An Inheritance for Christmas Future

ghost-of-christmas-past

This was prepared for a 2018 family devotional collection on the theme of Christmas past, present, and future. 

The observance of Christmas in Dickens story is the tableau upon which is built a morality play on the consequences of goodness and of selfishness. It teaches that what we are, and what we experience today is the result of the circumstances, learnings and choices of yesteryear. And as follows, what we will see in the future will be the consequence of today’s behavior, lessons, and choices.

We see this transfer of knowledge both in the understanding of the solemn significance of the birth of Jesus, and in the more superficial but certainly no less robust beliefs on the traditions of Christmastime celebrations.

Our family Christmas celebrations are our inheritance from the intertwined family DNA in our blood, and we are now teaching our children what we have learned and valued. At times the sacred and the traditional are inextricable. For our family, they include:

  • The centrality of Christ’s birth in the holiday and in all of human history
  • The value of family being together to observe the Holy Day
  • The extension of joy to others; helping and welcoming those beyond our family
  • Reading (or reciting) the Christmas story from Luke
  • Listening to Manheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night as a final Christmas Eve reflection
  • We believe in the magic of Santa Claus
  • Stockings are at the foot of everyone’s bed on Christmas morning
  • Children cannot go to the collection of gifts under the tree before the whole family is ready
  • We watch and participate in gift opening one by one (there is some multi-generational grousing about this)
  • It is sacrilege (of sorts) to begin Christmas decorating and music before Santa Claus makes his appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

You’ll recognize many of these from Christmas Past and Present. And as the years go by, we hope that the Future won’t look much different at all. God bless us everyone.

 

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Values are the foundation of brands that have enduring success

Abstract 3D Rendering of Geometric ShapesA genuine brand is the public replica of private values.

As individuals we learn to trust others when the fundamental values we hold sync with theirs. But when that trust breaks down, we question, and often limit, the relationship.

Similarly, the values embedded in an organizational brand are revealed in its programs, products, sales people, channel partners, service reps, advertising, websites, and social media. They hint to your customers and the broader world who you really are. They are an indication of the foundation of your brand.

That’s why the strongest brand building work starts with (1) an understanding of core values of its leaders and the values demonstrated by the organization; and (2) its vision of the future

The power to build lifelong customer advocates is derived from your values as leaders and your ability to drive associated behaviors through the organization, out the door, and engaging customers with similar values on your “front porch.”

It’s shared values that create trust and reliance between people, and that provide the glue between people and the brands they love.

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The value of a strong master brand in the digital age

Recruitment Innovation Concept on Chalkboard BackgroundCreating and presenting a strong brand is all about establishing value.This is especially true if you are selling direct to consumers. If you have been dealing primarily with distributors or retailers, your brand is important–but to a lesser degree. As you shift to selling directly to consumers, branding principles begin to apply.  Here are some of those principles:

  1. People buy from people and company brands they know and trust
  2. People buy product brands they know and trust
  3. If people don’t understand the higher value of your products and services, they will default to the lowest price
  4. A robust and effectively communicated brand increases your value
  5. If you do not define your brand, competitors and market forces will define it for you

What is the value of promoting a master brand?

Focused impact: Promoting a single brand with a single campaign makes for a more efficient marketing spend. In today’s fragmented media landscape, the advantage is even more pronounced. A company with a strong master brand can maximize its exposure, despite the need to split its outreach efforts.  Since ad and marketing spend needs to be divided among the plethora of media outlets and social media channels, it further dilutes the outreach if it must also be divided among sub-brands.

Customer retention: With a master brand strategy, a company is able to build longer-lasting customer relationships. By developing customer bonds with the overarching brand, companies can offset the natural customer attrition that brands and products experience when their appeal is based on a discrete period of time, like a certain life stage. Instead of customers abandoning the brand altogether when they “graduate” out of a product, they are more likely to shift to another offering in the master brand portfolio.

Brand equity. Companies continue to look to new products and brands to produce growth, but the continued decline in consumer trust in brands means new brands must clear an increasingly high hurdle. When new brands are able to draw upon a master brand’s existing equity, they have a greater likelihood of success than those that start from scratch. By conveying credibility, quality perceptions, and sometimes simply familiarity, master brands make the introduction of new sub-brands easier and usually more successful.

Competitive strength.  Between new media channels, new financing options, and consumers’ changing tastes, it is more feasible now than ever for start-ups and small businesses to build attractive brands and launch competitive challenges to more established players. But their effectiveness can be lessened when an existing market leader has pooled its resources and leveraged the combined power of all of its brands. A master brand strategy creates strength in numbers and establishes a competitive levee around the smaller brands in the corporate portfolio.

There are situations when a sub-brand must be featured or take a lead in marketing and advertising. That’s a subject for another day.

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The 7 C’s of Successful Communication

Communication photo .jpgCommunicating is simple. Right? Well, moving your lips may be easy, but effective communication can be mind-numbingly difficult. Even in friendships and marriages. Tough to get it right politics and religion. And yes, the right communication mix and messages are hard in business, too.

It’s strange that as humans we all have been communicating since our infancy but still face communication problems throughout our lives. We often find ourselves stumbling or being misled during the delivery or reception of information.

This happens in our daily personal lives and in our organizations, where barriers to communication become a cause of many problems and can hamper progress and ongoing projects. Misinterpretation of facts, misapprehensions, cultural misunderstanding and our echo chambers are common barriers to realizing a good level of communication.

Because effective communication is so often hampered, its particularly important in business to focus on coordination and specialization of messages, and if possible, determining the responsibilities, capabilities and role of those receiving your messages.

How can we improve our communication at all levels?

I studied journalism and public relations, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in these fields, so the classic text Effective Public Relations (1952) by Cutlip is burned in my memory. Cutlip cited the seven C’s of communication. They are as pertinent today, in the age of omni-channel communication and immediate feedback loops, as they were when the text was written 66 years ago. Here are the steps, with my commentary.

 

  1. Clarity. Be clear about your objective; state your main point early and often. Organize your thoughts. Use precise language. Be concise, or you’ll likely to lose your audience in a social media world. But short doesn’t necessarily mean clear; you can confuse people in 280 characters. Easily.

 

2.     Credibility.

    • If you already have credibility with your audiences, guard it!
    • If you don’t yet have credibility, explain why it should be granted. But also understand that in the long run it will have to be earned.
    • Invite feedback from the receiver.Asking for feedback and showing that you’ve heard it will help you earn credibility.

 

  1. Context. Understand the needs of your audience. You should be sensitive to the needs of a receiver. Understand his or her nature, culture, beliefs, and passions. Pay attention to the environment at the time and place you are communicating, and craft or tailor your messages accordingly. Today, recognize that anything you say or write is likely accessible to the entire world. No pressure!

 

  1. Content. Watch your language!Review your messages to be sure you can’t possibly be misunderstood. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and one careless Tweet to destroy your reputation and career. Care should be taken to keep the sentences short and simple. Technical words or jargon should be used only when they increase understanding, not to demonstrate your knowledge as an insider.

 

  1. Continuity. It is important to be consistent, especially as you are communicating the value and features of a product or service. Disconnected or contrary messages destroy your credibility. In the day of digital footprints, you will be held accountable!

 

  1. Capability:
    • People love Subject Matter Experts, but be careful if you only play one on the internet.
    • Avoid information overload: People will get bored if they are bombarded with too much information.
    • Reduce the level of noise as much as possible: Try to speak and interact with someone where there is limited noise or disturbance.
    • Practice and review.If you’re making a verbal presentation, practice in front of colleagues, or at least in front of a mirror. If you’ve written something, read it to yourself or others out loud. This really works!

 

  1. Channels. Shorten the communication chain.Try to communicate directly with the person concerned. The risk of distortion increases as facts are passed through a third party. More steps; more chances for distortion! Learn about what channel your target audiences use to get information. Adjust your content as necessary to be effective in varied channels.

 

It’s simple!

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Why worthy charities frequently stumble and fall

Teen volunteer holding PLEASE HELP sign at outdoor donation driveA group of our friends led a wonderful start-up that was trying to bring new perspectives to the environmental cause and reach faith-based constituencies who were not traditional supporters of these concerns. They had the plan worked out on paper, and even had a foundation to underwrite the effort for a couple of years. But although there were many who cheered from the sidelines, very few people were committed enough to provide significant financial support. When the grant money ran out, the charity all but disappeared.

This story is all too common. Here’s why.

  1. Empty Optimism

We’ve seen some of the best, most needed (in our view), and earnest efforts falter and fail because the leaders simply did not accurately calculate the amount of support that would be available and the alliances and partnerships that would buttress their humble beginnings.  The first reason nonprofit flounder or fail is that the vision and the value proposition simply don’t “sell,” and the founders or investors didn’t have the tools or didn’t take the time to measure this before they poured time and treasure into a passionate desire that was not to be.

  1. Values Vacuum

Healthy organizations establish core values that guide the way leaders and staff do business, and how they deal with each other and with outside people and groups at every point of contact. We have found that it is far too common for autocratic and self-focused founders to establish one core value: “do as I say.”  These nonprofit heads find it very difficult to transfer authority or to share the limelight and leadership with an empowered team.  There is little internal trust, and insufficient values to guard against abuses of power, privilege, and people.  It is also an environment in which many unethical and even illegal practices can flourish, and often do. These organizations frequently fail in the first generation, and almost never thrive when the leader with all of the chips finally cashes them in.

  1. Competitive Blinders

Nonprofit leaders and ministry executives are frequently insular and blind to the external changes and “market” forces that will be their undoing. Often it’s because they are so focused on the needs and crises around them.  Or they cannot imagine anyone or anything that would deter them from their righteous ends. And charities are often unfamiliar with, or even repelled by, the notion of “competitors,” so they don’t recognize true rivals or adjust to compete. There is no ability to adjust programs to match changing situations, culture, or competition and to compete for donations, volunteers, media coverage, or program space.

  1. Iced Innovation

The emergence of the Internet and subsequent online innovations that have changed the world in many ways has made strikingly obvious a business truth that is actually timeless.  If you do not innovate, you will disappear.  If there is no adjustment of creative content, communications, or methods for new times and trends you will miss opportunities, and be judged as antiquated (and perhaps irrelevant). Creative presentation and original thinking buy you another look, enable you to capture attention in a crowded field, and present new ways for people to engage with your mission.

  1. Mission Creep

When a corporation goes beyond its initial product line and area of service, it’s called brand extension.  In nonprofits, we call it mission creep, and because charities are in the business of changing the world, their leaders often cannot seem to stop themselves from seeing every need as a call.  The result is too many directions, no mission clarity, diffused expertise, and donor confusion.

  1. Lone Ranger

We have worked frequently with charities that have almost no real relationships.  One organization that comes to mind is the leader in its aid category, raising millions of dollars through television acquisition and direct mail. Although they rely on active churchgoers for their support, they have almost no relationships with church leaders, local churches, or other religious bodies. In the last 15 years, they haven’t pursued any meaningful community contact. All of their energy goes into completing donor transactions.  Although this is an extreme example, the tendency is rampant. When organizations do not have authentic relationships, they are vulnerable to economic downturns.

  1. Data Dearth

Although many organizations have begun measuring every possible statistic related to fundraising efforts, few have enough data to guide planning, analyze management systems, or redirect underperforming programs or communications. This may be because of the pressure to reduce overhead, or because the entrepreneurial spirit of charity leaders causes them to fly by the seat of their pants, to trust their own (often prescient) instincts.

Posted in Business growth, Compassion Ministries, Contributors, Creation Care, Jim Jewell, Nonprofit organizations, Social services | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Building Organizational Trust in an Age of Cynicism

Trust-photoIn times of change, the last thing you need to experience—as an employee, a colleague, a corporate leader, or a customer—is the discovery that trust has been violated.

Does any of this sound familiar? A person, group or organization has broken a promise. A manufacturer’s work product is not up to spec. A vital partner doesn’t follow either the letter or the spirit of an agreement.

And the reaction? A break-down of trust sparks anxiety. On the other hand, the remedy for this anxiety is the building and embedding of viral trust, integrated throughout a company and those they do business with.

“Building viral trust?” Hmmm… easier said than done. But it can be accomplished with commitment and diligence. But exactly how do we embed trust in an organization? Trust is a value that is ignited when it becomes an action. To start, we need to create and require four pillars of trust within the company.

First, to create trust, truth-telling must be the expectation. This may go without saying, but we can’t have trust without the assurance that we are telling each other the truth in matters large and small. To assure this we, as leaders, need to assure everyone working with us that we want to hear the truth, period. Go ahead – tell it to us straight, no matter how ugly. And do it safely, without fear. This is a building block for trust. It will enable us to speak what we believe to be true, rather than what we think others want to hear.

Second, to create trust we need to share values. We understand the importance of sharing values in our personal relationships and friendships. If we don’t share a view on what things are vitally important, or what standards of conduct aren’t acceptable — relationships are going to be short-lived.

The same goes for our business relationships. But the reality of intense competition and meeting quotas can force people to behave without a moral compass. That’s why leadership is so important. Without the north star of shared values, a company can lose its right to be trusted. Its products can lose their reputation for quality and trustworthiness. Employees are keeping their backs to the wall. The desire to take chances and to innovate is muted.

Third, to build trust we have to embrace responsibility. The buck stops here – not there. No one trusts a person or a company that won’t assume responsibility for plans, promises, decisions, and if necessary, failures. We all watch if those around us pass this ‘trial of trust’ – don’t we?

A healthy trust environment isn’t one where individuals feel forced to assume responsibility. To create a trust environment, it must be in our culture’s DNA to embrace responsibility for company decisions, practices, relationships and communications. Leaders and employees at every level will be rewarded when they step up to the plate for initiatives that succeed or fail, and to own up to wrongs and make them right.

Fourth, we create trust by always delivering on our promises. We all love promises – when they’re kept, right?  Same goes for a company. So, when your company makes products and offers them to customers, and as you maintain relationships with your customers – trust is bolstered by promises kept. But promises broken? Well – then trust is broken or destroyed – sometimes forever. And that is unacceptable. Be a company that keeps its promises to everyone. Everywhere. Period.

 

 

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Six New Business Trends

Generation x

It’s always good sport to observe and predict trends in business and culture, and then look back in a year and two to see how it went! Here are 6 trends I’ve been reading about:

1. Millennials welcome Generation Z

America’s youngest generation, “Gen-Z” (those born after 1998), are now entering their formative years and rising in influence. At nearly 70 million strong, the eldest of which are now entering college and/or the workforce, this group will soon outnumber their Millennial predecessors.

Millennials are not children anymore. In fact, the oldest of them are now 35. Millennials are increasingly taking leadership roles within organizations. In addition to managing their peers, Millennials will soon be managing Gen Z employees. Will Millennial managers complain about Gen Z as much as Baby Boomer managers complained about Millennials? Only time will tell.

Gen Z is the first generation born with devices in hand and are radically different than Millennials. Smart companies and brands are working quickly to understand this next generation as an employee as well as consumer.

2. The CEO Statesman is on the rise.

CEOs are increasingly taking on social issues. Driving the trend: socially-conscious millennial workers, ineffective governments, and the need to build public trust in business. Expect to see more CEOs stepping up. With the labor market tight, they need to show that their companies are doing good in the world to attract the best talent.

3. The tech backlash builds.

As retailers worry about Amazon’s growing dominance, media companies struggle in the Facebook-Google-Netflix vice grip, Congress continues its quest for information on how Russia, ISIS and other bad actors benefit from social networks, and concerns about cyber security and data privacy grow. One area to watch is antitrust enforcement, where the government’s suit to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger could presage a new approach to vertical integration that could ultimately threaten the FAANG firms. (FAANG is an acronym for the market’s five most popular and best-performing tech stocks, namely Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google).

4. Wages and more on the rise

Human Resource managers should expect a 3 percent annual increase in wages across all sectors, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. In high demand jobs such as health care, elderly care, and physical therapy, expect wage increases to be higher.

We’ll also see wages likely increase in engineering, drone technology, and virtual reality. Wages have been stagnant for a few years, and with the unemployment rate at almost record low of about 4.1 percent of the labor force, employers will feel pressure to adjust compensation to attract and retain quality workers. As we’ve seen in recent years, large organizations will see health care costs rise by more than 6 percent this year. At the same time, coverage is declining.

5. Subject matter experts open doors

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are the new rainmakers. As technology continues to expand and disrupt industries, companies and clients rely more and more on SMEs to educate, guide and advise. Whereas your client can get information about your company’s products and services on your website, they can’t figure out how your solution might fit their needs.

SMEs provide a valuable resource to discuss industry trends, share best-practices, and delve into detailed discussions about how one solution might perform better than another. Whereas traditional sales professionals have noticed increased challenges in getting in front of customers, SMEs are welcomed into the room with open arms.

6. Hyper-local advertising will gain

These days, our smartphones can access all our information, and they can know our location (if we allow it). This is taking advertising to the next level: hyperlocal. This advertising utilizes your location to serve ads relevant to where you are. Imagine yourself in the store looking for a gadget that you have searched on your laptop, and you get an ad on your phone that they are offering something better and genuine from their store. If you can stand this level of knowledge about where you are at every minute, you’ll love this type of advertising, rather than getting into lots of useless advertising on your phone. Small businesses are in an excellent position to interact with their customers and market to them in a traditional, yet personal, way.

Sources: Forbes, The Next Scoop, Entrepreneur, Fortune

 

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Every day is a Day. March 7 is Mariah’s birthday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Today is…

Mariah Jewell’s birthday. It’s a national celebration! Or should be!

Happy birthday Mariah, firstborn, beautiful and kind, bright and witty.

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Today in history

In addition to Mariah’s birth in Evansville, Indiana, on this day in history Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone in 1876.  At 29, Bell receives a patent for his revolutionary new invention–the telephone. (Unlike today’s phones, the primary purpose of this device was to make and receive phone calls). The Scottish-born Bell worked in London with his father, Melville Bell, who developed Visible Speech, a written system used to teach speaking to the deaf.

 Scripture of the Day

Psalm 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

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Every day is a Day. March 6 is National Oreo Cookie Day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Today is…

National Oreo Cookie Day. the Oreo cookie has become the best-selling cookie in the United States.

The National Biscuit Company (today known as Nabisco) first developed and produced the “Oreo Biscuit” in 1912 at its Chelsea factory in New York City.

 

Today in history

Michelangelo was born in 1475. Michelangelo Buonarroti, the greatest of the Italian Renaissance artists, was born in the small village of Caprese. The son of a government administrator, he grew up in Florence, a center of the early Renaissance movement, and became an artist’s apprentice at age 13.

 

Scripture of the Day

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

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Every day is a Day. Monday, March 5, 2018 is National Cheese Doodle Day

Monday, March 5, 2018

Today is…

National Cheese Doodle Day

Today in history

The Hula-Hoop was patented in 1963

Scripture of the Day

2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

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