Build your personal credibility, not your personal brand

I hate the phrase “personal branding.”

Remember school projects? There was always that one kid who didn’t do much work, but was great at presenting. The teacher thought they did all the work. Personal branding reminds me of that person, now all grown up–and still talking their way through life. Ugh.

Most of us are not good at “personal branding.” A lot of good people are too busy actually doing the work to spend energy managing the optics of that work.

Unfortunately, this means well-deserving people often get the least credit.

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Give your boss context when you ask for approval

“Can you give the greenlight on this?”

“Can you approve next week’s social media post?”

“Can I get an approval on this Facebook ad creative?”

Depending on your role, you might ask your boss for approval once to several times a day.

Even directors and vice presidents need to check in with their bosses. And if you’re creating anything new, it makes sense to get your boss’ buy-in each step of the way.

We can’t force our bosses to approve our work, but we can embrace that it’s our responsibility to get better at securing their greenlight.

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The future belongs to people who straddle “should” and “is”

Creating any kind of meaningful change requires you to simultaneously live in the world of “should” and “is.”

People who only care about “should” aren’t grounded in reality. They pontificate and have lots of ideas. But they don’t know how to use real tools and  assets in the present to get stuff done.

People who only care about ”is” aren’t dreaming big enough. They see what’s happening today and assume it’s written in stone forever. “That’s the way it is and always will be.”

It’s much easier to be in one world or the other. To be a dreamer who wishes things weren’t this way. Or have your head looking down only at what’s currently in front of you. We need more people to be willing to live in both the World of Should and the World of Is.

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Wes Kao
Your boss called. They want you to manage up.

Bosses are frustrating creatures.

They want you to take the lead… But when you do, they micromanage.

They say, “Ask me questions any time!” But they also say, “Can you try to figure it out on your own?”

They say they don’t want status updates. Then they come by your desk frantic asking what you’ve been doing for the past two weeks.

Basically, they want you to read their mind. Which isn’t great for you, because mind-reading is hard.

Luckily, there’s a workaround which is pretty darn close. And that is the skill of managing up.

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Concentric circles of customers: Focus on people who already share your worldviews

“Don’t try to market to everyone.” By now, this advice is obvious. We know we can’t appeal to everyone.

But what if you feel like your product really is for everyone? Where do you start?

One way to narrow down your focus is to think about your customers as concentric circles on a bullseye. In the center of the bullseye are your core customers. These are people who are die-hard fans, who completely “get it.” They are excited you exist.

Start by marketing to them, then expand outwards. This is especially valuable if you have limited resources and bandwidth. 

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Everything takes longer than you think, so plan accordingly

I was on the phone with my bank recently. I thought it would take 10 or 15 minutes... It took 51 minutes. 

Almost an hour.

Whether you are troubleshooting a technical issue, hiring to grow your team, or planning a party…

Everything takes longer than you think.

Why does this matter? Because every day, we have to estimate how long things will take. 

If you get better at estimating timing, you’ll be less stressed in all areas of life.

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How to write your own job description (and invent your role)

Creating a new position for yourself--one that doesn't yet exist--sounds too good to be true. But many of us have done it, and I’ve personally done it multiple times. I want to share a few ideas that will help you do it too.

Maybe you’ve grown tired of your current job responsibilities. Or maybe you see an opportunity to contribute, but the role isn’t listed on your company’s careers page. You might think there’s nothing else you can do--except wait for your fortune to change.

Luckily, writing your own job description can be the solution.

This is your chance to get creative about what you would like to work on that adds value to your organization. Here are a few things to keep in mind to get a “yes” from your hiring manager.

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Leveling upWes KaoLeveling up
How to regain control in a meeting

One of the by-products of having bold ideas is you will often pitch your ideas to groups of people. And whenever you have more than one person in a room, there’s the chance that the conversation gets derailed.

What if you’re caught off guard because people have taken over your meeting?

It’s important to control the meeting so you can move your project forward.

I’ve read advice on this topic in the past, but most recommendations are too abrasive to say to people you actually want to continue working with. "I COULD say that… But my team would be shocked/horrified by how blunt I sound and end up hating me."

For those of us with a collaborative leadership style, it’s important to have scripts you can realistically picture yourself saying.

Here’s what to say to get your meeting back on track and why it works.

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How to market a product you wouldn't use

It’s easier to sell stuff you use yourself. That's why companies give employee discounts.

This way, the staff can genuinely say, “My favorite pasta is the carbonara, but if you’re in the mood for seafood, the scallops are magical.”

But if a product you have to market isn't for you, what should you do?

There will come a day when you won’t be in the exact same demographic and psychographic as your customers. Your job is to connect with them anyway.

Learning to get excited about what your customers get excited about will make you better at every part of your job.

So how do you do that?

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MarketingWes KaoMarketing, Empathy
Simplify first, not last

One common approach is to write a lot, then trim later.

But sometimes, that means you come up with something entirely different than if you had decided to write something short from the beginning.

Simplifying first is a strategy to help you surface options that are categorically better. By setting a different target, you play a different game altogether.

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