Surviving (and Thriving) the Silent Career Killer Epidemic

Social Media Health Check Tips to Save your Professional uh . . . behind!

 

There is no shortage of ways to permanently damage or kill your career.  Today's prevalence of technology makes the task easier than ever.  Everyone is armed with the latest devices ready to capture and share our flaws and gaffes with the world.  A few taps and a life can change forever.

 

It's not even the malicious behavior of others that are causing the most damage. Indeed, those are the events that get the majority of the media coverage and become the next cautionary tale to be avoided.  No, we don't need someone else capturing us at our worst when we freely share our own dastardly behavior and contemptable opinions for the world's eager consumption.

 

Hiding behind the ambiguous safety of our devices, we seem to believe we can spew our most recent thoughts and opinions with impunity.  The guiding principles of basic social courtesies are discarded.  We're enraptured by the fictional power of our own words to change public opinion and elevated in the certainty of those opinions to open the world's eyes to our remarkable intellect and insightfulness. Herein lies the great deception.

 

We have the right to express our opinion, but we've forgotten to ask if we should.  The irrevocability of cause-and-effect of our social media behavior are vastly understated.  We are mostly blind to the consequences of our words and the images we post.  On the other side of our usually less than eloquent articulations lurk the silent killer in the form of missed opportunities, damaged reputations, crippled relationships, and disenfranchisement.  We aren't disassociated from our actions because we ascribe the terms "virtual" or "online" to them.  They carry with them the same ramifications yet, like yourself behind the screen of your device, they go largely unseen.

 

Make no mistake, I'm a huge proponent of personal expression and the celebration of individuality.  It is imperative, however, that career and business conscious individuals understand that, to a large degree, a certain level of professionalism and reputation management can't be ignored when your personal life is on public display in the form of social media.

 

However, all those things can be accomplished without the loss of business, professional advancement and missed opportunities.  In the end, if you're willing to risk those things simply to express your next rant do it with the knowledge of what may be forfeited in taking the action. 

 

Potential customers, employers, friends and family, and the world at large will judge based on what they see with or without the full context.  You'll never know a particularly controversial or offensive post(s) resulted in you not getting a call, a referral or that interview you desperately wanted.  As a hiring manager and as a customer I do my homework as most individuals today would do. We are checking every social media page you have.  We're Googling your name and researching your online reputation so we can make the best, informed decision possible.  What is your online presence telling the world about you?  Like many people who have given the topic little consideration, it's probably telling you to clean up your act!  Try to put yourself in a stranger's position when critiquing your online reputation and ask how my posts, shares, the graphics, and videos are telling my personal story. What about the stuff you allow others to post on your page or "tag" you in?  Folks, you have the control to shape your narrative.  It can work to your favor or detriment. 

 

I write and talk extensively about professional personal branding.  See where I'm going with this?  Yes, as a professional dependent on growing and maintaining clients for your products or services you can ill afford to ignore the subject.  It's not optional.  It's not negotiable.  It's simply a fact of the modern world where we find ourselves today.  You may argue it's your personal pages and you can do whatever you want.  Oh yes!  You can do it but again I ask, "Should you?" You're in the Business of Attraction, and the natural process of alienation must be navigated with careful tact and skill best left for another discussion.

 

Now, let's talk about how to best protect yourself for this virtual epidemic with its very real consequences. 

 

Health Check Tip #1 - Wash Your Hands of Political and Religious Rhetoric

 

Due to the prevailing political and social unease (yes, that's putting it nicely) it seems prudent to place in the top position.

 

Parenting done right includes the earliest lessons regarding the fundamentals of proper behavior and manners and at least some basic do's and don'ts from the Social Graces Handbook which clearly isn't being printed or read as predominately as in days past.   In those lessons, as I recall, that among the topics of conversations to avoid in polite gatherings included both politics and religion.  Even before I had anything to contribute on these subjects I knew caution was advised.  For those that braved these discussions, it wasn't difficult to gauge the changing dynamics that would undoubtedly take place among the participants.  Even as a kid, I knew when tension started to run high.  However, those with a degree of refinement maneuvered these exchanges with respect and an even give and take with the exchanging of ideas.  Those that didn't . . .  well, there is a reason these topics where cautionary tales taught early.  The real-life consequences were immediate and generally unpleasant unless the cooler head prevailed. 

 

Today, it's easy enough to post a rant and offend people en mass.  Since this has the potential to stay out there forever, it's an offense that just keeps giving (or taking away to be more accurate). Social media provides the tools to either venomously defend your opinion or keep your views one-sided thus shutting down the other side of the debate.  It's the perfect platform to argue - you always win!  The results, however, are the same just on a grander scale.  Unlike a  face-to-face conversation, you are missing the body language and real-time verbal clues to measure the effect of your words and the feelings of others whom you would not likely knowing hurt or offend.  

 

Remember, your opinion isn't nearly as important to others as it is to you.  You don't have to regurgitate your every thought and belief on a subject.  When the nausea hits and you feel the need to spew it . . . fight the urge.  You'll feel better later.

 

Health Check Tip #2 - If it Tastes Bad Just Swallow it

 

Tasteless comments and humor are difficult to swallow.  Perhaps one of the easiest ways to offend and alienate is through poorly considered jokes. 

 

The internet is the world's petri dish!  Unfortunately, I believe it a reflection of the values and mores currently "trending" in our society.  Like much of humanity, it grows a dirty culture; a breeding ground for the obscene and perverse like a festering sore.  People aren't perfect and the dirty, if left unchecked, like an infection will grow and that is what we are witnessing with this perfect contagion.  Sadly, the ease of social sharing and uploading, coupled with the lack of common sense, good judgment, poor ethical hygiene and declining personal standards have seemingly made it acceptable to post such garbage without forethought or consideration.

 

The lines of tasteful humor have not only blurred but have been nearly erased.  Jokes at the expense of others to garner "likes" and comments are so commonplace that we've seemingly become immune to it.  Shock value is the new currency.  Profanity has become the accepted tongue to many.  However, it isn't okay despite the relaxed views of many.  It isn't okay to share and post hurtful images and comments related to someone's race, size, sexual orientation, religion, etc.  The beautiful things that make us all unique are not to be depreciated for a laugh.  Going viral at the expense of your reputation has lasting consequences. 

 

Those that don't share your humor won't get you . . .  and you won't get their business or respect.  Additionally, it's the perfect opportunity to remind those of us bound to certain ethical and professional standards set by our profession's license or credentialing aren't exempt when you're "not on the clock".  A tasteless post could lead to the loss of your livelihood and career suicide.  Just like a germ-filled sneeze . . . cover your mouth and everyone stays well. 

 

Health Check Tip #3 - Make and Keep Regular Spell Checks

 

Death by poor grammar and punctuation.  Oh yes!  It's happened!

 

Did you see this one coming?  Personally, I credit Twitter for killing the language arts.  Perhaps it was text messaging.  Either way, for the sake of time-savings, frustrating button tapping, we live in an abbreviated world where limited-character communication has become mainstream.  The use of icons and emojis have reduced us to using the equivalent of cave paintings and hieroglyphs to express ourselves.  Why use a paragraph when a picture says a thousand words?  Right?  Wrong!

 

Arguably, the standards in professional communication have become quite lax.  Some argue against it, but I profess it is true.  Merely read a few articles on Yahoo News or the latest novel or professional journal.  WOW!  20 years ago a typographical error in a  leading publication seemed rare.  I wish I could say that my grown expertise in the English language allows me to notice these more often but I know that isn't the case.  My southern slang and twang leave grammatical ashes in my wake.  

 

It is essential to understand that you are being judged on how you communicate with others even on your personal social media pages.  Now, there is a bit more forgiveness here to be sure but don't fall into that unhealthy behavior.  It's junk food where proper nutrients are needed.  Excessive misspellings, the overuse of emojis and poor grammar reflect poorly on you.  Aside from drawing your education and experience into question, it can come across as simple laziness and thoughtlessness.  Care enough to put some effort into how you communicate and certainly avoid these pitfalls in email and handwritten communications.  Your friends may not care, but a new client, a possible new boss or other professionals in your field will undoubtedly take note.

 

Health Check Tip #4 - Be Likable to Be Liked

 

Ok, Captain Obvious at the helm here but we both know everyone doesn't subscribe to this axiom.  Chances are, if you are one of those people, you haven't read this far and have little concern with the opinions of others. Best of luck to them if their careers are susceptible to those opinions they so easily discard!  However, if you get it, let's make sure you don't forget it. 

 

Monitor the tone of your posts and consider how your content may be perceived by others.  I'll give you a personal example that I'm constantly working on - negativity.  For the most part, I'm a pretty optimistic and upbeat person.  I detest whining and complaining and the victims of the world - the Injustice Collectors.  However, I'm human and negativity catches me unaware more often than I care to admit.  My first reaction is to share my misery with others in some lame effort to make myself feel better.  For some reason, I feel the need to share my latest illness or aches and pains.  I get some sick pleasure ranting about poor customer service or any number of things that went horribly wrong throughout the day.  Don't! Stop! Quit!  If the prevailing subject matter in your social media content is negative people will be turned off.  No one wants to hire or work with this kind of person and they will steer clear of you.  If you need to get something off your chest - phone a friend, but limit these type of posts.  Certainly, people want to see the human side of you, but as a friend of mine is fond of saying, no one likes Mr. Grumpy Gills. 

 

Another subject, perhaps the one that really get my distractor's britches in a bunch, is one of alcohol.  Before that happens with you, I want to personally assure you I place little judgment on your use or lack thereof of alcohol.  It's a personal choice.  However, from a branding and perception standpoint, I'm going to highly advise you to limit or simply don't post or share content related to alcohol.  I'm going to toss in marijuana or any other controversial recreational activity.

 

So why bring this one up?  Did you miss the word controversial?  Again, if you are looking to attract like-minded drinking and smoking professionals post your heart out!  I'll remind you of the risk versus benefit argument.  The cause-and-effect principle always comes into play.  There is a great divide on the subject of recreational beverage and drug use.  Customer/clients and potential hiring companies will not look favorably on this behavior.  You may never miss a day of work.  You may never go to work with impaired cognition and your professionalism away from home is unmatched but does your social media behavior reflect that beyond a doubt?  If no, I want you to seriously consider removing such content or simply not posting it.  This may have larger or little consequences depending on the prevailing demographics where you live.  If it doesn't benefit your career why risk it?  Play it safe when in doubt.

 

Other cautionary posts include complaining about your current job or boss or worse yet, complaining and making fun of customers or clients.  These are sure-fire ways to kill or damage your career.  You've heard the old saying, "Don't bite the hand that feeds."  You are simply asking for trouble with this kind of online conduct.  Period.

 

Nobody likes a boaster.  Seriously.  If you want to put people off bragging will make that happen for you pretty quick.  Nobody loves me like I love me.  You are so right my friend!  Need some examples?  If your social pages look like an entertainer's fan page you're doing it all wrong!  The king and queen of the selfies are dead.  They are buried or they will bury you soon when you try to assume the throne.  If your name isn't Kardashian avoid this behavior.   We don't even like it when they do it.  It doesn't work in most professional environments and doesn't reflect well on you a person. Honestly.  If you continually flaunt your new car purchases, your designer clothes, exotic vacations, famous friends and other me, me, me activities you'll be the only one seeing them after a while.  This is not likable behavior.  Certainly, share exciting news happening in your life, that's part of the social experience, but don't do it simply to make yourself look like something you're not.  People will celebrate your wins with you if you do it honestly, humbly and correctly. 

 

Health Check Tip #5 - The Golden Rule Prevents Common Ills

 

Lastly, when everything else has failed, revisit the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  What does this have to do with a career-killing epidemic?  It's simple, the dying never learned this lesson. 

 

Social media is a tool for relationship building.  It's about people.  It's nothing more complicated than that.  It has all the characteristics, positive and negative, of our real-world interactions.  There are good people and bad; nurturing relationships and the abusive.  If you learn to be a friend first then the friendship will come.  The same is true in business relationships.  You can thrive in the growing epidemic by bucking the negative trends and utilizing the social media tool as it was intended.  Be kind.  Interact with others.  Celebrate what is going on in their life.  "Like", "Share" and comment.  Don't be a social media voyeur peeking into others' lives but participate and share with thoughtfulness what is happening in your world as well.  Give and take.  Speak and listen.  Be a good example.  Lift others while you climb as said by Martin Luther King Jr.  These aren't new concepts, just ones we need reminding.  These are behaviors the world rewards.  If you want success and you want the promotion or the new client or new job be seen as worthy of it.    

 

By this point, I think you've probably examined your own personal social media behavior and wondered if there is room for improvement.  I have.  I guarantee the examples above have at least called to mind the poor skills exercised by many you know.  The delineation of your personal social media presence and your professional reputation are not as separate as most people want to think.  Is the world outside silently passing opportunity over you because of your personal social media activity?   Your success could be dependent on the action you take today to clean up your act. 

 

Lastly, consider having other professionals whom you trust critique what you're posting.  Constructive criticism here is essential if you're concerned with your ability to make that call.  Don't take this exercise personally.  This isn't a colonoscopy for goodness sake.  It's painless if you put your ego on the shelf.  All professions generally require a yearly review or check-up from time to time.  This is no different.  Avoid the deadly mistakes others have made with a social wellness evaluation. 

 

You deserve all the success your hard work can bring.  It doesn't require giving up any of your personal liberties or making different lifestyle choices that define who you are.  The silent career killer is failing to take the necessary safeguards to protect your professional reputation from the poorly made personal choices you publish online.  To your health and wellness both personally and professionally.

The Accountability Edict

Some people hate the word responsibility.  For them it conjures feelings that may seem heavy, burdensome . . .  maybe even painful.  However, if you embrace the concept of accountability in your own life and what happens in it, it can be freeing to reclaim a sense of control that most people lack.

I would image this is going to be difficult for some people.  If some of the ideas and concepts I discuss stir feelings of discomfort or anxiety, I hope you will stick with me as we proceed.  I recommend you examine what words or ideas are causing those feelings and determine for yourself where it is coming from, perhaps these are things you need to hear but don’t yet want to accept.

When your husband or wife isn’t supportive, the kids won’t behave while you’re making calls, the dog chewed through your internet cables, or there just isn’t enough hours in the day for you to really grow your business with everything else you have to do it’s time to employ a new way of thinking.    When things are going wrong in your life and your business, we often have a gut reaction to blame other people and circumstances, but what if you stopped the blame-game long enough to consider how you created or contributed to the problem.  To do this is to employee a powerful process called the “Accountability Edict,” and it’s the first and largest step in creating a life of self-accountability.  It’s the process of looking at oneself and asking how I contributed or am directly responsible for the situation at hand.  Its an exercise in inner reflection that stops the excuses and external laying of blame.  For truly, we only have control of ourselves.

Chances are, some of you just got it.  The light just came on or perhaps what you have always thought and believed was validated.  For others, your first reaction to that statement is to toss out some expletives before demanding, “I didn’t create any of this”.  Well, I’m going to challenge you to take a closer look.  But before those defensive claws do any damage, I’m going to ask you to retract them long enough to hear me through.

This concept isn’t about blame . . . period!  It’s not about blaming yourself instead of someone else.  It’s about taking and accepting responsibility for what happens in your life – both the good and the bad.  This concept is to be used when it works and honestly and thoughtfully considered when it doesn’t. I believe the times it will not apply doesn’t happen frequently so don’t try to cling to exceptions!  We’re already a species of excuses and that is what we are trying to combat here.  At the very least, this should change your perception and reaction to what happens in your life.

What the “Accountability Edict,” is meant to do, is help you to distinguish between two different mindsets, two completely different positions in life – one being that of a victim whose life is governed and dictated by forces outside their control (injustice collectors) and the other being that of a survivor, a person accountable to themselves and able to see how they control or contribute to what is happening in their lives.  At the very least, it should help people recognize they have the ability to control how they respond to the things that happen to them even if they can affect nothing else in a particular circumstance.

For example, we can’t control if a tornado drops down on our house and destroys everything we own, but we can chose to be a victim of circumstances or be a survivor that rebuilds what was lost.  Using this situation, here are some examples of how the victim mentality and the response-ability personality responds.  A victim of circumstance will drown in self-pity for months, years or even a lifetime about what was so unfairly lost and taken away from them.   A person that approaches life from the position of personal responsibility and accountability will mourn the loss and quickly move on.  They will recognize perhaps that they chose to live in a tornado prevalent climate but they made sure they had the necessary insurance to more quickly recover financially from such a disaster.  They may choose this as the opportunity to build the house they always wanted, build a better, stronger home, or decide this is a good time to move to a different location.  They may recognize that they failed to prepare for such an occurrence and won’t make that mistake again. They may also choose this as an opportunity to reconnect with their neighbors by helping them rebuild.  The difference in how one responds is where the power of the “Accountability Edict” lies.  The victim feels powerless.  The survivor takes responsibility.  The victim lives in their self-imposed prison beaten down by the world and the responsible thinker fashions their own key and walks away looking for the next open door of opportunity.

Let’s take a look at the victim personality a little closer.  We all know one don’t we?  Some are such victims of their lives they can literally suck the life out of a room simply by walking into it.  Every time they open their mouth they regurgitate their negativity all over you in an effort to illicit a sympathetic response, keep your attention with their sorrowful tale or they unconsciously attempt to prove to the world and themselves that their position as a victim is secure. Every injustice is held onto tightly.  Taken out daily, reviewed, and put back into the collection.  This is emotionally and energy draining for everyone around them.  Certainly no good comes from indulging in this behavior and it only serves to keep the victim stuck in their state of hopelessness.

Now perhaps you don’t fall into the ‘energy sucker’ category but we’ve all celebrated our own pity parties from time to time.  That is a natural a part of dealing with loss or change but you have to recognize these thoughts immediately and refuse to entertain them longer than necessary.  And here is the great thing about change – you can start today!  It is YOUR decision to remain a victim or be response-able.  Certainly changing your thoughts isn’t an easy thing to do, it takes work and perseverance but each time you find yourself complaining, remember the “Accountability Edict” and determine how you contributed to the outcome. Take responsibility for the situation and begin to make the necessary changes to improve it.  Standing still doesn’t move you from point A to point B.  I love the saying, “If you do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you have always got,” and isn’t that victim thinking?  Isn’t it insane?  Are you always waiting for something or someone to change your circumstances for you?  Positive change begins with you by taking action, making things happen, walking away or running toward something, but don’t let your feet grow to the ground because you fear moving will only make it worse.

Another victim response is the inability to forgive – forgive others or more often, forgive themselves for mistakes or decisions they have made.  Victims fall into the trap of blaming themselves, often unknowingly, for allowing others to hurt them, to abuse them, to disrespect them.  Instead of moving on when something bad happens they ALLOW the world to punish them over and over again.  Additionally, they generally have little to no respect for themselves.  Survivors respect themselves too much to allow others to DISRESPECT them for long!!!  This is the difference between being a survivor and being a victim.  Certainly, the “Accountability Edict” has helped many people escape from abusive and dangerous situations.  Rather than blaming the abuser and saying put, they looked inward to the decisions they made that lead them here and what actions they could take to get out of it.  Whoever you are or whoever you become, it is a culmination of the decisions you make – yes, we’re back to that accountability thing!  It’s hard to accept that fact but how we respond to what happens to us, is completely and totally under our control.  Start with treating yourself like you want to be treated!  Decide how you want others to treat you!  They can decide whether they like it or not.  They can move or stay by your side.  This isn’t about them!  It’s about you!

The world is a plethora of survivors and victims.  Ask yourself what makes them so different?  Why do some people come out of horrible situations stronger while others seem to sink into deeper despair and weakness?  It’s mindset!  It’s attitude!  It’s what is inside them (not the outside world) that makes the difference between survivors and victims.  When you truly come to understand this concept you’ve taken that first step on the road to change!

See yourself and the world through new eyes.  A motto I created and live by is “A Change in Perception, Changes the World”.  We don’t have to literally change the world; it’s us that has to change!  When we change ourselves, the world is forced to change – it has too!  We can’t see it the same way anymore because we are looking through a different set of eyes!  I hope you get that!  It is too powerful to overlook!  Life can be a beautiful thing when your eyes aren’t clouded by your past hurts and future fears.  Take off the victim glasses and see the world anew.  You’re going to love it and yourself for doing so.

I think one of the most important things we can do is to share our stories, to lift-up others because we where once knocked down.  Lead by example and be the light of hope others are looking for.  That may seem impossible when you’re living in the dark, but I promise you that opened eyes will find that glimmer, that small flicker called hope, that light that will lead them out of despair where all victims live.

So what does all of that have to do with your business?  Using the “Accountability Edict” in your business is no different than using it in other areas of your life.  It’s a powerful concept that separates the successful from those that only dream of success.  It works in all areas of your life.

If your business isn’t growing or perhaps it’s moving in the wrong direction, try asking yourself how you created it – how are you responsible for what is happening and being accountable for it.  Ask, “What did I do to create the state of my business?”  “What did I do that is causing my business to fail?” “What am I doing, or not doing, that is keeping my business from growing?”

You have to look at your actions or inactions.  Listen to your self-talk.  Inaction is as much to blame as the wrong actions taken.  When you find yourself blaming other people or situations you are being a victim.  If you are saying things such as, “These people don’t care about my products or opportunity,” or “These leads never call me back when I leave them a message.” How about, “The economy is so bad no one wants to join my business”, or perhaps “My staff or agents aren’t doing anything and don’t want to work.”  All these things may be true but is that really why your business isn’t growing? As you can probably guess by now, this is victim talk – excuses; these are powerless ways of thinking.  This is the kind of self-talk that drains your power, robs your energy, kills your creativity and causes most people to fail at business.  So, while their businesses are failing they manage to become professionals in the blame game and where in no way responsible for the “Going Out of Business” sign on the door.

Now let’s look at these examples from an accountability thinkers point of view or what I like to define as “Survivor Speak”, the kind of self-talk you want to develop.  Let’s face it, if you aren’t being responsible in how you think and act that only leaves two other alternatives.  You are playing the victim, which we have covered thoroughly at this point, or you’re suffering another of my coined terms of inactivity called “Tumbleweed Syndrome” – letting life, people and situations determine the direction your life moves, the direction your business takes without blaming or feeling victimized.  This is still a powerless position of inactivity that serves no useful purpose.

People that practice responsible-directed thinking examine how their actions or inactions affect every outcome in their lives and business.  They are looking INSIDE for the answers here.  They aren’t pointing fingers away from themselves.  So looking at the first example, “People don’t care about my products or opportunity.”  To a certain degree, this is true, as we all don’t care about the same things.  What’s important to you isn’t necessarily important to someone else.  That’s a fact as certain as the law of gravity but that’s not where this ends.  If you think that is the prevailing reason your business isn’t growing you start by asking yourself, “How am I responsible for that?”  Before you say you aren’t responsible for that, consider the things you can do to overcome it.  Ask yourself if you are truly listening to the people you are talking to and finding out what is important to them and showing them how your products, services or business opportunity can be important to them.  You selected the products and the services you provide – don’t blame the customer if you aren’t filling their needs or wants.  Listen to what they say they need and find a way to give it to them – simple Business 101. Make wise decisions and then make wiser revisions till you get it right.  If you build it they will come is for the delusional.  If you build it and it is something they need and want and you’ve wrapped into a stimulating package that connects with them – then maybe! Just maybe.

Let’s face it folks, it’s not about us in the world of business even if your business is your whole world!  You might own the business, but your prospects don’t care about your business.  They care about themselves and their business.  When you lose sight of that, you’re missing the big picture, the key element to succeeding.  No one joins and stays with your business because of how important or how excited and motivated you are about what you do.  It might help initially generate some interest but; and you need to listen carefully and write this down – to get others to join you, follow you, you have to find the value in it for them.  I hope you truly get that.

I’m going to remind you of a couple of Laws to Success in any business with these two simple concepts:

  1. You discover a want or need and fill it.
  2. You discover a problem and offer a solution.

If you aren’t doing one or both of these things, you’re not likely to have a business for long.  Herein lays your responsibility – to find out how or if what you are offering can meet one of these two requirements – determine how it is important to your customer and adequately communicate it to them.  I hope you see the power in this.  While nothing guarantees a “Yes, I’ll be your customer,” response, you have increased your likelihood of making a connection with your audience, your customers.  Again, your business isn’t failing because of them; you see where and how it now lies with you – it’s the “Accountability Edict” at work.

Perhaps you need to find a new approach in communicating with your customers and clients.  Chances are good your brand is misaligned and needs a change.  Is your victim mentality and excuses soiling your personal brand?  How is your mindset and actions affecting your brand recognition?  Perhaps you need to get more training, work more with a mentor, develop better interviewing and listening skills. In the end, it is up to you to change what isn’t working.   Again, it (you) isn’t important to them until you have successfully discovered why and how they can use your services or products to solve their specific problems or needs.

Our second example, “My leads never call me back.”  Again, no one who has ever worked in the marketing industry will argue that people don’t always return your calls.  It may seem crazy that these people asked you for more information and you’re trying to get that to them but they won’t return your call; or they make appointments and don’t keep them, or they sign up and then cancel for no reason (at least no reason known to you!).   There are reasons behind everyone’s actions or inactions be it fear, lack of trust, or simply because they are living the victim lives themselves and don’t know what the hell they want.  However, they doesn’t take the responsibility off of you.

A responsible thinker recognizes these issues as inherent in business but they take all the necessary actions possible to overcome them.  They don’t place the blame for their business’ failure on it.  Perhaps the person behind the lead really wasn’t interested after all, they thought they were when they asked you to call but realized this was something they really didn’t want or need after all.  How many of us have done this?  It wasn’t anything personal.  We just changed our minds or simply don’t know what we want.  Again, this is the nature of people but this doesn’t let you off the hook completely as you do have some control in these situations.

You have to ask yourself, “What did I say or should have said on that voice message to increase the chances of a call back?”  “What was my tone and intention when I called?”  “Based on the information I have at hand, be it from a form they filled out online or other method from which you were approached, did I remind them of their “why”?”  Did I also try email?  Text message?  Looking them up in social media?  It isn’t enough to simply identify yourself and tell them you’re calling because they asked you to.  If you know why they called, for example let’s say they called for a “work at home” opportunity because they have a new baby and don’t want to leave home to return to their job – remind them of this.

Here’s a sample message, “Hi Christy.  This is Steve with Work at Home Partners.  I wanted to thank you for your request for additional information and take this opportunity to wish you congratulations on your new baby.  You must be extremely excited.  I know how important it is to new mom’s to stay at home and our team is filled with many successful moms and dads who we have done just that.  Please call me back (clearly stating your phone number twice), so I can show you how you can earn the income you need to stay at home with your new little one. I look forward to talking with you soon.” Do you see the power in this?  Do you see how there are numerous things you can learn to do to increase your rate of success?  You remind them of why they asked for more information, why this is/was important them.  It is your responsibility to do all you can to insure your success.  Now if you don’t have that kind of information when you make your call, consider where your lead came from.  Was it a job finder site or a mom’s working from home landing page?  The person requesting the information has a different “why”, different reasons for requesting the information that is important to them and you should mention this in your call.

In our third example, we used the excuse “The economy is so bad no one wants to join my business.”  I love this example because this is so easy and a great excuse that leave victim thinkers warm and fuzzy – again, blaming the situations for something large and seemingly outside their control.  How can you argue that excuse right?  I can’t control the state of the world, the poor economy, the stock market.  I’m a victim like everyone else, poor me!  I know you have heard it, probably said it in a moment of frustration right?  Well, we all slip from time to time but if you’re using this as your victim crutch, I’m here to kick the crutches right out from under you.

So what would the person that lives by the “Accountability Edict” do?  Honestly, the possibilities are endless. They begin by examining the factors that are within their control to change. They look at obtaining new skills and education, they look at offering different services and changing up their brand if needed. They determine how the skills they currently have can be tweaked for the new world they find themselves in.  They don’t explore blame but do look for ways to work smarter.  When circumstances outside your control change, you change with the conditions or change the conditions if possible.  When the settings change you can’t keep doing what you have always done and victims HATE this!!!  What is the new why, the new reason, the new problem that these new circumstances created that people want to fix and find the way you can be part of the solution.

As many of us right now can attest, there has been a tantamount shift in our focus with a great emphasis on helping people build a business, helping them replace lost income or supplementing their income because their old rate of pay doesn’t go as far.  More people need income alternatives now more than ever, that’s a nitch we can fill, and nothing grows your business faster than helping other people build their business.  When you hear business leaders talk about the enormous opportunity we have as marketers and brand builders know these aren’t just words to motivate or hype to get you moving faster, this is the stuff fortunes are made of – having the right opportunity at the right time and getting the word out.  That is where you sit today.  It’s truly a win-win situation for those that seize the opportunity.  Your responsibility is to change with the changing times to stay ahead.  Victims resist change and fall behind.

Lastly, and this really encompasses any problem or situation both in your lives and in your business, you have to realize that your success is in developing and growing yourself.  Fostering your sense of personal accountability is about throwing out all the excuses that hold you back, it’s about leading instead of following, it’s about stepping outside your comfort zone.  Now when you’re new to a business, and many of you are, you may feel that you’re following most of the time.  I personally prefer the instructor and learner contrast myself.  You watch, you study, you grow, you keep learning until you have the skills to begin leading.  No matter where you are in life or business you aren’t always one or the other, you’re always both – leader and follower, learner and instructor.  By education or life experience there are areas in your life where you are teaching some and leading others.  I’m always shocked when I ask potential business or networking partners, especially those that are parents, how they rate themselves as leaders and they give themselves low scores. They don’t even recognize themselves as the leaders they are despite the fact they are raising and teaching their children.  Where else is a leadership or instructor role more important?  I just use this as an example to show you, if you’re new to business, you’re not likely new to being a leader to someone else. You have it within you to reach the goals and achieve the dreams you’re after.  And if you’re in business, even a paid employee, you better recognize quickly that you’re in the  business of developing and fostering your personal brand.  Take control of your professional and personal reputation and you’ll be miles ahead of the others in no time.

So my challenge to you in life and business is to learn to think, act and behave with purpose and accountability and success will come to you in any endeavor because you are now in the driver’s seat.  You are the one making things happen.  Develop yourself as a leader, an expert, and the people and the opportunities will begin to seek you out.

So here are some parting questions to those who want to grow their business or those wanting to jump start their faltering career.  These are just a few “Accountability Edict” style questions the non-blamer, the responsible thinker should consider:

  1. Am I truly doing all I can do to grow my business/career?
  2. Am I doing what other successful leaders have done?
  3. Have I really learned, applied, and consistently practiced all that I was taught to do?
  4. Do I continue to review my company’s trainings and seek outside sources to gain new skills and techniques?
  5. Did I set my goals and stick to them? Do I review them often enough?
  6. Do I blame outside forces for my lack of success?
  7. Do I accept responsibility for my failures? My successes?
  8. Do I give back to others freely knowing my life and my business is dependent on giving without want, for that is how I get back in return?
  9. And while this may seem a bit off topic, I personally believe this is important in becoming and being a person of true character and success and building a brand as such – Do I consistently and unbegrudgingly practice acts of kindness? There is a universal power in this behavior beyond the scope of this discussion but it is so important to seek out opportunities to “Pay it Forward”, give back, perform random acts of kindness to those we know and those we don’t.

In creating a mindset for accountable living, live life as you want it to be, not necessarily as it is (now).  Give without want and your rewards, your very success and happiness will be virtually guaranteed.  These are things no one can do for you.  These are your own actions to take today.  That is the very essence of living a responsible life.  I have my own business tagline, not quite a mission statement however, that keeps me on track and sets the tone for those around me – The Promise of Success is Yours to Keep.  I can only be responsible for my own success as you can only be responsible for yours.  I can share of my time and knowledge, but that promise is yours to make and keep and the guarantee lies solely in you.  If you can’t keep your promises to yourself, you can’t very well expect the world to do the same.

Lastly, there is no success, no happiness or peace of mind for those trapped in victim thinking – those things are the rewards the survivor claims for him or herself by being accountable.  I’ve come to notice in my life, and during those times I’ve been captive of the victim mentality – they are often unaware of the embrace of negativity and weakness that blankets them.  My wish for you is that you are blessed with all the treasures this life has to offer – that you have or develop the understanding and appreciation for the power that lives within you.  Practice forgiveness, respect for yourself and others, make and keep all promises to yourself, and know that there is a world of abundance enough for everyone if you have the courage and perseverance to take personal responsibility for your business and your life.

 

The Uninvited Guest – A Personal Branding First Discussion

If there is one thing I love about personal branding, it’s the inner growth that automatically happens by successfully undertaking the journey.  Personal branding, if done correctly, by its very nature becomes a catalyst to personal growth – even unexpected healing.  Being an instrument and witness to that transformative breakthrough is why I do what I do.

Being unique in a crowded world is critical to success yet few have the courage to stand in the spotlight of their own glorious difference until such time the oft judgmental and fickle populous decides to accept and reward them for it.  Yes, personal branding can be hard – personally.  It’s rarely painless so let’s start at the beginning with the elephant in the room.

I seldom have the luxury of discussing personal branding without acknowledging its first and greatest obstacle.  It’s the uninvited guest that accompanies every coaching session on the topic.  Volumes have been written about it since the beginning of time.  It’s the world’s most powerful motivator and distractor.  It has always been the chain binding the feet of humanity.  It’s the poison that kills every dream and it’s the hurdle to every success.  It’s fear.

Let’s face it, few of us are blessed with an overabundance of self-assurance such that the critical words and negative opinions of others, whether real or imagined, have no effect on us. We spent our earliest years trying to meet the expectations of our parents, family, and friends.  By the time we entered high school our every thought and action were about fitting in.  Peer pressure and acceptance is the force few have the true grit to rebel against during those early years.  Argue if you will, but even the rebels had their own groups, and to fit in you had to do as the rebels did.  Whatever the uniting principles of your little band, you were bound by the code of its members at the time.  You dressed similarly.  Behaved similarly.  You had your own inside jokes and way of speaking.  Your goals were often similar.  The stories told, the music you shared and likely the socioeconomic make-up of the group didn’t vary greatly.  Yes, we all had our own drum to beat but we kept the same rhythm as the rest of the group or faced rejection.  Welcome to SamesVille!

The punishment for being different in SamesVille could be harsh.  Everyone was hardwired to avoid being too different and react automatically to those that tried to vary from the norm.  Repercussions ranged from being the butt of a joke to outright bullying until the behavior was corrected.  Few dared to risk ostracization.  Each school or community had their cautionary tales that became the stuff of our rejection nightmares.

Thinking back on my own teens, I shudder to imagine those years had the social media gods come into existence at that time.  Consider the pressure on our kids today, when your entire reputation literally hangs in the balance of the next Tweet, photo or video. The risk of being unique is daunting and the challenge of being accepted even more difficult.  The outcast risk becoming the next teen suicide statistic.  Our well-meaning and necessary efforts to build and maintain an orderly society, educate and keep our children safe, has innocently and inadvertently developed into a nearly perfect, invisible, self-perpetuating prison that our educated and civilized adult-selves spend a lifetime trying to either cope with or break out of.

Most adults operate on the same guiding principles they accepted back in school – avoiding the radar of differentiation, working and living within the same limits set by the invisible fences that shocked them into their restrictive boxes.  I’m not going to insult you by trying to convince you those same fences don’t exist for adults today.  They’re still there and they are still electrified by public opinions since we as a people can’t seem to evolve beyond them.  With that said, however, much has indeed changed!  Most importantly, I hope that change is you!

I’m not going to delve into a debate on sociology or the psychological dynamics of peer pressure among children and adults.  At this point, you’ve likely been both rewarded and occasionally beat down by those transitional realities and responsibilities.  Fortuitously, if you’ve read this far, you’ve had enough with that restrictive existence or are at least making the effort to break free.  If you need it, I give you permission!  You’re on an undertaking of personal branding excellence. The first step is the discovery of self, uncovering those oft-hidden differences and knowing it’s not only “okay” but expected that you celebrate those quirks and qualities that make you different; thus those insecurities and fear by-products of our childhood experiences must be overcome and discarded.

Easier said than done, it is time to shake off those past doubts and realize you are now emotionally equipped to deal with the monsters in the closet assuming the ghosts of that past are still haunting you.  Pointing fingers hold no bullets.  Rejection isn’t the big scary as you now possess the armor to deflect the sticks and stones you once feared. Take a bruise and know you aren’t going to break. The new world has boundless plunders for the enlightened, the brave and the different.  Sure, it takes courage and a temporary, discomforting stretch but it’s in that work the besting of those fears unlock the potential for incredible personal growth. It is also what is required to stand in the spotlight of public scrutiny and proudly display your personal brand for all the world to see.  You’ll find the positive side-effects far outweigh the negative.  It’s an empowering exercise that strengthens your inner resilience, builds the confidence to expand your audience and stand proudly basking in your own authenticity.  Truly, I’m excited for you!

Wrapping this up, I’m openly acknowledging for you that fear is likely to creep in during the process of developing and marketing your personal brand.  It’s a natural reaction when exposing parts of yourself when experience has taught you to cover or hide. However, I point out that most of those anxieties are unfounded.  You will find a world of supporters that you never dreamed existed!

I will also acknowledge that there are haters, doubters, and naysayers that will try to undermine your progress.  Some of them will come from unexpected sources that will surprise and confound you.  That is the world we live in, unfortunately. Their motives are to tear you down and keep you in the pits of despair of which they deem themselves king or queen.  Pity them but don’t enable them.  I call the haters “lobsters”.  You know the story of the lobsters in the tank.  Those on the bottom, not wanting to be left behind, pull down the ones at the top.  Shake off the lobsters and keep climbing.  The world outside the tank is the one worth living in.  I’ll revisit my earlier words, “stand in the spotlight of your own glorious difference” for in that light is the becoming of the personal brand of you.  I know it will be magnificent.

Killing Me Softly with My Posts

Is Your Personal Facebook Page Killing Your Business or Brand?

So, how many years has this social media thing been around?  15 years?  20 years?  Long enough that most people should have learned the what-not-to-do lessons by now; but alas, we’re surrounded by slow learners.

Certainly, I could write a tome on the subject but let’s keep it brief and on the question I pose in the subtitle – Is Your Personal Facebook Page Killing Your Business?  In case you need a reminder, few people and businesses are going to hire you or do business with you without checking out your social media first.  Yes, they are going to Google you and search you out on Facebook and other media.  If this comes as a surprise to you welcome to the new(ish) world.

First and foremost, let me jump right to Facebook’s security settings before I touch on anything else. I advise you to stop what you’re doing right now, including the reading of this article and check out the Settings section of your Facebook page.  Chances are, if you kept the Facebook defaults, your account is wide open to the world. Check out the settings now and lock it down.  This will stop many of these soon-to-be mentioned items from coming back to haunt you should you decide to ignore my recommendations.

Secondly, review your Friends List.  If you accept just any request that comes through you’re asking for trouble!  This is how hackers access your photos and your contacts and duplicate your account.  Shut this down immediately by not accepting unfamiliar or duplicate friend requests. Duplicate requests from what appears to be someone you’re already friends with is most likely a fraudulent, duplicate account looking to do bad things with your information (and face).  Also, if your “friends” can’t be trusted to not share something you’ve posted – delete them!  Don’t take the chance!  There are haters on your pages that will use your posts against you.  Don’t let that happen.

Third, don’t post anger- or hate-filled rants.  Honestly, the world doesn’t need to know your opinion no matter how badly you feel the urge to vomit it all over social media. Certainly, you have the right to do so, but how is a potential client or boss going to perceive it?  Are you always negative and dissatisfied?  Is what you’re posting worth alienating friends, family, and potential business. If yes, post away and accept the consequences.  You’ve been warned.

Lastly, what do the Shares, Photos, and Videos you post say about you?  Try to look at your Facebook activity through the eyes of an outsider and ask yourself what opinion they will develop about your lifestyle, your priorities, beliefs and basic morals or lack thereof.  Don’t forget to watch the content your friends tag you on. Yes, tagging can be turned off!  I recommend it so you don’t appear guilty by association. If it appears on your social media pages it’s assumed you approved it.

By now, hopefully, the full picture of how social media can make or break a career is pretty obvious. I’ve heard people recommend the practice of asking this question before posting, “Would I care if this post ends up on the 6 o’clock news?” Stop and think before posting because once it is out there it could potentially end up anywhere and (gulp) everywhere!

In this time, it is common practice for human resources, recruiters and hiring managers to scour the web to better determine the kind of person you are before granting that interview. Unfortunately, you’re never going to know the missed opportunities your drunken weekend, racist rants, religiously intolerant or disrespectful posts caused.  Just a few weeks ago I personally fired a company due to the owner’s hateful and name-calling posts about his clients.  Yes, his own clients!  This wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to do business with or be associated with.  Aside from the sheer stupidity of making such mistakes, the fact that the owner was a “marketing expert” prove that even some of the professionals still haven’t learned their lesson.  You can bet, however, in the example above they got ‘schooled’ quickly when the firing occurred.  You simply “don’t bite the hand that feeds” people.

So, clean up your act on Facebook and other social media if needed.  Learn the security features each social platform has built-in and lock out anyone you don’t want to see your posts.  While many of you can’t resist the power that comes in offending your friends and family, at least lock it down to keep your business and/or employment safe from judgmental spies.