The Secret Behind Organizing a Network

The Secret Behind Organizing a Network

When I really look at it, the opportunity to organize networks of people is all around.

Last night I did an impromptu facilitation of a group interested in purchasing a community property, and developing a business model that would sustain them and their families for generations to come.

I came to share about my own interest and process within my network of people, which was, to my delight, now expanding to their network of friends and co-creators.

Then there was an opportunity and permission to offer some organizational advice, as I am wont to do. I did warn them that, as an efficiency freak, I often have an opinion about what would free up stuck energy so that they can continue to evolve their project.

We clarified each of their business models, and assessed how aligned they were about each one. I think there were some surprising realizations in the group about how they were not actually all on the same page about each one. What it was, how it looked on the ground, and what work they were willing to put into it all needed an outside observer/facilitator to help them uncover their unconscious, or simply unspoken, visions of what the expression of each business model would look like on the ground.

I’m proud of this group. They were honest, compassionate, and committed. Most importantly, they were an engaged group. There’s incredible power in engagement and interest and focus. The more we focus and the more we share a focus, the more powerful our intentions build into manifest reality.

However, without a robust feedback loop to understand what each person in their small team currently thinks, there’s no way they can stay aligned in their process. The secret is active listening.

Please—take the time to listen actively to each other, that means without your biases front and center. Actually, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, recently said active listening involves seeking out contrary opinions. That means actively putting your own thoughts aside to make room for what’s actually being communicated to you. Try not to filter or change the meaning of it as you listen. It will save you a lot of time and heartache down the road.

 

Netflix debuts new documentary ‘13th’ on the mass incarceration problem in the USA

The point is if you haven’t seen this documentary, you’re still not doing enough to end institutional racism and support the equal rights of all people. Everyone needs to take 2-hours to search for ‘13th’ on Netflix and understand why Ava DuVernay is currently the biggest mass media contributor to the conversation on racial justice and #blacklivesmatter in this country.

Fortunately, it’s now easy to see such an incredibly honest and straight-forward look at a very complex national issue. If you don’t have Netflix, find a friend, hold a viewing party, but get this out there!

As Americans we’re are still dealing with the impact of slavery generations later, and no matter how you sugarcoat it, the black/white divide in this country is still present and continuing to take on different forms of oppression, both personal and institutional.

It’s O.K. to cry. It’s O.K. to mourn. Ignoring what we’ve done by turning a blind eye only makes the issue worse. If you want to help, educate yourself on how slavery is still present in the US today. Watch ‘13th’ on Netflix.

While I think it’s important to acknowledge both sides of a complex issue (thanks to all the police that make our streets safe!), it’s hard to have compassion for a system (as opposed to people) that abuses human rights by taking advantage of slave labor via incarcerated individuals—and while 40% of them are black males, they’re not the only ones being abused by the slave trade that is the prison-industrial complex.

Let me know your thoughts on the documentary!

 

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' new song "Kevin" hits the proverbial nail on the head.

As a mental health and personal growth professional, I was shocked and impressed by the profundity of Macklemore's and Ryan Lewis’ commentary on the “medicalization of normal life” in America with their new song ‘Kevin’. Since I’m not used to seeing the truth as I see it laid out so clearly, yet in a poignantly emotional way, my attention was immediately captured and my heart was racing as I listened to his words.

Although I’m under no pretense that the endemic lies just within our borders (nor are the artists, surely), their lyrics presented in context at the American Music Awards pushed the envelope at a time when the world recovers from the shock of recent, well-televised terrorist attacks. I can imagine, as with any emotionally traumatic event, people turn to whatever coping mechanisms allow them to continue their life as normal, not wanting to rock the boat for fear of losing the delicate balance of their existence, maybe so they can retire someday and then, truly start to enjoy the life they put off for so long. Some of those coping mechanisms are prescribed drugs that people take whenever their experience of life overwhelms, and in times of crisis that are global, regional, or personal. 

Yet Macklemore and Lewis challenge us, not to completely throw away the drugs that keep us sane, but to question the ubiquity of their influence on ourselves, our relationships, and our lives. Ask yourself, what DID humans do before prescription drugs to process the effects of stress and trauma on their bodies, and on their psyches? Far be it for anyone to say what is ‘normal,’ so let’s really clear the slate and ask ourselves what is really needed, versus what enables us to continue an unsustainable trajectory of growth and consumption. 

What’s the solution? I don’t know. But I think the conversation is valuable, and I encourage my community to keep it alive until we’ve rebuilt the healthy social supports that enliven us, rather than treat symptoms in ways that kill us.

Thanks @macklemore and @ryanlewis. You are leaders, and an inspiration for a higher standard of living.

For more research and reading on drug-free therapies for emotional support:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/why-we-need-to-abandon-the-disease-model-of-mental-health-care/

http://cmbm.org/

http://mankindproject.org/

All the links on this page: http://www.szasz.com/

NB: The referenced links above do not represent my perspective on these issues, they are just resources to keep reading on this issue.

The 7 Books of Highly Effective People

What if a pivotal book that once inspired you was only a launchpad?

 

If you’re like many professionals and go-getters, you’ve probably read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. This book has served as a beacon for countless aspirants trying to reshape their lives. It plucks eternal principles and serves a feast for those who dare to succeed.

The beautiful feature about 7 Habits is that it combines a top-down with a bottom-up approach—in other words, it clearly tells you why you should do something, while also telling you how to do it. It’s motivational and practical.

The book is packed with gold. Yet, despite this, it’s still possible for readers to struggle applying the principles. I remember how challenging it was for me to execute Habit 3, after going through it multiple times. I’d even run out and bought Covey’s special planner! But I felt so overwhelmed. Was there something missing?

There’s only so much you can put in one book. 7 Habits is an excellent intro to personal management and interpersonal skills. After devouring it, though, you might get the question, as I did, “What next?

I’ve outlined a fantastic list of books, one for each Habit, that explores these powerful principles more in depth. You’ll be blown away, and Covey’s material will take on way more meaning than you may have seen at first.

 

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

Though this book covers many of the principles Covey discusses, its main focus is on how we respond to external circumstances and take control over our internal conditions. Robbins introduces a practical, step-by-step system for getting back in the driver’s seat.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

The Passion Test by Janet and Chris Attwood

Unveiling your purpose might never have been this simple. The Attwood duo make an entertaining, motivating, and actionable book that helps you get to the heart of who you are more easily, and follow what ignites your soul.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Getting Things Done by David Allen

What a lifesaver! Allen explains so clearly and so comprehensively how to streamline everything. It really gives skin and bones to this ghost we call “time management.” Just following a few of his tactics will boost your productivity significantly.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

The Bond by Lynne McTaggart

McTaggart gives an alternative to the traditional paradigm of “survival of the fittest” and “might makes right.” She explains that in deepening our social connections and awareness, we thrive the most. This clarifies and broadens Habit 4, helping to integrate the essence of it more wholly.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman

Don’t let the title mislead you. This book, though giving fascinating insight into the neuroscience of spiritual practice, also presents systematic exercises for something the authors call Compassionate Communication. Raising the bar with listening, and speaking authentically and tactfully, are cornerstones of this program.

Habit 6: Synergize

The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill

Ever heard the term Master Mind group? Napoleon Hill, who also authored the classic book Think and Grow Rich, coined the word and was one of the first people to flesh out the concept to a large audience. As he points out in this book, the Master Mind is the bedrock of his success philosophy. Of course, he talks about several other principles, yet synergy is the core theme.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

The Art and Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda

There are so many ways to “sharpen the saw.” Any number of books could have been listed here, but I felt the best that I have personally read is Kriyananda’s comprehensive, yet easy-to-understand, masterpiece. Though he comes from a background in Indian spirituality, the exercises and practical advice in this book make it invaluable for any person. Mind, body, spirit, and emotions are all dealt with here!

Even if you haven’t taken the 7 Habits journey, you will undoubtedly find all of these books have powerful lessons to propel you further on your road to success. If you have read Covey’s work, you might return to it and digest it at a much more profound level. You’ll surely be a force of nature in the world!

Which books have you read that helped you the most to succeed? Please share below!

What it Takes to be Tomorrow's Entrepreneur

How much has the world changed in the past 15 years?

 

Let’s take a walk back in time...

  • Cell phones were sporadic and bulkier.
  • Chubby laptops were the way to take computers with you.
  • Businesspeople carried Palm Pilots.
  • The Internet was taking the world by storm (though no major social networks, yet).

All of this, only 15 years ago. With everything evolving so quickly, what will society resemble in the future?!

 

The Trends

If you’ve seen Facebook inundated with venture capital and webinar ads, you’re not the only person. Some are calling this the Age of Entrepreneurship—it has never been easier to start a business, gather resources, and educate yourself in the history of time.

After so many layoffs during the Recession, many people lost faith in job security and took matters into their own hands. No longer feeling they could rely on employers, a new wave of entrepreneurs took up arms. This trend has only grown, even with the Recession fading out. Add to this that more Millennials are maturing and saturating the workforce, bringing their values for meaningful work and expression.

According to the 2015 Global Entrepreneur Indicator, 90% of US entrepreneurs are open to starting a new business today and 86% expect a revenue increase over the next 6 months.  The attitude of society right now is extremely hospitable to emerging entrepreneurs.

Technology is also fertilizing the soil. So many sophisticated tools are available to the average person now that weren’t 15 or 20 years ago—anything from CRMs to online team management systems to an array of creativity suites.

You can use Elance to find partners and use Fiverr, Etsy, or Amazon to set up shop. Social networks can be useful in marketing strategy. And portable devices and Cloud computing allow for the ability to work anywhere, anytime.

 

What can we predict about where entrepreneurship is headed?

 

These trends will only become stronger. Here are some specific changes we will likely see, though.

 

Build Community

Many entrepreneurs believe that communities of entrepreneurs will become more common. Steve Case, Co-Founder of AOL, says, “The next generation of companies will…require more partnerships.” With bigger problems to tackle and heightened competition, working interdependently will be essential. Of course, technology will aid this process, but in person interactions will also be important.

You can prepare for this by networking with people in your field with diverse skills and talents. Instead of seeing them as competitors, see them as allies working for the same causes and toward similar goals. They can offer valuable insight, camaraderie, and support. Be willing to provide these, as well, in a spirit of humility and generosity.


Embrace Millennials

The youth are the future. Millennials will one day be running things, so seek their vision and help. They might have different values than you—that’s okay. Reflect on what those values are, how they might be important, and how you can embody some of them in your business. If you are a Millennial, remember to collaborate with multiple generations to gain different perspectives, but also stay true to your ideals.

Keep in mind that the newer generations are more committed to doing work they love and are not strictly bound to any one job. If you have younger employees, see how you can help them build and utilize their strengths. Appreciate them, but don’t hold onto them desperately, because they will pursue another avenue or a higher position in another company if they feel it is right for them.

Future entrepreneurs will have adaptable and malleable teams in a constantly changing world, and they will seek to empower their employees, because that will be the hot ticket to finding great team members.


Loosen the Reins

Forbes predicts 50% of all business employees will work remotely by 2046. This, among various other factors, means the old hierarchy is going to need a eulogy. You’ll be ahead of the times if you open up to some of your employees telecommuting. Also, attempt to make the actual workplace a bit more fun, personalized, and welcoming. Google is an excellent example of this strategy.

Instead of being the commander, invite feedback and constructive criticism from your employees…and really listen! Trust and develop them more, taking away superfluous layers of management. Help them to organize their own teams and support each other, and don’t be afraid to “walk amongst” them. Businesses in the future will be a lot more fluid and employee-friendly.


Keep an eye on the trends. As an entrepreneur, it is absolutely vital to stay current if you want to stay afloat. It’s even better if you have an edge. The world is changing quickly. If you close your eyes for a minute, a whole new environment could await you when you open them. 

The end of retail space?

I just biked by two houses that look like any other houses in our neighborhood: a well-worn driveway, a yard that's seen better days, a location between the post office and the drycleaners. You would pass by these houses every day on your way to work. Yet, they a are distinctly different in that each one had a small business running out of it. 

Insight #1: It's impressive that I even know that based on a quick look. Their signage was innovative and eye-catching without being obnoxious. I mean, the number of dogs walking their owners around the neighborhood alone would be cause for pause and serious reflection on how to pull that off without garnering complaints from your neighbors.

Insight #2: In addition to saving on rent, these businesses are earning some serious tax benefits, creating a more sustainable enterprise. Small business America rules!

So, these observations made me think—is this the end of the retail space? Will small business spaces merge with home with their owner's home space in the new paradigm? Will your customers become the dog walkers in your neighborhood rather than your Facebook fans?

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

 

The Corporate Mosaic: Being Effective Through Cross-Cultural Understanding

We all know we live in a world where cultures collide everyday. It is unavoidable, unless you happen to live in a small village. We are so connected, and yet people continue to make ethnic faux pas, sometimes leading to tension and frustration. This is especially true in business. The wrong handshake, gesture, or slip of the tongue could be the first domino in bringing down an important deal. 

These mistakes are easily correctable. All it takes is a bit of education. Each culture has a different way of expressing respect. By knowing the basic differences, you will be able to navigate the cross-cultural terrain fairly smoothly and with confidence. While the following points are meant to be rules of thumb, it is essential that you study a bit about the culture you intend to interact with beforehand. 

PERSONAL SPACE

What is considered a comfortable distance between two people varies from culture to culture. In America and much of Europe, personal space is usually a few feet with strangers and business associates. In China and many Asian countries, it is somewhat less, but with strangers there is a definite taboo with touch. So no pats on the back. In much of Latin America and the Middle East, personal space is the least distance, and even strangers tend to be physically close. 

RELATIONSHIPS

Not everyone enters business deals the same way. In the Middle East, Latin America, and Southern Europe it is common to first take time to build the relationship before even discussing corporate affairs. Eagerness to jump into a deal may create resistance. Spend some time getting to know your potential partners - take them out to lunch, talk about family and common interests, and be genuinely curious. In many parts of Asia, such as China and Japan, respect and composure are big. It is expected in such places to be humble, modest, and relatively stoic in business. You will be considered foolish if you boast. Also, don't be too friendly, at least starting out; simply be polite and agreeable. 

In North America and Northern Europe, business relationships are very cut-and-dry. It's less about building the relationship (in comparison to other regions) and more about committing to an objective and following through. Concern yourself more with being reliable and competent than being the life of the crowd. 

Time

North America and Northern Europe are the most time-oriented. Punctuality is vital and tardiness is a sign of disrespect. Business in general is very procedural, with a focus on efficiency. If everything is not done in a timely manner, you will end up frustrating the other party. Some Asian countries have been adopting Western views on time, but business may still feel slower. India has a double standard - they expect you to be punctual while they are likely to be late. Latin America is the most laid back. It's a general rule to show up to any event about 30 minutes after the designated time. 

Communication

Many Asian cultures are very roundabout in communicating. In being polite, they may agree with you, even if there is internal disagreement. They are also skilled at not revealing too many emotions, so you won't always be able to tell what they really feel. This is all meant to smooth the social interaction. Asians tend to also be fairly reserved and quieter in business than other people. North Americans and Northern Europeans are typically more loud and direct.

Sometimes less tactful than the Asian cultural mind, they want to get down to business and keep communication open. There is a sense of hierarchy, though, and so respect to those higher in power must be taken into account. Latin Americans are some of the most easygoing and conversational people. Communication may become informal quickly. Just go with the flow. There is less focus on you as a representative of a business, and more on you as a person.

Keep these tips in mind, and you will be able to adapt to many different countries with greater ease. It is becoming harder today to stay isolated in business, as nations interact more with each other and cultures intermingle. This will only increase over time. It is a wise approach to learn the customs of other societies so you can work with them effectively, and build mutual respect. Good luck!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy New Year to our brothers and sisters overseas in the Far East!

This year is the Year of the Sheep (also goat). The sheep is the eighth sign in the Chinese zodiac, and is considered auspicious because 'eight' symbolizes peace, harmony, and prosperity.

And what else could we hope for in our relationships with colleagues and staff, as well as family and loved ones?

So take a moment to reflect on your old relationships, toast to new ones, or set off a firework in honor of all the contributions you received from your community, near and far (East)!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs and trainings, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

 

Oooh, Listen to the Music!

We're giving you an excuse to listen to your playlist at work - it helps you be productive!

Do you have any tasks that are repetitive and grueling? Checking emails might be one thing many people grunt about. What about data entry? Paperwork? Editing and review? If you've done a specific task for a long enough time, your brain starts to yawn and you might lag. But studies are showing that music can have a great effect on your work.  The University of Windsor, Canada released the results of an experiment which "indicated that state positive affect and quality-of-work were lowest with no music, while time-on-task was longest when music was removed." In other words, music can help you be more efficient.

The benefits aren't just in efficiency. The right song can also spur your creativity - if it's not too loud! The Journal of Consumer Research announces that "results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products." It's probably something we've all suspected, but the data brings it home. Adapt your music for the mood most appropriate to the work at hand (energetic or contemplative?) and keep the volume at a moderate level - neither too low or too high. 

As a general rule, if you need to focus (and the task is not repetitive and requires more mental exertion) avoid an abundance of lyrics and stick to music you're familiar with. This limits the distractor factor while still stimulating you. 

As a last note, some people talk about the "Mozart Effect," a phenomenon that supposedly increased the IQs and learning potential of young children when they listened to Mozart. There was a lot of controversy over this, and what it is really based on are studies showing temporary learning improvement in adult brains. However, further studies have indicated that Mozart's music isn't the only kind that can help peak your brain - it seems that many different kinds of music that strongly resonate with you can help your cognition. 

Take these tips, and experiment with them in the workplace. With a little rhythm and beat, your "engine" should run more smoothly. 

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

How to Market for a New Age of Consumers, Tenet #3

TENET #3: OFFER REAL VALUE

A core concept of marketing philosophy is to emotionally engage your target audience and make them feel that they need your product or service. But here is an important question to pose:

Does my business have something of real value to offer?

If you have an empty product or service, you SHOULD NOT be marketing it, plain and simple. It is your responsibility as an entrepreneur to reliably and accurately test your offering. Anything less is unethical.

Rather than limit your business, however, thorough testing can be your leverage point. In the right context, statistics, research, and testimonials do impress people. This is why many companies show “experiments” in their commercials, or have a person in a lab coat referencing data. Many of these commercials are misleading, and this is where they do damage – the stated value is not congruent with the actual value. And so people end up buying dubious medications, lackluster cleaning supplies, and ineffective weight loss pills.  By providing real value, and citing accurate research or honest testimonies, you plant seeds of trust that can only grow and grow. In the long-run, trust will be your marketing.

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

How to Market for a New Age of Consumers, Tenet #2

TENET #2: EMPOWER YOUR CUSTOMERS

This may not apply to every business, yet should be a general principle that you may want to refer to every time you create a new product or service. Some companies bank on the idea of chaining customers to something they may not need long-term (e.g. some pharmaceuticals). Other companies try to get people addicted (e.g. using MSG and other chemicals in fast food). Their advertisements reinforce these strategies. Business should not be about enslaving people. 

One of the greatest kinds of value you can give someone (or, rather, help them achieve) is self-empowerment. Providing a prosthetic limb to a soldier who's lost her leg is empowering. Giving therapy or a drug to temporarily help a widow overcome depression is empowering. Creating healthy and affordable fast food for busy people is empowering. Just as your business should align with an empowerment paradigm, so should your marketing. There are many psychological maneuvers used to suck people in, and they typically instill the thought "You need us! How can you live a good, happy life without us?" Is it any wonder we live in such a consumerist, materialistic society? 

When you market, be honest, express the real benefits your product or service offers, and don't sell life-support. Sell value. 

Imagine a world where people think for themselves, where communities support each other, where progress and harmony direct money, and where we try to build each other up rather than tear each other down. Does your business, and your marketing of it, align with this vision, or opt instead for a broken and slowly dying system? 

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

How to Market for a New Age of Consumers: Tenet #1

TENET #1: HAVE EMPATHY

Empathy should be the foundation of all marketing approaches. It is your greatest asset. What empathy means is entering the minds and hearts of your target market and discovering what they truly care about and need. It is also feeling them as part of an integrated whole - it is not you on this side of the line and your target market on the other, but both of you co-existing in a large, unified system, like organs in a body. Deep empathy is knowing that your customers are a part of you. You would never hurt them, cheat them, or abuse them. 

Click here for a great exercise to develop empathy and its corollary, loving-kindness. Learning this is not just about being moral, although that is something important in and of itself; it also strengthens your flexibility of mind, allowing you to shift perspectives and more easily meet your customers' yearnings. 

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

How to Market for a New Age of Consumers

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

There are so many ways to advertise today. TV has grown less important, from a marketing perspective, with more people able to fast forward or use Netflix, but Internet advertising has skyrocketed. Now, there are intelligent features built into websites that market to you based on your preferences. With such a saturation of ads, the need for a responsible marketing approach is vital.

Marketing strategies take advantage of psychological principles to influence people’s behavior. With ad saturation and tough competition, it makes sense for a company to do anything it can to stand out. However, people are getting frustrated. A 2012 Pew Survey revealed that 68% of people dislike online targeted ads. And so many ads are deceptive and purely manipulative, selling dubious products and services. There’s been a trend for marketers to disingenuously recruit celebrities, cite poorly conducted or fake research, and offer extravagant claims.

Check out this list of deceptive ads, and the companies who were sued as a result: http://soldin60secs.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/top-10-famous-deceptive-ads/

Clearly, the marketing paradigm begs for renovation. We live in a society becoming increasingly disillusioned, a society that has witnessed so much corporate apathy, most prominently exemplified in the Mortgage & Loan Crisis. The people yearn for honest business practices and a sense of connection and understanding.

In the next three posts, we will explore a few ways to market for a New Age. Stay tuned to find out what they are.

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today!