Big Bird: The Big Brand

Big Bird has been in the news frequently, thanks to mentions in the Presidential debates. The outpouring of support for the yellow puppet showed just how relevant Sesame Street has been across decades and, it turns out, across cultures. Sesame Street is currently running in 146 countries.

HBR’s recent article identified some of the reasons that Sesame Street is such a universal brand:

  1. Identifying the country-specific critical needs first.
  2. Willingness to try new operating models in new countries.
  3. Embracing new and multiple means of distribution.
  4. Propagating lessons learned throughout the organization.
  5. Taking the long view.

Sesame Street pursued a global strategy long before globalization became a common business goal. “It has done so by being clear and steadfast about its essential brand values while also seeking to understand deeply and flexibly adapt to local conditions and norms.”

Do you agree that these values help make brands universal? What would you add?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Be the Change

One of the interesting things about being human is that we are imperfect. We are constantly striving to be better. We keep changing and evolving.

What is the best way to encourage change in the people in your life? HBR recently posted the ten best tips for creating positive change momentum in the professional world.

Here are my top five:

  1. Embrace the power of one: “When you have 20 priorities, you have none. Research on multitasking reveals that we’re not good at it. Focus on one behavior to change at a time.”
  2. Make your goals specific and  SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely!
  3. Paint a vivid picture: imagine a detailed vision of a better future you can aspire to. It will serve as an emotional inspiration.
  4. Activate peer pressure: by nature, we are affected by what the people around us do. Our peers help guide our social behavior, so use that to build momentum.
  5. Hire and fire based on behaviors: people act based on the ramifications of their actions. Use it to motivate them.

What do would you add to this list? Please share!

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

The Fabulous Five

Landing a job can be harder than the job itself.

To give you a leg up, here are the five top traits employers look for, according to a recent article by Forbes.

  1. Professionalism: Potential employers assess this from the moment you walk in the door. “From the clothes you wear to the way you stand to the grip of your first hand-shake, presenting yourself as a confident, energetic professional is about as basic as career advice gets. “
  2. High-energy: you want to be the person who raises the energy level, not the stick in the mud. Think about it, who would you rather be around at work?
  3. Confident: sell yourself. If you don’t believe you’re worth it, why should anyone else?
  4. Self-monitoring: no one has the time to babysit you. Make it clear that you’re focused and on task without any help.
  5. Intellectual curiosity: “An employee who will grudgingly adopt a new database is not as attractive as one who is truly passionate about learning new things.”

Do you concur that these are the top five, as an employer or as a coworker? What other traits matter more?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Apology Accepted

In most cases, it’s not the mistake that matters as much as the way someone handles it. Being candid and sincere after you make a mistake can rectify almost any situation, personally or professionally.

Unless you live under a rock — and especially if you’ve heard that Apple Maps says you do —  you know about the big slip-up by Apple in their iOS 6 update that came out with the new iPhone 5. Apple Maps has been buggy and inaccurate, which is very unlike Apple’s normal customer experiences.

To address customer dissatisfaction- Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a letter of apology:

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better…

“While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

“Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.”

Many analysts have said the candor of Cook’s letter of apology, and his willingness to suggest other companies who can bridge the map gap, has completely salvaged the situation for Apple. I know it convinced my boss to go ahead with the iOS 6 update. He says he hasn’t been directed to drive underwater or over a cliff thus far.

What are your thoughts? Did Tim Cooks’ sincerity help the situation?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Take the Leap and Clear the Hurdle of Fear

In an article on CNBC, author Tom Reiger discusses a key issue covered in his book Breaking the Fear Barrier: How Fear Destroys Companies from Inside Out and What to Do about It.

Due to the past and current economic climate, anxiety and fear has become a staple in the workplace. “In the midst of all of this uncertainty, managers and employees will inevitably feel compelled to build walls to protect themselves, regardless of the impact on the overall company. If left unchecked, this attitude can pit the good of the individual against the greater good of the organization—spelling death for companies.”

Two kids of courage are at play in this situation, and they are at odds:

  1. Vital courage: the inward focus of survival, which could be thought of as our Reptilian brain
  2. Moral courage: our compass of morality that leads us to take a path for the greater good

In companies that have a high level of fear, employees may be asked to make decisions that tap moral courage and suppress vital courage. But humans are wired to focus on our vitals. Thus Reiger advises companies to “make employees feel comfortable and motivated to perform acts of moral courage. The key is to design rewards and performance management in a way that balances and aligns both types of courage. ”

Have you even been in a situation where you felt at odds? Please share!

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Big Apple of Knowledge

I have no words to describe how much I love New York City. It’s the best place on Earth. That’s why I’ve been here my entire adult life.

The people, the sights, the sounds, if not always the smell, always combine to make me feel I’m home. That’s why I had to read the Forbes article this week about Fifty Important Lessons New York City Taught Me.

Here are my top five lessons:

  1. Walk
  2. If you don’t care, no one will.
  3. Mean a little to many, or a lot to few
  4. You get what you incentivize
  5. Be inspired

It’s important to keep sight of the small lessons in a city so big, otherwise you may find yourself lost.

What are your top lessons in this article? Please share!

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

The Dark Side of Us

There’s a legend about the dark side in every person:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

An interesting INSEAD Business School blog talks about how people focus on their Dr. Jekyll and not only ignore the negative Mr. Hyde inside of them, but even project those traits onto others.

We need to engage in a process that acknowledges and accepts both our socially acceptable part and the shadow side. Denial and projecting reinforces the problem. It’s like taking the potion and wondering why Hyde becomes stronger and increasingly powerful.

That being said, you may not be able to do it on your own and might reach out to your lifelines for help. Author Michael Jarrett suggests: “These issues can be resolved but first need to be acknowledged, or else they can continue to unconsciously operate in ways that are detrimental to leaders’ self-efficacy, their teams, and their organizations…what makes the difference is the ability to mobilize internal regulation with the aid of a skillful helper.”

Do you believe that there are people in your life that can help you acknowledge and control your bad behavior? Please share!

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Color Me Intrigued

Companies are painting the walls in their offices more hues “to make their offices feel a little homier, or at least like a home office, and seek new ways to motivate employees,” according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Ever wonder why call centers for customer complaints are generally painted green or blue? Soothing colors help service reps maintain their cool. On the other hand, quieter workplaces may want to add a pop of color to brighten up the environment and ambiance.

The four top picks for office spaces according to Behr Process Corporation are:

  1. Canvas Tan (light tan)
  2. Brandy (pink and brown mash-up)
  3. Ozone (grayish blue)
  4. Zen (sea-foam green)

These colors are noticeable enough to add some energy to the room and stimulate employees without reaching distracting levels of external stimuli.

What do you think about the colors of your workplace? Why do you think someone would pick a color called “ozone?”  What color works best for you?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Remote Employees Are More Engaged? Really?

Employees who work remotely are actually more engaged with their teams than their “in-office” counterparts, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study. Surprised?

Our own Keith Ferrazzi has published advice on how dispersed teams can be more productive than co-located teams in Harvard Business Review, and yet my initial reaction was disbelief. How can individuals be more engaged with people they never see than with people down the hall? But author Scott Edinger proposes several possible reasons:

  1. Proximity breeds complacency.  Even co-located teams communicate primarily through email. It’s so easy to walk 100 feet to communicate personally that people take it for granted.
  2. Absence makes people try harder to connect. People make more of an effort to connect when they you don’t ordinarily interact with people.
  3. Leaders of virtual teams make better use of tools. When your primary form of connecting with people is virtual, you master many different modes of communication.
  4. Leaders of far-flung teams maximize the time their teams spend together. When remote people do finally get face-time with people they don’t see often, leaders do everything to maximize the precious time spent together.

Do you agree with Edinger’s suppositions? Have you noticed more engagement with remote teammates?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

Networking Mistakes You Can Avoid

It’s easy to get so swept up in the tides of social media and connection building or the urgency of a job search that you forget the key to successful networking: mutual generosity for mutual success. Recently Forbes published  Four Networking Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making that will help keep you on track.

Here’s the list:

  1. Don’t talk about yourself all the time, instead take some interest. There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth. By being curious about others, you show that you see their value and can build a sustainable relationship.
  2. Instead of expecting a job, add some value. The value train goes both ways. “If you’re looking for a job, don’t ask for it—work for it. Do some research into what your contact does both in and out of work and find ways that you can contribute your time or support.”
  3. Always say thank you. Pretty self-explanatory. Snail mail thank-you cards are a wonderfully thoughtful touch in today’s online world. Send them out as soon as possible.
  4. Stay accountable and always follow up. Stay true to your word to confirm the value of your brand.

What would you add? Are there some common networking mistakes you’d add to the list?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.