Brian E. Thomas is a Healthcare CIO and has worked in the technology and healthcare fields for over 19 years. He is a freelance writer and contributes to this site and others with his industry knowledge and experience.

First Step to Success: Build the Right Team

First Step to Success: Build the Right TeamSuccess doesn't come about overnight or all at once. Like a home, it needs a foundation, brick by brick, to form a stable structure that can support the weight of a business over time. The first building block to success, then, is building the right team. To draw another analogy, just like in sports, recruiting the top people to join your team is of paramount importance. You need a wide range of talents to make up a well-rounded team. You may be looking for attributes like: plays well with others, shares ideas openly in group settings, values transparency and aligns around a shared vision, individuals who bring you opportunities for growth, and down to earth teammates who celebrate victories together in an atmosphere of positivity.

Taking a Look at Yourself

Looking for these qualities and more when considering building your dream team is priority #1. However, before you even think about the types of people you want to work for you, the first step should be to look inward and ask yourself "am I the type of boss people want to work for?". Do you treat people fairly? Do you give your team the tools they need to be empowered and get the job done from within or do you control every aspect of the project? Are you transparent in your expectations? Do you foster a culture that is supportive and positive, or one of competition and rivalry? Do you have your team's best interests at heart? What do you think people say about you when you're not around?

The foundation of exceptional leadership lies in putting the needs of others first, says the Jack Welch Management Institute. You have to fight for the resources your team needs to do its job effectively and efficiently, lobbying for the raises and bonuses that your employees deserve. We're not saying this has to be a culture of "everybody gets a trophy." Rather, what we mean is, those who truly deliver on stellar performance will get rewarded for their efforts. Transparency in the workplace ensures that each teammate knows where he or she stands.

Upgrade Your Team

True leaders relentless upgrade their team, utilizing every encounter as a unique opportunity to coach, evaluate and build up self-confidence, according to Inc. Just like in sports, the team with the best players wins. Their leaders must put the time and energy into what famed business exec Jack Welch calls "people development" -- something that should be honed daily and integrated into all aspects of your interactions. You as the leader have to recognize and acknowledge your team's hard work if you want to encourage peak performance and instill confidence in the very core of your team.

Live and Breathe the Vision

As the owner or manager, you know what the vision of your company is. You invented it, you grew it, you live for it. That's not enough. You also have to make sure the people who work for you not only know that vision as well but live and breathe it every day. Not everyone will buy into this. It takes a special breed of person to truly embrace the goals you've set for yourself and help you realize them. Effective leaders, then, will cast the vision of the future and fuel that passion in the people who work for them. You should constantly be talking about that vision, reinforcing it with rewards in order to light a fire that will help them accomplish even the most difficult of assignments.

Follow Your Gut -- Even if People Hate You for It

People in a position of power -- whether that be the president, a coach or a parent -- can't be friends with everyone all of the time. They are in a position of power to make the tough calls that aren't always popular but that serve the greater good. Leaders will bring the courage to make gut calls, regardless of what team members think. Jack Welch goes on to say in his book Winning that "tough calls spawn complaints and resistance." Your job as a leader is to listen and explain yourself clearly but then start moving forward rather than dwelling.

Clear, sharp, definitive decision making is what you will be judged on as a leader. Because the choices you make will determine the overall success of your organization, it's you who will ultimately have to answer for the success or failure of your company. Transparency, trust and clear vision: if you employ these things, the right team will stand behind you every time.

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Why Face-to-Face Interaction and Communication are so Important

Why Face-to-Face Interaction and Communication are so ImportantA colleague of mine recently shared an experience she had at her doctor's office. When she walked up to the window to check in, the young receptionist motioned with her finger pointing to the iPad on the counter and said, "please check in here," without taking her eyes off her cell phone. My colleague began asking her a couple of questions about the check-in process and the young gal remained fixated on her cell phone without once making eye contact during the verbal exchange.

Today's generation is socially challenged with the constant distraction of electronic devices and social media dominating our everyday lives. Does the convenience and pervasiveness of technology excuse poor basic human behavior? Certainly not. So how can we be more thoughtful and courteous to those around us?

Critical Social Skills Component

Face-to-face communication is an integral piece of the social skills puzzle. It's time to get back to basics with clear and precise communication -- something that has been lost little by little as technology such as smart phones, texting and email have permeated today's society. There's a lot you can glean from looking someone in the eyes, and a lot that can be missed if you don't. There's a personal connection there that you just can't get over the phone, via text or even FaceTime. It's so personal, in fact, that many of today's young people shy away from such an intimate display of human interaction.

Your clothing, hair accessories, posture and gestures can all convey a deep meaning, but it's your eyes that send messages as well, and failure to maintain solid eye contact with an associate, client or boss can prevent you from building critical business relationships, says Inc. Eye contact cues are subtle, to be sure, but they can make all the difference when trying to read the other party's emotions, from approval to disdain to any other emotion on the spectrum that can't be determined from an email.

A business venture or collaboration, such as negotiating a merger or even asking your boss for a raise, can balance precariously on how you handle a face-to-face conversation. You wouldn't ask for that raise with your face in your phone, and you certainly wouldn't negotiate a big business deal or merger over email. That's why the personal connection is crucial for conducting insightful discussions of mutual interest -- something that was just par for the course before the telephone was even invented, points out ToughNickel. The art of conversation has largely been lost, dragging down our social skills in the process.

Tips for Meaningful Face-to-Face Conversations

There are many benefits that come with face-to-face human interaction, resulting in encounters and relationships that can't be achieved remotely. From visual feedback and cultural differences to body language and eye contact, it becomes easy to understand the true value of what another is saying when you meet in person. Not only do face-to-face meetings build stronger, more meaningful business relationships, they allow for better social opportunities to bond with clients and coworkers. In addition, these meetings boost the ability to read body language and facial expressions as well as interpret nonverbal communication signals, says the Houston Chronicle. Recent studies have shown that face-to-face communication is optimal when it comes to persuasion, leadership, engagement, inspiration, decision-making, accountability and reaching a consensus.

If you have been finding that your face-to-face interaction skills are starting to erode, here are some ways you can make the most of your in-person meetings:

  • Pay attention to visual feedback.
  • Listen to what's being said and ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • If you are the one speaking, pay attention to body language that might indicate disinterest or confusion.
  • If you sense disinterest or confusion, respond to those visual cues by switching gears, or giving the other person the floor.

Just like any muscle, these skills take practice. From sales to customer service to board room meetings, face-to-face communication is vital in keeping the pulse of human interaction pumping. Let's not lose sight of what's truly important in business and in personal relationships as well: communication and connection. That's what drives progress and success, something that can't be achieved when hiding behind a phone.

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Investing in The Next Generation of Leaders: The Importance of Mentorship

Investing in The Next Generation of Leaders: The Importance of MentorshipNot everyone can -- or should -- jump into their career headlong without a plan of where they're going. This is particularly true in today's competitive workplace climate. Mentorships can bridge that gap between emerging into a new career and becoming a successful leader in that field. In fact, research shows that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects within personal, academic, and professional situations, ultimately connecting them to personal growth and development, as well as social and economic opportunities, according to the National Mentoring Partnership.

Investing in the next generation of leaders depends exponentially on the guidance of a mentor. All the book smarts straight out of college can't prepare graduates with the nitty gritty, on-your-feet-all-day, in-the-trenches work that makes up a CIO's day. As a critical thinking, people-centric, quick learning, impeccably organized and determined professional, you know yourself just how many years it took you to get where you are now. Couldn't you have used a mentor yourself? Someone to guide you, cut through the clutter, and offer insight that no college lecture hall can really provide?

The workforce is expanding in droves. More than one in three American workers today are Millennials, recently surpassing Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, says the Pew Research Center. Many of them are getting jobs in leadership positions, or at least poised to inherit them in the near future, leaving a real need for practical experience that can only be gleaned by forming a bond with a seasoned professional.

Defining a Mentorship

In a nutshell, a mentor is a more experienced, usually older, professional in a given field who offers younger, less experienced employees career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point of view. Taking part in a mentorship not only enhances your professional capabilities, you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, and -- if you're lucky -- end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner, points out Forbes.

It doesn't have to be the standard model either. A mentorship could involve a younger person guiding an older person who decided to make a career change late in life. Whatever the mentor-mentee relationship looks like, at its heart, it's based on one person who's “been there, done that” showing a fresh-faced up-and-comer what the real deal is.

As human beings, we're constantly evolving and learning. Even the most experienced leader doesn't know all there is to know about the business they're in. A mentor can provide valuable insight to bring about perspective, positive change and awareness.

A Committed Partnership

Just remember: mentorship is nothing to take lightly. Don't offer your services to someone who isn't firmly committed, and don't accept a mentorship from someone else if you're not willing to put in the work. This is a true team effort requiring strong commitment from both parties, says Forbes. The lessons, connections, and opportunities that mentors provide offer exponential benefits -- when both parties are receptive to the opportunity.

Taking this path to success involves the ability to recognize and embrace major accelerators in your career. The benefits to mentees are clear. But what about mentors? What's in it for them? You can look at it from the perspective of leaving a legacy, passing down wisdom from one generation to the next. Mentors have the power to make a powerful impact not just within a company and the industry but for future leaders as well.

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Playing For Keeps: Building a Winning Culture

Playing For Keeps: Building a Winning CultureWhat does it mean to be "winning"? Does it mean you're successful every step of the way? Does it mean you make the most money over your competitors? Not really, at least not necessarily. Fostering workplace culture that is considered "winning" goes much further than your bottom line. It has more to do with developing and nurturing an environment that is conducive to forward-thinking, a successful mindset and a deep-down belief that you're all in this together. If you can bring people who work for you together rather than segment them, you're taking a solid first step.

Think about Google, JetBlue, Facebook, Apple, Disney...these are all companies that are well known for their coveted corporate cultures. Sure, they're wildly successful, but there's a really good reason, and that reason has everything to do with employees and customers that truly love those companies. Eighty-one percent of business leaders say a company lacking a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity, with fewer than 10 percent of businesses succeeding in building an empire, according to Entrepreneur.

Importance of Culture

So, why is culture so important? It will set the stage for everything you do from here on out. If you're a startup, you may feel a bit intimidated and even terrified of this statement. But it's true: from your hires to the way you run your daily operations, you have opportunity upon opportunity to set yourself apart from all the rest. How you treat your customers, for example, is a big chunk of that. Another big chunk? Your leadership. Leadership is about what you do rather than what you say, with a healthy company culture emerging as a direct result of a leader who understands how important company culture is to the sustained growth of the organization, points out Forbes. So, whether you run a startup out of your garage or you're the CIO of a big technology company, get back to your roots and build a positive workplace culture right in. You can't survive and thrive without it.

Tips to Fostering the Culture You Want

It doesn't happen overnight, but there are ways you can integrate a positive workplace culture from the get-go. Here are some tips:

Learn from mistakes: Not just yours, but other organizations around you. Take those lessons, internalize them, learn from them, and know what it takes to cultivate success.

Align your culture with your core values: Who are you? What is your business all about? Whether philanthropic in nature or customer-focused, infuse your passion into the workplace to encourage creativity, collaboration, work hard/play hard mindset: whatever it is that drives you forward every day, foster that passion in everyone who works for you. Your brand will follow you everywhere. Make sure it aligns with your core values.

Insist on open communication: The ability to build honesty among your staff is built on communication. Talking with each other is key. Encourage your staff to come to you with concerns, and address those concerns quickly. Make sure everyone knows their opinions are valued.

Have some fun: From craft beer Fridays to company outings to team building exercises like rock climbing or wine tastings, there are many ways you can join your staff together in a common interest and let off steam at the same time. Connecting on a level that doesn't involve work always brings people closer together.

Be a community of believers: If your employees don't believe inherently in what you do or sell, they can't fully back it. Place a big emphasis on internal communication and orientation, and you'll see results. Sustaining a positive work atmosphere means you have to show your employees why the brand they're promoting is so great.

Work together: Building a sense of community begins and ends with a solid team. Rather than segregating departments of units, promote unity through all levels of your company, from founders to management to executives.

Grow your culture: This isn't a "set it and forget it" job. Fostering a company culture that will survive takes continual effort. Like a lawn without water, your culture will die a slow death if you neglect it. Give your organization the freedom it needs to thrive and evolve. Remember, you will see fluctuations as it grows. This is normal and expected.

Whether you're the genius behind a cool startup, or you're the new CIO of a long-established company in need of a change of vision, you have the power to establish a winning culture people want to be a part of.

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One Key to Your Success: Build Team Camaraderie

One Key to Your Success: Build Team CamaraderieHaving a cohesive unit in the workplace ensures team camaraderie and, ultimately, success on any project you may take on. "It takes a village" isn't just a saying that applies to raising children. It also applies in the workplace, on every level of management. As the CIO, it's your job to build, encourage and foster that camaraderie so that it infiltrates every sector of your team. That's how goals are met, marathons won, and deals made. It's about more than the end game, though. It's more important to have a cohesive team working in unison like a well-oiled machine through every stage in the process. When a team is disjointed, any bump in the road could derail the train. When acting in unison, a team can weather any storm.

According to LinkedIn, employees who work in an environment marked by friendship and laughter will be more creative and less stressed, which equals higher productivity and increased innovation. In addition to that, collaboration in pursuit of a common goal bridges gaps and makes people feel more connected to one another.

So, how can you go about building team camaraderie?

Address conflict head on: Most people think that if they can just avoid conflict and keep the peace with other members of the group, they can avoid those uncomfortable disagreements that can damage a team. However, just the opposite is true. Conflict that's not resolved properly will fester over time, causing far more damage to the team than if it were discussed head on earlier.

Respect the differences of your team: Everyone brings something unique to the team dynamic. Not everyone will be good at leading a meeting, and not everyone will be good at strategizing. The important thing is that every team member brings his own strengths to the table. As the CIO, it's important for you to recognize the value each person walks into that conference room with. When you value a team member for his strengths rather than weaknesses, this bolsters the strengths of everyone else in the room.

Let each team member own their portion of the project: Every project, group and team needs a leader, that's a fact. However, when that leader tries to own every aspect of the goal and has trouble trusting others or delegating tasks, the rest of the team feels under-valued, under-appreciated, and under-utilized. Delegating properly means you are giving a piece of the project away to each team member, entrusting them to follow through and own that portion of the responsibility. Your team members will then feel like they're integral to the outcome, rather than just a cog in the machine.

Involve the team in something other than work: Team building begins with people, and when you foster that basic desire to learn about one another and motivate one another, you can expect much better results when it comes time to actually work. Forget the competitions that pit employee against employee to achieve the highest sales for the month. One way to do that is to involve your team in some kind of office goal, such as a health or fitness plan. Give each member of the team a step tracker and reward the person with the most steps taken each month. A simple goal...a clear objective...a healthy way to encourage team work...often this is the ice breaker that allows you to bring your group together.

Break out of the norm: Teachers do it all the time when their kids need to get out of the classroom setting and into an adaptive and interactive learning experience: they take a field trip. Your team needs a break too. You don't always have to hold stifled meetings in the board room. Take them out for coffee, treat them to lunch, or suggest a casual meeting outside on a nice day under a shady tree. Sometimes a change of scenery can go a long way toward re-charging everyone's batteries, inspiring a new line of thinking, or sparking a creative idea.

Celebrate successes: Just like winning a race you've been working hard for with a few of your peers, sharing team successes on a project that benefits the company is just as important. Foster this sense of connection and commitment between peers after facing a common challenge, working together to achieve success, and coming out on top. Sharing those stories and recounting how everyone overcame obstacles to achieve the desired result is a huge boost to morale.

In the end, it's all about bringing positivity to the team and fostering an environment of open collaboration, says the Harvard Business Review.  As CIO, you can achieve that by:

  • Maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  • Supporting one another.
  • Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
  • Inspiring each other's work.
  • Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the team's work.
  • Treating everyone with respect, gratitude, integrity and trust.

Remember: it doesn't matter how smart, talented or driven you are, says Inc.com, your organization's success ultimately rests with your ability to build, nurture and inspire a great team.

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Why Artificial Intelligence is Important in Healthcare

Why Artificial Intelligence is Important in HealthcareWe know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic right now, yet on the flip side there has been criticism around its hype, especially at HIMSS17 this year. However, we need to continue to invest into AI Research and Development so we can maximize the benefits, such as lower healthcare costs, improved provider efficiency, more accurate billing, and safer patient care.

It's unlikely that robots and computers will totally take the place of doctors and nurses, but AI can't be ignored in its efforts to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Not only does it predict outcomes and improve diagnostics, it changes the way healthcare providers think about how they provide care, says Forbes. The future possibilities are endless: industry analysts say that 30 percent of providers will use cognitive analytics with patient data by 2018.

Access to big data is essential. Think about how we grew up with the Dewey Decimal system. A trip to the library could take hours as we pored through the stacks trying to find what we wanted. Today, our kids are astonished that we didn't have Google at our fingertips to learn anything we wanted to know. With the advent of AI quickly taking over the horizon, our kids' kids will be the ones shocked that all their parents had to learn information was a simple computer and search engine. Just like that, the future takes hold even when we can't comprehend the next step.


The Reach of AI

There are many ways artificial intelligence is predicted to impact the field of healthcare. Personalized medicine is one major benefit. AI is part of a far-reaching, continually growing, adaptive connected digital infrastructure. However, access is limited because there is just so much information out there. With the help of AI, it will become easier than ever to process, analyze and bring up research, publications, studies and more than can put accurate, timely information into the hands of the user. Healthcare providers now have the ability to use this information as a tool to compare, compile and analyze patient files in order to come up with an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to quick access, precision is a critical piece of the puzzle as well. Because AI has the ability to tap into huge databases that contain information on anything from symptoms and analysis results to family history and similar diagnoses of other patients around the world. The evolution of pathology and possible treatments has suddenly been made precise. While AI can't prevent all errors -- at least not yet anyway -- it can drastically reduce them. This in turn will reduce operating room mix-ups, mis-diagnoses, and more.

That leads us to the next important component of artificial intelligence: prevention. With the focus being on preventive and predictive medicine, it's possible with AI to avoid injury and disease altogether.

The value of virtual assistants has already been explored and used within other industries, such as SEM and retail. The goal there is to put more power in the hands of the consumer. Why not empower patients in the same way?

Understandably, advances in big data and AI pose ethical debates, especially within the healthcare sector (think personnel shortages, legal responsibilities, privacy issues, potential misuse of the system, etc.). However, there are so many more benefits that can revolutionize the way we practice medicine, treat patients, and indeed view our entire medical future.

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Ensuring Success in Your Self-Service Strategy

Ensuring Success in Your Self-Service StrategyIt's ironic that the more ways to contact a company these days, from social media and phone to email and web, the less people actually want to interact. Most consumers actually prefer relying on a company's website to get the information they need. According to Forrester, 72% of online consumers would rather use a company's web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email, and about half this number strongly prefers self-reliance. Knowing that more research supports the fact that people would rather help themselves than call a company for support means you have to deliver top-notch self-service in order to ensure success of your business.

What does this entail? Essentially, you have to put all your information where your consumers can easily view and access it. Sounds easy, right? Well, it's a little more complicated than that.


Steps to Fostering Self-Reliance

First off, you have to gather all your information into one place. This could be anything from an FAQ page to a knowledge base to a support center offering interactive and multi-media resources. The one you choose will depend, of course, on your existing knowledge base, your own staffing resources, your budget and your web presence. That's actually the easy part. The difficult part comes when you realize you have to make that information center user-friendly. That starts with a clear plan of attack.

Here are some tips to getting there.

  • Step into your customers' shoes. Think about their pain points, what challenges they face, what they struggle with, and what they think about your product or service. Then, you can start to utilize that information to formulate a structure to your content and prioritize each piece.

  • Make it consistent. Consistency across content types is important because it gives your customers a clear way to navigate the knowledge base and find out what they need to know -- fast. You risk losing potential clients if you make them search for information for precious minutes on end.

  • Include a search tool. Make it big and make it prominent, preferably on the home page of your knowledge base, so that your customers don't have to waste time sifting through information.

  • Use tools like Google Analytics to gather data that illustrates what your customers want. This way, you can gain invaluable insight into the needs of consumers and build a collection of articles and other resources that meet those needs. With the right tools, it's easy to track things like unique visitors, session length, number of visits, number of page views, etc. and use the results to your advantage.

It's important to recognize that there is a time and place for interaction on the phone. Sometimes there are issues that consumers simply can't resolve on their own. Perhaps they have a complicated question about a service, product or experience, or maybe they need to be reassured that an item will be shipped because they're facing a crazy tight deadline. Whatever the case, increasing your self-service resources for your consumers doesn't mean replacing telephone and other types of customer service. Entrepreneur points out that customers want to be able to quickly and easily connect with a human being to bring a fast resolution to their problem if need be. This is why you should always have a "guardian of the transaction" watching over the encounter in order to provide additional customer service to round out the experience.

Improved self-service, virtual agents, live chats, and more can all contribute to the overall satisfaction of your customers. However you achieve it, the bottom line is that your business experiences success, and self-service is one solid route to get there.

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How Leaders Maintain Confidence During Uncertainty

How Leaders Maintain Confidence During UncertaintyAgility...patience...poise...unwavering strength...these are all qualities displayed by true leaders in times of uncertainty. There are many things that can contribute to uncertainty, from increased marketplace demands to competitive factors. Leaders must display confidence to minimize the impact of uncertainty; indeed, how leaders respond to growing pressures directly speaks to their leadership preparedness, maturity and acumen, according to Forbes.

This composure can be seen not just in what leaders say but how they carry themselves. From attitude to body language, leadership in its most basic form is all about making colleagues feel safe and secure and not just about helping them increase their performance and effectiveness. Employees are sick of running on empty, trying to get ahead just to survive the jungle that is the workplace. They want to know they have a place in that workplace with a leader who will ensure their job security in tumultuous times. No one can do their best job during the day when they're constantly looking over their shoulders and fearing for their jobs.


Avoiding Crisis Mode

Too many CIOs and other leaders are thrown for a loop when difficult situations are presented to them. While they may have all the credentials and experience in the world, some simply can't handle the pressure of maintaining composure during times of crisis and change. This leads to ineffective leadership because those individuals can't adapt to the unexpected. A true leader can stand above the chaos, see it as a chance for opportunity, maintain composure, and overcome that adversity. They can see beyond the present, institute change, and see it through to the other side. Instead of panic, there is calm.


This doesn't mean the leader is a push-over. This doesn't mean he or she is lacking in temerity, steadfastness and grit. It means the leader pushes through the noise, sees it for what it is, and institutes a clear objective without backing down. There's no doubt that uncertain times can test the mettle of even the strongest of companies. This is precisely when solid leaders must act in a decisive manner, setting an example that all can follow with confidence.

 

Tips for the Confident Leader

1. Keep emotions at bay: Wearing your heart on your sleeve may be good in love and romance, but it has no place at work in positions of leadership. Good leaders don't let their emotions get the best of them; they don't yell, panic, stress out, or cast blame. They keep their feelings in check, push through and channel that passion into a positive outlet of energy: solving the problem at hand quickly and efficiently. Expending all that emotional energy wastes opportunity and only tires you out for the real task.

2. Don't get defensive: It's natural for people to take things personally in the work place when things don't go their way, assuming the unfair reality of office politics is the culprit. But while office politics does exist, the true leader doesn't take a defensive stance; rather he takes a proactive stance. It's a simple reality that business decisions won't always go your way. That's part of living in a society. How you maintain composure and move on during those times of seeming unfairness will make all the difference. We all know people in our professional and personal lives who figuratively stomp their feet and say "that's not fair!" every time they don't get their way. Strong leaders don't waste time on taking things personally.

3. Stay fearless. Showing vulnerability or uncertainty is catching -- just like a cold. Rather than infect your staff with fear, take a fearless leader approach and project a sense of calm under pressure. The projection of confidence helps you to act rationally, objectively, and fearlessly. And -- also like a cold -- that fearless attitude is catching among your staff. Having the confidence to step up to challenges without wavering will put a positive spin on those challenges and allow you to work through them with a clear head.

Maintaining confidence in your position of leadership is imperative in showing your colleagues and employees the right path.

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Finding True Digital Transformation

Finding True Digital TransformationDigital transformation in the business world refers to the efforts of companies to keep up with changing environments spurred on by customer demand and technology. Because digital tools and technology are constantly evolving and affecting how people interact with one another, this in turn changes the way in which we conduct business. How you transform your core business processes using digital technology will determine how you can achieve competitive advantage and gain differentiation in your market segment, says Techopedia. It's essentially the third component of how businesses embrace digital technology, following digital competence and digital usage. With an ability to bring on new elements of innovation and creativity, digital transformation goes beyond enhancing and supporting traditional strategies.

What Spurs Change?

On the quest to find true digital transformation, one must understand the drivers that affect this change, namely profitability, customer satisfaction, and increased speed-to-market. There's a general understand that CIOs should be the driving forces implementing this transformation for their businesses, but is this really happening? In reality, it doesn't seem to be that cut and dried. In fact, digital transformation has many motivations and is the responsibility of many people, from top executives to lower-level employees, says CMS Wire.

According to research presented by MediaPost, poor customer experiences caused an estimated $83 billion loss by U.S. companies every year due to defections and abandoned shopping carts. With so many options these days offered by cloud, mobile, Internet of Things, and others, it's easy to lose sight of quality of the data in favor or hyper personalization.

So the question remains: how can companies find true digital transformation with leadership from their CIOs?

Insights

Companies that can harness the power of true digital transformation will enjoy the fruits of their labor by being at the top of the heap in terms of competitive advantage and differentiation. That's what we're all striving for anyway, right? Here are some suggestions:

Have a real strategy ready to go. If you're still grappling with how to come up with an operational plan that works for your website and social media platforms, you're not going to get very far. Approach this goal not operationally but strategically, focusing on how your organization will be impacted by digital or how you can channel those new capabilities to broaden your overall business strategy. Lisa Welchman as quoted on CMS Wire says companies that have been disrupted by digital have become that way --  not because they didn't have a CIO in charge of the transformation -- but because they lost that 360-degree view of how digital would impact their digital models.

Recognize the full value of all digital assets throughout your company. CIOs all too often get into a file-centric mindset that puts them in a rut they can't quite get out of. Instead, use flexible data models that will work to engage new streams of revenue in order to encourage innovation. This will go a long way towards creating important digital transformations such as attracting new clients or driving new sources of revenue.

Focus on the customer as central to your success in the digital age. As the CIO, you have to re-examine your thinking and accelerate your reach via the enhancement of the customer experience. Crafting a solid foundation on which to illustrate this transformation is key for longevity of purpose. As such, you must re-evaluate traditional roles and make sure you are incorporating the best talent and infrastructure to build a platform for your new targeted strategies.

Imaginative thinking, coupled with just the right amount of spot-on execution, will be the catalyst for true digital transformation.

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Wearables and Your Health: Where Do They Intersect?

Wearables and Your Health: Where Do They Intersect?Both sides of the health technology debate

Last week, we talked about what to watch for in the way of wearable technology this year. Now we'll discuss how this innovative form of technology can be used to promote a healthier population. We all know that health insurance payers give out incentives to providers for healthy patients; to obtain these incentives, healthcare providers must gather more data, communicate more effectively with their patients, and get them engaged in managing their own health. Why not use technology to automatically gather this data and send it back to the patient's medical record? This method ensures accuracy, efficiency, timeliness, and accountability -- things that can be sorely lacking in today's healthcare management system.

The use of wearables, once a practice driven solely by individuals hopping on the "cool" factor of a FitBit, is now moving into the realm of employer- driven incentive as part of their health and wellness programs. Research has calculated a clear ROI on those who use wearables vs. those who do not. In fact, as part of a study conducted by Springbuk, employees using wearable technology cost $1,000 less on average for a company than those who didn't. 

Undoubtedly, wearables are ideal for tracking and monitoring ongoing health and daily fitness activities. In fact, many companies are already boasting they can achieve this (you may have heard about Apple's recent announcement of a patent for a device that can gather and process electrocardiographic measurements; or perhaps you've heard of wearable pregnancy trackers). Wearable devices, along with mobile health apps, have made health data collection extremely convenient because they integrate with patients’ daily activities and reflect that activity in a quantifiable way. The information that can be collected from patients can play a critical role in how the world of medical advancement will look in the future, with wearables allowing both patients and care givers to measure a variety of indicators and generate feedback on anything from everyday health to specific markers for disease.

This can also aid in medical research; in effect, future generations can benefit from information gathered directly from users today. Healthcare professionals can gain insight into how diseases progress, which treatments are effective, how symptoms improve with certain treatments, etc. The availability and capability of the data that can be collected is mind numbing if you stop to think about it all.

Bridging the Gap

However, just because the technology is here doesn't mean there aren't other issues or obstacles that can stonewall the real-world integration of these technologies to the Electronic Health Record, such as:

  • Device weight
  • Cost
  • Security issues
  • Privacy concerns
  • Validity
  • Reliability
  • Regulations
  • Vendor bureaucracy

In addition to all that, there are ethical, legal, and social implications that make many healthcare professionals a bit reluctant to welcome wearable data into the electronic medical record, points out Forbes. Of course, there is always the possibility that a physician could be sued, for example, if a patient's exercise pattern changed over time and the doctor failed to address it. Other concerns doctors may have include: How accurate is the wearable on any given day? What if there is a malfunction? What will each doctor do with the mountains of health information received? Is there a quantifiable way to document it all and make sense of it? Will this add to a workload that is already over stressed?

As you can see, many things still stand in the way of achieving a seamless connection between wearables and integration into patient records. It's starting, though. With 274 million wearable electronic devices sold worldwide in 2016 alone, there's no stopping the evolution of a simple fitness tracker into something much more helpful and potentially life saving. Novant Health, for instance, led the way in 2015 when it introduced its electronic patient portal, MyChart, so patients could share data from their fitness tracker with their doctors. This form of patient engagement represents the future of wearable technology integration.


Bringing Wearables into the Main Stream Health Community

With so many questions as to the security, accuracy and regulation of wearable technology and patient records, is it possible to develop standards for what data can be used and validated? Yes. The technology is there, it just has to be paired with policies that will protect patients' rights. Once this happens, though, we can make wearables mainstream to help improve our populations' chronic diseases. Looking ahead to what's on the horizon, it's certainly possible that such wearables can take this all one step further and alert or prevent the consumer from making unhealthy choices during the day. Hey, if Amazon and Maytag can automatically tell you when you are low on a product or an appliance needs service, certainly we can make this commonplace with our wearables!

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Why Wearables Are Important and What To Expect

Why Wearables Are Important and What To ExpectFitbits...Jawbones...Garmin... these are all examples of wearables designed to track our health and activity levels, as well as alert and remind us to do stuff. From smart watches to smart glasses, wearable technology makes up a burgeoning market today: that of IoT (Internet of Things) personal devices. You wear these devices on your body -- most notably your wrist -- to get up to the second updates on everything to do with your health, from heart rate to steps taken.

Wearables represent a critical transformation in the world of technology that is breaking through the barriers of simple computer screens and utilizing technology that you can put on in the morning when you're getting dressed. No cumbersome laptops, no annoying connections to charging cords, and best of all -- they're light weight -- not much heavier than a normal watch. These devices are part of a large money-making opportunity for technology companies, with the sale of wearables slated to increase from 275 million units in 2016 to 477 million units in 2020 -- a $61.7 billion revenue opportunity, according to Gartner.

What to Expect in 2017/2018

There are many new types of wearables on the horizon for 2017, ranging from biometric authentication and mobile health monitoring to virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart coaching. Here are just a few more examples of what's coming to store shelves in the next two years:

  • Energy-boosting using harvesting
  • Embedded security
  • Conformal electronics
  • Virtual and augmented reality
  • Accurate motion recognition
  • Wearable processors

 

What Types of Technology to Look For

Because this is such a competitive market, technology providers are looking for ways to stand out. There are many ways they can achieve that in order to boost the user experience and make the most impact in a business sense. One area is in battery life. Right now, this is a concern among wearables users. If battery life can be extended to ensure the user has a superior, hassle-free experience, this could be a game changer in the IoT arena. Another area of improvement is security. With data breaches in the news nearly every day, security is understandably a big concern for users. Decreasing the possibility for confidential data exposure is something many technology provides are implementing in their new devices.

Of course, improvements on design are always an area of focus. Smart watches are the most popular form of wearables right now, but the intention is to move into less obvious forms such as bio patches and electronic skin. As mentioned above, the ability to immerse the user in the technology through augmented reality and virtual reality will also be an important factor. Hand in hand with that is the ability to incorporate object and movement tracking in an effort to boost sensor accuracy.

As they seek firmer footing in a changing marketplace, today's technology providers will push for smaller sizes, more lightweight solutions, less conspicuous construction, and more advanced designs. 

 

Next Up...

Stay tuned for the next blog where we explore why wearables aren't just good for individuals: they're also sought after by employers. Research shows a return on investment by companies promoting the use of wearables as part of their health and wellness programs.

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Leadership Endures: CEOs Come and Go

Leadership Endures: CEOs Come and GoThe CEO of a company has historically been the driving force in overall strategy and vision. Same goes for all types of leadership, from CIOs to CFOs...all play an important role in advancing a company forward. The key here is "forward." While the person in this position is important for a particular point in time, this role is static -- a snapshot, if you will, of an organization's success or failure at a fixed point in time. What's most important is enduring business performance that stems from leadership culture as well as deliberate, well-thought-out development of leadership at every level.

No one's doubting the CEO's role. However, research shows that the level of a particular company's maturity in their leadership development has a far greater influence on their long-term performance than anything else, including individuals who fill the role of CEO, CFO or even CIO. So how do strong companies with an eye on the future choose CIOs, not just for their individual skill sets, but who will advance the company culture of success to endure in the future long after they're gone?

  • They link leadership strategy to business strategy.
  • They make sure their leaders are aligned, coached, and trained in the company vision.
  • They build leadership development programs and select professionals based on their ability to drive the company's strategy.
  • They incorporate leadership qualities into the corporate culture at all levels: managers, supervisors, etc.
  • They develop leaders from the bottom up.
  • They invest a lot of money in leadership development through training, seminars and workshops.
  • They create their own unique leadership model based on research, rather than hire a consultant or adopt an existing model.

Leadership that endures is built right into the very core of a company. That way, when a CEO leaves and a new one takes over, the strategy is already lined up, waiting for continued implementation. Of course, every leader brings his or her own unique spins to the strategy, but the bones should be solid and built to last the test of time. CEOs are there to adopt the leadership culture, make changes as needed, and weed out areas of complacency. Their job is to be the catalyst behind a culture of working as one to perpetuate the goals of the organization. That means fostering teamwork and holding people accountable no matter which level they happen to be at.


Leadership and Technology 

Technology is one important sub-set of a company's success. Without proper management across the board and over time, it can be difficult to drive effective change that lasts. When it comes specifically to CIO leadership as it pertains to technology to drive a company forward, the same principle applies. Strategies that ensure enduring long-term performance despite who's sitting in the CIO seat include:

  • Clear definitions of requirements
  • Consultation with all team members on goals
  • Creation of specific and measurable goals
  • Regular tracking of progress

CIO recommends using the SMART acronym when setting goals for the long term designed to transcend individual leaders:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound


Creating a Culture of Endurance

In short, the success or failure of a company has more to do with strategy and vision for its long-term success than the individual. Clearly, there are innovative CEOs that propel a company to greatness, and then there are some very bad CEOs that damage that vision and set back the corporate culture; some companies bounce back from that and some don't. The key is to establish a leadership strategy that can stay the course throughout the decades and that can weather any storm that may blow in.

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Population Health vs. Public Health: The rising significance of Population Health

Population HealthAmidst growing concern over the health of the population as a whole, a shift is underway to focus less on individual care and more on managing the population's health. First, let's define what population health is. The term population health first emerged in 2003 after David Kindig and Greg Stoddart defined it as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group,” according to HealthcareITNews. Population health refers to the health incomes of a group of individuals, which can be divided not only according to geographic ties such as communities and countries, but also on a smaller scale as well, such as employees, prisoners, disabled people, and ethnic groups.

Policy makers are looking to the importance of the population's overall health as it regards to the distribution of health. Let's put it this way: marks for overall health could be very high IF most of the population is healthy, which underscores the fact that a small minority is less healthy in an effort to drastically reduce that gap. Many factors can influence health, from an individual's behavior and genetics to social and physical environments. Medical care systems also play a large role. Population health outcomes rely on the impacts of these factors as a whole.

Now what about public health? This is defined as the efforts of state and local public health departments to treat individual health through prevention of epidemics, the containment of environmental hazards and the encouragement of healthy behaviors. Public health encompasses what we do as a society to assure people in that society can be healthy. However, a gap exists here that does not account for major population health determinants like health care, education, and income, which are traditionally outside the scope of public health authority and responsibility, says Improving Population Health.

Problem is, with the traditional model, the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group, are largely ignored. That's where population health comes in, to focus on the interrelated conditions influencing health populations over the course of lifetimes where systematic variations and patterns are taken into account in order to create policies that improve the well-being of populations over time.

That being said, there is certainly an overlap of sorts where population health and public health meet in the middle, combining forces of population health activities within general practices, public health activities with the community, and leadership efforts in policy development. The goal of population health is to broaden the responsibility of policy makers to think outside the box rather than simply focus on a single sector or for advocacy groups to single out a specific disease. With the average American living much longer thanks to improved health care and healthy awareness initiatives, it becomes more important than ever to identify population health trends that will ensure the well being of large groups of people across various demographic, social and community ties.

A fundamental shift in our way of thinking about healthcare is underway -- not just in who it affects but how it is delivered as well. The traditional healthcare model is slowly but surely giving way toward a different way of thinking, a different way of approaching population trends that are transforming the world in major ways. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says it best: a focus on population health can help us improve the biomedical, economic, and behavioral issues that affect the universal human experience.

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Bringing Back the Art of Customer Service

Customer ServiceSome say customer service has gone the way of the do-do bird. For many it's a lost concept, something that's been buried over time in favor of the bottom line. But it says it all right there in the title: customer service. It means serving the customer, but it should mean so much more than that. As the leader of your company, you may have your neck on the line when it comes to cold hard profits. After all, you have a boss to answer to and he has a boss to answer to, and so on. Healthy positive earnings are rewarded, not necessarily the customer experience.


While you may have a fancy website, chat features, or even a robust e-commerce store, there's so much more sandwiched in between the lines when it comes to truly understanding what "customer service" means. No, it hasn't gone extinct, but it may be on the endangered species list. Something's missing, that extra service with a smile, offering convenience to clients, going the extra mile to ensure someone is happy with their experience...that's where so many companies fall short these days. It's time to bring back the art of customer service.

At the Heart of It...
You can have the most streamlined services in the world or the best product...you can have the best CEOs in charge of your company or top of the line leadership teams converging in the conference room once a day to come up with innovative ideas. But customer service doesn't happen in the boardroom or on a memo. It happens out there, with the people who are buying into your products and services. Customer service is more than just a phone number, more than specials and coupons. At the heart of customer service? People who care about the end result. Period. Who's there to pick up the phone? Who's there to solve a problem? Are there live people your clients and customers can speak to about an issue or do they get bounced around a virtual black hole until they're finally dumped off to someone who doesn't necessarily know how to help?


Just think about the quality of customer service in your personal life. Feeling valued is what makes people connect with a company. If you can't achieve that, you won't see repeat customers. Before you go thinking that a healthy bottom line means you automatically have great customer service, think again. Some of the wealthiest companies in the world have sub-par customer service, but this doesn't necessarily make them great from a customer perspective.


A Simple Principle
It's a simple principle: happy people come back to you, while unhappy people go elsewhere. Worse than that, they tell anyone who will listen about their awful experience. In fact, the Houston Chronicle says those who have bad customer service experiences tell between nine and 20 people, while people who have a good experience only tell between two and three people. Can you afford those kinds of repercussions?

Do one thing and do it right: make the customer feel they matter and that's half the battle. Following through on that is also important, but that's a story for another day.

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Implementing a Successful Organizational Transformation

Business TransformationNo one always likes change, but change is a necessary catalyst to improve the fundamentals of any organization. Transformation requires strong, authentic leadership in order to be successful; if not, failure is a very real possibility. CIO says that in many transformation programs, sufficient checks and balances exist so that failure does not readily occur; however, if not managed well, transformation programs can be delivered late, over-budget and far off the track of the original vision. Statistics show that less than 40 percent of transformation programs are successful, due to a disconnect that exists in the goals of such programs and the reality of resources that can be devoted to it (time, money, personnel, etc.).

That's where the implementation of a Transformation Management Office (TMO) comes in. Someone has to be at the helm of the operation who not only recognizes the inherent challenges that come with implementing enterprise transformation and the work that must be done to achieve it, but who also can guarantee streamlined, spot-on execution at just the right pace with all eyes on the finish line. Combining strategy with clear-cut goals for implementation is critical for the TMO.


What Does a TMO Do?
This part of an organization is the crux of any successful transformation, with the central duty being to implement the complex task of adding value and accountability to the process. In general, the TMO will:

  • Lead the charge in coming up with creative, workable ideas designed to fuel the transformation effort and ensure it has the steam to move forward.
  • Offer a simple yet detailed approach to the process so executives and other key personnel can take those ideas and run with them.
  • Analyze how the transformation will take place and align with corporate vision.
  • Ensure the program has clear objectives.
  • Utilizes a streamlined operating model where efficiency and cost effectiveness take center stage.

The bottom line is, organizational transformation is disruptive. It's uncomfortable for many, and it takes time. That's why a TMO must be brought on board to concentrate on the specific tasks involved in orchestrating this endeavor, following it through to its completion despite such roadblocks. Putting this task on front-line staff and executives too entrenched in the organization already is a recipe for disaster. This is why a traditional project management office (PMO) is not a good choice to lead such an initiative. They deal with administration and compliance on a regular basis, and therefore would not be a good fit for the challenges that are part and parcel of a large transformation initiative.

The difference between success and failure of an organizational transformation often comes down to action. Your TMO needs to walk a fine line between strategy and clear objectives on one side but also implementation and action on the other. Anyone can sit in a board room and contemplate goals. It takes a strong leadership team to take those talking points and apply them in a value-driven way for success. Which side of the line will you be on?

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How to Run an Effective Meeting

Run Effective MeetingWe've all been there: showed up to a meeting at work at the suggested time, only to be met with the blank stares of a few other employees waiting around a table with some stale doughnuts in the center. The boss shows up five minutes late in a tizzy with his coffee and a bunch of loose papers. He talks at you, you listen and don't ad anything because you just want to get out of there, the meeting convenes and everyone goes on his or her way. Sound productive? Nope.


Sadly, though, this is an all-too-real example of how meetings go in the workplace. Mandatory meetings that no one wants to attend or participate in can be very draining not only on the employees but on the boss as well. Such meetings take away from real productivity, interrupting thought processes and causing a gap in the day that could otherwise be spent better solo. However, when meetings have real purpose and are handle effectively, the results can be positive, engaging and worthwhile.


So, as the leader or meeting organizer, how can you run a more effective meeting that everyone will show up to, ready to listen and participate? In general, it's a good idea to prepare a standard agenda template to help people come prepared, stay on task, and document action items.


Establish Clear Objectives
Send out an email to participants 24 hours in advance. Don't just list the time and location of the meeting; give it a specific and defined purpose with clear objectives that spell out exactly what you hope to accomplish, says Forbes. Vague meetings are not a good use of time. Encourage your team members to come prepared to discuss the issue. This puts control in their hands so they feel part of the solution. 


Invite the Core Group
No one likes to be invited to a meeting, disrupting their busy day, if they're not integral to the matter at hand. Invite only the people who have to be there, who can offer insight into the problem and come up with a solution. Don't invite those who are not qualified to addressed the issue or who lack the skills to be of any real assistance. Relevancy is key here, or else you're wasting people's time.


Come up with a Schedule and Stick to It
If time allows, email a brief outline of the meeting to participants beforehand. During the meeting, use visual aids, such as the whiteboard, to illustrate your outline to keep people's attention. Creating such an agenda will help you stay focused yourself to stay on track and cover what you want to within a certain timeline dedicated to each line item.


Follow Up with Action Items
Perhaps the one thing that makes meetings so ineffective is that afterwards, everyone goes their separate ways and forgets what they're supposed to do. That's why you should email a memo outlining what was discussed at the meeting, what solutions were formed, and who is responsible for following through on what tasks. Do this right away, or at least within 24 hours of the meeting so everyone is on the same page. Being clear in these action items will ensure the tasks discussed actually get done, and that everyone is responsible for a small part of the solution. 


In summary, here's a quick takeaway of tips for running an effective meeting:

  • Show up five minutes early
  • Begin the meeting on time
  • Stay on topic
  • Follow a clear agenda
  • No comments on the side that are irrelevant to the topic
  • Don't interrupt
  • Impose time limits on how long each person has the floor
  • Tell participants to leave their phones and tablets behind
  • Challenge ideas; not people
  • Encourage people to participate
  • End on time
  • Email agenda 24 hours ahead of time
  • Email results of meeting within 24 hours with action items
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How CIOs Can Demonstrate the Value of IT

CIOs Demonstrate ValueCIOs have an inherent duty to demonstrate the value of their departments, and this is never more true than with IT. It's the same across other platforms of a business, from sales to finance to operations. With technology becoming more and more commoditized, companies are measuring the value of their IT departments, and thus services, in regards to the preservation of business value, creating benchmarks as a result of those outcomes, points out CIO. NO matter what department you're talking about, the same principles of revenue generation and top-notch operations are used to not only evaluate but also prioritize and measure various projects to boost shareholder value.


The IT department in any given company is an important cog in the output machine. Take a mobile sales platform for a healthcare EMR system, for example. If something fails at the IT level, the whole system gets hung up, resulting in the possibility of a patient not gaining access to the medication they need to be healthy. It's too easy to imagine a bunch of IT pros sitting in a back room somewhere far removed from the daily operations of a business. Not so. They have just as much impact on the organization's failure or success as anyone else.


Flexibility

Being flexible in an ever-demanding and complex environment is an important facet of an IT department, one that can make or break the operational capacity of an organization. As such, IT is required to provide more service and solutions above and beyond just "keeping the lights on." In fact, IT and its partnership with business balance both past and present collaborations to determine future successes. Because IT is most useful when projects are delivered successfully to the end consumer, its value is dependent on persuading management to measure positive value-added contributions as well as maintain a steady presence -- even despite such a complex environment. 


Business Capability
Much more than a technological-minded organism, IT offers a great value to the business capabilities of a given company, not just in the area of technology capability and contributions. IT as a cohesive unit can provide valuable input on business decisions, leading to solutions that benefit the company as a whole. So what can the CIO and IT do together to demonstrate effectiveness to the rest of the organization?

Business operates on a principle of "what's in it for me?" -- after all, this is how competition thrives. Therefore, IT needs to:

  • Realize what their pain points are
  • Identify areas of improvement, specifically in relation to IT
  • Provide a strategic advantage from a productivity perspective
  • Work on developing a partnership mentality
  • Demonstrate value instance by instance, with clear objectives

As the business strategist, the CIO needs to ensure IT's strategic value is visible to the rest of the organization. Their position of leadership enables them to execute IT strategy, goals and objectives, and ensure they are aligned with the culture of the company as a whole. Driving business process improvements, IT becomes just as important a link in the chain as every other department when it comes to solutions that align with the corporate vision.

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Developing a Customer Experience Strategy

Customer ExperienceA positive customer experience is the Holy Grail of all companies striving to connect with their intended audience and build loyalty. In fact, the 2016 Digital Marketing Trends Report polled companies on the single most exciting opportunity for their organization this year -- "customer experience" emerged as the top answer for the third year in a row. This ranked higher than even content marketing, mobile, and social!


Positive Experiences Breed Loyalty
Known as CX for short, customer experience involves interactions between a customer and an organization throughout the life span of the business relationship, spanning from discovery and cultivation to purchases and service. Customer experience is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to the broader segment called Customer Relationship Management, or CRM. Bottom line is, the more positive experiences a customer has with a particular business, the more likely they are to become a repeat and loyal customer. After all, it's a no-brainer: treat your customer poorly and you won't get them to come back. Treat them well, and not only will THEY come back, they'll tell their FRIENDS about you as well. Double win. So how do you get there?


Know Your Customers
The first step is to understand who your customers are and develop customer support teams who can connect and empathize with what your customers are going through, what they want, and what their ultimate goals are. This involves developing personas that encompass each kind of customer your business likely comes into contact with. For example, if you own a technology company, you may find that one major type of customer is a Millennial, who by definition is tech savvy, can largely teach themselves processes and protocols, and doesn't need much in the way of guidance. You may have another type of customer, perhaps an older adult, who isn't as tech savvy and needs clear, concise directions to follow every step of the way. Knowing your customers' needs is the first step to giving them what they want.


Connect With Your Customers
Fostering an emotional connection with your customers is key in finding common ground from which you can build a lifetime of loyalty. Research shows that more than 50 percent of a customer's experience is based on emotion -- and that emotion often drives their purchasing decisions. Loyalty develops when customers feel emotionally attached to the company they are doing business with. They like the feeling of being heard, being respected and being valued. In fact, studies show that companies that put that emotional connection first tend to outperform their competitors in sales by about 85 percent, with emotionally engaged customers more likely to recommend your product or service to a friend, more likely to re-purchase that same product or service themselves, and much less likely to shop around the next time they need that product or service.


Get Real-Time Customer Feedback
In order to know how your customers are feeling at any given moment, it's necessary to get a snapshot of their satisfaction. Customer engagement in real time is crucial towards this end. You can do this in several ways, from post-interaction surveys and emails to phone calls and social media interaction. Garnering insightful feedback is a critical part of the customer engagement process.


Fostering a sense of loyalty with your customers doesn't happen overnight, but with patience and dedication, your business can make strong headway in the area of customer experience strategies.

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Creating Highly Effective Teams

LeadershipWhen you think of a team, you think of many different people working together to form a focused cohesive unit. Whether on the ball field on in the board room, teams are an integral component to success. And while individual performance does impact the outcome of the team's efforts, no one person should be greater than the sum of all parts. In a perfect world, this makes sense. In the real world, however, a lot of work has to go on behind the scenes to be the manager of such a well-oiled team. Personal agendas, misguided focus, and just plain laziness often get in the way that can derail the group and prevent it from reaching its goals.

That's why a leader is needed to help hone and create an effective team through a variety of approaches, from clear communication to engagement. Let's take a look at some of those in more detail.


Engage Your Team
As leader, your job is to guide your employees in their overall mission, then step back and let them mature as a solid entity as they take on new and expansive roles and responsibilities. Giving each person his own responsibility and vision empowers individuals, which benefits the team as a whole. Your employees crave the feeling of being valued and challenged, and they are eager to be trusted with the freedom to explore and learn while on the job. A few things you can do:

 

  • Detect and encourage the most positive capabilities in each person.
  • Stop micromanaging and start empowering teammates to discover their full potential. Micromanagement leads to disengagement.
  • Stage them in a position of influence.
  • Share your successes while making them feel an integral part of that accomplishment.
  • Ditch the mind games and be consistent with your approach and style. Have your employees' backs.


Stay Connected
One big reason teams fall apart and lose focus is that they feel disconnected from each other. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to keep people connected, via internal social networks and video conferencing solutions, so team members can get a better sense of how their individual contributions impact their team and the organization as a whole, says Forbes. That's why an investment by your company in these technologies is crucial in an effort to offer flexible work environments that further foster employee engagement.

 

Know Each Team Member's Strengths
An added benefit of the above-mentioned technology is that managers and leaders can more readily keep their fingers on the pulse of the organization in an effort to stay on top of what motivates and inspires employees. However, all the technology in the world won't help you really get to know what makes each person on the team tick. That comes from one-on-one observance, open collaboration, and a healthy rapport between yourself and each team member.

 

Communicate and Set Goals
Frequent communication is key to keeping everyone on track and focused. Check in daily for an overview of progress, make it clear your door is always open, and encourage the free flow of ideas within meetings. Setting clear, focused and attainable goals is another piece of the puzzle. Without them, your team can easily get distracted from the mission, causing time delays and frustration.

Creating highly effective teams doesn't happen overnight. Through collaboration, engagement, communication and goal setting, you can manage a team to success!

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What is True Leadership?

LeadershipIntegrity...credibility...respect...these are just a few qualities of a true leader. Anyone can be in a position of leadership, whether at work, school or peer group, but this isn't just a title, lip service or a delegation. It has to come from within. True leaders know who they are and what they stand for; they know their values and the rules they will abide by; and they know and communicate their values openly with those they lead, creating an atmosphere of certainty and trust, says Forbes.

A true leader also:

  • Lives the values they profess to believe
  • Leads by example
  • Works side by side those they lead in order to get to know and care about them
  • Inspires their team
  • Listens without being condescending
  • Is willing to hear what others have to say without judgment
  • Is patient and genuine in their thoughts
  • Communicates openly and often
  • Disciplines with a desire to help others improve rather than from a place of anger
  • Gives feedback in a respectful way
  • Doesn't use sarcasm to communicate; this makes others feel uncertain or belittled

True leaders never back down from a challenge. Yes, everyone has to pick their battles, but when their instincts tell them something is or isn't right, they’ll defend their position succinctly and thoroughly. True leaders also have empathy. That's because they're genuine and sincere, allowing them to understand innately what another is going through because they've been there themselves. This stems from being true to oneself. Not everyone has empathy just like not everyone has respect. It has to be earned.

Thought Leaders

People also ask me, "What is a thought leader?"  A thought leader is an informed opinion leader who is the top resource in their field of expertise. They are trusted leaders who inspire people with innovative and unique ideas; but they don't just talk about it -- they turn those ideas into reality. It's actually a big part of content marketing where you can convey your talent, experience and passion about what you do. Answering questions your readers need to know doesn't stem from a fancy degree. It relies on a differentiated point of view that rests with being an authority in your industry. 

Thought leaders don't just talk the talk -- they actually inspire change in meaningful ways and encourage others to join their efforts through evolutionary advancements in their fields. Yes, they encourage others to be open to new ways of thinking, but they also create the map by which people can achieve it. This set of best practices creates a foundation for others to build on.

True leaders show others what's right through actions not just words. Just because it's your title at work or you can wear it on a badge doesn't mean you are automatically a leader. It's something to be earned and can't be achieved through lip service.

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