Thursday, June 27, 2013

Vision Is the Key Element of Leadership

During this week’s blog, I will be discussing the role of vision as an element of leadership. I will use a few leaders from the past to explain why vision is the key element that separates leaders from the rest of the human population. Leaders have visions that allow some form of change to occur throughout the world. Leaders look beyond the present and into the future. Leaders do not sit and wait for things to happen as is; they lead, take action, and make things happen guided by their own vision of what would make things better. There are several types of leaders in the world. There are spiritual leaders, political leaders, business leaders, educational leaders, etc.

John F. Kennedy (JFK) was a political leader. He won his first political office in 1946. He saw a vision of a nation that would give their citizens higher wages, more housing, lower prices, and social security. He fought for the civil rights movement by forcing people to come together, and he convinced people that the way to live is to be equal with one another. He, much like Martin Luther King Jr., saw that the people of the United States could overcome racial discrimination and bigotry. JFK also fought against the threat of communism in Berlin and Cuba. He helped change America to what it is today. People followed JFK’s vision, because many people believed in his vision of a different America. Also, people trusted and looked up to him. (Williams, 2012) He also dreamed of putting a man on the moon. (Ryan, 2009) If JFK had not envisioned our nation going to the moon, then another country would have done it first.
JFK had the same vision as Frederick Douglass.  Frederick Douglass saw a vision of himself. He saw himself as a free black man in the nineteenth century. He also saw a vision of a nation without slavery. He spent much of his early life getting as much education as he could. The education he received helped him escape his owners in 1838. When he came back to America from Great Britain, he started publishing in a newspaper. He wrote articles that protested against slavery. Frederick Douglass spent much of his life giving speeches and writing publications to try and motivate people to end slavery. (McGill, 2005) If Frederick Douglass had not had a vision, he might have died a slave. Instead, he saw something different, and he fought for it. That is what makes leaders different from ordinary people. They see something bigger and better, and they go for it. Sometimes they have to break the rules in order to achieve their goals, but they do it anyway.  Frederick Douglass broke the rules when he escaped from his master; however, he was willing to die for his vision.

Mother Teresa was a spiritual leader and humanitarian. She was a strong advocate for people who were sick and dying. She saw a vision of a world with people who took care of each other. She was also an educational leader. She was involved in educating young girls all over the world. She taught both geography and history at Saint Mary’s High School until she got sick with tuberculosis. She spent the rest of her life taking care of India’s poor children and opening up schools, free clinics, and orphanages in twenty-five countries. She was a visionary. She did a lot of great things for a lot of people, because she had a heart and the vision to help people.  She won both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Medal of Freedom. Her vision was simple: by helping others, the world will be a better place. Nuns and others followed her, because they wanted to be like her. They admired her. She inspired people to take care of the dying, sick, and poor people. A lot of people would not have been helped if it was not for Mother Teresa’s vision. (Stevenson, 2005)
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most important women of the 20th century. (Burke, 1984) She was a strong political activist that fought for democracy, equality, and freedom. She envisioned a future of equal rights. (Ryan, 2009) She delivered speeches that supported women’s rights. She was an excellent communicator, and people followed and supported her vision. Even though some critics disagreed with her vision, she continued to fight for what she believed in. (Burke, 1984) Today, women have the same rights as men. Women can vote, hold down jobs, and be independent if that is what they wish.

What do all of these leaders have in common? What makes people support them or follow them? These leaders had a vision. Their vision is what led them to influence people to help them achieve their goals. John Ryan states there are three fundamentals of effective leadership: 1. They are driven by a vision. 2. They are excellent at communicating to public concerning their cause or vision. 3. They use superior judgment. (Ryan, 2009) All of these leaders were driven by a vision, are excellent at communicating, and had bigger dreams. Ryan states, “Leadership success always starts with vision. Henry Ford dreamed of a car families could afford. Steve Jobs dreamed of an easy-to-use computer that would unleash creativity. Nelson Mandela dreamed of an integrated, prosperous South Africa. (2009)” All of these people started out with a vision. Then they were able to get people on board with their ideas. James Kouzes  and Barry Posner states, “ the only visions that take hold are shared visions – and you will create them only when you listen very, very closely to others, appreciate their hopes, and attend to their needs.” Mr. Kouzes and Mr. Posner are suggesting that leaders have to encourage people to care about their visions. Then the leaders have to listen to the feedback from the public and assist them in their needs. However, it all starts with a vision. My questions to my readers are: What is your vision? Do you have a vision? What good is your vision if you do not share it with others?

Burke, F. 1984. Eleanor Roosevelt, October 11, 1884-November 7, 1962--She Made a
Difference. Public Administration Review, 44(5), 365-372.

Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. 2009. To lead, create a shared vision. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

McGill, S. 2005. Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, 1-2.

Stevenson, K. 2005. Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, 1-2.

William, M. 2012. Kennedy, John F. Britannica Biographies, 1.

Ryan, John. 2009. Leadership success always starts with vision. Forbes. Retrieved from

Ryan, John. 2009. The three fundamentals of effective leadership. Forbes. Retrieved from

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Communication and Effective Leadership in the Workplace

Have you ever wondered what makes an organization run smoothly? Well, it is simple. Communication is the key element that can make or break a company. Parsons & Urbanski states the following, “communication entails promoting and maintaining a workplace culture in which communication flows freely throughout the organizational structure. (2012)” They suggests that in order to have a productive workplace, communication must be able to flow in all directions. This means that coworkers can talk freely to their bosses, and coworkers can talk freely with other coworkers. This type of open communication allows for more ideas to take place throughout the organization. Unfortunately, in most cases there is about 14% of each hour at work that is wasted because of poor communication. (Parsons & Urbanski, 2012) Poor communication can be very damaging to a company. Not to mention, employees are left with a feeling of discontent. Open communication allows for employees to feel like that they have a voice and opinion. If more supervisors let employees express their opinions without criticism, the employees feel like they are actually a part of the company. Not to mention, employees might have solutions to problems that could greatly benefit the company. Stanley McChrystal said it best when he said, “I came to believe that a leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’re willing to learn and trust. (2011)” Mr. McChrystal is correct in his statement about leaders. Leaders/supervisors need to be able to listen, learn, and trust their employees. Leaders or supervisors can learn a lot if they would take the time to listen to their employees.

Internal and external communication is very important in an organization. If a company does not have good internal and external communication, then that company will have problems when a crisis situation occurs. The good news is that there are ways to improve both internal and external communication skills within an organization. Parsons and Urbanski suggests that companies do the following in order to fix internal communications: there needs to be more frequent communication between people within the organization, there needs to be an up and down flow of communication, the organization needs to promote communication, there needs to be a better design and writing in in-house emails and newsletters, communication needs to be more constant and all-encompassing, and supervisors need to inform employees about updates and so forth concerning the company to boost optimism. (2012) The more organizations utilize open and honest communication throughout the company; the happier the employees will be and will likely increase their chances of staying with the company. Parsons and Urbanski suggest that companies do the following in order to fix external communications: organizations need to showcase the company better on their web-sites, organizations need to develop better relationships with mass media, organizations need to participate and get involved with the media and the community, organizations need to create a positive image in the business, they need to create a plan that identifies the company as a trademark with objectives, and position the company as a leading expert in the market. (2012) If a company practices better external communication strategies, then stakeholders will be more likely to invest in the company. Also, the more positive the company looks publicly, the more likely the public will support the company. Therefore, the public will help increase revenue for the company. Unfortunately, as a company grows the more likely miscommunication will happen. This happens because people within the organization stop communicating to everyone. Also, coworkers start to get less and less updates from all management levels. Not to mention, the more people you have working in an organization; the more personalities and different cultural diversity issues arise. A failure to communicate can create a hostile working environment, employee anxiety, resentment towards management, and reduction in productivity. (Parsons & Urbanski, 2012) No one should have to or would want to work in that kind of office. There are three different types of work settings. He calls them the dehumanized climate, over humanized climate, and situational climate. The dehumanized climate is when the boss and coworkers have a master-slave relationship. This type of work setting is counterproductive, because the coworker has restricted rights and cannot communicate openly to their bosses. Over humanized climate is when human relationships are more important than the objectives of the organization. This is also counterproductive, because human relationships take precedence over the objectives of the organization. By putting human relationships first, the organization will eventually be hindered because the objectives are pushed aside. A situational climate is somewhere in between the other two climates, and that is what an organization needs in order to be productive. A situational climate allows both the objectives of the organization and human relationships to coexist in harmony. (Kline) This allows for open communication to occur between everyone in the organization. However, a company cannot have a dynamic company if the leader is not an effective communicator. Dr. John A Kline states that leaders need to do the following in order to improve their leadership: leaders need to encourage feedback from their employees, leaders need to listen effectively, leaders need to keep an open mind while they are listening to their employees, and they need to reduce misunderstandings in communication. The only way leaders can prevent misunderstandings in communication is to know the employees well enough to understand what the employee is trying to say. If a supervisor knows their employees, then that supervisor understands the employees’ different personalities. The supervisor will be able to tell whether or not an employee has a lack of interest or if the employee is nervous when an employee has twitches. Also, an effective leader should encourage group consensus. Using words like we, us, and the team instead of I, me, etc. creates a family environment within the organization. This will build trust, honesty, and an open-door policy throughout the organization. (Kline) Leaders that allow open communication in the workplace will have a much better organization. Personally, I love being able to talk to my boss openly about any good or bad situation. It allows us to brainstorm and come up with solutions to the problems. Not to mention, I feel like he and I are on the same team! If you want to learn more about leadership and effective communication please click on the URL’s below. Thank you for reading.

Recognizing Dysfunctional Communications a Means of Improving Organizational Practices

Listen, learn . . . then lead


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Using Social Media to Advertise

Using social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook can have a positive impact on your company or product. I have a personal experience that I would like to share with you all on how posting pictures, videos, and information on social media sites can have a positive light. Back in 2011, a friend /colleague and I decided to do a community project. We decided that it would benefit a lot of foster children in the local area if we held a suitcase drive. We partnered with Troy University’s Social Work Department and the Houston County DHR to help us achieve our goals. We wanted to raise a total of 500 suitcases to be given to foster kids so they would have something to put their belongings in while they move to and from multiple homes. These children often times do not have anything but an old grocery bag or garbage bag to carry their few belongings. We thought by giving them a suitcase it would give these children a sense of self-worth and confidence while they are in an unfortunate situation. We started this project thinking we would only be able to reach our goal; however, we ended up over exceeding it. We actually collected around 800 suitcases. We also collected some toiletry items, school supplies, and diapers for the babies. How did we end up getting the community to donate 800 suitcases, you ask? Well, we did a lot of advertising for this project. We first started out with handouts. We gave out brochures all over the community. We also posted them all over the Troy Dothan campus. Then we contacted the following media: The Local, The Dothan Eagle, Ricky Stokes News, Troypolitan, Wiregrass Happenings, Dothan Moms Group, His Radio 94.3, WTVY, WSFA, and WDHN. We were able to have interviews with both WTVY and WSFA.
Then there were articles printed in the newspapers about our suitcase drive. Here is one of the articles:

The next thing we did was go online with our project. Rachel and I both promoted our suitcase drive on our Facebook pages. We posted pictures, information, and fliers on Facebook. I believe this is what really pushed our cause, because we were able to reach more people than ever before. We started getting calls from people in Headland and Enterprise that wanted to donate suitcases and supplies. Before we advertised on Facebook, we were getting suitcases but not like we hoped. Once we announced our project on Facebook, we started getting suitcases, backpacks, and supplies left and right for the foster kids.

Why does posting on social media sites work for advertising? Soumitra Dutta suggested that communication leaders should embrace social media, because social media provides a free platform on which to build a brand while allowing you to communicate within and outside your company. It also allows you to engage instantly with peers, customers, employees, and the rest of the public in real time. The third reason it allows a learning process to take place with instant information and feedback. (2010)

Now back to the suitcase drive. Because we were able to post our information online through our Facebook page, we were able to provide a free platform to promote our community service project. Facebook allowed us to chat with friends, family members, and the public about why it was important for people in the community to donate a suitcase. We were able to listen and learn from the community with instant feedback. The majority of the people we connected with were very supportive of the project.
I know that this is a community cause, but these same concepts and strategies can work for a business or organization that is trying to sell a product. If an organization takes a product and puts it on Facebook or creates a funny YouTube video about the product, chances are that company is going to see an increase in sales. Ford Motor Company has a blog called, The Ford Story. It allows Ford customers to comment and put the customer’s viewpoint first. They can communicate with the customers directly and ask their customers for instant feedback on topics such as personalization and safety. This allows the company to hear the opinions and make changes to future cars; therefore, keeping the customers happy. As long as the company continues to keep the customers happy; they will keep buying Ford vehicles.

Ford also uses a Flickr widget to share photos of their vehicles, and they post YouTube videos about their vehicles for people to view, share, and comment. These ad-ons are allowing customers and fans of Ford to get involved with the company. The customers then feel like they are a part of the company’s decisions. In a way, they are a part of the company, because Ford can take their suggestions and improve the products. Ford must be doing something right with their marketing strategies, because I drive a Ford Taurus.

Just keep in mind if you are going to use social media to advertise your company or product, make sure you think about the message that you are sending to your audience. You should be cautious about what you say or do in your video or on your webpage, because some things could come across as bad. If this happens, your company could lose potential customers and shareholders. Also, if you are going to use social media for your business, make sure you stay proactive. Interact and engage with your customers. Find out what they do and do not like about your products and fix the problems. The more you socialize with your customers, the better off your company will be. It is a social media site after all, so socialize! If you would like to read more about Ford’s success or Soumitra Dutta’s article on social media strategy, I have provided the links below.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Have You Heard About the New iPhone6

Welcome back to my blog. This week I am going to talk about the most effective way of marketing. The funny thing is that we all do it every day without realizing it. For example, so you are out with some friends one night having a great time. One friend looks at the group and states, “have you all heard about the new iPhone6?” The rest of the group is looking at each other with a dumbfounded expression implying they have never heard of the iPhone6. So the very knowledgeable friend starts to tell the rest of the group about this innovative phone. The friend is going on about all the features, screen size, and so on and so forth. Next thing you know, a few months have passed and all your friends, including you, are carrying around the new iPhone6. This type of marketing actually has a name. It is called the Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM). (Kozinets, 2010) WOMM is an extremely powerful and effective strategy to get consumers to buy a product. One of the best ways for companies to market products is to use social influence and let the consumers sell their products for them. Marketers need to use a strategy to target those that are quick to buy a product and then let the consumer sell the product. Once you have one of the early adopters on board, they will spread the word about how wonderful the product is and why others should buy it too. When you have consumers communicate to other consumers this is called “seeding,” and it is no different than the way you plant a seed to grow a tree.  For example, you plant a seed in the ground. You give the seed water and sunlight. You watch the seed take root and sprout up out of the ground. After some time, the tree has branches and eventually you will see leaves form. The same thing happens when consumers communicate to other consumers about a product. One person plants the seed of a good product in another person, then that person tells another person and so and so forth. Eventually, you have all of these people who have purchased the same item all because of someone planting a seed. The leaves on the tree represent all these people that were marketed by one seed. You could argue that the seed is the opinion leader. The internet, especially sites like Facebook and Twitter, are superb for spreading the seed. Once your friends read that you love a product, your friends are more likely to go out and purchase that same product. Social media sites increase the social influence and size of networks that marketers can target.  For instance, do you click on the like buttons when a franchise or product pops up on the right side of your screen on your Facebook page? Come on now, we all do! Do you know that is exactly how they get on your site? Then they are able to send you deals and coupons? Then your friends see it and click on it too; therefore, creating a network that makes it easier for companies to reach a larger audience.  Thus, creating what is called The Network Coproduction Model. This model allows a consumer to send messages to other consumers via the internet to be sent all over the world. The only problem with this is bad information about a company or product can spread just as quickly as good information can over the internet. Before the internet, people had to wait to hear about companies through traditional media platforms, but now information is right in front of us as long as we have an internet connection.  Say you are a blogger and you are on your site blogging away about how you bought a product that you are not happy with, well guess what, everyone on your blog is going to think twice before buying that product. They might even start to tell their friends not to purchase the product. Next thing you know, the organization that has created this product is going out of business. Ladies and gentleman, there goes the economy. I am being a little facetious of course, but you get the picture. Now what is the best way to inspire people to want to buy your product? Simon Sinek suggests that companies need to explain why they sell a product or why people should choose them. He states that people connect to organizations and products that they believe in. He explains this concept and calls it the Golden Circle. He explains that most companies, especially the ones that fail, start out first explaining what a company does or what a company sells to the public. Simon Sinek suggests that companies and opinion leaders should take a different approach by telling the public what the company believes in. People with the same beliefs of a company or product will be more willing to purchase products if the company’s belief system matches the consumer’s belief system. For example, that is exactly what Chick-Fil-A did when their president, Dan Cathy spoke out against same-sex marriage. (Solash, 2012) Chick-Fil-A restaurants are mostly located in the Bible belt states; therefore, Dan Cathy was not scared that he would lose customers. Instead, quite the opposite happened; people with the same beliefs as Chick-Fil-A continued to eat there and purchase their chicken sandwiches. Please note that I am not here to argue for or against gay marriage, this is simply a marketing point that I am trying to make. Many supporters of Chick-Fil-A gathered there on August 1, 2012 to eat, because they feel the same way about gay marriage. (Solash, 2012)Whether or not he did it intentionally or unintentionally, Dan Cathy used Simon Sinek’s theory on organizations that connect with people who believe the same as their organization will profit from that belief. Now that we have discussed the WOMM theory and Mr. Sinek’s Golden Circle, ask yourself, why do you buy the things you buy? Do you buy it because your friend told you it was the most amazing thing ever? Or do you buy a product because it fits into your belief system? I look forward to some feedback. Thank you for reading.

Kozinets, Robert V., et al. "Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in
     Online Communities." Journal of Marketing 74 (2010): 71-89.

Okazaki, Shintaro. "Social Influence Model and Electronic Word of Mouth." International Journal
     of Advertising 28 3 (2009) 439-472.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why You Should Care About the Diffusion of Innovation Theory

Have you ever wondered how you always get suckered into buying new gadgets? Well there is actually a theory behind it all that makes you purchase the latest trend. The theory is called the Diffusion of Innovation. It is when companies reinvent their products to meet the needs of the population. The product goes down the chain of consumers from early adopters to the last group called laggards. I will explain each group throughout the rest of my blog. Let me explain the chain of consumers, for example, the cellphone industry is one of today’s most rapidly evolving consumer markets. Cellphone companies will add and change things to reinvent the new and improved cellphone. The early adopters latch on to the new innovations. They are the first consumers to go out and purchase the new items once the items hit the stores. They might even purchase the items online before they even hit the store shelves. The early majority wait a bit until they have proof and are convinced that the product is worth spending their hard earned money. Once the early majority has adopted the new innovation, the late majority is shortly to follow them in fear of what the early adopters and the early majority will think of them. They are forced to give into peer pressure. The last group is the laggards. The laggards do not care about the peer pressure and probably feel a sense of accomplishment by not giving in and will most likely try to argue against the innovation. They will wait until the product has basically lost its appeal before they give in and buy the product. By the time the laggards actually do buy, another “new and improved” version is already finding its way to the market. The key to getting each group to buy the new innovation is to know and understand each group you are communicating to in order to appeal to their needs and interests.  This will help determine what it is that the consumers of that group are wanting in the product or innovation. (Robinson, 2009) Cellphone companies have gotten very good at appealing to all the groups and their personalities. In an effort to sell products to all consumer groups the cellphone companies still keep a limited selection of the basic phones on the markets and in the stores for the laggards. They also offer the more technologically advanced cellphones for the middle groups until they are ready to adopt the new smartphones. Then of course the early adopters will go ahead and buy the newest products. Greg Orr calls this concept the “tipping point” concept. He states, “the idea suggest that for good or bad, change can be promoted rather easily in a social system through a domino effect (2003).” His statement suggests that is exactly what happens during these groups. Once the early adopters start to buy the products, the rest follow after creating a domino effect leaving the laggards at the very end. What is the best way for people to get this information about a new innovation you might ask? A lot of what we learn about new products trickles down to us through friends and family. Sometimes it is through a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter. For example, my sister-in-law is a technology guru. She must learn about and have the latest gadgets. You could say she is an early adopter when it comes to technology. So when she told me that I should buy a touchscreen Android phone, I was reluctant. I was not sure about the touchscreen phone for a while, but I started to play with hers and fell in love with it. Thanks to her, I went out and bought the device. I could not imagine my life without my new phone. What makes the Diffusion of Innovation work so well? Les Robinson suggests that it is because of the following five qualities: relative advantage, compatibility with existing values, simple and easy to use, trialability factor, and observable results. Relative advantage is meeting the needs of the consumer. Keeping the product compatible to existing products will be adopted more rapidly than those products that are not compatible. Sony had a bit of compatibility issue with its play station 3, some PS2 games could be played on the new system but some could not, this most likely caused some consumers to purchase a different game system. Consumers want simple and easy to use products. The harder the product is to use, the less likely it will sell. If consumers can test the product on a trial basis, then the product is more likely to sell. Also, the trial basis allows the company to hear feedback on the product so they can make the necessary changes to meet the needs of the population. Of course the social factor plays a key role to move the innovation through the groups that were discussed previously. If a friend sees another friend using a product or innovation then odds are that friend will adopt the product or innovation too. (2009) Greg Orr suggests that people are highly influenced by opinion leaders. For example, you could say since I decided to trust my sister-in-law’s opinion on a touchscreen Android phone, that she is my opinion leader. The opinion leader does not necessary have to be someone famous or on the television or of high authority. It is most likely someone in your social group that you trust. It could be your best friend or a family member. Social networking sites help spread the word of new innovations as well. If you post about a new product such as the new version of Kindle on your Facebook page and state how much you love it, all of your friends will see your post. Then if another friend comments or repost it to their page, all of their friends will see it as well. Therefore, before you know it, the new product is all over the internet. So the next time you find yourself buying a new cellphone when there was nothing wrong with the one you had, you can thank the process of Diffusion of Innovation.         

Diffusion of Innovations (1995)

A Summary of Diffusion of Innovations