Asking the right questions

- Gretchen Tegeler is president of the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa

Suppose you set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to fulfill a five-year pledge you made to a capital campaign for your church; or to construct the Botanical Center’s outdoor gardens; or to build the University of Iowa’s new Children’s Hospital. In each case it would be something of enduring value – something that will benefit future generations. During these five years, your gift happens automatically each month, and each year, without having to be re-evaluated against other wants and needs in your household budget.

Now imagine it is five years later, and you have just received a notice in the mail asking you to sign and return a form for a five-year renewal. Would you just go ahead and sign it and send it back, or would you ask some questions first?

For example, would you ask:

(1) What has been accomplished with the original funds? Is the project completed?

(2) What is the remaining need, or what is the new need going forward?

(3) Does this cause remain the top priority that it has been before, given the things that have changed in your family over the past five years? What if you now have to pay for long-term care for a family member, for instance?

Most of us would ask the questions before renewing a major commitment. However, in the world of public policy, these questions are too often not asked. Renewal is assumed. Best example: K-12 school infrastructure funding.

For all the value there was in kicking off a conversation about water quality funding, the proposal to extend the sales tax after 2029 and use a tiny share of it for water quality improvement meant there was never a discussion of whether the sales tax for school infrastructure even needed to be renewed.

The discussion went straight to “us” versus “them;” education versus environment; the idea that it is somehow wrong to even dare to propose any change. But the questions need to be asked and the discussion needs to be had. It’s a huge amount of money, and its renewal deserves deliberate, thoughtful consideration.

First some background. In 2008 the Iowa Legislature dedicated a full one-cent increase in the sales tax to fund K-12 school infrastructure needs for 20 years, through 2029(1).

This amounts to about $440 million per year – which is HUGE in the overall scheme of things: large enough that in any given year it could build the equivalent of at least five metro nitrate treatment plants; four brand new metro-scale hospitals; at least ten Iowa Supreme Court buildings; or renovate the State Historical Building as proposed five times over.

Just seven years in, the impact has already been substantial. Looking around the metro area, it’s amazing to see the transformation that has taken place over the past several years.

The Des Moines Schools Central Academy building at Grand and Fleur was once an eyesore, but now is gleaming and beautiful. Des Moines elementary schools, some of which are over 100 years old, look better now than they have in my 60-year lifetime.

In the West Des Moines district, every school has been updated to current code; its high school has been substantially upgraded and expanded, and the Valley High School Staplin Performing Arts Center is a new $15 million, 1,200-seat state-of-the art facility that any metropolitan city, let alone a school district, would be proud to call its own. Iowa students are very fortunate, and I am so pleased that our generation has stepped up to make it happen.

If all of this has been accomplished in just seven years (albeit using future revenue in many cases), it’s exciting to imagine what might yet be done in the next 13 years. But what will be left to do after that, in the following 20 years? What will remain to be done, so early in the remaining design life of the recently built or restored buildings? Might a 20-year $10 billion program be enough to sustain at least several generations of schoolchildren before a program of such substantial size is needed again?

Our organization held a program at the Staplin Performing Arts Center and the audience was surprised to learn about how education funds are so “siloed.” West Des Moines needed to make budget cuts at the same time it was opening the new performing arts center. As this legislative session ends, more districts are looking at cuts in their operating budgets. Maybe there is a better way to reallocate resources within the education system. Or imagine directing these funds to other goals within education. For example, what if we decided to do whatever it takes to get every third grader reading at grade level? Don’t we want to opportunity to think about such possibilities in 2029?

Over 20 years, needs do change. Since the school infrastructure program was enacted, the State has expanded the Medicaid program to assure 100,000 more Iowans have access to health care. It is 90 percent funded by the federal government now, but that share will decline and the state share will grow. This will place a tremendous strain on resources in the future.

If the stock market experiences another downturn, pension costs will explode. It hard to imagine what the pressures for funding might be by 2029.

Or think about the far future, 2049, the final year of the proposed extension. Are we being presumptuous to think that we know better how to spend half a billion dollars per year in 2049 than will the generation of decision makers of the day? My 6-year-old granddaughter will be 39 years old by then, and may wish to make her own choices.

While it may be disappointing that funding for water quality improvements was not identified this year, it does provide an opportunity to ask the right questions and make a conscious decision before extending the largest targeted spending program in the State's history.


(1) One might wonder why the tax needs to be extended now, since it’s only 2016 and it runs through 2029. This is because school districts like to borrow money up front, and then repay the bonds with their annual share of the sales tax over a future period longer than the 14 years that are now left.

 

SOCIAL STYLES Conclusion: Moving forward!

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

In a series of blog posts this month, I've introduced the SOCIAL STYLE ® methodology for identifying four interaction styles of most workers. They are: 

Today I will summarize and help you and your team gain higher versatility. 

SOCIAL STYLE recap:

SOCIAL STYLE is the world’s leading behavioral style model. It has been used by thousands of organizations to improve leadership performance and sales results. Each of the four Social Styles have positive and negative characteristics when working with others, but research shows that people of any Social Style can be successful in any profession.

If someone’s Social Style is not inherently good or bad, what is the point of studying these behavioral preferences? Understanding Style allows you to identify the preferences of others and modify your behavior to make others more comfortable. This is known as versatility, and it is strongly linked to career and business success.

In this series I focused on what type of fuel each Style needs to be successful. The more we understand the fuel of those around us, the more proactive we can be in meeting their needs, developing a productive relationship and, most importantly, getting results.

What fuels each Style?

  • Driving Style people are fueled by getting results. They are assertive, independent and focused, but can be seen as cold and impatient. These are the members of your team who are focused on getting things done.

  • Expressive Style people are fueled by attention and approval. They are relational, enthusiastic, and creative but may not manage their emotions appropriately. These are the members of your team who get others excited about what's happening.

  • Amiable Style people are fueled by stability and security. They are relational, supportive and adaptable, but may not speak up or share their feelings if they perceive they will create conflict or won't be well received. These are the members of your team who will bend over backwards to make sure everything is OK and have a bad habit of putting others' needs ahead of their own.

  • Analytical Style people are fueled by making the right decision. They are logical, organized and detailed, but can be indecisive if they don't feel they have enough information. These members of your team will cross t's, dot i's, and make you think about things you never thought of.

Each Style has positive characteristics that make them valuable to your team, while also having negative characteristics that can make them challenging to work with. SOCIAL STYLE is all about understanding others' Style, making an effort to fuel others correctly,and getting desired results together. 

Achieving High Versatility

Versatility is our ability to adapt to people and situations as needed. If we have low versatility, we expect others to adapt to us. When we have high versatility, we recognize the value in meeting people where they are and working together to get results.

I am an Expressive Style which means I'm assertive and emotional. I'm fast-paced, creative, and relational, but can become frustrated when things aren't moving at the pace I want or I don't feel my ideas are being considered or respected.

I achieve versatility when I am able to get out of my own way and adapt to the Styles of others and fuel them properly. When I work with people who have a Driving Style I am less "fluffy" and more direct. When I work with others who have an Expressive Style, I am creative with them, but I try to be more detailed and logical. When I work with people who are Amiable, I try to be more steady and compassionate while making them feel like they can do anything. When I worked with people who have an Analytical Style, I know I need to be more thoughtful and organized and they are likely going to ask me questions about things I either don't find important or I haven't thought of.

Low versatility is becoming annoyed with others for whatever reason and allowing that to affect the level of trust and respect we have for them, ultimately impacting how we work together. High versatility is understanding people are different, appreciating what everyone brings to the table and fueling them properly because we know that is the best way to achieve results and achieve success skills mastery.

Things to think about:

  • Are you owning your Style? (the good, bad and ugly)
  • Are you fueling the people around you properly? (if not, don't get mad when their performance suffers)
  • What do you need to do to achieve high versatility? (It is a choice to be made.)
  • What if your whole team achieved high versatility? (That is leadership.)

I've been fortunate to work with hundreds of leaders across the United States. There is a difference between people who strive to achieve high versatility and those who expect others to adapt to them because of their ego or position. As you might imagine, their results are quite a bit different too. Commit to high versatility.

 


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Feeling overwhelmed? Try letting go

Peace begins when expectations end photo- Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Just let go! The advice sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Your mind may be screaming back, “Oh, no! How can I possibly let go? There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all. I can’t let go! What if I miss a deadline? What if the kids don’t get dinner? What if the laundry is not done? What if? What if? What if?”

Yet research clearly shows us that if things are piling up and we are feeling overwhelmed, the precise prescription to feel better is to walk away for a bit. Or better yet, take a day off. You will return with a renewed attitude and uplifted spirits. By letting go, if only for a few minutes, you will also be able to think more clearly and be more productive when you return to your projects.

Another way to remove yourself from the feeling of being overwhelmed is to take an honest look at the expectations you have of yourself and others. Decide which expectations are inconsequential and then let them go.

Are you a perfectionist? I was too and it was literally killing me. Through a series of unpleasant events I got the message that not everything I am doing has equal weight. My business projects need to be a priority and need to be done very well. I hold myself to high standards for those. But other things in my life are simply not as important.

We humans think in patterns and love to categorize. To help me sift and sort the importance of each task and project, I created a little mantra for myself: “How Good is Good Enough?”

When I begin to work on something I quietly ask myself, “How good IS good enough?” This simple question allows me to choose how much time and energy needs to be put into the task at hand. Or if I will do it at all. My mantra also creates a huge sense of freedom as I let go of unrealistic expectations. The weight of feeling overwhelmed is lifted from my shoulders when I determine how good “good enough” really needs to be. Then I simply let go of the rest of the expectation.

Let’s try this out. Does it really matter if there are dirty dishes in my kitchen sink? How good is good enough? Since the morning is my most productive time, is it good enough to leave the dirty dishes in the sink right now and to spend my time writing instead. Really, will anyone die if there are dirty dishes in the sink? I release the expectation that in order to be a good person my kitchen sink has to always be clear of dirty dishes. (Where did that unconscious programmed belief even come from? How preposterous!) And then I say to myself, “No one is going to die because there are dirty dishes in the sink. Who cares? Let that go!” Then I take a deep breath and walk away from the dishes. The beauty is that this entire conversation with myself happens in a split second. My choices about where to spend my time and energy all come from asking “How good IS good enough?”

Now you try it. Will anyone die because the shoes by the doorway are in disarray? How good is good enough? Will anyone die because you chose not to look at your email on Sunday afternoon and to focus on family time instead? How good IS good enough? The mantra is a great stress reduction and work-life balance strategy.

In my garden greenhouse I have a rock that has a saying etched on it, “Peace begins when expectations end.” When I figure out which expectations I can put an end to and then release them, I sink into the most delicious feeling of peace and serenity. This is what balance feels like. Feeling overwhelmed is a thing of the past. At those moments I welcome the ease. Everything feels right with the world. My intention is to let go, release expectations and to create more of these Zen moments in my life. Ahhhhh!

SOCIAL STYLE #4: Analytical Style

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

Think about your employees as though they were a fleet of luxury cars, each of which require different kinds of fuel or power to achieve top performance. That is how I introduced SOCIAL STYLE ® in my first post in this series, which outlines the four different Styles of people that make up your workforce.

  • Driving Style
  • Expressive Style
  • Amiable Style
  • Analytical Style

In part two, I tell you how best to work with people who have a Driving Style.

In part three, I wrote about working people who have an Expressive Style.

In part four, I discussed people who have an Amiable Style.

Today our focus will be on people who have an Analytical Style.

How do you know if people have an Analytical Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong 50 percent of the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at jason.kiesau@aureon.com. If your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

Style is determined by how we say and do things. This is called our "observable behavior" and it's based on our assertiveness (how assertive or passive we are) and our responsiveness (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with an Analytical Style are less assertive and emotionally controlled. This means they are more passive when they want something and they tend to respond to things with logic and little to no emotion. They are organized, detailed, and value processes. 

Who do you work with that might be an Analytical Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

Of all the Styles, people with an Analytical Style are the ones who will cross t's, dot i's, ask questions and obsess over details to ensure the best decision is made. They are the ones who will poke holes in your master plan and make you think about things you never considered. 

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with an Analytical Style are fueled by making the right decision. Analytical Style people get a bad wrap for being challenging and difficult because they ask a lot of questions, poke holes in ideas and need to think about things. They are not trying to be difficult. They are fulfilling their need by ensuring they are making the best decision possible. Rushing them or expecting them to make a decision with little information is like siphoning gas out of their tank. They won't move. 

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

People with an Analytical Style prefer to be logical and thoughtful with how they do things and they make decisions in that same spirit. What does being thoughtful mean? This means they prefer to learn more, ask questions, process, analyze, organize and make sense of things with the sole purpose of greater understanding so the right decision can be made with the littlest risk.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

People with an Analytical Style try to make everything black and white, but you and I both know the world is not always black and white. Most of the time it's gray, blurry and ambiguous. They are not always going have all the information they want. The Analytical Style's opportunity for growth is to be more decisive. When they don't have enough information they can get caught in paralysis by analysis and stall whatever progress is being made. Sometimes we have to make a decision with what the information we have and move forward.  

What stresses them out?

Tension rises when they are rushed or forced to make a decision without all the information. This can happen when working with a Driving Style who is impatient or an Expressive Style who is too "fluffy" and hasn't thought through all the details. 

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

When tension gets too high, people with an Analytical Style will check out and can become passive aggressive. At some point they may stop trying to convince us to be more thoughtful and may just watch us crash and burn if we aren't willing to value their opinions. 

How can you work with them to maximize results?

First and foremost we have to value what they bring to the table. They keep us out of trouble. As an Expressive Style I am visionary, creative and get excited about things. I don't always like it, but I expect people with an Analytical Style to ask me questions and challenge me to think about things I haven't considered. Knowing what gives them security I have had to change my expectations from creating urgency to respecting their process. If I need to work with someone with an Analytical Style my top two questions for them are: "What other information can I provide?" and "What else do you need?"

The last post of this series is later this week. In it, I will bring everything together with a summary of the previous five parts and end with the concept of achieving higher versatility.

 


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Service: The differentiator

- Tom Vander Well, executive vice president of c wenger group, is a recognized customer service authority in the contact center industry.

When it comes to differentiating your business in the minds of customers, there are three core opportunities. Branding and marketing may get customers to give you a try, but the best branding in the world does not ensure long-term success unless you consistently deliver something tangible to those customers that differentiates you from your competitors.

In general, you can compete on price, you can compete on product quality, or you can compete on service. In my career I've learned that the greatest opportunity to leverage service as a key differentiator lies in markets and industries that no one considers "service" industries.

Almost a quarter century ago my colleagues and I began working with a little known manufacturing company here in the Midwest. The company manufactures small components, often costing a fraction of a penny, that most people don't know exist. These little components are, however, used in everything electronic. When we began working with them there was growing global competition for the small-price/high-volume materials.

The founder of the company was a shrewd businessman. He knew that trying to be the lowest price provider in his market was a path to limited profitability. He realized that product quality would only get him so far in a market that often demanded material that was "good enough" for their applications.

And so, in a market rampant with poor customer service and crusty, hard-nosed B2B communication, the businessman decided he had an opportunity. He invested in providing service that no one in the industry could match. He constantly measured what his customers expected, then defined and delivered a service experience that exceeded customer expectations. At the same time, he consistently maintained slightly higher prices.

The cultural change required to provide great customer service was fraught with obstacles both internal and external. It took time, but the company slowly changed the way it communicated with customers, distributors and outside sales.

Our customer surveys over the years consistently revealed two things. First, customers were never happy with the company's higher prices. It was always their biggest complaint. Second, customer satisfaction with service was extremely high and measurably higher than any competitor.

During economic downturns customers took their business to Asia because the prices were lower, but time and time again the customers returned within months because they learned that it was worth paying a little more for a better service experience. This company picked up the phone, responded to email, communicated with courtesy, and provided a service experience that the competition couldn't match. They continue to successfully do it to this day.

Customer service is often compartmentalized in our minds to those businesses tapped as "service" or "hospitality" industries. The truth, however, is that customer service has the greatest potential to make a profitable difference in industries where it is least expected.

Why people give you referrals

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

The first step to increasing referrals is knowing why your clients refer you to their friends and family. You may want more referrals because they increase contracts/sales and — quite frankly — make you feel good. But customers care little about making you money.

People refer friends and family for many reasons (e.g. reciprocity, social status, obligation, homophily, exclusivity). Yet the biggest motivator is rather simple:

They want to help someone they care about.

Some businesses position referrals as something that’s rewarded for providing great service. That they have essentially ‘earned’ a referral by providing excellent service. This approach, however, is inherently self-centered because it’s asking “how can you help me” rather than “how can I further help you (and your friends)”. Frame the discussion around how you’re eager to help their friends and family; and that a referral will afford you this opportunity.

“I’d love to provide great service to your loved ones” rather than “I hope I’ve earned a referral.”

Asking for referrals flat out is rarely effective. You should let them blossom on their own by creating an environment where they will flourish. This begins early by planting a referral mindset in the minds of your clients. Using language that conveys the significance of referrals for your agency subtly, yet consistently, will ensure that you’re referred when the time is right.

For example, during the onboarding of a new client send an introductory email that mentions how important referrals are to your business. Not because they result in more sales, but that they reinforce that you’re providing excellent service. Say you want to work with more people like them, and that you genuinely care about serving their friends and family.

Follow up with clients often; thanking them for their loyalty and letting them know you’re there to help with anything they need. Remind them that you’d enjoy working with their friends and family, and not to hesitate sending them your way. Mention that their loved ones should ask for you directly and that you’ll take extra care.

It boils down to nurturing client relationships and guiding discussions around referrals. Happy clients will be eager to share their experience with friends and family when you take care of them and point them in the right direction.

If you’re interested in learning more ways of increasing referrals, you can check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

SOCIAL STYLE #3: Amiable Style

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

In the introduction to this series, I compared your team to the luxury cars that may be parked in your garage. Like a fleet of cars, your people must be fueled properly to achieve top performance. And each may require a different kind of power, which may be thought of as the four different SOCIAL STYLES of workers:

  • Driving Style
  • Expressive Style
  • Amiable Style
  • Analytical Style

In part two, I wrote about how you can best work with people who have a Driving Style.

Part three was about how you can best work with people who have an Expressive Style.

Today our focus will be on people who have an Amiable Style.

How do you know if people have an Amiable Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong half the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at jason.kiesau@aureon.com. But if your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

The four Styles are based on how we say and do things. This is called our "observable behavior" and it's based on our assertiveness (how assertive or passive we are) and our responsiveness (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with an Amiable Style are less assertive and more emoting. This means they are more passive when they want something and they tend to respond to things with emotion, both positive and negative. They are highly relational and supportive. Of all the Styles, people with an Amiable Style are the "people pleasers". They might have a hard time saying no and they want everyone to be OK.

Who do you work with that might be an Amiable Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

People with an Amiable Style are master relationship builders. They are friendly, supportive, adaptable and want to serve people. These are the people who won't think twice about going the extra mile for the team or a customer. 

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with an Amiable Style are fueled by security and stability. They just want everyone and everything to be OK. Being too assertive, confrontational, inconsistent or unpredictable is like pouring bleach in their gas tank, it will ruin it. The challenge with people who have an Amiable Style is you may not know there is damage until it's too late.

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

The nurturing spirit of people with an Amiable Style lead them to put relationships ahead of results and avoid conflict like the plague. They prefer to build close relationships with people they can count on. They are the utility people on your team that when someone doesn't show or something needs done, they will jump in to serve anyway they can. When it comes to decision making and overall being decisive they can be passive, timid and lack confidence. Unless made to feel secure they aren't forthright with opinions and feelings if they perceive they won't be received or will create conflict.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

People with an Amiable Style are people oriented. However, in the spirit of serving others and making sure everyone and everything is OK, they may not speak up when they need to. Their opportunity for growth is to be more assertive. First, they need to know their opinions and feelings matter just as much as everyone else. Second, disagreement and conflict is OK. People with an Amiable Style will shut down if they feel like what they have to say won't be received well or if it will create conflict. The challenge is you might not realize it. They tend to not address things and bottle things up until it's too late.

What stresses them out?

Tension rises when they don't feel security and stability with people or situations. They want everyone to be OK and situations to be steady and consistent. 

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

Of the four SOCIAL STYLES, people with an Amiable Style may show they are stressed the least. When things get too tense they withdraw. If they do share an opinion or idea and it isn't received, they will quickly give in and retreat, but you may never know it. People with an Amiable Style are accommodating to begin with, but don't confuse their accommodations for approval. 

How can you work with them to maximize results?

As leaders, I think it is our responsibility to create a culture that helps people with an Amiable Style find their voice and learn how to be assertive. They have the people skills down and will bloom as their confidence grows. In team settings, make sure they have a voice. If you want feedback, specifically ask them and give them a chance to answer; don't expect them to compete with others because they won't. Make sure they know their thoughts and feelings matter and they are a valuable asset to the team. Give them permission to find their voice. Let them practice being assertive and demanding. They are loyal to a fault and will kill it with your customers. Growing their confidence will strengthen your team and make you a better leader.

In my next post, I will talk about people who have an Analytical Style. People with an Analytical Style are described as less assertive and emotionally controlled. They tend to be more reserved, organized and detailed with a focus on facts and data. Who do you work with that could be described this way? I look forward to sharing with you how you can work with and fuel people with an Analytical Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.

 


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SOCIAL STYLE #2 - Expressive Style

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

In PART ONE I talked about your people being like the luxury cars sitting in your garage. Like your cars, your people must be fueled properly to achieve top performance. I introduced SOCIAL STYLE ® and outlined the four different Styles of people that make up your workforce.

  • Driving Style
  • Expressive Style
  • Amiable Style
  • Analytical Style

In my second post, I talked about how you can best work with people who have a Driving Style.

Today our focus will be on people who have an Expressive Style.

How do you know if people have an Expressive Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong 50 percent of the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at jason.kiesau@aureon.com. If your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

Style is determined by how we say and do things. This is called our Observable Behavior and it's based on our Assertiveness (how assertive or passive we are) and our Responsiveness (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with an Expressive Style are assertive and emoting. This means they are assertive when they want something and they tend to respond to things with emotion, both positive and negative. They might be described as fast paced, enthusiastic, creative and emotional.

Who do you work with that might be a Expressive Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

People with an Expressive Style are creative, enthusiastic and highly relational. Their energy is infectious and their ability to adapt allows them to contribute in a variety of ways. 

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with an Expressive Style are fueled by attention and approval. They want to be liked and need to know they are doing a good job and appreciated. Not considering their ideas or being overly critical and negative toward them without a foundation of trust and respect can be like a spark hitting a gas can; things can get explosive. 

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

People with an Expressive Style are assertive, enthusiastic and spontaneous. They are not bound by rules and processes and prefer to be creative. If you are person who values details, processes and predictability; people of this Style might be challenging to work with. People with an Expressive Style tend to make quick decisions, based on feelings and opinions.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

People with an Expressive Style have a few key areas of weakness and opportunities for growth. The first is how they respond to things. They are assertive and they wear their emotions on their sleeves. You know when they are happy and you know when they are not. People with an Expressive Style need to make sure they manage their emotions properly. Their second opportunity for growth is to not take things so personally. As stated above, people with an Expressive Style are fueled by attention and approval. When they don't feel approval they can take it as disapproval and take it personally, leading to insecure and unproductive behaviors that hurt themselves and the people around them. Finally, in their creative and spontaneous nature, people with an Expressive Style need to give more attention to important details and time frames. Sometimes they can get so caught up in what they are doing they may miss or ignore things critical to getting results.

What stresses them out?

Tension rises when they don't feel listened to, accepted or approved of. People with an Expressive Style depend on social cues and nonverbal communication to know where they stand with others. They may struggle when working with less relational Styles like Driving and Analytical who tend to be less emotional and more focused on the job and desired results.

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

Of the four SOCIAL STYLES, people with the Expressive Style can be the most challenging when their tension rises. If unmanaged, their assertive and emotional nature, mixed with a tendency to take things too personally, may result in them becoming defensive, if not confrontational. 

How can you work with them to maximize results?

Understand their need for attention and approval and make an effort to fuel them. If you tend to be relational, fueling them shouldn't be a problem. If you are someone who is more results focused, you may get annoyed with the perceived neediness of the Expressive Style. You have to get past that. Their productivity and your overall success may depend on them. When fueled properly, people with an Expressive Style get after it with great enthusiasm and that's good for everyone.

In my next post, I write about people who have an Amiable Style. People with an Amiable Style are described as less assertive and emoting. They are highly relational and supportive, but may lack confidence to voice feelings and opinions in fear of "rocking the boat". Who do you work with that could be described this way? I will tell you how you can work with and fuel people with an Amiable Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.

 


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Managing your IT vendors

Dave Nelson, CISSP, is president and CEO of Integrity. 

IT-vendor-managementOutsourcing of information technology services is common. Companies from the largest to the smallest outsource some part of their information technology needs. Larger companies have the benefit of senior level leadership, which can provide solid oversight to these third-party IT vendors, but smaller organizations are at a great disadvantage in this arena. Completely reliant on their IT vendors, small organizations must trust their providers to fully understand their business when making recommendations for technology solutions.

Selecting an IT vendor

Selecting IT vendors should be like selecting the right doctor. You have one vendor that can provide most of your day-to-day requirements, but you might have a couple of others who specialize in certain areas and can help develop a strategy that best fits your business. Certainly, you may pay a little more for those specialty vendors, but that additional cost is justified by eliminating the risk of going with the generalist for your specialty needs.

Understanding the statement of work

When outsourcing IT services, it is important to establish a roles and responsibilities matrix. The IT vendor knows exactly the services they will and will not provide based on the statement of work. Do you? This is one of the biggest gaps we see during data breach investigations. The organization believes they have outsourced a function to their IT vendor, but the vendor believes only a portion of that function is their responsibility. Critical tasks are then left with no one to perform them, which leads to a cyberattack.

The price of miscommunication

A common occurrence is in anti-virus management. An organization outsources anti-virus management to a vendor and assumes the vendor is providing end-to-end management of this solution. Based on their contract interpretation, the vendor believes they are only responsible for installing the anti-virus solution and providing a centralized management console. They believe the client is responsible for monitoring the console for malware activity and systems, as the client did not sign up for the “Platinum Level” of service. This leaves the client out of compliance with the definition update or daily scanning policy.

As you can see, there was a breakdown in communication. The client didn’t understand their responsibilities based on the service they had actually purchased. Who’s at fault? Is it the client, for not getting a clear picture of what they bought? Or, is it the vendor, for not clearly communicating risk that wasn’t being addressed? Each party has some responsibility in this scenario.

Roles and responsibilities

Organizations that use outsourced IT vendors need to understand that they are ultimately responsible for protecting their systems and data. They should require a roles and responsibilities matrix to help develop an understanding of what the vendor is doing and not doing for the organization. This is especially true now, as many IT vendors are backing away from including many information security tasks in their standard service offerings.

Following a security framework

This roles and responsibilities matrix should be aligned with some form of best practices or security framework such as NIST SP 800-53. Organizations should also require their vendor to have some sort of oversight for their service delivery. Vendors should be required to go through an audit each year, either by the organization or a qualified auditor. This will ensure that the vendor is providing the service levels and security activities required by the contract.

The impact of your organization’s regulations

If you are regulated by HIPAA, FDIC, NCUA, NERC or other federal agencies or regulations, IT vendor management will become very important to you in the coming months and years. Regulators are taking a much closer look at how well you manage risk to your systems and data. They are checking to make sure you are providing oversight to the vendors who provide information technology services for your organization.

 

Dave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. Dave Nelson 2015 IowaBiz Blog

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Farmers markets: Good for the body and the economy

Jim Miller is executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation, which owns and operates the Valley Junction Farmers Market. Contact him at director@valleyjunction.com.

The farmers market in Historic Valley Junction begins Thursday, May 5, and runs through Sept. 29. Our welcome center office has already been getting inquiries about it from fans and visitors.

Over the past two decades, the way we shop for our food has shifted dramatically, with an ever-increasing emphasis on local, organic and clean food.

According to the USDA, there were approximately 2,863 U.S. farmers markets in the year 2000. Today that number is nearly 8,500 – and growing. Of this total, Iowa has approximately 250 farmers markets, with 40 located in the central Iowa region.

According to Eat Greater Des Moines, within our region (Polk, Dallas, Marion and Warren counties) you can find a farmers market Monday-Saturday. We have over 26 markets taking place on a weekly basis, all selling a variety of locally grown produce, plants and flowers, breads and baked goods, meats, dairy, and value-added products.

It is impossible not to acknowledge the amazing growth and expansion of the local food movement. Events are held from corner to corner of this agricultural state, from a small town square with 10 vendors to larger cities like Valley Junction in West Des Moines and our 80-100 vendors each week. We’ve been operating our market since the mid-1970s and our current format since 1988.

I won't speak for all 8,500 farmers markets in the country, but I will speak for the one in Valley Junction (and I think for a good share of those 8,500). Farmers markets are good for the body, soul, community and economy. Fill your body with Iowan-grown produce, home-baked bread and baked goods, Iowa-raised chops and ice cream from an Iowa dairy operation. Fill your soul with one-of-a-kind creations from Iowa artisans and flowers from Iowa gardens.

These community events are family-friendly, most are pet-friendly, and in the case of Valley Junction, we also offer the best music around with our Music in the Junction concert series and optional adult beverages.

More and more Iowans want fresh local food, and also want a relationship with the grower. The significance of income from farmers markets in the world of food retailing should not be ignored.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition:

  • Growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those that do not sell locally create three jobs per $1 million earned.
  • For every $100 spent at a farmers market, $62 stays in the local economy, and $99 stays in the state.
  • Nearly $19 million in SNAP benefits (food stamps) was spent at farmers markets in 2014. That's fresh food for lower-income Americans and increased revenue for local farmers. Markets bring fresh food to neighborhoods that need it the most.
  • Proximity to farmers markets is associated with lower body mass index. Walk or ride your bicycle to your favorite farmers market.
  • USDA reports that produce prices are lower, on average, than grocery store prices.
  • Shoppers have more than three times as many social and informational encounters at farmers markets than they do at national chain supermarkets.
  • In Iowa, every dollar spent at farmers markets led to an additional 58 cents to $1.36 in sales at other nearby businesses. This is perhaps the strongest response to the question, “Does a farmers market really help Valley Junction (or any community)?” Yes!

Here’s my parting shot: Do your civic duty and support the community around you. Supporting your community and supporting your local farmers market is simply the right thing to do. Grab your canvas bag, and I’ll see you soon at the market.

SOCIAL STYLE #1: Driving Style

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

In the introduction to this series last week, I wrote about employees being like the luxury cars sitting in your garage. Like your cars, your people must be fueled properly to achieve top performance. I introduced the SOCIAL STYLE ® theory and outlined the four different Styles of people that make up your workforce.

  • Driving Style
  • Expressive Style
  • Amiable Style
  • Analytical Style

Today our focus will be on people who have a Driving Style.

How do you know if people have a Driving Style?

There are really two ways to discover someone's Style. First, you can guess, but Tracom Group says that when we guess, we are wrong 50 percent of the time. Our recommendation would be to have them take the SOCIAL STYLE, Self-Perception Profile and you can schedule that by emailing me at jason.kiesau@aureon.com. If your choice is to guess, let me try to help you out.

Our Style is determined by how we say and do things. This is called our "observable behavior" and it's based on our "assertiveness" (how assertive or passive we are) and our "responsiveness" (whether we respond to things emotionally or emotionally controlled). People with a Driving Style are assertive and emotionally controlled. This means they are assertive when they want something and they tend to be less emotional when they respond to things. They might be described as independent, driven, cold and impatient.

Who do you work with that might be a Driving Style?

What are their strengths and why do you need them on your team?

People with a Driving Style are action oriented and they get things done. They don't get bogged down by details or the opinions of others. They see what needs to get done to achieve the result and they go for it.

How do you correctly fuel them?

People with a Driving Style are fueled by results. They know what they want to do and they make it happen. If you work with a Driving Style you must respect and support their need for and pursuit of results. Getting in their way with too many details or too much fluff would be like putting diesel fuel in your hybrid, it's not going to work. It will lead to poor performance.

How do they prefer work and make decisions?

Remember, people with a Driving Style are described as assertive. They move fast and tend to be more formal. They don't get caught up in paralysis by analysis or overthinking. They see what they want to do and BOOM, they take action toward it. They tend to make quick decisions which can be positive or negative. They like to keep things moving.

What are their weaknesses and opportunities for growth?

In their assertive and fast-paced pursuit of getting desired results, people with a Driving Style may not listen to the people around them or show they even care what they think. They can become very focused on what they are doing and impatient when they feel they are being held back or slowed down. Their opportunities for growth are to become more patient, a better listener, and more relational. If they aren't careful, people with a Driving Style will make others feel put down and run over. Understanding what others need will be key to their growth.

What stresses them out?

Tension rises within a Driving Style when there is a lack of progress toward the desired result. 

How do they behave when there is too much tension?

When tension becomes too much, people with a Driving Style may become very autocratic. They will stop listening to others and caring what they think. They are likely to become demanding with orders and may decide to ignore other efforts and just do it themselves. When tension rises within a Driving Style, try not to be confrontational or take it personally, but see it as an opportunity to learn why they are stressed and what you can do to lower their tension and move things forward.

How can you work with them to maximize results?

Understand the desired results and support their efforts. Be direct with them and don't get too detailed or fluffy when communicating because you'll lose them. Encourage thoughtfulness and patience and remind them that things are best achieved when people work together.

We are a culture that values getting things done and of all the Styles, none are more efficient in getting things done than someone with a Driving Style. In my experience, most top leaders and/or producers have a Driving Style as they tend to focus on the goal and take action to get results. For how productive they can be, people with a Driving Style really need to learn to appreciate and value other Styles. Results are important, but how they get their results could be the difference between great success and frustration.

In the next post, I will write about people who have an Expressive Style. They are described as assertive and emoting. They are fast paced, enthusiastic, creative and tend to respond to things with emotion, both positive and negative. Who do you work with that could be described this way? I look forward to sharing with you how you can work with and fuel people with an Expressive Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.

 


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

 

The QWERTY problem

- Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

The QWERTY keyboard was invented in 1873 to alleviate a mechanical problem with typewriters contemporary to that time. The metal bars that held the keys would get stuck together as individuals typed. To correct this problem, the most used letters were spaced apart so the bars would not stick to each other. That’s the only reason that the QWERTY keyboard was invented.

Typewriter_jam

As the typewriter has become obsolete, different keyboard layouts have been introduced, none of which has been adopted. But why? The Dvorak key arrangement was designed to enhance the speed of the typist. There was even an ABCDEF layout that was designed to break us of our addiction to the QWERTY style keyboard.

We become so accustomed to using things, systems, or processes that we sometimes lose sight of why we are using them. The concept of path dependence is something that has a very large influence on the success of strategic planning. When we use one of these things we are accustomed to, and subsequently follow a predetermined course of action or behavior, there almost certainly has been a “critical juncture” at some point in the past. At that moment, we made a decision that set a specific trajectory leading to this predetermined course.

This trajectory and the decision that set it in motion are generally based on legacy knowledge, and, from the moment of that decision, a behavioral bias was formed. Seldom do we make decisions that we do not have supporting data on, such as with our ability to be effective in completing skilled tasks. These tasks require legacy knowledge of what steps make that task successful.

If I were to ask you why you use a QWERTY keyboard, you might answer that it’s the most readily available, and it’s how you learned to type, and it doesn’t make sense for you to change. Fair enough. But if I could demonstrate that one of the alternate layouts would improve your results dramatically, would you change to one of these new layouts? Likely not; because you’d be breaking a convention and deconstructing the hardwired “critical juncture” and resulting path dependence that has developed as a result of that decision. Your decision to use the QWERTY layout is so far in the past that it would cause a dramatic decrease in your ability to be effective if you were to change now.

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But is that really true?

In strategic planning, there is a strong bias toward using conventions to achieve results. I am not arguing that you should not use those conventions from the standpoint of best practices and institutional knowledge. However, organizations should use caution here, and watch for the biases presented by path dependence that may be woven into organizational practices.

This is another example of the importance of asking “why” organizations do the things that they do. A majority of the population likely does not know why they use a QWERTY keyboard or what the origin of that key layout is. The same is probably true of ingrained organizational strategies.

As you develop your strategic plan, it is important to consider the past in the context of what was effective in a way that is germane toward developing a strategy for the future. Simply sticking to a path because it conforms to what builds upon what already exists will not always yield optimal results; in fact, it may lead you to make decisions that will alter your course in a damaging or negative way.

As with the problem with the metal bars that QWERTY was designed to correct, so must the considerations be in designing the optimal framework for strategic planning – or you might be trying to solve a problem that hasn’t been a problem for almost 60 years.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

Nonprofit profile: Goodwill helps those with mental disabilities

- Susan Rathjen is vice president of Private Banking for Bankers Trust Co., Clive.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and for me, that’s a personal subject. It may be for you, too.

My mother has schizophrenia. She is so much more than a medical diagnosis, and her disease does not define her. But, it has sparked my passion and my goal: to bring awareness to the community about mental health disorders.

One way I try to do that is through my work with Goodwill of Central Iowa.

I have served on Goodwill’s board of directors since 2013. I was drawn to Goodwill after I took a tour and learned about its Day Services program, which provides skills and social training to adults with a range of developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. I saw individuals being served in a very caring manner, which inspired me to volunteer at Goodwill client functions.

I have some experience with physical disability too, as my husband suffered a traumatic accident, which included a head injury, in 1997. As a result, he is unable to work. But, we chose to look at his accident as a blessing and an opportunity, because he’s been able to stay home with our kids. He is the rock star of our home!

I’ve enjoyed volunteering with Goodwill’s Day Services program. It’s so important for the clients to have that interaction. Whenever I volunteer, I am reflective, and it reminds me that there are great services out there -- and that my situation is not that bad.

Today, my mother has a great support network with help from my father and from Veterans Administration services. But, not every family finds help to cope with the barriers they face.

Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, many people are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help for themselves or their loved ones.

Goodwill of Central Iowa is available to help.

Goodwill’s mission is to improve life for all by providing skills training and helping people with barriers to employment find jobs. What I have learned is that those barriers are not just mental and physical conditions, but they include disadvantaging conditions such as being an older worker, having a lack of child care or transportation, and gaps in work history.

Last year, Goodwill served more people and placed a record 914 people with 439 central Iowa employers. And those placements resulted in an estimated $49,750,000 boost to the local economy.

And, Goodwill’s e-waste program kept close to 5 million pounds of electronics out of the landfill.

Goodwill is so much more than a second-hand store. And it does so much more than simply hire people to work at its stores. Goodwill strives to bring out the best in people, to make a positive difference in the lives of people it serves and to have a positive impact in our community.

Want to volunteer with Goodwill so you can improve lives? Here are some ideas:

  1. Assist at client events by chaperoning, serving food and interacting with clients.
  2. Drive clients to and from social events.
  3. Sort donations, stock shelves, fill displays and clean in our stores.
  4. Help our Shopgoodwill online auction department by photographing or packaging items, or determining their value.
  5. Organize a donation drive at your school or business.

For more information, go to dmgoodwill.org

Susan Rathjen is vice president of Private Banking for Bankers Trust Co., Clive. She was named this year to the Business Record’s prestigious 40 Under 40 list. She has received the Bankers Trust Leadership Academy Peer Award, she volunteers for Joppa Outreach, a faith-based non-profit that helps homeless people, and she serves as the event coordinator at Eternity Church in Clive.

There are always consequences

“It starts with a small decision.” 

SnowballWalter Pavlo had earned a master’s degree in finance from Mercer University in Macon, Ga. and was a discontented senior manager at MCI Communications when he started taking advantage of the company’s lax accounting standards. He is talking about small decisions he made over the course of time and a path of dishonesty and fraud that resulted in a $6 million crime and two years in prison.

Post-prison, Pavlo works with organizations and business schools to help others avoid the path he traveled. He makes the following point: 

“It starts with a small decision that incrementally got worse and worse. You tell yourself your intentions are good at first, but then you find yourself in a place you don’t recognize…it’s tough to get back.”

The path to corruption starts with a single step – usually a small one that seems like no one is getting hurt and there are no consequences. 

Actions have outcomes. Behaviors have consequences. We can see how a series of small bad decisions and behaviors add up to enormous negative consequences. 

So it is with small good decisions. While small behaviors and actions may not seem to have a meaningful impact and may not seem to have consequences, they do. This truth is hard for us to remember when we are inclined to believe that the big win comes from the big action. It is small behaviors carried out consistently over time that represent competitive advantage for modern organizations.  

The snowball effect

The Snowball:  Warren Buffett and the Business of Life is a biography written by Wall Street Analyst Alice Schroeder on the world’s most famous investor. Snowball is a metaphor for describing the law of compound returns – the core investment concept for how wealth grows over time. A small snowball rolling downhill gathers mass, which increases speed, which continues to increase mass. The longer the hill – the larger the snowball grows. In investment terms – the longer the runway before retirement, the greater the opportunity to benefit from the law of compound returns.  

The same law applies to human interactions. Over time, our actions and behaviors consistently carried out multiply and ultimately become our brand. If they are positive human interactions, the brand is a positive one. If they are negative, so goes the brand.

Sweat the small stuff

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff is one of the Don’t Sweat series of best-selling books by author Richard Carlson, Ph.D.  Carlson, a recognized expert on stress reduction and happiness, inspires people to keep from getting bogged down with little things in life. The ability to manage stress, calm ourselves down and achieve balance is a goal worth attaining. 

Sadly, the sentiment of not sweating the small stuff, intended to preserve physical and emotional health, has a dark side. 

Minimizing or rationalizing the effect of small things is a recipe for disaster, as Walter Pavlo learned when his small dishonest actions added up to a serious crime and prison sentence. Similarly, minimizing the impact of small positive things can lead individuals and organizations to miss important opportunities.

Leaders are wise to contemplate the small decisions that are made daily in the areas of the business entrusted to their care and foster a culture that focuses on getting the little things right consistently.

Taking pains with the wording in an email to a client, matters. Pausing and reconsidering before texting a potentially offensive joke, matters. Struggling with the best way to express our gratitude to a colleague, matters. Wrestling with the various ways our message may be received by our boss, matters. Rehearsing how we are going to talk to our child about values, matters. It’s all seemingly small stuff and it matters.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Treat employees like luxury vehicles

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills, and is the author of FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now! and Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals.

If you are a leader in an organization, your employees are a lot like the luxury vehicle(s) you may have parked in your garage.

  1. They are expensive.
  2. Their performance is dependent on regular checkups and maintenance. 
  3. Poor performance is frustrating.
  4. If they break down, you go nowhere.
  5. It's hard to get ahead if you are constantly replacing them.

Let's pretend for a moment that you own four different luxury vehicles and each vehicle takes a different type of fuel.

  • Your sedan takes regular unleaded gas.
  • Your SUV takes diesel.
  • Your hybrid takes unleaded fuel, while also powered by electricity.
  • Your fourth luxury vehicle is 100 percent powered by electricity.

I'm no mechanic, but common sense tells us that if you want top performance out of each of your four luxury vehicles, a good place to start would be to make sure you are fueling and powering each with the fuel and/or power they are designed to take.

Would you agree?

I mean, if you ignore the needs of your vehicles and try to use the wrong fuel or power, what results should you expect? Do you really have a right to get frustrated when you put diesel fuel in your hybrid and its performance is poor, or worse it doesn't run? What do you do then? Do you trade it in for another vehicle you hope will meet your performance expectations or do you figure out how to fuel it and power it correctly?

Your employees are like your luxury vehicles.

Forty years of research suggests you likely lead, manage and work with four different types of people. Like the four luxury vehicles outlined above, each type of person needs a different form of fuel. Failure to fuel people correctly will lead to poor performance and frustration. Success Skills Mastery is understanding the fuel needs of the people around you and giving them what they need.

We use a program called SOCIAL STYLE ® to help clients learn more about the people they lead, manage and work with and what fuel each needs to achieve top performance. SOCIAL STYLEs says your workforce is made up of the four following Styles of people:

  • Driving Style
  • Expressive Style
  • Amiable Style
  • Analytical Style

Over the month of May, I am going to detail each of the four SOCIAL STYLEs in greater detail. In subsequent posts you will learn the following things about each Style:

  • How to identify an employee's Style
  • Their strengths and why you need them on your team
  • How to correctly fuel them
  • How they prefer to work and make decisions
  • Their weaknesses and opportunities for growth
  • What stresses them out
  • How they behave when there is too much tension
  • How you can work with them to achieve maximum results

Your organization can have purpose and vision. Your strategic plan can be well developed with meaningful goals, plans, and processes. But, none of that matters without people to share your purpose, be inspired by your vision, and have the desire to achieve your goals.

Take some time to think about different individuals you work with. What makes them valuable to your organization? What gives them security? What motivates them? How do they prefer to work? What is their decision-making process? What are their weaknesses? What stresses them out? How do they behave when stressed? How can you help them succeed?

Fuel your people. Fulfill your vision!

Part Two Preview: In part two I will talk about people who have a Driving Style. People with this Style are described as assertive and emotionally controlled. They are fast-paced, independent, and get things done. Who do you work with could be described this way?  I look forward to sharing with you how you can work with and fuel people with a Driving Style to achieve maximum results in your pursuit toward success skills mastery.

 


Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

The buyer journey and your website

Alex Karei, marketing director for Webspec Design, blogs about web strategy.

As individuals in the business world, many of us have been tasked with helping clients move along the “buyer journey.” After all, without a buyer, we wouldn’t have a business, now would we? But, just in case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, the buyer journey is typically defined in three phases.

Stage one: Discovery

At this phase, your potential buyer doesn’t know you exist. They may not even know they have a need you can address as a company. Typically, they’re experiencing symptoms of a problem at this stage, and beginning research to address said problem.

Stage two: Consideration

Buyers know they have a solvable need, and they likely know about several companies that can address that need for them in different ways. In essence, the client has clearly defined the problem, and is now in full-on research mode for the best solution

Stage three: Decision

Here, your buyer has now decided what the best approach is to their need. They’ve identified vendors who can solve this problem, and are now narrowing the list to select the final vendor they’d like to go with.

As you consider your website and other digital marketing efforts, it’s important to keep the buyer journey in mind. Read and think about the following real-life situation. Do you think it’s realistic?

Susie Smith drives home from work, thinking through her to-do list for the evening. “I don’t have time to purchase groceries for dinner tonight,” she thinks. “Let’s see, I could go out to eat. Or maybe I should get takeout? Maybe ... Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would just shop for me? I hate spending all the time weaving through aisles. Wait! I know there’s a local grocery that will shop and deliver the food to my house for me. That’s what I’ll do.”

Now, you might have gotten the point that “Susie” was thinking about Hy-Vee’s newer Aisles Online service. However, Susie would have never known about that service if Hy-Vee hadn’t marketed it to her. And, if they didn’t? She wouldn’t have known that service was an option, and therefore, might have gone to the typical takeout solution automatically.

Now that we’ve clarified (on a high level) what a buyer’s journey is, I’m going to spend my next few posts on IowaBiz discussing some ways that each of these stages can be considered throughout your website and digital marketing strategies. I’m excited to help you think about how to better align those stages with what you’re doing in your current web strategy.

First up: why you should consider “Discovery” first and foremost for your company’s web strategy. Stay tuned!

Alex-Karei_YPFinalist2016Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her via:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Greater transparency for out-of-state LLCs? Not so fast.

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. 6a00d83452ceb069e201b8d17a5a67970c-320wi

On April 12, the 2016 Iowa Legislature passed a new law that seeks greater transparency into foreign limited liability companies (read: out-of-state LLCs) seeking to transact business in Iowa.

Specifically, the legislation (HF2373) mandates that when out-of-state LLCs apply to transact business in this state they must disclose at least one of their owners (if member-managed) or one of their managers (if manager-managed).

Importantly, the newly-passed legislation was amended on the Senate floor to remove a requirement that ALL members or ALL managers be disclosed - an important change from how the legislation was originally introduced on February 19.  

Currently, when out-of-state LLCs file an application with the Iowa Secretary of State's Office to transact business in the state, they are not required to disclose the identity of any owners or managers. This new legislation eliminates previous anonymity.

However, because Iowa law permits members and managers in an LLC to be corporations, estates, trusts, partnerships, and LLCs, complying with the new legislation would not necessarily require the out-of-state LLC to identify an actual person.  For instance, an owner in an out-of-state LLC who does not want his/her identity known under the new law could largely side-step the transparency requirement in one of two ways:

 

  1. If the LLC has multiple owners or managers, the individual could simply disclose another owner or manager.
  2. If the member or manager in the out-of-state LLC is a corporation, trust, or even another LLC, the owner could simply disclose that entity and thereby avoid disclosing her/her personal identity.

If you are involved with an out-of-state LLC seeking to transact business in Iowa, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney who practices in this area of law. 

Seven-year itch can also hit business owners

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of the Heart of Iowa Market Place.

The seven-year itch.

Almost everyone associates it with marriage or, if you’re old enough, the Marilyn Monroe classic with the iconic scene where she’s standing on a subway grate and a passing train creates a breeze that blows up her white dress.

Specialty retailers might not know it, especially when they’ve been hit by it, but it’s been proven that they are also prone to the itch. Sometimes it’s seven years, sometimes it’s shorter and sometimes it’s longer, but make no mistake, the itch can sap energy, excitement, motivation and satisfaction from the best of us.

Employees can feel the itch, too. Especially millennials, it seems. But that’s a topic for another day.

Experts say rollercoaster sales and revenue cycles can be a major big cause for the itch among business owners. (Sound familiar, retailers?)

Ironically, what business coach Jim Rohrbach described in an August 2000 Entrepreneur magazine article as the “boredom of success” can be another trigger.

In other words, the itch can strike if your business is too volatile or too successful.

Rohrbach said in that same article that one way to scratch the itch is by creating a bigger mission for your business. “Large goals take many steps to achieve and each can erase boredom and keep the entrepreneur focused,” wrote Jeffery D. Zbar.

I agree, but with this caveat: Make sure that bigger mission fits snugly to your business plan. I can think of few things that would aggravate the itch more – and be more exhausting – than to take on a big investment of time, energy and money that pulls you away from what you do best.

Other potential remedies are pretty much what you’d expect, including time off, travel and looking at your business in a new light with the help of advice from other business people, a book or class.

For me, the itch doesn't wait seven years. Mine usually hits every five years, but it's a good thing. I don't necessarily want to change my career path, but I need to find some new excitement with my career or business.  Whether that is taking on new projects, looking for new ways to grow my business, just something to continue to make me excited about going to work.  

I’ve always been a big believer in asking tough questions – and being honest with myself about the answers – to keep my focus where it needs to be. I make sure it becomes a motivator to keep my store and products fresh, take a look at the entire business with a fresh set of eyes and from the customer's perspective to see what new goals we should implement and new products we should introduce.

Having the itch is not a bad thing when it's used as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you are doing and not become complacent.  

As for me, I can’t image a better script with a happier ending than to be a specialty retailer in today’s competitive economy.

Next month: What to do to scratch an employee’s seven-year itch.

Feeling stressed, tired and rushed?

Stressed out office worker photo for IowaBiz  (1)Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Are you juggling work and family commitments and feeling as though you are not doing either well? It turns out that you are not alone.

Welcome to a social problem that is plaguing American workers. Some researchers call it ‘work-life balance’, some call it ‘work-family effectiveness’. Whatever we call it we should take heart that if we work and have family commitments for children, aging parents or just making time to take good care of ourselves, this is not an individual problem. The feelings of inadequacy that juggling responsibilities creates is a social problem. It is an issue that most of us need to think about and address to break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed.

In 1989 a book called “The Second Shift” rocked our worlds when sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild described the double burden employed mothers face because they are also responsible for housework and child care after returning home from a long day at work. In 2014, she said that despite some changes in society, the workplace had not changed enough to alleviate these stressors and problems.

Research study after research study indicates that the tension caused by juggling commitments is affecting American family life. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisors shows us that working parents are the new norm. Sixtyt percent of children now live in households where all of the parents in the home work at least part time. In 1965 the number was only 40 percent.

The Pew research group found that 56 percent of all working parents say that the balancing act is difficult. These folks are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful; they are less likely to find it enjoyable and rewarding. Even if the children are grown you may find that you are still carrying the responsibility for a portion of their support and their living arrangements on top of your demanding job.

Sixty-five percent of parents with college degrees in the Pew study said they found it difficult to balance job and family. Professional workers are more likely than hourly workers to be expected to work, even after they leave the office, creating more work after the housework and family care responsibilities of “the second shift’.

The expectations of modern parenthood, care taking for elderly parents and the post-recession workplace, where working longer hours with less support is common, have all collided. We all lose.

How is a person in the new American workforce supposed to deal with these issues? The suggestions here are just a beginning list as I will be sharing more strategies in future articles:

  1. Engage other family members to take responsibility. Attend the Lift IOWA and Business Record event “Sharing the Second Shift” on May 4, 2016, to learn more about how gender equity in the home results in better outcomes for mothers, fathers, children and business. My business, Rita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting, is a proud sponsor of this important event. Register at www.businessrecord.com/events.
  2. Become a lean family machine. Whether you are a single parent, an uncoupled person caring for an aging parent, or part of a partnership caring for children or pets, to alleviate our stressors we need to strategically create an efficient lifestyle given the realities of our work and family situations. A good first step is to take stock and list all of the commitments you have. Then pare down. Jettison anything that is a non-essential activity in your family and use that extra time to spend quality time together as a family.
  3. Be creative with your time. Would your employer consider a flexible work schedule where you arrive and leave early each day? Can you do any work from home or off site during the work week, minimizing the need for child care? Can you swing by the gym on your way to work and stay a bit later at the office that evening? Can you create a family game of getting the housework done each weekend, complete with rewards? Can you hire someone to do the things you don’t like to do or have the energy to do, freeing you up to feel more fulfilled about where you are putting your time.
  4. Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Are your expectations to “be, do and have it all” unrealistic at this time in your life? Take the pressure off yourself and learn to say these magic words: “How good is good enough?” No, I am not advocating mediocrity here. I am suggesting prioritizing which tasks or activities make the most sense to spend time on. Do the children’s shoes have to be arranged perfectly next to the doorway? Is it worth 10 minutes of your day to rearrange them or can you live with them in disarray and instead spend the 10 minutes to read a story to your kids. How good IS good enough?
  5. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your family. Sit them down and brainstorm solutions to the problem of having too much to do and too little time to do it in. Who is willing and capable of feeding the dog each day? Is your partner willing to commit to cooking or providing take-out four days a week? My husband tells the story of when his mother, at the age of 52, decided to finish her bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s degree with the dream of becoming a teacher. She held a family meeting to announce that her education would be her top priority and that the family would all need to work together to figure out a plan to put meals on the table each night. She was not going to be providing that service to them anymore. The beautiful part of this story is that the family collaborated, Ruth attained her college degrees and the lives of the students she taught were positively influenced. By having the strength and courage to speak her truth and let go, she created a win-win for everyone.

Balancing your professional life and your personal life does not have to be elusive. Using these suggestions, we can all take one small step today to slow down, become aware and make a deliberate small but mighty change. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and tired, we can feel a bit of peacefulness and enjoy our work and family situations again.

Brave new world of foodies

- Jessica Dunker is president/CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association

The Food Network is fast approaching its 15th year of delivering food-focused television programming into homes across the country. The impact that 24-hour access to TV shows featuring chefs, culinary tourism, cooking, “rescues” and competitions has on every facet of the restaurant industry cannot be overstated.  

Suddenly everyone is, or wants to be, a foodie. Or at the very least a food enthusiast. Many appear to be succeeding in their quest to increase their cuisine savvy.

Research from the National Restaurant Association found that 9 out of 10 restaurant operators feel guests are more knowledgeable about food than they have been in the past. Eight in 10 say their customers are also paying more attention to food sourcing and production than they were two years ago. Just as many have seen a notable rise in how adventurous restaurant guests are willing to be with their food choices.

Consumer data confirms these operator observations. One study found 72 percent of people are in fact seeking restaurant food experiences that provide tastes and flavors they can’t duplicate at home. Roughly half of restaurant patrons actively seek establishments where they can try foods they haven’t tried before. This is true for both table service and limited service restaurants — further indicating that American palates are expanding and expectations are increasing regardless of price point.

So how are restaurants responding to this brave new world full of foodies?

In a recent food and menu trends survey, more than three quarters of operators said their restaurant is offering a wider variety of menu items now than they did even two years ago. Last year alone more than 80 percent of restaurants added a new entrée to their menu, of those, more than 90 percent plan to do it again in 2016.

As consumer expectations evolve, restaurant operators know they must do more than keep up— they need to be a step ahead. What might that look like? If the most recent chefs’ surveys are any indication restaurant patrons can expect to see the rise of vegetable-centric meals, ethnic meals, condiments and spices, and the harking back to traditional preparation methods (bring on the meatloaf).  

Ultimately though, restaurateurs will serve what people are willing to pay for. Meaning, menus will change and evolve, but there will always be a place for perennial favorites, no matter what goes on around them. Being in the restaurant business is after all being in business. Operators need to do things that keep customers coming back. 

So even if trendy new foods dominate conversations (as well as Instagram), there will always be a place on the menu for French Fries, burgers, and fried chicken. And thank goodness for that.

--Jessica Dunker

What is my company worth?

- John Mickelson, managing partner Midwest Growth Partners, is IowaBiz's blogger on succession planning. Read more about him here. 

Business owners often consider their business to be an extension of themselves and many have a high opinion of what their business is worth. Telling the business owner the “wrong number” can be like calling their baby ugly. If they seek to sell their business though, they need to have a realistic idea of what it is worth. 

So how are businesses valued by buyers?

It is purely supply and demand and, at any given time, a business is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it. Period. Tire-kickers do not buy businesses, buyers do.

If you need help figuring this out, a reputable business broker or investment banker can provide you with a range of what is realistic.

The primary valuation techniques involve value of assets, including intangibles, and cash-flow. In addition to those, several factors can influence how buyers like Midwest Growth Partners will view the value of your business.

Here are a few of the less common:

  1. Would your business provide a competitor with an immediate way to enter a new sales or product market? If so, and if that company is interested in making acquisitions, that buyer should be willing to pay a premium for your business.
  2. Does your business have steady, consistent cash flow like an alarm company, which has a 95 percent annual renewal rate or is it lumpy cash flow that is more project-based like a general contractor? Buyers are willing to pay more for businesses with predictable cash flow.
  3. Are there leverageable assets in place? Commercial banks are increasingly picky on what assets they will lend money against. If your business does not have assets that a buyer can secure debt with, the buyer universe will shrink because it will require all-cash buyers and therefore the value will go down.
  4. Is there a competent management team in place that can run the business if you are gone? A buyer may have their own ideas for strategic or personnel improvements – but they will also be willing to pay more if there is a talented team already in place.
  5. Does the business require significant working capital during parts of the year to operate? A buyer will pay more for a business if cash is not tied up in inventory or accounts payable.
  6. Are capital expenditures and systems up to date? A buyer will be willing to pay more if they know they are not going to have to spend cash immediately to catch-up on deferred capital expenditures.

These are a few of many, but are a good way to start the process of determining a value. 

Your business needs a social media presence… Now what?

- Katie Patterson, founder and CEO of Happy Medium, writes about social media for IowaBiz.com

We live in a digital age and the necessity of a social media presence can no longer be ignored by businesses. You may have reached the point where you know you need to jump in but have no idea where to start… Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, oh my! It can be so initially overwhelming that it’s easy to just put it off and worry about it later.

Take a breath and don’t fret. Companies often times think they need to jump in everywhere to be successful, but in reality, what platforms you should have an active presence on really depends on your target audience. It’s rare that a company has a need to be on all programs so take a look at your own customer demographics and where those fit in best with social media to develop your approach.

Facebook

Facebook is by far the most universal social media platform, and if you have to start somewhere, the best bet is to start here with a business page. In January 2016, Facebook released there were more than 1.59 billion monthly active users worldwide (that’s 71 percent of all adults who go online), and of those, 1.04 billion log in daily, a 17 percent increase year over year. Women are slightly more active here but the difference is not large enough that you wouldn’t be able to reach both them and men if you are targeting one over the other.

  • Tip #1: Do not make a personal page in your business name; it’s not a great user experience and you won’t get the same benefits of a professional account like analytics.
  • Tip #2: More visual posts – such as video, photos and designed graphics – do tend to perform better, so have fun with it!

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Coca-Cola, Nike, Chanel.

 

Twitter

Twitter is the next most known platform with 23 percent of all internet users active on it. This is much less visually-driven content than the others we’ll discuss today and is best used for brief announcements or breaking news about your company, participating in industry conversations such as Twitter Chats, and providing an extension of your customer service. The demographics show that majority of users are 18-49 years old.

  • Tip #1: Twitter users love to have dialogue with companies and brands about both good and bad experiences so if you decide to invest time in this platform, make sure you have someone responsive dedicated to participating in the discussions and offering solutions.
  • Tip #2: Do not link your Facebook and Twitter accounts so they’re posting the same content simultaneously.

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Southwest Airlines, MTV, Oreo, Scandal (yes, even your favorite TV shows can be active).

Instagram

Instagram currently has a lot of buzz and is being praised for its growth. This platform is primarily known for utilizing photos although there is an option to implement videos which just expanded from 15 second snippets to now 60 seconds, initially launched by the Taylor Swift treadmill campaign. Twenty-eight percent of adult internet users are active here or 24 percent of the entire adult population. Women are slightly more involved than men here (31percent to 24 oercent) according to recent Pew Research Center studies.

  • Tip #1: Food, pets, and hand lettering do incredibly well on this platform. Go for bright colors and utilize apps like Over or Word Swag to add text to your photos before posting.
  • Tip #2: If you decide to do both Facebook and Instagram, try to not overuse the same images on both platforms. It’s ok to post to both, but try to spread it out a couple days or so in order for your audience sees value in following you on both.

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Staples, Mercedes Benz, Kum & Go.

Snapchat

Snapchat is having a moment. It’s rise in popularity has really exploded with more than 100 million active daily users and 8+ billion video views every day, but there’s a common misconception that this is only utilized by teenagers. While 60 percent of users are 13-24 years old, Adweek actually just reported the platform has seen a noticeable spike in active 18-34 year old women this year.

Snapchat is a series of photos and videos that only last for a set amount of seconds and then disappear. It was first utilized by friends who wanted to communicate with images or video but not take up huge storage space by sending via text. Brands eventually caught on, and visual industries such as fashion have been having a large growth in presence and engagement.

  • Tip #1: Focus on telling a story rather than just posting random content here and there. Take your audience behind the scenes in a cohesive series of posts.
  • Tip #2: Show content they won’t see anywhere else, on any of your other platforms, giving them premier access to what makes the magic of your business happen.

        Brands to follow for inspiration: Starbucks, Taco Bell, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The best thing about social media is that it’s free to participate so you can experiment to see what works for your company. You do, however, have to invest time and creativity, and if that gets to be overwhelming, there is help out there.


Katie Patterson is the founder and CEO of Happy Medium, a full service interactive marketing firm. Follow her on Twitter - @_klpatterson.

Spring clean your leadership

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of the International Coach Federation (Iowa chapter), a Forbes Coaches Council member, and owner of MAP Professional Development Inc.


Magic of Tidying book w websiteWhat on earth does decluttering have to do with career, business, and leadership success?

Quite a lot, actually. Consider this scenario:

You wake up in the morning feeling uncharacteristically energized and alert. An exciting project awaits you – one that uses your strengths and passions and that will make a huge difference – and you’ve been anticipating the day when you’d have focused, quality time to work on it. Today’s the day!

You shower, grab your coffee or tea, walk into your workspace, and immediately feel swallowed up by all the papers, files, notes, lists, piles… You can hardly see your desk or chair for all the clutter.

How likely are you jump right into that project now?

Chances are, your energy and focus promptly take a nosedive. Just as physical “stuff” can drain us of precious motivation, so too can clutter in other, less obvious forms.

Good news, though! You can spring clean those less tangible areas, too – at any time of year. Here are five great places to begin clearing up your leadership:

  1. Your schedule.

Is every moment of the day accounted for? The lack of breathing room can contribute significantly to stress and distraction. Build in some buffers throughout the day – even just ten minutes here and there – and use them for quick walks, meditation, or absolutely nothing.

  1. Your meetings.

What do unproductive, aimless, never-ending meetings bring out in you? Probably not your best side. Send a (brief) agenda in advance, clarify and gain agreement on the desired meeting results, hold standing meetings, start and end on time. Side note: Start each meeting with everyone sharing a win. It’s quick, uplifting, and energizing!

  1. Your to-do list.

How many items are on your to-do list today? Now, honestly, how many will you actually complete? Identify what I call your Daily Top 3 – your three most important priorities of the day – then focus on them intently. Practice delegating, outsourcing, re-ordering, or letting go of other tasks.

  1. Your self-doubt.

Everyone questions their decisions and abilities from time to time, but don’t let your uncertainty derail you. “Decide & Take Action” has long been one of my guiding principles; seeking support, reviewing your successes, and surrounding yourself with positive people can all help.

  1. Your message/brand.

What do you stand for? What is your authentic leadership brand? What do you want to be known and remembered for? Trying to please everyone means essentially you please no one, especially not yourself. Conduct a values clarification and revisit (or create) your purpose statement, using them as your filter and guide.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

What’s your favorite spring cleaning tip? Consider how you might apply a variation of it to your work, leadership, or life. For added inspiration, check out a decluttering book for ideas.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, for example, promotes physical decluttering based in one underlying question: “Does the item spark joy?” If it does, keep it, says Kondo. If it doesn’t, it’s time to let it go.

Ask yourself similar questions with commitments, to-do items, activities, and the like: “Does it help me fulfill my purpose? Does it align with my values and goals? Does is serve the greater good? Am I the best person to do it?”

Pause. Open the proverbial window and let in some fresh spring air. Spring clean your work, leadership, and life – and move a little more lightly as a result!

How will you spring clean your work, leadership, and life? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified and award-winning executive and leadership coach who helps people work, live, and lead with meaning and purpose. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com or on Facebook, Twitter (@DrChristiCoach), and Instagram (@DrChristiHegstad).

You never know...

Danny Beyer is the vice president of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services. 

On March 21st I received an email that read:

“…Larry suggested I connect with you due to your vast network and your enthusiasm for expanding other people's networks. I am looking for a position in Iowa, particularly the Des Moines area and need to expand my network here.” 

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’re probably aware that I never turn down a first meeting so I replied that I would be happy to get together.  We set a date for coffee at Panera on the following Monday.   

The conversation started off like most introductions. Where are you from? How did you get to where you are now? What do you like to do for fun? What are you doing professionally?  That last question was where everything changed. I quickly found out that my new acquaintance had a vast background and unique skills that Kabel Business Services needed. I told her more about Kabel and asked if she would be interested in interviewing. She said yes!

We brought her in to interview on Tuesday and by Friday she had accepted our offer. We now have a great new employee bringing a wealth of knowledge and skills that we were lacking, all because I accepted an introduction and had coffee with a stranger. 

The point really is you never know who you are going to meet or what they may bring to the table. I typically don’t have expectations of what will take place during a first meeting. I only expect to have a good conversation and meet someone interesting. It happens, more often than not, that I get much more than that. 

Keep meeting people and have conversations with no expectations. You never know what may come out of it.

- Danny Beyer is the vice president of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services and author of The Ties that Bind:  Networking with StyleHe is also a professional speaker on networking.

Boom times for city budgets

- Gretchen Tegeler is president of the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa

Property taxes were due on March 31, so for many people, property taxes may be top of mind right now. It’s always a good idea to turn the bill over and look at which local governments receive what share of the total bill, and how much each the tax collected by each local government grew compared with last year.

Meanwhile, local municipalities have finalized their budgets for the upcoming year, which begins July 1, 2016. The first payment by taxpayers for that budget will come due next September.

Last month’s blog wondered whether cities would capture this year’s large increases in property values in their budgets for the year that starts July 1, or whether they would allow property owners to keep some of it in the form of lower rates. When property valuations on existing residences and businesses grow substantially, as they have this year, property taxes also grow substantially, even with a constant rate.

City budgets have now been finalized. They show that just three of 15 area cities are reducing their property tax rate for the upcoming year: Ankeny, Bondurant, and Johnston. Congratulations to these three cities!

But in all other cases, as shown below, the property tax rate is either staying the same or increasing. As a result, a lot of revenue will be generated and a lot of property taxes will be paid!

Certainly there are situations that may necessitate a substantial increase in revenue, but it’s hard to see why city property taxes in the metro area need to grow an average of 6.8 percent over last year. And why is general fund spending increasing an average of 7.4 percent when inflation is around one percent? These growth rates are truly extraordinary.

 

Changes in Property Tax Rate, Revenue and Spending
Fiscal Year 2016 - Fiscal Year 2017
  FY 2016
Rate

     FY 2017
       Rate

 Rate
Reduced?

% Growth in Property Tax Revenue* % Growth in General Fund Spending
Altoona 9.9437 9.9437   8.2% 12.0%
Ankeny 11.8500 11.7500 x 10.8% 9.4%
Bondurant 13.9363 13.8862 x 9.4% 6.4%
Carlisle 14.6408 14.6519   3.4% 8.8%
Clive 9.9895 10.1450   7.3% -1.9%
Des Moines 16.9200 16.9200   5.1% 5.1%
Grimes 12.9138 12.9147   12.7% 19.1%
Indianola 12.7000 12.7000   1.6% 13.1%
Johnston 11.5005 11.4000 x 4.9% 7.1%
Norwalk 15.6938 15.6950   5.7% 7.0%
Pleasant Hill 11.6500 11.6500   2.6% -8.5%
Urbandale 9.8200 9.9200   6.7% 6.5%
Waukee 13.5000 13.5000   8.8% 12.1%
West Des Moines 12.0000 12.0000   6.9% 4.9%
Windsor Heights 15.0759 15.0759   7.4% 10.1%
Average     6.8% 7.4%
      
* Does not include utility replacement revenue, nor state backfill.  
Source: Iowa Department of Management   

Over time, local budgets tend to grow much faster than inflation and population. One of the reasons is that it sounds good to be able to say there is no increase in the tax rate in a given year (though there may be lots of growth in the property tax base). And there are unlimited opportunities to do good things when more funds become available with so little political effort. But residents and businesses need to be asking the follow-up questions. How much growth in actual revenue will this rate generate? Why is it needed? Is it sustainable? Or is it being spent just because it’s there?


Our local officials are very accessible, and they like to engage with citizens in substantive discussions. It’s easy, and this year’s budgets provide an excellent starting point for discussion. You can find contact information for your city's elected officials at one the League of Women Voters website to learn what’s happening – and why − in your community.

 

 

MidAmerican changes the game

With its latest announcement, MidAmerican Energy is transforming Iowa’s competitive position for major-energy economic development projects. 

- Brent Willett, CEcD is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Follow him at @brent_willett.

Some individual and institutional stakeholders in today’s job creation landscape cling to a bygone [or never-was, more accurately] era’s definition of what economic Wind_turbine development is, or should be -- some grainy picture of a couple of company executives, joined by the local economic developer, gazing out at a corn field, talking about building ‘a big new plant in town.'

Fortunately, today most of us know that job creation projects rarely come in big, one-off packages with job creation figures in the multiple hundreds. Instead, they tend to come in batches of smaller job creation projects, strung together.

We’re not chasing smokestacks anymore.

Corporate facilities projects everywhere are more capital-intensive than ever as companies drive enormous investment into technology and, in many cases, boast modest job creation numbers.  This is not woe-is-us stuff; quite the contrary.  Economic developers and their stakeholders who have adapted to this new reality can be as successful as ever, delivering new jobs and tax base into their communities at strong rates -- if we acknowledge that economic development has shifted, by and large, from a sales-based endeavor to a capacity-building one.

The end-product landscape has changed from singular, large scale job creation projects to more nimble, technology-MidAm1intensive projects as a product of a global economy changing at breathtaking pace. Successful states and regions, and their economic development partners, have changed, too.

In the past, the working definition of economic development was the marketing of a community to a company in a competitive arena, kind of gladiator style [“Children gather round!  No retreat!  No surrender!”- King Leonidas]. Communities and states competed with dozens, even scores of their counterparts in what amounted to an enterprise sales process. Meeting basic requirements for a project like land, workforce and infrastructure, got you some consideration.

Today, the site selection process for companies has become increasingly global and intensely technology-driven. It’s no longer enough for a region or community to be effective at selling itself to corporate suitors. Technology has stripped out virtually all of the opportunity for a region or community to smooth out its deficiencies with effective salesmanship [“This is Sparta!”]. Today, many times we do not know we are under consideration for projects until we are a finalist community.

Companies have MidAm2 shorter timelines and less capital budgeted for the site selection process, which means site location professionals are conducting perhaps 80 percent of the process digitally.

So in the face of this new[ish] reality, what does a region and state that is truly globally competitive for projects do?  It spends less time selling and more time building capacity, honing and building its assets to align with the demands of global business.

That’s why MidAmerican Energy's announcement today that it will invest $3.6 billion [the largest capital investment ever announced in Iowa history] to grow its wind generation capacity to ultimately represent 85 percent of its total generation capacity in the coming years is exceptionally important to the future of Central Iowa and to other regions in the company’s service territory. Already more than half of the energy MidAmerican produces or will produce it derives from wind- making it arguably the greenest major energy utility in the country. Eighty-five percent is an incredible leap forward.

MidAmerican’s ability to deliver increasingly renewable energy to heavy-load customers is a distinct strategic advantage to every region and community it serves.  One need look no further than the generational investments of Facebook in Altoona [more than $1 billion] and Microsoft in West Des Moines [$2 billion] to prove out this theorem; both Facebook and Microsoft have aggressive corporate strategic priorities which demand that significant proportions of the power which feed their massive data centers be renewable. MidAmerican’s ability to ultimately deliver 100 percent renewable power to Facebook’s data center campus in Altoona has been cited by the company as a major determinative factor in choosing Iowa over other parts of the country.

With its latest announcement, MidAmerican is transforming Iowa’s competitive position for major-energy projects.

Facebook and Microsoft are not alone. Frustrated with the political intractability relating to addressing climate change, companies across the globe are taking the matter into their own hands and rolling out corporate sustainability stratagems which demand increasingly higher proportions of renewable energy to feed new and existing facilities and assets.

The move to shift its energy generation footprint so dramatically toward renewables provides what amounts to an immediate upgrade to the competitive position of MidAmerican-served communities throughout the region.

And it offers economic developers throughout our region a tremendously effective new tool in the battle for the expected proliferation of major power-load projects which will prioritize renewable energy to be sited in the United States in the coming years.

Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Contact him:

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: bwillett@cultivationcorridor.org / @brent_willett /LinkedIn.com/in/brentwillett

Restaurants sustain local farmers

Pritchard- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger

I remember growing up as a kid from the Chicago suburbs and working at a vegetable farm. The local economy sustained those farms.

More and more you see reference to local food sources on restaurant menus. For local farms to be sustainable it takes the support of restaurants.

Lynn Pritchard, owner of Table 128 Bistro fully embraces that relationship. He started by contacting three to four farms and found the local farmers knew each other. You need potatoes, someone knew someone who grew potatoes.

What has Lynn learned being more sustainable in his restaurant?

  • Local farmers operate very sustainably and are thinking of how to improve soil quality with every planting.
  • The rotational crop such as cowpeas or other legumes needs to be embraced. In Asia when the rice fields are drained, buckwheat is planted to enrich the soil and made into ramen noodles.
  • Farmers are very interested to provide product because small boutique farms such as Central Iowa Organics need to develop an income stream. What they grow is not a commodity they take to the local grain elevator.
  • The menu has to be flexible and adapt to what’s available. Restaurants need to be nimble and print revised menus as needed.
  • Customers need to consider everything in a plant or animal and not just the tenderloin.  Our diet needs to also consider the shank or roast.
  • The cost to obtain high quality food is usually more than mass produced non-organic.  Lynn believes the higher cost for quality food results in lower healthcare costs down the line.

After all, we are what we eat.

Let me know of restaurants you have found to sustain local farmers. Email me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

The trouble with winning

- Brent Willett, CEcD is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Follow him at @brent_willett.

 

When Alfred Nobel’s brother died in 1888, French newspapers confused the two and Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, had the befuddling experience of reading his own obituary. The headline: “The merchant of death is dead.”

Central Iowa economic development and community leaders certainly did not feel they were reading their own economic obituary when news broke in March that 2016.04.07_pic1 DuPont and Dow would locate a Global Business Center of its new agriculture business following a merger of giants, but they could be excused for looking on with bewilderment at the initially subdued tone of local and statewide news coverage of the announcement. 

Despite the fact that the DowDuPont announcement represented an enormous economic slam dunk for the region and the state at large- including a commitment to $500 million in new R&D investment, the likely retention of thousands of jobs and a commitment to between 250 and 500 high-quality R&D positions in the Corridor- many local media outlets reported the announcement as a bit of a disappointment, somehow a loss. 

The discordance in coverage tone between parts of the Des Moines media and that of Indianapolis -- which was simultaneously announced as the second site for a similar Global Business Center -- was notable. In a larger metro area where the economic impact of such a project is proportionately less, the Indy media struck a decidedly more positive initial tone.

Why? I don’t know; maybe it was the expectations game. The fact that Iowa scrupulously went public first with its incentives package for the project while Indiana has declined to announce theirs publicly meant that a level of anticipation was baked into the announcement in Iowa. Expectations are tremendously difficult to manage ahead of a project announcement which has such wide ranging [and, by the way, hugely positive] impacts on a region, its institutions and its residents. The project itself was unique because it was public knowledge that Dow and DuPont committed to announce the geographic makeup of its to-be-spun-out ag company as soon as it could in a principled nod to its employees and their communities.

I’m not here to litigate the press tone; nobody’s feelings got hurt and after the initial flash of plodding, woe-is-us coverage, local media today is decidedly positive about an enormously positive project announcement for Central Iowa.  And for good reason.

Setting aside the fact that Johnston will retain one of the largest and most advanced agricultural R&D campuses in the known universe and the exceptionally high quality jobs that keep it humming, $500 million in new R&D investment is one of the largest single R&D investments announced in state history. 

Five hundred million dollars! That’s 3.5 Wells Fargo Arenas [inflation adjusted 2005 dollars], or 2.5 times the cost of proposed $200M Des Moines International Airport terminal, or fully to 7 percent of the value of the entire state of Iowa’s 2015 budget. It’s one of the largest private capital announcements in recent years in Iowa; an enormous commitment from what will emerge as the largest ag company in the world once Dow and DuPont merge and is a clear signal to the rest of the world that the Cultivation Corridor is a global center for investment, talent and research in the agbiosciences.

Central Iowa was not selected to house the headquarters of the ag company, which will be in Wilmington, Delaware, home to DuPont for more than 200 years, but what we were selected for is incredibly consequential to the future growth of our region. The retention of the DuPont Pioneer footprint and the larger business to be spun from the merger represents the achievement of an important objective for economic development and community leaders throughout the Corridor: to retain R&D jobs as a long-term growth center for the company. In addition to the retained R&D jobs, the new Global Business Center will maintain leadership of business lines, sales/marketing, supply chain and business support positions. 

We all should be immeasurably proud of the coordinated recruitment work product of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, City of Johnston, IEDA, Gov. Branstad’s office, Sen. Grassley’s office, the Corridor, Polk County and everyone at Pioneer, which ultimately resulted in a highly competitive, aggressive bid for the project. DowDuPont has a strong future in Central Iowa.

 

Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Contact him:

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: bwillett@cultivationcorridor.org / @brent_willett / LinkedIn.com/in/brentwillett

You get what you measure

- Tom Vander Well, executive vice president of c wenger group, is a recognized customer service authority in the contact center industry.

Earlier this week I met with a newer client to deliver the results of a Service Quality Assessment we had conducted for their team of 11 Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). It was a unique situation. We had conducted an initial pilot assessment several months ago to establish benchmarks of how each agent was serving customers on phone calls. We prioritized service skills that needed improvement across the team and then trained the staff on these particular service skills.

The plan had been to immediately start an ongoing assessment so we could measure and track each agent's performance and improvement across 2016. Then came the telephone system conversion which delayed our ability to access recorded calls for about three months. We eventually were able to access recordings and went back to analyze calls over a two-month period after our initial training. It was the results of this catch up assessment that I presented to the client this week.

What was fascinating was to see that only two of the eleven agents had made significant improvements. Four agents had actually declined, two of them significantly. The other five had risen insignificantly. Despite the fact that the agents had been trained on the key service skills and provided with reminders and materials to support their learning, only two of eleven agents actually showed measurable improvement a few months later.

The results did not surprise me. Over the years I've learned that training alone will typically only make a difference for those few individuals who are personally motivated to improve themselves. When it comes to delivering customer service, most employees will simply communicate with customers however they naturally communicate unless they are held accountable for changing their behavior. When customer service skills are defined, coached, measured, reported, and rewarded, then employees respond and deliver.

Now that the ongoing assessment is rolling with our client, individual data will be reported monthly to each CSR and their manager(s). CSRs will receive regular coaching, data, and feedback. They will be able to see their progress and the company can build incentives and goals for reaching them.

With all of the fads and fancies which trend and fade in business these days, I've found that there are some things that will always be true because human nature doesn't change. I was reminded of one of those truths with my client presentation this week: You get what you measure.

Be careful - the world is watching

RIlogo - Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

In March, Rhode Island unveiled a new marketing campaign for the state to encourage tourism, create jobs and help boost the state’s economy. The effort was from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Havas and famed designer Milton Glaser. Unfortunately, it was met with quick and vehement opposition.

The campaign unveiled a new logo and tagline — “Cooler and Warmer.” Residents hated it and quickly mounted a protest. The state probably could have weathered that storm but then the campaign’s core video also came under assault. It turns out that some of the footage trying to encourage people to come to Rhode Island was actually of Iceland. This blunder made national headlines and caused the chief marketing officer for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to resign because of the situation.

On top of all that — some of the vendors who helped create the campaign will be returning over $100,000.

"It's unacceptable how many mistakes were made in this rollout," Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo reportedly said of the campaign. "We need to hold people accountable because Rhode Islanders deserve better. Taxpayers deserve better, and too many mistakes were made."

Telling the truth has always been a best practice when it comes to marketing but in today’s age of instant fame and instant shame — it’s too risky to do anything else.

You don’t have to falsify something in your marketing to incur the wrath of the Internet. Everyone from McDonalds to Starbucks suffered from the world’s disapproval over the past year.

What does this have to do with you? I think it’s a good reminder of the best practices:

Tell the truth: Don’t cut corners, don’t lie by omission and don’t use assets (photos, videos, infographics, words) that aren’t yours or imply something that isn’t true.

Monitor the web: If you’re out there telling your story, you should also be monitoring what people are saying about your efforts.

Always include outside eyes: In this Forbes article, they outline marketing blunders by the likes of Bud Light and Walmart. Usually by the time you create the marketing materials you have been thinking and talking about them for so long — you’re a little blind about some of the more subtle implications. Show an outsider your campaign before you launch it to see if they see something that you’re no longer able to notice.

In the good old days, when you made a marketing mistake it had a limited exposure and cost. Today, neither of those is limited.  The world is watching and it's a brutal bunch when it comes to truth in advertising.

 

Advice to trade show exhibitors

- Cathy Erickson of Adel has planned events nationwide for clients and also owns Great Iowa Pet Expo and similar shows in Indianapolis and Kansas City.

Consumer trade shows offer an incredible way to market products, build brand awareness, promote your nonprofit and even build your business-to-business network. But as we recently learned in the Des Moines market, shows sometimes aren’t well-funded or well-managed.

(The Iowa Attorney General’s Office last week began investigating a women’s expo company that left vendors in a lurch after canceling events in Omaha and Des Moines. After the Better Business Bureau received numerous complaints from people who said they paid fees ranging from $100 to $350 to be a part of What Women Want Expos, the bureau issued an alert saying the owner of the expo company had gone out of business.)

I have a saying that those who work with me have heard often: “If producing events was easy and they always made money, everyone would just produce events!”

They aren’t easy, and they don’t always make money. But when shows are managed well, when the crowds are strong and sponsors want in, it looks like easy money. And that’s the problem. That’s when someone who has no real experience steps back and says, “Hey, I can do that too.”

Often they can’t. They dive head first into a money pit that can swallow them up and drag innocent exhibitors down with them. The good news is that if you’re a first-time exhibitor or an exhibitor who wants to try new trade shows, I can offer some tips for checking out the producer and the trade show before you ever spend a dime.

Be nosy: Ask for references and testimonials
That wizard might sound powerful and commanding, but what’s really behind the curtain? These days, anybody can create a nice website and promotional brochure. Has this group been successful in the past?

Ask for the contact information of people who have previously exhibited with this producer. That’s where the real dirt can be found. Established exhibitors usually have a calendar of events exposing them to many producers throughout the year, the good, the bad and the ugly, and they usually aren’t afraid to share their opinion. I never cease to be amazed by the stories my exhibitors tell me.

Ask about the crowds, if sales were strong, if they brought in talent. Are they easy to work with? Are they organized? Do they communicate well with their exhibitors? Can you find them during the event?

Research the company’s marketing and promotional plan
“We’re doing TV” could mean that there is a $20,000 ad buy in place, or it could mean that they are giving away a couple of tickets via the station’s website. Make it your business to know which one it is. I can’t tell you how many times exhibitors have told me about a new show they booked and no one showed up.

A seasoned pro will be able to tell you immediately what media outlets they are using and how they are using them to include contests, interviews and promotions.

Inexperienced event producers often don’t know how to budget for their event. They run into “unexpected” expenses, leaving no money left for advertising.

And beware a single media group (radio, TV, digital or print) that is only advertising a consumer trade show through its own outlet. Successful plans utilize a healthy mix of all outlets.

Study the show materials
Ask about the photos: Are they from their previous shows, or are they stock images? Is that the site where the show is now? Are those the vendors who have participated in prior years? It’s a red flag if their photos weren’t taken at their own show.

Are their statistics attributable? I don’t know why attendance of 10,000 is so magical, but we see it claimed over and over again. Ask how the attendance predictions are determined.

Ask if they will be posting the exhibitor list and when that usually happens. Ask if the talent is already booked. I’m amazed how some shows list appearances but when you get there you learn that the talent couldn’t make it. Most often, it means the producers couldn’t pay them.

Does the event have a Facebook page, a Constant Contact newsletter for exhibitors, Instagram or Twitter? It should.

Know your promoter
Look them up on LinkedIn or Facebook. Ask for personal references. I encourage you to ask for the contact information of exhibitors who can give a testimonial. Even producers of new events should have former exhibitors or vendors who can vouch for their credibility.

Ask if the producer does this full time. Can they be reached during regular working hours? Visit a show they produce and talk to the vendors. A simple “How is the show going?” will generally spark a conversation.
If the producer is not local, talk to the site manager to verify that the event even has a signed contract for space. You might be amazed.

Negotiate your contract for payment upon move-in
If everything is looking good but this is a first- or second-year event, try asking the producer if you can sign a contract but hold your payment until move-in. Then, if the show cancels, you don’t lose your booth fee.

Most exhibitors have a lot more invested than just the booth fee. Inventory, promotional items, hotel rooms, staff and travel costs all play into a trade show booth budget. By delaying your booth payment, you can at least protect that fee against fraud or mismanagement.

Trade show exhibiting is so much more than filling up a booth. The planning and execution is time-consuming and often expensive. When you’re adding a new show to the calendar, plan to dig down a little bit before writing that check! 

 

3 questions to ask your technology leader

Dave Nelson, CISSP, is president and CEO of Integrity.

3-questions-technology-leader“Time is of the essence.” “Time is money.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.  You’ve heard it all before. Every business leader is pressed for time in one way or another. That’s why today’s post is quick and simple: Three questions every business leader should be asking their technology leader or IT service providers.

1. How are we coming on addressing the top risks identified in our latest IT risk assessment?

This assumes you have performed a high level risk assessment with your CIO, CFO, Legal, HR and Insurance teams within the past year. Technology is changing daily. The way we use technology is changing just as fast. Are you up to speed on the risks that your organization is facing from the use of technology in your business operations? Are you addressing the biggest risks first? Are your investments to lower risk working? Are there new laws that could change your risk? Can new insurance products transfer some of the risk?  Ask questions of your leaders. Make sure sufficient progress is being made to reduce risk where necessary.

2. Do we (you, for vendors) have the expertise on staff to deal with the changing threat and regulatory landscape?

This is a tough question to be asked. Everyone hopes to have the best and brightest on our teams. The reality is we always have gaps.  Make sure your leaders know gaps are OK. They do however need to be identified and dealt with. Perhaps you have a security team already. Great, but do they have all the skill sets needed to fully protect the organization? If not, can they get them? Should they? Are contracts or retainers with experts a better solution?  Either way, it’s best to be prepared. You can’t afford to be caught flat footed in this rapidly changing security environment. When using external IT providers, don’t assume they have security expertise. Ask for proof.

3. Can you provide reasonable assurance that we’ve not had a system breach in the past “x” months and will your evidence stand up to an independent third-party review?

The idea here is to make people uncomfortable. You don’t want to be placated. You don’t want to hear someone touting their belief in the team. You want concrete evidence. Make them show you months of event logs that have been reviewed for anomalies or malicious activity. Ask for something, anything. Just don’t settle for “We believe our systems are safe”. Even if you have no plans to get an independent review, ask them to be able to support their conclusions. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify”.

Business leaders who get answers to these three questions will be far ahead of their peers and competition. While there is a “right” answer to every one of these questions, the “right” answer will be different for everyone. The important thing is to ask the questions and that you feel comfortable with the answers you’ve been given. That’s what IT risk management is all about.

Dave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. Dave Nelson 2015 IowaBiz Blog

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Why Twitter?

- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.

In the United States Twitter is nearing 56 million active users this year. That’s a lot of eyeballs. And I bet many of them are in the market for that fancy new widget you produce. Take a pass on Twitter and you’re sacrificing an opportunity to get in front of all those prospects.

1 in 4 Americans are active Tweeters in 2016

Twitter bird w: glassesTwitter is also an effective tool at maintaining relationships with clients, connecting with partners in your industry, and nurturing prospects. It helps build brand awareness and keeps your business top of mind. It can also be used to push out useful information and occasional promotions to your followers.

If you’re new to Twitter I suggest you take 20 minutes looking over their Twitter 101 page for businesses. This page will provide you with the basics to get started.

Additionally, I’ve put together some key points to keep in mind while you’re tweeting.

Include pictures

Like magpies, tweeters seem to like shiny objects. Tweets with pictures have five times the engagement rate than your ordinary, boring text-only ones. Pictures stand out more in a user’s Twitter feed, so don’t be shy about including them. As a rule of thumb about every other tweet should have a relevant picture attached.

Use hashtags

Hashtags are trending right now. If used effectively they can raise awareness of your company to people who share a relevant interest. To learn more about #hashtags and how to use them check out this post by Sprout Social.

Share interesting content

If your business has a blog, Twitter is a great platform for sharing posts with others. Each time you release new content you should consider posting it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn at a minimum. But don’t stop with your content. The most effective tweeters share relevant content (stuff your followers will actually want to read) from all over the Internet. This includes retweets you find interesting, news articles, blog posts, or industry updates. Your target should be between two to five tweets per day.

Get more followers

There are probably a thousand ways you could get more Twitter followers. Most importantly, you want to inspire your target market to follow your business. This way your content will be relevant to your followers, shared more often, and eventually lead to sales. This article by TNW will show you some simple ways to begin building your Twitter following.

For additional guidance on getting started with Twitter check out our free educational platform Launch Academy.

Leadership and trust: 5 key strategies (Part 2)

Boss overlookingIn the last blog posting titled Leadership and trust: Presumed Innocent, we explored the challenges leaders face in fostering a culture of trust. While leaders seek to create a work environment built on trust, most leaders also know the enormous consequences of wrongly placed trust. For many of us, that knowledge has come from firsthand, painful experience.

This follow-up blog provides five leadership strategies to help leaders find balance in the leadership dilemma of leading with a trusting nature while also embracing a healthy dose of skepticism.

  1. Champion safeguards

Remind yourself that the presumption of innocence afforded to an individual does not require naiveté when considering large numbers of people that surveys reveal bend rules and later rationalize their own bad behavior. Assume the best in others while also championing the establishment of safeguards to reduce both temptation and the ease of wrongdoing by individuals inclined to breach ethics.

Facilitate process improvement events that seek to move beyond simply improving efficiencies and also flag or prevent ethical breaches. It has long been a standard practice in accounting that the individual responsible for paying the bills is a different person from the one responsible for reconciling the bank statement. Similarly, a company policy that requires the most senior person at a business function to pick up the restaurant tab, naturally ensures that expense approvals are made by a third party who was not at the event and can evaluate the expense on its merits. Introduce checks and balances throughout the organization whenever process improvement is on the agenda.

Provide a mechanism for individuals in the organization to ask questions about ethics and report misdeeds without risk of negative consequence.

  1. Trust and also verify

Ask for details. Ask for information to be repeated. Ask lots of questions. Ask about different topics. Ask for written summaries of steps taken and actions agreed. Even the most skilled liar will often stumble when required to fabricate many answers or when required to record their deeds in writing.

Remember that deception is difficult to detect. Mechanized lie detectors and polygraph tests have proven unreliable in detecting lies and in providing an alarming number of false-positives. Similarly unreliable are many human attempts to accurately diagnose deception, even by highly trained professionals like police officers and judges who get a lot of practice being lied to.

Collect data and rely on the systems in place to do the job they were designed to do.

  1. Take the time it takes

Trust is built over time. A valuable lesson to learn and to teach others is to slow down and build a relationship before reaching an agreement, negotiating the solution to a problem, or closing a deal. The odds of being deceived are much higher in transactions that involve a single interaction over those that involve a series of interactions over time.

It is interesting to note that as the means of electronic communication becomes easier, people often find face-to-face communications more difficult. In pursuit of relationship-building, encourage personal face-to-face communications. It’s easier for people to lie when the communication is more impersonal such as on the phone or via email. The expediency of electronic communication is small reward if you’ve been deceived.

  1. Training, feedback and coaching

Acquire skills to learn how to do the two most critical things leaders are called upon to do: (1) select people who not only possess the skills and knowledge to carry out job responsibilities but also fit within the corporate culture and reflect the ethics desired by the organization and (2) create an environment where people can thrive and be most successful.

It has become clear by now that the traditional education system is not going to ensure that the future members of the workforce graduate with a solid foundation in personal and interpersonal skills to bring to their careers. To foster a culture of ethics, leaders must equip people with critical skills such as communication, etiquette, listening, judgment, decision-making, team-building, negotiation and conflict resolution.

  1. Conduct a self-audit

Hold yourself to a higher standard. Become the rare person who carefully and consciously chooses your behavior.  Constantly question and challenge yourself. Are you judging yourself by your good intentions or by your actions?  Are you rationalizing a bad act after-the-fact to justify it or did you act from your core values?

Remind yourself that your acts of omission are just as dangerous as acts of commission when the result is the other person missing critical information or inferring an untruth. Many of us create a double-standard by refusing to lie on principle (innocent of commission) yet fail to disclose important information (guilty by omission).

If you have a naturally trusting nature (many of us do) and believe others until you have a reason to distrust them, balance it with a strong sense of curiosity and awareness, especially early in the relationship-building process.

When systems reveal deception, resist the temptation to transfer your feelings to others who may be worthy of trust.

Foster a culture of trust by talking about ethics, go public in your commitment to honesty and openness, and role model the behaviors you want to see. And when you make a mistake, as you inevitably will, ‘fess up and make it right.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Leadership and trust: presumed innocent (Part I)

“Trust until you have a reason not to.”

Wooden gavelPresumption of innocence is a fundamental right in most civilized countries. In criminal trials, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution which is required to meet a threshold of presenting evidence to convince beyond a reasonable doubt. So indoctrinated are we to that concept that a presumption of guilt is regarded as immoral. To that end, business practices, such as pre-employment drug testing, are frequently the target of rights activists who believe such practices violate the principle by requiring job candidates to prove themselves innocent.

Beyond law and order, the presumption of innocence has implications in all aspects of our lives. From parenting to education to business to politics, and everything in between, we are continuously challenged to assume the best in others and suffer the disappointment and consequences when our trust turns out to have been misplaced.

In the business world, leaders are encouraged to build a culture of trust. Evidence of this consistent message to leaders was revealed through a casual Google search on the words ‘trust’ and ‘leadership’ that yielded over 350 million hits. Nearly all of the volumes of books, articles, classes and speeches on the subject extol the virtues of trust, remind leaders that employee surveys reveal a deficit of trust, and encourage leaders to trust more and assume the best. After all, presuming innocence is not only an essential moral foundation of a civilized society, it is also sensible business practice.

Or is it?

Lying, cheating, stealing

In surveys, 82 percent of young people admit to lying to a parent about something significant, 60 percent admit to cheating on a test and 28 percent admit to stealing from a store. 

Ninety-eight percent of these same survey respondents believe that honesty and trust are essential in personal relationships, 92 percent report being satisfied with their own ethics and character and 74 percent say they are better than most people they know at doing what is right.

The numbers tell an interesting story. The same population who describes themselves as ethical also admitted to lying, cheating and stealing…on the same survey.

What can be gleaned from these contradictions?  Apparently the behaviors of lying, cheating and stealing that the survey respondents admitted to have been justified in their own minds, extending to themselves the presumption of innocence.

It’s a disturbing thought that the young people who confessed to these ethical breaches today are the parents, educators, colleagues, employees, leaders, elected officials and business owners of tomorrow.

The Leadership Dilemma

It is difficult to find a leader at any level that doesn’t readily agree about the importance of honesty and trust. However, the same leaders, like the young people surveyed, frequently fall short when called upon to translate the virtue they embrace into action.

There is little we can do, or indeed little anyone would want to do, about the fundamental right we cherish of the presumption of innocence. To embrace a philosophy that presumes guilt would be tantamount to turning back the clock on civilization.

For nearly everyone, the questions are troubling and the actions called for unclear. For leaders charged with building a culture of trust in organizations, the complexity of nurturing an ethical environment can be overwhelming.

Is there a solution? Can a trusting nature and a healthy dose of skepticism co-exist in organizations? Can a culture of trust be fostered at the same time as a culture that challenges the choices people make?

Stay tuned for the next blog on this subject where five leadership strategies are explored to address this challenge.  In the meantime, use the Comment section of this blog to share leadership strategies you have found effective.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Five common web terms to learn today

Alex Karei, marketing director for Webspec Design, blogs about web strategy.

I’ve been with Webspec for about a year now, and it’s crazy to see how the time has flown. I’ve learned a lot in my position, grown personally and professionally, and rapidly expanded my opinions on websites, search, and social media.

I’ve also learned quite a bit about “speaking the language” of web. Every industry has a language to learn, but as I use mine, it’s occurred to me that our language is one that is often misunderstood, but increasingly necessary for small business owners to understand.

Why? Because the web isn’t an emerging trend - it’s here, and many things throughout it are continuing to emerge in new and different ways. As a responsible business owner, you should know what is going on in technology and how those things will affect how you market your business. Let's start with some basic, but possibly new-to-you terms.

Five common web terms to learn today

  1. Content Management System (CMS) - This is a system that manages the content of a website. Typically, a CMS is built of two parts, one being the content management application (CMA) and the other being the content delivery application (CDA). The CMA allows users who don’t know HTML to update their web page content. Although not appropriate for every website, CMS systems are extremely helpful to small business owners and marketing teams that aren’t able to have access to a developer for updates full-time. Common examples of CMS systems include WordPress and Drupal. 

  2. Site Map - The term “site map” can mean two seemingly different things. One, a site map is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to search engine crawlers. But on the other hand, a site map can be a document used for planning a website design, designed in a hierarchical fashion. More often than not you’ll hear it used in reference to the latter, but the use of a site map for search engine crawlers might be the more important of the two. Without that, you can’t be sure that Google has “found” all your website pages!

  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Officially, this refers to the methods used to boost ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site (Dictionary.com). Sound complicated? It is. But in the end, it all comes down to where your website shows up when someone searches for your company or industry.

  4. Algorithm - When it comes to this term, you might be thinking you know what I’m talking about … until you heard the context. When SEO professionals mention the term algorithm, they mean the formula of how a website is ranked by Google. The algorithm determines a site’s PageRank, which ultimately affects where a website will show up in search.

  5. Responsive - Although a hot-button topic, I’ve come to find this term is also commonly misunderstood. A responsive website is a website that somehow adapts its layout to the size or orientation of the platform a person is using to access it. In essence, it “responds” to the user. This is different from a mobile site, where your users are visiting a separate version of your website that is created to be used exclusively on smartphones. Responsive sites are generally preferred.

What other website or digital terms have you scratching your head?

 

Alex Karei2Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her via:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/alex_karei

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alex_karei

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

Challenges in checking potential employees' backgrounds

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. 6a00d83452ceb069e201b8d17a5a67970c-320wi

Steve Jobs once said, "[g]reat things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."  As many successful business leaders know, gathering the proper individuals to form a winning team, however, doesn't happen on its own.

One step that leaders often implement in assembling a winning team is to perform background checks, including past employment, criminal background, driving record, and credit history on prospective employees.

When it comes to many of these checks, however, the process is not as simple and quick as performing an internet search.  For instance, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs how businesses may legally screen certain matters and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has its own interpretation of how checks may drive hiring decisions.

Moreover, while you are working to build a winning team, your prospective employee's former employer may not be willing to share detailed information about your candidate for fear of a lawsuit by the candidate alleging claims of defamation, slander, breach of privacy, and retaliation. In short, simply assembling a team can involve several legal issues.  

The foregoing merely scratches the surface on a myriad of legal issues facing employers seeking to assemble a winning team.  So, what is an employer to do to navigate these issues?

For starters, many employers make sure to utilize carefully crafted waivers, written authorizations, and releases when seeking to obtain or use information. Further, savvy employers will document certain important steps throughout the hiring / screening process.

A licensed attorney can assist with each of these items - and others - as well as provide guidance on the types of positions that Iowa law requires certain background checks be performed prior to hiring.  

The great workplace divide

- Jason Kiesau, leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, writes about success skills.

Please take a moment and think about two people in your life.

  1. Someone you work well with.
  2. Someone you work with who drives you nuts.

There is a great divide in the workplace that can be the root of workplace conflict and issues between leaders, managers, and their workforce: it's results-focused people vs. relationship-focused people.

Results-focused people tend to be task focused, less emotional and less relational. They tend to be more formal, less social and keep their personal and work lives separate. They are driven by results and making the right decision and prefer to avoid "fluff". In pursuit of getting their desired result, they can easily become impatient and frustrated with people who they perceive are not as focused and slow them down.

Relationship-focused people tend to be people focused, relational and more emotional. This can be seen in their passion and enthusiasm when they are excited about something, as well with how they respond to things that frustrate them. They tend to be more informal, more social, and blend their personal and work lives. They are driven by the positive experiences they have with others and are most productive when they feel appreciated and liked. When they don't feel appreciated and harmony with the people around them they can easily take things too personally, impacting their motivation and productivity.

Are you results focused or people focused?

These two types of people can be like oil and water because they don't understand one another.

Results-focused people get annoyed with relationship-focused people and say things like:

  • Why are they so emotional?
  • Why can't they just stay focused?
  • Do we need to talk about everything?
  • It's not a big deal.
  • Why are they so needy?

Relationship-focused people become frustrated with results people and say things like:

  • Why are they so serious and uptight?
  • It's not all about money.
  • Don't they care about people?
  • Are they mad at me?
  • They are not very friendly.

Earlier this year I worked with a top leader who is results focused and who was at his wits' end with a member of his team who is relationship focused. He didn't understand why she didn't just listen to him and why she overreacted about everything.

When I talked with her I learned that his direct and cold demeanor made her feel like she was failing and she was starting to feel like she couldn't meet his expectations. At the end of the day, if this top leader wants to get his desired results, he needs to be more relational with her. He needs to show more appreciation and approval as he is giving her direction and expectations. She needs to manage her emotions better, stop taking things so personally and be more task focused.

If you can relate to any of this, I challenge you to hit "reset" with the people who frustrate you and try to understand why they do. Also, in the spirit of self-management, understand why you are frustrated. Results-focused people do care about others; they just show it differently. Relationship-focused people do care about the results; they just need to know you have their back. People are different. We have different needs, preferred ways of doing things, weaknesses and things that stress us out.

These dynamics don't have to create a workplace divide. To achieve success, we must get the best out of ourselves and the people around us. To do this, we must understand, respect and appreciate what everyone brings to the table in order to maximize everyone's potential together.

That is success skills mastery.

 


 

Jason Kiesau is the leadership and talent development manager with Aureon HR, and the author of "FOCUSED - Your Future Starts Now!" and "Leading with Style for Senior Living Professionals." 

Connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

After the right hire

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place.

Last month, I wrote about how important it is for specialty retailers to put extra effort into the hiring process upfront to take a big weight off your shoulders for a long time to come.

So what happens after you make the right hire?

That topic is still on my mind because we're getting a new puppy in our house and those words -- a long time to come -- are ringing in my ears.

New puppies are a lot of work. Yet, we're willing to invest so much of ourselves in them because they just bring us so much joy and satisfaction.

One reason is that they're spilling over with enthusiasm and energy.

Isn't that what you want to encourage in your new employees, too?

You'll miss big opportunities if you fail to recognize and reward enthusiasm in a new employee. But don't stop there. Make sure you're instilling and stirring enthusiasm in all your employees whenever you have a chance.

Puppies are also going to make a few mistakes as they get settled in, chewing up a shoes here and there, knocking over this or that -- and worse.

Mistakes are going to happen. And, that's where we need to remember to be patient. But, we also have to make sure they're not the kind of mistakes that will hurt your business.

In their book, "Worth Every Penny", entrepreneurs Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck write that big-box stores can make hiring mistakes for a variety of reasons. They're right when they say a customer's negative experience at a big-box store isn't likely to stop them from going back.

"If, however, they experience a rude employee at a boutique business," Petty and Verbeck add, "they will most likely judge you more harshly -- they pay you more because you're supposed to give them an outstanding experience. … Your employee could change the way your customers perceive you, trust you, talk about you, and do business with you."

Any logical person knows when you get a puppy, you're making a very long-term commitment to provide the right training, care, encouragement and support. as specialty retailers, we need to make sure that after carefully choosing the right employee, we make a long-term commitment and investment in their success.

City folks can protect waterways too!

No step one scotts- Rob Smith is principal architect atCMBA | Smith Metzger

It seems several times a week I see another article in the Des Moines Register on the lawsuit over water quality in the Raccoon River. That’s a rural issue, right? We city folk can’t have an impact on water quality from our little patch of land, can we?

I am reminded of what we spread on our land every spring when I go to Ace Hardware and gag over the smell. Pallets piled high with Scotts Step One Crab Grass Preventer Plus Lawn Food. 

Or watch those guys with masks and rubber boots come through the neighborhood leaving warning flags “LAWN APPLICATION – KEEP OFF GRASS”. 

Gordon Sterk, owner of Johnston Ace Hardware, says people can’t get enough of Scott’s Step One and he can’t give away the natural fertilizer. Funny thing is Ace stores in Iowa City seem to sell more of the natural fertilizer! Hmmmm?

Read the warning label on this stuff and it does not sound good.  Here’s an edited version.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: This pesticide is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates and may adversely affect non-target plants. Drift and runoff may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in water adjacent to treated areas. To protect the environment, do not allow pesticide to enter or run off into storm drains, drainage ditches, gutters or surface waters. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in groundwater contamination.

What can you do to help the water quality?

  • Don’t use pesticides on your lawn.
  • Buy natural fertilizer you can put on your lawn and gardens such as Milorganite.
  • Use weed killer sparingly and spot apply rather than broadcast.
  • Remove dandelions with a tool and add to your salad.
  • Don’t compare your lawn to your neighbors!

Let me know how you care for your lawn to be a better steward of our water supply at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

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