A good leader is a good follower

thomas-paine-writer-quote-lead-follow-or-get-out-of-theYou’ve probably seen this famous quote somewhere along the way.

It seems, in most group dynamics, we each fall into one of these three categories. Either we lead, follow, or … we’re one of “them.” Suffice it to say: anyone behind the leader is presumed to be a follower.

Alpha-Beta Pug

We used to have a cute little black Pug. Before Pugs were cool, people thought – especially when we took this little porker on hikes – we had a pot-bellied pig. Can’t say I blamed them.

Anyway, we took her hiking and camping a lot. Funny thing is, being “Alpha dog” (my translation: only dog), she saw herself as behind my hubby (her alpha) and in front of me (her slave and gamma, at best).

So there we would be, in the middle of some trail somewhere, and I would be fighting for my spot behind my long-legged, fast-walking husband…with an animal the size of a wind-up doll power-playing me right out of 2nd place.

It ticked. Me. Off.

Until my husband and I had the discussion and discovered the relationship between his pooch and his wife. We concluded that, whether animal or human, we are either the one in charge, or we aren’t. There’s really no in-between. In this case, I was definitely not the leader. I wasn’t even the one behind the leader.

And that was OK. We all fill our “roles,” right?

It depends. Some followers may blissfully happy following and making their best contributions in that way. But a good leader also needs to know how to be a good follower. (The above is not one of those examples, by the way.) In my experience, the best leaders know how and when to follow.

It’s a big part of letting other people find their own leadership ability.

Lighten the leadership load.

I saw another interesting quote the other day on leadership. It went something like this: “When the leadership load is lightened, great things really start to happen.”

It didn’t quite click then.

In this context, though, it makes sense. The more leaders are OK following now and then, the more great stuff happens. The more they delegate, the more leaders they produce. In today’s world, that’s the sign of a great future.

Audience: Don’t scratch what doesn’t itch

hand scratching what ppears to be male balding headHad a great coffee meeting with a friend the other day who is a very talented instructional designer. Not only does this woman  – I’ll call her Sandy – know the methodologies and techniques for producing great training – she understands the technology behind it all, too. What a great mix of skills.

We ended up chatting the most, however, on the topic of understanding your audience. (Fellow blogger and consultant Deb Nelson covered this recently.)

I mean, if Sandy is developing training for, let’s say, bank tellers on the front lines, the required skills, knowledge and compliance they require are very different from the body of knowledge a loan officer needs to develop.

This is just one example of how missing the target audience is crucial to accomplishing your organization’s goals – or not.

Patience, Grasshopper.

So the question, “Who’s your audience?” isn’t just a bunch of hooey from the comms nerds. It’s at the heart of whatever it is you’re creating. It is more than likely why you’re developing that message. That audience needs knowledge, and you can give it to them.

You’ll also want to have an answer ready for, “What does this [brochure, website, FAQ, training document, research study, etc] need to accomplish?”

  • Do you need to change someone’s mind or behavior?
  • Do you need to move them through your sales funnel, from Point C to Point D?
  • Perhaps educate them and deepen their understanding of a complex topic?
  • What do they think or feel now?
  • How do you want them to feel after encountering your information?
Take the time or else

Whatever it is you’re communicating, I guarantee without solid answers to these questions, the likelihood of hitting your mark is – well, let’s just say you’ve been warned.

Before starting any project that communicates an idea – copy, design, user experience, it’s crucial to know:

  • Who your audience is;
  • What you need to accomplish; and
  • What the consumer’s thinking or perception is today.

Twice in the last few days I’ve heard about someone totally missing these targets – one with a study that surveyed precisely the wrong topic; the other, a training program that equipped the wrong stakeholders with the wrong set of skills. Both epic fails — not to mention costly.

As my friend Sandy said, you have to address the specific needs of the audience – or else, you just might end up scratching an itch that doesn’t exist.

Confessions of a sun worshipper

I admit it. I love the sun.

In the last few weeks, I have realized how much sunlight means to my sanity. I’m not just talking about for tanning purposes. Been there, done that; had a real bad sunburn in places sunburns shouldn’t go.

I’m just saying I appreciate the sun more than ever.

Image of fog settling over Rocky Mountains

How Colorado has looked for nearly one month – until today. Photo by Amber Van Schooneveld

No, really.

Colorado has seen more rain in the month of May 2015 than in any other May in history. That is unacceptable, folks.

But wait – it’s reality. Note to self: Suck it up. That’s what big kids do, right?

Meanwhile, back at Rancho Poor Mexican Gone …

I haven’t been able to crank out any content. I have blog ideas outlined or drafted – but every last one of them has been stuck behind the Publish button – or worse, stuck in my mind. Nothing could unclog them.

Anyway, some things have actually happened in the world of Poor Mexican Gone over the last few weeks:

  • My AncestryDNA test results came back – way earlier than I expected. Is that just “delighting the customer” or did I not have enough data in my tree? A new post on that soon. Interesting stuff.
  • More of Braulio’s peripheral family members and their records have shown up in my research, offering more validation (maybe 70%?) that he is in our bloodline.
  • Some great new fabrics came in to help me with my new quilting/sewing addiction (which requires much more time than anyone can imagine).
  • More freelance work has come my way – yay!
  • I’ve been playing more tennis, AND I got me some new kicks for the 2015 season.

So all that to say – it’s been an oddly overwhelming month, mostly in a good way.

But this weather!

And the angels sang

And the angels sang

Ask any Coloradan: If we don’t get our 300+ days of sunshine per year, we’re a collective, hot mess.

As you might have guessed, the sun finally came out today. We’re thrilled and hopeful, with all fingers and toes crossed.

And now maybe, just maybe, the sun will finally unclog the blog.

Drop in the bucket: Mad Men post mortem

om-don-draper-finale2

Don finds peace. He also finds the idea the for a new :60 Coca Cola spot that makes history. I already miss this character.

On one hand, it’s hard to sum up Mad Men the day after the series finale. On the other hand, it’s hard not to. So I’ve decided to join the fray with the other half-million reviewers / mourners.

Because let’s face it. There are a ton of post-finale recaps out as of yesterday, including these:

Funny: At least two of the above end with some version of “It’s the real thing.” Sigh.

Interesting:

  • Peggy and Joan each sought career and sometimes love. Joan thought she’d landed one of each, only to end up choosing career over traditional love. Peggy got both.

    PeggyatMcCann

    Funny, how when you let things go a bit, they seem to come back together. Couldn’t resist including this image of Peggy, who is right there.

  • Don finally got clarity, however fleeting — although, it seemed long enough to crank out the legendary Coca-Cola commercial promoting world peace.
  • What does Roger care anymore? He’s had a stellar career, so he settles into l’amour.
  • Pete, lucky dog, gets his wife and kid back and keeps that lucrative gig with McCann.
  • Betty – dang it – love or hate her, has a death sentence hanging over her, though I’d expect her to find her way out so as not to put her children through watching their mother die.

Surprising: The show ends in hope. Hope that Don can somehow make something of the name and identity he’d assumed, and maybe even be a more present father in his children’s lives (really?). Hope that the world could be a better place (the Coke commercial).

I’ve gotta say: I fully expected a European turn for the worst – someone’s tragedy, a la Downton Abbey, where someone seems to die in nearly every season finale. To me, the hopeful ending makes Mad Men a new, true, all-American classic.

All in all, Mad Men, while set in the presumably sexy advertising business, isn’t much about the ad biz at all. It’s really about the existential questions of the ’60s and ’70s. Is this all there is? Are we all alone? (At Big Sur, Don learns – finally – he’s not.)

The aches of those questions and their answers were real and often frustrating during the series, which easily could have ended more tragically. But the idealist in me is glad Weiner chose hope for the final note.

Still, I cannot tell a lie: I will miss seeing that Don Draper face and wanting to know the thoughts behind his dark eyes.

So long, Mad Men – until the next binge.

Ogilvy and great content

I need to do a better job of cleaning out my bookmarks. Found this under a pile of moth balls, so I had to dust it off and air it out.

david-ogilvy-don-draperCopyblogger’s original post was inspired by the father of all Mad Men.

No, not Don Draper (left). I’m talking about the real father of advertising, David Ogilvy — the copywriter’s copywriter and author of the creative classic, Ogilvy on Advertising.

Because before social media, there was advertising. And then social media changed everything.

Copyblogger clearly anticipated this transition, which changed one of the sexiest industries forever. (Although from experience, I can tell you: it wasn’t all that sexy. Pan Am would’ve been a lot sexier.)

Basically, good content is good content, regardless of its era or semantics. Call it advertising, blogging, whatever. It’s content no matter how you slice it.

Advertising = Information

While advertising has long been perceived as a trendsetter in pop culture, Ogilvy viewed it as content that informs.

Granted, the path to the consumer dollar today is kinder and gentler, and less linear. But the idea is the same: Make your content so useful that people want to take action.

Ogilvy summed it up like this:

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’

It’s not perfect, but it is the first of many

My first quilt ever - and definitely not my last.

My first quilt ever – definitely not my last. Although, I might photograph it differently next time – like with hubby help.

Thanks to those of you who encouraged me to continue growing my new quilting skills.

Feels a little naked to share it here, but on the other hand I’m really proud and happy to have finished it. I’ve heard stories about these things nearly getting sidelined for years because no one likes binding them – or maybe even quilting them (sewing all the layers together).

So here’s the first one in all its glory. I gifted it to my friend’s 2-year-old son, who she said was really happy when he opened it himself (slight exaggeration?).

Let nothing be lost

Wool quilt "Nothing Lost" quilt by Paul Loebach

“Nothing Lost” quilt by Paul Loebach. Image Design*Sponge.

In the last couple of years, I acquired a newfound love for modern quilting. While this beauty here is made of wool, its construction embodies the biblical quote (John 6:12) it comes from.

In the passage, Jesus had just fed a crowd of 5,000 with two loaves of barley bread and five fishes, before asking his disciples to pick up the leftovers, so nothing would go to waste. The barley bread leftovers filled 12 more baskets.

I am so mesmerized by the beauty of this quilt and its existence as a metaphor for that miracle. (I don’t think I want to know how much it costs, however.)