Quick Thoughts: True Friends Tell You What You Need To Hear

If I were to ask you to think about who your friends are, there’s a good chance you’d think about who you love hanging out with on weekends and having fun. You’d think about who you get along with the most, who you’re happy to be around.

But maybe you should also think about those people that brave the potentially uncomfortable and awkward situations to tell you what you need to hear, regardless of whether you want to hear it or not. Now granted, you have to trust that those people have your best interests at heart. But in the end, it’s the friends that are willing to give you the needed reality check that are the best.

Social Is As Social Does

I’ve had this belief that social media is the gateway to face to face interaction and relationships. And meeting people in person that I’ve met through social media has resulted in some great friendships. But those friendships never would have been possible if the conversation didn’t start on social.

We starting to live in a world where automation is becoming the norm. At work, school, and home, automation has been pitched as a way to become more efficient. Why do something tedious if a machine can do it for you?

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Automation has it’s place, but not in social media for me.

And to be honest, I’ve bought into automation for the most part. I have Alexa and some IoT devices at home automating some things for me and some of my bills are paid automatically. I also believe some marketing automation is good too, although it is embarrassing to receive an email from a company to pitch their product when I already have it. And when I first got started in social media, I bought into automation as well.

When I first joined Twitter, one of my goals was to get a lot of followers. As someone that was new to the platform, follower count was a big deal for me. And I also think that when I first joined Twitter (I did make an exit at one point and came back), the numbers actually meant something. This was before social scheduling apps and sites existed or became popular to use. You actually had to be online in order to share content, which meant that you had to be active.

I remember when social automation sites entered the scene too, and I will admit that I’ve tried and used them. There are some that will let you share blog post from a site right when it’s posted. There are some that will allow you to schedule your posts so that you can reach your audience at the most optimal time of day.

There are other kinds of social automation tools that help you grow your following by helping to identify people to follow based on your interests and expertise. Other tools just help you follow people automatically.

I’m not here to pass judgment on social automation. It is my personal preference to not use them, and if you do that’s your choice. But in my opinion, the area where automation cannot help you social is in conversation. Let me clarify, we can program bots to engage in conversation for us, but then it wouldn’t be genuine. And in my opinion, conversation is the the cornerstone for relationships on social media.

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If you really want to connect with your audience, have conversations.

Everything revolves around conversation on social. Even if your sole intention is to just get your content more visibility, however selfish that is, it starts with conversation. Conversation builds a relationship, and it’s that relationship that will prompt others to want to share your content (assuming that it’s useful) which will give it more visibility.

Social is as social does. Brands and individuals alike, what you put into it will determine what you get out of it. If you want to be a newsfeed, then expect newsfeed results. If you want to connect with others, understand your community and audience, start having a conversation.

Leadership Isn’t For Everyone

One of the best experiences that I’ve had and fondest memories is when I used to coach basketball. I did it for 10 years and I loved it. There were a lot of ups and downs, it took a lot of time and dedication, but I really enjoyed it. There’s something about creating a team and watching them grow and succeed that’s just enjoyable to experience and be a part of. But in order to endure the ups and downs and experience the joy of seeing your team succeed, you have to be in it for the team and not for yourself.

In sports, it’s really easy to be enamored with winning championships and trophies, after all you play the game to win. But what you don’t see are the countless hours of practice day after day that the players need to go through, and in addition to that the hours of planning that the coaching staff needs to work on to make it all happen.

Good coaches are right there with their players and the team is like a family. Good coaches understand the strength and weaknesses of each player and put the team as a whole in the best possible position to succeed. They understand that the team is only as good as its weakest player.

Coaches must always be learning and adjusting, finding new ways to teach things and accommodating new players and their skills and weaknesses. If a coach decides to “phone it in”, the players can tell and then the failed product shows up on the field or court. If coaches want player loyalty, they must show the players that they are undoubtedly dedicated to the team.

I’ve always found it easy to translate lessons from sports to the corporate world. I can tell when a leader or manager only cares more about themselves than the team. I can tell when someone wants to become a manager or leader only because they see the benefits of a higher salary or status within the company. And it doesn’t come as a surprise when people leave the team because of these managers and leaders.

It is unfortunate that the path for success in corporations seems to require becoming a manager. In my opinion, companies that can create success for employees without having to go through that path will do a better job retaining talent. After all, leadership isn’t for anyone.

And one day I’d love to get back into coaching. I really loved it.

How Likable Are You? It’s an Important Question.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are driven to want to be successful in the career of our choosing. And we often think that in order to achieve that goal we need to be the smartest, most knowledgeable, and more driven than anyone else. But there’s one other thing that will help you be successful that seems to be overlooked, and that is to be likable.

So just to be clear, I don’t have any data to support my position, it’s just my opinion based on my experience working with others. But I think that being likable is half the battle. And the reason I say that is because if you are likable, people will want to work with you again.

You still have to have substance though, and have to have skill and knowledge. You have to be good at what you do. While being likable helps create a positive impression being likable without substance will end up creating a negative one. And that is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Part of success isn’t really what you know, but who you know. And if who you know helps you climb the ladder to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself, you had better likable to leave a positive, lasting impression.

Don’t Overlook the Value of Soft Skills

One of the things that I appreciate about the job the I have is that I get to meet and work with a lot of people inside and outside the company. It’s important to understand that each interaction has the chance to leave a positive or negative impression on someone, and you don’t know how that will play in the future. It’s why brands and companies, both big and small, really need to make sure all employees understand that soft skills matter. In today’s world, everyone is customer facing.

Take for instance the waitress that served me at the San Francisco California Pizza Kitchen. CPK is one of my favorite restaurants to go to. I absolutely love their Barbecue Chopped Chicken Salad with Avocado. If there was a location closer to my house, I’d probably be there a lot. So I took the opportunity to go when I was in San Francisco since I was staying downtown.

When I sat down to order lunch, the waitress told me that I could get a free small plate if I signed up for one of their programs. After looking at it, I decided that I didn’t want to because I wasn’t going to order a small plate, so I respectfully declined. The waitress wouldn’t take no for an answer. First she told me to think about it some more, and left to place my order. When she came back I said that I might sign up for it later because I would be more inclined to have a small plate during dinner. That answer wasn’t good enough for her. She told me that if I signed up for it now, I could come back later and still get my free small plate. I told her again that I’d think about it. The third time she came back to check on me she said that if she got 5 people to sign up for the program, she would get a free lunch.

This story ends with me signing up for the program and the waitress thanking me profusely for doing so. What she, and California Pizza Kitchen, didn’t realize is that that is the last time that I will ever visit their San Francisco location again. Customers don’t like feeling pressured to buy things or sign up for things even if they’re free.

The same kind of thing happens in the corporate world too. There’s a big difference between a friendly reminder and just being a complete annoyance. In the business world, the individual might not care about being an annoyance especially if in the end they get what they want. And today’s world sort of glorifies that kind of behavior by classifying it as “persistence”, and we praise people for not taking no for an answer.

From a CEO of a startup or a high ranking executive at a large company to the fresh graduate and new hire, it’s become commonplace to get what we want and need now and worry about the consequences of our actions later. In the meantime, though, by doing that we burn bridges. The world has an interesting way of making things come full circle.

Don’t underestimate the power of a positive impression. A few months ago as I was trying travel back home from San Francisco, Delta had to cancel a lot of flights because of a storm that hit their hub in Atlanta. The airport in San Francisco turned into chaos. Everyone was frustrated. I ended up having to spend the night in the airport to wait for the first flight out the next morning.

In the morning, the airport was packed with people who had cancelled flights from the night before, and as people approached the gate desk angry, one Delta employee was there calmly answering questions as best she could and helping people as she could. When it was my turn in line, I calmly asked her if I was going to be able to get on the flight as I was not assigned a seat.

I think that my demeanor, not being angry or mad, or at least not showing it, definitely helped. But to her credit she was able to get me on the flight and on my way home. She was definitely having a bad day, but she handled everything professionally and because of that I am still choosing to fly Delta whenever I have to travel.

The lesson of this whole thing is that it doesn’t matter who you are in the pecking order of a company or brand. Your interaction with someone matters and it can either be positive or negative. A positive impression left on someone could lead to recommendations of your brand or company to others, while a negative impression left could lead to people avoiding your brand or company altogether.

And before you disregard this because you happen to be a B2B brand or a startup whose clients aren’t individuals, remember that you have no idea who people know. You could have just interacted with someone whose friend or family member has the decision making ability at a potential client you’d like to win over. Regardless, it is important that brands and companies place an emphasis on soft skill training and evaluation for everyone.