Posted by: nichole | May 20, 2019

In the Room: CQ, Diversity, and Insights

conference room, board room, conference table

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in on a vendor presentation. The vendor presented on cultural intelligence (CQ) and research as it relates to consumer behavior. This is an area that I am extremely passionate about. The manager who scheduled the meeting knows me pretty well to have included me on the invite. He is also very strategic. Looking around the room, I didn’t see the normal faces that would typically be there. There were no executives and none of the other limited demographics often seen in board and conference rooms. Of the eight of us attending, only two were directors. Everyone else was below director-level. And while the titles of the people attending are interesting, what was more interesting was the diverse mix of cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.

To most folks, it makes sense to have a cultural mix attending a presentation on cultural intelligence. Or so you would think. There have been several national campaigns that have failed miserably by alienating different groups and cultures. More than likely the reason has been the creative minds and decision-makers were not diverse. They did not have the right mix of diversity in the room.

The diverse mix of people in last week’s presentation included me, the African-American woman, two women of Hispanic/Latin culture, two men of Asian descent and there was someone on the phone who I didn’t know. What I noticed during the Q&A part of the presentation was no one focused on how the research applied to their individual cultural alliance. Instead, we all considered how the topic and available research and insights would apply to the work we are doing.

So why is it still an issue to get the right people in the room when working on new strategies and corporate directions? I did something deliberate when I wrote the previous sentence. I included the word “right.” Part of the problem is how leadership determines who is “right” for the meeting. Most of the time, the “right” people are those with a title. But are those really the “right” people? The other issue is that so many don’t look around the table to see who’s missing. This highlights the problem when people say “they don’t see color.” We need to you see color. When you see color, you can better determine and identify when a lack of color at the table and in the decision-making process is missing.

I previously mentioned the manager who planned the presentation was strategic. He sees color and culture and also, opportunity. He understands that diversity influences innovation. Granted, he and I talk about it often. And we aren’t the only ones. Diversity and innovation are two major topics the Harvard Business Review writes about in their magazine and online. A 2016 article cites

“a 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies and found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean” (HBR, Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter).

That was in 2015. Can you imagine how those numbers have changed in a few short years?

When I hear of the backlash due to cultural insensitivity in an advertising campaign or specific consumer products, I always wonder who was in the room where it happened (my Hamilton reference). The Pepsi commercial with one of the Jenners, Heineken’s “Lighter is better”, Prada’s blackface products, H&M, Gucci, Nivea, and Dolce & Gabbana are some of the instances and brands that have shown the apparent lack of CQ. When I see these stories, I can’t hwlp but wonder who was in the room. Or, who wasn’t.

“Diversity shouldn’t enter the conversation only after a brand or an advertising campaign offends people”

AdWeek, “Brands Still Have a Lot to Learn About Diversity and Creating Inclusive Work Environments”

Unfortunately, having cultures represented in the room is not enough. The people at the table must also have a voice, an opportunity to speak and share their insight. They must be viewed as resources not just for the cultural aspect but for their overall input toward organizational effectiveness.

To better understand consumer behaviors, brands have to accept and embrace the different buying behaviors of different cultures.  Ask questions. Conduct focus groups. Business should enlist and rely on their employees from all cultures and backgrounds. I believe the solution is pretty simple…

Open the invitation to have others at the table and in the room.

 

Want to know more about cultural intelligence (CQ)?

 

 

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Posted by: nichole | January 24, 2019

Managing Influence (rs)

In the past week, I have thought a lot about influence. I have had conversations about influence as it pertains to leadership in the workplace. I also talked with a couple of moms on different occasions about the influence of other kids on theirs just because I was in the right place and willing to listen. The topic of influence must have been part of my “aura.” But the biggest questions regarding influence came to the surface as I was watching the documentaries about the Fyre Festival in 2017. Or, a better way of staying it is the “proposed but canceled because it wasn’t going to happen anyway Fyre Festival.”

Like most people, I heard about the festival (?) on social media because of the infamous cheese sandwich picture. I don’t have to show the picture here because most folks know exactly the cheese sandwich picture I’m talking about. I am a big fan of a good cheese coupled with the right bread for an amazing cheese sandwich but anyone could tell this wasn’t it. Even my amazing cheese sandwich wouldn’t have made the cut based on the promises the festival (?) organizers (?) made. Moving on…

The two different documentaries, currently available on Netflix and Hulu, give a lot of information on where this event went wrong. No judgment from me on those who paid to attend (A music fest in the Bahamas? I get it.). Nor do I judge the majority of folks who worked on the planning, organizing, setup, and other logistics of the festival (?). From my view, a lot of these folks were young or, like the workers in the Bahamas, in need of work and the money that was promised to them. On the other hand, I am judging the grown ass rapper who, I think, should have known better based on the fact he has been a part of events similar to the one he wanted to plan. And, I am also judging the shyster, con man, ne’er-do-well, ass who was a spoiled kid focused on getting his way for his own pleasure and pockets. Watching him reminded me so much of someone else getting attention for his desire for self-promotion based on a lot of untruths. I digress.

What stood out to me was the focus on the social influencers that kicked off the marketing promotion. As a marketer, I have to admit the original video was good. The video said a lot without saying a lot. And using names with social presence and influence to get people on board and buy was smart. But man should not live by social influencers alone.

I would love to know someone not influenced by social influencers in today’s society. I’m not one of those people. I have made a few purchases of things mentioned in an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter post by someone with a lot of followers who will typically get that same item for free. Most were good purchases. Some were ok but I never bought them again. Those particular purchases also made me start looking at the influencers of those items very differently.

Look, for as long as there has been a medium, there has been a name to hawk a product. Radio and television audiences haven’t been as targeted and specific as social media. If you watched a television show, you may talk about it with friends but the brand couldn’t always be sure how much the ad resonated with the audience until puchases were made. Many ads were missed because of bathroom, kitchen, phone, or some other breaks at that time. But social followings are different. First, a follower is someone who has selected to follow a particular influencer. I can go to a top model’s IG and see exactly who is following him or her. As an advertiser and with some research, I can deduce quite a bit from a random sampling of those followers. I can then turn around and serve ads to many of those same folks. That’s marketing, advertising, and promotion, baby! But how do you manage the influencers?

I thought about this after buying an influencer’s influenced product that turned out to be just “meh” for me. I remembered a phrase that has given me some clarity when dealing with other people, comparison and folks that have tried to @ me about some things. The phrase is “consider the source.”

My first tip in managing the influence(rs) is to know the influencer. Who are they? What do they do as a profession? I’ve mentioned models so I can expect that influencer to show fashion, makeup, and shoes (so many shoes!). As names get bigger, the person gets more buzz, stars rise and so does the opportunity for brands to pay them (sometimes with stuff and other times with $$$) to promote their product. That’s the nature of the business. But knowing the influencer can help you have a better idea of what they my influence you regarding. Remember: social influencers also come in all shapes and sizes

The second tip is to know your interests. I previously mentioned I have bought some “meh” products. In retrospect, the reason they were “meh” was because they were not for me. I may have had some interest in an item but in the long run, the product didn’t truly align with me 100%. Live and learn is a good motto for me for this one. Our interests often change but following your core interests is the best foundation you can stand on.

The third tip is on the fringe of one and two but stands solidly on its own — RESEARCH. This one is a make or break for me. I enjoy research and it is necessary when I am spending money on a big ticket item. I will admit I can exhaust research and a search for more information before buying but that’s who I am. Once you have at least checked out more about the product and your are satisfied, go for it if it feels right. I don’t believe one influencer holds the holy grail and has all the information for one product or service. That would be insane. Try this readily accessible thing called Google. I am amazed at how few people actually look stuff up.

Trust will always be one of, if not the main, factor when considering recommendations from influencers. Do you trust your influencer will recommend a product the use and enjoy themselves? Let trust be your most important baramoter to help you manage your influencers.

What are your thoughts on influencers? Do you consider yourself influential regarding recommendations for products or services? What are some of your favorite influencers or products an influencer promoted? I’d love to hear from you.

Posted by: nichole | January 2, 2019

Don’t let you hold you back

Nichole's GraduationWe are fresh into 2019 and many people have been reflecting on their 2018 accomplishments, myself included. If you follow me on any of my social platforms, you already know about one of my biggest 2018 accomplishments — I got my B.A. degree in Organizational Leadership. I have been cautious of the line of when this becomes old news especially since most of my friends and peers received their degrees some time ago. But then I catch myself. THIS IS A BIG FRIGGIN DEAL! I’m not 22 and my sole focus was school. I’m a grown ass woman with other stuff going on. I worked full-time, served in various capacities at my church, and became a organizational and time management wiz to ensure I never received a grade less than a A- in any of my classes. Beginning in Fall 2016 through December 2018, I have taken to 30 classes, one lab and received all A’s except for 2 A-‘s. I made the Provost’s List twice, the President’s list twice and would have made them in the summers if they were available. Yes, I was in school during the summer too. It is a big deal! I was able to do this because I didn’t let “me” get in the way.

I don’t know about you but I have let “me” get in the way of a lot of opportunities. Most often it has been my own negative thinking that has been defeating before I can even start. The “I’m not good enough” or the “there is someone better and you aren’t equipped.” There is also what I am now calling the comparison wall. It is when you compare yourself to someone else and you put up a wall bricking yourself in from your potential. “Comparison is the thief of joy” but it is also the thief of progress.

In 2018 I didn’t let me get in the way of some of my fears, heights being a main one. I zip lined and walked across a couple of hanging bridges. I was also a little less body conscious on a trip in Costa Rica. Being overly concerned about the thoughts of strangers, who by the way don’t know me or anything about me, was also a way I let “me” hold me back.

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” This scripture is not saying I can go out right now and fly a plane. I don’t know how to fly a plane. I don’t have a license or for that matter, a plane to fly. No one would (nor should they) entrust me with their plane. But there are things in me, in my hands, and heart for which I am capable. If I didn’t believe God was opening the door for me to return to school, I would not have done it. I realized it was bigger than me and therefore, not only about me. I love to encourage people to step out, be courageous, go for their dreams, and provide them with steps and advice in how they can get started. But as I have been doing that, I have been doing it from the sidelines. I wasn’t in the race, practicing what I was preaching. I dislike that in others and hated it in myself.

Many marathon runners are cautious before the first race. After it’s done, you can find many of those same runners signing up for another race to run because they didn’t let the first race hold them back. Sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you do it. At least try.

I started working on a couple of projects that have been stirring in my spirit. Wouldn’t you know the minute I started writing out the concepts of one, I saw that someone else has done it. But guess what? They haven’t done it the way I’m doing it. Before, I would have just stopped because this person is a bigger name with more followers and more clout than me. That would have been enough for me to put up the comparison wall. Now I have a better understanding that what I am doing is for me and the me’s of this world. If I don’t put this project in motion, I’m missing an opportunity to encourage someone who needs it. And for the entourage in me, that’s not acceptable.

Don’t let you hold you back. Someone needs to see you takes steps toward your dreams so they are encouraged to take steps toward theirs.

Happy 2019!

Posted by: nichole | December 31, 2017

My 7 biggest lessons from 2017

Nichole's self portrait

My silhouette and words that capture my unique identity

One of my biggest regrets in 2017 (and I try not to have regrets) is how much I neglected my blog this year. Believe me, this year more than any others since I started the blog in 2007, there was MUCH to talk/write about especially in the political landscape. Yikes! I mean DAMN! Really? I started so many blog posts but because they went off the rails because I began to rail on people (you can probably guess who those people were) I chose not to publish them. Was I venting in these unpublished post? Yes, to some extent but mostly I was calling people, a lot of people out on their bullshit.  BTW, I am still very much a Christian, working diligently to live a Christian lifestyle but sometimes curse words have a place to punctuate and express exactly how I am feeling. Judge if you will. I am very OK with your judgment. Which leads me to what I learned or was reminded of in 2017.

  1. My faith and my relationship with God is non-negotiable.
  2. My voice is worthy of being heard because
    1. I have something to say,
    2. what I am saying comes from experience or insight or deep reflection or from the knowledge I have gained, and
    3. I don’t speak just to hear myself talk but because I have a deep compassion for helping others and making a difference.
  3. I am a great leader. Letting the past or what someone has said in the past about me being a leader has NOTHING to do with my present or my future. This year, my leadership skills were put to use like never before and I know I was able to make an impact in the lives of others because they told me.
  4. Women, especially African American women, are incredible. Of course, I knew this being an African American woman myself (wink wink), but this year…we ruled and reminded the world of our greatness. In my circle and community of African American women, I have seen them do some incredible things this year and I am excited about 2018 because they/we are not done. This isn’t just about the Senate seat vote in Alabama, although that was part of the icing on the cake. As Auntie Maxine said, “WE ARE RECLAIMING OUR TIME!” Women such as Maxine Waters, Ava DuVernay, Angela Rye, Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams, Lena Waithe, Tarana Burke, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Issa Rae, Symone Sanders, Vi Lyles, and Jemele Hill, are only a few notable African American women who not only took the spotlight this year but dominated the field whichever one they played on. We are not done!
  5. An individual does have the power to create change. Sometimes people will talk themselves out of doing something because they feel they can’t help everyone or what they do won’t make an impact. That’s just not true. Every little bit helps because that “little bit” to you is “a lot” to someone else. Plus, all you have to do is help one. You never know how that help for one can create a domino effect that will move mountains for others.
  6. Hamilton is AMAZING! Like other people followed the Grateful Dead and Phish around the county, I need to follow Hamilton. Looking forward to Costa Mesa and Dallas in 2018.
  7. Because someone else is afraid or places limitations on their life does not mean they have the right to place those limitations on mine. “No thank you. You can keep that crazy over there.”

As with any new year, I have an expectation for greater things. One of those great things is a dream deferred and now coming to fruition. Before the end of 2018, I will have my Bachelors degree in Organizational Leadership. I’m excited and looking forward to sharing this accomplishment with my family and friends. But more importantly, I want my experience to be an inspiration especially to women of all ages. That’s part of purpose God has been showing me this year and in 2018 I expect to fully step into what He has called for me to do and those He will send to me to lead.

Cheers, to an incredible 2018 and all that it has to offer.

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