Happiness

Happiness

As it is the International Day of Happiness today I thought I should share some assorted thoughts regarding the topic.

Happiness may have different meanings for different people. But we can all agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of our fellow human beings live – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

 

CULTURE

Like so many other things, happiness is something you build into your business culture. A friend of mine, Morten Middelfart, said “Disruption always starts from below”, and I agree. But more important I think, like happiness, that the culture where disruption and happiness resides always has to be built from the top down. It’s up to you as a leader to walk the line and set the bar for your business. To start creating a culture where conversations can take place.

I think if you succeed in that, a transformation of your business will start, and creativity will lead to disruption. Happiness will follow. But this isn’t something that can be turned on and off like a switch.

 

GOALS

Shawn Achor talks more about this in the Happiness Advantage, (a great book by the way). He says “average” tailors everything that we do. Being normal is merely average. But if we can change the lens through which we perceive reality we can become happier. We can go from being average to a culture with conversation, creativity and happiness.

But there’s a trap along the way, and that is to fail to be positive in the present, to focus just on the next report, the next goal through short-term thinking. “If we just reach this month’s sales target, then…”. But there are always new targets to be met or new goals to be achieved.

What happens when we focus on the short term is that we push happiness to the opposite side of success and our brains see it as an unreachable goal.

 

VISION

So how do you attain happiness? What drivers should be in place? A couple of clues are given in “Happiness is the New Productivity”.

To start to transform your business there must be passion. A passion you can pass on to the people that are following you or to your employees. By showing gratitude and listening to people, celebrating what went right every single day, and by giving, you can start the transformation to a happier business.

Remember that even though goals are good, happiness can’t be tied to them. Happiness is from the journey toward a vision. Your vision, is the reason people are following you in the first place.

Keep that vision alive. Be social. Start to listen to people and reach out to them. Be vulnerable and ask how you can help, or ask them for help. Tell your story, and form your business around that story, and that of your followers, or employees. Aim for happiness, and success will follow!

 

 

Barriers

Barriers

In my last post “Start Telling Stories” I talked about why a connection to your customer is crucial. Why telling stories can build a deeper loyalty. It’s all about you. Who you are is as important as what you do. It’s your way into their world.

To connect you have to lower your barriers. Be personal to gain trust. Be vulnerable.

 

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER

By lowering the barriers between you and your customers you can make people trust you. By using social media to show them who you are you help them to be genuinely interested in you. But it takes courage to do these things and many businesses fail to see the benefit of such actions.

With more and more people choosing social media to get their news and updates and to make purchasing decisions with, maintaining an active online business presence is crucial. But it takes more than just creating a content strategy and posting things online to establish true connection.

 

LOWER YOUR BARRIERS

As people spend a greater majority of their time interacting with others online, it only makes sense that you join those interactions, too. If you take the time to show that you’re interested in lowering the barriers your customers face when they observe you online, chances are you’ll increase their sense of trust in you, as well.

When you allow greater access to your business you actually increase the sense of loyalty your company can create from its customers. A few ways to do this can include:

  • Adding storytelling to your content
  • Allowing others to interact with you
  • Responding to customer engagement
  • Listening to other people’s stories

Let’s speed up the process of creating trust online. Start by lowering the barriers to online engagement. Show your peers how things like engagement and storytelling can innovate the way business is done. When the barriers begin to be removed, the connections can’t help but begin to be created. Let’s start now!

Start Telling Stories

Start Telling Stories

Without the ability to nurture trust through human connection your brand’s value relies solely on performance. When your market takes a dive your followers have no heartfelt reason to remain loyal to you or your product offerings.

This is where the importance of brand identity and customer connection comes in. Product alone, price alone – these things most likely won’t be enough to keep your customers connected to you. Your brand needs to be accepted and sought after. Your audience needs to know who you are and what you stand for.

 

CONTENT

The next generation of consumers don’t know anything about ‘the old days’ of corporate marketing. They’re used to switching off if they don’t like your message. You tweet something they don’t agree with; they unfollow you. They’re not interested in what’s on TV. They go to YouTube. Everything is immediate and they’re used to creating a world of their own where they only have to see and hear what they choose.

You need them to choose you.

 

STORIES

We’ve been hearing lately that “content is crucial” in social media but the type of content you share can make or break your ability to engage your customers and establish the connections that create brand loyalty.

I believe in the power of sharing personal stories as part of a content strategy because it accelerates the process of connection on all levels and in any industry. Through simple storytelling we can humanize the way we connect.

One way people are connecting these days is by using social communication channels like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of the channel you choose, the important thing to remember when sharing content is to keep your focus on sharing stories. Doing this leads to deeper loyalty to your brand because the connections are rooted in human qualities and not on surface traits that can easily be forgotten.

This is why connection is crucial. Because it’s you. Who you are is as important as what you do. It’s your way into their world.

So start telling your story!

 

 

Trust

Trust

As a business leader you can’t ignore the importance of having conversations with the people who actually care about what you do. If you are ready to give your brand uplift and pave the way for new conversations and engagement, you might want to rethink your use of Social Media. When Social Media becomes a trust building tool instead of another marketing channel businesses have the chance for greater success.

 

PURPOSE

In an online world conversation and interaction is based on the level of trust you have. Building trust as a business is essential for employees and customers.

When talking about the best ways to brand your business, most discussions focus on logo creation, website development, and various other marketing tactics. But thoughtful branding is more than these things. Instead, go way back to look deeper and ask some fundamental questions about what your brand stands for and what its purpose is. You need to be clear on the answers to those questions to be able to truly connect with people and build trust.

As I’ve said before, people care more about why you do what you do, than what you do or how you do it.

 

TRUST

Remember that building trust takes time. Trust is built upon conversations between people and businesses. Social Media is a great place for these conversations to take place because it allows businesses to communicate with people not only in a wider and broader context than in the past, but also in a way that they’ve never had the opportunity to do before.

By knowing your true values and what you stand for as a business you can start to listen to what people are saying. Then you can reach out and ask your customers how you can help them. Start the conversation and build trust.

Social media is here to stay, so you’ll want to build your brand carefully and wisely to ensure you’re creating an effective and engaging community. Trust is what matters. Be true to what you stand for – authentic in everything you say and do, and people will trust you.

 

 

Getting In The Game

Getting In The Game

With this post I will continue to connect the dots I started to connect in “Focus”.

In a changing market it’s more about listening and engaging with customers, than trying to sell products. Especially when customers don’t buy products anymore. Customers support businesses they trust and care about.

 

GETTING IN THE GAME

Social Media has become the playing ground for almost every savvy business. The one group that seems to be missing out, though, are those companies who make Business Intelligence products for consumers. For these companies, often with deep technical competencies, it makes little sense to sit on the sidelines of Social Media while some of their competitors are mastering the digital channel.

These companies are missing out on opportunities to create advocates from people that really care about their products. These advocates are potential customers and key allies who freely spread a company’s message.

As Morten Middelfart writes: -“…the one who is going to beat the competition is the company who is present with their customer. By that I mean, understanding what the customer wants and executing it immediately.” (Read more here: “BI trends in 2014“)

So what do customers want?

  • They want to be listened to and actively engaged with.
  • They want to feel like their time and effort spent helping a company promote its product is a good use of their time.

 

HOW TO START

Using Social Media as just another marketing channel to push messages based on the current trends will not get you more customers. Listening to the users of your product will. One way to start is by engaging with them in different Social Media channels. You might see an increase in sales because people have started to trust you.  Knowing that people buy products from brands they trust and want to support, it only makes sense to create an environment that enables such trust and communication to form.

By starting with listening not only will you experience a whole new world by getting to know your customers and turning them into advocates, you will also see an increase in your bottom line.

Focus

Focus

As always with the start of a new year there’s a lot of talk about coming trends in various subjects, like Business Intelligence (BI). But most of the time, the trends are created by people who want to sell something. The trends have become a new form advertising to get attention.

I think customers don’t care.

After listening to Ekaterina Walter talking about why customers don’t buy products anymore, and reading this great blog post from inspiring Morten Middelfart, I connected some dots about this topic.

 

THE TREND TRAP

In Business Intelligence especially, there’s a lot of talk about buzzwords. Words like Mobile, Big Data, In-Memory, Self-Service and Cloud. Trends, maybe, but lets not forget where these trends hopefully came from – as a business need to enable employees to handle the increasing demands of a shifting market.

I think we need to get back to focusing more on what a business needs. Focusing on solid business solutions first and then creating a product that solves a customer’s problems. The average BI user doesn’t care about Big Data when battling another Excel report. The user only cares about getting help with the problem at hand.

Many times focusing on new trends creates a distance between the business needs of a company and the average user’s problems. Maybe that could be the reason why it’s been difficult for Business Intelligence to go mainstream in a company as an essential tool for successfully accomplishing day-to-day work.

 

MISSING THE OPPORTUNITY

We continue to talk about trends and miss that most customers don’t buy products anymore. Instead they support companies and businesses that they care about. It’s more about supporting why a company does what it does than blindly buying a product from them.

I would like to see a shift towards a more business focused (BI) market where features and trends are not used as bats to beat the competition, but rather, as key business tools to solve a customer’s problem.

Focusing on trends and features outside a business context can make your product look like a toy – a feature or a thing that’s cool to play with for awhile but then falls into the big sea of forgetfulness.

If you focus on business first and help users make smarter and faster decisions, you can avoid the trend trap.

 

I will continue to connect the dots in my next blog post “Getting In The Game”. Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power Of Three

The Power Of Three

If you follow Chris Brogan the use of three words to define your focus for the coming year is something you are familiar with. The idea is that the words you choose to focus on will go past being simple mantras and instead, become part of the way you identify yourself. Think of them as a guiding light for the coming year.

 

THREE

Finding three words for some can be pretty daunting and for others they come quickly. My suggestion is to let the process of finding them take the time it takes, so they can fully be incorporated into your life.

In 2013 I used PURPOSE, FULLNESS and RENEGADE – read more about them here: http://disq.us/8c34ru. The result? I think the words were right but the problem was to always keep them in focus. Even if I struggled to implement those words, I won’t give up. I’ll use Chris’s advice when focusing on the new words for 2014.

 

The three words are a shorthand representation of your bigger story. It’s kind of like how an icon isn’t the software program. It’s just a way for you to mentally access all the work you’re doing. – Chris Brogan

 

WORDS

So here we go. These three words are going to be the focal point for many areas of my life and business in 2014:

LEAD – As an introvert it’s easy to take a step back and let others take over. I can look back on 2013 and see that I can step up more in 2014 to be more of an active leader. This year “LEAD” will give me a focus to be the leader I am. I’ll do this by using my introversion as an asset. My ability to listen, encourage and empower others will be the foundation upon which I step to take a more active approach as a leader.

INSPIRE – Walking the renegade path of life means always finding new ways to turn things around and challenge the conventional. To be able to do that I have always looked for inspiration outside of myself. But as I write in “Life and Business according to Bilbo Baggins #1” it’s time to start to create my own inspiration. To work on giving instead of receiving. A new focus on inspiring people instead of waiting to be inspired in life and business is what I’m aiming for.

CONSISTENT – To be consistent in everything I do will be an important part to build trust in Social Media, to inspire others in blog posts, to stay healthy and run preferably every day (follow along: #365runs), and in every other part of the new year. This consistency will be something I incorporate into my professional as well as my personal life.

LEAD, INSPIRE and CONSISTENT… #MyThreeWords. What are yours? Tell me…

 

 

 

 

The Key To BI?

The Key To BI?

How do you master the use of Business Intelligence (BI) when it comes to achieving your business goals? In BI there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to discussing the use of data. Not only is the data you have access to growing, there’s also a vast number of vendors trying in different ways to stand out as THE most innovative company with THE most innovative product for analyzing your data.

But what many tend to forget is that there is always a bigger context to consider when applying a Business Intelligence software solution to analyze a business’s data.

Reading Morten Middelfart’s latest blog post “Adaption – the Key to Survival in the Business Jungle – part 2”, led me to share some additional thoughts on the use of data in relation to BI.

 

ADAPTION

As Morten writes, “You can’t run a business through a series of processes that never change. There must be heart, thought and constant adaptation.” I agree that adaption is a crucial thing to master to be successful in today’s business climate. A business must be able to adapt to changing needs and the BI tool must be able to adapt accordingly. One compliments the other to provide seamless data analysis. When there is this type of synergy between tool, business users and a common goal, the most successful businesses will emerge because every feature of the tool will support the business needs.

For example, if business users need to be mobile in work, they need to have a BI-solution that can be mobile, too. Let adaption go with the business users needs first.

 

REAL-TIME

Real-time data. What is that exactly and how does the average business user make a decision from it?

Most wise business decisions are made with the help of underlying processes. With real-time data that process is compromised to an in-the-moment decision. Of course that can be useful depending on what type of data you have or what kind of decision you make. But many times the most solid decision comes when looking at things in the context of historical data where trends and patterns are visible. Data always has to be seen in a context to be valuable, with the long-term business goal in mind.

With focus on real-time capabilities and features that support in-the-moment analysis are we adding to the month-to-month business measurable or are we making it harder to keep our long-term business goals in focus?

 

CONTEXT

Without context you can’t make a wise business decision. Data needs to be presented in a context that supports overall business objectives. Of course, you need to know what to do with the data at hand. If you don’t know this, starting to talk about big data in business won’t help you. If you don’t know how to share and talk about the data you have internally, more data won’t make it easier.

Learn to walk with data before you try to run. Start small and internally. Start to share data within your entire organization and you will see the benefits of analyzing it more clearly. Focus on your long-term business goals within a bigger context, and you will master the key to the use of business intelligence.

 

A Fine Line

A Fine Line

In my last blog post – Life and Business According to Bilbo Baggins #1 and #2  – I talked about the need to get out of your comfort zone and start making a difference in your business. To do that means walking a fine line. A line that determines how the response will be received and what your footprint and your branding will look like.

Do you want to make a difference? Do you want people to connect with you? If the answer is, “yes”, then you need to walk that fine line and adjust your mindset accordingly, especially when it comes to using social media.

 

MINDSET

Too many companies walk into social media with a “lean back” approach – hence their online messages come across as boring and/ or spamming. Why? Because they don’t care about how to communicate in different channels or they haven’t taken the time to determine when their messages will best be received. To these businesses, social media is just another marketing channel. They’re walking a fine line toward losing new business and they don’t even know it.

The term “lean forward” implies a deeper engagement with the content businesses create online rather than just passive consumption. It’s all about mindset and determining how you want customers or followers to engage with you.

A FINE LINE

Whatever your business is, the same rules apply. Why you do what you do is more important then what you do. When you add a social media component to things, the fine line becomes whether you are keeping your customers in focus and whether that is represented by what you post online.

For example, it’s a big difference between being a software selling company and a company that helps customers take the next step with the help of world class software. One approach is selling a product. The other is in selling a service. If you get those confused, most likely, your customers will, too.

 

CULTURE

The approach to proper messaging is embedded in your culture and affects everything you do. It’s time to start thinking about how your social media efforts are being received.

Start looking into your company culture. Is it a culture based on a “lean forward” approach? Do you encourage others to strive for innovation in customer communication? Are “trying” and “curiosity” keywords you keep in mind when crafting your message via social media?

If the answer is, “No”, to any of the above questions, don’t despair. Small changes in your approach can help guide you as you start reaching out and engaging others. It’s a fine line but I know you can walk it.

As Bilbo Baggins would say, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Reborn to Run Again

Reborn to Run Again

You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running. – Christopher McDougall, Born To Run

 

BEING AVERAGE

I’m a average runner at the best, and I have never enjoyed running. Running has always been connected to something I need to do but rarely take time to actually do. Maybe it is because running can feel more like a chore than a way of staying in shape.

It seems like there are always things that take higher priority, so running does not get done as often as it should. And living in the land of perpetual darkness doesn’t help either, even if the short months of summer are lovely. What I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of things that can get in your way to becoming a runner. Picture those things as a bad obstacle course.

 

BAREFOOT IN BUSINESS

But my views about running changed over night. Reading, “Born To Run”, by Christopher McDougall, I got inspired and threw everything I thought I knew about running overboard.

McDougall´s book tells a story about running that made it feel just like what I wanted running to be. It is an inspiring read, to say the least.

What about McDougall´s book changed my view on running? Two words: barefoot running. Or, running with minimalistic shoes, if you like. By changing the method in which I ran, I rediscovered a joy in moving my body with the help of my legs that I hadn´t found before. I learned that barefoot running was exactly as running should be. If humans are meant to run, and run long distances, maybe it’s time that we try to capture the pure joy you can see in children as they play and run effortlessly.

As a business owner and leader, you set the pace for the rest of your organization. Your company, even if it has just a few employees, is a reflection of you. One way to sharpen your company is by first sharpening yourself -  each day. By being open to learning new ways to look at standard practices, you can let running your business tell a story that has the power to re-shape and re-fuel your company. Just like running can re-shape and re-fuel your body.

I know there is a lot to be said about running barefoot, but it suits me perfectly. And it has helped me to come to a point where running is something I need to do to feel good. Ultimately, the debate isn’t about minimalistic shoes vs. traditional running shoes. It’s about learning to change the way you think about something you´ve always seen as a chore. Go back to the roots.

For me, it started with learning to run gently and listening to my body. I had to master that before I could begin to master other things in business and life that I had been wanting to change.

 

#365runs

Starting January the 1st I will try to run every day the next year. And I want you to join me. It’s not about time or distance. It’s about looking at running in a new light. About rediscovering the joy of running and how getting out and moving your body can help to reshape the world.

I think that we can do this together. Let us tell a story about changing the way we want to lead, the way we want to run a business, by changing the way we look at running with our bodies.

Let us give the gift of running to others and encourage more people to be reborn to run again. A gift fitting for any Holiday season.

So I call out to fellow runners like Amy Courts, Amy Jo Martin, Morten Sandlykke, Morten Middlefart, Bridget Hanahan, Ulrik Pedersen, Jeff Boehm, Donald Farmer, Natasha MutepukaGert Jan FeickLyndsay Wise and more to join me. Let us tell a story and shape the world.

You can follow my run through hashtag #365runs or #RunningPartners, or here: http://runkeeper.com/user/Ungvall/profile

 You see, running is the way for us to confront it all. The Past. The Future. – Jeff Swain, Why We Run