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You Don’t Know Your Brand


Posted By on Jul 18, 2017

Powerful brands make the world go ‘round – and what we think of as a powerful begins with how we define “power.” Is it the brand with the strongest social mission? The largest revenue? The most employee retention? It gets personal. Quick. This idea of powerful brands residing outside of the brand itself is an important part of the conversation we have when working with clients who are evaluating “the next thing” – and maybe the stuff of nightmares for marketers. A core belief of ours – one that we share with many – is that you CANNOT create your brand. That’s right – you can’t “make it happen” or “seize the day.” This time you can snooze and win.   In a way. After all, it is through a) consistency and b) others’ experience of you – that the truth of your brand is revealed, not just what you think it is or should be or used to be or could be. Just the truth. That’s a great place to start. We offered this dichotomy at a recent Crain’s Summer School session, part of the Crain’s Academy suite of leadership and career development offerings. And we asked the question, “What are you known for (consistently)?” It prompted some introspection – and some uncertainty. Is what I’m known for a good thing? Is what I’m known for accurate? Is what I’m known for what I want to be known for? And then what? Running an experiment on the brand called you is actually an easy lift; but it takes some guts. Our prescription: ask three or four people the simple question, “What am I known for (consistently)?” Remember to always consider the source – these are people that should have a sense of how you’ve shown up, over a period of time. You can even ask anonymously, or use one of “Start with Why” guru Simon Sinek’s templates. And, of course, now that you have the data – a.k.a. what you’re known for a.k.a. the role you are master of – you’re only halfway there. You’ve got to tell the story of your brand, and this part you can control. Sort of. Consider, then, sharing a branding Mad Libs with your chosen folk and pushing the conversation a little further to ask, “How do you see what I’m known for?” It could be sentence completion something like: “YOU are really good if I ever need ______ and the reason I know that is because _______.” OR “If I ever need ______ solved or have a question about _____, I call _______, and the reason I would is _________.” Make...

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Endings are Important


Posted By on May 24, 2017

There’s a lot of fear that comes with endings – when it’s time for you to move on, make a change, or show up in a new way. That fear is why we stay put, maybe too long. Or why we leave too soon: “Just get it over with.” Or maybe why we “ghost” – disappearing without really having to end; it’s so scary we avoid it. But endings are important: they prompt helpful questions (“How will I keep the momentum going?” or “How will I keep in touch with these people I’ve grown to care for?”). They mark a pivot point and an opportunity to take stock: of what we’ve learned, what we believe and, perhaps most importantly, what we’re committed to We evaluate who we care about, who is better left “as is” and what we’ll carry forward. After all time is finite, and energy is not. This question of, “How will I keep the momentum going?” comes up a lot as people leave The Collective. It’s not overstating to say the group is transformative. When people leave they are different than when they arrived. It’s no wonder, then, that leaving is a hard decision to make – how do you continue to transform without the support and push the group provides? In your own transition, you could just as easily ask, “How will I keep in touch with people I’m leaving?” or “How will I avoid slipping into ‘bad habits’ I’ve worked so hard to stamp out?” The fear makes sense, but it’s actually not a great motivator. The answer to all the “how?” above has a lot to do with first thinking about what fuels us. In other words, what motivates us. Seth Godin wrote an awesome blogpost this week that offers a list of fuel / motivators – and reminds us that we have the power to choose, whether we’re fueled by “big dreams” or “dissatisfaction,” it’s important to take note. As Seth says: “They [any motivator / fuel] all work. Some of them leave you wrecked, some create an environment of possibility and connection and joy. Up to you.” Endings prompt an awareness that we’re going to have to look inward for our fuel – intrinsic motivation –  as opposed to a group, or a role, or an individual. This is hard especially if we’ve worked in a traditional supervisor / employee setting where we “follow the leader.” But when it’s really up to us – to move on, make the change, show up in a new way – we get to choose to look within. Knowing it’s hard, unnatural and will take...

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Amanda Ryznar is a Flank 5 Academy Collectivist alumna and facilitator. Professionally, she is a digital marketing leader who is committed to the pursuit of conscious leadership for herself and others. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn. I have always expected a reward and I have always been willing to work for one. My theory has been that hard work = reward. My world was initially set up to support this theory. I liked the model and have continued to play it out most of my life. Hard work at school meant good grades. Good grades meant getting into a good college. Getting into a good college meant getting a good job. Getting a good job meant achieving financial stability, satisfaction, etc. You’ve heard this before. You may have done this. You may be doing it now. And, you aren’t wrong for doing it. I only know that it does not serve me, personally, to continue this way of thinking. I joined the Collective because I wanted to know my purpose. I thought that if I spent two hours a week in this group setting, and then more time thinking about it outside these meetings, that I would figure it out. In other words, if I just worked hard enough, the reward would come. The reward in this case was specific purpose with a specific role. That is not the reward that I received. And, I no longer think that the “reward” for my participation needed to be a purpose and an associated specific role. Mark Nepo in the Book of Awakening writes, “The closer we get to all being, the more synonymous the effort and its reward. The reward for uncovering the truth is the experience of an honest being. The reward for understanding is the peace of knowing. The reward for loving is being the carrier of love.” The reward is the experience that you have that is internal and intrinsic to you. It’s not an external acquisition – and viewing it as a set target with a set point in time can be extremely limiting. My rewards for participating in the Collective are many. I evaluated my role at work, my attitude towards work, the type of leader I wanted to be, and the dynamic that I was co-creating with my colleagues. It was not easy, but the reward was a clearer picture of how I wanted to view work and an acceptance that growth comes from the willingness to question and sit with challenges. People who I didn’t know, got to know me, and as a result encouraged me, believed in me, and supported...

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Staying Stuck or Moving Forward


Posted By on Jan 30, 2017

During this month, The Collective explored the topic of “moving forward” – we looked at how we are motivated, the pro’s and con’s of making a decision, and reflecting on our progress. Just as moving forward is important, we are also big fans of reflection. Taking stock of where your mind and your body is important. During our “tuning in”, what continues to pop up? Are there barriers in your life that make you feel…stuck? What does moving forward look like for you right now? Erika Anderson, the author of Growing Great Employees, Being Strategic, Leading So People Will Follow, provides insight on how great leaders have had success with moving people forward. According to her, they are key ways of keeping a company or team motivated which include: Don’t indulge in distractions Recognize your impact Remove obstacles Encourage enthusiasm Support conclusions Sometimes knowing where to start is difficult. In a TED Talk from Dr. Lani Nelson Zlupko we get to see an inspiring and relatable picture of staying stuck or moving forward. Being a founder of LNZ Consulting and Adjunct Associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania certainly gives her some experience in the art of problem solving. Are you ready? There is no better time than now to “Get on the arrow” as Dr. Nelson Zlupko would suggest. We’ve enjoyed exploring similar career-building elements this month within The Collective. Adding a powerful community to your process only increases your potential for success – and there isn’t any direction more rewarding and more freeing than, well,...

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Why We Need Permission


Posted By on Aug 22, 2016

It’s been proven: People are happier after making a major change. And yet, the list of “things you’ve always wanted to do” (i.e. the major changes) tends to be much longer than the “things you’ve done.” The NY Times’ Carl Richards calls this The Permission Gap. In the context of career, we believe this correlates strongly with the things you choose to do (i.e. “I’m going to quit my job and use my time to get reconnected to who I am and find a great fit”) versus the things that happen to you (i.e. “The phone rang, and the job was more money and a better title, so I took it!”). The choices are MUCH scarier than having “permission granted” to make a change. So what’s the hold up? Fear, you say? Absolutely! Terror even. But, according to Dr. Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, “People who aren’t sure about uprooting their lives probably should. As a basic rule of thumb, people are too cautious when it comes to making change.” We talk a lot about this caution in The Collective. And last week we addressed the idea of how much easier it is to make a change when you get permission – from someone else and better still, from yourself. Everyone came to the room telling each other, “I need permission to focus on myself” or “I need permission to say no to a client.” Permission was granted freely by the group; we were delighted, in fact, to give it. . . but that may only be where it starts.” As leaders and in our careers the stakes are even higher. Richards says, “Seeking approval and external validation is part of the human experience, but when it comes to making a big life change, they can be hard to find. . . if you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.” Beth Comstock, Vice Chairwoman of G.E. recently shared the same sentiment. So, the magic wands at Flank 5 Academy are happy to give you permission – to quit your job, ask for a promotion, step out into the world of freelancing – but really, we’re waiting on you. . . to give yourself the same gift. You deserve it, we and Richards say! Yes, there’s fear – that won’t change – but consider, what else are you waiting...

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Maureen Kennedy is a brand and interactive marketing leader and proud risk-taker. She is also a current member of The Collective. You can learn more about her via LinkedIn. Dateline: Chicago.  August 15. Off the Sidelines – The Young Feminist Conference @otschicago #YFC2016 #OTSCHICAGO Last week I said YES! to the pursuit of an opportunity to attend a conference. The conference was aligned with my values. I knew one other person that would be attending. Others were attending that I had identified as people to connect with. The conference was full: no matter! I found a way and got on the list. Then. . . I started talking to myself. “UGH!  Another networking opportunity.” I dread the prospect. We’ve all been there. You do the pre-work checking out the subject matter, who’s speaking, plenty of business cards, sincere smile in place, small-talk ready, blah blah blah. I wanted a different approach. So my critical question during the The Collective last week was: “What has worked best for you in networking situations?” The answers: Have an agenda, but be open. . . align mission with a business goal. Look for inspirations. Be available. Others’ passion will guide you. Stay tuned in to your energy. Energy will feed you. When you make the connection: Follow-up – right away. Tweet. Retweet. Follow. Demonstrate passion, sincerity. Armed with great advice I was ready to RESPOND! With my mind open and authentic self at the ready I arrived at #YFC2016. Getting off the elevator, I immediately heard my name called out in greeting by the key organizer of the conference AND the main person I wanted to connect with. I’m convinced this would not have happened without a little pre-work. A little pre-work goes a long way. Throughout the morning I met incredible women doing incredible work. I asked for and scheduled a meeting with Ce Cole Dillon the co-founder of Student Loan 411, LLC, a recent startup providing a unique solution to student loan debt. RESPOND. I reconnected with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in more than 10 years. YES! Who knew? The action is ongoing even days later. I’ve connected through emails, LinkedIn, following, liking, retweeting. I am creating opportunity and “networking” differently, with a focus on ACT. The next big ACT is getting on the calendar of Cook County Commissioner, 10th District and Off the Sidelines Founder, Bridget Gainer, about her passion around re-booting our neighborhoods and mine for reclaiming used spaces connect. I’m on a roll. My new mantra is:  Passion will guide you. Energy will feed...

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