Now think about the social project manager – whose team collaboratively updates the milestones and activities as part of the project process, reducing the need for status meetings (since status is known by all ambiently) and where team members follow what each other are doing, subscribe to each others feeds, and basically, work in the ‘collective present’ in a new and improved way.  Team time is now for greater collaboration and development.  Even clients could be updated through the social process.

communications 2In Social Project Management, the project itself becomes the center of all things. It is the ’email hub,’ the ‘inbox,’ the ‘file archive.’  All data and information flows through the digital project center.  And, since every team member is working in this transparent way, the personal accountability is very visible.  How perfect for project management!  How refreshing to really be projectized and have everything organized around the actual work tasks and not the tools used to communicate (email) or store information.  When using social software for a project, the work assignments are clear to everyone, each team member sees what other team members are doing, the team gets out of ’email jail,’ tasks are maintain and supported in a collaborative manner, and, most importantly, working this way allows people to determine the appropriate level of engagement that they need to get their job done.

When I managed traditional co-located teams on projects, I noted that we would build a certain team awareness.  We were in constant communication and sharing mode.  We ate lunch together.  We spent time white boarding and brainstorming and sharing ideas, good and bad.  We moved as a team.  We had shirts and hats with our team logo. We knew the state of the project because we lived and breathed it every day, sometimes 7 days a week. But even in this scenario, we only knew the information that we shared with each other in status meetings or in the elevator.  Communications depended on physical meetings or emails.

As team size grew and my projects became global, multicultural, and more and more complex, I noted that time and distance between team members started to become a problem.  The co-located dynamics that made us feel like a team of course were gone.  I also noted that communications started to become more and more compartmentalized.   People only paid attention to their tasks and were less concerned with the whole project.  Information flow was a battle and email overload started to become a nightmare.  Many good virtual tools became available, but getting the dispersed teams to perform at the high level that was needed to deliver on time and with quality, got more complicated.

Enter Social Media.  I feel like Social Media has given me back team spirit and team vitality. Ambient awareness, which is only recently being applied to distributed teams and work flow, has given my teams and my clients, a sense of connection to the end goal, and to each other. This is not your old project management process translated into something social – social project management is a way of working that you and your team have never experienced before.  Once you take the leap into the collective present of project management, I assure you, you will never go back.

Are you connecting with your teams and clients using Social Media? How are you leveraging your ‘collective present?’

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

References

  1. Disambiguity — Leisa Reichelt’s Professional Blog. October 2011
  2. “Three Best Ways to Use Location-Based Social Media”. Riva Richmond, The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., September 10, 2010
  3. Brave New World of Digital Intimacy, Clive Thompson, The New York Time Magazine, September 5, 2008

Laid Off? 5 Attitude Adjustments To Make

change“To up the odds of survival, leaders at all levels, must become obsessive about change.”  “Change must become our norm, not a cause for alarm.”- Tom Peters, Thriving On Chaos, 1987

These were the opening lines of a speech I gave in 1988 on Change.  Funny, I must not have been listening to my own words.

I pride myself on being an innovator, a thought leader: of seeing where transformations are needed and helping others through their change process.  But, I, like so many of my colleagues, have gotten caught in this whirlwind of economic downturn.  I could rant here and say “why me?”  But, truthfully, it is not about me.  It is… just business as usual.  An expected norm.

Tom Peter’s said that being excellent is no longer enough; that companies people (my word change) need to be perpetually ready to innovate. They must be willing to make continual improvements because the business environment is so competitive. Rather than focusing on cost-cutting efficiencies, these improvements must stress providing customers with value. He predicted, in 1987, that this rapidly changing world – fueled by new technology – would be unpredictable, so companies people must learn how to “thrive on chaos” to survive the turbulent times ahead.  And he was right and these are those times.

As I have just learned on Wednesday, even when you do the ‘right’ things, make those constant improvements, show your value, and keep innovating, you can still get caught up in the undertow of corporate unpredictability.  So this Social Butterfly, me, has now been tossed aside, or given freedom, depending on how I chose to look at it, from my corporate parent after almost 18 years of service.  Ah, the lessons.

Though a constant change agent in my work, I question maybe I was not bold enough, loud enough, social enough, or something, to be of right value to the corporate machine.  Every day, in every way, I challenged my coworkers, my company, and myself, to move forward, just like Peter’s told me too. But the truth is, it had very little to do with me.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once the shock and the fuzziness of being laid off subsides (it has only been a couple days but I am not the wallowing type so I hope it is soon), I will get grounded and get going. So, let’s look at several steps I plan on taking over the next week:

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1.  Don’t lose focus

Remember that ‘it is just business, to them.’  Yes, it ticks me off!  But it is true. In most cases, when laid off, it is not personal. (That sounds so stupid doesn’t it? Because it sure feels that way right now.)  In my case, I think it is about the stock price and how they balance bad sales numbers – they’ve cut and cut everything else, so now all that is left to cut are the workers. There is absolutely nothing I can do about a corporate strategy from where I sit.  It is what it is. My job moved to a lower cost country and now, I need to move forward for me.

I need to really get down to the nitty gritty activities that are going to move me into my future and not wait until the dust settles.  I think that the key to staying focused is to create a very detailed ‘to do’ list that provides me with practical details and priorities.  Spending time every day designing my future is now my priority.  That IS my job (and shame on me, it always should have been.)

2.  Talk about it

That’s right.  It may be embarassing, but I can’t get caught in what the psyhcologist’s call “the dance of denial.”  Luckily, I have some trusted friends to listen to me.  It is important to engage in conversations with others in similar situations (heck, we don’t know the real numbers but there are about 6,000 of us just this week).  Be social. Seek out support both on and off line. (30 Websites to Visit When You Get Laid Off)  Find ‘healthy’ vehicles for catharsis, whether exercise, gardening, walking the dogs (that is mine).  I think it is best to focus on MY feelings about the lay off and not rant on about the ‘bad’ company (though that is easy to fall into).  This needs to be about me – not them.  Burning bridges, because of being upset or angry, is not the best path to the future – especially when you are a blogger.  Having an outlet is critical to moving on though.  This is a loss, it takes time to get over that: anger, fear, depression even, are all normal reactions.  I need to be gentle with myself (which isn’t easy for me).

3.  Let go of the past as quickly as possible

Generate small, success assured activities, even if it is just grocery shopping.  Right now, my self esteem is rocky.  I need to know that I can get stuff done.  I just read in some magazine that Sheryl Sandberg (Miss Lean In) writes down her  ‘to dos’ on a sheet of paper and then when done, tears it out of the notebook and throws it away.  I like that, because it is a physical act that celebrates completeness.  It is important to create rituals and celebrate closure on things so that I can start to embrace a new future.  Just keep putting energy into the future state (this may be a ‘fake it, until you make it’ statement, but I can do it, I have to do it!)

4.  Push the limits

Truthfully, I just lost my job and things (other than health) don’t get much worse than that for bread winners.  So why not experiment.  Identify next steps and go for them.  I need to find my moxie, my guts, and push myself to envision that which I really want.  Now is the time that I have to forge in a new direction: go back to school or maybe get The Digital Attitude consulting business off the ground ?  If not now – when?  If not me – who?  This could be a great gift – right?  As Dorie Clark says in her book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, ” To survive and thrive, you have to reinvent yourself and move on.”  Which takes me to my last point…

Shift-Happens-You-Are-The-Key-To-Change-300x2335.  Reflect and then move on

The one thing we know for sure is change is going to keep coming.  I will look back for a moment, do my lessons learned and move on.  Integrating this experience into the fabric of my life.  Give myself the time and space to reflect and review all the things that got me here and then articulate my vision for what will get me there.

How have you dealt with some of life’s major changes?  Any advice?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

References

Thriving On Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution, Tom Peters, Harper Books, 1987

Life Changes: A Guide to the 7 Stages of Personal Growth, Adams and Spencer. Paraview Press (November 12, 2002)

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sanberg, Knopf; First Edition edition (March 11, 2013)

Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review Press (April 9, 2013)

6 Ways To Cure Social Media Resistance

fishAre you feeling like a fish out of water?  Do you feel overwhelmed by the social web revolution?  Well, if you do, you are in good company.  I have talked to many people lately, both non-technical and technical, who are avoiding using social media as much as possible, and have a long list of reasons why.

How does one keep up with all the changes and the new speed of social interaction on the web?  What if you don’t want to spend all your time on-line?  How does one deal with the onslaught of information and social networks?

Bisnode reported that 90% of the worlds data has been generated in only the last two years, no wonder people’s heads are swimming.  Here are some thoughts on what we should all be doing to deal with natural social media resistance.

1.  Give Up to Keep Up

Sometimes I think that I am the only person in the universe experiencing overload from all this digital data that is flowing into my computer, my smartphone, my TV, and my head.  Then I realize that no one, and I mean NO ONE, can keep up with this data flow, unless you are a machine.  So, first thing to understand is that you need to give up trying to keep up with the data flow, because you can’t win that one.

The internet has significantly changed the way we do business.  And social media has changed the way we manage information.  The rules have changed.  This is part of the reason so many of us are uncomfortable.  Take email, for example, something that has been around now for many years and is probably a significant part of your life.  You know what is expected of you around email rules and etiquette. If someone sends you an email, they expect an email back.  If they don’t get one, they send a reminder.  But, if someone ‘likes’ your comment on Facebook or Twitter, no response is required or expected.  Today’s social media moves much faster and uses different rules. You need to give up your old rules because they don’t apply to the new platforms.  To keep up, you need to give up your old rules.

2.  Pull up the shade at least half way.

tompetersAlmost daily, people over the age of ____ (fill in the blank), are asking me about the seemingly blurred lines between professional, public and personal privacy online.  It feels a little like getting undressed with the shades up. We were warned for years about privacy on the internet and now all those rules are being brought into question.  No wonder we’re feeling assailed.   The rules about privacy appear to be changing daily.  I don’t think anyone really knows the answers on this topic just yet.  And not knowing something as intimate as the privacy of our information is unsettling.  But right now, you need to be internet smart but also give yourself some room until the patterns of interaction sort themselves out.  There is no right answer in this case, at least not yet. But as Tom Peter’s said “When the window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shades.”  Though I won’t open mine 100% yet, I think we miss a tremendous opportunity if we lock ourselves out because of the privacy rules.

3.  Less is more

There are so many different social media networks out there now, that it is easy to be overrun and overwrought with what to join and participate in. I recommend that you pick one personal, like Facebook, and one professional, like LinkedIn. (For more info check out 4 Steps To Decide What Social Media Network To Join).   Ignore the millions of other social networks screaming for your participation because, less participation is more sanity.  Spend your valuable few minutes a day in one place where you can get to know others and have meaningful interactions.

4.  Show up, occasionally

You don’t have to be everywhere on the internet, but you do need to be somewhere, consistently, if you ever want to be known.  Once or twice a week on Twitter or commenting in a community, is enough to start building a rapport with others.  You do need to show up but it does not have to be 24X7.  Pick two days to make your ‘show up’ days and spend a little time building your online presence.

5.   Forget ‘transparent,’ go for ‘authentic’

privacyI have trouble with the term ‘transparent’ that is being used for social collaboration.  I think that is another reason that people are uncomfortable with the medium.  Transparent makes me think of that window shade being up again and everyone seeing into my dressing room. It is not about sharing every little bit of information about me on the internet, it’s about being in relationship to other people, in such a way as I can be real and speak from my heart.  When I write this blog for example, I don’t fill it with hype and fluff.  I share with you my genuine thoughts – the real me.  OK, I admit, I’m an extrovert and I am comfortable sharing a lot of my life story, but even if I was more private, or more introverted, as long as the stuff I share is authentic, then I think the connection will be there.  You don’t have to violate your privacy to be connected, but you do have to share something to make the connection, whether physical or virtual.

6.  It’s up to you

It is like the wild west out there on the internet highway.  Full of possibilities and “there is gold in them there hills.”  You just need to filter through some dirt to find it.  What does that mean, you say?  It is up to you to decide how you want to be on the internet. Then you can learn some of the tricks to keep out the unwanted noise.

What is it that you want your connection to social media to be?  Do you want to increase your digital reputation?  Do you want to build your business by using social media?  What are the positive things that social media can bring to your life and your work?

You have a lot to offer, really you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this.  Share a little of who you are on the internet, in your profiles, in your comments, and though I know it may be uncomfortable at first, you will find the virtual connections not only uniquely rewarding but surprisingly freeing.

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

Increase Your Brand: Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Celebrate Yourself

The Golden Brand

Why care about your brand? 

Because if you don’t, who will?

You’ve been working hard for years and feel you deserve rewards for your thought leadership and expertise – am I right?  How do you think you’re going to get those rewards?  Reality is you can wait and take your chances at success or you can make things happen.

Have you Googled yourself lately?  Does the first page of results represent who you are and what you want people to see about you?  It is up to you to tend your reputation on-line.  You don’t get noticed by accident.  You are the brand of YOU and you need to be presenting you OUT LOUD and SOCIAL for everyone to see.

My Father’s Advice Was Right For Then – But Wrong For Now

My father always told me that if I worked hard for a company for 25 years, kept my ‘nose to the grind stone,’ and showed my loyalty, I would have a successful career.  That made sense 60 years ago.  You see, my Dad was born to immigrant parents, in New York City, in 1912.  He was the first reinvented person I knew.  He was unemployed and penny-less during the Great Depression, and found meaningful employment as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  (The CCCs put thousands of unemployed young men to work on public projects.)  After World War II, my Dad returned as a wounded veteran and became a dress salesman.  By the late 1950’s he owned his own dress manufacturing business in New York’s garment district.  My Dad know nothing about self branding or reinventing himself (though he did attend the original Dale Carnegie seminar – I have the first printing of the book to prove it). Only movie stars, musicians, and artist branded themselves.  (Think Picasso or Liberace). The advice he gave me in the ’70s, when I graduated college, was true at the time: join a company and become part of a big family. The company will take care of you. And, if you are a good girl, and waited patiently, when the time is right, you will move up the corporate ladder, position by position. That, of course, was then and this is now.

In 2013, your work life is about your value as an individual. You are not seeing many people staying in one company forever anymore.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in January 2012, the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.6. The fact is that people are staying in companies for shorter periods of time because employees are focused on building their personal skills/capabilities (resume) and then, when their current assignment is complete, selling themselves to the highest bidder.  The philosophy of one-company loyalty, or living the ‘company life,’ for one’s whole career, is a thing of the past.   Most people I work with at IBM have been in the company less than 5 year.  It is a new day, Dad.

Know Yourself

BeckhamPersonal Branding doesn’t work if you don’t believe in yourself.  I am not talking about a ‘fake it until you make it’ self talk.  You need to have confidence in your skills and in the you that you’re presenting to the outside world.  On the internet, fakery is exposed in seconds. You need to know the keywords that make up YOU.  That’s something my Dad never had to think about.  He was a keen salesman and walked the streets of Manhattan for years with a sample bag under his arm.  His business, like all business, was about relationships.  Everyone knew his values and what he stood for before he even walked in the door.  You could say, “his reputation, preceded him.”   But that can only happen when you know who are you are.

Your personal brand should be as clear in the minds of others as it is in your own.  For example, what comes to your mind when you think of:  Modonna, Donald Trump, or David Beckham? I think Modanna – rockstar, musical innovator, and sexy bras; Donald Trump – big buildings, return from bankruptcy, strange hair, and The Apprentice TV show; David Beckham – footballer (soccer), Spice Girl Victoria, Manchester United, and tattoos.

Why do these people stand out in your mind?  What unique things are the identifying features of their brand?  What are your unique identifying features?

Choose Yourself

cheer2If you are not cheering for yourself, why should anyone else?  Like I said above, you need to believe in your capabilities.  Do a good job with knowing what you have to offer and then have confidence in those qualities.  If you are a Baker, but you think you make lousy cupcakes, who is going to buy them?  In today’s day and age, those who wait to be selected, rarely are.  The winners are not the ones that wait nicely and ask permission to move ahead.  They are the people who took the moment into their own hands.

“The real trick is to not wait, but to pick yourself. To “turn pro” in your head. To believe you can do what you’re asking others to believe about you.” [Jeff Goins, Stop Waiting To Be Picked]

Celebrate Yourself

Are you your own worst enemy?  I have watched many people, especially women, make light of their accomplishments.  It is hard sometimes not be self-depreciating but it is important to learn to accept praise sincerely without belittling your accomplishments.  When someone gives you a compliment, do you ever say “Oh, it was nothing,” when it was really a good piece of work?  You should take the credit – even for the small stuff.

I want you to notice how young people have no trouble showing all their life’s tiny moments in the open on Facebook or Twitter?  Taking a lesson from the kids, the power of showing the world positive little accomplishments builds up into a wonderful celebration of achievements and, when viewed from the outside, a nice portfolio of accomplishments. You probably have no trouble Facebooking your kid’s minor accomplishments: “Sally got the role of the lobster in the Christmas play” or “Fido rolled over.”.  But when it comes to ourselves we tend to be self-defeating and we undervalue what we have done. Don’t lose the importance of the small stuff.  Celebrate your wins in the open and let people know how awesome you are.

Attitude Adjustment Homework: Blowing Your Horn

  1. Make a list of accomplishments you are proud of.  They don’t all have to be related to work.  You should include goals that you have met, skills you have cultivated, and problems that you have solved.
  2. Select 1 or 2 of the accomplishments on your list.
  3. Create a plan to publish highlights of your accomplishments across your social channels over the next 30 days.  [Note:  Having a plan keeps you from drowning your audience with too much of your good thing – which can be a turn off.]

Would you rather be the pickee or the picker?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

References

Exercises modified from About.com Small Business: Canada – Blow Your Own Horn: Business Success Program: Business Success Lesson 9 by ,

Your Image Matters: 10 Tips for the Right Profile Picture

It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression.[1] Like my mother always told me, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” and, in the case of social networking, your profile picture is the number one biggest visual impression that you make, every day, with every contact.

Your profile picture may be THE most important piece of information about you on the internet.  Really – just think about it!  It is the visual key to your digital brand.   It is the only visual connection that internet contacts may ever have with you.  Are you sure that the picture of you at your family picnic 30 years ago, or the one where you are making that weird face, is really how you want people to know you?

Your images matters.  And because we have less opportunity to be in each others physical space, the image of you in your little tiny profile picture matters even more. That digital representation of you is all that your colleagues, employer, prospective new employer, clients, followers, and so on, may ever see.

I’ve noticed that my profile picture shows up everywhere these days:  when I comment on someone’s posts, when someone sees me on Twitter or LinkedIn, when I send an email – it is that little ‘Lorian-head’ that people relate to first, before my text.

C.G. Lynch, writer of Social Media Matters for CIO magazine said: “Truth is, this photo may be used by people whom you don’t know very well as they try to size you up – personally or professionally. So it matters.”  You may not get a second chance to show them your face.

10 Tips To the Right Profile Photo

Here are a bunch of tips that I put together to help you pick the right photo for your online accounts:

  1. Use a current photo.  When I went to buy my house, I picked a real estate agent who looked about 35 years old in her advertising photo.  When we met face to face, she was in her 60’s.  It made me a little concerned about trusting her.  Realize that someday you may actually meet the people who see your profile picture, make sure that you are as recognizable as possible.
  2. Use a human photo of YOU — not an object – not an avatar. (Though I do love my avatar because she is eternally young and she may be the right version of me on my personal Facebook page, but not professionally.)

    mywebfaxe

    Lorian’s Avatar

  3. Use a photo of ONLY you – no pets – no children – no vehicles – no drinking buddies.  Also, make sure that there are no errant body parts in the photo – like someone’s hand from an arm that you cropped out (that would be tacky).
  4. Smile! Your face should radiate warmth and approachability.  Smiling gives a positive signal, even in one-dimensional viewing.
  5. Make eye contact with the camera.  People want to see your eyes – it’s a trust thing. Look directly at the camera.  Don’t take pictures with a webcam, they just don’t look right.
  6. Create visual contrast.: There should be equal balance of dark areas and light areas. Take note of what you’re wearing, along with your hair color, when choosing what will be in the back drop.
  7. Chose your best clothes colors.  Think about other pictures that you look good in – what color were you wearing near your face then?  Wear clothes based on the professional appearance you want to present.  For most of us that is no t-shirts, busy patterns, or Hawaiian shirts.  Black and blue outfits always work well.  Photo experts say avoid white.
  8. Have a quiet background.  The less you have in the background of the photo the less visually distracting.
  9. Take a head and shoulders shot.  Look at other people’s profile pictures and see how much of their upper body they show.  A shoulder is always good.  But the profile shot is very small, so you want to be able to really see your face.
  10. You don’t need a professional photographer (though it would be nice), but take multiple shots.  Then ask people for their opinion on which one makes you seem most “approachable.”
President Barack Obama: Inauguration Day 2009

Not to get political here,  Just a good example of a profile picture,  And, if you must have a building in the background, the US Capitol would be one to have. – President Barack Obama 2009

“The goal is for your photo to reflect how you will look when you meet a customer, not how you looked at that killer party in Key West four years ago. The best profile photo isn’t necessarily your favorite photo. The best photo strikes a balance between professionalism and approachability, making you look good but also real.” – Social Ben Martin from his Social Media business blog

Do you have more profile tips to add to the list? What has worked or not worked for you when it came to your profile picture?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

References

  1. Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after 100 ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17, 592-598.
  2. Image @ Trevor Aston Photography Bad Profile Pictures Are Like Limp Handshakes
  3. What Does Your Social Networking Profile Picture Say About You? How you portray yourself on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn matters. June 17, 2009 by C.G. Lynch
  4. Careerealism: Because Every Job is Temporary ,11 Tips For Choosing Your LinkedIn Photo,
  5. Analogue Chic, How To Look Better In Pictures: The Profile Pic, January 19, 2011
  6. Ben Martin, 6 Steps to a More Marketable Linked Profile
  7. BrandYourSelf, 5 Ways To Make Your Website Profile Photo Work For Your Personal Brand Image, July 15, 2009
  8. NJ Ledger, Allan Hoffman: Does that profile picture make you look like a schlub online?, May 10, 2013
  9. Photo from “President Barack Obama: Inauguration Day 2009