christine e. middleton

By day... dot connector. strategist. practitioner. coach. helping executives find new ways to expand and grow their bottom lines.

In between hours... student of life. passion for inspired living. truth seeker. advocate of level playing fields. fan of creativity and design.

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Career Curveballs: Embrace Change or Become Stagnant

This sneak peak into Richard Branson’s evolution of risk taking.

One thing I like about Branson - his ego is big, but in all the ways that keep his businesses growing. It gets him past self-sabotage and the “you can’ts.”

That’s healthy.

What his ego doesn’t focus on is all the ways to flaunt his power, status, access or how the perks make him better than everyone. His head might be big, but he doesn’t “hoard” his success to gain more per se.

Instead, he is focused on the next venture and continual growth: What’s the next challenge I can to dig into? 

True, Branson lets others run his companies… but how many others would make that decision versus control the situation and build a fiefdom they can control to satiate their ego?  How many would even let go of something wildly profitable (Virgin Records) to start over?

Not many. That’s what makes Branson worth watching because while it’s all about money, it’s not all about money. It’s more about beating the odds.

I like this quote of Branson’s:

"Companies are simply groups of people working together to make a difference." 

That’s what it should be, yes, if you have a leader who has a solid vision, can motivate people’s passion and hires the right team that can “run like the wind” to produce using their talent (vs. being micromanaged). Doing so has put Branson in a league of his own :

"The sprawling business empire that makes up Richard Branson’s Virgin investment group consists of about 400 operations…"

To read more… The Guardian

It’s hard to relate to Branson and his success when you have little financial backing. However, money doesn’t guarantee success. If anything, it raises the stakes even higher not to lose. 

The point is trying …or in not trying, understanding you are choosing a life of stagnation. 

So really, what is holding us back from trying? What idea have you been mulling around? What are you waiting for to try?

Hysterical. Brilliant. Creative… and a wonderful example of what makes social media content go viral: entertainment. 

Q: Take a straight-laced guy in a prestigious job covering serious subjects and mix it with a beat - what do you get?

A: Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, rapping, “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, “Regulate” by Warren G, “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A, and “Good Vibrations" by Markie Mark.

Tonight’s “Gin and Juice" was the best edit session so far, as was Brian’s response to all the hype on The Late Night Show.

Humor is a powerful tool in the world of “so-sch” (social media). Over 3 Million views with this approach to content (vs. traditional advertising) — content that raises profile of Jimmy Fallon’s new show.

The other “outcome”: The hip (like-ability) factor for Brian Williams’ brand is growing, especially with new audiences.

(According to Williams’, or “Bry-Wi” as Fallon calls him, he has more street cred now.)

That is the point. If you allow your team to break out of conventional thinking to get creative you can bridge different worlds in ways that create the momentum you desire. New concepts arise, content to entertain/ educate/connect …and ultimately the word will be spread. 

Buzz Aldrin:

The former astronaut shares his views on the importance of innovation, collaboration, and leadership to the success of any project.

Read More >

(via fastcompany)

We all face setbacks. Some more than others, but definitely those who are or have been at the top of their game know “failure.” 

With its humbling yet determination-inspired effect (if you tap into it), failure can actually be the secret recipe for success.

Setbacks separate the average from the great

The results may not be the same, and all stories/paths taken by successful individuals are different, but the honing process of hard times is there if you allow it to shape you.

Walt Disney, Oprah, J.K. Rowlings, Cowboys coach Tom Landry and countless others saw rocky roads before they encountered a break through. Some even after their pinnacle moments.

TV “packages” or clips sure do make people’s lives and their success look easy, breezy. Even the hard times have built-in meaning and clarity not to mention a known happy ending. 

Yet, if you asked someone about their journey to the top, you’d hear insights into the struggle, uncertainty, the tears and tough times. We’re all human and learning as we go.  

Life is not a sound byte or ever a straight pathway to the top. It’s messier than that. The path is more like a game of Chutes & Ladders with ups and downs and switchbacks too.

Plus, “the top” is ultimately defined by each one of us and is what we make it. There are industry standards, awards, etc… but are these where we set our heights and determine our pursuits? It’s a question only we can answer individually.

To become all we can be requires knowing ourselves through and through, and a willingness to let go (to old ways of thinking/doing) and adapt. It also requires balancing giving more to others along the way in support of their success and enduring what everyone around us says can’t and won’t happen.

Being centered within is the only foundation and guide there is come what may.

Even if you, like me, are still defining what your vision is in this life, that process of exploring “there’s got to be something more,” unnerves people. Most fear their own greatness so why (subconsciously) would they want us to find ours? 

The difference in greater living and success is finding a way despite …

Like the paths of countless artists, musicians, athletes, business people we revere, most didn’t have an end game in mind. They only followed their passion, and it was through the process the were molded and opportunity was created. 

Stop waiting to be ready or perfect. (Women especially.) Life is about the stretch and the stretching is what makes dreams come true.

You nor I will not get permission or validation from others the way we need it …so stop looking for it… or to make everyone happy. 

Look within. Trust. Be open and willing to shift, change, be molded through the process.

It’s amazing where the journey will take you! 

So the next time “you’re not good enough” is being communicated, reflect on this post - 50 Famous People Who Failed at Their First Attempt at Career Success - to remember we’re on to something.

"The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others."

- Ghandi

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 250 mile Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. Imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India, Gandhi attempted to practiced nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. 

Not just for GenX…We all hit a point in our lives where we question the choices we’ve made during the first halves of our career/lives.

What is this all for?

Is what I am doing what I want to be doing for the next 10-20+ years? 

This short Fast Company article can really be applied to anyone/everyone, who wants to find more meaningful work that enables you to:

1) share your gifts,

2) make an impact in the lives of others, and

3) live your desired quality of life.

"Meaningful careers are made up of personal journeys to get closer to who we are and what we value."

So whether you want to understand the motivations of Gen X or assessing your own life, here are:

4 Tips To Help (Millennials) Find Meaningful Work

(via fastcompany)

I am a truth seeker.  I’d rather know reality than use my time keeping track of lies and shielding the truth or constantly running fire drills at work as a result of not doing it right the first time.

Despite this, I’ve been lied to, even experienced my share of psychopaths with the title of CEO

Not because I believed them - trust is built over time - but because I didn’t pay as close attention as I should have to the signs. I was focused more on where I wanted to go rather than the other person.

Plus there’s the fact that in today’s “noisy” world, liars can live more easily out in the open. Distractions and startup modes allow for gray area to exist.

Realistically, we’re all lied to… and we all lie because lying is a cooperative act. Lying (big or small) doesn’t exist without our participation. 

Even if you shine light on lies for the sake of profitability, growth, unity, clarity and/or fairness, as I’ve done in the past, it doesn’t mean you are the hero. In fact, quite the opposite.

Most want to protect themselves and telling a lie is the choice they make… turning someone into a scapegoat (or target) to refocus attention away from lies makes the perfect recipe in glossing over the truth. 

(If you are passing gossip along about another person, you may be being used by someone covering a lie of their own. Think about it.)

True leadership is about having difficult conversations, addressing issues head on, deciphering and stopping “mal-truths” from permeating false realities in our lives and at work. Period. It’s important to have standards.

Of course it’s easier to avoid truth but the reality is doing so can cost billions in business (Enrons), compromise security, drain bank accounts, create detrimental distance in relationships emotionally.

The list goes on. 

So why, then, do we avoid the truth, lie or help others in their lies?

Lying is a way of connecting who we wish we were to what we are really like. 

That’s according to TedTalk speaker, Pamela Meyer, who shows “How to Spot a Liar." It is worth the 18 minutes. Funny and insightful… 

  • We lie more to strangers than colleagues
  • Extroverts lie more than introverts
  • Men lie 8 x more about themselves than others
  • Women lie to protect

Sure we are against lying… but we’re also supporting it all the time unless “we know what we’re hungry for…” 

In the piece Pamela shows how to spot “lying indictors” in body and language - like someone saying yes verbally, but shaking their head no physically (the clip of John Edwards shows this). 

Taped examples of lying in action by Bill Clinton, OJ Simpson, Dominque Strauss-Kahn and others are used to sharpen our spotting abilities.

Did you know food can be medicine? How we take care of ourselves says a LOT about who we are as a person - whether we really like and care for ourselves, or just “endure,” maybe even stuff and push forward.

One type of living (and leadership) is very different from the other. 

Choose to nourish your body with energy-enhancing foods. I know I love to eat and why not choose foods you can eat MORE of without the guilt? Why not choose foods that are life-giving? 

(You do know what you eat today is the fuel of tomorrow? And what you work off is the food eaten in the past?)

Eat food to your advantage. 

Most foods sold in restaurants and stores are bad for your interior organs (full of fats, chemically altered ingredients to fool your taste buds, sub-quality lacking nutrients, and even packed with sugar or plastic-related compounds to help the ingredients live past their normal expiration date). 

Cheeses and bread (oh I love) can sit and block up your intestines and essential nutrients for days upon days. Talk about depression…

Most foods on shelves in the grocery store and handed to you through drive through windows cause inflammation (…leading to obesity, arthritis, heart disease, yes depression, and more).

BUT… you have the power of decisions to make food work for you and even solve some common ailments...

Ever have any of these problems?

I’m Bloated
I’m On An Emotional Roller Coaster
My Skin Is Acting Up
I Get Crazy-Bad Jet Lag
I’m Tossing And Turning
I Have Wicked PMS
I’m So Sensitive To The Sun

Here are a few tips/ways to use food as medicine.

It’s always easier to improve a reputation when someone doesn’t have one versus reversing a negative stigma.

And then there’s Lance Armstrong, who is a case study in crisis management.

While I wouldn’t recommend this approach for re-entering the public arena for most, it is Lance Armstrong…

Where else is he to go except back to basics?

It’s not a bad thought. BUT, re-entering looking like a cross between Popeye and Gomer Pyle won’t do him any favors. He looks like a parody not a changed man. 

Plus, the mention from the editor of Outside Magazine alludes to the fact Lance’s decision to do this “how to” video was with the intention of  countering past coverage:

“You can tell it’s been a hard year… And I think part of that is his recognition that Outside and [other publications] covered all facets of him.”

I wouldn’t have gotten into bed with the platform(s) that reported your failings. It’s odd and makes Outside Magazine approach seem a bit opportunistic and, well, flat.

The video itself from a PR POV is weak. It hasn’t gone viral with only 5K views. (Perspective: A demonstration of a Marmot wind hoody on OM’s YouTube channel had 9K+ and Apolo Ohno over 13K views.)

So what was really achieved forcing a come back? More confirmation Lance is his ego, which is WAY out of touch.

With a reputation crisis of this magnitude, Lance or any person/company should take the longer road to build their reputation.

Otherwise, it ruins chances to ever come back.

What does the long road look like?

  • Owning, apologizing and acknowledging mistakes publicly.
  • Rebuilding from the beginning, plus adding in a new way of operating - changes within the leader, decision-making, processes and organization (and approach to life with the individual), even if it sets you back financially - and it probably should if you want to be believed you are making real changes.
  • Including therapy/outside counsel/coaching of some sort to honestly work through issues and maybe even proactive dismissal or stepping down. (Faking this step or hiring someone as a proof point is a death sentence.)
  • Finding a way to give back and operate from a humble place. (This is what Lance might have been trying to achieve.)
  • Letting ample time go by until the right opportunity presents itself to showcase you/your organization in a new light.  (Please don’t manufacture anything at this stage. Your word is worth less compared to what others say.)

Decisions and work to change must be authentic or don’t do them at all. Furthermore, achieving them in this order will build the greatest odds of a second chance.

Just look at Hilary R. Clinton. She didn’t have a crisis like Lance per se, but she does have two issues she is constantly countering in public perception:

  1. Carrying the baggage of her husband’s actions.  
  2. She’s a woman.

HRC has had to work ten times as hard to prove her worth without there being a crisis of her own doing. Now that she lead the State Department during a crisis, a #3 is being added to the list.   

What is there to learn from HRC?

Her approach to building credibility.

From First Lady to Senator, Clinton walked into Congress with a freshman mindsetShe didn’t boast where she had been before. She put her head down to earn respect and worked her way into power once again - this time on Capitol Hill.

Both sides of the aisle commended her for her abilities having taken this approach, which lead to an easy confirmation for Sec. of State in the first place.

Every step of the way, HRC has chosen jobs that held meaning for her and where she wants to go. She then commits herself 100%. These decisions weren’t PR stunts, although from a reputation POV, they serve her well. 

Now with news (and positive photos circulating) of becoming a grandmother, coverage of Chelsea joining CGI, and hope of a Presidential run… proof of integrity (over time) is taking hold.

What is being communicated with time and patience and through authentic actions is a strong connection between actions and words.

Trust. 

As a result, the snowball effect of positive news is taking place for HRC making anyone who even asks about the past (Monica Lewinsky, being a woman, or Benghazi) seem amateur or on a witch hunt.

Knowing how to align oneself to important values and live daily despite the ups and downs is a page Lance Armstrong could stand to take from Hillary’s (upcoming) book.

Why have a marketing team if you don’t let them market?

Often I see organizations/CEOs misuse marketing and communication teams.

In fact, these “entities” (along with public affairs) often operate - even sit - in different silos. This is not a cost efficient or effective practice, especially in a digital age.

For one, transparency is key in the name of credibility and trust. What you communicate to the public/customers/members better be the same that you are telling investors, board members, and Congress …and vice versa.

But secondly, handing final decisions to the “Marcom” team to make sense of, package and pitch AFTER decisions have been finalized creates havoc and boxes in creativity (if not stifles it with simmering resentment).

(And please know asking for a press release on something makes blood curdle… it’s more or less an archive tool for Internet searches… a tactic, not strategy or strategic. But I digress…)

So whether you are devising how a new product should be built, creating a new business line, or “whiteboarding” what a new service offering will entail, include the marketing team (and by that I mean the umbrella under which communications and public affairs are represented), to provide helpful insights into such things as:

  • How to shape ideas so they reside with target audiences
  • Identify additional features and resulting benefits that will make an idea even more attractive to funders, users and/or shape the industry or legislation
  • How to stage a rollout so it can obtain ongoing attention, not just a “one and done blip”
  • New partners that can be aligned or created …and what may need to be built into the thinking before anything is implemented
  • Scalability of the idea over time and what directions it can go or even what might be the thought leadership potential 

By putting marketing at the C-Suite level and at the executive table, you will get more milage out of your investments.

Making decisions with the audiences you want to influence or attract in mind is essential. Yet, many use and view marketing as a tactical implementer of big ideas.

(Yes… and no.)

In fact, often is my observation by including marketing at the start of an idea usually helps avoid making costly and time-sucking updates down the road that should have been thought of earlier in the process.

With the right strategic thinker, who knows how to grow business as your head marketing guru at the table, you can make decisions today that save time and money, and position you to proactively lead the way in your industry. 

If nothing else, your brand can reflect savviness, leadership and creativity because the lead time achieved by including marketing at the beginning will allow:

  • designers and digital teammates to have the time needed to be energized, engaged, and buzzing with creative ideas (rather than slapping stuff together to meet the impossible deadline).
  • media manager/pitcher to give thought how to creatively capture journalist attention in ways that work for their editors.
  • partners to negotiate their role in the new opportunities, as well as get internal buy-in for what resources they will contribute.

Think about how you can modernize your internal approach to decision-making, and therefore improve your external presence, to be more effective and efficient…

Seeds of Destiny

Hope is the Seed of Faith
Faith is the Seed of Drive 
Drive is the Seed of Seek
Seek is the Seed of Knowledge
Knowledge is the Seed of Awareness 
Awareness is the Seed of Power
Power is the Seed of Choice 
Choice is the Seed of Abundance
Abundance is the Seed of Dream
Dream is the Seed of Happiness
Happiness is the Seed of Pleasure
Pleasure is the Seed of Desire
Desire is the Seed of Destiny

New research: Paper trumps screens when it comes to understanding and remembering what we’ve actually read.

Highlighted in Experience Life, a 2013 study led by Anne Mangen, PhD, an associate professor at the National Centre for Reading Education and Research at Norway’s University of Stavanger, found:

People who read on paper score better on comprehension tests than those who read on computer screens. 

"Mangen says you don’t have to toss out your favorite e-reader.  Perhaps consider choosing a screen for that lighter fare and a book when studying for the bar exam.”

Did you know your travel choices can make the world a healthier place and empower others?

Great article in NY Times with resources on hotels, companies, initiatives that aim to make money AND do the right thing.

This is “bookmarkable.”

A good piece to glean a few insights into how content via social media needs to be approached. Using Mad Men as an example:

"But if their show is really about strong story-telling and strong visuals, they can still carry that same tone over to social and weave their own offline stories that keep people thinking, guessing and chattering about the show."

fastcompany:

The critical favorite has lost a lot of social ground to the likes of Westoros, Heisenberg and the zombies. Does it matter? Read more>

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