What’s Your Social Media Game in 2017?

It’s a new year. It’s time for a fresh set of goals. And it’s critical to think about them in novel and different ways.

In your professional life, how will you use social media to achieve your goals? How will you use social media to tell your story about your wins?

To start, think about how social media will change for professionals this year. Check out the post, along with Dorie ClarkAlexandra SamuelBryan Kramer and William Arruda for some fascinating ideas.

Then ask yourself these 4 questions to make your own social media game plan.

  • What are your company’s big goals? Is your CEO sharing the company strategy with employees this month or quarter? How about other C-suite leaders? Access any and all public information about your company’s strategic plans for the year. Be clear on the top goals and the order of priority. And be sure what you share in social media is public information only.
  • What are your team’s goals? How do the company goals translate into your department’s goals and ultimately your team’s goals? Where does your team help drive the strategy toward execution? What new and different approaches can you and your team try this year?
  • What are your professional goals? How do your team goals translate into your own professional goals? What do you need to accomplish this year? What stretch assignments do you want to tackle? On the development side, what do you want or need to learn? How will you accomplish that?
  • How will use use social media to achieve your goals and tell your story? Does social media play a role in achieving your goals? If it hasn’t before, could you incorporate it this year? When you achieve goals, how will you use social media to tell your story? What conferences are you attending? Where are you speaking? What are you blogging?

At this point, focus on “what” your goals will be. Don’t worry about the “how” at this point.

Why?

If you’re not sure about how to execute a goal, that can stand in the way of setting it in the first place. And just because you don’t exactly know how to do it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You’ve probably had many “first times” in your career. What did you do when your boss asked you to take on a new project, something you’d never done before? You can reflect on and use those experiences in the same way when you get to the “how” part of actually accomplishing your goals.

A former boss came to me some years ago and said the CEO wanted to do an employee engagement survey. My boss asked me to lead it.

That was beyond my role at the time as a corporate communications leader. There was a moment of terror, but after a few minutes it sounded like a fascinating project.

In thinking through the “how,” I realized I could build on the communications-related surveying I’d done, engage with experts and partners, create a team, map out a plan, execute it, learn and adjust as we went.

With so much information available online, you can research any topic and come up with ideas. Being able to figure it out is a skill that becomes more important every day.

I’m ever inspired by a talk that business leader Mark Cuban gave at my employer’s headquarters many years ago.

Most striking were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I. And so can you.

For now, take some time to set your social media goals for the year.

Here are mine:

  • Amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle, by sharing 3 posts each week.
  • Share appropriate highlights of my work in social media, by posting something at least 2 times a month.
  • Learn about how social media is changing and evolving, by listening to 5 podcasts each week during drive time.
  • Help others by sharing and commenting on their valuable content, at least 3 times a week.

Each goal is measurable, with a number attached to it. As the year goes on, I’ll assess if this is the right frequency or if tweaks need to be made.

None of my goals have anything to do with followers. In part that’s because I can’t completely control those numbers. Sure, the goals I’m pursuing are likely to attract followers. But I’m focused on actions I can 100% control on my own.

Here I’m influenced by Gary V‘s ideas on Building a Personal Brand, a Udemy course I finished today. One of the biggest takeaways? “Consistency almost trumps everything,” Gary says.

Another pearl from Gary? This one is for combating fear of failure: “Spend all your time in the in-between space, the time between starting and stopping.”

What’s your social media game plan for the year?

Don’t worry yet about the “how” of making it happen. “How” will be the subject of many future posts.

What’s Driving the Future of PR and Communications

What does the future hold for PR and communications? Check out the Relevance Report.

New from the USC Center for Public Relations this month, it’s full of innovative ideas on what’s ahead.

Global. Mobile. Video. Data. Emotion. These are just a few of the trend areas accelerating in the year ahead.

The biggest learning for me? It’s the parallel and seemingly paradoxical rise of data and emotion as drivers of influence. Data drives better decision making, while emotion is a prime influencer of people’s opinions and behaviors.

Find out more in my latest blog post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

It’s about what you’ll learn in this insightful report, with nuggets of wisdom from Annenberg’s Bob Feldman and Heather Rim as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman.

The post is part of being a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this school year. It’s a thrill to share the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

The Relevance Report gives timely insight into trends that will impact society, business and communications. It features thought pieces from communications leaders who identify the issues, ideas and innovations that will be relevant to the communications industry in 2017.

10 Tips for a Perfect Podcast

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Podcasts are a powerful way to share your story.

But what exactly is a podcast?

It’s “a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer,” says Dictionary.com

Podcasts are taking off. From 2015 to 2016, podcast listening was up by 23%, Jay Baer reported from Edison Research‘s work.

What’s driving the growth? People enjoy greater mobility with smartphones and tablets, Baer says, rather than being tethered to a laptop. Podcasts are easy to listen to on the go.

This is why podcasts have become part of my own personal learning plan and drive-time strategy. Although I’m lucky by Los Angeles traffic standards, I spend more than 60 minutes commuting each day.

That’s a perfect chunk of time for learning. And with lifelong learning being both a pleasure and an imperative, what better time to listen to a podcast?

Data analytics and social media are at the top of my learning agenda. I’ve been enjoying FiveThirtyEight, Freakonomics and Social Pros.

It’s easy to get started. Just search topics of interest on iTunes, download your favorites and start listening.

My work colleague Doug Magditch first got me thinking about podcasts. He invited me to be in his Life at AT&T series, one of his Corporate Communications initiatives.

(This is where I note that opinions expressed here are my own.)

Doug’s conversations with colleagues show how employees are delivering on the company’s mission to connect people with their world – everywhere they live, work and play.

With a degree in mass media, Doug began his career as a reporter and multimedia journalist. His creative skills as a storyteller, his editing skills weaving together a narrative and his on-air presence make Life at AT&T a hit.

He invited Eliska Paratore, Joan Marsh and me to share what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership role at the company. Timing it with election season, he framed it as hearing about leadership “from the veeps.”

This was my first experience with a podcast, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are 10 tips for a perfect podcast.

BEFORE

What’s the best way to prepare for a podcast? Become familiar with the format and give yourself plenty of interesting material to work. This helps with responding naturally and spontaneously during the recording session.

  • Listen to previous podcasts in the series. Understand how the format works. Identify what worked well and what you’d like to emulate.
  • Talk with others who’ve been featured. See what previous participants recommend for preparation. This is a step I wish I’d taken.
  • Think about the subject and what you want to say about it. Brainstorm and jot down ideas. Then narrow the focus to 3 key messages.
  • Gather ideas, anecdotes and data. Chose those that support your key messages. Look for ones that add interest and provide credibility.

DURING

Many of these tips came from listening to myself after the podcast came out and thinking about what I could do better next time.

  • Relax and have fun. Conversations are fun and sharing expertise is fun. Recording a podcast should be the same.
  • Stand up. The advice for standing up during a phone call to give your voice more energy translates well to a podcast recording. People sound more confident when they stand.
  • Use short sentences. This will help your listeners get your key points, not to mention making the editing process much easier.

AFTER

  • Promote your podcast. Tell your social communities about it and why they’d be interested in hearing it. In my case, that meant sharing the podcast in LinkedIn and  Twitter, including retweeting Doug.

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This was easy, thanks to our company’s Social Circle. It provides great content about our brand, ready for sharing by interested employees in their personal social networks.

Inside the company, employees commented on the podcast in an internal social space. When the podcast was released, I visited the page a few times a day to read comments, like and respond to some, and bring additional colleagues into the conversation.

If you’ve recorded a podcast, what worked for you? And what podcasts do you recommend?

Lead with the Lead

Start with your key sentence. Your point. Your theory. Your ask.

Whether it’s a talk, a text or an email, lead with what’s most important.

Three things got me thinking about this.

First, how do we grab people’s attention from the start? I heard two days of incredible talks at TEDWomen 2016 this month. The speakers did not start with, “Hi, I’m glad to be here and I’m excited about what I’m going to share with you and I’d like to thank a few people before I get started.”

No, they grabbed us with their opening words. With a bold statement or a question or a story. Here are examples from some of my favorite TED talks.

“So I want to start by offering you a free no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes.” So begins Amy Cuddy‘s talk, Your body language shapes who you are.

“What makes a great leader today?” There’s no mistaking what Roselinde Torres will address in her talk, What it takes to be a great leader.

“It’s the fifth time I stand on this shore, the Cuban shore, looking out at that distant horizon, believing, again, that I’m going to make it all the way across that vast, dangerous wilderness of an ocean.” Diana Nyad grabs the audience right at the beginning of her story in Never, ever give up.

Second, how do we help busy people easily respond us? Quite simply, by putting the key information in the opening words of our emails and texts.

Beyond putting your main message in the subject line, use your first 10 to 12 words to make your point.

Many people have email preview screens that show these words. Make the most of that space by getting to the point. Because your recipient may not read anything else.

Third, how do we spot the key idea in any interaction? When a meeting ends, can you summarize the most important point in a single sentence? What’s the headline? The tweet? The snap?

Take a few minutes at the end of a conversation or meeting to identify the one key takeaway. Share it with your colleagues.

Given the complexity of many projects and the extensive collaboration that’s required to meet goals, this helps others see the forest for the trees.

This keeps a team focused on what’s most important. It guides their actions. And it increases the likelihood of success.

How do you keep your lead front and center?

What’s Your Story?

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Stories bring people together in powerful ways.

I was reminded of this at a recent leadership offsite.

Following a day of focusing on the future and identifying imperatives for the coming year, we gathered around the dinner table.

The talk turned to people’s stories, their families and the paths to where they are today.

We heard about teachers, farmers and ranchers. We heard about people who were the first in their family to attend college. We heard about struggles and triumphs. We heard about hard work and dedication.

It was an inspiring slice of largely American history. One especially sage colleague remarked about how far each of our families had come in just a few generations.

It’s easy to lose sight of that in our fast-paced, always-on 21st-century world.

I wonder what life was like for my great-grandfather, Neils Peter Larsen. Born in Denmark in the late 1800s, he was the youngest of 9 children.

With little economic opportunity on the Danish isle of Laeso, he left his country as a young teen. As a cabin boy, he sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco.

Some years later, he became the captain of his own ship, the St. Katherine. My grandmother and sister share her name and adventurous spirit.

That’s the ship pictured above, temporarily stuck in the ice in the Bering Sea in the early 1900s. How cold must it have been that day? How likely was it the ship would break apart as the ice moved? How scary was it to walk across the waves?

Or maybe it was just business as usual in that line of work.

According to the San Francisco-based Pacific Telephone Magazine where my mom was featured as an employee in the 1960s, “Captain Larsen made history with voyages to Alaska during the Yukon gold rush and later with the Alaskan fisheries.”

I can only imagine what those experiences were like today, as I gaze at my family’s framed sea charts from California, Hawaii and Japan that line my walls.

It’s absolutely incredible to think how far sea navigation has come in little over 100 years – from large paper charts to electronic navigation systems. What amazing advancements will the next century hold?

My great-grandparents honeymooned by sailing around the coast of China. That chart hangs in my parents’ house in Connecticut, complete with pencil markings of an uncharted island my ancestors discovered on their journey.

These stories and the ones I heard from my colleagues remind me of the hard work and determination that are the hallmarks of our country.

They remind me that when things get tough, there’s always a way through – or around or over.

They remind me that the future is exciting and that we’re each creating it, one day at a time.

We have what it takes. We got this.

As I contemplate a visit to Denmark, I’m inspired by the serendipitous family reunion that the multi-talented photographer Denice Duff experienced on a magical trip to Italy.

While looking for her great-grandmother’s house in Sicily, she had the unexpected good fortune to meet family members she never knew she had.

This heartwarming story may be one of the reasons I recently picked up a book called The Storyteller’s Secret.

In this captivating read, Carmine Gallo says that, “since the next decade will see the most change our civilization has ever known, your story will radically transform your business, your life and the lives of those you touch.”

Why is this important? Because “ideas that catch on are wrapped in a story,” he says.

Stories connect us, inform us and inspire us.

That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons behind the golden age of television, with so many compelling shows. This is why it’s so exciting to work in an industry at the intersection of entertainment and technology.

This is where great stories are told that entertain us, help us make sense of the world and prompt us to think about our own stories and the difference we’re making.

(And this is where I remind readers that opinions are my own.)

Speaking of stories, I can’t wait to hear from the speakers at next week’s TEDWomen 2016 conference. Fittingly for me, it’s in San Francisco, close to where I was born and where my daughter is attending college.

What’s your story? How are you writing it every day?

To Respond or Not to Respond

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Our incoming messages are exploding.

LinkedIn messages. Facebook and Twitter notifications. Emails. Texts. Snaps.

Just reading and responding to everything could be more than a full-time job.

You need a strategy for when you do and don’t respond.

And I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that no response is the right way to say no.

In our hyperconnected world, our humanity and good manners can too easily go by the wayside.

Sometimes it’s because we can’t help the person and we need to say no. In those cases, have a standard professional response you can copy, paste, edit and send to say you’re not interested at this time, but you’ll keep the info for future reference.

Some messages are easy not to respond to:

  • Automated sales pitches, usually via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Connection requests immediately followed by a sales pitch, again, usually via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Connection requests in LinkedIn from people you don’t know and that aren’t personalized to explain why they’d like to connect with you
  • Tweets that mention you as a way to draw you into an issue for which you can offer no meaningful response

Some messages deserve a response. And while it would be easy enough to ignore them, giving a response can set you apart and enhance your company’s reputation:

  • Customers of your company who need help getting an issue resolved. Respond to that customer right away.  Be a friendly, helpful, human face and voice. Connect them with your company’s customer care team for a rapid response.

Interesting stat: 78% of people who complain to a brand in Twitter expect a response within an hour. Another one: 77% of people feel more positive about a brand when their tweet has been replied to.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed are my own.)

  • People from your alma maters, past and present employers and other professional groups who ask for your advice or an introduction to a colleague for networking purposes.
  • Connections, colleagues and friends who post valuable content. Read their link, give them a “like” if the content is something you want to be associated with, and leave a short and upbeat comment that adds a constructive observation to the dialogue. Social media is all about reciprocity.

And some messages fall in between.

An example? A request to connect to one of your connections, without a clearly stated reason.

Recently a LinkedIn connection asked to connect to a colleague, to invite her to an event. I suspected it was a sales pitch and didn’t want to spam my colleague. I asked the requester for more info. Never heard back. End of story.

Suppose you do decide to respond to a message to decline a request and you get a response asking for something else.

What then?

Here I take my cue from a wise colleague, Tina Morefield. She’ll send a response. One response. And after that, no more.

Unless, of course, it’s from a customer who needs your help. In that case, keep responding until the issue is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. Because our customers are the lifeblood of our organizations.

When do you respond? When do you not respond?

12 Ways to Take a Great Headshot

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Everyone needs a great headshot.

Why? Social media profiles. Executive biographies. Email signatures. Conference badge photos.

Having a great headshot helps build your personal brand.

But sometimes being photographed is the last thing we want to do. Here are 12 ways to get a great shot and have fun in the process.

Just do it. Get a new photo taken every few years. I waited 5 years since my last headshot, which was way too long.

My colleague Roger Hyde‘s team had created such a perfect environment years ago, complete with a wind machine, that I was hesitant to do it again.

But thanks to the gentle coaxing of photographer Jessica Sterling, my husband Kevin and I finally took new headshots.

Decide what message you want to convey. What do you want your headshot to say about you? It should amplify your personal brand – what you want to be known for.

I wanted a new photo I could use in a corporate environment. It also needed to work in other contexts in my professional and personal lives.

Pick a great photographer. Ask your colleagues and friends for recommendations. Or use social media to find someone local.

On a tight budget? Find someone who’s starting out or team up with friends who need headshots.

If you’re planning a professional event, bring in a photographer for attendees to get their pics done.

The global youth media company Fullscreen did this at a recent women’s leadership event – brilliant idea!

In my case, I had the good fortune of knowing Jessica Sterling from work, and I was familiar with her visual capability with people and organizations. I personally retained her services, and so it began.

Check out other headshots for inspiration. Look at headshots of people you admire. Check out leaders and standouts in your field. Find images that express what you want to convey. Think about how you’ll express what makes you unique. Share samples and discuss ideas with your photographer.

Personalities shine through in the speaker headshots for the upcoming TEDWomen 2016 conference. I can’t wait to attend this in October and hear from these fascinating women and men.

Have your makeup and hair done. Bring in the professionals!

Whether it’s your own go-to hair and makeup glam squad, or a stop at the Dry Bar for a blowout and Sephora for a makeover, have your hair and makeup done.

Thank you, Emma Willis and Countour Fosse!

Wear solid colors. Solids photograph well and are bolder. Bright colors pop and attract more attention. Too much white can wash you out.

Bring several wardrobe options to your shoot and play around with the pieces. Have different jewelry options.

Blue is my employer’s brand color, so I chose a jewel-toned blue jacket (this is where I mention that opinions are my own). But I also love red, so I brought my favorite Nina McLemore jacket.

Try to smize. While searching for tips on taking a great headshot, supermodel and entrepreneur Tyra Banks rose to the top. Here I learned how to smize. This is all about smiling with your eyes to take a great shot.

Relax and have fun. Cue up your favorite music. Bring a friend who makes you laugh and brings out the best in you. Let your playful side emerge and enjoy all the attention. After all, how often do you get to be center stage for the better part of a day in real life?

Take “behind the scenes” pics. Among the four of us in the studio, we each got some pictures as the shoot was unfolding. These were fun to post on Instagram that day.

Choose the best image to be your personal brand. Look through all the shots on a few different occasions. Mark your favorites. Ask friends for feedback. Think about the brand you want to express. Does your selection capture that essence?

Use your headshot consistently in EVERYTHING. I used to use one photo in “professional” social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and a more casual one in more “personal” social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). I tried to keep the two worlds separate, but the lines continue to blur.

So this time I took Guy Kawasaki‘s advice in The Art of Social Media. I picked one picture to use in everything.

Just as a business brand uses the same logo consistently, your headshot is YOUR brand. You should use the same photo consistently in your social world.

When I made a list of where I’d use my new headshot, it kept growing. Executive bio. Social media profiles. My gmail signature (another nod to Guy Kawasaki for recommending Wise Stamp). College alumni profiles. Google. Yelp. AirBNB. On so on.

My headshot is on my camera roll so I can upload it into event apps and anywhere I might need it.

Take advantage of events that offer headshots. Be camera ready to take a new pic at a variety of events that offer photography.

And don’t forget to smize!

Can Data Presentation be a Matter of Life or Death?

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To my surprise and delight, “communication” topped the list of key skills for data scientists in a CEB Market Insights blog post I read this week.

The post covered the top 10 skills for data scientists and 2 strategies for hiring them. Yet “communication” felt like a lone outlier among a list of highly quantitative skills, like managing structured data, mathematics, data mining and statistical modeling.

But indeed, the Business Broadway study the post cited showed that “communications” recurred the most frequently across a variety of data science roles.

When Thomas Davenport and D.J. Patil named “Data Scientist” the sexiest job of the 21st century in Harvard Business Review, they cited an enduring need “for data scientists to communicate in language that all their stakeholders understand – and to demonstrate the special skills involved in storytelling with data, whether verbally, visually, or – ideally – both.”

As a communicator who pivoted into marketing analytics, it’s heartening to to see data showing there’s a role and need for effective communication and storytelling skills.

And having led communications, the field is dramatically improved by data that demonstrates what works and what doesn’t, and helps predict how various audiences might respond to different communications strategies.

Beyond enabling data-driven decisions, clear communications about data can literally be a matter of life or death. Two fascinating examples crossed my path this morning in an article by Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin called Over-the-Counter Data: the heroics of well-displayed information.

The first example was an early use of data visualization in the summer of 1854. In London, 500 people died of mysterious causes in a 10-day period. A Dr. John Snow made his data user-friendly. He took a neighborhood map and noted the exact locations where people had died.

This pointed toward a local water pump that was the culprit in the spread of cholera. With this clearly displayed data, Dr. Snow was able to convince authorities to remove the pump’s handle in order to stop the outbreak.

Another example took a much more ominous turn. The night before the Space Shuttle Challenger launched in January 1986, NASA engineers and their supervisors looked at charts and data on the rocket’s O-ring function. This is what keeps hot gasses contained. Based on what they saw, the launch was cleared for takeoff.

But the available data was not displayed clearly. It showed failed launches, but not successful launches. And this led decision makers to overlook a critical piece of information – the O-rings worked properly only when the temperature was above 66 degrees. The day of the Challenger launch was 30 degrees below that. It was “so cold it does not even fit on the graph.” It’s still heart wrenching to recall the tragedy that occurred that day.

While thankfully the work of data scientists is rarely a life or death matter, these examples underscore the need for clarity in communicating data. For what cannot be understood cannot be implemented.

Speak Effortlessly with a Compelling Opening

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Thrill your audience. Spark engagement with your ideas. Transform people’s views of the world.

That’s the promise of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, out this month by TED curator Chris Anderson.

And it’s also the new bar in public speaking. It’s no longer acceptable to under prepare, to meander or to bore your audience.

With so many people taking in a steady diet of TED talks to enlighten, educate and entertain themselves, the bar is sky high for anyone who speaks in public.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a keynote speech for an audience of a thousand or a tabletop presentation to your colleagues. Using the strategies in TED Talks will help spread your ideas.

Elements have come in handy for me in everything from town hall meetings and operations reviews at work to city committee meetings and inspirational talks in my community. Not to mention a decade of writing speeches and presentations for C-level corporate leaders.

Speaking effortlessly ties into my recent posts on grit and on sprezzatura, the art of making the difficult seem easy. In his book, Chris Anderson does a terrific job of outlining the hard work it takes behind the scenes to give a compelling talk. One that might change the world.

Take openings, for example. You have to grab people from the very first sentence. The opening words or a talk are similar to the way you need to think about headlines, subject lines and the first line of an email message. You only get a few words to pique people’s interest, or cause them to tune out.

This month I was presenting to a live and web-based audience in a town hall meeting. The topic? Our team’s annual scorecard – the priorities, initiatives, metrics and targets we’re striving for this year.

It had the potential to be boring. How to capture people’s attention? For that, I turned to the chapter on “Open and Close: What Kind of Impression Would you Like to Make?”

According to Anderson, “you have about a minute to intrigue people with what you’ll be saying.” He encourages readers to “script and memorize the opening minute.”

Here are 4 ways he offers to start strong:

  • Deliver a dose of drama. Anderson suggests asking yourself, “If your talk were a movie or a novel, how would it start?”
  • Ignite curiosity. Here you can ask a surprising question or give a little illustration that piques an interest to hear more.
  • Show a compelling slide, video or object. These capture even more attention when you reveal something surprising about them.
  • Tease, but don’t give it away. “Channel your inner Spielberg” and imagine what will make your audience want to learn more.

So how did I start my scorecard talk? My current work focuses on metrics and measurement. But numbers alone wouldn’t engage or inspire my colleagues.

I thought about how to link it with our bigger purpose. At our annual leadership kickoff meeting, our technology leader talked about the magic our team creates every day in marketing a storied, nearly 140-year-old company.

And there it was – the dramatic contrast of measuring magic.

“If you think you can’t measure magic,” I began, “I’m here to show you how we’ll do just that.”

Yes, the opening may have given too much away. But when a few people mentioned the magic reference to me later that day, I knew it had been a good way to start.

Equally important is how you close. And everything you do in between. I’ll explore those in future posts.

For a spine-tingling close, check out Brené Brown in her TED talk, The power of vulnerability.

How Gritty Are You?

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Did you catch two great books that came out this month? Grit by Angela Duckworth and TED Talks by Chris Anderson were both released on May 3.

More to come on TED in a future post, and for the 6-minute version of Grit, watch the TED talk. Dive into Grit the book for more on the science behind the concept. This answered 3 key questions for me.

First, what is grit? Duckworth defines it as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” More than talent and intelligence, grit is what ultimately makes people successful in achieving their goals.

She said in her TED talk that “Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Are you curious to see how gritty you are? Test yourself on the Grit Scale.

Second, what can be life-changing about grit? You don’t have to possess natural talent or off-the-charts intelligence in order to do great things. In fact, “natural talent” may simply be the outcome of a lot of hard work behind the scenes that ultimately comes to appear effortless.

If you have passion for something and decide to persevere no matter what, you have an excellent chance of achieving your goal. So says the science in Duckworth’s studies.

Third, what does this mean for your life? It means you don’t have any excuses. You can no longer say you don’t have what it takes to accomplish a goal in your area of passion. You have to own up to the fact that you didn’t work hard enough.

Does that mean you should never throw in the towel on something? Of course not. There are times when you need to cut your losses and move on. Just don’t do it too soon. Give yourself time to move beyond the inevitable period of being bad at something new, with thanks here to Erika Andersen.

How has grit made a difference? A few years ago, my daughter was struggling in her first AP class in high school. She missed the deadline to level down to a regular class. A few academic advisors later told her they could move her to a lower class and suggested that she avoid future AP courses.

To my surprise (and delight), my daughter said no. She wanted to finish the course. And finish she did. She eked by with a passing, but not great, grade in the course. But she got a qualifying score on the exam, one that will give her college credit. And she went on to take other AP courses, with better grades and better scores. All because she chose to persevere.

You’ve probably faced times like those in your life and your career. I can think of more than a few. When launching a new way to work with social collaboration a few years ago, I had moments of terror. How would we do it? How would we manage through the inevitable mistakes? How would we make it successful?

The day our beta test launched, I decided I would start a blog. The purpose? To create a safe learning environment for others. To role model the use of the new platform. And to learn by doing so I could advise other leaders on starting their own blogs.

It wasn’t easy, admitting what I didn’t know. Making mistakes. Asking the community for help in how to perform seemingly simple functions, like creating hyperlinks. Or launching a project on Social Media for Innovation in partnership with Gerry Ledford of USC’s Center for Effective Organizations. But that’s how I learned.

A fierce level of tenacity existed among the people on my team at the time who were leading the project – Michael Ambrozewicz and Thyda Nhek Vanhook. And we had tremendous colleagues in our I.T. organization, starting from Frank Palase to Brian Ulm and many, many others.

How did we do? I knew we’d achieved success when people started talking about the platform in meetings. When I’d walk by a conference room and see a platform screen displayed on a monitor. When I worked with our CEO to launch his leadership blog. And when nearly 90% of our employees were using the platform to do their daily work more efficiently.

In those moments when you want to shut down and walk away from a seemingly unsolvable problem, what works best is to do the opposite. Take some kind of action. Any action. Get feedback from others. Adjust your path. And keep moving forward.

How do you persevere on your most important goals?