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All future forward leaders share these five traits

I have come to realize that I have a high tolerance for the unknown. The unknown is risky but equally full of potential. 

I acknowledge that not everyone shares my  exhilaration for the unknown and admittedly,  too much of it for a prolonged amount of time is exhausting, for anyone. It's exhausting on our human brain, which seeks safety and survival first and foremost. The unknown creates fear. 

Considering the next decade however, the unknown is the new normal as we will witness the reinvention of virtually every industry. Great leaders have the ability to see ahead and somehow drag - or influence- an organization towards that vision. In his book The Prime Movers, psychologist Edwin Locke identified the core mental traits of great leaders such as Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Walt Disney. While they each had their own secret sauce,  he found the common element among them was the ability to envision a new reality and see past what worked...

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Why we Need Leaders with a “Digital State of Mind”

Just as Billy Joel coined the term “New York State of Mind”, the Fourth Revolution might be associated with a “Digital State of Mind”.  The major drivers of disruption – social media, big data, mobility (anywhere, anytime computing), cloud and now AI and robotics – have radically changed how we work, the nature of competition and customer expectations. With technology changing so fast, it is easy to think that mastering these drivers is the main path to success.  However, an increasing amount of research is pointing to the fact that leaders are the true differentiators.

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2014, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, authors Didier Bonnet and George Westerman concluded that a leader’s capabilities had a huge impact on the organization’s capacity to fulfill technology’s potential. They offer as examples: the ability to develop a cohesive...

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The Benefits of Knowing the Gaps

For close to 9 years now, I've made a practice of regularly assessing my goals, both personal and business. After about 10 years into my career, I was finding myself getting caught up in a frenetic pace of daily/weekly to-do lists.  To counter this, I started to get up much earlier in the morning at 5 a.m  to journal, center myself and plan the day ahead. Once the kids arrived - we now have three under 9 - it also provided critical alone time.  But more importantly, this is when I started taking stock of my broader life goals. It may sound intense but it doesn't have to be if done regularly.

I focus on the lifestyle that I want to achieve and general outcomes I'm aiming for. For example some of my desired outcomes are freedom to travel, diversity of work and clients, constant learning and growth, total mind and body fitness.  I then look at my current day to day activities and see if they are aligned to those outcomes. Am I losing my way? If so, is it temporary?...

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Defining Digital

Five short years ago, if you were to ask organizational leaders to define their digital strategy, the answer would either pertain to their digital marketing efforts or be synonymous with IT. Today, “digital” refers to a more all-encompassing approach,  impacting technology choices, customer experience, organizational culture, leadership styles and of course business models. It’s no wonder organizations are struggling to define their digital strategy.

The latest PwC Digital IQ report suggests that in order to keep up with Canada’s growing commitment to innovation, Canadian executives must gain a better understanding of what it means “to be digital”. While 47% of Canadian leaders see “digital” as a holistic strategy, covering technology and innovation related activities as well as cultural and mindset shifts, 30% of them see it mainly as a customer facing activity.

Therein lies the shift. Organizations are still grappling on how to...

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Customer experience is everyone’s business. Four steps to becoming more customer centric

At its simplest, customer experience is your customers’ perception of how you treat them. What does it feel like to do business with you? Your “brand” is the sum total of all their experiences with your organization and every touchpoint matters. Your customers’ perception will impact their behavior, actions and ultimately brand loyalty, or lack thereof. Only when your business has defined what that experience or feeling should be, can it determine which processes, improvements and technologies are needed to support it.

In this hyper-connected era, one of the biggest challenges I see my clients struggle with across all industries is understanding the role of each channel on the path to purchase (or whatever your particular conversion point may be such as a renewal or a subscription).

Four steps to becoming more customer centric:

  1. Understand your customer. Develop personas (not just segments).
  2. Seek to understand and map the journey across your channels...
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Five Attributes Required to Lead in the Digital Economy

What does it mean to lead in an age of rapid change and disruption? Although we’ve been leveraging technology for decades, organizations are still grappling with being digital. As we’ve seen with many technology projects gone awry, technology alone does not make an organization digitally adept.  More than ever, the cultural shift, the capabilities and in particular, the changes required in leadership styles are the true barriers.

If you think about the environment in which leaders operated less than a decade ago:

  1. Information was power. (Leaders typically had access to the most data.)
  2. Information was hierarchical. We expected leaders to have all the answers.
  3. Leaders had to appear in control. Being unsure was generally frowned upon.
  4. Generally speaking, leaders were not allowed to make mistakes (or they could not readily admit they made a mistake).

Fast forward to the last five or six years in particular, and the world is more than ever:

  1. Social (People based....
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You Just Don’t Understand Me!

marketing and sales Aug 18, 2020

Do you receive emails from organizations you follow or from brands you’ve recently bought from that are not at all relevant to your interests? Do they promote products you would never buy or tickets to events that are nowhere near your city? I certainly do.

Understanding ones customers (or members, donors and stakeholders) takes time and effort, but it’s critical to building and nurturing long term relationships and driving greater levels of loyalty.

The key is to strategically leverage the large amount of information being provided on a real time basis, such as email subscriptions, surveys, purchase behaviours, channel preferences, location and age to name a few. Most organizations have a plethora of customer data but it is disparate, fragmented and found in several different systems (e.g. point of sale, email marketing software, mobile applications, survey tools, and so on).

Centralizing this data and getting a global view of it, either in a consumer management...

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Is content planning killing your vibe?

Content, content, content - Yes, it’s still king and should still be at the top of the marketing or digital strategy agenda. So where to start? How does it fit in the overall marketing or communications plan? How to consistently produce? After helping a dozen or so organizations tackle the challenge of content,  I’ve distilled it into four main phases and developed a content framework (at the end of the post) to help visualize the process with your team.

But first, what’s the difference? Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy.

Whereas content marketing is typically aimed at building an audience and meeting marketing or communications objectives, such as lead nurturing or engagement (it’s the ‘why’ of the content), the content strategy as a whole should also outline how the organization will create, gather and distribute the content. I like to simply refer to it as a content strategy as it combines both of these disciplines.

At its core, your...

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Happier teams, better outcomes. Leveraging Scrum for agile marketing execution.

Have you ever developed or been accountable to execute a very detailed strategic plan that falls apart as soon as it meets reality? Either a crisis takes precedence, resources or circumstances change or competing demands from above derail the execution of  the plan entirely.  I certainly have over the years but never more so as a marketing lead for an NHL club where market dynamics coupled with a moving “product” brought constant change and uncertainty.


It’s time for a change in the way we execute our strategic plans. In a world where change and complexity are the only constant, we need a more adaptive, responsive and iterative approach to planning and execution.

Agile Manifesto

The term agile in the context of planning dates back to 2001 where 17 leaders in software development drafted what is now known as the Agile Manifesto.  The objective of the manifesto was to create a people-centric approach to software development that is characterized by...

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Organizations don’t disrupt, People do. Technology helps.

A successful - and sometimes transformative - business model represents a better way. When we think about an industry in “transformation” such as traditional print, media or retail, we often think about the adoption of a new technology as the better way. However, new tech is not transformative in and of itself.  Rather, what creates disruption is the ability to envision how we will leverage emerging tech in order to address an anticipated market need.

There are a number of commonalities in digital business models that make them transformative.  The IMD Center for Digital Business Transformation wrote one of the most informative white papers on the topics of Digital Business Models. Their research into the business models of over 100 disruptors revealed three main themes based on creating value: 1) Cost Value 2) Experience Value 3) Platform Value. Successful models will often use a combination of more than one of these.

Delivering Value Based on Cost

Here the...

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