Creativity Is Currency. Put It In The Bank.

Ideas flourish in the minds of all of us. We just need to have the balls to push them forward. Sometimes they work; most often they don’t. I actually like it when some of my ideas don’t work, because it means I am getting closer to one that will. Also, I try to be dogmatic to prove a point. I put myself out there and fail to teach someone a lesson. Sometimes it’s my staff; often, it’s me.

There is risk here; however, I have never cared about the downside. If you’re worried about failing, you will never stretch yourself and maximize your potential. You don’t want to be lying on your death bed thinking you should have done something or tried harder. I think it would be much more rewarding to feel good about your accomplishments, pass on some wisdom, and call it a day. I have come to the conclusion lately that when you die, it is over.

failure

It certainly feels great when you dream up an idea and see it through. It’s even better when you exceed your desired results. Particularly if the “No Storm” crowd was spending extra time pointing out why you shouldn’t waste your effort trying. Oh my – the perpetual “No” people drive me crazy. The only people worse are those that start a sentence with “You don’t understand…” I actually go out of my way to distance myself from these folks. I never hire them. I don’t expect YES woman and men; I just want to be affiliated with people who try. If we try and fail at something, so what. You gain from the experience and learn a thing or two, so when you try it again you improve your chances of success.

I like to perform in an enriched atmosphere that fosters creative thought. I once worked for a leader who said. “Chris, when I see you in the office with your feet up on this sill, music playing, and you staring out the window, I know you’re doing your best work for the company.”

He was right.

The culture, atmosphere, and people who created them allowed me to work at my absolute best. I do that work when I am comfortable. I wear jeans to work most every day. Shorts and tie-dyed Ts in the summer. When we’re visiting with clients, I match their dress but always tell them how I prefer to dress.  Most of the time they agree and say that’s how they dress on the weekends. I don’t like the separation. I am the same guy on Saturday and Sunday as I am Monday through Friday.

tie-dye-shirt

One year I shaved my head, and I scared my wife when I came downstairs. I continued to do this for the next five years. It is not a coincidence that this was a period of dramatic growth at the company I worked for and where I was one of the early employees. We weren’t successful because I shaved my head, but we were successful because we created an atmosphere where you could be bald or have hair down to your shoulders. It was about being contented. We sold the business for several hundred million dollars during this period.  I was there when we received our first wire payment from ING for $2400 just seven years earlier. Over the years we created a culture of hard work, creativity, and fun. Culture is super important and building one from scratch, though not easy, is better than changing one.  Culture also supersedes strategy, as Peter Drucker is claimed to have said, or thought. See my article “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.”

I believe how you dress reflects how you feel about yourself. How secure you are in your own skin. The environments you work and play in affect how you feel, which, in turn, affects how you dress and how relaxed you are. Comfort enables creativity, in my experience.

Check on the environment you work in. Do you feel comfortable there? Do you get agita on Sundays knowing you have to go to that place on Monday? Worse, is the hangover from your experience from Friday bleeding into Saturday? If so, you are in a perpetual world of hurt from where you work. You have almost no chance to draw on your creative energy to develop and act on an idea. If you can, try working from home. We belong to a cabana club on the Jersey Shore. It is beautiful, and we are so lucky to be members. This year when it has been nice, I have been working from the club. When I need privacy, I close the door. If I don’t, I sit on the beach. I have Wi-Fi, two iPads, and two phones. I am connected to my company and staff. More important, I am in an atmosphere where I feel great. I can move from a contract negotiation call to dreamy thoughts about how we are going to develop a new lead development technique in minutes.

Let your freak flag fly, and create an environment where you enjoy spending time. You won’t realize you are working and your creativity will soar. In time, you won’t be surprised to see the results start to pile up.

My best, Chris.

Hope Still Reigns

 

We have a new leader in the White House. He won with the dissenting vote from unhappy white men. His rival lost due to a dissenting vote from white women, the very people many thought would put her over the top. The electorate is fed up. The situation has created an outpouring of emotions that rivals few others in presidential politics. A true upset, surprise, and disbelief. A populace of fear and loathing.

Had a dream it was war

And they couldn’t tell me what it was for

But it was something they could lie about

Something they could die about, you know

Anytime, anyplace

When you look that man in the face

Well it is not a face you want to see

Sleeping with the enemy, you know.

Roger Hogdson

 

Trump ran on a platform of exclusion. It feels to me like hatred is at a greater level now than in the heart of the race. Not a good reaction. I am not of color, gay, poor, or in need of a green card. I guess I have privilege. I make no excuses for this. I have worked my ass off to get where I am. It is what I am. I am disappointed in the election’s outcome, and I would have said that regardless of the winner. I am a WASP and a believer. I considered the worst of the choice our country has made. My pain is real, my tears are salty, but I remain upbeat. We will get through this. I believe we have been through worse.

 

“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

These were Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, and they feel appropriate right now. Hope, the limitless feeling that something expected will happen. We all have it regardless of age, income, race, creed, or color. A familiar feeling that is powerful and available to us all. Mr. King spoke of infinite hope, which means it is limitless. That is what we have to hang on to, infinite hope.

 

The world didn’t change overnight with an election. And the world won’t change going forward because of the beliefs, no matter how stupid or disgusting, from one man. even if he sits in the country’s highest office. There are the collective checks and balances of 300 million people. We also have two houses of government that will keep things in order.

 

It’s a good time to think about the promising work that is going on out there. How about healthcare? We are curing cancer. Reflect on that — Cancer! A word that at one time frightened us when we saw or heard it. We continue to make art, music, and words available to anyone who wants to consume them. In my home, we recently saw Neil Young play “Harvest Moon” under a harvest moon. That was a magical moment my wife and I will never forget. It was an experience we shared together. No one can take our experiences. The tumult in the White House just might drive us toward one another. And if we do find a way to be inclusive, the power of infinite hope increases exponentially. Think of the power of infinite hope; MLK did two weeks before he died 38 years ago. It is a super powerful message that we can draw on now, in 2017, with a new leader in the White House.

 

neil2

While many have a common hymnal, I still don’t hear the pain in contemporary music like we did back in the 1960s. In fact, we are quite the opposite of the ’60s. Yes, there were assassinations and church burnings, which led up to Kent State. We are seeing some of that now. The difference is there was pain that turned into love back then. The music that attracted many of us then is not evident now. I hear that Rap may be addressing some of this, but the genre isn’t big enough to move the electorate yet. The music made in the ’50s and ’60s helped mobilize the country to remove a president from office in the ’70s. It is important to note that rock & roll was born in black and white communities. There may have been more hope back then than we have now.

 

The sun came up on November 9 and has every day since. There have been incidents that are painful to witness, but we’re all still here. Protestors are exercising their rights, and people are speaking out. In time, we should redirect our efforts beyond what is likely to be a one-term president. Electing someone in his mid 70s to a second term will be difficult. Instead, we should be preparing our next move.

 

Just think about the experiences we can create for our children.

 

My best, Chris

A Life With Dogs. So Special!

A Life With Dogs. So Special!

I wonder if we should be trying to figure out what the canine world already knows about us?

A couple years ago I changed jobs which affected my daily schedule. My commute is longer than the one with my previous job. I travel at off hours to cut down the drive so I can spend more time at home. I also have the opportunity to work more from out of the house. These work changes allow me to devote more time to our Sheltie, Dash.

Dash is the mayor in our neighborhood. We live on a corner lot in central New Jersey. When Dash was young, he would park himself out at the corner and watch the world pass. Everybody walking their dogs stopped by and said hello to him. We painted “Dash’s Corner” on a rock near his spot, so everyone knows who owns the real estate.

Dash has been with us for eleven years. He has lived through our raising of three boys into their teens and early twenties.

Now that he is getting older Dash chooses to survey the neighborhood from a perch on our deck. One kind woman brings him a treat, every day. She makes the journey up our property to bring him his gift. Recently another person looked over in our direction one morning and waved hello. I waved back, and she called out, “Hi Dash.” I guess I have earned my reputation around here.

 

Dash has been with us for eleven years. He has lived through our raising of three boys into their teens and early twenties. Also, he endured career failure and success with me as well as my wife’s retirement. He suffered the emotions from the death of my beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen. Dash is the half brother to my sister’s Sheltie, Windsor.

 

Dash and I have spent allot of time together lately. While I always felt a special bond with him, it has taken on a new level. Most days when I am home, we go for a walk. We usually take the same route, but the options start when we enter the woods. It’s his decision when we approach the fork in the path. Every time he looks at the two choices, then up at me. I look back and say “you decide.” He selects his route, and off we go. After walking about ten feet, he looks back to see if I am following him. He does this every time we go for a walk.

No matter what I have done, the permanent look of “you’re the best” is on Dash’s face. It’s there whenever I look at him.

Raising three active boys is real work. Sue and I did the best we could, and we had help along the way from Dash. We experienced our fair share of late nights arguing with one of the kids.  School, drugs, sports, girls, money and any number of passionate topics are murky waters for us.

 

It’s uncanny; Dash will align himself with the one who is in trouble. He will stand by him to counter the rash of pain coming from our words.  If I drop the “F” bomb, Dash will come and lay down on my feet. What a special feeling I get when this happens. I feel guilt, stupidity, and anger which confuses me. I always end up feeling like a heel.

 

I often wonder what Dash has in his DNA that lets him have so much effect on a tense situation when he can’t communicate. I also think about what poison I have in my DNA, or what is missing, to make me such a prick.  

 

How about the ability to forgive and forget? No matter what I have done, the permanent look of “you’re the best” is on Dash’s face. It’s there whenever I look at him.

We spend much time studying ourselves and what makes us who we are. We fight cancers and are seeking to make our lives easier and longer. I wonder if we should be trying to figure out what the canine world already knows about us? I venture it’s considerable as they appear to be in far better touch with our emotions than we are. Food for thought.

For my best friend, Dash.

 

My best, Chris

What to do when your conscience shows up

Temptation by definition is, well, tempting. Every one of us has had the feeling. To take something we crave, that isn’t ours. Or to say something to convince someone to do something that benefits us more than themselves. There are any number of desires we can act on for our gratification. And even if we’re sure no one will find out about it, we resist.

That’s your conscience, and it is powerful. 

People without a conscience, or who ignore it, do cruel and hurtful things. If caught in the act, they risk permanent damage to their integrity and reputation. At some level, how others view your actions is all you have.

Charlie Sheen doesn’t have a conscience. Neither did Hitler or the gunman in the Pulse nightclub attack.  These guys could care less about the consequences of their actions.  Trump seems so preoccupied with what people think of him he is willing to do almost anything. His behavior includes ignoring his conscience to advance his agenda. I wonder about his commitment. Hillary seemed to want the highest office in our land. The problem is how she might have used it. Some of her actions define a lack of conscience. The email scandal is a perfect example.

The mere mention of the word conscience conjures up the word guilt. Freud and Nietzsche had their thoughts on guilt and conscience. I don’t want to go down the road of id, ego, and superego. I am just not educated enough to do that. What I can do though is show some practical examples of the use and misuse of conscience in business.

I am conscious of who I work and associate with in the corporate world and life. I take great care to curate a team that has high character. My teams have a conscience related to their business dealings. In short, they have to know the difference between right and wrong.

I often stress the importance of pricing integrity as clients and prospects talk to each other. If the devil pops up on your shoulder and whispers,”it’s ok to price inconsistently” that it wrong. Especially if the deal is similar to another, and you are charging a higher rate. You will get caught. Listen to the angel on your other shoulder. She knows what is best.

your-conscious

I have been around software sales and marketing for a long time. I have seen demos of real products that were in production. I also have seen fake demos that were slicker than the production offering. As long as there is disclosure, I have no problem with it. Many years ago I left a firm who demoed without setting this expectation. There was so much smoke and mirrors the pre-sales consultant believed his bullshit. Over time, the company was shut down.

Expense management is everyone’s responsibility in your business. For the past eight years, we have had an interest rate problem. Low rates make it harder to make money in the financial sector where I work. So, expenses are under a lot of scrutiny. If they are not it is only a matter of time for layoffs to start. I have seen guys get fired for booking their personal vacations and expensing them to the company. Are you kidding me? This cavalier entitlement attitude has to go. 

So how do you ensure you are running with the right crowd?

One option is to start a company from scratch. That is not easy. Also, you can only hire people you know and have worked with other places. While that is hard to it is what I do for critical positions. I keep my most trusted people in my network updated on what I am doing, then one day I pick up the phone with an opportunity.

I am doing this now as I search for the next place to hang my hat. However, I know that joining a new business always feels great in the beginning. When the honeymoon ends, you can assess the situation. What kind of shop did you join? Do they have a conscience?

Next, you have two and only two options, and they are to stay or go. If you aren’t comfortable with the company and how it does business, you have a chance to bring on change. Change is unlikely unless you are in a senior position and have the backing of the BOD, but it is an option. If successful in turning the company around you will have a hell of a business success story.  Your next employer will dole out the money to entice you to join them.

If you decide you are not a good fit for the company, it is likely you will choose to take your talents somewhere else. At the next place, you have the chance to fit in and be comfortable. Also, your likelihood of success will increase. Most importantly, you will be able to sleep at night, with a clear conscience. 

Like a fork is the road, when your conscience shows up. Take it. 

My best, Chris

How I Turned A Weakness Into A Strength With Social Media!

I have been an introvert all my life. Put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I am uncomfortable. Further, put me in a room full of people I do know but don’t trust, and my response is the same. I say little. Lastly, put me in a room with the small group of people I am comfortable with, and I will talk their ears off.

I was one of the first handfuls of employees at Albridge Solutions in the summer of 2000. I was a member of senior management but never attended one company picnic or any of the many social events. I did attend the holiday party each year because it was just too hard to avoid. If given the choice, I would likely have passed.

I hate it when colleagues ask me to go out for a drink after work. When the day ends, I want to go home and be with my family. I will go out when I travel, but that is about it.

We have lived in our home for 22 years, and I barely know our neighbors.

There is an oxymoron here, though.

I connect with approximately 15k people on LinkedIn, 17k on Twitter and 500 on Facebook. 

So over 32k connections across social media. Sounds like a lot. I do value those links, but I don’t know or have relationships with all of them. I would say the quality relationships I have are likely about 1/2 of 1percent of my connections or say, 160 people. Of that, those I am close to number less than 10, these are also the people I call close friends.

Seems depressing but it’s not to me.

Social media connects many people and can connect us all. No one ever promised our networks would make us all best buddies. I imagine that could happen to some individuals who link online. Some meet spouses and partners on social media. Online dating is big business.

There is value in having a lot of connections. Somewhere between zero and my 32k connections is Gladwell’s tipping point.I sense it is as about 10k connections. That is when things changed for me.

Along my writing journey, my post views increased steadily and then shot into the thousands. I have more work to do here to continue growing. Big networks of connections contain the necessary ingredients for rapid growth. I use my network for messaging, distribution and more networking. It sounds like advertising and sales to me, and you know what?

It is!

Indirect and passive communication are wildly powerful messaging channels. These allow an executive with trust issues to run marketing and sales at the many companies I have worked at. This work is what pays our bills.

Social media has provided me a platform and raised my profile in a way that I could never have accomplished on my own. I feel safe on social technology platforms. I have worked hard and paid extra attention to how I am viewed and perceived online. The most important thing I have learned is to be helpful to others. It will be returned exponentially back to you. The Golden Rule plays out big time on the Internet.

For example, I recently posted an article and asked people to criticize it. My hope is to get it published on The Huffington Post website. I received over 50 responses highlighting suggestions so my post would read more fluidly. I incorporated the changes and now have more than 1100 views, 153 likes, 34 comments and 58 shares. Not one person said anything that wasn’t helpful, no nasty or smug comments at all.

So I looked at who was responding. I noticed that some were folks who wrote articles I have commented on, liked and shared. There were other people who were new to me. These folks all get it. They gave, and I am poised to give back when they post or ask for help.

Here is a tip that has paid itself back many times. Every person who shares one of my posts gets direct thanks from me through LinkedIn. It takes about 10 seconds to say.

John, thanks for the share. CF.

I would say about a quarter of these folks say “thanks” back to me for thanking them. Unreal but effective. Some make a comment about something they liked in the post. Often this is a day or two later which makes me feel good knowing I had an impact and they remembered it.

One more best practice is to make sure you comment to everyone who makes a sensible comment on your post. I try to do this within 24 hours. Often I respond before I leave for work in the morning, so I do not have to worry about it. If you get a nasty comment or troll, don’t engage with them. If you do engage with a troll here is what you can expect (per my friend John White of Social Marketing Solutions). John taught me the following lesson. You will endure 48 hours of unpleasant exchanges – so don’t waste your time.

Lastly, pictures are super important.  As we all know, they mean so much more than anything you may write. Here is how I choose my photos. I receive many comments about them, so I think I am doing something right. I type into Google exactly what image I want. The first one I like, I choose. I don’t spend any more time on it than that. I think our first instincts serve us well.

Here is an image of social media.

So remember to put yourself out there. Be helpful. Comment, Like and Share and say “thank you” to those who went out of their way to read your content and respond to it. In short, all these activities add up to the exact definition of the word engagement. But perhaps the best thing you can do with social media, in my opinion, is to have fun with it.

P.S. My article Career Irony – Why I Never Cared About Corporate Values! is featured on the Huffington Post site. Thanks to all who helped me.

My best, Chris

Experience Trumps Book Smarts Every Time!

I often tell young people it doesn’t make any difference where you go to college. What is most important is that you go to college. Sure, there are some advantages from going to an elite school. Specialty areas of study, an active alumni network and the sheen that comes from the reputations of some of these schools all help. Some open doors of opportunity. Often when some doors shut on alumni, for almost any reason, another opens. That’s good.

WWW.HARVARDSMHL.ORG

If it doesn’t work out the way you planned and you have to settle for a B-rated school, so what. Wherever you go to school, some things will happen. You will get four years older, depending on how long it takes you to graduate. That’s real important, those years between 18 and 22 are significant maturity years. Young men and women gain practical experience figuring out how to live on their own. Millennials, who believe they are entitled to respect and an award for everything they do, will learn valuable lessons when mom and dad aren’t there to fix everything they don’t like.

FORBES.COM

The average age of a full professor is fifty-five. Therefore, this September your child will be taught by someone more like your age. If we blame the entitlement culture on the parents of Millennials, keep this in mind. Those professors care about their kids the most. Therefore, your son or daughter will expect much but receive less. After complaining to you that something isn’t fair, you will light up the switchboards at the college. Fortunately, the calls will go unanswered, and your child will have to figure out how to do things on their own. What a valuable lesson, it is almost worth the tuition you will be paying. If you are a student don’t spend all your time planning everything, you’re bound to fail. You want to go to Harvard, great. Careful what you wish for.

See what it feels like when you get there with all the top students in the world. You will quickly find that there are many who are smarter than you are.

The high school hero often becomes the college zero in some of these environments. The suicide rates for MIT are alarming with Harvard not far behind.

Think there is a relationship? And for parents how about this one: sounds great to be in the top 1% of income or net worth doesn’t it? This population owns 40% of the nation’s wealth. When you get there, though, you realize how far it is from the top to the bottom of the range. That must be why we have basis points (a basis point is one-hundredth of one percent). Our generation grew up with things. The more toys, the more you were a winner. But, nothing trumps toys like money. Making a cool half million must sound great. However, you won’t bump into anyone from the top of the 1% at cocktail parties. You can’t afford to go to them, and there is no chance you will get a free invitation.

WWW.PERFECTLABORSTORM.COM

The point here is some of us baby boomers produced those Millennials. We held their hands through thick and thin. We cried foul when they didn’t get enough playing time or make the team they coveted. We rewarded them for first steps and missed steps to make them feel better. Now we are complaining because they don’t want to work in restaurants or on the back of garbage trucks for money before they go off to school. They demand respect when they haven’t earned it. They want to be treated like us.

Why?

Because we raised them that way.

Now they all want to go to Stanford, Harvard or (insert school name here) because that is what we taught them. Well, the news here is most of them won’t get into one of these schools. They will be disappointed and have to settle for something they believe is less.

In this case, it just might turn out that less is more. To be successful in life, this generation of young men and women will have to figure out how to do things on their own.

That’s always a good lesson.

They most likely will do this later in life than we did and that’s our fault. We are the ones who raised them to depend on us. We changed after 9/11; we drew our family and kids closer never wanting to let them go or to make a decision on their own. In the end, they will figure out that success in life, love, and work takes effort. A lot of it and a little more just might get them there.

Ten years from now they will be working their asses off trying to establish a career. Twenty years from now they will be in the throes of hard work and the beginnings of how success feels. Thirty years from now they will be telling their kids, they wanted to go to Harvard but couldn’t get in. They will follow this up with the reasons they became successful, hard work and experience.

 

My best, Chris

Raising Your Social Profile And Why It’s Important!

I often say if you raise your profile in life by definition you raise the profiles of those around you too. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well so be careful who you run with.

Your profile is all you have. It is defined primarily by who you associate with, your actions and how you communicate your thoughts and beliefs. That’s about it.

To raise your profile, there is simply no more effective way than using social media. If you are not an active user of social media, you will need access to the press or some other kind of platform on which to stand to make yourself known. It also helps to be successful in your career which often draws attention and people to you.

Social media is highly cost effective and really just requires your time. If you go down this path it will take real time to do this right so getting some help is a good idea. There are consulting firms like John White’s Social Marketing Solutions who can add valuable strategic and tactical components to your social media efforts as well.

Always be thinking of ways that you can give back to your network by sharing your knowledge for free, providing valuable links, insightful videos, thought-provoking quotes, and being helpful. If you read a post and find it useful click the “like” button. If it moved you in some way, “share” it with your network, they will appreciate the new insight and view you as a thought leader.

In May of 2015, I began a crusade to raise my profile and that of the company I worked for. I started to write posts just like this one on LinkedIn Pulse and have published 82 times through this outlet. My topics range from business to social and humor. I have also begun to publish outside the platform. A friend suggested I submit my work to The Good Men Project, I have and am featured in each of my submissions.

So here is what has happened to my social profile since I started doing this. My connections and followers across platforms have risen 33x to approximately 33,000. I think these are some good results but here is the question some people ask me.

Why is this important?

Some of these followers and connections are sticky. They come back for more and over the past year the number of them has risen substantially. People have asked me to help or write for them too. For me writing is therapeutic, so it doesn’t feel like work. In fact, it is fun. As my plan is to become an adjunct professor in retirement I think it will be helpful to have my syllabus complete before I do. My business related posts will become just that. Addressing Millennials is key for me as that is a group I want to influence and connect with. There is no better way than sharing the experiences of a long and successful career as they begin their journey through work and life.

Again, why does it matter?

If I raise my social profile by definition, I will have risen the profiles of everyone in my universe of connections on social platforms. I went through the effort to connect with every person in our company so I could raise their profiles on the back of mine. We are effectively building a communication platform for the business to talk to the marketplace. You have to do this first before you begin a dialogue; then the market can talk back. Once this happens it becomes real marketing, which is my job.

What do you need to get to the next level?

Enterprise commitment. If I can have such an increase in connections and followers, the potential across the company will have a multiplier effect that reaches into the millions. I did the math here. As a marketer, do I want to reach millions? Hell yes. In those millions is our target market. Once our range is vast and comprehensive, there are segmenting techniques that will unearth the target market and create the dialogue that will be for the benefit of my company and everyone connected to me.

My best, Chris

Burning Bridges, Never A Good Idea!

The saying “burning bridges” comes from ancient Roman Times. Generals invading new territories would order their soldiers to burn the bridges behind them. This way they wouldn’t retreat. It is similar to the point of no return in military speak, or PONR. In career and social relations, it means not to piss off people who can damage your reputation. You want a network that says good things about your skills, integrity, and reputation.

That is precious.

Often we don’t get a chance to repair the damage done to any of these, particularly reputation. The consequences can take on a life of their own on social media. You have no chance of stopping them once they are set loose in your network. It’s kind of like the wind-driven wildfires in the deserts of California.

Your career includes your experiences, network, and skills. In that order. Your background builds over time and becomes your story. I have worked in over a half dozen companies in my career. For each, I have my story. I had different experiences at each place I worked. I provided an experience for my staff, co-workers, and clients. In return, I received new experiences.

My story grew, I own it, and it’s mine to tell.

I remember adding to my LinkedIn profile how much PNC paid for Albridge Solutions back in 2008. I had left the company. I received threatening phone calls. I hadn’t signed anything that said I couldn’t disclose the price. I was proud of it. I told the attorney it was my story and kept it there.

There is a flip side though that you only have limited control over. What others think of you, your experiences, network, and skills are important. That’s why you want to maintain a degree of consistency in your behavior.

Who you run with is super important as well. I have been fortunate to work with a great bunch of executives over the decades. Some of us continue to work together, others are at other companies, but we all talk and share our stories.

It’s how we learn.

Sharing stories is one of the key components of network value. There is value in the gross number of people in your network. At 10k connections, your posts and updates will start to gain attention. At 15k connections, your network will start to grow with little effort. I connect to about 50 people a day. Most of these are people reaching out to me.

As your platform builds, you can be more selective. First, you must develop the core of your network. An active core has people you know and have done business with. These folks are key have influence on defining your reputation. They are also the people who will alert you to new opportunities. These are who you will reach out to discuss your opportunities and challenges. These connections are super powerful. When you tell them about an experience you had with a rogue employee, client or vendor their reputation just took a hit. Don’t get me wrong; people are fair, but the core of your network is where opinions develop. I estimate them to be in the top one-half of one percent of your network. It is here where you want to protect the bridges you worked so hard to build. I once knew a woman who I had spent a lot of time grooming for a senior executive role. She had a lot of pressure in her life and work. Her behavior became erratic. She argued with other employees and became disruptive to the business. We had a few confrontations, and I tried to help her. In the end, I had to remove her from contacting me via text and phone. She quit and burned a bridge with me and the core of my network. While I will never go out of my way to hurt her reputation, I will not go out of my way to enhance it either. Your network is a reflection of you, and the core of it is the heart of who you are.

Having a blend of hard and soft skills is key to improving your chances of success. I have some hard skills in sales, marketing, relationship management, and business management. The skill that has been most useful in my career is team building and talent management. Looking back, I curated some key people and took great care not to piss them off. So when I called with a problem or opportunity they picked up the phone. The bridge I had built remained intact. One executive I know joined me at my current gig, but not the one immediately after we had success together. The relationship is strong, the network intact, she is at the core of my network.

The golden rule of treating others how you like to be treated is a priceless bit of advice. The bridges you have built over a career combined with your skills and experiences are powerful. These are three key components that will lead you to a career filled with achievement and success.

My best, Chris