Author Archives: Hearts and Minds

About Hearts and Minds

The key to success in any business is having the right people on your team, and engaging their hearts and their minds in your business. When employees are rationally and emotionally committed they will go above and beyond to provide superior service to your customers. I am passionate about coaching and developing people to achieve results personally and professionally. I have spent more than 10 years developing people in leading organizations with a key focus on differentiation through exceptional service. Every day I work to become the kind of person my dog, Piper, thinks I am. I love chocolate and red wine, especially when a study comes out saying they are healthy!

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Pam Ross Effect

Culture. Experience. Results.

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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Power of Social Networks

A quick look at my social network on July 4, 2011. Via Mention Map.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a discussion going on about the power of social networks and changes in marketing due to this power.  I got involved in the conversation when I read and commented on Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu‘s blog about “a different kind of Social Media – finding a language”.  The discussion continued with Ric Dragon‘s post about “The Power of Small Groups in Online Marketing“.  As the conversation continues, I thought I’d add some of my thoughts and experiences with this power.

Marketing isn’t just for marketers.

In the age of social media, everyone becomes a marketer.  Companies need to realize that their employees are on Facebook and Twitter and are leaving impressions of their brand, however positive they may be.  I think some form of social media marketing training and standards will be important for all, even it it’s as simple as ensuring that everyone understands your vision.  It is a balancing act for organizations as they need to allow employees to be themselves and honest, while protecting their brand.

Traditional marketing needs to adapt.

I’m not a marketer and won’t pretend to be an expert, but I know how I make decisions on what company I want to do business with.  I rely on the referrals of “real” people.  I think a lot of others do as well, if the popularity and growth of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are any indication.  People can also ask hundreds (or thousands) of friends or followers on FB or Twitter for real-time recommendations before they buy.  Marketers need to find a way to interact in a “real”, genuine way with potential clients online.  Companies like Best Buy and Zappos, who allow their employees to blog and answer customer questions online may have some great best practices to follow.

Quality is more important than Quantity.

A lot of people seem consumed by getting more followers or more hits to their blog.  If there’s not value in the numbers, though, they’re only numbers.  What I mean is it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they aren’t adding value to your purpose or you to theirs.  It doesn’t matter how many people click to your blog if they aren’t reading it, engaging or remembering it.  I have found in my brief time in social media that the most value I get is from engaging in conversations with others – not the masses, but a few intelligent people who challenge my thinking with different views or agree and add to my own thoughts.  This engagement with others is where the rubber really hits the road with social media.  And it’s also why corporate blogs written without an opportunity for genuine 2-way communication may do more harm than good.

A small network of the right people can make a big difference.

In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the “Law of the Few”. He says “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”  There are three types of “socially gifted” people Gladwell describes: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople.  In my short time blogging and being actively engaged in Twitter, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet amazing people with these gifts.

Connectors are the people who seem to know everyone. They have a knack for making friends and acquaintances, and they are especially gifted at bringing people together.  Mavens.  These are the “information specialists”.  They have and continue to gain vast knowledge and they share it with others.  Finally, Salesmen are persuaders.  Something about how they say things makes you want to agree with them.

A few of the Socially Gifted people I’ve met on Twitter:

Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu encompasses all of these traits.  He is happy to introduce people with like interests, he’s a brilliant social media expert who’s happy to share insights and knowledge, and his thought-provoking blog not only forces you to think, but makes you want to agree with him.

Josepf Haslam is a social media maven.  He knows SEO and how to use it strategically to drive the right traffic to your blog.  And the best part is he’s open to teaching you how to do it.  As I write this, his recent tweaks to Peggy Fitzpatrick‘s (an amazing Connector, by the way) blog are likely driving more traffic to her site.

Finally, a big shout out to Connector-extraordinaire Michele Price.  I’ve personally seen the impact this powerful communicator has.  While I’ve been blogging for several months now, I was averaging 15-25 hits on my blog per day.  One day in June, Michele tweeted that she was looking for a new blog to read, and I sent her a post I had just written, about how to deal with people you don’t like.  Michele read the post, commented on it, and tweeted it to her followers.  That day, I had almost a hundred hits on my blog, and several comments. (This may not be a lot to you mega-bloggers, but for me it felt like a tipping point!).  Not only does Michele have a large network, her opinion is trusted, so they agreed when she said my post was worth reading.

Wondering if you’re a connector?  Take Gladwell’s quick test here.

I am still learning a ton about social networking, and enjoying the journey.  I anticipate changes and am excited about what opportunity they will bring for those who embrace and engage with their network.

What do you think about the power of social networks?


Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Social Media


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10 Rules for how to be a “good employee”

Over the years of being an employee, having employees, and coaching employees and Managers to build positive relationships, I’ve learned some common things that make an employee a “good employee”. Here’s my list. If you have others to add, please do so in the comments! And don’t worry, there will be a future post on how to be a “good boss”.

  1. Do every job to the best of your ability, regardless of how boring or simple it may seem. There will be times that you’ll have to perform less strategic tasks like data entry or filing. Do these things with as much focus as the tasks you enjoy, and present the completed work to your boss in a form you’re proud of. Large companies are always looking for people with potential, and this will help to show you have what it takes.
  2. Be curious. If you don’t fully understand something, ask! I’d much rather someone ask me about things than smile, nod, and walk away bewildered and unable to complete their work. No matter where you go to work, there will be phrases, acronyms and a whole language that is new to you. Ask what people mean, be curious about what people do, and you will be better set up to do your own work.
  3. Be solution-focused. There’s no doubt, you’ll encounter problems. But before complaining to your boss, think about some possible solutions. And don’t despair – there is always an answer. Things will always work out somehow – maybe not exactly how you initially planned, but they will work out.
  4. Challenge your boss (respectfully) Their opinion is not always right. It’s true. The boss is not always 100% right. Bosses make decisions, form opinions, and see things in a certain way based on their experience and knowledge. Just because your boss proposes something doesn’t mean it’s the gospel. Don’t be afraid to offer an alternate view. This will be seen as courage by a good boss. In the end, though, know what you are willing to “fall on the sword for” and what isn’t worth it.
  5. Get things done on time. If your boss doesn’t tell you a deadline, ask. If you are worried about meeting it, first look at what else you’re working on and re-prioritize. If you’re still worried, let your boss know ahead of time. Don’t leave them hanging or wait until they ask for your assignment. Show them you’re responsible enough to manage your time, and you’ll be rewarded with more flexibility and responsibility.
  6. Inform your boss of roadblocks. There will be times that you have gone as far as you can without your bosses help. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. If you don’t, you may run the risk of missing a deadline (see above).
  7. Figure things out. OK, this seems somewhat contradictory to being curious and informing your boss of roadblocks, but be resourceful. If you’re not sure how to do something technical, use the “Help” function. If you aren’t sure of the style of something you need to write, checkout previous examples. Of course, if you’re stuck, ask, but do what you can to figure it out first.
  8. Have your boss’ back. If you’re providing information that your boss will be presenting or making a decision based on, make sure it’s accurate. Your boss is not going to have time to dive into the detail, so point out anything that she might not see upon first glance. Make sure she’s ready for opposing viewpoints (remember, your boss’ opinion is not always right).
  9. Take initiative. If you see something that needs to be done, do it. If you have a solution that will make a process easier or more effective, bring it forward.
  10. Listen to constructive feedback. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback you’re being given, your boss is perceiving your actions in some way that is causing it. Listen. In my experience, most bosses think about the feedback they’re giving you and only do so to help you improve. Reflect on it, and use it to improve your actions or at least other people’s perception of you.

What other “rules” for being a good employee have you discovered?

Pic by Sxc user Clix


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How to give constructive feedback

I recently wrote a post about receiving feedback, because I think this is an important art that many leaders lack.  Even more important for a good leader is to master the art of giving meaningful (A.K.A. constructive) feedback.

Giving honest, meaningful feedback with the goal of helping others to improve will engage their hearts and minds and build your leadership credibility.  Unfortunately, giving constructive feedback is something that many leaders shy away from.  Others use the “seagull” style of feedback.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned about effective feedback. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

I believe in all forms of feedback, three principles hold true: Feedback must be sincere, specific, and timely.  

Be Sincere. Think about the feedback that you’re giving.  What’s the purpose behind it? How will improvement help them and your business or team?  Is the feedback about something you’ve seen or experienced or is it second-hand (this is never as effective).  It is much more sincere to explain “I noticed you did ____” rather than “I heard that you did ____”.  If you have to use second hand information, make sure you fully understand the situation.  Start the discussion by asking them to tell you about what happened.  Probe for how it went, would they do anything differently, what did they learn.  Often, by simply asking thoughtful questions, you can get them to give themselves their own meaningful feedback.

Be Specific.  There’s nothing worse than getting feedback that your performance is substandard but not knowing what part of your performance is below standard.  Feedback without specifics will simply de-motivate, kill confidence, and lead to further substandard performance.

Be Timely.  Don’t wait until an annual performance review to give feedback for improvement.  Not only have you wasted a year of work that could have been improved, but you are not being fair.  Give feedback when it happens, regularly.  The more often you give feedback, the more comfortable it will be for you and for them.

Some ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s when giving meaningful feedback:

Do make it a two-way conversation.  Don’t practice seagull management (fly in, poop on them and then fly away).  Ask for their perspective, and whether they would do anything differently or whether they learned anything from the situation. Listen and respond with empathy.

Do think about what’s in it for them.  Don’t make it about you.  How will improving this help them develop and grow?  Watch out for turning this into a conversation about how you have improved or done things in the past.  It’s about their behaviour and how improving will help them.

Do maintain their self-esteem.  Don’t make it personal.  The feedback is about their actions or behaviour, not about the overall value they bring to the team.

Do be honest and direct.  Don’t give a “feedback sandwich”.  Managers are often taught to give positive feedback, slide in a little constructive feedback, and finish with more positive feedback.  Please don’t do this.  The outcome is that either they miss the constructive, meaningful piece, or they dismiss any of the positive.  Either way, you convolute the message and lose credibility.  Instead of sandwiching constructive feedback between to pieces of positive feedback, separate the two discussions.  Make the constructive feedback positive on its own by sharing your confidence in their ability to improve and committing to helping them.

Do meet them personally, in private. Don’t give this kind of feedback in public or by email.  Have enough respect for the person to meet face to face to give meaningful feedback.

Finally, don’t forget positive feedback!  Always take the opportunity to build confidence and positivity by recognizing work well done.  What you recognize will get repeated.  My three rules of sincere, specific, and timely feedback also apply to praise.

Pic by sxc user mzacha


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Listen Leaders! Show your people you value them

One of the most important elements of engagement is a feeling of being valued.  The problem is that many leaders don’t know how to show that they do value their teams.

When I’ve discussed this essential need of feeling valued, managers often think that they’ve done all they can to make employees feel valued.  “I got business cards made for her”, “He got the raise he asked for”, “I gave the whole team tickets to a baseball game last month,” “I don’t know what more they want.”

The funny thing is when I discuss the same need with the employee, they rarely mention any of these things.  What they want is to be listened to.  I often hear “I’ve been asking for a performance review for months now”, “He’s always too busy for me”, “She doesn’t care about my ideas or suggestions”.

Leaders often make the mistake of thinking that giving employees tangible things will make them feel valued, when what really makes a difference is taking the time to listen to them.

My advice for leaders: Listen!  

As long as your employees are paid fairly both internally and compared to market, that’s not the most effective way to engage them.  And in fact, the impact of giving them a raise will last no more than a couple of weeks.  So save a little money and spend a little time listening to members of your team.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft.


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Engage your heart and mind by making positive choices.

I am turning 37 next month, and have been reflecting on life and where it has taken me.  I’m not married, have no kids, and am working my a$$ off in corporate Canada.

I am not spending enough energy on the things that engage my heart & mind.

I neglect my dog and don’t spend enough time traveling, spending time with friends, family, and my dog, volunteering, golfing, and laughing.  (Alright, if you know me, you know I laugh a lot, but more doesn’t hurt!)  I find I don’t have time to do things that are good for me, like working out, cooking, and eating right.

My sister and I on our trip to Dublin

Am I where I thought I’d be at this point in my life?  Absolutely not!  Am I unhappy with where I am?

Absolutely not.

Sure, there are times when I think “Gee, it would be awesome to be (Cameron Diaz / Duchess Kate / my friend Lesley)” But then something happens (JT dumps her / paparazzi chase her / her job sucks) and I realize actually she is just a person who has ups and downs like I do.

I can’t think of anyone with a “perfect” life, and I’m generally pretty happy.  I love my job, my house, my dog, my family, and I have a great boyfriend.

Life hasn’t taken me here.

I’ve made choices throughout my life that have gotten me to where I am.

The things that I’m missing are things that I can change.  I can make different choices in order to focus on engaging my heart and mind.

Piper during a cottage vacation

My plan for 37:

  • Come home from work earlier, at least 3 days per week. (baby steps)
  • Laugh even more.
  • Make more time for family, good friends, and Piper.
  • Take a trip to Europe.
  • Find a new volunteer gig.
  • Join a new gym, and use it!

What choices are you making to engage your heart and mind and create a better life for yourself?


Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Personal, Reflection


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Do pyjama (pajama for my US friends) days build engagement?

I was chatting with friends the other night and one of them mentioned that morale was poor at their workplace, so they were having a “wear your pyjamas to work” day.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft

Will having a pyjama party actually improve morale?  No way.

In fact, my friend was dreading it, and thought it was somewhat impractical in a work environment where half of the employees worked in a warehouse setting.

Events like this only scratch the surface of employee engagement.  Unless you get to the root cause, you won’t make a long-lasting improvement.  In fact, you could make things worse.  My guess is some people may have fun that day, others (like my friend) may hate it.  Regardless, any positive impact this type of event will have will be temporary.

The trouble is, this is the direction many organizations turn when they want to increase employee engagement.  In a recent study by Aberdeen Group (2004), Employee Events was the most commonly used strategy to improve hourly employee retention, with 68% of companies investing in them.  The same study also found that this had the most uncertain return on investment.

The path to engagement is much more strategic, long-term, and challenging.  You have to engage their Hearts and Minds.

Here are a few ways to start.

Engage their minds:

  • Evaluate your compensation practices.  Are people paid fairly and equitably, both internally and compared to market?  Pay is not a motivator, but it can de-motivate people.
  • Improve your internal communication.  Do people have access to the information they need to complete their work?
  • Ensure that everyone has all of the necessary tools to do their job. Fix technology, provide access to resources.

AND Engage their hearts:

  • What is your organization’s vision, mission, etc.  Do they resonate with employees?  does everyone in the company know where your headed and what their role is in taking the organization there?
  • Take a look at all leaders’ style.  Make sure they’re aware of their strengths and opportunities.  Have them share this, candidly, with their teams.  An introspective look and a leader who is self-aware is much more able to flex their behaviour and engage people.
  • Empower people.  Hire people who are aligned to your vision, train them in your standards, and set them loose to do their jobs.
You can see all of these tactics are a lot more challenging and time-consuming than pyjama days, but I guarantee, if you invest in truly engaging your people, you will see a return on your investment.

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