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Welcome to Webgrrls Wisdom, a blog to find commentaries about women's careers, business, technology, and the industry.

Posts published in 'Career' category

Collaborate to innovate, in your business and beyond

written by Maria Botta
Maria Botta
Topics: Business, Career, Leadership, Social Media, Technology, Women in Technology
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Last week during a conversation with a potential client, I was asked what aspect of my business I enjoyed the most – I didn’t hesitate a second and answered – COLLABORATION! Working together, as a team with the best people, who are subject matter experts in their fields can make for amazing, and sometimes unexpected results – and I find that fascinating and exhilarating. No doubt this has been an important part of my life, even during my EMBA program at Thunderbird, one of our mantras was “collaborate so you can graduate”.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRADITIONAL HIERARCHY AND COLLABORATIVE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTS

In my business, ideas evolve and grow in COLLABORATION with our peers and subordinates – I have often worked with teams spread all over the globe, and the dynamic of collaboration can be real “magic” when everyone takes pride of ownership and responsibility. Being open to all ideas, and understanding that the next great one could come from a customer or a subordinate is really empowering. Unlike popular belief, however, working collaboratively doesn’t mean always playing nice and signing the same tune, it isn’t like group therapy – yeah, sometimes thing get messy when egos get in the way – this is when a strong and nurturing leader needs to step in and wrangle the cats errr… I mean team …

When I work with teams, our communication is open – unhindered by formality and “structure”. The point of this is to create an environment of mutual respect, where the interaction of diverse perspectives leads to an exchange of ideas leading to an an effective solution. This doesn’t mean that it is a “free for all”, there is always a clear leader, but the input of each member is valued equally. The leadership skills needed in a collaborative business environments are very different, somewhere between a kindergarten teacher and Margaret Thatcher, the goal is to guide the flow, and get the BEST out of each team member.

The distinct difference between collaborative groups and formal groups, is that collaborative groups function on the basis of shared power and management among peers, rather than an absolute directive from the top – think of it as managing horizontally rather than vertically.      

And thanks to the world of online communication COLLABORATION has grown even more in certain industries – writers often work in a team with an Art Director, Animators with Producers, business strategist with writers, Engineers with art directors, Directors with Producers and clients…. not all located in the same place but technology makes it possible to do work smoothly in COLLABORATION. 

To me, working COLLABORATIVELY is the only way to get the best ideas and results – collaborate to innovate – but this is NOT the way most business work today, and I wonder WHY? 

The practice of COLLABORATION, which is so common for some businesses hasn’t gone mainstream, most traditional businesses never get “it”, and still allow their executives to engage in more territorial and competitive practices – these often lead to what I call sandbox “turf wars”…… unlike COLLABORATIVE leaders who share control and give credit for ideas, and who facilitate the process of problem solving through diplomacy – refer to my previous comment about Thatcher. COLLABORATION is not common, but what if it where?

Some companies like Mozilla, Linux, eBay, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Amazon, are structured around collaboration and team leadership that really works, so what makes for this difference in leadership?

TOP QUALITIES OF A COLLABORATIVE LEADER

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Creativity in Business

written by Maria Botta
Maria Botta
Topics: Business, Career, Leadership, Marketing, Technology, Work-Life Balance
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I work in a creative business – the business of creativity to be exact, and I see how difficult it is for some business people and academics to understand HOW a creative approach can help a business grow. But in today’s business environment, I can’t imagine a thriving business that is not looking at their business in a creative way.

The subject of creativity in business has been on the forefront lately, discussed in business blogs and articles in serous publications. There is no question that the termCREATIVE” is getting some major traction, according to LinkedIn (based on 135 million professional profiles in several languages), in 2011 “CREATIVE” was the most overused buzz word on user profiles in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, UK.  But what the heck does it REALLY mean in business ?  

What does creativity mean in business?

Does this mean that executives should immerse themselves in afternoons of finger painting in order to find their inner creative mojo? (I am sure this wouldn’t hurt in the least). For the most part business people have been indoctrinated to draw inside the lines, and to ask them to reverse this way of doing things is quite radical, so how can you change this?.

In one of my favorite business books, Daniel H. Pink’s A Whole New Mind , Pink suggests, that the era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, and meaning-predominate. But how do we make this change that Pink describes? How do we transition from the predominance of the left brain into the right brain?

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Money doesn’t buy happiness – or maybe it does ????

written by Maria Botta
Maria Botta
Topics: Blogs, Business, Career, Leadership, Technology, Work-Life Balance
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A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. ~ Jane Austen

Money doesn’t buy happiness – or maybe it does ???

This is a question that has been on my mind, because I have noticed a widening chasm between the happiness of the “haves, and those that have less”. People who are comfortable financially and are financially stable seem to be MUCH happier than those who are not, they seem unscathed from the stress of these difficult times. Is their money like an invisible shield that keeps unhappiness at bay?

As the middle class dwindles, and the overall happiness rating in the US drops, I wonder if happiness will be reserved for the 1% of our country OR will we be challenged as a society to redefine happiness? 

There is no doubt that across the board a desire to be happy is prevalent in not just the US, but in our Western culture, and a happy life is very much the preferred life. People who are considered successful, have influence, economic power, stability and tend to be happy.

In a study conducted in Britain, by the Institute of Economic Affairs called “The Pursuit of Happiness”, determined a direct correlation between happiness levels and the amount of wealth a person has accumulated. The study goes as far as to say that CASH can make us happy – and that CASH, is the most important factor in a person’s happiness.

Another study conducted at Princeton, goes as far as to claim that the threshold in the US for happiness is a $75,000 household income (even in high-cost cities), the study analyzed information gathered from 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (GHWBI).  

Money is human happiness in the abstract; he, then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete devotes himself utterly to money.
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

The big question is - Does happiness lead to success or does success lead to happiness?

Continue Reading “Money doesn’t buy happiness – or maybe it does ????”

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The rising importance of online video.

written by Maria Botta
Maria Botta
Topics: Business, Career, Marketing, Technology
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As consumers spend more and more time online, it’s critical for marketers to reach our consumers at the right time, with the right message, communicated in the right way. Tools that help drive those insights help us stay on the cutting edge.
~ Gayle Fuguitt Vice President, Consumer Insights, General Mills

Most of my career I have worked as a traditional producer, and have had the privilege of working on commercials, TV programs, documentaries, long and short form film projects, corporate videos and pretty much any form of moving image communication – but in the last 3 years I have gone from producing traditional video communications, to producing video content specifically for online dissemination across proprietary and for pay platforms.

I have to say, it is a very exciting time, as we witness the evolution of the internet, going from a static environment to that of moving images. Marketers are creating online video for everything from replacing boring static online catalogs, to fully branded webisodes.

This evolution has created a new medium in itself, completely different from the antiquated platform of TV, so it’s no surprise that this new medium presents a challenge to advertisers and marketers on HOW to message the audience. The online environment has infinitely more channels, and there is lots more content ….. this represents a great challenge and an opportunity for marketers to truly engage their audiences. What I like is that there are no hard and fast rules regarding this new medium, so it’s exciting to come up with ideas as you go along.

Instead of “adapting” a :30 or :60 ad made for TV, and recognizing that this is a new medium – my clients have created video communications specifically designed to engage online audiences.  In the past 24 months alone, I have worked on 5 different online video projects, for 5 very different clients, with very different communication goals. All of them chose to include online video as a cornerstone to their overall marketing strategy – and all have achieved great results by doing so.

Research shows that creating quality original content represents a huge opportunity for brands, because original content has the best effect on consumers’ recollection of brands, as well as fostering positive sentiment.

Below are some of the projects that I mentioned.

  • A non-profit start-up, used a short film to illustrate their work and their mission. The video was used for fundraising purposes, and the results have been great.
  • For General Mills, we created 20 “How to videos” in English and Spanish. The videos where then deployed on their proprietary microsite as well as on several independent channels including youtube.

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Bisquets de Queso y Bizcochos de Fresa
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  • To increase attendance at an annual national conference, one of my corporate client in the software development space, we created several “invitation” and “welcome” videos that not only were deployed on their website but also as part of an email campaign.  As a result, they increased their attendance by 30%. 
  • A film for the NROTC for the US Marines, geared to the parents of prospective NROTC candidates. 
NROTC (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps) Marine Option

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  • While at Graduate School at Thunderbird, I directed and produced for the Marketing Department 4 candid student interviews, that are used on their YouTube Channel and for recruiting.  
    Executive MBA Student Perspective – Choosing Thunderbird
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All of these projects involved telling a story, an entertaining story that connected with their audience and compelled them to listen and watch. 

The growth of online video has been exponential

  • According to a recent study by emarketer, US online video ad spending will grow by 43.1% in 2012 making it the fastest-rising category of online spending.
  • In 2015, online video ad spending will reach $7.11 billion.  
  • The total US internet audience viewed an all-time high of 42.6 billion videos in October.
  • 184 million US internet users watched online video content in October for an average of 21.1 hours per viewer, according to comScore.
  • A study by Philips (electronics) found that 80% of people who watch video content online do so on laptops

It’s still going to be about the people who can tell a story, you can own the TV network or outlet but you need to hire the people who can tell the story or you won’t own it for long. Michael Eisner, former CEO of Walt Disney and founder of The Tornante Company

One of the reasons that marketers are moving towards online video content could be the growing migration towards watching content online, the 2010 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, indicates that 69% of adult internet users, or roughly half of all U.S. adults (52%) have used the internet to watch or download video.

It’s not only important to produce a good quality video that engages with your audience, but it’s equally important to deploy the content on all relevant platforms, including social media and proprietary websites. Your video can be as simple as the ones I featured or as complex as creating webisodes.

Still, there are some challenges, including clients understanding how to properly measure ROI. However, there are better technologies to do so, and changing monitization models – this is all very fluid stuff because constant refinements are happening everyday.

If your company is not using video communication as part of your marketing strategy, you are missing an amazing opportunity to really connect with your audience with a message that is relevant. You can start small by experimenting with simple videos and move on to more complex ideas – but don’t wait!

 

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Can’t we ALL just get along??? The rise of incivility

written by Maria Botta
Maria Botta
Topics: Business, Career, Education, Leadership, Mentors & Motivators, Technology
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Civility in America should be an inalienable right. Americans have a right to defend their names and explain their actions and opinions, but the increasing unruliness in the public square is worrisome and demands attention and new solutions.
~ Jack Leslie, Chairman of Weber Shandwick

This time of year tends to bring out the best and worst in all of us, we are constantly reminded to do good throughout the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving and ending somewhere around New Year’s Day. These holidays remind us that we are ALL humans, sharing this little planet we call earth.  

However, lately I have noted a disturbing trend of incivility, at the workplace and everywhere. Sometimes, the consequences of these acts culminates in injury and the loss of life, as we have witnessed during Black Friday’s most popularized incidents of pepper-spray and blood in the shopping aisles. These type of incidents where not isolated, and in fact there are reports of this happening from coast to coast, one of the worst was in a mall parking lot near Atlanta, GA where two men got into a parking spot altercation and one shot the other dead. 

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Watching this video makes me think of how sharks react during a feeding frenzy.

In fact, according to the study “Civility in America 2011″ conducted by KRC Research, most Americans report they have been victims of incivility (86%). Their most common encounters with rude or disrespectful behavior come while driving (72%) or shopping (65%).

The study also reveals that Americans admit to perpetrating incivility — approximately six in 10 (59%) Americans acknowledge that they themselves have been uncivil.

It’s not only in the shopping mall, but also in professional exchanges that I have noticed ruder language and uncivil behaviors, on occasion leading to violence. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines incivility as “seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional workplace conduct.” The study found that 86% of Americans report they have been victims of incivility. The same survey also found that over a third of the respondents believe incivility in the workplace is on the rise.

I have also heard from jobseekers who are experiencing a tremendous amount of incivility from recruiters and employers alike – and it’s not just the unanswered phone calls and questions, it’s just plain rude responses, with a total lack of compassion. Often times people mask their rude behavior by saying something like “it’s my honest opinion” “I’m going to give it to you straight” etc.

Incivility can come from co-workers or the public sector, in the 2009 Institute of Education Science (IES) School Principal Survey on Crime and Safety, approximately 11% of school principals reported that students were verbally abusive to their middle and high school teachers.

The cost of rudeness and incivility

In the 2009 book The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What To Do About It, my former Thunderbird Professor Christine Pearson and Christine Porath say that the problem of incivility in the workplace has been compounded by our increasing tolerance of nasty behavior as a culture.

Surveys by researchers Porath and Erez, indicate that in the workforce, after experiencing rudeness most people lose time and focus, work less and slack off more, and think more about leaving the organization. In addition, 94% of people get even with the rude person or with their organization (88%). 

Does this have a deeper meaning?

The latest scientific research backs up with detailed molecular and cellular mechanisms what June Cleaver (and we) always knew intuitively, that through adolescence, the human brain is molded by the social environment in which a child is reared. A disrespectful, stressful social environment is a neurotoxin for the brain and psyche, and the scars are permanent.
~  Neurobiologist; Author, The Other Brain

 

  1. Are common courtesy civility, manners, and politeness a thing of the past?
  2. Are Americans becoming ruder as the economy is spiraling downward?
  3. What happened to our society?

According to Neurologist Dr. Douglas Fields – people (and animals) living together in large numbers must develop strict formalized behaviors governing interactions between all individuals in the group, or there will be strife and chaos. …. “The formal “Yes, Sir, Yes, Ma’am,” is not a showy embellishment in the military; strict respect and formal polite discourse are the hub of the wheel in any effective and cohesive social structure. Stress is a neurotoxin, especially during development of a child’s brain.

During the last 2 years I have traveled extensively, and I am always “shocked” when I encounter a polite culture – it would seem that even the French are far more civil and polite than we are. But it wasn’t always like this, when I was in school we where taught manners and etiquette at a young age, and respect for adults – this is unheard of today – so I hold little hope for the pendulum to swing back any time soon.

So what’s the answer?

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. ~ Mark Twain

Even though our “society” is becoming ruder, I am trying to stay on track leading with kindness, consideration and respect in business – OK, I don’t always succeed. Not only does this feel right to me, and is in line with my core values, but I believe that people who demonstrate decency and kindness have better relationships. In the end, the kind person wins over the people who have a continual “attitude”. 

When people are consistently rude, it’s important to call them out on it. If it entails common courtesy, it’s usually best to deal with it one on one, but if it involves actions potentially perceived as bullying or harassment, it’s a good idea to get human resources, involved.

Take a moment, smile and be kind – it NEVER hurts. 

 

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