Getting on the same wavelength!

Communication is one of the most important aspects of human interaction. It can bridge the gap between people who experience the world in different ways, but it can also be a great challenge.

Trying to communicate with someone who experiences the world in a different way can be difficult, especially when it comes to conveying abstract concepts like colors or subtleties of language and expression. It’s often said that trying to explain colors to someone who is colorblind is like trying to explain rainbows to a blind person. On the surface, it may seem impossible. Colors are an abstract concept, and it is difficult to convey how we experience them to someone who cannot.

Similarly, trying to explain the nuances of language and expression can be a challenge, especially when working with someone whose native tongue is not the same as our own.

At our office, we recently encountered this issue with our office cleaner, a cheerful guy who really wants to do a good job. He would do whatever he was asked, but he had a hard time noticing things that needed to be done that he hadn’t been told. For example, he would miss cobwebs in the corners or dust on the window sills.

Recently, I had an idea: instead of asking him to notice things that needed to be cleaned or minor repairs, each day he should hunt for five things that needed cleaning. By changing the task from noticing to hunting, it gave him a specific goal to focus on and helped him to actually find the things that needed attention. We also created a chart that listed the tasks he was supposed to do, and he was able to track his progress. This gave him a tangible reward system, and it seemed to motivate him more.

Now that we have gamified it, he is actually noticing what we wanted him to see in the first place. Although this was just a small example, it shows the importance of being able to communicate effectively with someone who experiences the world in a different way. Understanding the other person’s perspective can be difficult, but it is essential if we want to bridge the gap between us.

By being creative and finding ways to make the task more engaging, we can help those we are communicating with to better understand the concepts we are trying to convey.

Why do political votes seem to frequently be evenly split?

So a few years ago I started noticing that elections often seemed to be closer than I would have expected. Each major party could potentially win. And I wondered how it seems to happen in the the US and Israel and elsewhere. And I realized what I assume many people already knew – but no one ever said..

Simply stated, assuming liberals vs. conservatives for example, there are forces that push the left further left and conversely the right gets pushed further right – each to differentiate and attract people on their side of the aisle.

But in a two major party system – or a right vs. left scenario – you need to capture enough of the center to get to say 51% without pushing to far to the other side that you will anger your natural voters. So the battle ends up being how to be squarely in your own camp and also have policies and plans that will attract the middle – if both parties do it right they should overlap in the center – which leads to a close election.

I think this is obvious once you think about it – but in case it’s not…

Make your CV Stand out!

My company (Five Blocks) continues to grow and that means we are always looking for great people.

So far we have been incredibly fortunate to have attracted a really talented group who works very well together.

In the process I have seen a lot of CVs and some of the stand out more than others. Choosing a good design shouldn’t be rocket science – don’t reinvent the wheel. Look online and find an impressive looking template and adapt (copy!) – if you have to pay for the template – it’s probably worth it. A template will save you decisions and time.

Pro tip: if you put something unusual on your CV or in your cover letter it will probably catch the attention of the reader.

I recommend the following: do something to tell the reader how you are special.

What’s your superpower? If you feel you have one (and other people agree…) share that!

Examples could include:

  • Great at explaining complex ideas to clients.
  • Meticulous at note-taking
  • Excited by and rise to new challenges
  • Adept at leading programs

If you shine in a specific area definitely find a way of sharing that, otherwise we could miss it and miss out on hiring a great candidate!

If you want something – Give it to others!

This post says something that is either profound, obvious or possibly wrong 🙂 . It’s a thought I just had and it makes sense to me – so I thought I would share it!

In life we learn that the best way to achieve something is to go grab it! If you want another slice of pizza – go get it! You want a job – apply for it! A book looks interesting – go read it. All of this works well when you are interacting with the inanimate world, when you are following the rules of commerce, etc.

When you are interacting with people it often works the opposite way. When you want love – you give love. If you want compassion – be compassionate toward others. In business you are trying to create value – the way to do that is to create value for others!

This isn’t the only way to do business, but it is the way that focuses on your counterpoint rather than just yourself.

Our company has a service provider who wants us to pay more for the services he provides. Instead of focusing on the great value he is giving us – he spends his time explaining to us how he’s not making enough money. As much as I want him to make a good living – my primary concern is that I get value from him. When he spends all of his time explaining what he’s not getting – I wonder aloud why don’t you tell me how you are going all out for me and my team. If I feel you are of course I will want to make sure you are compensated well!

As Five Blocks has matured we have learned that the best way to get is to give. and not in a tit for tat way. We spend lots of time with potential clients and old partners – helping them with digital advice, pinch-hitting issues that arise in the online profiles of their company or their clients’ companies. We do audits and fixes for nothing. And it’s smart. It rarely turns into a paid engagement. But we have built something more important – a relationship based on kindness, trust and proving value. And that ultimately leads us to be a better company and grow our business!

So my advice is if you want to succeed – help others succeed. And think bigger than this month or even this year. Make sure you are playing this game of life with the long-term in mind!

Why I love hotel rooms

Don’t get me wrong, I love being home! My bed is comfortable Everything is just how I like it.

But there is something about sleeping at a hotel (provided its clean and comfortable).

I think I know what it is.

I think its the fact that hotel rooms are totally uncluttered. The night table doesn’t have stacks of books I am reading, and a package of tissues, and charger cables, and pens…

For me, there is something very calming about being in a place with no extra unnecessary clutter. It’s like I don’t have to worry about anything because I only have the things that I need.

It lets me think more clearly.

OK it’s possible that not having any kids around or 15 hamsters squeaking just outside our bedroom, those things could also be possible pluses. But I have to say that both the experience of being in a place where no one will bother me and having no stuff to bother me is very refreshing, and even when I have to travel for business and be alone I think I really get a lot out of being somewhere that is not cluttered.

Knowing the rules of the road is not enough!

This year Hanukkah coincided exactly with Christmas vacation! This meant that not only could I get away with my family – I would be a fool not to!
We decided, very last minute, to spend the week in Seychelles! My wife and I had both wanted to go there sometime and the airline gods arranged that tickets would be available. It was a great getaway – absolutely gorgeous and probably because everything in Seychelles is a bit pricey – you hardly see any tourists. They are all in the their fancy resorts or on classy excursions, I guess. We stayed at a more modest hotel and probably were the only family of vacationers on the island who brought 7 kids – our eldest is in the Israeli Army and couldn’t get away…

Whenever we travel to far-flung place it always helps to learn the ropes – whats the best way to see the place? What should we avoid? etc. Sometimes you can do this in advance – like when we found out that the driving would be a bit challenging.

But sometimes you need to learn from experience – like when we fund out that even the biggest supermarket in the country has a very small selection of food!

To master a situation and make good decisions you need to know the rules, but you also need experience. I find that my most intelligent clients are the ones who know some of the rules, but know that this does not make them an expert. They may have some experience, but when presented with the facts – they choose to leave the driving to an expert!



To manage your brand’s online reputation – Tip #1: Make a Plan!

The most critical pieces of managing your brand’s online reputation is having a plan. This may sound obvious, but most Fortune 100 companies and top executives who we meet, have no plan for their online reputation.

What do I mean by a plan?

Think of an online reputation crisis as you would a gopher hole that has appeared in your front garden. Companies reach out to Five Blocks to fill in that hole and plant some new flowers where the hole once was. That’s not what I mean by a plan – that’s a reaction to a problem.

Planning your online reputation means planning the garden start-to-finish. Some of the steps you will want to consider when planning the online presence for your brand or key executives.

  1. Who are the key stakeholders who will be seeing your online presence? (media/reporters, regulatory bodies, prospective clients/partners, your own employees, etc.)
  2. What impression do you want to make on them? (Messaging, What do other people think about you)
  3. How are your key peers and/or competitors seen online? (Do they have multiple sites, images, wikipedia, video, social media presence, in-depth articles, ads, reviews etc.?)
  4. What do your competitors have that could be opportunities for you?
  5. Do you have sufficient content on owned sites, third-party articles, social media, crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia and CrunchBase?
  6. Is it easy for searchers to find accurate, timely, third-party content about your brand?
  7. What are the important messages, articles, websites, that should be seen – and ones that should not?
  8. If there is negativity appearing in your online reputation, what are the underlying causes? (old story that has not been put to rest? nothing new to talk about? people talking about you rather than your ideas?)
  9. What are the potential threats your reputation could face and how have you prepared for them?

That’s a lot of chew on, but if you are not asking yourselves these questions you are not properly planing the online reputation for your brand or individual needs.



What is the right way to manage an online reputation challenge?

Over the past week or so, a number of news articles have appeared detailing how one university handled an online reputation issue. Rather than get into the specifics of that case, I want to address the general question – what is the right way to manage an online reputation management challenge.

I am the CEO of Five Blocks, a boutique digital reputation management company. Individuals, brands, organizations, and companies retain our services to handle online reputation crises. More than half of the clients engage us because they don’t like something they see when they or their brand is searched, typically in Google or Bing.

Our message to them is that their best bet is to utilize Google and other search engines to tell their own story, or that of their brand. This means optimizing their own website/s to appear prominently and to tell their story. It also means utilizing social media and business profiles to present what their organization stands for. Many of our clients need to publish more content or produce more video than they have previously. Our job is to provide the expertise to help them do it.

Yes, I know you want to get rid of an outdated negative news story – but the right way to do that is it provide searchers with rich, relevant, timely content that legitimately deserves to displace that news.

In some cases our clients will need to address specific negative news and in so doing, start putting it behind them. In other cases they may choose not to address the crisis directly within their online presence.

Our experience has shown that a long-term strategy should be about telling a story rather than hiding a story. You have far more resources available to use when you are telling a story than the opposite. You will also find yourself and your organization spending efforts on ensuring accurate information is easily found, addressing stakeholder concerns, and sharing thought leadership – all efforts you may have neglected in the past. And best of all, you will be working with Google’s algorithm rather than against it.

There are many tools and platforms that are available to you including: on-page content and technical SEO, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, Wikidata, Social media profile optimization, YouTube video and channel optimization, Google images, Google Plus, etc. To really tackle these, you will often need expert help – and this is what digital reputation management experts should be helping you do.

For me, the difference between addressing unfavorable results correctly vs, incorrectly boils down to attitude. If your plan is to outsmart Google and subvert their algorithm, you will usually be unsuccessful – certainly in the mid to long-term. If instead, you use the situation as a catalyst to do a better job of telling the story of your brand, both through your owned properties and via third-party websites, and you utilize all of the tools available to do so, you are likely to be far more successful. In the process you will have added significant value to your brand’s reputation.

Maybe this should be the litmus test. Are you better off after the crisis than you were before. Is your brand better equipped to handle unfavorable news? Are you in better control of how your own presence appears online? If the answer is no – you have treated the symptoms of your problem. If you are now stronger – you have gotten to the underlying causes and you are well on your way to a long-term positive digital reputation.

What Candy Crush taught me about reaching higher

Candy Crush LessonsMy first smartphone (if you can call it that) was a Palm Treo. I spent a lot of time using it to play Bejeweled.

When I became aware of Candy Crush for Android I got hooked and played what I thought were an impressive number of levels – achieving what I believed to be a reasonably high score. Then I started using the feature that lets you compare your achievements to those of your Facebook friends – and I had a bit of an awakening.

My friends, particularly my sister and my sister-in-law,  had achieved scores that were on a completely different order of magnitude.

I wasn’t thinking big enough because I didn’t know it was possible (or reasonable).

It was a bit embarrassing – and it led almost immediately to my attaining much higher scores. I pushed myself harder because I was now aware of what was possible for people similar to me.

As I look at my early career working in technology companies I also felt good about my success. I was growing, taking on more responsibilities, doing good work for my employer, and moving up the rung in salary. When I started my own business I began to realize that perhaps I wasn’t thinking big enough.

If everyone around you earns $50,000/year you are typically happy when you do that well – and satisfied that you continue from there. If your peers learn new skills and take on new responsibility at a normal clip, you would probably be okay with doing the same of somewhat better.

Many of the ceilings that we perceive are artificial.

There is no rule that says you cant build something yourself and it doesn’t need to require a lot of capital. Salary does not have to be capped when you are adding significant (or as my kids say ‘ginormous’) value to the people with whom you work.

The Olympic games are probably a good example of the same thing. When you watch athletes compete and reach new heights – it is a reminder that you may actually be able to run faster or jump higher than you previously can. Maybe not on the level of an Olympian athlete, but perhaps quite a bit higher than you previously thought possible.

My advice – question ceilings. Go beyond your own experience and that of people around you.


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