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0 comments | Posted by: Terri on October 29, 2012 | Categories:
The people of PureWaterGear see themselves as “Chief Evangelists” of their state-of-the-art filtration system, designed to filter water through everything from bottles to pitchers to shower heads. As Bob, CEO and founder of PureWaterGear, puts it, “What we do is a crusade, literally a God-given mission to impact humanity. The people we influence are people who understand the impact one filter can have in their lives.”
Bob is quick to emphasize PureWaterGear as more than just a storefront. A large portion of their proceeds are donated to charity, and their filtration products are a vital part of missionary trips world-wide. Below, Bob talks about the many misconceptions surrounding the bottled water industry and the satisfaction that comes from bringing clean drinking water to those who need it most:
How did you come up with this idea, what was that “a-ha!” moment?
Every 1.7 seconds another person dies from a water-borne illness. In some parts of the world, people walk miles to get to water (that’s not necessarily clean). Oftentimes, donated wells become overtaken by militants or pirates who charge local villagers fees to access the water. It’s because of these things, and hundreds of others, that I began on this path. The only way to solve these issues is PureWaterGear’s individual filtration systems. Our products allow these people to turn any water source into a reliable clean water source. People don’t realize how important water is until they travel abroad. PureWaterGear is the safest most reliable way to consume water on any continent, bar none.
What are some common misconceptions regarding bottled water?
One of the most common misconceptions about bottled water is that it’s good for you. Granted, the idea of choosing water over a soft drink is well-intended, but its execution is the crux of whether it’s truly a good decision. Bottled water has practically no FDA regulation when it comes to quality. Oftentime the bottles are filled with tap water. Even if the water is from a virgin aquifer from the Fijian or Hawaiian islands, by the time the consumer gets it the water has likely transformed into a toxic soup filled with chemicals like benzene and BPA due to plastic leaching.
Drinking water is vital to sustaining life. Up to 80% of the human body is comprised of water. It’s crucial you drink clean, contaminant-free water. In order for your body to utilize the water you drink, it has to remove any toxins that you may have ingested while drinking the water. As we say here at PureWaterGear: Use a filter or be a filter.
How much of an environmental impact does PureWaterGear make?
PureWaterGear makes a tremendous impact on eliminating plastic pollution. One PureWaterGear bottle will effectively eliminate 500 single-use plastic bottles. Over 65 million plastic bottles are disposed improperly on any given day of the week. If everyone used a PureWaterGear bottle, we could literally eliminate improper disposal of single-use plastic water bottles.
Tell us more about the Nourish a Life Program.
nour·ish [nur-ish, nuhr-] – verb (used with object)
1. To sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life,
health, and growth.
2. To cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.
3. To strengthen, build up, or promote.
Our goal with Nourish a Life is to follow the above definition as our personal and corporate mission. Whether it is supplying international mission-based groups with safe water filtration bottles for use in their travels, supplying them to distribute to the people they are ministering to overseas, or taking care of people close to home–the homeless, underprivileged & children. Doing our job to impact others with the tools we have.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the this crusade is watching people’s eyes go wide-open when they understand what’s in our water, what’s in the bottles they use and how simple it is to fix it. No matter where I am, it seems like someone comes up to me and asks me “What’s that?“ about my PureWaterGear bottle. Meeting new people and making an impact, sharing the passion and mission without question makes every day worth it.
To find out more about PureWaterGear products or their charitable programs, visit their website or email Bob@PureWaterGear.com.
0 comments | Posted by: Amit on September 7, 2012 | Categories:
Take a look at your inbox. How many emails do you have? I’m going to hazard a guess and say, at least 50. And that’s a really conservative guess. How many of today’s emails went straight to the trash, unopened? How many did you decide to look at later—and how far down the list have they fallen?
Now think about the emails you’ve sent to coworkers or clients, and where they ended up on the recipient’s to-do list.
Email is the most common form of communication in the workplace, but also the most overwhelming.The following tips will help keep your emails informative, succinct and out of the trash:
Use an introduction: Starting out with a brief introduction is just the polite thing to do, even if it’s a simple “Good Morning” or “Hi, Steve.” If it’s a business email, “Mr./Ms.” is always safe, though emails are becoming increasingly less formal in the business world. If contacting them for the first time, using their name will make them less wary of possible spam. Here are some tips on email salutation etiquette.
Write a relevant subject line: What’s the first thing you see, after the sender’s name? The subject line. The subject line is a distillation of your email message. It should be to-the-point and, preferably, a meaningful phrase, not a single word or casual greeting (e.g Hi, how ya doin?).
Keep the body brief. Do not overwhelm the recipient with an essay. Avoid introductory jargon and come to the point as quickly as possible. Most emails are skimmed at first, with one finger on the delete button. The last thing you want is to bore the reader, especially when competing with 50+ emails.
Don’t get fancy: Some users believe barraging the reader with fancy colors and glittering fonts will create a lasting first impression. It does, just not a very good one. Choosing a green, obscure font, will give the impression you send impossible-to-read emails.
Use email signatures wisely: An email signature is a great way to pass additional contact information to the receiver. Ideally, an email signature should have your phone number, your alternate email address or a link to your website. Don’t flood your signature with phone numbers, email addresses or web links. That looks more like a sales pitch.
Avoid emoticons, slangs or abbreviations: In the age of social networking and microblogging, web- acronyms (e.g lol, tc, brb) are hugely popular. But business emails should be free of slang,emoticons and abbreviations of any kind. An email message is not an IM conversation. Too informal and you look unprofessional.
Stick to the original message thread: Sticking to the original message thread makes life easy for the recipient and keeps the conversation in context. It allows the recipient to browse the original discussion thread and refresh their memory if needed. If you’ve lost or deleted the original thread, start a fresh thread instead of mixing the conversation into an irrelevant one.
In a nutshell: keep it clean and concise. Judging by the host of online articles available on taming the inbox, email is becoming less a convenient way to communicate and more a daily chore to get through. Keeping it simple and informative will increase your email’s chances of being read and replied to, not swept under the rug for later.
0 comments | Posted by: Spencer on June 7, 2012 | Categories:
Kimberlee Williams built her career on intelligently navigating business change—significantly, as the leader of Merck’s global change management program, which helped save the pharmaceutical company $3.5 billion—and all of her experiences contributed to launching her leadership company, Ignitem. “If I were to bring one thing to educational institutions,” she says, “it’d be to teach the basic tenets of how human beings change and innovate. If we can teach people how to make changes in their organizations, the next generation of leadership will be phenomenal.”
Can you distill Ignitem’s core offering into a single phrase or sentence?
We deliver online training in change and innovation leadership, which includes things like e-learning, assessments, webinars, advisory groups for senior professionals and other resources, like quarterly live workshops in New York City. We’re about online training in change and innovation leadership.
How has a volatile economic landscape, with employers hiring less frequently and employees frequently overworked, affected your services?
When companies are trying to adapt to the economic environment, it increases the need for our products and services. Leaders are scrambling to adapt. They’re trying to come up with new products and trying to grow their businesses. Or maybe in addition to that, they’re trying to grow their bottom line, which means they have to reduce costs, lay people off, all those kinds of things. All those things add up to leaders having to make a lot of foundational shifts internally. That means change—change in structure, in launching new products—and a lot of leaders don’t know how to do that.
But it’s good for us, because in dramatic changes in the economy, leaders are much more aware than they’d normally be that they need to speed it up. They can’t wait. They need to figure out the ins and outs of change right now. It highlights us as a resource.
Do you primarily work with executive or rank-and-file employees?
It’s both. We have offering for leaders, which is where most of our offerings are focused. What we offer for average employees is how to initiate change in their own job, change that’s linked to and supported by their company changes, change that’s also adaptive, so you can begin to have a normal work-life balance where you’re not constantly knocking yourself out. That’s how we focus more on the rank-and-file.
Speaking of having a normal work-life balance, why is that so difficult for many people?
So many variables go into this. Relative to what I do, my personal opinion—and this is tough for people to swallow—is that people are working much harder than they need to. They’re trying to adapt to their work environment, and they can never really catch up. Just when they get things under control, when they get stability, more work comes along. There’s some new product. Their leader moves. Their department is reorganized. I don’t believe we’ve done a good job helping an employee adapt to that.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen that aren’t just overwhelmed and overworked, but they lose their jobs—and this is terrible and sad—because they didn’t realize their job isn’t relevant anymore. They were working on reactions, not results.
So it’s teaching everybody that it’s their responsibility to simplify their work and make necessary changes to reduce their workload.
This is really about cherry-picking: Taking things that are higher-value and simplifying them and knowing how to do that, having conversations with leaders, and in the process, you clear up time for yourself to do other things. But it’s tough message. [Overworking is] definitely part of our culture. There’s a lot of bosses that expect more and more and people to work harder and harder. But that approach doesn’t get better results. It takes a mindset shift.
But I’ve seen organizations that have done it very successfully, and those organizations have the highest engagement skills on the parts of their employees.
It’s about everybody taking accountability for their own efficiency. It’s about not asking your boss how you’ve added more value; it’s about you taking accountability for that. You know your work best. Go to work on that.
I think many bosses, and many workers, still uphold a factory-style working ideal.
We’re starting to see that mindset shift. Younger generations are more distanced from that factory mentality. They’re more knowledge-based workers. I think that the new generations in the workforce are helping to some extent. But part of the problem is that still, so many organizations’ systems, with the way people’s performance is evaluated, are old and outdated. They don’t energize or help you as an employee. They’re set up to control you. As a result, people don’t take the initiative. No one is going to give you permission. You’re going to have to give yourself permission.
How could high schools and colleges better prepare students for satisfying careers, rather than simply providing specific skills?
I’ve been thinking a lot about where Ignitem can play in that stage.
I’ve worked with recent college graduates: young people that are either coming into the workforce, or they’ve been here for a couple years, as well as college interns or those with less work experience. Be they engineers or MBAs or financial people, their functional skills and technical abilities are tremendous.
What they lack is the ability to practically put that into use. They don’t know what the change process is. It really is a basic tenet of human behavior that everyone should know. Unfortunately, for a lot of people coming to work, it takes years of trial and error and frustration along the way to learn how to make things happen inside companies.
If I were to bring one thing to educational institutions, it’d be to teach the basic tenets of how human beings change and innovate. If students knew these things, they could navigate politics and generate ideas and mobilize people to their causes. These are known principles. They’re formulaic. They’re infinitely teachable. If we can teach people how to make changes in their organizations, the next generation of leadership will be phenomenal.
How did you get into this field?
I’ve been in organizational development-, human resources-, change-based projects for most of my career. Seven years ago, I moved over to Merck; a few months after I got there, Merck had their voluntary withdrawal of Vioxx. It was a very difficult time in our history. We got a new chairman who made massive changes in how the company operated—not because of Vioxx, but that really set the stage for change. He proceeded to make changes in every aspect of the business. And I was the leader for the global change management office at Merck. I built the company change capability; this capability supported taking a few billion dollars’ worth of costs out of the operation, which got the company healthy again. And then I ran the Strategy and Program Office for Global Services, a 5,000 employee/$4 billion division. I had a lot of experience. But at a certain point, I thought, “If it’s possible to do something like this at one company, maybe I can do it across companies and across the world.”
So I left Merck last year and started Ignitem to deliver change and innovation capability to leaders virtually.
Right now, I’m taking everything I know from one great company and taking it much bigger. I offer high-quality advice. I mean, I wasn’t a consultant. I was accountable for executing on the inside of a company that attained great success through transformational change, and I can teach others how to do it in their organizations.
0 comments | Posted by: Spencer on May 16, 2012 | Categories:
Like most people, Michael Beck worked for his share of bad managers. Unlike most people, rather than swallowing the abuse or settling for a mediocre job, Beck left to forge his own executive development company, based on improving organizational leadership and creating corporate culture. With the majority of American workers emotionally disconnected from their jobs, Beck helps his clients and their organizations consciously create the types of culture that encourages connection, job satisfaction, creativity, and workplace happiness. “I believe people really want to do a good job,” Beck says. “…You need to appreciate what a strong culture can do to your bottom line.”
What do you do?
Most of what I do is executive coaching. Some of what I do is training, but the training is secondary to coaching.
I love working with executives and helping them succeed. I love my clients because they’re all about improving who they are. We’ll work on leadership competencies—everything from improving communication to helping them develop other people to creating more of a vision for their organization and learning how to express it effectively. I also work with conflict resolution. If they’ve got a more junior member of their leadership team who they’re having trouble with, we’ll strategize about how to help that person improve.
The other thing I do with my clients is to help them with strategy—either corporate strategy or career strategy or something to do with their business; a market direction or sale or acquisition.
How did you enter this practice?
In the job-part of my career, I worked for some folks who I felt were not very good leaders. I thought they did a poor job leading, and I felt they mistreated people. I really wanted to make a difference by helping leaders become more effective and treat people better. I believe people really want to do a good job and often, if they don’t do a good job, it’s not because they’re incompetent, but rather one of two things: They’re either in the wrong role for their strengths, in which case a leader needs to help them move, or they end up doing a poor job because they become de-motivated by poor leadership.
What you’re saying seems like the inverse of the old Peter Principle.
The Peter Principle has some validity. I’ve worked with people where they were promoted beyond their capabilities, and then unfortunately, they didn’t get the right developmental support. So they struggle and fail.
But I’m not really talking about that when I say “People are in the wrong roles for their strengths.” I’m talking about natural competencies. For instance, some people are more creative than analytical. An easy example of a poor fit would be a creative person becoming an accountant.
Describe how you teach how to “capture hearts and minds.”
Capturing hearts and minds of folks is about resonating with people, learning how to have a vision, and how to project that vision, share it, and communicate it effectively. There’s a natural order that emerges out of that. The people who align with that vision will be invigorated and those who aren’t will gravitate away from the company. As it becomes more and more apparent externally, you attract new people to your management and staff who are aligned with that vision and are engaged with it. That’s how you capture hearts and minds.
Over the years, I’ve been asked “How do you motivate people?” How people might interpret that question is “How do you get people to do what you want them to do?” And the answer to that question is, “You can’t”. They need to be self-motivated. If you always have to poke and prod in order to get them to work, they’re the wrong people. When you get the right people on your team, they’re self-motivated. Something about you as a leader, something about the vision of the company, the culture of the company–those things resonate with those folks and they become self-motivated. They’re happy to be part of what you do.
How do you create corporate culture?
I’ve been having an ongoing conversation on LinkedIn about culture. Every organization has a culture. Sometimes it’s by default and sometimes it’s by design. If you don’t craft a culture, one emerges regardless, and usually it’s dysfunctional.
Why would a company’s culture, in the absence of conscious direction, default to dysfunction?
A designed culture is crafted around values that everyone agrees are important. Those might be things like treating one another with respect or a having a commitment to excellence. They’re strong, positive values. If you don’t have those values in place and live by them, then people’s dysfunctions are tolerated. Without a designed culture you end up with a culture in which dysfunction becomes acceptable. In my experience, the majority of companies operate like that.
The third side to this coin—it’s weird coin—is that if you design a culture and then you don’t live by those values, it actually acts as a de-motivator. It throws the whole integrity of leadership into question. Part of that equation of culture—of having an impactful culture—is to be diligent about living by it. That means calling people out when they do something that’s not in line with the culture or making decisions that depart from that culture. Those are de-motivators.
Conversely, when you have a good culture and live by it, there’s an integrity about it. It always leverages the results of the organization. They are many examples of companies that have good culture. One that comes to mind is Zappos.
They started early on and continue to be completely focused on good customer service. They embody this culture by living it and the results are spectacular. Can you imagine a company selling shoes online and generating over $1 billion a year? It’s crazy. You need to appreciate what a strong culture can do to your bottom line.
How do you get a company, whose raison d’être is profit, to turn their attention to culture?
I was able to do that with a client recently. They had done a number of employee surveys over a couple years and gotten a consistent message of disconnection with leadership and a feeling of a lack of fairness. It became apparent that there was poor communication and no set of values that everyone was being held to.
The point I made to their CEO was that corporate culture by itself doesn’t work. It’s a waste to have a mission statement because your company doesn’t live by it. If you’re going to do it, you have to commit to living it. If you have a culture and you don’t live by it, it’s a de-motivator. So if you’re going to go through the effort of creating a culture, you’ve got to commit to holding behaviors accountable to that culture, to making decisions in-line with culture.
My recommendation was to form a cross-functional team to define cultural values. So they started doing it and they’re starting to get great results.
What’s the biggest challenge to helping C-level executives become better leaders?
The thing that’s most frustrating is that they’re very busy. They don’t always have time to implement the things that we’ve agreed to. That can be frustrating. And things come at them very quickly. One week a certain topic is on the forefront of their minds. Then a week later, there’s an emergency and they’re focused on a new topic.
Does that affect how you coach strategic thinking?
Have you seen this [Time Management] graphic? It’s four quadrants. The Y-axis is “importance” and the X-axis is “urgency:”
I’ll ask people “In your ideal work day, what quadrant do you want to spent the most time in?” A lot of people will say “I’d spend it in the ‘Important’ and ‘Urgent’ quadrant.” That’s the wrong answer. Things that are both “important” and “urgent” are what we call “fires”. Spend time there, and you’re putting out fires all the time. In the ideal world, you want to spend time on “important” tasks before they become “urgent.” Now we’re talking about strategic thinking.
What makes your job great?
It’s the best when you love what you do. I love my clients. I love the conversations that we have. I love the marketing of the business.
I’m in the kind of business that offers me variety. Sometimes I’m with clients, sometimes I’m working at a coffee shop on an article, sometimes I’m reading to expand my knowledge. I love that variety.
You must’ve been a terrific student.
[laughs] Yes. I was!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on May 15, 2012 | Categories:
Five years ago, AnswerConnect was at a crossroads. We had outgrown our small office, spilling over into the entire building. We considered expanding into another office building, perhaps in another city, but as CEO Michael Payne puts it, “The model of having large office complexes filled with people was unscalable and extremely resource intensive. While we knew of no direct competitor in our space offering work at home at that time, we believed that a remote model was more sustainable, more competitive, more scalable, and much more in line with our underlying core values.”
Lead Business Support Associate, Geneva Lieser, was the guinea pig. “It was an exciting thought to work from home. I was all for it,” she recalls. “The savings on commuting alone was huge, 1.5 hrs of my time each day, and about $200 in gas per month.”
The IT team put together software and a computer for Geneva to take home. (That’s another thing we’re really good at: Software not available? Build it!) “It was slow call-volume wise, there were only a few accounts on the new system. Time in between calls was spent chatting with IT on issues I was experiencing, and having software updates added into my computer a lot. It would be hard to count the number of screenshots taken during that period.” Her diligent reporting and testing helped make a solid system for remote associates to work and receive support.
Geneva’s favorite parts of working remotely? “Sweats, waking up 30 min before a shift, not eating out or driving to the office, playing with the critters that inhabit our home on breaks and lunch (they are not allowed in the office of course). Working from home is very addicting.”
Five years later, Geneva’s sentiments are echoed by nearly 300 remote workers taking calls, replying to chats and following up on leads. Her experiment was a success, allowing AnswerConnect to expand both the business and the employee pool significantly. Remote work gave employees the flexibility to work from anywhere in the state and schedule their time around school, kids or other commitments that would normally be obstacles to full-time employment.
“Many people told us that work-at-home would fail because people would not work.” Michael says of those first few days. “In all large groupings of people, be they schools, cities, or companies there will be a few who abuse the rules. However, most people are fundamentally well-intentioned and hard working. Our experience has been that people work just as effectively at home as in an office.”
That decision to trust in the inherent goodness of employees’ intentions continues to pay off. The number of employees working from home is climbing in step with a long list of satisfied clients, enough to make us consider hiring remote workers in other states. We’ve built a thriving virtual community where associates can get instant support—or just chat with fellow work-from-homers—and regularly put together live social events to give co-workers face time. This teamwork combined with our always-innovating IT department adds to AnswerConnect’s unique edge over its competitors.
Geneva couldn’t have put it better: “We all work shoulder to shoulder—remotely—in a really great way.”