Content Advocacy: Encouraging Employees to Brand Cheerleaders

What is content advocacy?

Content advocacy means encouraging employees to share and promote your company's content. It is taking steps to make it easy for employees to share your branded content with their connections.

By empowering employees to act as advocates, companies can extend their reach, enhance brand awareness, and foster employee engagement. This strategy relies on providing training, resources, and incentives to ensure that employees represent the company positively while sharing content authentically.

Change Employees to Cheerleaders with Content Advocacy

Are your employees enthusiastic advocates for your company? Encouraging employees to be content advocates is an essential strategy for businesses looking to cultivate a powerful brand presence. When employees become ambassadors for your brand, it can lead to increased engagement, higher credibility, and greater brand loyalty.

One of the things we do here at Seven Oaks Consulting is help companies create a culture of content advocacy within their organizations. By this I mean we help marketing departments encourage employees to be content advocates and evangelize for the brand. It takes time to be successful, but once your employees become part of the content marketing team's advocacy group, it can really take off - and greatly amplify your content marketing reach.

Creating a Culture of Content Advocacy

Creating a culture where employees feel empowered to endorse your company's content is key. By providing them with the tools and resources to share your brand's message, you can tap into their networks, expanding your reach exponentially. Employee advocates lend an authentic and trusted voice to your brand, making your messaging more relatable and persuasive to potential customers.

But how do you encourage employees to become content advocates? It starts with fostering a positive and inclusive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated. Providing recognition and incentives for their advocacy efforts can also go a long way. Additionally, implementing training programs and sharing success stories can inspire employees to get involved.

In this article, we'll explore effective strategies for encouraging employees to be content advocates, and how it can benefit your brand. Let's dive in and unlock the untapped potential of your most valuable asset – your employees.

What Is Employee (Marketing) Advocacy?

Employee advocacy refers to the practice of employees actively promoting and endorsing their company's products, services, and brand. It involves leveraging the personal networks and influence of employees to amplify the reach and impact of company content. Rather than relying solely on traditional marketing efforts, employee advocacy taps into the power of authentic and relatable voices to build trust and credibility with potential customers.

Benefits of Employee Advocacy

There are numerous benefits to encouraging employees to be content advocates. Firstly, employee advocates can significantly expand the reach of your brand's message. By sharing content with their personal networks, employees can expose your brand to a wider audience, increasing brand visibility and attracting potential customers.

Secondly, employee advocates lend an air of authenticity to your brand. Consumers tend to trust recommendations from people they know more than advertising or marketing materials. When employees advocate for your brand, it adds credibility and builds trust, making your messaging more persuasive.

Additionally, employee advocacy can lead to increased employee engagement and job satisfaction. When employees feel valued and empowered to represent their company, it boosts morale and fosters a sense of pride in their work. This, in turn, can improve productivity and overall employee performance.

The Role of Content Advocates in a Company

Content advocates play a crucial role in amplifying your brand's message and driving business growth. They act as brand ambassadors, sharing company content with their networks and engaging in conversations about your products or services. By doing so, they help create brand awareness, generate leads, and ultimately contribute to revenue growth.

Content advocates also serve as a bridge between your brand and potential customers. They have a deep understanding of your company's values, products, and services, allowing them to provide valuable insights and answer questions from their personal network. This level of personalized interaction can build trust and credibility, making it more likely for potential customers to convert.

Furthermore, content advocates can provide valuable feedback and insights to your marketing team. Their direct interaction with customers and prospects can uncover valuable insights into customer preferences, pain points, and industry trends. This information can inform and improve your marketing strategies, allowing you to better tailor your messaging to resonate with your target audience.

How to Encourage Employees to Become Content Advocates

Encouraging employees to become content advocates requires a proactive and strategic approach. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

Providing Training and Resources for Content Advocates

To empower employees to become effective content advocates, it's important to provide them with the necessary training and resources. This can include workshops or webinars on personal branding, social media best practices, and content sharing guidelines. By equipping employees with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively represent your brand, you can ensure that their advocacy efforts align with your brand's messaging and values.

Additionally, providing employees with easy access to high-quality content that they can share is crucial. This can include pre-approved social media posts, blog articles, videos, or infographics. By streamlining the content sharing process and providing ready-made materials, you make it easier for employees to engage in advocacy efforts.

We like to set up Slack channels for employees, especially the marketing team, and send out alerts whenever new content is published. Additionally, we encourage call centers/SDRs/appointment setters and the sales team to access and share relevant content whenever possible. Lastly, if we've interviewed employees or customers, we tag them on LinkedIn to celebrate the publication of the piece. Each of these steps helps people feel part of the process of sharing wins and brand advocates.

Creating a Supportive Company Culture for Content Advocacy

Fostering a positive and inclusive work environment is key to encouraging employees to become content advocates. When employees feel valued, supported, and motivated, they are more likely to take an active role in advocating for their company. Leaders should communicate the importance of employee advocacy and create a culture that recognizes and celebrates employees' efforts.

Regularly communicating the impact of employee advocacy and sharing success stories can also inspire others to get involved. Highlighting the positive outcomes and benefits of employee advocacy can motivate employees to become advocates themselves.

Recognizing and Rewarding Content Advocates

Recognizing and rewarding employees for their advocacy efforts can go a long way in encouraging continued engagement. This can be done through various means, such as employee spotlights, rewards and incentives, or even gamification. By publicly acknowledging and appreciating employees' advocacy contributions, you reinforce the value of their efforts and encourage others to participate.

It's important to note that recognition and rewards should be tailored to individual preferences and motivations. Some employees may appreciate public recognition, while others may prefer more personal or private forms of appreciation. Understanding and catering to these preferences can ensure that your recognition efforts are effective and well-received.

Examples of Successful Employee Advocacy Programs

To further inspire and guide your employee advocacy efforts, let's explore some examples of successful programs:

  1. IBM's "IBM Voices" program: IBM encourages its employees to share company news, insights, and thought leadership content on their personal social media channels. They provide employees with training, content guidelines, and a platform to easily share pre-approved content. The program has been successful in expanding the company's reach and increasing brand visibility.
  2. Adobe's "Adobe Life" program: Adobe showcases employee stories and experiences through their "Adobe Life" blog. Employees are encouraged to contribute their own stories and perspectives, sharing their passion for their work and the company. This program has helped humanize the brand and create a sense of community among employees.
  3. Starbucks' "My Starbucks Idea" program: Starbucks created an online platform where employees can submit ideas and suggestions for improving the company. This program not only encourages employee advocacy but also fosters a culture of innovation and collaboration. Employees feel empowered to contribute to the company's success and make a positive impact.

Measuring the Impact of Employee Advocacy

To gauge the effectiveness of your employee advocacy initiatives, it's important to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and regularly track and measure relevant metrics. Some common metrics to consider include:

  1. Reach and engagement: Measure the number of people reached through employee shares and the level of engagement generated (likes, comments, shares, etc.).
  2. Lead generation: Track the number of leads generated through employee advocacy efforts and their conversion rates.
  3. Brand sentiment: Monitor the sentiment surrounding your brand and track any shifts or improvements resulting from employee advocacy.
  4. Website traffic: Measure the increase in website traffic resulting from employee shares and advocacy efforts.

By analyzing these metrics, you can gain insights into the impact of your employee advocacy initiatives and make data-driven decisions to optimize your strategies.


Encouraging employees to become content advocates is a powerful strategy for building a strong brand presence and driving business growth. When employees feel empowered to represent and endorse their company, it leads to increased engagement, credibility, and brand loyalty. By providing training, resources, and a supportive work environment, you can unlock the untapped potential of your most valuable asset – your employees. So, invest in employee advocacy and harness the power of authentic voices to amplify your brand's message.

German shepherd dog with funny hat, noisemaker cartoon, and the word Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Seven Oaks Consulting Content Marketing!

Our content marketing agency knows how to party. We're celebrating the New Year in style Saturday night with our usual pajama-party and cheese board. Seriously, this is how two introverted writers enjoy the holiday, and we wouldn't have it any other way.



Our Year in Review: Happy Anniversary, Seven Oaks!

This has been quite the year for us. First, we celebrated our 15th anniversary. This is a big milestone in the world of marketing agencies, and for good reason - the Small Business Administration estimates that fewer than 25% of all startups make it to this milestone.


We celebrated by launching Virtuali, our free digital magazine found on dedicated to all things remote and virtual work and management. Contributors to the project included many from our freelance writing team: Lucy Klaus (a retired HR manager), Sharon Wu (blogger extraordinaire), Christopher Iwunudu (our very own "positive equator") and others. You are welcome to submit your articles to Virtuali, too, as long as they are of high quality and pertain to remote and virtual work or management. Visit to learn more.


Welcoming New content marketing Clients

We're a small, niche marketing agency - but mighty. Our global reach always amazes me. We partner with some of the best and brightest tech firms, innovators in their digital niches just as we're innovators in our content writing niche!


Here are some stats about our clients:

  • 90% of our clients are technology companies
  • % are marketing agencies (we write for their tech clients!)
  • 3% are "other" industries
  • More than 95% of our clients remain with us for two years or longer.
  • One client just celebrated 12 years working with us! (WOW) (Is this some kind of record in the agency world?)
  • Another client just takes us with him wherever he goes, and fortunately for us, he goes to some amazing companies. Although not tech companies, we love working with him, so whenever he moves to another C-suite chair, we follow along to support his amazing vision for content creation.


content marketing Milestones and "Wish We Could Do-Over"

As we wrap up 2022, we also took a look at some milestones...and some things we wish we could do-over.

  • Jeanne signed her first book contract with a major publisher. Unfortunately, the book has been cancelled by the publisher, but it was an amazing experience. When the economy picks up, we hope the publisher brings the book back to the publishing table.
  • We wish we could have avoided the whole marketing agency award scam that almost - but not quite - had us fooled.
  • We launched Virtuali, our new digital publication, and are delighted to announce it is in the running for the 2023 Gartner Marketing and Communications Award (hurray!)

What Will 2023 Hold for Seven Oaks Consulting?

As I sat down today to write my 2022 reflections and 2023 goals, I was happily astonished by how far we've come in one short year. The economic downturn of 2008 failed to sink us, and the pandemic also failed to knock us to our knees. Instead, Seven Oaks Consulting continues to push forward, to pursue new avenues for growth and creativity, and provides more and better content marketing services to technology clients worldwide.

We can't wait to see what 2023 holds in store for us. No matter what, we are delighted you are with us on this journey and look forward to serving you with creative, engaging written content marketing services.


blocks of green, gold and red, a black dog, and pawprints, with the word Celebrate International Dog Day August 26

International Dog Day Celebration!

Celebrate International Dog Day with Seven Oaks Consulting!

No marketing agency would be complete without a pooch (or two or three or four). Today, we're sharing the stories of our pets - the dogs who work with our freelance team.

Why We Love Dogs - and International Dog Day

As writers we tend to sit...we sit a lot. Our dogs are our fitness buddies, ensuring we get up off the couch or away from our desks.

They're also our therapists, listening to us when we cry about the unfairness of our 100th rejection slip or the stupid editor who changed 'gelding' to 'stallion' and ruined our horse story (that happened to Jeanne).

Our pets are family. We don't care if they photobomb (or bark) Zoom calls. We love their wet, cold noses, their muddy pawprints, and their incessant need for love.

After all, they give plenty of love in return. So, here's to International Dog Day at Seven Oaks Consulting!

Sharon Wu, Freelance Writer, and Her Pugs, Rolly and S'mores

We'll let Sharon tell you about her pugs, Rolly and S'mores.

"S'mores the pug is 10 years old this year. I adopted him from a Los Angeles shelter back in December 2016. He was a stray dog, so nobody knew his real age. But the shelter and vet guessed 4 at the time. So we are going with that! He is a total momma's boy, will never turn down food, and loves to cuddle. S'mores embodies the typical pug. He is mostly lazy but if his pawrents are active and ready to take him out for an adventure, he knows how to have a good time.

"Rolly the black pug is 5 years old this year. I adopted him in December 2017 from an accidental breeder (someone with two pugs that gave birth to a litter of puppies at home) locally in the Coachella Valley. He was only 9 weeks old! He is a very competitive and active pug, with lots of energy. Unlike his brother S'mores, he is a very picky eater. He enjoys playing half-fetch... "half" because he never brings the ball back but will run for anything thrown. He loves his mom, but is definitely more of a daddy's boy!"

A black pug biting a toy bone

a pug wearing headphone s

Laura LaFrenier, Freelance Writer, and Libby, Layla, and Boon

We met Libby, Layla and Boon on the 2021 International Dog Day but it's always good to say hello to old friends, as any dog will attest!

a bulldog

brown dog

black lab mix dog

Kathleen Marshall, Editor, and Maggie and Zoey

Zoey gave her mom Kathleen quite the scare this year when she seemed paralyzed. Fortunately with quick intervention and veterinary care, Zoey has made a full recovery. Both love to work with Kathleen and are frequent on-screen guests during Zoom calls.

two dogs laying on the grass
Kathleen's dogs, Maggie and Zoey

Jeanne Grunert, President and Sr. Content Strategies, with Zeke

Not a day goes by that Jeanne doesn't say to someone, "Hang on a minute, I need to get Zeke off my lap." Nothing like a 90-pound German shepherd who thinks he's a lap dog to make your day interesting. Zeke has his own biscuit jar on the desk and frequently begs for biscuits behind the scenes during video calls. He loves playing with his raccoon squeaky toy, long walks, and watching animal videos on television.

Zeke the office dog on guard at a doorway

a strand of red berries on a white background

Non-Traditional Office Christmas Party Ideas

Who said that all holiday traditions apply when it comes to office Christmas party ideas?

With the holiday season approaching, it may be time to start planning your annual office Christmas party. Incorporating some non-traditional themes or activities can help bring people together and provide an opportunity to do good for the local community. 

Fresh Office Christmas Party Ideas

Host a Potluck and Celebrate Diversity

Potlucks are popular for communal gatherings such as holiday parties. Have your attendees bring a dish representing their heritage to put a fun spin on a traditional Christmas potluck. A heritage-inspired potluck celebrates diversity and allows everyone to try new, delicious foods while bringing everyone closer together. 

Secret Santa - Bring Joy to Children in Need

Secret Santa is another popular Christmas office tradition. This year, in the spirit of the season of giving, have everyone from the office donate an unopened, unwrapped toy to an organization such as Toys 4 Tots. Charity organizations such as these help to bring joy to children in need during the holiday season.

The Gift of Your Time - Helping Those Less Fortunate

The holiday season can be difficult for those in need, both financially and emotionally. Set up a time for everyone to contribute to a local homeless shelter or children's home. Ways you can help include: 

  • Helping to prepare warm, wholesome meals for the holidays.
  • Decorating to make the environment more festive and cheery.
  •  Say "hello" and strike up a conversation with someone who may be going through a hard time.

Organize a Raffle for Charity

Raffles can be a fun, exciting way to contribute to one of your favorite charities. Popular raffle prizes can vary from gift baskets, electronic devices, baked goods, and seasonal items. To do some good with this year's holiday raffle, specify that the proceeds are to be donated to the charity of the winner's choosing. 

For a list of top-rated charities for inspiration, visit Charity Navigator

Spread Holiday Cheer - Christmas Caroling

Among these office Christmas party ideas, this one is especially fun. If your office is near a nursing home or a children's hospital, consider Christmas caroling.

The holiday season is all about traditions, and one staple that seems to have faded is the art of Christmas caroling. In place of a traditional office Christmas party, organize an evening to go caroling in your local community to help boost morale and spread holiday cheer. To spread even more holiday cheer, make it a point to visit any local children's homes, retirement centers,  rehabilitation clinics, or homeless shelters. 

The holiday season is the time of the year that we understand it is sometimes better to give than to receive, although this sentiment holds true year-round. This year, especially in the aftermath of the recent pandemic, structuring your holiday office party and festivities around doing good for others is a way to help make the season brighter for everyone. These fresh office Christmas party ideas are sure to help you have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Written by Seven Oaks Consulting contributor Laura LaFrenier.

working desk for marketing writer

How to Write a Business Email - Watch Your Tone

You may think you don't need to learn how to write a business email (or Slack message, or Skype). After all, you've probably been sending business emails for years, perhaps since you began working.

During this unusual time in history in which everyone is working virtually, learning how to write a business email is essential. Not just any email, but one that considers emotion and tone.

How to Write a Business Email

I'm older than most of you reading this, and I didn't begin my career writing emails. In fact, email didn't exist when I started my first full-time job.

Instead, when necessary, communications were typed in a specific format called a memo. These formal communications followed a very traditional format and tone; and, because they were typed (on an IBM Selectric, no less), each one was crafted with diligence and precision.

Emails, on the other hand, can be dashed off as quickly as one can type. Skype and Slack messages pose even great problems because they are often typed as part of the ebb and flow of a conversation.

These conversations taking place in cyberspace using pixels and emojis often lack the nuances of actual in-person conversations. Lacking physical expressions, gestures, and the subtle cues people give each other during the give-and-take of conversations, arguments, and meetings, they can be misunderstood.

Mind Your Tone! Emotional Mistakes Made in Writing

Have you ever been in an email war of words? It usually starts when one person mistakenly "reads" into the tone of the initial email. What began as an innocent attempt at communication ends up in a string of ever-increasing angry emails that may end up as a phone call or virtual meeting to straighten things out.

What leads to such email wars? Emotional mistakes in tone.

What is tone in writing?

Tone, according to the literary definition, is the attitude of the writer towards his or her subject.

Word choice conveys a great deal of the tone in any piece of literature, including instant messages, emails, and other communications.

Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist of the rock band Deep Purple, said something in a documentary on the making of their (awesome) album Machine Head (yes huge Purple fan here) that underscores the importance of tone.

"When things are positive, the management always says 'we' as in 'We're going up the charts!' But if something is negative, it's you: 'You're going down the charts.'"

Ritchie is sensitive to tone. The choice of management's words -- we verus you -- is a perfect illustration of tone. Sensitivity to tone enables him to read instantly into the situation. He knows that if the record company sends a message such as "Can you talk?" it's probably something unpleasant whereas "We would like to talk to you" it may be positive.

Words Matter

Your choice of words matters a great deal when crafting email messages. As you're writing your emails, your brain chooses words seemingly on its own. But your intuitive understanding of the connotation of each words - it's unspoken bias or meaning - helps you choose the "right" words to convey what you truly feel.

Learning How to Write a Business Email - 5 Steps to Avoid Miscommunication

Without the nuance of spoken language, emails can be construed as passive-aggressive. "Let's talk" can start an email war of words. "I'm not clear about the direction of the program - can we speak at 1 o'clock and go over the details?" is a much better way of asking for the same conversation.

Let's avoid those war of words and look at 5 steps to avoid miscommunication when you write a business email.

  1. Pause before you hit send, especially when angry or upset. Your brain is merrily tootling along choosing words as your fingers fly across the keyboard. You may think that your message is neutral when you want to reach through the monitor and throttle a coworker, but your brain's circumventing your common sense and selects a few choice hot button words sure to begin the dreaded war or words. Pausing before you hit send, rereading messages, and changing hot button phrases can defuse problems before they start.
  2. Watch out for typos. A typo may be simply that - a typo - or it can convey that you are so angry your fingers are flying over the keyboard. It can also make your communications appear rushed and unprofessional. While typos are common in instant messages and text, often due to the smaller keyboards and quick nature of the responses, eliminate typos from emails to avoid sending unintended messages about your urgency or tone. A program such as Grammarly, which can check all types of written communications including social media messages, instant messages, and emails, can highlight typos for correction on screen.
  3. Walk away from the computer. Did something set you off? Walk away from the computer and let the message cool. We're all working in a strange environment now with kids screaming in the background, dogs barking, and the stress-relieving afternoon Starbucks run a thing of the past. As we learn how to navigate the new work from home environment in which kids need the computer, spouses need quiet to close a deal, and you need the video for a conference call, it's no wonder that little things trigger emotions. Walking away and pausing before answering can save a world of hurt.
  4. Don't use emoticons. The Harvard Business Review (of all places) accepts the inevitable use of emoticons. I don't mind them in Skype or Slack messages - I was famous for using my "Queen" emoticon when making editorial pronouncements at one job - but using too many in a formal email looks amateurish and unprofessional. It's a smart idea to avoid emoticons, especially in an email.
  5. Use email appropriately. Email is best for conveying lengthier thoughts. Use instant messenger for quick questions. In other words, don't hit "Respond All" and say "Thank you" or "Yes."

Better Emails, Easier Communications

If you're struggling with how to write a business email, and you're uncomfortable writing longer emails, think about how you can overcome your discomfort. What's holding you back?

Right now, we're all struggling to work virtually, juggling Slack, Skype, text, and email messages. But let's face it: email is also an important aspect of all workplace communications, pandemic or no pandemic. Learning how to write effective business emails is an important skill everyone should master.

(c) by Jeanne Grunert - "the Marketing Writer" at Seven Oaks Consulting, a content marketing writing agency in Prospect, Virginia.

desk with papers and pencil

Tips for Working from Home

These tips for working from home may help you be more productive, especially if you aren't used to telecommuting.

Working from home isn't everyone's favorite. Some people do love the social atmosphere of the office; others need the structure. It can feel strange, exhilarating, or even scary to work from your kitchen table. Below are my five best tips for working from home during the national COVID-19 crisis.

The COVID-19 Crisis and the Workplace

As of today, March 17, 2020, almost the entire United States has issued a warning to stay at home and enact social distancing policies to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

What began as the new flu from the Wuhan area in China has now swept the globe, straining healthcare systems and making many sick.

Most companies in the United States have asked employees to work from home. Some reading this are shrugging; it's nothing new. They've worked from home during previous disasters including Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, for example, or like me, after 9/11. (I was in New York City on 9/11.)

But for those new to working from home, you may feel like you're losing your mind without the structure of the typical workday. Where's the commute? The line at Starbucks? Dropping your kids or your dogs off at daycare? It's gone. Normalcy is gone!

I've worked from home for the past 13 years. And, although I don't have children, I do have tips for working from home that will apply even if you do have kids. These tips will help you remain productive despite the lure of Netflix binges, the ever-present refrigerator, and everything else calling your name.

5 Tips for Working from Home

Tip 1: Establish a daily routine.

This is so important! Routine and structure are what people rely upon to get through their days. Even if you consider yourself a spontaneous person, your days do have a structure to them when you commute to a job outside of the home. Among my tips for working from home, finding your own personal schedule is of utmost importance.

Tip 2: Get dressed as if you are going to work.

Among my tips for working from home, this one might seem silly, but it works. Dress as if you are going to work for the day or at least going out of your home. Shower, dress in business casual or nice casual clothes, comb and fix your hair, put on jewelry and makeup if you wear it. You're ready to be productive, greet the mailman, or hop onto a video call without a problem.

Tip 3: If you can, set "quiet hours."

Quiet hours are the time slots in my day when I might ask my husband to look after the dog. These are the hours when I have to jump onto a conference or video call and I don't want Zeke to start barking or jumping onto my lap (a 100-pound German shepherd leaping into the video conference can be distracting.) My spouse takes him outside and looks after him (he also works from home.)

If you have children and they are old enough to understand, enforce quiet time. Close the door to your office or the room you're in; if you're working from the kitchen table, put up a sign that says QUIET TIME and let them watch a movie or whatever with headphones on.

Tip 4: Take breaks.

When you're new to working from home, it's often all or nothing. You may be all work and no play or the opposite -- you can't focus on your work and just want to enjoy that book or movie.

Schedule blocks of time for yourself during the day. It's okay to get up and walk around your house or apartment or step outside (keep to the social distancing requirements though!). Make a cup of tea or coffee. Rest your eyes.

It's okay to take care of yourself and not be a slave to your computer.

Tip 5: Stay connected.

Working from home can be lonely. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I looked forward to my weekly choir practice session and church service. It was my time to be around people I liked in a place I love doing things I love. Now, however, I'm at home with my husband, dog, and seven cats. I work alone except for a handful of freelancers and right now, none of them are working on a project with me.

So what do I do? I stay connected with friends, former colleagues, and family. I make it a point to pick up the phone or Skype someone daily. It's a great time to reach out and check on someone especially the elderly and vulnerable.

Make it a point to stay connected. Tips for working from home may include utilizing channels like Skype or Slack to drop quick notes to colleagues, video hours when you can all collaborate or just be there for each other, or phone calls.

Just because you must physically distance yourself from others doesn't mean you need to be emotionally distant, too.

The Bottom Line: This Too Shall End

Just like you, I'm eager to know when this whole thing will end and the world will return to normal. None of us have a crystal ball, so any predictions you read, hear or see about when the "stay at home and don't go into crowded places" rule is relaxed are just guesses.

If you're working from home for the foreseeable future, it will soon feel normal. Not everyone will enjoy it. Some will yearn to return to their daily commute and the structure they once enjoyed. Some people love the socialization of an office; I'm one of them, actually, and often miss working with colleagues I know, like, and trust.

But in the long run, we don't have a choice. To keep others healthy and safe, we must make concessions.

We Are Making Small Sacrifices for a Larger Goal

My dad was a World War II veteran, drafted at age 18 into the Navy. He spent his 19th birthday aboard a Navy communications vessel in the Pacific Ocean, far from his family and friends.

He never complained about the sacrifices he made during wartime and often looked back with pride at what he and the others had accomplished during that time of global crisis.

Someday, we'll look back at the coronavirus outbreak with the same feeling of pride that my dad had for his war contributions. We'll be happy that we contributed to the solution, not the problem. We stayed at home and became telecommuters. It's not much of a sacrifice compared to blood, sweat, and toil of the Greatest Generation during wartime.

But it's something, and it will save lives.

desk with sign saying leadership

Do You Have an Accountability Issue or Another Problem?

"We have an accountability problem!" Craig* fumed as he paced around the office. I sat on the hard-backed metal chair, pad balanced on my knees, pen in hand, ready to take notes on the looming problem that had prompted Craig's call to me.

On the phone, he'd said his team lacked accountability. He wanted me to come in and teach his junior marketing managers a seminar on being accountable.

But how did he define accountability at the agency? And was it really an accountability problem or something else?

Read more

vase with flowers and diary on a table

Why Experience Counts: The Benefits of Hiring Older Workers

Experience counts in the business world. There are tremendous benefits of hiring older workers that many companies leave behind in their quest to be young and hip. If young, hip and millennial doesn't fit your brand, why go for it? Go for talent first in your quest to hire the best.

Read more

Good Management Is An Art

Good management is an art rather than a science., like many websites, offers skill tests. I've taken a few. Some are crazy hard, some aren't what you think they are, and some, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, was just right.

The marketing tets - just right. The SEO test - just right.  But the management skills test? Difficult to say.

The test included multiple choice questions as well as audio clips that you listen to and then choose the correct response. The audio clips were strange. They were supposed to be a manager talking to her team. You're then asking to evaluate her management skills.

Why the Test Is Flawed

My issue with the test is that I believe management is a nuanced skill. No two situations require the same approach. I once had an employee who was chronically late for work and showed up clearly hung over. His tardiness differed from another employee who also showed up late and seemed hung over. Her issue, I later learned, wasn't overindulgence in the party lifestyle but rushing to drop off a cranky child at daycare every day.

Should I have immediately judged both employees similarly? You can't apply the same response to each person. I knew, for example, that Employee B was a single mom. I suspected Employee A had been hitting the bars and dance clubs too often and too hard. But the only facts I had to deal with were 1) they were both showing up for work after 10 a.m. when business hours required them to be at their desk at 9 a.m.

My preferred approach is always to sit privately with someone and ask what's going on. If I've built up enough trust with someone, they will tell me what's going on. In all cases, I try to find a happy medium.

For Employee B, we agreed she could work through her lunch hour to make up the hour she missed. Her job required her to be on location, at the office, but whenever we could allow her to telecommute, we did. It seems clear to me that single parents, male or female, may need a little more flexibility to handle unexpected childcare needs.

For Employee A, after our discussion, he admitted he was having trouble with drugs and alcohol. That was a punch in the gut for me as I cared for him very much as a person and a friend. I'd worked with him for a long time and it was hard to hear him tell me some things. In the end, though, I worked it out with human resources to find him the assistance he needed to get treatment for his addiction problems. It was tough.

Good Management Is an Art

Good management is an art and a learned skill than a science. I've attended management courses throughout the years and all have been helpful, but the most helpful management training I received was direct mentoring from one of the best managers I have ever worked for in my career. He took me under his wing and coached me to be the manager I am today.

I would never say that I'm a perfect manager, by any means. But I successfully manage teams I've never met through remote, telecommuting work, because I ask the right questions, build rapport, and hold people accountable.

These are things that can be difficult to measure in a multiple choice test. But when all is said and done, no two people manage the same way. It's really all about fit with a company's style, culture, and the manager's approach.

Three Leadership Qualities

We often equate leadership qualities today with qualities that are actually antithetical to good leadership. The bluster, brashness, and bragging often associated with leadership point to weakness, not strength, when it comes to leaders.

What makes a leader?

Watching the coverage this week of former President Bush's funeral, I was struck by several things.

President Bush exhibited a gracious approach to life. He understood the power of a simple thank-you. He understood the power of kindness. Not many leaders today, in business or in politics, understand this.

Secondly, his humility impressed me. All of his speeches formed humble pictures, many tributes to others. The elegance and grace of his words spoke to a time when American understood that political stance and divisive behavior moved aside post-election.

Lastly, his ability to connect with others, some of whom were former opponents, clearly spoke of leadership qualities.

I made a video discussing my impressions of these leadership characteristics and how business people may parlay them into qualities for success. Watch it below.


Business Leaders, Take Note

There are several lessons to be learned from this. CEOs and business leaders who understand the power of kindness and a gracious approach to their everyday interactions with their peers and subordinates tend to achieve better results than those who act dictatorially towards their staff.

Research bears this out. A study from the State University of New York at Binghamton demonstrates that leaders with a benevolent style tend to achieve stronger result than those with a dictatorial style. In other words, nice leaders finish first.

Are You Afraid to Be "Too Nice?"

I've heard that so often in my career - leaders saying they put on a mean mask to prevent others from thinking they are 'too nice.' They think that if subordinates view them as nice people, they will be viewed as weak and others take advantage of them.

St. Francis de Sales, a 17th century bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, wrote, "Nothing is as strong as gentleness, and nothing is as gentle as strength." Be gentle, kind and firm, and you will achieve the best results. Consistent guidance, clear communication, and a kind approach to human relationships will always take you further than you anticipate.