Hook Top Candidates With Great Storytelling

It takes an average of 27 days to hire a new employee, according to a recent survey, but the best candidates are off the market within 10 days. In today’s tight job market, it’s a challenge for many executives to convince top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.

To become better at hiring and training, Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, suggests taking the approach of a storyteller. Give candidates lots of facts and figures about your company and then tell them the right story.

Core Values Are Key. Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values. Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive an organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Some examples of core values include statements such as:

  • We go the extra mile for customers
  • We do whatever it takes to get the job done

Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.

The Core Value Storytelling Formula. For every core value, the company should capture a true story that represents that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core value storytelling formula:

1. Start with a main character. Every story starts with a character who wants something: your client. Make your main character likable so the listeners will root for them.

2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the protagonist’s way?

 

3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. Heroes cannot succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provide.

4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.

5. Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).

6. Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Put Stories Into Action. After you’ve identified the core value and have examples to share with candidates, persuade future hires—and educate current employees and customers—with these opportunities:

During a job interview. Don’t start the interview by telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared information about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.

At weekly staff meetings. During staff meetings, tell a story to illustrate one of your core values.

At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core-value selling.

On the company website. Detail for clients and potential clients the power of story by promoting core-value stories on your website.

In company collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade others on an emotional level. Utilize storytelling as a key strategy for showcasing your core values.

Three Ways To Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive criticism can be a very sensitive area. It’s an opportunity to identify areas of improvement, but it can also mean bruising an ego here or there.

In her recent blog post from The Muse, author Kat Boogard shared three ways to give constructive feedback, which we’ll outline below.

1. ” You always …” Always. As Boogard says, “always’ seems like such an innocent word, but when used to give feedback, it can quickly put someone on the defensive.

As she points out, “always” can imply that there’s a mistake that has happened on a frequent enough basis that you can chalk it up as something that person repeatedly does. Maybe that’s true. However, constructive criticism is hard enough to swallow without being made to feel like you’ve been making the same mistake for a long time.

So, when giving feedback, drop the “A” word.

2. “Everybody has noticed that …” Sometimes when you receive feedback, it can feel embarrassing or disheartening, especially when you didn’t realize there was a problem to begin with.

Implying that everyone has noticed will make the recipient feel like they’ve been talked about and that negative comments were made.

When giving feedback, there’s no need to relay the details of every single complaint. In the end, it shouldn’t matter how many people have commented. What matters is that the person is aware that he or she needs to fix it.

3. “If I were you …” Constructive criticism is generally better received when it’s rooted in fact-as opposed to just opinion. This phrase, “If I were you …” can come across as judgmental.

Remember, not everybody works the same way, which means that just because you’d do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the way that other person is doing it is wrong and warrants correction.

Providing feedback can be a positive discussion and an effective step toward improvement. By demonstrating respect and basing feedback on facts, not judgement or opinion, you’ll create a positive foundation for next steps to improvement.

Source: Kat Boogard is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor on the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she’s usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco.

Getting To The Customer Experience Finish Line

This week we focuse on the trend toward declining customer satisfaction scores and what your organization can do to pull ahead of this problem. The solution, of course, is dependent on your organization recognizing that, because of higher expectations set by customer experience leaders such as Amazon, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, customers expect an ever-improving experience. Being good at what you do is no longer enough.

In his recent blog post, “Why Good is a Four-Letter Word,” customer experience author and speaker Jay Baer writes: “Exceptional brands understand that the customer experience finish line is a mirage, and are constantly upping their game.”

In research for his book, Talk Triggers, Baer discovered that most organizations could take cues from leaders to do more to improve customer experience, but choose not to. Why? Because they believe that being satisfactory in the products or services they provide is good enough. It’s not.

In today’s experience economy, where any competitor can copy what you do in virtually no time, having satisfied customers is not enough. To truly succeed you need to create rabid fans of your products and services. You must provide an experience that turns customers into advocates who are willing to help you share your story.

According to Baer, “Good enough is not enough. Good is the minimum prerequisite required for you to remain in business. Good does not create conversations. Good does not turn your customers into advocates. Good is not the goal.”

His recommendation is to create a series of checkpoints. Set the specific goals needed to dramatically improve your customer experience and make each a checkpoint. When you get to a checkpoint, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and start working toward the next checkpoint. And keep adding to your checkpoints because as soon as you reach one, your customers will very likely have increased their expectations once again.

Outline your customer service checkpoints, and start your journey to an exceptional customer experience.

Source: Jay Baer is president of Convince & Convert, a global keynote speaker and emcee, host of the Social Pros podcast, an inductee into the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s also the author of five books including Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.

How To Respond Faster To Leads – And Why It Matters

What can you do in an hour? You can take lunch or connect with a friend over coffee. In about an hour you can get new glasses, get your oil changed or walk about 4,500 steps on the treadmill. It also takes the C

SI crew about an hour to solve a murder (including commercials, of course). An hour is also the maximum amount of time you should take to respond to an inbound lead. Why, specifically, an hour?

A study in Harvard Business Review analyzed 1.25 million leads across 29 business-to-consumer companies and 13 business-to-business companies. It found that companies that responded to inbound leads within one hour were seven times more likely to qualify the lead (have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker) than companies that responded within two hours. Plus, those that responded within one hour were 60 times more likely to qualify the lead than those who responded 24 hours or longer after receiving the lead.

In a recent article in Inc. magazine, Tommy Mello, the founder of A1 Garage Doors, shared four ways he makes sure his company responds to inbound leads within that critical first hour.

Review your org chart. It isn’t necessary for all employees to be focused on hyper response. Take a look at your organization and identify those who should be.

Make hyper-responsiveness a key metric that you measure. After you know who needs to respond quickly, put the expectations in place. Do they need to respond in five minutes or an hour? Make sure you have the tools and systems in place to track the time to respond and the results.

Provide a centralized customer relation

ship management system. Using a centralized CRM will allow your sales teams to have all the information they need in front of them and provide reminders for follow up. It also allows the company to see who the top performers are to benchmark and replicate their processes across the rest of the team.

Create an FAQ template. Responding quickly has the risk of responding poorly due to the time pressure. Having templates in places to help your employees respond to the most common types of inbound leads will help minimize missteps and keep the conversations on point.

Do You Really Need An App for That?

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? According to a report from App Annie, the average smartphone user accesses over 30 apps monthly—and these are approximately one-third to one-half of the total apps installed on their phones. With the Apple App Store expecting to offer five million apps by 2020, it’s certain that app usage will continue to rise.

As business owners, we feel the pressure to develop an app. Why? It makes us “current.” It provides convenience for the customer. It sets us apart from the competition. And the reasons continue. However, unless your business already has a developer team in house, an app can be a costly investment that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a return on investment.

Today we share these key questions to ask when deciding whether or not to invest in app development, according to Sarah Perez, writer for TechCrunch.

1. Would it provide value to your customers? The first question many business leaders ask themselves is whether developing an app would be good for the company. There are a million reasons why apps can benefit any business, but what is most important is whether an app would add value to your customers.

Even if you don’t use technology to make transactions, many businesses can find creative ways to provide value to customers with an app, from ordering products to tracking delivery. Getting customers to download an app is easy. But whether it adds value to their experience with your business is the biggest question, so ask your customers what they need.

2. Do you want to stand out from the competition? Big or small, almost all businesses today have a website. What’s less common for small businesses is having a mobile app that customers want to download and use. If none of your competitors have already made a killer app, that may be the reason to get a jumpstart and provide value that no one else is offering.

3. Does the return on investment outweigh the cost of hiring a developer? If hiring a developer will cost more than business gained or retained from the app, then perhaps focusing on updating your website is a better use of resources. Find out if your customers spend more time on their phones, tablets or computers— then you’ll know where to invest for the most visibility.

Mobile apps might not be right for every business. But knowing how customers spend their time and providing value to them is important for any business wanting to stay on top.

Source: Sarah Perez currently works as a writer for TechCrunch, after having previously spent more than three years at ReadWriteWeb. Prior to her work as a reporter, she worked in IT across a number of industries, including banking, retail and software.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. 

Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments thatsupport productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

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Three C’s To Hiring The Right Person

Have you ever led a team where everyone seems to gel together? You reach success with a highly effective team in both the work they produce and in the attitude of the team. But how do you bring about this type of teamwork?

It starts with hiring the right people. As a leader, one of the hardest jobs is to add high-quality people to your team.

The more homework you do on the front end of the selection process, the better chance you’ll have of finding the right fit, says Ron Edmondson, a church leader and pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This homework requires that you look within yourself to see what you need most in another person.

Edmondson suggests the next time you have an open position, to consider these three C’s. Which of these types of people would be most helpful to you at this time in your leadership?

1. Someone Who Complements You. This person can do more of what you do. If you are strategic—they are strategic. If you are a relational leader—they will be more so. It could be there’s just not enough of you to go around, but you need more of what you bring to your organization. Edmondson explains that in his large and growing church, he did this by hiring another executive pastor, so the church now has two leaders—one that is relational and one that is strategic.

2. Someone Who Completes You. What are you missing that you simply can’t bring to the team? It could be a quality you are not wired to provide or you no longer have enough time to provide it. This person can fill in gaps you have in your leadership. And, we all have those gaps. Edmondson gives the example of when his church hired a senior adult pastor who was still in the prime of his career. This role was needed because the church had a large senior population and this person provided this demographic with someone they could trust and feel comfortable with; it filled a gap for the church. So where are the gaps or missing holes on your team? Consider, not the open position, but the talent and personality you need for your team.

3. Someone Who Competes With You. This type of person could be needed as you are looking to transition out as a leader or if your organization is large enough to be investing in the next generation of leaders. This is the person who eventually wants your job. They want to do what you do someday, perhaps even more than the position for which you are hiring them. And, if they are really good, they are going to, at times, appear to be in direct competition for yo

ur job. This type of person will push you to be a better leader, and will also serve as bench strength for your team.

Edmondson sums it up by explaining, “You have to decide what you want or need in the person you are hiring. This is beneficial for you and the person who will come to work with you. And, it can hopefully help you avoid making a mistake in hiring.”

Source: As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, a church leader and the planter of two churches, Ron Edmondson is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. His specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor, he consults with church and ministry leaders.

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Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

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Seven Ways To Improve Your Sphere Of Influence

To move things forward and achieve key milestones at work, you often need to be able to influence others—whether it’s colleagues, subordinates, your boss, customers or suppliers. In most cases, influence is power and it’s a critical element for success. Gaining influence can help you better manage a team or get your voice heard in a key meeting.

We’re sharing these key tips for building influence from Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing and social media agency.

1. Build Trust With Your Co-Workers. Only when a co-worker trusts you will he or she be open to your influence. The easiest way to do that is to be open and honest, no matter what. State your opinions, disclose your apprehensions and be transparent.

2. Be Consistent To Show Reliability. Inconsistency is the fastest way to ruin your reputation. On the other hand, if you execute your tasks effectively and on time, day after day, eventually people will come to rely on you. The same is true when you execute a consistent style of leadership, setting consistent expectations with your employees and giving consistent rewards for good work.

3. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive. Being assertive is the only way to get your ideas noticed, especially when you’re competing with others for visibility, such as in a meeting. However, there’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You’ll need to present your thoughts and ideas with a high degree of confidence , but excessive confidence could be mistaken for arrogance, which will compromise your perceived authority. Tread carefully, especially when you’re unfamiliar with your audience or if you’re presenting your thoughts on an area outside of your expertise. Being assertive, so long as you truly believe in what you’re saying, is a way to cultivate a reputation of authority and earn the ability to influence your peers and employees.

4. Be Flexible. Work to demonstrate flexibility while holding firm on your beliefs. Negotiations and compromises are often the best ways to do this. Hold your ground when someone contradicts you, but work with them to find a mutually acceptable solution. When people believe you are flexible, they’ll be more likely to listen to you even if they’re stubborn.

5. Be Personal. A little personality goes a long way, especially when you’re trying to build influence in the workplace. This is especially important when you’re in a higher position, as a boss or a supervisor. If you isolate yourself, or try to build your perceived authority by distancing yourself from others, it might only serve to alienate you. Instead, go out of your way to have personal exchanges with your employees and co-workers. Personal working relationships are important for cultivating a sense of team, and if people see you as another team member, they’ll be more receptive when you present your ideas or opinions.

6. Focus On Actions Rather Than Arguments. Trying to build influence through words is useless. If you’re going to build influence in the workplace, you need to speak through your actions, or at the very least have the actions and history to back up whatever it is you’re saying. Demonstrating your ideas through real examples provides proof of your genuine nature.

7. Listen To Others. Finally, remember that influence is a two-way street. If you want to build relationships with your co-workers and employees, you first have to listen. The more you believe in the people around you and incorporate their ideas into your vision, the more they’ll believe in your ideas and incorporate them into their work habits. Encourage people to speak up, especially if they don’t often voice their opinions. Take time to respect and acknowledge everybody’s opinion, and let people know that you value them.

Try these strategies to improve your scope of influence in the workplace, and your opinions will naturally be heard, acknowledged and respected as a result.

Source: Jayson DeMers is the founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing and social media agency.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments that support productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

Image courtesy of google image search.