Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Oxymoron of HIPPA #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.

doctor patient talkingOxymoron : You are sharing a semi-private hospital room with someone.

Are HIPPA policies enforceable? How?

If you were the one in the 2nd hospital bed, would you leave the room whenever your roommate has a conversation with a medical professional?

Would you tell your family and friends about the roommate’s situation?


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? by @sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing

The Ongoing Conversation Needed with Performance Management

How does the performance management system tie to the needs of the business and how does individual performance get measured at the business dashboard level?

This question provided the big picture challenge addressed at the March 22 NYHRPS Forum facilitated by Dr. Anna Tavis. While previous practice sought to replicate the GE methodology, it is no longer the gold standard for management and leadership. Rather today’s leaders have become fast, lean machines that try something and test it on the go.

Intrigued by the case studies presented by Dr. Tavis, NYHRPS members wanted to continue the dialogue with specific action items that they could take back to their offices. And so, on May 3, NYHRPS Board Member Deb Seidman facilitated a Mastermind Group amongst a small group of members who had participated in the earlier Performance Management discussion. Participants brought case studies that reflected their current work. As a Mastermind group, questions were posed and advice was given, allowing the NYHRPS member to leave with an agenda that they could develop in their own organization.

Cultural Changes at the Grassroots Level will Impact the Success of a New Performance Appraisal System

While a wide range of questions came up during the discussion, case study conversations focused on three specific themes across organizations
• How does a small company take the best of the processes followed in a large enterprise while keeping its entrepreneurial spirit and nimbleness?
• How do you create of a culture of feedback at a grass-roots level?
• How do you create a common line of sight across organizational and personal missions… as to improve performance and achieve common goals?

With Forum participants representing both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, Dr. Tavis asked:
• How do employee motivations differ in for-profit vs a non-profit entity?
• If nonprofits are mission driven, what does the concept of top down goal setting look like?
• Is a bottom up approach to goal setting more applicable to the non-profit where grass-roots programs and local area relationships are critical in meeting the organizational objectives?

One group considered what they would do if they were starting a performance system from a clean slate. Lessons learned from previous discussions provided the important anchors for building a new system or revising one in place.
• First and foremost end with a positive impact on the business strategy
• Focus on a simple method to identify good performers
• Create a culture of constructive feedback to accelerate and sustain high performance
• Get buy-in by incorporating the employee perspective
• Include customization for significant groups by division, generations, etc.

Another interesting moment in the conversation focused on finding champions to support those spearheading the organizational changes. Both the General Counsel and the Marketing teams were singled out as strong partners.
The Mastermind meeting structure was a new format for the Forum Committee. It brought nuances to the meeting that can only be discovered when individuals share the specifics of their individual stories in the spirit of trust, confidentiality and peer advisement. The Forum Committee thanks both Anna and Debbie for their contributions in facilitating these programs and to our participants who came prepared to share and to learn.

A recap from the March 22 discussion can be found here.

NYHRPS Break-Through Innovation Series of Forums provides a platform to discuss emerging issues among thought leaders, peers and HR decision makers in intimate settings limited to 15 participants and 2-3 experts.

Performance Management on Trial: To Keep or Not to Keep. Is that Really the Question?

Some 20 HR professionals gathered on the morning of March 22 to discuss Performance Management on Trial; an intimate Forum led by People and Strategy editor Anna Tavis. Participants ranged from senior executives in the corporate world to leaders in smaller entrepreneurial environments to those currently consulting to both of these businesses structures.

Are today’s performance evaluations enhancing both the employee experience and the business results?

As the group discussed today’s business environment and the current work being piloted by industry leaders such as Deloitte and Adobe, consensus was that the key question is not “Should we keep the performance management system”? Rather the first question today is “How does the performance management systems tie to the needs of the business and how does individual performance get measured at the business dashboard level?

The rise in collaborative teams used in the technology and service driven industries is a strong factor in this shift in focus, further ignited by social media, economic dynamics and the new cultural norms of conducting business. HR teams must be ready to support the business leaders with tools that can be readily created, piloted and adjusted.  checklist photoCookie cutter, off the shelf solutions, have gone by the way of the manual typewriter!

Hence today’s pioneering programs are designed to maximize the feedback that will motivate individuals to achieve their personal best within the organizational focus.  The science behind motivational behavior is playing a large role in today’s strategies. Designers are further doing everything possible to minimize the rater bias which historically played a negative role in the evaluation process.

What are the critical success factors emerging from today piloting PM systems?

Three of the key points that emerged from our pre-reads and our Forum dialogue depend on how you answer these questions:

  • How do you ensure a direct link between business objectives and individual contributions?
  • Is it possible to eliminate the inherent bias in the PM process?
  • What are the key success factors to allowing performance feedback to be continuous, collaborative and transparent?

Deloitte is piloting a program that addresses these objectives with a four-question performance snapshot *1. The snapshot looks to uncover how best to utilize the individual moving forward as opposed to a snapshot of the individuals’ past performance. Conceptually, Deloitte asks the leader to consider:

  • If it were my money, would I award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus?
  • Given what I know of this person’s performance, would I always want them on my team?
  • Is this person at risk for low performance (potentially jeopardizing service delivery?)
  • Is this person ready for a promotion today?

The Deloitte pilot is providing thoughtful input for the industry and impressive results for their own business.

Other organizations are considering rating-less systems while others are striving to create programs that recognize the necessary agility and forward thinking behaviors demanded from today’s top leaders. The group agreed that the annual rating system developed by GE in years gone by, is indeed a program that is no longer relevant.  The business is demanding real time feedback loops that provide coaching; the cookie cutter solution no longer works. The business needs and cultural norms demand customization and personalization; an approach that is surely in keeping with the way we manage every other part of our lives from shopping to investments to healthcare.

Where are we going?

As Anna Tavis summarized, we are living in a new reality. To be effective we need to start outside the box. Even if we have a roadmap to manage change and we follow the process to a successful end, we need to be prepared for disruptions anywhere along the way. Ask yourself, “What is the new reality?” More importantly, “What is your organization’s new reality?”

smart kidWhen once we sought to replicate the GE methodology, it is no longer the gold standard for management and leadership. Rather GE has become a fast, lean machine that tries something and tests it on the go. The new organization seeks to be agile and follows scrum and sprints (not waterfalls) as teams adjust their strategy in the middle of implementation.

Is your organization becoming a federation of businesses when once it was a hierarchy? As businesses customize products and services for their customers, they become uniquely different from the other businesses in their organization. When the variations become significant, and the hierarchy doesn’t work to improve performance, performance management evaluations need to be changed to meet new requirements. Such new requirements may be providing real-time performance data for individuals who come on and off multiple teams during the year, goals that change quarterly, work that gets done horizontally and evolving technology that takes new competencies to master and requires real-time feedback to learn.

In addition to these changing models in the business world,   the new reality is taking place amongst the military units stationed in Afghanistan. The old military model of handing off knowledge of new territories, cultural nuances and local game plans no longer work. The new reality is guerrilla warfare where one unit hands off intelligence to the next while on the run.

Closing Thoughts

Change management roadmaps are helpful in keeping organizations up to date with the shifting economy…. But be prepared for disruptions and agile shifts or you will miss the market, the financial opportunity, or the customer’s needs.

*1 Harvard Business Review. April 2015. Reinventing Performance Management.  Ashley Goodall


Future of Marketing: Collisions and Complexities

The Future of Marketing Summit 2015: Collisions and Complexity #FTMarketing is always a treat to attend. While conference attendance continues to drop these days, the live conferences allow us to share our real time views in more than 140 characters, giving some additional color to the speaker comments.

The conference explored relevance and personalization —objectives that marketers always strive to achieve — regardless of the available technology and in spite of the available technology.

“Content is king. Context is queen and she wears the pants.” 

Big data and the balance of personalized messaging, limited budgets and the creep factor caused by revealing the knowledge of too much individual data, continue to be a dominant subject on everybody’s mind. Ad-blocking is a relevant piece of the conversation as it impacts so many of the content development and customization strategies that we all are exploring.

content and contextWith so much free content available, what motivates someone to share the information that allows us/them to customize their stream of news? The answer lies in the value proposition. The importance of which is not new; the newness is in the never-ending expansion of resources that we can use to meet our needs.

Hence, if I can get the information elsewhere, I will get it wherever it is easiest and most obviously synergistic.

  • Exemplifying this example was Seth Farbman, CMO at Spotify. Consumer access to music at little to no cost delivers huge exposure for the artist. For those artists who do not have the marketing and label support, Spotify sees themselves as an avenue for artist exposure. Their goal is to build music fans. The majority of their users do not pay fees. However, the Spotify service is not free; it is advertising supported. Hence what happens to this business model when users go incognito?

Knowing that “Content is king. Context is queen and she wears the pants.” What can the marketer do to ensure the right experience for the individual customer?  Simultaneously, what can be done to maintain advertising dollar supports? Maintaining a robust exchange of information is paramount.

  • Businesses that are using Virtual Reality (VR) provided a good example of creating customer relevancy. In fact, one of the panelists shared his own story; it involved a dislike for camping activities which ended in the booking of a camping trip after a VR experience. Sounds like the adage: Try it. You’ll like it. Virtual Reality brings us closer to the experience than any copy deck or photo montage could achieve.

Storytelling: A Strategic Business Tool

8591351239_24bcb987df_nAnd, when VR is not possible, we know that a well-delivered story format is a readily affordable tactic to initiating an immersive brand experience. In the panel titled “Shifting the Brand Strategy in the Age of Empowered Consumer”, one message was unanimous: Brands can no longer speak to the customer. Rather, brands must speak with the customer. Be it a consumer or a  B2B transaction, the human being will make a decision and individuals want to buy things that reflect smart decisions and which make them feel like they are adding value to the situation.

When is yes a maybe? Marketers are still figuring this out.

Unraveling what the customer wants will continue to be an ongoing riddle. The true psycho-graphics behind one’s behavior are rarely available on an individual basis and just because someone looks at a website does not mean they want to use or buy the product….a challenge with programmatic marketing.

As marketers, we want to test everything to see how we can better create a dialogue with our customer groups. However, social media is still being challenged to prove the consistency of the measurable impacts that the tactics generate for a campaign.

  • There was an audible chuckle in the audience when Roel de Vries, Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Nissan Motor Company spoke to the “hobby-ism of doing things. If I have to sell x million cars, is 10,000 hits good enough to get me there?” And, hence, we must again balance testing opportunities with scale impact and the budget allocation.

The Basic Human Need for Emotional Resonance

As technology continues to alter the way we consume data for our decisions, there was chatter amongst the room for another proven behavior: The continued need for emotional resonance. No matter how technological our society has become, in the end, we are individuals with numerous personas that are all actively in play at any given time.

Reminding us of this basic human nature was the five step ecosystem that individuals use to make decisions. The buzz words have changed over time however the concepts remain intact. The five step ecosystem is: brain photo

  • Notice: Get noticed. Create awareness.
  • Curiosity: Generate interest.
  • Interaction: Offer an array of opportunities for interaction and the query for more information. Engage the customer/prospect in a dialogue that makes the impact of this product in their lives real.
  • Reinforcement: Create on-going reinforcement of the purchase decision.
  • Evangelize: With the ultimate goal of turning the customer into an evangelist your product

Some things do not change; they get modified and fine-tuned to reflect the modern-age tools.

Relevance, personalization and service excellence continue to be the critical success factors in establishing long term relationships.

If you found any of the subjects in this post to be of interest to you, please get in touch and lets continue the conversation.

Thank you to the Marketing Executives Networking Group MENG for my ticket. to this event.

The Age of the Entrepreneurial CMO

I was lucky to attend The Economist’s The Big Rethink 2015 (#BigRethink) in March—an amazing series of panel discussions and thought leadership topics delivered through The Economist and featuring senior marketing leaders and innovators. The NYC event theme was: The Age of the Entrepreneurial CMO.

Here are six of the conversations on the Entrepreneurial CMO that I most enjoyed having on that day:

The Data Hairball

We have way too much data, using only some 10% to 15% of what we collect.
So, why can’t we more readily identify the magical data points? The creep factor certainly comes into play. Imagine if the data kings really applied everything that they know about you to a series of personalized messages…creepy. Did you ever hear the term “cyber-azi?”

This still leaves us debating where the data functions should reside in the enterprise. As marketers, we see the data functions directly linked to our day to day abilities and deliverables. One panelist suggests that “When analytics sits in Operations  function, it takes on an inside-out view vs. a customer first view.” This resonates with me and, of course, this theory found consensus with the marketing leaders in the audience.

Corporate silos are preventing some of the massive changes required in the industry

Almost every panelist brought this subject up. Silos-for-the-Entrepreneurial-CMO-to-Fight.
Organizational design needs to transform to reflect today’s real time decision making from an audience demographic profile of one. Organizations such as Google, Amazon and Zappos were referenced as leaders in such an approach. However we were all reminded that even when change happens slowly, we each have a role in keeping it moving forward within our own spheres of influence.

Identity Crisis

If the marketing function was an individual undergoing as much change as the industry is experiencing, it would not be surprising to learn that the person was feeling somewhat overloaded. Definitely. Here are some of the key contributors to this “identity crisis:”
No two CMOs have the same naming convention for employee roles.
The brand is now the customer experience.
And the roles of service, sales, and customer service are indistinguishable in the eyes of the customer, yet the CMO function does not necessarily straddle direct responsibility for the customer service functions.

Somewhat similar to the management of the customer service function is data stewardship. If we are building digital layers around the customer experience, what function in the organizations should have ultimate control over the data?

Be With Me In This Moment


With so many real time, online tools, we need to move away from the mindset of a campaign and into the mindset of an ongoing conversation…especially with those who are already customers.
Apps exist for literally everything—being in the present is possible…if you consciously allow it to happen.

Talent trends within the marketing world
With new roles being defined daily, it is difficult to staff up for certain functions. Hence freelancers with specific skills will continue to be an important source of talent. Having an inquisitive nature and being “insanely curious” were traits that resonated across the audience. The ability to think horizontally and to demonstrate an on-going learning perspective personifies the 21st Century professional.

All of these conversations, of course, link back to the evolution of new business structures and the Entrepreneurial CMO.

Content—yes. Usable—not always

The closing conversation for the day featured Ogilvy & Mather’s worldwide chairman speaking about the future of advertising. We were reminded that for some time, communications could be neatly packaged into popular
formats (think: the 30 second spot vs. the 60 second spot, etc.).

Entrepreneurial-CMO-ExpansionThe digital revolution has created seamless boundaries—where information comes from everywhere in real time. A visual of this concept was referred to as “liquid and linked.” Hence we have vast information coming to us with only some 30% of the daily available content actually being read.

Hence, useful content takes on ever more importance. Readers will vote with their fingers and continue to seek sense and relevance in the broad spectrum of channels.

I walked away from the day thinking: Everything has changed. Everything is changing. Yet some things are exactly the same. How do we send the right message to the right person at the right time in the right format? These are very exciting times!

This post was originally posted through MENG, the Marketing Executives Networking Group.

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-:)


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).

5 Steps to Creating Your Life Reimagined Attitude

The subjects of – Life Reimagined, What’s Next? and What am I Going to do When I Grow Up –  continues to experience increased levels of attention across the nation. Ironically, it is a conundrum for boomers and millennial alike as we try to find satisfaction in our work and in our work: life balance!

TV anchors Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw spoke at 92Y in New York City recently. The discussion focused on the boomer generation and those who at aged 50 and older are finding new directions in their pursuits: Directions that are fulfilling and accomplished. Having the opportunity to be in the audience, allowed me to reflect on my own discovery process and to define 5 key take-aways  to a Life Reimagined Attitude.

1.Just Say Yes

Do you get your ducks in order or put your ducks in the water? Just do something, as a previous Nike ad campaign promoted. Ambiguity and insecurity are facts of life. Just say “Yes”.

2. Small Changes can have a Huge Impact

Can I do something just a little bit different so as to allow me to continue leading my selfish life or Do I have to help those in third world countries? (Concept asked by Tom Brokaw)

  • When the individual known for throwing wonderful parties and being a fabulous cook starts a catering company – this would seem to be a variation on a previous career
  • A minister who moves from a large congregational setting to the ministry for the US armed forces in Iraq might be a conceptual example of combining current career and social purpose.

Back to advice point #1: Just say yes; do not allow analyses paralysis to prevail.

3. A hobby can be anything that you like to do

“What is a hobby?” says the workaholic. “What is a hobby” says the career-focused mom. What if I never developed any hobbies or secondary passions that I can move into my What’s Next Life Into? (Concept asked by Jane Pauley)

My personal response is “Ditto – I hear ya, sister”. As such, I am more often practicing the first rule of the list: “Just Say Yes”

4. One need not Save the World—One Just Need to Enjoy the Adventure to ……whatever

More than anything, this one is the attitude adjustment advice! A recent article in Fast Company called You are Only as Busy as You Think You Are spoke to how one can create their own bits of evidence to substantiate any feeling or belief. Hence find positive bits of evidence and you will find you can completely change the way you see the world.  We can often make ourselves much happier and less stressed if we give ourselves permission to just enjoy the adventure.

5. Break big goals into smaller, attainable short term goals. Consider Life Reimagined as “Your Life Emerging”.

Here’s to the discovery process!

Life Reimagined for Work helps experienced professionals find jobs, manage their careers, start businesses and explore options through engaging articles and interactive tools. The  LinkedIn group offers inspiration, support and insights from their dynamic community.”

Issues that Matter to NYC Voters Age 50+


Via a Sept 30 2013 AARPNY Press Release: A new AARP survey takes a harder look at the issues facing caregivers in New York City and what they want who they vote for to do about it.

When it comes to family caregivers getting the support they need, New York State lags behind the rest of the nation, ranking dead last according to the State Long-Term Services and Supports Scorecard ( AARP says that lack of support is causing serious pressure on New York caregivers.

“Providing crucial care for older relatives is a reality for many New Yorkers and it’s also a point of major struggle as they look for resources and support,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State.  “Caregivers in New York City are strained and stressed, and they are looking for help.”

AARP has been working to bring the issue to the attention of the Mayoral and City Council candidates in NYC, holding a series of debates, voter engagement efforts, and grassroots activities. AARP members are expected to account for half of all votes cast in the NYC General Elections.  While AARP does not endorse candidates, have a PAC, or give money to campaigns or political parties, the non-partisan membership organization does provide straight-forward information on the issues to 50-plus voters, the media and the general public.

Over the last several months, AARP has held caregiver listening sessions throughout New York State, pulling together policy leaders and stakeholders to hear about the struggles and issues facing family caregivers. AARP will be compiling a report based on the sessions along with a set of policy recommendations within the next month.

Follow AARP on on Twitter: @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

Tweets My Own


Ya’ Think You Heard Me? The Art of Good Communications

Ya’ Think You Heard Me? The Art of Good Communications

“Ya’ Think You Heard Me? The Art of Good Communications” by@sharonlewisnyc [TODAY’S POST] #MENGonline #Marketing #PR