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Transform Your Technical Expertise into Leadership

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In most organizations, technical experts who perform well will eventually be asked to lead a team and to deliver results through that team. This is because advancing in one’s career typically means moving into management, even if your area of expertise is unrelated to managing people. But being in management requires an entirely new set of skills. If you don’t learn these skills, you’ll likely end up underperforming and feeling frustrated.

Take my coaching client Amir*, the head of supply-chain management for an international humanitarian organization. He was at his wits’ end. Six months into his new role as manager, he had identified opportunities to increase efficiency and transparency and developed a strategy and plan for implementing changes. But he couldn’t seem to get on the same page with Tatiana*, a key team leader. While Amir believes he clearly explained the changes he wanted her to make, Tatiana ignored his directives and continued to run things the same way. This struggle consumed his time and energy and held back the rollout of his strategy.

With two decades of relevant experience and a sharp analytical mind, Amir is well qualified for his job. But his mastery at solving technical challenges contrasts sharply with the consternation he sometimes experiences in the face of people management challenges. In this, Amir is like hundreds of other leaders with whom I’ve worked. Here’s the underlying problem, which I’ve observed over 20 years of coaching and training leaders:

  1. People get promoted into leadership roles because of technical or functional skills and expertise that enable them to perform well in their technical domain, but that don’t translate into effective leadership. They struggle to inspire, coach, co-create, and build commitment to a shared vision and to strengthen ownership and accountability in their teams.
  2. Many organizations fall short in filling this gap with the training and coaching needed to develop technical or functional experts into skilled leaders. They also fail to prioritize effective leadership in their reward systems and culture. Without clearly communicating what effective leadership looks like in practice, valuing it, and providing structured opportunities to get better at it, they contribute to the gap between leaders’ actual and potential effectiveness.
  3. Managers often operate under misguided assumptions about leadership and don’t appreciate their own contribution to the difficulties they experience. As a result, they often misdiagnose the situation, go astray in their search for solutions, and default to ineffective behaviors. They fail to learn and grow as leaders.
  4. Ineffective leadership behaviors erode performance and well-being for organizations and their members.

Amir’s initial analysis of the problem with his team leader was this: Tatiana resists implementing changes he has introduced, fails to hold her team members accountable for implementing changes, doesn’t take initiative, is overly reliant on Amir for direction to move forward, and thwarts his progress on strategic work by interrupting him frequently throughout the workday for guidance. To solve these problems, he took the following actions: he started checking up on Tatiana’s and her team members’ performance, approached her team members directly for information he knows they have rather than going through her, specified certain times of the day when she can contact him, and noted his criticisms in her annual performance review. Although these steps made sense to Amir at the time, this was the wrong approach.

Instead of producing the outcomes he hoped for, his actions only aggravated the situation. Tatiana understandably felt undermined, disrespected, and micromanaged. She began circling the wagons more tightly around her team to protect them from what she perceived as Amir’s interference. Instead of exhibiting more initiative and independence, she avoided taking on responsibility out of fear that she would do something that displeased Amir. Deeply shaken by the negative performance review after a consistent record of positive reviews under previous leaders, and concerned that it might signal hostile intent and possibly damage her career, she filed a complaint against him. As a result, Amir felt frustrated and stuck, Tatiana was profoundly stressed, and each party concluded that the other person was impossible to work with.

Where does a leader like Amir go from here to recover from their missteps and improve their leadership? How can you solve leadership challenges and increase your own effectiveness as a leader, even if your organization isn’t helping you to do so? By committing to ongoing self-directed leadership development. This involves identifying what you want to be able to do differently as a leader and why this development matters to you, broadening the perspective you’re applying to your leadership challenges, seeking input, and experimenting with new behaviors.

One of the factors that separates people who lead from those who simply occupy leadership positions is the wholehearted embrace of continuous learning and growth. The best leaders I know make it a practice to interrogate themselves, assume that they always have more to learn, seek feedback, and structure their own learning experiences. Here’s how to do so.

First, identify a leadership competency you’d like to build. If, like Amir, you’re starting with a problem you want to solve, ask yourself what you need to be able to do better as a leader in order to solve it. Shifting your focus from the external problem that’s bothering you to the internal development you need to solve it is a crucial step. In applying the same types of thinking to leadership challenges that they’ve successfully applied to technical problems, technical experts often look to “fix” others and fail to recognize their own role in the problem. Unless you develop insight into how your patterns of thinking and reacting interact with those of your employees, you will find yourself in the same situation again and again. Your analysis of the leadership challenges you face will be incomplete and your strategies to resolve them won’t work.

Although Amir began by wanting to change Tatiana’s attitudes and behavior, I asked him to consider what success would look like and what he needed to be able to do more effectively in order to create the outcomes he desired. He articulated his desire to develop a better working relationship with her — one based on trust, mutual understanding, and shared vision — that would enable them to move forward together on the change initiatives. He also wanted to be less emotionally reactive and to avoid acting out of anger and frustration.

To strengthen your motivation to learn and develop, think about what’s meaningful to you about accomplishing your goal and why you want to do it now. For Amir, having respectful relationships with people at work is fundamental to his values. He recognizes that his performance and well-being — and even how happy he is at home — are tied to the quality of his work relationships. He is committed to having a positive impact on his department and improving the quality of service it provides. He hopes to move to a more senior position in the next two years and understands that his career advancement depends on being able to lead change with the support of his people.

Second, reflect and seek some input to better understand the challenge you’re facing — just as you do when trying to solve a technical problem. To help sharpen your analysis of the problem, you almost invariably will benefit from considering others’ perspectives and soliciting feedback. Amir recognizes his own tendency to be impatient and easily aggravated. Through conversation with Tatiana, however, he developed a more complete view of their interpersonal dynamic. For instance, while his intention in lowering her performance ratings and identifying areas for improvement in her annual review was to motivate her to change her behavior, he had not realized that conveying his displeasure via her performance review rather than in conversation felt like a surprise attack from a dangerous adversary, rather than a challenge from a trusted superior. Instead of motivating her, this approach demoralized her.

Leadership challenges are fundamentally interpersonal in nature; thus, their solutions are as well. By inviting Tatiana to share how she experienced their working relationship and listening with empathy and an open mind, Amir created an opening that allowed him to share his own experience in a way that she was able to hear without becoming defensive. Through their conversations, Amir and Tatiana not only increased their mutual understanding, but also achieved consensus on their shared desire and intention to develop a better working relationship.

Third, use your increased understanding of the situation and your own role in it to identify specific behaviors to change or implement. It’s also helpful to seek suggestions from people who know you for actions you can take, a practice that executive coach Marshall Goldsmith calls feedforward (so named because it consists of suggestions you can try in the future rather than information on past behavior). Amir asked Tatiana what she thought would help improve their working relationship; she replied that she wanted more support. To translate the concept of support into behaviors he could practice, Amir asked her for examples of what support would look like on a day-to-day basis. She requested a daily check-in to align on progress, priorities, concerns, and challenges. Putting this into practice helped to build Tatiana’s trust in Amir and give her the clarity and confidence to move forward in her work independently, just as Amir had hoped. In turn, the improved trust, communication, and shared understanding reduced Amir’s frustration and helped him feel more capable of managing this key relationship.

By engaging in this kind of self-directed learning, leaders not only improve their skills; they also serve as role models for learning, openness, and taking accountability for interpersonal impact. Communicating what you’re trying to do differently and seeking feedback or feedforward helps generate support for your improvement efforts, which can enhance their impact. With this approach, you are much more likely to succeed than if you attempt to solve leadership problems by imposing a solution on someone else.

If you’d like to become as expert in leading others as you are in finding technical solutions, the best place to start is by understanding that the pathway to progress lies in shifting things inside yourself first. By learning to see yourself as part of a system of relationships and experimenting with ways to shift the dynamics of the whole system in a more productive and collaborative direction, you can transcend the limitations of trying to fix other people that can confound technical experts. This paves the way for leadership and career success.

Names have been changed. 

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The Benefits of LinkedIn Ads

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LinkedIn wouldn’t necessarily be the first platform that comes to mind when considering social media advertising. However, if you are a B2B organisation, the platform can allow you to reach professionals across the globe. LinkedIn allows you to generate brand awareness across targeted professional sectors and reach out to decision makers directly.

Advertising is all about targeting the right people. Users of LinkedIn tend to be older, professional and have a higher income than the average user of other social media platforms. So if that is your target market, LinkedIn offers a great opportunity to reach them. Professionals use LinkedIn for business networking purposes so users are generally in work mode so engaging with them should be easier than on other platforms.

Here we outline the six main advantages that LinkedIn Ads have over other social media platforms.

1. Variety of ad formats

LinkedIn offers a number of options for advertising:

  • Sponsored content – this type of ad appears in people’s feeds, it is the least personal form but good for promoting content from your business page and encouraging people onto it.
  • Text ads – these are only viewable by people using a desktop. With these you can choose the audience you want to target and you only pay per click.
  • Message ads – these appear in users’ inboxes and are proven to be good for conversion.
  • Video ads – great for storytelling, you can also retarget users who have watched the video, aiding conversion rates.
  • Dynamic ads – these allow you to fully personalise your ad by showing user’s photo, name and title within the advert.

2. Generate high quality leads

The ability to target professionals and gain good quality leads is the primary benefit of LinkedIn ads. Users are looking at work-related content so will be more open to solutions for their business needs.

With more than 800 million users in over 220 countries and territories, LinkedIn is the biggest social network for professionals and businesses alike. 4 out of 5 LinkedIn members drive business decisions and the platform has been rated the best for lead generation by marketers.

By using LinkedIn advertising, you can access their Lead Accelerator feature. This feature allows businesses to follow their best prospects and offer more targeted ads directly to them. This includes remarketing to website visitors, which helps nurture leads, making them more likely to become customers.

3. Targeting

LinkedIn allows you to target specific demographics, enabling you to create much more personal advertising campaigns. Facebook lets you target interest and behaviour based factors however LinkedIn is the right medium to use if you want to target individuals based on their industry and job. You can filter your audience by:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Degree subject
  • Job title
  • Seniority
  • Industry
  • Member skills

These variables make the platform the ideal choice for B2B organisations wanting to target decision-makers.

Entrepreneurs executing on a business idea
photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator / Unsplash

4. Remarketing

LinkedIn allows you to specifically target people who have shown an interest in your products. Matched audiences show you which users have visited your website and the pages that they went on. This allows you to target them with specific ads in the hope that they will return to your website and convert to a customer.

Matched audiences can be created with:

  • Account Targeting – Uploading a CSV of company names to LinkedIn allows you to target decision-makers.
  • Website Retargeting – Target the users who have visited your website and re-engage them to aid conversions.
  • Contact Targeting – Uploading a CSV of email addresses of your contacts to LinkedIn enables you to nurture your leads and prospects even further.

5. Increased conversion rates

The ability to target specific groups, nurture them and remarket to them will increase your conversion rates.

A year-long study by HubSpot found that on average, LinkedIn ads convert users to leads at a 6.1 per cent conversion rate. This compares to 2.58 per cent for Google search ads.

MD of exhibition stand contractor Black Robin Exhibits, Alan Jenkins, managed to achieve a conversion rate of 8.2% with a LinkedIn campaign earlier this year, he said “We were delighted with the results, it wasn’t a huge investment, we could set the budget and the conversion rate was fantastic”.

6. High control

A big benefit of LinkedIn advertising is the high degree of control that you can have. You can set a specific start time for your advert and specify when it will end. As well as this, you can set daily budgets to ensure your advertising costs are kept at the right level for your business.

Businessman using LinkedIn app

Conclusion

Setting up a LinkedIn campaign is not straight-forward due to the variety of advert types and different ways of targeting. But the platform has a number of advantages over other social media sites if your target market is professional businesspeople.

B2B organisations will be able to target specific demographics with personal ads, nurture and remarket to them. All this will increase conversion rates, making LinkedIn a valuable marketing tool.

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Beginners’ guide to Instagram Reels

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Get ‘Reel’ results

If you haven’t already heard the news, according to Instagram, they’re no longer a photo-sharing app. Shocking, right? The company announced they want to start focusing more on video content, like that offered through Instagram Reels, as opposed to being the original square photo-sharing app they’re known for being.

“At Instagram, we’re always trying to build new features that help you get the most out of your experience. Right now we’re focused on four key areas: Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging.” — Adam Mosseri, Instagram CEO

This makes total sense because short, engaging videos (shown to us by hyper-accurate algorithms) have proven to keep our attention more effectively than ever before. So effectively that 93% of marketers who use video say it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Additionally, users are twice as likely to share video content with their friends and family than any other type of content, including social media posts, blog posts/articles and product pages.

So if you’ve been hesitant to start making Instagram Reels or just needed a little encouragement, we’ll cover the basics, give you some ideas on what content to create for your business or brand, and help you understand the data behind it all.

But, before we do, let’s talk about why Instagram Reels needs to be included in your marketing strategy.
What are Reels and why should you start using them?

Person recording elephants on smartphone

Instagram Reels rolled out in late 2020 and the feature has continued to increase in popularity. Reels provide creators with a way to produce and share short, engaging videos using a collection of mainstream music and user-generated audio.

With more advanced editing tools, such as speed controls, filters and transitions, you can effortlessly edit multi-clip Reels up to 30 seconds long, entirely within the Instagram app, which is amazing if you don’t want to use multiple apps and extra equipment to film, edit and post to social media.

Reels are definitely a useful feature of the platform as a whole that is worth exploring. When it comes to metrics, Reels receive 22% more engagement than videos posted directly to a feed. In addition to IGTV, Live and Stories, Instagram Reels are another great tool for you to use to get noticed on the platform and reach potential customers.

Nearly two-thirds of Instagram users are between 18 and 29, with 18- to 34-year-olds the most active age group. That means there’s a ton of opportunity for businesses to be discovered by your target audience on this platform. So, if your Instagram strategy needs a boost to stay top-of-mind and ahead of the competition, Reels could be your solution.

Related: How to plan an Instagram marketing strategy to attract business

Instagram Reels small business content ideas

If your business is active on Instagram but hasn’t posted a Reel just yet, don’t worry, it’s not too late to start. Accounts that don’t follow you can find your content while scrolling on the Explore page, which is why it’s so important for brands to be active where their target audience is.

Don’t let lack of inspiration hold you back, here are some simple and effective video ideas:

Educational content‍

The best way to increase your reach and engagement is to give your viewers value. If you can create something that is helpful, users are more likely to like it, share it with their friends and follow you for more. That ultimately, tells the algorithm your content is worth being promoted to others on the app.

For example, you can create shareable workout, cooking or crafting videos just by showing your step-by-step process.

Showcase your products‍ or services

Highlight what makes your business unique with Reels dedicated to each product or service you offer. This could be a tutorial on how to best use your products or a way to update customers on new offerings.

Create original content‍

Easier said than done, but I know that behind-the-scenes content, user-generated content and FAQs are always a big hit with loyal audiences.

You also have a few different ways to get trending and possibly even viral. You can use trending hashtags, popular audio clips or filters and get discovered among other videos with those elements.

Re-creating a popular trend while highlighting your brand is one of the quickest (but not the easiest) ways for business growth with Instagram Reels.

How to optimize your Instagram Reels

Improvised video recording setup

Improvised video recording setup

Like with any social media platform, there are always hidden steps you can take to increase the likelihood your content gets seen and please the almighty algorithm.

For example, many users who create content for TikTok have started uploading those same videos as Reels. Seems like a logical time saver, right? Well, Instagram has not only clearly advised against re-posting content that’s “visibly recycled from other apps,” it has also updated its algorithm to recognize and prevent it from performing well on their platform.

That being said, here are some tips on how to optimize your Reels for the best results:

  1. Try to record (vertically), edit and add effects to your reels from within the app, rather than uploading a video you’ve created elsewhere.
  2. It’s also important to use text overlays, hashtags, audio, and descriptive captions to let Instagram add you to an algorithm relevant to the content.
  3. @ other accounts, when appropriate. Just like hashtags, you’ll get more reach by including their name in your content.
  4. Use custom thumbnails. Doing so will make it easier for users to find videos they want to watch when scrolling on your account. It’s also a great way to incorporate your branding and help your feed look cohesive.
  5. Sharing your Reels to your Stories and even on your feed will get more people to see it. You can share it when you post it or, if you have posted enough that day, share on a day when you don’t have anything else to post.

Algorithms are constantly changing, and not always for the better. Doing just a little bit of research to stay on top of current trends and best practices will pay off in the long run.

Related: 3 ways to use Instagram Stories for digital storytelling

Understanding Instagram Reels Insights

Bodybuilder recording workout

Bodybuilder recording workout

Finally, you’ll need a way of knowing if your hard work is paying off.

Instagram has included a dedicated tab, which is similar to the Insights tab on your static posts and videos, that details the metrics relating to your Reels. With the Instagram Reels Insights, business owners can see important metrics like accounts reached, plays, likes, comments, saves and shares.

By knowing what type of accounts you’re reaching with your Reels and which content formats are most engaging with your audience, you’ll be able to adjust your content to better serve your target audience and grow your account.

Measuring these stats is the best way to make sure all the efforts you’re putting in to engage your fans is actually working.

Once you have a good idea of where your metrics are on average, try experimenting with the time of day, type of content and hashtags you use when posting your Reels. Start thinking of ways to get in front of new users with videos like tutorials, bloopers or more user-generated content. You could even share customer testimonials or success stories for added social proof.

Final thoughts on Instagram Reels

I know I personally struggled with the idea of including yet another item on my content creation checklist, but I’ve found that even just repurposing a few old clips from videos on my YouTube channel into Reels has proved effective in increasing my engagement and reach on Instagram.

Exploring a new feature of social media can be intimidating and overwhelming at times, but Reels seems to be a fun new way to expand your social media presence through the use of short videos. I recommend testing it out and seeing how well it works for you and your audience. You might find it to be your new favorite tool in your social media strategy.



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5 Strategies to Drive Customer Engagement

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Engaging with your customers is the key to driving sales and growing your company. However, some businesses are not sure how to do this effectively. It means that when they finally manage to engage with their customers, they are not entirely sure what worked. Knowing how to drive customer engagement is all about knowing your customers.

Here are 5 strategies that you can use to drive customer engagement.

Customer engagement
photo credit: Edmond Dantès / Pexels

Communication is the Key

Communication between your company and your customers is fundamental to engagement. If your customers are trying to talk to you about your products or services, then you should listen to them. Avoiding contact will simply drive them to another company.

Here are some tips you should follow.

1. Listen to Your Customers and Never Assume

If you have a customer that approaches you on social media or any other channel, it is vital that you engage them in a conversation. Their initial message might not be the complete story, so you need to work with them to find the right answer.

Once you have found out what the customer wants, go through your products with them and pinpoint what works for them. Your sales team must never assume that they know what their customers want, or they might find the customer goes elsewhere.

2. Seek Help with Engagement

Sometimes no matter what you try, you are unable to engage with your customers or retain them. It may be that there are strategies that you haven’t considered or lack the knowledge to implement.

This is where companies such as TCC Global can help. By helping you and your marketing team to engage with your customers and create brand loyalty, you can start to grow your business.

3. Respond Quickly to Questions

There is nothing more frustrating for customers than asking a question on social media and not getting a reply. Even a delay of a few hours can be enough to cause someone to look elsewhere.

If your business has a presence on social media, then it is vital that it is monitored at least during business hours.

Selling to existing customers

4. Chat to Your Customers

There is a temptation to use your means of communication to just sell products. While this is an important part, there should also be more customer engagement through conversation.

If you find something interesting, tell your customers on social media. Reply to them if they answer you and keep the conversation going.

5. Blog About the Popular Questions

If you are seeing a trend in questions your customers are asking, then it may be a good idea to write a blog post about it.

Blog posts will drive visitors and potential customers to your website and from there they may go to your products. Answering these popular questions will also save time for your customers and build loyalty.

Conclusion

So, there you have it – 5 strategies to drive customer engagement. These are just a few of the ways your company can build a relationship with its customers and build a loyal following.

It is important to remember to stay engaged with your customers even after they make a purchase.

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