My Little LinkedIn Miracles and How You Can Create Your Own in 2015

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This year I learned a simple truth – LinkedIn can change your professional life. It did change mine. Its little miracles created unbelievable opportunities beyond my immediate online universe in 2014: from working through with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to meeting influential social entrepreneurs and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy non-profit causes – LinkedIn did it all. In my last article for this year, I selected some of the most powerful stories that happened to me because of LinkedIn. With tips on how you can replicate them, I hope that these stories will inspire you to use this platform more broadly in 2015.

Take LinkedIn offline, meet people and live life!

1. Keys to LinkedIn Publishing Platform Success: Short Interviews, Useful Content and Regular Writing Makes a Difference

This is my 21st post in 2014. I started publishing on LinkedIn on May 28 with an article on connecting my passion for cooking with the creative process. Surprise, surprise, my article did not receive much traction (after all, who’d want to learn how to cook fish soup?!)

This experience taught me that I need to focus on my audience’s interests more directly. I interviewed prominent bloggers and experts on how to create great blogs, and in about a month I came up with the article: Writing the Blog Article of Your LifeIt was published in June and it got over 9,000 hits. The secret of its success was simple – people were interested in learning how to write a great blog post, and it also had a personal focus on Max Skibinsky, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Another article, which went above and beyond was related to a bright and talented startuper and entrepreneur, Igor Shoifot. His enthusiastic advice to startupers in myIgnore Skeptics: 4 Tips on How to Make Your First Startup a Million Dollar Success went even higher than Skibinsky’s interview to over 10,000 views! I loved Igor’s line – “ignore skeptics but listen to experts.”

Why did these articles work so well?

These were short interviews, perfect for busy LinkedIn people, had catchy headlines, and useful content. What if you don’t interview someone famous? It doesn’t have to be Oprah or Alex Ovechkin. A local or regional celebrity would be perfect, as long as you have enough connections to spread it around.

If it’s not an interview, a personal touchpoint in the introduction is powerful. For example, my most viewed article The Power of Asking (12,000+ views) started with a homeless man whom I saw standing on the road intersection in Richmond. The article connected my passion for learning with passion for fundraising. I completed it just in a few hours. (And yes, you can call this being in “the Flow.”)

2. LinkedIn Status Updates: Share, Share, and Share – You Can’t Overshare Helpful Content

For my LinkedIn status updates, this year wasn’t any different. In terms of the number of views and comments, quotes beat anything. Even your best content. Why? Because people want to be cheered up – there is so much chaos in the world, there is so much pain in everyday life, that people want to feel encouraged. Help them by sharing some great quotes. You can even come up with your own!

When I do my LinkedIn status updates, I always start and end my day with a good motivational quote. The next comes some relevant article links. Again, my favorites remain Inc., Forbes, Fast Company and HBR.

Advice: Share, share, and share – you can’t overshare helpful content. People will appreciate it. Be a good curator.

3. LinkedIn InMail Key to Success: Write Short Targeted Messages to Decision Makers

I can’t emphasize it enough – to get your project supported, raise funds for your non-profit, sell your product or service, or find a reliable business partner, you must reach out to decision makers. Shoot for the top, even if you need to write a letter to the Dalai Lama, President Obama or Bill Gates.

I’ve always admired Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, and the author of Delivering Happiness, a bestselling book. He is a visionary, creative leader and plain down-to-earth man.

So what do you do when you want to meet this kind of person who might have no time for someone outside of his business circle? Of course, unless you know someone who works for Zappos, you hit LinkedIn.

In my case, it was helpful that I worked at a great non-profit with a similar mission, and that we also were considering a project in Las Vegas.

I sat down at my computer, and got to InMail and penned a short message to Tony, just three short paragraphs (intro, why we need to meet and how this will help both sides).

Tony connected me with his Las Vegas staff and arranged for a tour of Zappos, and a meeting with his team, which resulted in a joint community engagement project.

Apart from that, Tony also helped with my article on connecting the dots. It’s amazing what InMail and your attitude can do. You should have that can-do attitude!

Again, Tony is just one example. I was able to meet so many remarkable people through LinkedIn this year – from CEOs of large corporations to famous speakers, philanthropists and visionaries.

Advice: To maximize your InMail outreach capacity, make sure that you aim for the top.

4. Meet Your Peers As Much As You Can – Even If They Live in Tasmania!

You say you don’t have time to meet up with your friends in your own city. Well, my story is slightly different – wherever I travel, I try to connect with people from my LinkedIn network. People do the same when they’re in my town too.

I just had a coffee with my LinkedIn contact from Tasmania! Yes, that’s right – that exotic island none of us will probably visit in our lifetime! I met Susanne a couple of years ago via LinkedIn when I really needed a top animation expert for our U.S.-Japan educational project. Susanne and her business partner lead Small Island Studio, a creative digital marketing agency that uses images and words to bring business stories to life. The agency employs top artists, script writers and software engineers and pulls together some remarkable animations for an ever-growing list of international clients.

Opportunity comes to those who seek: it turns out that Susanne is from the DC area and comes to visit her family once a year. And since I was in the city, I couldn’t miss this chance to meet someone who did such a marvelous job and also comes from such a remote distance!

Advice: Make sure that you meet at least one LinkedIn contact each month offline. It will be magical, I promise. You’ll find so much to talk about, share your perspective and cement your connection.

5. Use Your LinkedIn Presence to Help Someone Special

When I faced an enormous professional challenge to raise a significant amount in a short timeframe in Richmond, a city where I had never been before and had no prior connections except for one LinkedIn contact (!), I knew I needed time to get to know local people, appreciate the city, and volunteer for some good causes.

Well, thanks to my only LinkedIn contact in Richmond, I met with an incredible couple who decided to transform the world one community at a time. Richard Luck and Sarah Mullens created a social venture, UnBoundRVA, a non-profit that helps talented individuals from low-income families in Richmond become entrepreneurs.

When I met the UnBoundRVA group, I immediately wanted to help them because they were so inspirational. I asked Richard and Sarah if I could interview them all and write a LinkedIn article, and if it would help? Indeed it did. The article was widely shared through Facebook and other social media and helped build grassroots awareness for this worthy cause.

During my interaction with John, Carolyn, Miles and other UnBoundRVA entrepreneurs, I was reminded that nothing can beat the power of the human spirit. LinkedIn helped me meet these incredible people, and I am so thankful for that.

Advice: Don’t be selfish, use your LinkedIn network to help someone in need.

6. Groups are Made for Socializing: Actively Help Your Fellow Members Reach Their Goals

The sad reality is that a good percentage of LinkedIn users are passive in whatever groups they choose to join. It really makes me wonder – why would you want to waste your LinkedIn real estate (you are limited to 50 groups) to keep your lonely avatar in those groups?

If you are a group member, take part in discussions at least once a week, actively “like” your peer content, make sure that you share your articles and links to great resources with group members. It does create a compound effect. In just a few months with the right strategy you will be seen as an expert in your field, and also a good connector. And believe me, both skills add to your social capital.

For example, I thoroughly enjoy one of my groups – LinkedIn Publishers and Bloggers. In particular, its founder John White and managers, Elizabeth Jeanne Dehn, and Dr. Alex Iniguez have done a tremendous job in creating a truly engaging group, in which people help each other with writing tips and strategies for using the LinkedIn Publishing Platform. Active bloggers who provide constructive feedback on your articles serve as a great sounding board. Kudos to Arnie McKinnis and Milos Djukic, and many others! The good news – you can benefit from this group as well! Join the group, and you’ll see results very soon.

My latest success story with the group happened through John White, who recently joined CareerToolBox, an online career development portal, and invited me to feature my blog articles as a guest writer. I shared my article on how you can use your visual thinking skills to get a job on the spot, and it was a great hit. Lovely, isn’t it? You can be successful with your group when you truly engage, connect and share. Try it today. It works.

Here is My LinkedIn 2014 Summary for You:

  1. Keys to LinkedIn Publishing Platform Success: Short Interviews, Useful Content and Regular Writing Makes a Difference
  2. LinkedIn Status Updates: Share, Share, and Share – You Can’t Overshare Helpful Content
  3. LinkedIn InMail Key to Success: Write Short Targeted Messages to Decision Makers
  4. Meet Your Peers As Much As You Can – Even If They Live in Tasmania!
  5. Use Your LinkedIn Presence to Help Someone Special
  6. Groups are Made for Socializing: Actively Help Your Fellow Members Reach Their Goals

Happy New Year 2015! Let it be a Happy LinkedIn Year For You!

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Commit, Strategize and Execute

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Imagine that you want to implement a really great idea that nobody wants to believe. Plus this is your only chance to prove yourself. What do you do?

How do you launch it into the world of skeptics and pragmatists in your organization? 

To successfully accomplish your feat, you will need to master just three consecutive steps:

1. Commit to deliver

2. Refine Your Strategy

3. Own Your Execution Process 

That’s all.

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Winston Churchill

Make it Happen for Yourself First

First of all, you will need to prepare yourself to be resilient. No one is going to love you for your ideas. Nobody will sing your praises. No one even has time for that stuff. As Igor Shoifot, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of dozens of startups says, to become successful, you need to find a balance between ignoring skeptics and listening to experts.

So scribble down these words right in your heart – I will not give in. I will never give up. I will make it happen. In other words, you need to make yourself ready first. Fully committed to move mountains. Nothing is going to stop you. The ultimate truth is, and you know it well, if you are not convinced, no one will even listen to you.

Ready?

The next thing you do is…go to Staples. Why in the world, you say? To buy your flip chart. You are going to do some doodling and scheming. Because you will need to distill your best strategy to the core before you can move those mountains of challenges. How do you make your idea happen?

Take a good look at your chart, and give yourself 15-20 minutes to do nothing but think. Yes, we need to apply this beautiful skill, which makes us Homo Sapiens. After this thinking process, pour all that you have in a perfect stream of conscience on that board. Spend some time making connections between your ideas, thinking about your product’s unique selling proposition, competitors, and “blue oceans.” Have the materials and research about your focused market available.

In my experience, the best strategy comes into place when you follow your strategic intuition. Professor William Duggan, the author of the bestselling book Strategic Intuition, defines strategic intuition as a wide combination of factors, including deep knowledge of the subject matter, understanding of the historical context, and the ability to place disparate facts together and assemble them into a whole.
 Strategic intuition solves a mystery through masterfully connecting unrelated pieces of information into one single answer.
 You may refer to my earlier article on mastering your strategy and connecting the dots to practice your strategy finding skills.

Of course, there have been numerous debates on why someone needs to spend so much time on a strategy. True, you may never have a perfect plan, but having no plans won’t buy you happiness. Can you afford to have a mediocre strategy and perfect execution?

Not according to Ken Favaro, a bestselling author and Senior Partner at Strategy &, who states in his article, “Yes, having a good strategy alone isn’t enough to win, but your ability to execute well depends on how good your strategy is and how well it’s understood by everyone who makes major decisions for your business.” 

Here Comes the Action

“Seventy percent of strategic failures are due to poor execution… it’s rarely for lack of smarts or vision.”
Ram Charan,
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Execution is when you roll up your sleeves and clench your teeth. It’s when you shout “Action!” and go ahead to make history. Like Bruce Lee ready to pounce, David squinting his eyes to shoot Goliath. And yet your challenge is not the big guy in armor, your challenges are your time and uncertainty.

Just how exactly can you make your strategy shine through perfect execution?

As you know, there are plenty of guides to help with this process, however the book which stood out for me recently was Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling’s The 4 Disciplines of Execution.

The authors’ advice helped business leaders like Marriott and The Ritz Carlton, among dozens and dozens of others to reach some incredible results through increased importance of execution throughout the organization.

Let’s look at these four disciplines more closely.

Focus on the Wildly Important – Focus on the one big target, which the authors call WIG, a wildly important goal, and make sure that you dedicate all your energy to achieving this goal. 

Act on the Lead Measures – Regardless of your strategic course, McChesney, Covey and Huling identified just two kinds of measures: lag and lead. While lags are “the tracking measurements of the WIG” and they are extremely important for success, your lead measures are “the measures of the most high-impact things your team must do to reach the goal.”

Keep a Compelling Scoreboard – When I recently visited our Acura dealership in Alexandria, VA, I was impressed with large transparent boards on which sales teams were tracking the paths of their prospects through the robust sales funnel. The teams were highly engaged and excited to track their results on the score board. Help your employees get excited by keeping the score. McChesney, Covey and Huling advise that an internal friendly competition is better than dozens of bland staff meetings.

Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability – Accountability is the super key here. How many times have you witnessed your excellent ideas fading away just because there were no team members accountable to them? The authors argue that each member of your team ‘owns’ their part of the WIG, or in the case that you are working alone, it you who are accountable to make it happen. In this case, at every team or staff meeting you have, you will know exactly where your process is, thus making sure that you are on target.

As McChesney, Covey and Huling believe, “executing on strategies that require a change in human behavior is a leader’s greatest challenge.” With the 4 disciplines, your execution becomes much more focused and successful. Whether you try this system, follow the infamous Checklist Manifesto, or other models, you need to deliver.

Now that you’ve made your internal commitment to deliver, refined your strategy and have your effective execution model ready, it’s time to make it happen.