Category Archives: Items of Interest

Customer Experience? Customer Engagement? Just do it!

To positively experience something OR to engage with something:

Are they any different?

Speaking to another marketing-industry friend recently, we joked about the overuse of the words: customer engagement and customer experience. The word engagement implies a deeper connection with the customer although the two of us agreed that every experience can make a lasting impact on ones’ choices and impressions.

  • Just do it.
  • Make me buy your product.
  • Make me use your service.
  • Make me smile.
  • Make me say “Thank you so much for making this happen for me.”

Here are a few simple examples.

Walking back to the office one afternoon, I passed this Starbucks promotion. Looking to bring patrons back into the store for a mid-afternoon energy boost, the offer plays to one’s earlier purchase and reinforces Starbucks position as an all-day food source.  The price point for the treat equates to a chocolate bar. Having been in the store earlier in the day, you would know that the breakfast crowd paid 3-4 times that price. (And, to those snickering, let’s assume that the product freshness is intact.) starbucksMake me buy your product. 

Our family does not own a car and we become weekly rental customers during the summer. blue carFinding myself in Boston with a customer service problem involving a car picked up at the local Boston airport, I first called the Executive Member Customer Service center. Fail. Then I called our local rental site hoping that they would help. Fail. A direct FB message resolved the problem in one hour.
All four components of that experience made an impression on me.

Make me want to use your services.

This photo was taken at a marketing conference about a year ago. infographicThe artist was quick, creative and able to distill key points into a visually appropriate sequence. Looking at the info-graphic, like watching a twitter feed at a conference, served to reinforce my own learning while the visual format highlighted nuances in the presentation.

The multi-sensory experience made me smile. 

Walking around Manhattan during the bewitching hour of the mid-afternoon school dismissals, can be most entertaining. The other day, I literally stopped and turned around as I heard the voice of a very young child telling his mother that he splattered paint in class similar to the Jackson Pollack style of painting. It was not surprising when the child then went on to ask his mom about her email follow ups to confirm his weekly play dates.

As a mom, I was mighty impressed with the school’s ability to engage this very bright young child. I could almost hear the mom saying to herself:

“Thank you (school and teachers) for making this love of learning happen for my child.” 

Customer Experience. Customer Engagement. Whatever you call it. Just make it positively – memorable.

 

 

Originally posted for MENG on Feb 20. 2015: Customer Experience? Customer Engagement? Just Do It? http://ow.ly/JjYLb by @sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing

Encouraging or Discouraging??

#agreesharon

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

With the Rio Olympic games in play, I found myself reading both current and historical articles about the event. Is the expression “You do not Win Silver….You Lose Gold” helpful to the competitive mindset or an insult to anyone other than he/she placing first?

medals

 

Have you made anyone feel that 2nd or 3rd place was not good enough? More importantly, did it provide any positive impact on the outcome?

The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference

I was lucky enough to attend The Big Rethink US 2014 Conference delivered by conference logoThe Economist and further supported by MENG. The discussions surrounding big data, social networking and customer engagement crossed almost every industry. In this blog post, I will share twelve highlights from the March 2014 conference; they are in no particular order. For additional twitter streams, check out #BigRethink, @TheIdeasEconomy and @sharonlewisnyc.

1.Real Time Marketing
This is the Holy Grail that we marketers seek to achieve with confidence, reliability and available budget parameters. The concept behind achieving this is to set up multi-functional teams that are empowered to be spontaneous within a pre-determined set of boundaries. Huh?? Is this possible?
Yes. The example was the 2013 SuperBowl Dunk in the Dark Oreo campaign. With a zero media spend; one tweet generated 525 million media impressions.

2.Data Context: Opt-in May Still Need a Human Intervention to Avoid Bad Assumptions
At @1800Flowers, they do not assume that you send the same person a Valentines’ Day bouquet every year! In a similar vein, you cannot re-use the data that you collect for an arrangement being sent for a funeral or for condolence purposes. Enough Said!

3. Our attention span has become so short that we do not take the required time to explore many worthwhile options. Here are two examples:
Remember the amount of time that what went into making a 30 second or 60 second commercial? Our requirements for immediate gratification (read: short attention spans), have further crept into the creative process. What happened to the evolution of an idea? Some speaker discussion suggested that similar to the final campaign, the creative process has become one that demands instant gratification. As such, we may be pre-maturely eliminating some great campaigns and bottom line results.

As it relates to getting the consumer to the action stage of the offer: @MaryKayUS spoke about a mobile – first strategy with the goal of accomplishing any action within two clicks. …. “Making it easy for the soccer mom en route to the practice field” to be productive……. @SherryAG That does sound pretty close to instant gratification!

4. We have too many channels of vertical expertise. This impacts our corporate structures and our recruitment efforts
Comments from the CMOS of Lowe’s and The Weather Company spoke to trying to break down the vertical channels of expertise. As an industry, we have already established many proven formulas for successful, relevant marketing. While the quantity of the messaging channels has changed, and the available channels for marketing have changed…… The principles of relevant messaging and singular focus to action have not changed.
A good marketer can learn the nuances of a unique communications channel; Good marketing skills are applicable across any vertical channel. Hence why do we suggest otherwise in our (formal and informal) recruitment and career development policies?

5. “Say what”…….Whose language are you speaking? Whose perspective are you sharing?
There was an “aha moment” when the McCann Truth Central story was shared about a focus group participant stating that they engage in low rates of text messaging. Further probing revealed that this young adult had some 300 text messages daily; another participant piped in to say that they wake up some mornings to 1000 messages on their phone. @McCannTruth @TruthLaura
Lesson reiterated: Perceptions are everything. Probe and define the perception from which one speaks!

6. Crisp, singular messaging is nothing new and should continue to be a mantra for good communications.
Remember the old adage for a good billboard ad: six words or less! Why do we act surprised when the role of crisp singular messaging is re-proven with each new communications channel that we invent?

7. Data Sharing and Privacy
There are conceptual lines that consumers use in determining how/when/what they share. Brands are starting to learn that consumers are more aware than ever that they are sharing and that when they do… “They want something back for it”. Many of the speakers noted that they have received customer complaints from those feeling that their data was not being maximized. Again, this creates a fine line in differentiating a personalized experience from a Yuk factor, also known as a “creepy factor”. The app for a healthier lifestyle called @Noom, spoke to their success in the creation of trusted on-line weight-loss support groups; Caesar’s Entertainment spoke about real time data updates regarding the preferences of their clientele.

8. Data Context, Data Filters and Timely Data vs Relevant Data
A real time, big picture challenge that continues to be tested by marketers are the models behind: How does a brand insert themselves into a conversation that is appropriate and relevant to the customer experience?
• Here is where mobile is changing the retail shopping experience.
• Here is where content is being taken to new levels of storytelling, relevancy and entertainment (interpreted as three distinct and intertwined objectives).
• Here is where the concept of “filter failure” needs to be fine-tuned for efficacy and relevancy.

9. Would this ad prompt someone to want to see the ad again?
It seems logical that re-watching an ad is an important criteria to wanting to share the ad, thereby allowing it to go viral. Music videos being replayed on YouTube are a great example. The “Lowe’s Fix in Six,” vine series offers simple, everyday improvements that could also fit into the category of a “want to replay it”. The Apple ads that speak to what you can do with an apple product were touted as another example.
It is hard to predict what will spark a viral reaction; it is easier to go with creating something that people simply want to see/hear/experience again.

10, Note-taking was visual and intrigued everyone in the audience. Take a look

11. Analysis Paralysis
With data exploding at unparalleled rates, projects quickly become so big that they are scary—even to the best minds in quantitative model development. The presenters advised that we all just get in there and start doing it — not everyone can have the big budgets, however everyone can create learning environments.

12. Funny Expression of the Day
The budgets available to test, measure and deliver were never stated during the conference. SVP and CMO of Frito-Lay North America enthusiastically shared some memorable experiential campaigns with the audience. And, with such stories, she had us all laughing with the expression: “The juice is worth the squeeze”.

In closing: I will paraphrase an organization that was not represented at the conference: “Ya gotta be in it to win it”

Wishing us all much positive learning in our campaign endeavors.

This blog originally posted in March 2014 through the mengonline.com community via http://mengonline.com/blog/2014/03/18/reflections-economists-big-rethink-360-cmo/

Ah-ha Moments for Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence can have a huge impact to the bottom line of a business. This knowledge comes in many forms, and ultimately, it is the application of human intelligence and human logic that reveals the value in the data, the trends and the inconsistencies.ahha moment lightbulb

With this in mind, the “aha” competitive intelligence moments will often reveal themselves where you least expect to uncover them. Here are some questions to help you find the “aha” in non-traditional places, creating competitive advantages for you and your organization:

1.     Does it really matter what the competition is doing?

Competitive Intelligence is not just about looking at what your industry competitors are doing; it is about seeing your business through a completely new set of eyes.

Better stated: The activity of your peers is only one part of the equation.  In fact, case studies show that many innovative breakthroughs came from non-industry competitors. Yes, know the industry competition and, do position yourself favorably. However, do not spend so much time on the competitor activities that you forget to focus on the activity of THE most important piece of the marketplace: the customer!

2.     Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

We know that every production line output includes first quality and imperfect items. Does your business allow you to develop a secondary distribution channel for the “seconds”? For example: “ding and dent sales” for furniture or appliances or consignment stores for manufacturers over-runs.

The lemonade concept has been successfully applied to situations where fixed costs render heavily discounted, last minute offers a preferable option for the business. Last minute vacation websites (think Travelocity, Cheap Tickets) alongside of theatre ticket offerings (think Play-by-Play and Theatre Mania in NYC)  have trained many consumers to plan these activities at the last minute, thereby allowing themselves  an experience that may otherwise be unaffordable.

3.     Do you have a diversified reading list?

We’ve all been trained to regularly read the daily newspapers and the industry journals for our business specialties. However, Best Practices are often industry-agnostic; can you imagine any call center manager disputing the value in real time call monitoring and feedback loops? Reading industry journals from any other industry but your own; reading political articles that you do not agree with and occasionally scanning a forever classic Dr. Seuss book….can move your mind into new directions and thought patterns that can impact your business?

4.     Does this really have to be a seasonal item?

Back in graduate school, I prepared an advertising campaign for matzo as an all year round cracker choice. Fast forward to today’s metropolitan grocer and you are likely to find boxes of matzo year-round. In a similar fashion, Gold’s Horseradish has created another category of condiments and eliminated horseradish as a seasonal product.

5.     How can you change consumer behaviors?

Slowly is the pessimist’s answer. By speaking to emotions is the more logical answer. Create a competitive advantage for yourself by focusing on the emotional level appeal.

Forget the product benefits – Focus on the storyline. This is another great example of seeing a situation through a different set of eyes. Madison Avenue examples of this:

  • Nike is not about shoes and running shorts. It is about a state of mind: Just Do It. Get out and exercise
  • The L’Oreal tagline” Because You’re worth it” moved the emphasis off of the products and onto the consumer. Yeah, I am worth it – I am beautiful
  • What if we could apply this to our children’s chore-list? Imagine: “A neat room is a higher test score”
  • Zappos is a customer service company…that happens to sell shoes!

SUMMARY:

Competitive intelligence is not just about looking at what your industry competitors are doing; it is about seeing your business through completely different sets of eyes.  And using these new and varied viewpoints to maximize opportunities.

 

Original posting: FIVE KEY Questions on Competitive Intelligence. New Places to find the “ah-ha” by @sharonlewisnyc #EQlist buff.ly/1gsE3Dz  via @CASUDI

Tame The Elephant in the Room

You know that feeling you get in your gut when a difficult subject needs to be addressed and you suddenly become the world’s master of procrastination.  Is there an elephant in the room?  What do you do if:

  • The customer service center was unable to handle the volume of inbound leads generated by your Facebook campaign.
  • You hit “reply all” on a conversation which included sensitive subject matter intended only for “reply to sender.”
  • An entire electronic file appears to be missing and the intern is still working on updating the documents.
  • Cash is missing or you realize that someone chipped the heirloom figurine and neglected to tell you.
  • Your toddler, who is in the middle of toilet training, decides to show off their new skills in the toilet remodeling department of Home Depot (Just saw this LOL scene on TV).

No matter how much training you have in mediation or facilitation, these sorts of situations are rarely viewed as light conversation.  Unaddressed, these issues foster confusion and make everyone distracted, preoccupied, and sometimes fearful.  All of these emotions waste valuable time and hamper productivity.

Wikipedia describes the elephant in the room phrase as “an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going un-addressed…an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss…” awkward moment image

Five Steps to Managing the “Elephant in the Room”

Recognizing the elephant in the room is an important first step.  The real finesse, however, comes in acknowledging  the elephant in a manner that allows everyone to feel comfortable enough to participate in the discussion and then to move past it.  Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we can tame the proverbial “elephant in the room:”

  1. Open up the discussion by expressing the issue and inviting input from others.  To do this effectively necessitates that you share your views with little or no emotion.  Why?  Because emotions are contagious and at this point, you are looking to ask others to share.
  2. Asking others to share their viewpoint displays consideration for their perspective.  Stop and listen —really listen—to what they say.  Acknowledge their input and demonstrate a sincere interest in their comments.  Creating an environment where someone feels like they can share allows you to discuss a potentially “forbidden” subject and sets the tone for continued dialogue.  As the dialogue continues, you collect more information that can be used for a reality check.
  3. Do a reality check:  Is this really an elephant or can we resolve this with less drama?  Your attitude on this may set the tone for others and alleviate stress or awkwardness.  Honesty expressed in a calm and thoughtful manner can help to disarm the elephant.
  4. Be honest, direct and convey confidence.  A difficult issue becomes an elephant in the room when it is ignored despite everyone being aware of it.  By naming what others may be avoiding, you will transform the elephant into an obstacle—obstacles are far less overwhelming for the psyche to handle and move off of.
  5. Move forward:  Thank everyone for their inputs.   Summarize the next steps.  Ask others to concur with your summary.  Where possible, ask others to take on a responsibility that increases the likelihood of maintaining harmony.

Deep breath.  You can tame the elephant and move forward.

original post : “You, too, Can Tame the Elephant in the Room” http://ow.ly/qJHb8 by@sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing #Leadership

 

Is there a formula to asking Brilliant Questions?

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Not surprisingly, Einstein makes a good point. And, so I set out to ask others what they think of that observation. In turn, practicing the philosophy first hand. The dialogue was great. The conversations produced a list of seven common themes. And so, with a number of qualitative research projects on my plate, I set out to be uber-deliberate in using these themes in the formulation of the questions that I would be taking into the field. Correlating the brilliant question criteria to my own facilitation guides did indeed have a positive impact!  Here are the seven themes:

What qualities make a question brilliant?

1. Inspiration to see things in a new light

For example: Five plus five equals ten; what other numbers can be used to get me to ten?

  1. Generates thoughtful willingness to challenge the norm

Referencing Storm Sandy remains a tangible reference point. What would happen if a critical piece of this process were no longer available?

  1. Creates ownership of the solution

Tell me: What do you suggest we do here?

  1. Provides clarity of purpose

In explaining what someone does, they are forced to account for how the dots connect.

  1. Encourages new solutions

Probe: What are the frustrations in doing it this way? Can that be done in any other way?”

  1. Asks for an evaluation of limited resources

If you had the power to change it, what are the consequences of choosing A over B?

  1. Open ended enough to solicit the “how, why and what do you think about this” yet tight enough to provide direction to the thought process

Imagine yourself painting a picture. Now imagine yourself painting a picture of the golf course where you played last week-:)

Image

Look Elsewhere for Answers

In addition to the quest for consistently developing brilliant questions to ask, it always astonishes me when the “ah-ha moments come from where you least expect.

I was recently contracted to interview people that could help us learn more about employee overtime as a source of income in today’s economic environment. While speaking to individuals across industries, it was time to dig deeper within a particular function within a particular industry. Employees, HR executives, department managers all provided lots of interesting insights. It was the conversation with a professional in a completely unrelated industry to the one that I was researching….that the “ah-ha” moment came into place. My facilitation guide took on a new twist and each time I presented the “ah-ha” question to my interviewees…they lit up in the same way that I did with the implications presented. This was empowering. And, it was fun for all involved.

When in doubt, provide praise

In the exploration phase of a project looking to uncover breakdowns between functional departments, I was presented with an opinion that I did not quite know what to do with. “Great point. No-one else has mentioned that”, I said.  “Tell me more.” And the flood-gates opened!

Do you find yourself asking questions that lead you to great answers?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” (said the same man).

Leveraging Today’s Workforce for a Competitive Advantage

Traditional employment models and traditional retirement models are changing daily as 10,000 Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 celebrate a 65th birthday — previously coined “retirement age”.  The aging of the workforce presents employers with challenges related to compensation, retirement, work preferences, knowledge transfer, and so much more. This environment demands a methodical and holistic strategy for managing a multi-generational workforce.

This article will summarize the @Fedcap hosted #SolutionSeries  with a guest panel that included Dick Cattani of the Compass Group, Dr. Kathleen Christensen of the Working Longer Program of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation and Sandra Timmermann, Founder of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.  The discussion focused on today’s changing workplace demographics.

One of the first things to acknowledge within this transformational change is the wide variety of nomenclature that is used to address the individuals that sit smack in the center of this demographic shift.  During the 45 minute panel discussion, reference was made to:

  • The Baby Boomers
  • High Potential Late Career Individuals
  • Older Workers
  • Aging Americans
  • Those preparing to Age Gracefully
  • Seniors
  • Transitioning Employees
  • And, a few more phrases!

So what are some of the impacts that this aging workforce is creating in the marketplace:

Our longer life expectancies have created a 30 year retirement after a 40 year career. Uh-oh!

Perhaps the word retirement needs to be redefined to reflect a life stage that occurs much, much later in one’s lifetime. Employers need to start thinking about a longer working period during which individuals are looking for a balanced life that includes continued work, play, volunteerism and more.

The objective is for work: life balance, not workplace separation or a career conclusion.  In fact, just the other day my friend Judy, who recently made a retirement agreement with her corporate employer defined retirement as “the ability to work on my terms” – no change to her work ethics or to the  ferocious vigor that she pursues in her work – but, “on her terms”!

The time is ripe for new models of worker engagement.

A diverse workforce needs to include the aging American work patterns.

“Businesses are not thinking about an older workforce except for graceful exits” said Dr. Kathleen Christensen. “Business has spent a lot of time recently creating a diverse workforce” said Dick Cattani, and the definition of diversity did not include the aging workforce.

Hearsay conversations revealed mixed findings on those corporations that are putting formal programs in place to respond to the aging worker trend.

Employers are fast realizing that the aging worker population presents a complex employee profile.  

Our lifecycles include Adult 2.0

Timmermann referenced a new lifecycle stage called Adult 2.0. Others have referenced this period as our Encore years, our Second Act or Life Reimagined. For Timmerman, the 21st century creation of Adult 2.0 is similar to the recognition of the adolescent life stage during the 1930’s; it is a unique period of time filled with change, growth, exploration and experimentation.

With the creation of adult 2.0, we move through life in five stages: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, adulthood 2.0 and old age.

Employers will want to take another look at this new generation of 2.0 adults and remember that most are Boomers who influenced so many aspects of society as they moved through the last several decades. Whether these trailblazers continue to work or become agents of change in their communities, they will define what it means to live and to contribute in this new stage of life, now and for future generations.

Look around – for many — 2.0 includes many re-incarnations of their identity, incorporating new talents, hobbies and relaxed attitudes!

Millennial and Boomers have more in common than first appears! Think Work: Life Balance 

When talking to the win-win that flex-scheduling can provide, imagine the impact on a millennial, born after 1980, whose flex schedule allows them more time with their young children. Simultaneously imagine the Baby Boomer, born between 1946 and 1964, whose flexible schedule allows them more time to pursue their hobbies, their volunteer interests or their family caregiver commitments.

Scheduled in a complimentary fashion, the millennial employee, the boomer employer and the employer have all received flexibility which meets their needs. Everyone wins. Everyone feels better and everyone believes that they have achieved some sense of control in their work: life balance.

Flexible Work Schedules are Strategic Tools for Developing Human Capital 

The panelists acknowledged that numerous studies have shown the positive impact on productivity, employee engagement and employee satisfaction levels when flexible working schedules are employed.  To do this necessitates a culture of respect and trust and will evolve through a new style of win-win negotiation in the workplace. “Companies should not view flex-schedules as an employee accommodation or an employee perk, but rather as a strategic business tool that they use to strengthen their employee capital “, said Dr. Christensen.

Boomer Weaknesses and Millennial Strengths often Mirror Each Other 

Example #1:  Strategic thinking, the ability to lead through a crisis, and a brain-bank of Best Practices are traits most likely achieved only through the tenure and experience of someone aged 50 plus. Technological literacy and the use of social media channels may (or may not) be easier for the millennial.

Put together correctly, the productivity outputs of this duo can be multiplicative.

Panelists referenced the creation of mixed-age teams that have been empirically tested in Europe and the results showed that the inter-generational teams proved most productive and gratified for all participants.

Example #2: Boomers and millennials want to do good work and they want to be recognized for same. Careers take on many variations of a bell curve; for many Baby Boomers in traditional corporate backgrounds, they spent the decades of their 30-50 years climbing the corporate ladder and playing the political games. In the traditional workforce the millennial are now entering the heat of their ladder-climbing career stage.

Team efforts which allow for coaching, mentoring and knowledge transference can benefit both employer and employee alike.

Companies have a bias against the older worker  

In an AARP survey of registered NYC voters over the age of 50, one third said that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Myths, stereotypes and biases are common.

Companies have a bias against the older worker. Wikipedia defines a company as “an association or collection of individuals, people or “warm-bodies” …. Company members share a common purpose and unite in order to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals……”

We change companies by changing the individuals who make decisions for companies. 

  • What is your business doing to recruit, engage and retain talented employees at different career stages?
  • How does your business use a multi-generational approach to creating work teams across the organization?

Repeat: We change companies by changing the individuals who make decisions for companies.  

Healthy, well-educated, enthusiastic people of all ages want to have a seat at the table. It is one’s attitude, not one’s age that defines one’s abilities to make a difference!

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Tweets All My Own

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The FedCap Solution Series gathers employers’ nonprofits, advocates and other thought-leaders to analyze the barriers between Americans and economic independence – and to develop informed and actionable plans to break through those barriers. The Fedcap Solution Series is designed to trigger discussions and frame the questions that ultimately lead to the right solutions

Location. Location. Environment. Environment

Location. Location. Location. This has long-been the mantra in the real estate industry. I propose an extension of this mantra which says: Location. Location. Environment. Environment. The environment that you set up for your work, home, study and communications is as important as the physical location.

I recently learned of a wonderful woman who was looking to launch a think-tank for entrepreneurial start-ups. Her twist on the concept was great and I looked forward to getting the announcement details for the kick-off event. Her meet-up announcement drew a strong response. So why did so very few people show up to the meeting? The location, while conveniently located and free to the facilitator—-was to be held on the second floor conference room of a funeral parlor. Location and environment need to work together.

A recent retiree was excited to start taking classes at her local community center. She read the website and the catalog in detail and chose a selection of programs. Her first day of class, she noticed a sign on the building that she never took note of previously; it read: “Senior Center”. The woman felt horrible and while she knew that both the class and the other class participants were young and vibrant, she gets a knot in her stomach every time she enters the building and sees the words “senior center”. Nuances in one’s environment can make all the difference.

Years ago a decorator told me how they were asked to create a working space for a young student with ADD, poor grades and a frustrated attitude toward his school work. As the story was told, the decorator’s chest popped outward and his shoulders squared back—“I designed a working area for that student”, he said which “took that young man’s grades up to B+/A-. That marked an entirely different type of reward for the decorator who normally created beautiful entertaining spaces.

What do you do every day to create an environment that is creative to your own work and the comfort level of others? Here are a few more examples that I have found recently.

When you speak to your doctor, do they stand or sit so as to meet you at your eye level? They should; it creates an entirely different environment for your conversation.

When you meet someone in their offices, do they bring the conversation to the small work table in their office or move their chair around their desk so as to sit next to you while speaking? That desk creates an informal barrier.

Whenever I am in the elevator of an office building, I always look out into the offices of each floor that the elevator makes a stop. Today I watched as three people got out on the same floor and each employee passing by the reception desk took a piece of the fresh fruit sitting in the bowl on the reception table. What a nice way to tell someone: Good Morning; Take good care of yourself!.

And least, we forget the lighting, the flowers, the candles and the music which so distinctly add dimension to our environment.

Location. Location. Environment. Environment. Both are key criteria to making you, your family and your business team comfortable.

Reflections on a Mayoral Forum

Reflections on a NYC Mayoral Forum:

AARP NYC launched a new Go Local campaign on August 6 which included a mayoral forum targeting the city’s 50-plus voter community. The room was abuzz with 1,000 attendees, 50 media outlets and 10 of the 11 NYC mayoral candidates. What a happening for AARPNY!

These events often take on a life of their own and when one mayoral candidate called another candidate “Grandpa”, the press officially had another twist on the story to report. And they did!

  • The Grandpa comment was described as “being made in a room filled with senior citizens”.
  • And, AARP was further defined as the organization behind “this senior citizen event”.
  • The candidates represented referenced their views on “helping those senior citizens in the room”.

What is a senior citizen, I ask? Age or attitude?

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, quoted in an NTAR Leadership Center Study,  suggest that, by 2016, one-third of the total U.S. workforce will be age 50 or older, and will increase to 115 million by 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)

Supporting every possible product or service line, the advertisers are working hard to make “70 the new 50” and likewise convince us all…that the best is yet to come. The reality is that the words “senior citizen” still has a negative connotation in our society: retiree, old-timer, fuddy-duddy and such. When was the last time you heard someone refer to a senior citizen as a thought leader or an innovator?

So as someone on the very edge of the baby boomer tail, I found myself bewildered as the candidates called the AARP membership of 50 – plus year olds senior citizens. And, I found myself laughing at the hypocrisy of the whole situation. When you looked around the room in real-time, it did not appear that anyone in the room had taken a day off from the social adult day-care programs.

With 7 of the 11 candidates aged 50 plus, do these candidates consider themselves senior citizens? They kept referring to the AARP members as senior citizens. Does NYC want to elect a senior citizen to run their city?

A 2012 Harvard Business Review Blog called: How Companies Must Adapt for an Aging Workforce does a nice job summarizing the situation:

  • First, attitudes need to change; Businesses and people alike need to practice what they claim to support.
  • Older workers are often seen as a burden, with younger candidates preferred in recruitment decisions. In economies where knowledge rules, the experience of older workers grows in value.
  • Older people are seen as fragile. Yes, many are. Others are not. At some point, the 80:20 rule kicks in and with the population life expectancies ever increasing, the age where the disproportionate expenses truly kick into place is increasing as well.

So everybody, please, stop calling those who are aged 50-plus senior citizens. And for the Mayoral Candidates: Recognize the new reality and explain how you will address the situations of those:

  • Who are 50-plus and experiencing age discrimination in the workplace
  • Who are dependent on social services and unable to earn an income any longer
  • Who are unable to retire as planned because the costs of living are rising
  • Who are uncertain how they will afford to age gracefully in place, in NYC, because of ever-increasing costs for housing and utility bills, issues of crime and safety and more!

Let’s get focused and back on track. NYC is one of the greatest cities on this earth. What makes the candidates qualified to sit at the head of the table running a $70 Billion budget?

BTW: For a detailed review of the issues NYC 50-plus voters are talking about around their kitchen table, check out:  http://www.aarp.org/NYC50plus

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine

GIGO Networking

GIGO stands for Garbage in – and – Garbage out. It applies to the integrity of the data that you analyze, the food you prepare, and the gardens that you plant. Quality inputs have a higher chance of generating quality outputs.

How do we apply this in our daily lives? You walk into a restaurant and the bathroom is spotless, the air smells faintly of lavender….nice. And the assumption is that: yes, the kitchen too must be in good shape.  I am excited to eat in this restaurant.

How about when you move into an apt, a home or a dorm room? Did the previous resident leave it clean or are you finding the dust bunnies everywhere and an unmatched paint color left on the wall where some big piece of furniture previously sat. I remember doing the walk-through for the first home we bought in Bergen County, New Jersey.  You could smell the lemon-fresh Pinesol the minute you entered the home and every toilet had the scrubbing bubbles still perky and peaked. What pride, what TLC….the previous owners were moving elsewhere. The contract read broom-swept. These were people who cared about their surroundings even after they left. The message was “Welcome to this home.”

Shaping the next phases of my life, what message do I leave when I walk out of a meeting? Besides the professional capabilities that I bring to the table, do I come across as someone that would be fun to work with? Would I be empathetic to my associates? A team player? A quick learner?

A smart person can learn a new skill; a difficult person…. no matter how smart will be a diversion to the group.

How do we apply this to networking?

  • Be nice
  • Be generous
  • Be sincere

We cannot get an employment offer from every potential interview, nor can  we become the new best friend of everyone we meet…..however we can  leave a memory that says: That’s a good person. If I can help them out, I will…..

And, when you can do that, all the other advice about networking has a chance of succeeding.

Ricki Lee Jones said “You Never Know When You’re Making a Memory”

Guest Blogger @AARPNY. Tweets all mine