March Ask the Expert: Increasing Your Visibility with Ashley Sutton - How To Create Lasting Impressions And Build Your Next-Level Network!
In this resource, Ashley will cover:
• How to build an authentic connection with others and the importance of having a solid network strengthens your credibility
• How being yourself isn’t only good enough, it’s your superpower
• How clarity and confidence can accelerate your network
About the Expert: For more than 10 years, Ashley has provided effective communications development, creative content planning, and highly praised instructional delivery. From crafting statements and talking points, ghostwriting speeches, training leaders for media, strategizing ways to shift employee cultures, managing crises, etc. Ashley's superpower is developing people into their potential.
Learn about the Microsoft Power Platform with Benjamín Avila!
What a joy - Benjamín Avila, Simplicity Consultant, is here to teach you about the Business Operations & Microsoft Power Platform! Benjamin develops programs and processes to support the organization's strategic direction and mission. He has invested 6 years at Microsoft standardizing rhythm of business, developing business processes complete with supporting tools and resources, and improving products through customer insight as well as product strategy and implementation. He is a strategic thinker and is passionate about opportunities that provide professional growth as well as improving processes, features, and products. His super-power is identifying gaps and needs in the business and providing an all-encompassing solution, as well as amplifying the users voice and leveraging data to find diverse and inclusive solutions in technology, that scale.
About the Expert: Benjamín is a seasoned business operations manager and expert Microsoft Power Platform user, skilled in organizational management, tool and resource creation and strategic planning.
Looking for your next opportunity to do the work you love?
As a consultant, you can unlock new paths to success and activate amazing clients who need your strategic expertise.
In this workshop led by Lisa Hufford, founder of Simplicity Consulting, we'll share pro tips and helpful insights into becoming a successful consultant. Learn how to engage your network, connect with clients, and do work that matters.
Don't miss out on this opportunity to gain valuable resources and a customized action plan to help you take the next step in your consulting career.
My name is Eric Moore. Sometimes you might see me online as the design thinker. And I work alongside simplicity consultants over at Microsoft, helping young or new leaders go to market with interesting communications, product marketing, and overall leadership communication. And today, I want to talk to you about something that's very near and dear to that line of work, but also to what I'm focusing on, which is next generation leadership. And that really is a focus around compassionate and curious communication. How do we not only put empathy forward out into the world? How do we lead with empathy? But how do we stay curious, before we start solving problems as leaders? But before we begin, I want to ask a couple of questions of you out there.
What attracts you to consulting?
What's the thing that gets you up in the morning to do what it is that you do?
Is it financial?
Is it flexibility or freedom that you get from it?
Or is it fun?
I know for me, it's all of these and so much more. And I suspect for you out there it is, too. But I also want to put a little twist on this question. What is it that you think attracts the clients to you? Is it your experience, your expertise, maybe it's something else like engagement. And arguably, it is all three, but I think it's this last one engagement. That's really critical. And for me, it means taking engagement, and making it equal leadership. Because what you're doing is as a consultant is you yes, you're having an engaging conversation. But you're setting as a model for the people whom you're working with as a leader yourself.
But let's take this a step further, and really unpack what it means to be a leader and what leadership means, at least from these pair of eyes.
We'll start with the state of leadership. Arguably, it's in high demand, we've gone through a tumultuous time in the pandemic, and now we're coming out of it. So there is a real demand for empathetic leadership. Unfortunately, it's in low supply. And you can look around among you and make that argument yourself. But the numbers are showing from HBr to LinkedIn articles. In fact, I took some time just to look at some of the people and thought leaders that I follow on LinkedIn. And they're making it known from Gen Z to millennials to older groups. There's a real big problem leadership and it's broken. Whether it's from hiring people, to dealing with conflict resolution to mindset like Tim Denning puts here. Imagine if we were taught that getting fired, wasn't failure, but redirection. Unfortunately, a lot of leaders don't express themselves in this way. And I suspect they really want to, they just haven't been shown the way. And this is where I think we can come in as consultants and start to set that standard. But let's take it a step further, and really unpack leadership. There are some thought leaders out there on leadership, for lack of better words, like Brene Brown, Julia Gayle, Adam Grant and Simon Sinek, they each come to the table, on leadership in their own unique way. But there's a pattern that emerges among them that I've seen, and they look through a singular lens of empathy. Now, empathy is a big, heavy, overused word that I'm sure a lot of you have seen, particularly if you're active on LinkedIn. But I wanted to spend some time really unpacking empathy and how to drive better leadership. So we go through our little sequence here.
Empathy can be defined in three ways as it is by Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence. Initially, what they came to find out is empathy has three parts. It's either cognitive, it's emotional, and it's compassionate. So let's break down these a little bit further. So you might have empathy. And you think, great, I'm just feeling a certain way towards a certain set of messages that I'm receiving. But what cognitive says is that you indeed understand that perspective, but you don't have to go through the physicality or the motions of what you're hearing, it's most leaders can do this today. And what we're tapping into is taking it a step further, by looking at the emotional component. This is where you might have either experienced a similar situation, or you can feel it emotionally. Compassion takes it a step further, and says, not only do you actually understand the perspective and feel it, but you're compelled to help somebody, in this case, who's ever sharing that message with you.
So, I want to pause here and just share my definition of leadership, knowing how empathy is defined. That is, it's creating a balance between cognitive and emotional empathy, to act without becoming overwhelmed with your own feelings, or jumping into a problem-solving process.
I know a lot of you as consultants out there, that's your job, you solve problems. But leadership can also be in consulting without jumping into a problem-solving process. And I'm going to talk a little bit about what that looks like as we go on. So how do we put empathy to work in the workplace without it feeling awkward or maybe overly emotional? Let's, let's jump in. I've created a model called the real-world empathy model. And it starts with looking at the world in two ways. One is do you have the language of work? How do we speak to our colleagues in a way that is getting work done? Then there's language of life, as we humans will do, will go through work in conflicts or disagreements or arise? And so I like to create a model where what does work language look like? And what is the language of like work like, and how do we cooperate those two. So let's press on. Language of work? Well, for me, it comes in the form of a framework in mindset called design thinking. Now, this funny picture over here is of John E. Arnold. He's a late MIT professor, who taught engineering students to build interesting appliances and mechanical items, in part, some of which would end up in the NASA space program in the early 60s. And what he wanted to do is challenge his engineering students to be a bit more empathetic, what might be called as the Arcturus for empathy case study. Now he knew his students were really talented, they were really good at making mechanical things. But most consumers weren't engineers. They didn't want some overwrought mechanical toaster, they needed something simple and easy to use. So to challenge his students, he came up with a creature an alien creature, from the planets are tourists for and call them methane, Ian's, that's that weird claw that you see there or talent. It's this weird shaped bird that has three eyes and this peculiar little attribute. It likes to be sold to, yes, the methane, Ian's love to just buy things. So he challenged his engineers this case, Professor Arnold, to come up with a way to sell to them a product that they could use. And if you think about it, they only have three digits. They have three eyes. And they're called methane. Ian's because they breathe methane. So the point of this is, is that it gave birth to design thinking. And I'm going to unpack a little bit more of what design thinking means. But it is a process for empathy in the workplace that actually leads to an outcome or a product. So let's take a look.
So I've created the Real World Design Thinking model based on my experience with companies like IDEO, and the Luma Institute, and other service organizations like Fjord and Accenture. So a lot of this is my experience from these different models. And I've tried to narrow it down for this audience here. And the real-world model says, look in design thinking we need to see the world we need to understand the world, then we can make something for the world. Then we have to go off and storytelling. We have to tell the world our story. What is this thing we just made? Let's break this down a little bit further. To see the world means you have to do empathy-based research, getting out there hitting the pavement, watching what your customers do, talking to your customers, stakeholders, whoever that may be, you must take a human centric, empathy-based approach. And all I believe all great leaders take this into account. Next, once you've seen the world, you need to understand it. That means taking all of that research and making some sense of it, you may call it, analyzing it, reviewing it, whatever it is, you now understand the world that moves you forward into making. This is when you start to get into ideation and brainstorming, testing things, designing things, breaking them and doing it all over again. For me, that's mainly the fun part. Once you've made something, and I know for a lot of you consultants watching, particularly in marketing and communications, get to your fun part, which is the storytelling. And depending on the audience, you could be pitching internally, or going outward and doing marketing. This is the language of work. You don't always have to make a product, but it's a service, it may be a project, it may be even as simple as a pitch deck. If you go through this process, you're creating a more empathetic leadership and language of work.
Okay, so you want some proof? Here we are. Design thinking has been used across the world in many organizations successfully. And my favorite story is from PepsiCo, where we have former CEO Indra Nooyi where she adopted design thinking, to challenge the board of PepsiCo to come up with new ways of coming up with new products or just looking at the market differently. And she retired recently or stepped down as CEO as one of the most successful CEOs. But in her case, in 2015, I believe it was she was starting to see the public raised concern about junk food. And well PepsiCo does have a fair amount of junk food as part of the design thinking process. They got out of the building, and they started talking to customers, parents, who were worried about junk food, but understood that it's still part of their life. So they came up with this idea that junk food is fun for you food. And yes, indeed, healthy food was part of that conversation. But even healthy food had negative connotations. Am I going to eat kale and quinoa for the rest of my days. But no. Indra and her team said, Look, we can also make good for you food and have a healthy balance between both. And they increase their portfolio to have products like easy water and Tropicana that had less sugar and less fat content. The point is, is that they used an empathetic approach to leadership and product design. Okay, so what does that mean? Well, at the end of the day design thinking is a collaborative framework. So it's all that work that you're doing throughout the day. But it's also that mindset, how do we lead with empathy, and it uses the designers toolkit, whether it's a product or service, toward solving problems, there's a little bit of creativity in there that you're going to tap into.
Okay, Eric, well, that's great. We understand some language of work. How do we get along in life?
Well, let's talk about the language of life.
Because we're not always going to have that nice, neat path like PepsiCo. So the language of life for me starts with nonviolent communication, by the late great Marshall Rosenberg. And he found himself in the middle of the 1960s era school integrations where he was talking, mediating tough conversations. And he came up with this framework called the nonviolent communication, which we'll unpack here in just a moment. But the term became nonviolent communication, because he was really in the midst of things like Middle East negotiations, and dealing with warring tribes, conflict resolutions, where, frankly, these tribes were killing each other's children's and grandmothers. And it was very sad and tough time. So I don't want to frighten you too much with the term nonviolent communication, you can use the term compassion communication, but really the heart of it is that when you think of some of the words we use, they can sound violent, for example, and this is what I hear every day, almost when I'm presenting new ideas. People will say, Well, I want to shoot down that idea or I'm gonna poke holes in it. I know they don't mean me any harm, but There's just a certain language that we need to keep an eye on in order to effectively communicate in this language of life. So let's get into it. So the language of life or nonviolent communication asks you to first make an observation. This is a comment with no judgment, no feelings, just what have you seen. Next, you can then stick your feelings, I saw a thing, it made me feel a way. And then you make your needs known about what you've just seen, and what you felt. It's only then can you actually make a request of the other person. If they know you've made an observation, they understand your feelings, what your needs are moving forward, you ask them to fulfill it. And oftentimes conflicts is nothing more than some unmet need some unmet meet that you met need, rather, that hasn't been expressed verbally so that someone can help you. So let's take a look. Or for nonviolent communication training, you may make an observation like this. Boy that Janelle is so lazy, and that's why her work is always late. Okay. But there's, there's some problems there because it's making a judgement. It's not an observation that is based on any real fact. Yep, it's true, she may be late. But let's unpack this a little bit further. If we take a look at this observation after nonviolent communication, we can say something like, you know, for the past two weeks, I've noticed Janelle's work has been late. And here's the clear observation paths to projects because it's quantifiable. And indeed they were late, based on whatever the date or time constraint was. So this is the slight little flip. There's no judgment. I'm not calling Janelle lazy. In this case, I'm just saying, Yep. She's been like, okay, now I have some feelings about it. Now, how am I gonna express about someone being lazy? Well, in my mind, I might say, Janelle, I feel like you're lazy, because your work is always late. Well, here's the problem with that. You can't feel laziness. That is an assessment or a judgment of someone else's abilities. I can feel lazy about myself, meaning I'm feeling lazy today. But the point of that is not to project that feeling onto Janelle in this case. All right, so let's ask, what does feelings look like after nonviolent communication? Well, you might say something like, Janelle, you know, for the past two projects, I've noticed your work has been late, and I'm worried about your progress. And here's a key key thing. I'm worried. In this case, I'm owning my feelings. That is my feeling. Again, I can't feel someone's lazy, but I can say I am worried about where she's headed. So these are some key points that I want you to take away, make a true observation and make your feeling known. Then we start to move into the meat. Okay, great. You're upset or you're feeling something? What is it that you really need? So I might say something in the old days, I'm upset by your recent late work to know how embarrassing for the team pretty harsh. But in this example, the sender isn't really expressing a clear need. It could be taken one of two ways. Don't be late. Or don't embarrass the team. But it's not clear. It's still not clear.
So what we would say in the after, is that Janelle, you know, for the past two projects, I've noticed your work has been late, and I'm worried about your progress. It's important to me that our team members grow and flourish. And so there are some clear expressions of needs here. In this case, not only the worry, which is the feeling but the leader is expressing a need to see her grow. Not only her, but of course, the entire team. All right. So now you make a request. Yes, you can say get your work done on time. And that's one approach. But let me give you a twist on this one. Janelle, you better turn your work on time and we're going to have real problems here. I've heard that before. And it doesn't always feel good. And yes, someone has to be held accountable. But there can be a way in done where it's productive. Here in the afternoon. You might say Janelle, please let me know at least a week in advance. That's the request if you're unable to turn in your work, and I'll see what I can do to help you. And that's what true leadership is all about. Making the request but also offering help. But there's another side of this story. That's Janelle says. We've only heard my side of the story. So let's see what Janelle does. Now that she's taken nonviolent communication, and kind of being the brunt of all of this. Number one, she will make an observation. You're right. I have been late recently, I've had multiple IT issues, and access restrictions that coincided with the delivery of my projects, great observation, no feelings are involved. And she's made it pretty clear. Number two, she's expressing feelings. Thank you for bringing your concern to my attention. It feels good to hear you, as the leader want to see me grow and flourish. Number three, the need, I want to grow and to help the team to great. Now, Janelle can't really make a request, but she can accept the request, I will do better to communicate ahead of time and more frequently.
Next generation leadership takes these two concepts, the language of work, in this case design thinking, and the language of life, which is nonviolent communication, and puts them together in order to create that new generation of leadership. I want to leave you with these final next steps, you'll have these leaks all available to you. I have a two-part conversation podcast on the future where we talk about what design thinking is, and some objection handling to design thinking as a way to help you incorporate it to your work and your clients. I've written a book on the design thinking, steps and processes that you can find at the link here. I encourage you also to read Juliet gala ifs book, The Scout mindset, where she really breaks down the different languages of the soldier mindset member shooting things down, and the scout mindset who looks towards empathy and mapmaking to solve problems.
Listen to the conversation: The Futur Podcast: 2-part series
Are you ready to hear from The Design Thinker? Eric is the only communications specialist practicing design thinking to transform quiet leaders across the globe into influential storytellers in the human-centric era. He has worked with leaders and their teams from Microsoft, Accenture, ServiceNow, Pokémon, and Boston Scientific. He is also a regular contributor to Medium.com - UX Collective, Bootcamp, and The Startup.
People often think of UX as UI. UI tells the user what to do. UX is what the user actually does. UI or user interface is how we interact with a tool. We don't use tools for their own sake, we use them to accomplish something small, discrete tasks and a process that achieves a goal. For realizing the sensations we're experiencing our hunger, through gathering ingredients and preparing a meal to push it away from the table feeling sated, the user experience is a combination of many points of UI along your customer journey.
Why does your UX matter?
Great design is not about making something look palatable. If we're good at what we do, it will be artful. It's about solving a problem. It's coating a bridge with paint to keep it from rusting. And making sure the bridge is visible in many types of weather. This contextual consideration matters to our clients, because we see the big picture. How UX supports and reinforces and strengthens their brand. How UX is the bridge between our clients and their audience, how anticipating role X. Visibility and localization can bring them closer. How empathy empowers them to deliver more relevant messaging, to walk in their audience's path, understand what's going on in their world, and how their communications intersect with their customers. from something as fundamental as figuring out where the audience falls into a framework, to their relationship with the message to what their drivers are and what's at stake for them.
Ask yourself, is your message accessible? There are five areas of accessibility that members of your audience may live with on a daily basis:
Designing to include these in your communication approaches empowers more people and benefits everyone in their individual given moment in time. UX considers how the message is consumed. Is it on a mobile device, a laptop or a jumbotron? Is it with a crowd or individually by themselves? Is it in a darkened office or in a noisy factory floor or outdoors? What happens if your medium breaks the message? Do you have alternative approaches to fall back on? This is all to say find out what your client's plans are for delivering the message. Get to know the real world factors and their audience's real life experience.
Don't be afraid to spell things out.
In our increasingly interconnected world, it's easy to assume that we are all working with the same dictionary. Ignoring that nuance and idiom aren't universal. Add to that that you're adding work for the reader to encode and decode the symbol to your assigned to meeting. Rather than just saying what you mean or labeling it. graphics can be helpful when they support the message and icons can shorthand functions in a UI. But icons are tricky to localize, whether conceptually or culturally. Relying on metaphors creates more work if you have to explain them, or if they have a different nuance than you're used to. Crown Jewels often used in security presentations have different connotations in a post colonial world than what you may think of when you hear that phrase. Your most valuable assets are clear and to the point. Slam Dunk plays well with people familiar to basketball, that can be a sticky wicket to those following other sports or not at all. Better to say what you mean, and a successful outcome localizes easily.
But what's in this for me, you may be asking yourself.
Our work doesn't exist in a vacuum. Hopefully, your work is integrated into the broader cloth of your client's project or campaign. Ideally. And really, this is the goal. Your work goes beyond that. Your anticipation and adaptation, weaves it into your clients communication tapestry. Consider not just the single moment in time of the message, but how it will be used and reused and the future, create order from chaos, make your work easier for you to maintain, or others on the team who will be responsible carrying forward. With some front loading of effort to make your work more accessible and usable, you'll save time in the long run, and time is money. And when you save you and your clients time and money, it'll make you more valuable. A trusted adviser to them and to the people and projects they refer you to.
How do I make UX work for me now?
It's easier that you ask, what's the intent? What's the goal? What feeds to your deliverable? What in turn does that feed into? Run those considerations through your empathy and accessibility filters.
Design for the most common elements across users use case scenarios and environments. Use a progressive enhancement approach to leverage new technologies that aren't widely adopted. But make sure that you deliver on the client's need to align their message with the most users. Move quickly. Get your hands on the work that's already been done, and understand what you're obligated to follow where you can make changes and where they are looking for you to innovate. Even if it's never seen by the client, start simple.
Draft using the cheapest materials you can use. That way you're not so invested that you aren't afraid to scrap an idea and start over. Whether it's paper and pencil and outline and word or photos of a whiteboard. A Lo Fi approach lets you generate lots of ideas fast, get feedback on them, and then iterate quickly. Iterations make it easy to find more specifically, what's working, what's not, and what's missing.
At the end of the day, that is our ultimate goal to leverage our insight and experience into a successful project for our clients. If you're interested in learning more about the user experience, there are a few organizations that have greatly influenced by perspective:
Each of these has their own personality, but each of them do a great job of integrating insights from working professionals into cohesive and meaning perspectives, from UX to marketing to project management to coding.
About the Expert:
Are you ready for a designer that is creative and geeky? Scott has over 18 years’ experience in User Experience, wearing many hats in the process—whether designing, testing and iterating greenfield opportunities, creating demos and prototypes for leadership, managing the conversation online and in-person, he's your Designer/Geek. Scott loves talking with dev/test, research, and users, and then working with them to design experiences that fully realize their vision.
What a thrill! Carly Ledbetter, Simplicity Consultant, is here to teach you some essential tips and tricks for PowerPoint. Of course, she leaves you wanting more, but you'll get the basics around designing for accessibility, infographics, and learn a great alternative to animations!
About the Expert:
Carly's passion is to transform gaming stories into a sensory experience to make an impact on our audiences. She endeavors to create a dance between visuals, sound, motion, and typography so our products and marketing plans come to life. Carly is a true Visual Storyteller.
Hi, we're consultants and a brand implementation team for one of Simplicity's healthcare clients. I'm Denise Angarola. And with me today is Maura McCann, Jenn Desrochers, Kerry Caldwell, Christa Ramberg, and Torin Lee. Today we wanted to share with you three Rockstar roles that spoke to us in our team.
Being part of a client team allows each consultant to share their unique skill set and talents with the project, the client, and with other consultants. This is great for peer to peer sharing and creative Client Solutions. A connected team helps drive collaboration and promotes a good working relationship. And example part of our integration into the client culture, we embrace the reflection. A reflection begins the meeting with a quote or other tool to help team member center and focus. It bonds the team in a moment of quiet meditation; today we are sharing Simon Sinek on teams:
That's a great segue into Rockstar rule number seven, adapt to your client's needs. As I mentioned earlier, our client is in the healthcare industry. And as you can imagine, for these last two years of dealing with the global pandemic, has had a direct and ongoing financial and emotional impact to our clients where their main focus has been lifesaving and ongoing health care. The program began just a few short months before the pandemic hit the US and has had an ongoing impact to how the program has been executed. The client and the consulting team have had personal and professional losses in these last two years. So together as a Simplicity team, we've rallied around we've been resilient and supportive of each other and our client to keep our program moving ahead, we've been able to address the challenges and changes that the organization and quite frankly the world has had in these last two years. By moving the program along, we've had a positive impact on the results of brand awareness and choice across the client’s network.
Your point about changes in work environment is well taken. Adaptability is especially important in the remote work environment that we are all in today. So with all of us working online from home offices, great communication is a must for us to stay in sync on project priorities and program goals and to understand what the client's needs are. Our team has seen priorities change on more than one occasion. Our client’s organization has restructured a couple of times in the last two years of our project. And this restructuring has translated to changes at a leadership level. Oftentimes, that means revisiting decisions that have been made or maybe a direction we had already decided to go. It also has an impact on a more tactical level where we may see new stakeholders on a cross functional team. Adapting to our client needs means that in every one of these situations, we stay flexible. It means we recognize when to pivot, we get creative when priorities change, and we pull folks in and bring them up to speed quickly and efficiently when we have a new team member. Our group strives to maintain a positive team dynamic, and we all have pretty good sense of humor so that we can stay adaptable and flexible in these situations.
Building on that is rockstar rule number one, your client success is your success. Now, I'm new to consulting and when I joined the program, a wise man told me "your role is to advise and support". We all keep these on our desktop. He said if you figure out how to do that, everything else is easy. One of the ways we add value every day is through clear, concise and repeatable communication. All of our team members know exactly what's happening in the program. They can refer to about executive leadership, communications and weekly team statuses to answer any questions anyone may have of our program, weekly communication for this program is both top down and bottom up. There are no surprises in this program. Except the actual surprises like when your signs disappear in the middle of Montana, never to be seen again, working with a large healthcare organization that is in the middle of a global healthcare crisis. We've adapted to their style and flow. We report we communicate, we focus on what's critical in our program, so that our leaders and our team members can focus on what's important in their organization.
And speaking of your client’s success is your success - as a Simplicity Consultant, you have to also remember that it is from the client's perspective. Therefore, you bring your personal value which helps guide the client towards the stated goal and our project or programs. But remember, while doing so we need to release and not be beholden to the path. An example of that as during these last few years, there's been many, many times when Leadership has a crisis to deal with that had to do with serving patients and their customers and clients and we as a consulting team had to be there and be nimble and like Krista said earlier pivot to provide them with the space and time to do so make decisions and change directions. So remember, when your client shines, you shine.
As with all contracts, your client’s perspective is the reality. And you can help shape that reality by employing Rockstar rule number three, which is adding value every day. Great consultants have high emotional intelligence. Having a high EQ helps read the room and navigate the team dynamics for the best outcomes. As more I mentioned earlier, often cultural and political dynamics do come into play. And being able to navigate these successfully is essential. This helps to build trust and connection with the client. as consultants, we provide a fresh perspective that can often uncover new opportunities for the client. And this is how we bring value.
On that same note, leveraging your blend of hard skills and soft human skills can add business and personal value to your client and staying attuned to your client's needs in the short and long term. Add that value every day. We're seeing that their needs can change ever quicker these days; this in turn adds value to Simplicity as an organization that clients and employees alike desire in a business partnership. So remember, stay flexible, stay nimble. Remember that your client’s success is your success, and be the rock star consultant that adds value every day. You can teach the skills but you can't teach the attitude from our Simplicity Consulting Group. Thank you for spending a moment with us today!
Video Transcript: Hi, my name is Stephanie Chacharon. And I'm here to talk to you about Rockstar rule number nine, ask for feedback. Now, when I worked with Lisa Hufford on her book, work your way, I got a masterclass in consulting, it was so effective, and sounded like such a great way to work that I quit my full time job working for Lisa, and became a consultant. I'm now a marketing writer helping with the tableau marketing team over at Salesforce. Now, feedback is incredibly important part of consulting every team, every company have different ways of doing things. So while you may have known the perfect way to do something, with your last client, on your last project, each team has nuances and how they approach things. So ask, understand how they do things and get feedback to help you dial in to those client expectations. And sometimes they won't tell you until things bubble up. And then it's too far past. So ask early, ask often, and learn how you can work and create a product. That is exactly what your client is looking for every time. I know it can feel personal. So I try to remind myself, it's not personal, it's about the work. And trust me as a writer, it feels very personal. But it's about the work. How can you do better work that better helps your client reach their goals. So ask for feedback. And you can guide your clients to providing the right type of feedback that you're looking for. For example, when I'm sharing now, a v1 draft for review. I don't want copy edits, I don't want my client to look at cars substructure, I want them to think about macro issues. Looking at the structure of a piece, the main topics and ideas is the speaking to the audience. Does the voice and tone feel like a good fit for your brand? Are there any large gaps or unanswered questions? As a reader? Do you have the background information you need to understand the material being presented? So I tee that up with my client when I share drafts for feedback. Here's what type of feedback I'm looking for. As a reminder, here's the audience. Here are the goals for this piece. Here's what we're trying to accomplish. Please frame your feedback. With that in mind. Now back to that masterclass from Lisa. I use all of her tips. But this is one that I especially use in every one on one with my clients. So on every meeting I asked what do you value them doing? And what else can I do? This shows your client that you're are eager for feedback. So by asking, What do you value that I'm doing, that gives you the information you need to really focus on those key areas and then build and nurture those strengths. So if your client says, "Hey, I love the way you digest this information from other folks on the team, and turn it around to do X, Y and Z," great! Keep doing that and do more of it and bring that to other areas of your work. And when you ask what else can I do that shows your client that you are there first and foremost, to help them be better in their job and help them reach their goals. And by asking that over and over again, they will be continuously reminded that you are there as their secret weapon.
Video Transcript: Transcript: What do boundaries mean to you in your personal life? Do you have them? Do you stick to them? Hi there, this is Krissi Thomas coming at ya. I have been with Simplicity's since 2008. I've also had my own marketing company since 1999. So consulting has been a thing for me for a very long time. And I am here today to as part of the work your way series to talk to you about something super important, which is boundaries. Before we start, I have a question for you guys to think about, which is, what do boundaries mean to you in your personal life? Do you have them? Do you use them? Do you stick to them?
The reason I ask this is because you have strong boundaries for yourself in your personal life, it translates quite easily into work life things like, Do you get up at a certain time every day? Do you stick to a boundary because you know that your day is going to be better because of it, whether that's reading your book every day, whether it's working out, it really doesn't matter. It's really a self boundary. So if you are honing in on those, it's going to work really well for you.
When you're consulting, what are boundaries in a work context? It's basically how are you setting yourself up for that positive outcome that you want to have with your client. That is sometimes the scariest part, what I would encourage you to do, even in the interview process, to be quite honest, it should start even then let your client know who you are and how you operate. You work really great early in the morning, or do you work really great late at night? Are there certain things that you absolutely cannot be at meetings at a certain time of day because, I don't know, maybe you have to go pick up your kids from school, once you land that contract is to reiterate those boundaries and communicate them very clearly as forward. You're kicking ass, you're doing great. And then you start to see that scope creep. So what happens when your client actually infringes on those boundaries? Well, it's up to you to be really strong and go back to the original boundaries and just say, hey, you know, that's not going to work for me. And here's why. Remember, we talked about it, do not waver, because if you do, it'll happen again, really honor yourself and those boundaries. Last is remember why you chose to work your way. Remember why you did that? It's so that you probably could have more flexibility in your life. It's probably so you could hone in on the skills that you know you're really good at. It's so that you can vary up your work so you can change it up a project by project. Those are usually the reasons why we choose to go into this field of consulting, remember, you own it and love what you do.
Here at Simplicity, we genuinely value the importance of building your personal brand! This is an ongoing process that we implore all of our consultants to take part in - without a personal brand
Learn more about working your way at www.simplicityci.com!
Video Transcript: Hi, I'm Kelley Moore. And I'm coming to you from my boat, where I work for Simplicity as a consultant. And today I want to talk to you a little bit about building your personal brand. I read Lisa's book, "Work Your Way" and one of the things that really resonated with me is when she talked about putting your strengths and your passions together to build your brand. I couldn't agree more. But when I built my brand, I also took it up one other level and I thought about what are those snapshots in my life that I was happiest and how do I translate that into a career? Well, actually it took me back to when I was 8 years old and I threw a surprise party for my mom. I thought - she was happy, her guests were happy. And at the end of the day, it seemed like everybody connected to build a memorable moment. That took me into a career in event planning, eventually television, and now storytelling through video. Then I realized I was going to have to communicate the essence of my brand in a quick and concise way. So I came up with a mission statement and my mission statement is to create an event, share a story and video that connects people and brands in a creative, impactful, and meaningful way. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be direct and clear. For instance, if I get placed in a role and I'm working with a client and it isn't exactly what I do or I don't think it fits their need then I'm direct with them and I let them know what my skillset is and why I feel like they need me. The last thing I can't emphasize enough is to be authentic. People connect with people. Share your story like you're at a party - casually. Don't worry about being perfect. Just be you. Build your brand. Do what you love. I did, it's completely worth it.
Learn the basics of Paid Media from Simplicity Consultant (and Paid Media Expert) Kate Sojda! What's paid media and why should you care? Kate shares her experience and gives a fantastic overview of the marketing funnel, paid media channels, understanding your audience, and measuring success.
About the speaker:
Kate Sojda is an integrated marketing professional with over 16 years of experience in content marketing, program management, and directing inspiring digital marketing campaigns.
From ideation to execution, Kate brings an audience-centric focus to storytelling and digital communications, and her strong emphasis on customer service continually delights her clients. With a background in project management and an eye for detail and analysis, Kate is always redefining and streamlining processes and procedures for efficiency and productivity.
Kate enjoys traveling, playing soccer, hiking with her dog, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering for causes she cares about.
Specialties: Content and creative strategy, paid media, product marketing, content marketing, digital consulting, internal communications, program and project management, operations, vendor management, project scope and budget creation, timeline creation and management, and creation of a work breakdown structure (WBS).
Stay relevant on LinkedIn: Learn how to create and optimize your "About" section for maximum impact!
About the speaker: Mary Alex (she goes by her initials M-A) “early-retired” from Microsoft/LinkedIn in 2021 where she worked for the last 6 years. Her first role at Microsoft was as a “Community Development Specialist” and then, as a “LinkedIn Ambassador” for two. During her employment, M-A delivered LinkedIn skill sets at diverse public-speaking events and online webinars, where she taught different classes to effectively use the platform from a strict data and AI-driven perspective. During her final two years at Microsoft, M-A served as an Account Executive in both the philanthropies and commercial sectors of the business.
Prior to Microsoft and for twenty years, M-A worked in the nonprofit/philanthropy sector raising operating budgets, managing charities’ social media and marketing, and conducting program management from start-up stage to financial sustainability. A recent engagement was for the Dave Matthews Band’s Foundation (the singer), where she helped the band members to strategically invest their philanthropy assets in hundreds of nonprofits.
M-A now resides outside of the Metro DC area in Charlottesville, VA and has her own boutique consulting firm "Be All LinkedIn". Her sweet spot for her consulting practice is helping "seasoned" professionals to recraft their profiles in a more contemporary voice to combat ageism. She also consults with nonprofits to maximize their use of the platform, small to medium-sized businesses, and individuals who want to change entire sectors to reinvent themselves on their LinkedIn profiles.
Simplicity Consultants are known for working hard to help their clients shine - from kick-off to close-out, and part of the value we bring is ensuring that the transition is smooth. In other words, ending each contract on a high note (for both the consultant and the client)!
From Work, Your Way by Lisa Hufford:
"Leave the team better: When you end your contract, you should be able to definitively articulate how your work and contributions made the team better."
Video Transcript: Hello, my name is Lisa Giles, a Simplicity Consultant specializing in communications and project management. Today, I want to highlight one of Lisa Hufford's rock star rules from Chapter Eight of her book, Work, Your Way. This is rule number 10: End On a High Note, and these are the three things I recommend ensuring a successful contract close out. Number one, create a detailed transition document. Number two, connect your work back to the client success. And number three, let the client know that you are grateful for the opportunity to bring positive impact to their team. My goal as a consultant is to put frameworks and processes in place that empower the client to shine and focus on the aspects of their business that most need their attention. My skills and talents enable me to take over the comms and planning piece, so they have an open runway for success. I view the closeout of the project the same way, I provide a transition document that houses all of the links to documents, protocols and processes that I have developed to ensure the team can continue successfully. It also contains additional recommendations and next steps. Not only does this leave them prepared, but it acts as an impact statement of your contribution to the project and how you set the client up for future success. As I was closing out my last project, that client thanked me for providing the team with a way to put their impact into action for providing a pathway for all of their plans to come off the page and come to life. Give your best so that you can leave the best impression behind. Not only does this leave the client satisfied, but it drives positive referrals for you to land your next project.
The ultimate goal is to show the value that you delivered and conclude the project with gratitude, positivity and professionalism.
Wishing you all great success as you close out your next project on a high note.
Erin Sanchez always raises her hand when we ask for expert advice on the how-to's of being an incredible consultant, and we loved learning her advice on how to end a project on a high note (to keep that referral engine chugging along!!).
From Work, Your Way by Lisa Hufford:
“How you start is how you finish, remember? Now that you are in the end of your contract, continue to deliver value and conclude the project with positivity and professionalism. Be consistent in your delivery to ensure client success and create raving fans."
Video Transcript: As a consultant, it's incredibly important that you end every contract or project on a high note. In fact, that's one of Lisa Hufford's rules in her book, Work Your Way. I'm Erin Sanchez, and as someone who's been consulting and working my way since 2014, I can attest to the importance of this rule. For example, I like to make sure that when I'm rolling off a project, I leave really thorough documentation to make the transition as smooth as possible. That document includes things like current projects, items that are in flux, various tools I've used along the way, and different contexts for different parts of the project. Now, why do I care? I'm leaving anyway, right? The reason I care is because the easier I make that transition for my client, and for the next person stepping into the role, the better the impression, I leave with my client and successor, and that means they're going to think about me the next time they need help with a project. And it's going to make it a lot easier for them to refer me to other people too. The more people you leave with this sort of lasting impression, the more potential referrals you have at your fingertips. And don't stress about the bumps or hiccups along the way. We've all experienced those and will experience them again. But if you end on a high note, that's what people are going to remember. That's why Disney World has a 20 minute fireworks display at the end of every single day. When people leave Disney, they aren't thinking about the long lines they waited in or the $10 Pretzels they bought. They're thinking about those peak experiences. That's what they're carrying with them long after they've left. So if you want to elevate your consulting career and build a network of really strong references, I highly recommend you follow this consulting rule. Wrap up your contracts on a high note and stick in people's minds in the best way possible.
Meet Kerry, one of our rockstar consultants working on an extremely complex brand unification project for one of our enterprise clients. She's passionate about adding value to her team and her client every single day - watch to learn how!
From Work, Your Way by Lisa Hufford:
“Great consultants have a high EQ (emotional intelligence). They successfully blend hard and soft skills to demonstrate competence and character and add value."
Video Transcript: Transcript: Hi, my name is Kerry and I am a Simplicity Consultant. I am so grateful and proud to be part of a company that supports their consultants and finds them great work. In work your way founder Lisa Hufford outlines that part of delivering excellence is how you show up at work, and do the work that results in a successful outcome. A sign of a great consultant is one that encompasses her rock star rules. And while there are several rules to follow to be a rock star consultant, 10. In fact, the one that I use every day with my clients, and that resonates most with me, is rule number four, earn trust to build relationships. Over my career as an ft and a consultant. This is the one area that I feel is very important, and perhaps my superpower How do you earn trust by producing good work and connection, show up for your client and provide well thought through articulate work? In my most recent contract, I spent time learning and understanding the business and dynamics of the team asking a lot of questions and organizing my thoughts. And when I was asked to present to various teams, I gave them enough detail and information for them to get their job done, but not so much that it was overwhelming. A connected team helps drive collaboration and promotes a good working relationship. The more connected we are, the more that we share with each other. I make it my goal to take the time to get to know each of my fellow consultants and clients, both professionally and personally. Be a little bit vulnerable. share things about yourself without getting too personal. Be curious and authentic and ask thoughtful questions. This helps build rapport and trust between yourself and the client. I heard this quote once that rang very true for me.
"Your smile is your logo. Your personality is your business card, and how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark."
Adapt to your Client's Needs
In this installment of the Work Your Way Learning Series, we're featuring consultant Nicole Brodeur - storyteller extraordinaire! Here, she explains how she adapts to her client's needs ever day to deliver excellence, and help her team achieve heroic success.
From Work, Your Way by Lisa Hufford:
“Being agile and adaptable to your client’s needs is a powerful skill…Harness your superpowers and understand the role you need to play for your clients at any given time.”
Coach: Listen, understand, and guide
Advisor: Leverage your expertise to teach and do the work
Influencer: Bring disparate groups together by understand individual motivations
Doer: Get things done, make it happen
Problem Solver: Always look for ways to help your clients overcome their problems – don’t contribute to them!
Video Transcript: I came to Simplicity after a long career as a journalist, and I'm using those skills as a storyteller in corporate communications. It wasn't a smooth transition. For a while there, I was swimming in acronyms, and the learning curve was steeper than the stairs next to a broken escalator. You know what I mean? But adapting my skills as a reporter to what my client needs has helped me get immediate and meaningful results. It always starts with listening, asking the questions that perhaps haven't been asked in a while, and not only have the client but of the people I'm writing about. I don't know if I'm an advisor, but I do help my clients see things in a new light and see the value of taking complicated concepts that they may be comfortable with, and making them easier for other people to understand. I also offer ideas for new ways to approach stories and how they might be received on the other end. My background also helped me with cross group collaboration. Just as I worked with editors, photographers and graphic artists in the past, I'm now working with managers and PMS, collecting stories, data, photos and graphics. And working in media made me a doer. I am organized, focused, adaptable when things change on a dime, and still able to deliver on deadline. It was just part of my DNA. As for being a problem solver, while being a consultant has given me not so much a license as a learner's permit to raise issues, recommend solutions and remain objective, while also wanting the best for my client. I want them to succeed so that I may continue to be part of what's become a pretty wonderful adventure. I'm learning something new every day, but I'm also learning that I bring value to the team, fresh eyes and proven skills.