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Focus 2014: Getting rid of email mayhem using Unroll.me

In the spirit of focus and simplification, I want to reduce the distractions, clutter and “noise” in my life. First stop? Email. I have several email addresses. When I created each one, I vowed to keep each clean and uncluttered and have failed horribly! I am spending some time over the weekend cleaning them out, closing a few down, and using Unroll.me to help manage all of my subscriptions, marketing email, etc.

Unroll.me

How it works

Unroll.me scans through your inbox and identifies all of your subscriptions, then neatly lists them for you. You can manage all of them from one place, by unsubscribing, allowing them into your inbox, or adding them to your unroll.me daily digest where they get neatly packaged into one area. This is a lifesaver.

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Jarus Quinn: Leadership Done Right

I have been fortunate enough work for several great associations. I started out my association career at the Optical Society of America (OSA) and as most folks working in the association world, I wore ‘many hats’ while there and can attribute much of my  success to what I learned during my seven years.

OSA is special.

For someone like me who was launching a career, it was the best possible start I could have had. Twenty years and five associations later, I can see how fortunate I really am to have been part of something so special.

What makes OSA really special is the culture of compassion combined with imagination and innovation. They are an organization of exceptionally smart people, who care about their field and everyone in it with an obsessive-like quality.

Jarus QuinnThis is a testament to the leadership and vision of Jarus Quinn – who really set the tone and direction for OSA as executive director between 1969 and 1994. Under his leadership, OSA grew into a world-class organization with an excellent reputation for innovative programs, exceptional people, and laser-sharp vision.

I had the privilege to work under Jarus for several years. He was unique and by far the best leader, mentor, and chief inspiration officer I have come across. It is no wonder why OSA is what it is today. Sadly, Jarus suddenly passed away on August 11th of this year, leaving his family, friends, colleagues and an entire association community behind.

Jarus QuinnThe problem with starting out my career in such a place is that it set the tone and expectation for what great leadership and organizations should look like. I have been wandering around ever since expecting a similar experience to what I had at OSA, and needless to say it resulted in a lot of frustration over the  years. Don’t get me wrong, I have worked with some great associations that had great qualities, but without a ‘Jarus’ they just were not as special.

Both as a person and as a leader, Jarus did it right.

He was kind and compassionate. Jarus cared obsessively about every person at OSA. He made it his business to know who we were, and about our families, our careers, and sometimes even our struggles. Often he would offer some sort of assistance if need be. Regularly, he would visit staff in their cubicles and plop himself down in the chair and have a conversation about life or family – and he would remember every detail from the last visit.

He let us make mistakes. I made mistakes at OSA, including several big ones. I was never called to the principal’s office in a formal way. He would (either directly or through my supervisor) gently find out the details and use it as a learning opportunity so that we could get at the heart of what went wrong – and use that to inform process so that it wouldn’t happen again.

He let us take risks. I was lucky enough to work at OSA during a great time in the 90’s – just when we were coming into the digital age. Jarus knew this was important and consequently, he allowed us to forge a path with initiatives that had never been done before, ever.  These initiatives included websites, online journals, an online knowledgebase and more. He believed in imagination and encouraged us to come up with a vision, a plan and to try things out in some very risky ways. Many of those initiatives are alive and thriving today, including the thriving Optics Infobase and OSA’s online journals.

He knew when to step in. During my time there, the organization was going through some growing pains with people, processes, efficiency and the constant push to innovate and bring value to the members. He invested a lot of time and resources in making sure we had the help and guidance we needed – whether it was calling in re-engineering professionals or getting us onsite training in facilitation, team and project management – Jarus never hesitated.

He invested in his staff. Jarus knew that his staff was OSA’s biggest asset. He never thought twice about investing in his staff with education, tools, or training. If you had an interest or a passion, he was very intent on helping you to nurture it – and if he could make the connection with that passion and a career at OSA, he would do it and set you on your path.

He valued everyone in the organization. Jarus recognized that the most innovative and creative ideas often come from unconventional places and people. To him, it didn’t matter if you were an entry-level staff member or a senior member of the team. Everyone was on equal ground, and everyone was encouraged to engage and participate in strategic conversations, planning, and initiatives. If we had a good idea, there was a pretty good chance we would end up implementing it. No one was made to feel less in value than someone else.

Last night, I gathered with a group of former OSA colleagues to celebrate Jarus’ life and legacy. It was an evening of many wonderful stories and kind words, and I was deeply moved by what this man meant to so many people. What really struck me was the energy I felt when I entered the building at 2010 Massachusetts Avenue. It has been over 15 years since I walked through those doors – and it felt like nothing had changed. I think it’s mostly that Jarus is still there, infusing his awesome spirit, sense of humor, and unwavering kindness into all of us.

As I move forward in my career and life journey – I can only hope to live up to a fraction of his qualities. He has set the bar for all of us, and he continues to inspire me be the best version of myself.

Thank you, Jarus.

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Cut through the noise: You know your audience best

On any given day, we are exposed to thousands of messages, and with the proliferation of social media we’re bombarded with more and more “expert” tips, tricks and approaches for engaging our customers for online success.

How do I cut through the noise?

With a plethora of “experts” telling us what to do, it’s no wonder we have lost our own voice, our intuitive guide, or even our confidence around the fact that we actually do know what is best for our customers – and probably have a pretty good feel for how best to engage with them both on and off-line.

You gotta trust that you are the SME (Subject Matter Expert).

The bottom line is that no one else knows your audience and customers better than you do. After all, your job is to understand their pain-points and priorities – and deliver value in meaningful and relevant ways. You know how best to help them to be successful, to walk away smarter and to keep them coming back for more.

Even if you don’t have a lot of experience using online tools to do so, your experience with what works vs. what doesn’t will go a long way with your online activities.

Don’t lose the plot.

What you bring to the table is really important, because these days it’s really easy to lose that point of clarity.

Listen and learn.

When choosing consultants, agencies and/or contractors, be sure they really listen and learn from you before partnering with them, and certainly before they make any ‘expert’ recommendations.

Only after truly listening can they add value by helping to open up new doors with fresh ideas and approaches. After all, a truly successful partnership can only happen when both parties are actively listening and complementing each other with knowledge and ideas. A partnership like this is a fearsome thing to behold!

So I ask – what do your relationships with your consultants, agencies, and/or contractors look or feel like?

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Inspiration Found: Find Your Greatness

Two of the most inspiring commercials I have ever seen. Nike Find Your Greatness.

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YouTube Collab? Content creation and mass collaboration by 12 year-olds

In a recent exchange with my 12 year old daughter, I learned about a simple, yet brilliant phenomenon going on via YouTube – the collab.

Summary of our conversation:

Daughter: Mom, I am SO excited because I just got accepted into a collab

Me: A WHAT?

Daughter: A collab on YouTube – you know, where different people submit videos to one channel each week around a specific topic for that week.

Me: OH! You mean collab as in collaboration? So what are the rules? Where can I read them?

Daughter: (Blank stare) What do you mean, read them? They are in a video, duh?

Me: Oh. Silly (old) me. So how did you get accepted?

Daughter: I had to audition with a video response on her YouTube channel.

Me: So you had to make a video in order to audition – that’s pretty neat. What is the topic?

Daughter: All about Guinea Pigs. It works like this. One week it will be how to build different cages, the next week it will be guinea pig nutrition, the following week it will be tips and tricks to make cage cleaning easy, etc. I have Wednesdays, so each Wednesday I have to submit my video on the topic of the week. This way, we can find out new ideas and ways to take care of our guinea pigs by having different people contribute different videos on the same topic. I also learn about different ways to make my own videos by watching these as well.

Me: (to myself) Sigh. I have so much to learn.

Is it just me or is this really brilliant?

YouTube collabs are not a new idea – but  through her eyes, I see all kinds of possibilities.

This is content creation and mass collaboration by 12 year-olds – they are creating a really valuable content-filled channel through collaborating with like-minded individuals, around common topics. Needless to say, the wheels are now turning in my head. Could this approach support any current strategic objectives in my organization? Could we use this to solve a problem in our community? Can schools/classrooms use it to learn about new ideas and concepts? Could it be an alternative way to report on news topics? Create music?

It seems that all that’s really needed is a clear topic/idea, along with some simple guidelines (deadlines, content, etc) as well as clarity around  approach (how do videos get accepted, etc) and a core community of interest to get started – unless I am missing anything?

I did some poking around and found YouTube’s “Life in a Day” project which is probably the most popular and successful example of something like this. Please share other examples if you find them – I am really interested to learn how people are using this concept and let me know what you think.

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5 examples of actionable Facebook pages

Recently I spent some time investigating Facebook pages that went beyond just pretty pictures that link off to other websites. I was looking for functionality and apps that facilitate an action within the Facebook environment – without forcing you to leave the site. I like investigating these because they help inspire ideas in general.

My questions about these things in general – Is what they are offering valuable (or fun) enough for me to use? Is it so cool or so valuable that I will be ok with sharing my personal info via Facebook connection?

Here is what I came up with:

Target
Click print go – print your Facebook photos directly to a local store. If you store your photos on Facebook – Target is offering a seamless app where you can print your photos and pick them up at a local store – without ever leaving site. CVS does this too, I just happen to heart Target.

Starbucks
Manage your card balance or gift Starbucks to your Facebook friends.
Starbucks allows you to gift Starbucks to others on Facebook and manage your gift card balance without even leaving the site. This is all done through a well-developed, self-contained Facebook App. In essence, they are making it really easy for folks to give them money without ever leaving Facebook.

Walt Disney World
Create a memory book online with your Facebook photos, get answers about your upcoming trip, make a Disney stick figure family to post and share with friends.
I am not a huge Disney fan, but their Facebook gadgets are pretty cool – and diverse. There are several different widgets built onto different sections. It’s worth spending some time there – I can see how Disney fans would love this.

American Red Cross
The American Red Cross Facebook page is pretty comprehensive, providing up-to-date info on the latest disasters and an app to help you locate your nearest chapter.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie page
I couldn’t wrap-up this post without mentioning something geeky, and being that I am a dedicated Harry Potter fan this seemed appropriate. They have provided a section where you can download wallpapers and icons, listen to the entire soundtrack, view the movie trailer and more. July 15th can’t come soon enough!