Tuesday Thought: The Power of What We Say

Last week, I took off on another training hike in preparation for the 29029 Everesting challenge, now coming up in less than a month. Our group, which included my colleague Emily Shane and two others, selected an 18-mile trail, which we covered in about 8.5 hours. This was a big step toward our Everesting experience, where we’ll hike more than 30 miles over 36 hours.

About 7 hours into this strenuous hike, our legs were tired, some of our crew had run out of water, and we couldn’t wait to just stop. We’d hit the point when doubt starts to creep in. Our small crew started talking about what motivated us to sign up for this type of challenge. Each of us shared details of our personal stories, what drives us and what we hope to gain from this experience.

I quickly noticed a trend in our conversation. Collectively, we recognized the life lessons we all learn when we aim to accomplish an outsized challenge. We also spoke about the personal influences in each of our lives: great mentors, coaches, friends – and the mantras we pick up along the way from these people.

As we were hiking a 20-40% incline on mile 14, our small group started voicing these positive mantras out loud in a round-robin type of fashion to keep the energy up and positivity flowing.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Growth and comfort do not coexist.

The hard is what makes it great.

I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

No matter what, remember tomorrow.

We are here to empty the tank. Leave it all on the mountain.

A few years ago, during training for a half-marathon, I kept getting stuck at mile 8. I started studying mindset coaching with retired Navy SEAL Chadd Wright, now an elite ultra-endurance athlete. One of his recommended tactics is a practice called thankful miles. At each mile, you say out loud something you’re grateful for. “We aren’t going to be negative,” Chadd says, “We aren’t going to give our pain a voice. There is power in what we articulate out loud.”

I am not good enough.

I don’t have enough experience.

I don’t have what it takes.

These are dangerous lines to feed our minds.

These important lessons have profoundly impacted my life, and it’s simple. This week, I’m paying attention to what I say out loud. The power in what we say defines how we see ourselves and what we can accomplish.

Tuesday Thought: Why you should set impossible goals

Every year, I set a big personal goal. A goal so large that it seems impossible to reach. But then, when I succeed, the impacts of crossing that threshold brings benefits I’ll reap the other 364 days of the year. 

Entrepreneur and business leader Jesse Itzler calls this kind of endeavor a Misogi Challenge. By design, it helps us uncover what we’re capable of and tap into possibilities we don’t see now.

Over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot from this perhaps extreme form of goal setting.

Taking on my Everest (literally)

This year, I challenged myself to an endurance hiking event, set for late August. The event is to hike the equivalent height of Mount Everest over 36 hours. My initial training started lightly last November and kicked into high gear three months ago.

A few days ago, I went for one of three lengthy training hikes to help prepare for the event. As with any intentional goal setting, I identified a desired future state: the right hike in terms of distance, elevation gain, and time that aligned with my training plan. I prepared driving directions, gathered supplies and got a good night’s sleep the night before.

But the first few hours of the journey didn’t go as planned.

Our driving directions took us to the wrong side of the mountain, and we lost an hour just getting to our designated starting point. About a mile and a half into the hike, we took a wrong turn due to poor trail markings, costing us another 45 minutes as we realized we were hiking in the opposite direction. With no cell service, we couldn’t rely on GPS. And our fuel supplies didn’t suffice for the added time on the mountain. I had to stop and rest at one point because of unexpected cramping due to dehydration.

I threw my hands up and said out loud, “Let’s just go home.” After all those setbacks, maybe it just wasn’t the right day and under the right conditions to complete that training hikes.

But we stayed and finished the hike. And, as you’d expect, the trek back down the mountain was much easier and more efficient than the hike up.

A universal roadmap for big goals

These types of challenges have taught me numerous lessons over the years. This specific challenge is so large that it is equal parts terrifying and exciting. Because of it, I’ve been studying how to overcome big business or endurance challenges.

According to Itzler, setting a roadmap to accomplish big goals is the same no matter the challenge:

  • Identify and visualize what you want to accomplish and what it looks like when you get there.
  • Acknowledge the personal fear created by the goal.
  • Recognize your internal doubt over your ability to reach the goal. 
  • Define your plan to achieve the goal.
  • Do the work and execute the plan.
  • Solve the right problems when you face unforeseen gaps, setbacks, and challenges. (These problems will happen. Expect them.)
  • Demonstrate optimism and confidence in your mental resiliency.
  • Succeed.

Too often, the problem phase stops people in their tracks. They become so overwhelmed by obstacles in their path that they can’t find the energy to overcome them.

What people don’t recognize is that they’re so close to accomplishing the goal – much closer than they believe and can see. And success is likely just on the other side of that challenge if they can persevere.

My recent training hike was a perfect reminder of this principle put into action. My ultimate August hike is a big challenge. Problems, small hiccups, and setbacks will arise, and we should expect this. But we can’t ever forget that success often is closer than what we might be thinking in the moment.

So, ask yourself: “Am I setting goals that scare me? What am I doing to overcome those fears? And am I closer to succeeding than I tend to believe?

Tuesday Thought: How your core principles can drive results

When teams put their core principles into action, they find themselves on a clear path to achieve desired results. Whether we refer to them as principles or values, these guiding tenets come alive in people’s daily conversations, decisions, and choices.

If you need further convincing, just look at Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen – a brand she helped rescue from a serious slump.

I’ve recently had the privilege of getting to know Cheryl and learning more about her mastery of brand management and servant leadership. From working on brands including Domino’s Pizza, Nabisco, Gillette, and Procter & Gamble, she knows how effective leadership can drive a company’s revenue performance.

Cheryl often talks about the need for a bold destination and a compelling strategic plan – a roadmap that gives clarity as to what a team will accomplish. While the roadmap is essential, Cheryl notes that it can’t drive superior results on its own. Rather, the roadmap is the what; teams need to decide how to work together to accomplish a plan.

This is where core principles (the how) come in. Popeyes’ six core principles are:

  1. Be passionate.
  2. Listen and learn continuously.
  3. Be fact-based and planful.
  4. Coach and develop people.
  5. Be personally accountable.
  6. Value humility.

Popeyes had suffered from declining revenue, a tired brand, low employee retention, and other issues for years. But look at what happened when Cheryl came aboard as CEO and rallied the company around those core principles: Popeyes’ share price grew from $8.90 to $61.31 from February 2008 to December 2016, and its stock outpaced the S&P 500 restaurant sector.

Does your business have bold goals you hope to achieve in the next year or three or 10? That’s great – it should! But you can’t reach those goals with a compelling strategy alone. Your values determine how you will work together to accomplish that strategy. Get aligned on your company’s core principles, and the work will speak for itself.

So, ask yourself: “What are my company’s core principles? Is my team aligned on them, and are they driving the results we want to see?”

Tuesday Thought: How the Golden Rule Drives Success

“A successful team is many voices with a single heart.” – John C. Maxwell

“Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships.” – Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson

•••

Dotted Line’s core values guide how we work with each other and with each client every day. At the top of that list: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. But it tends to be the least talked about and most misunderstood value.

We intentionally listed this first among our six values because it’s our guiding star for how we operate in our team-based model. In other words, if we do our best to treat others well in our daily work and interactions, living the rest of our values will come to us more naturally. It’s a big reason why this is a rule we’ve encouraged our team to follow since our earliest days.

Our decisions can impact more than just ourselves. How we treat others is how we invite others to treat us. This goes beyond simply being kind to each other. It’s thinking about others the way you want to be thought of. Feeling about others the way you want to others to feel about you. Speaking to others the way you want to be spoken to.

A well-intentioned culture, competitive benefits and rock-star team members who are known and recognized by our clients – these things are all wonderful. But if we don’t build strong one-to-one relationships within our own team, nothing else really matters. Treating others the way we want to be treated is an easy start to relationship-building. If we forget this, the risk of becoming our own worst enemy becomes greater.

Bringing this Value to Life

Each day, I approach how I engage with those around me – in my family, at work, among friends and within my communities – by aiming to live this value. To start, this means treating people with kindness and respect, but it goes much further. For me, that means I want to know:

  • my hard work will be noticed and recognized by my people leader;
  • team members are excited when I join them on a new assignment;
  • I can contribute new ideas in a group setting without being shot down or ignored,
  • others value my contributions to making our team and agency better;
  • if I have an off morning, someone will notice and ask;
  • my leaders listen and understand where I want to go with my career and are proactively helping me perform at the next level; and
  • my peers see I’m committed to an amazing work product – one we’re all proud of – and that its completion makes the client happy and generates a big team win.

How we embrace and interact with each other will differentiate how we elevate our work and deliver consistent successes for the good of each team member, our agency and our clients.

So, ask yourself: Does the way I treat others within my organization lift them up and further our collective goals? How can I go beyond merely treating people with kindness and respect?

How the search for clarity fueled our latest brand refresh

A lot has changed in the past year for Dotted Line: our size, our clientele, our growing presence in the Richmond marketing space. But one thing that we didn’t expect to change as much as it did was our brand identity.

Earlier this year, as we began re-assessing our target audience, we tapped one of our brand strategists to simply crisp up our message – we expected a refresh at most. However, once we dug into insights collected from our clients and network, we realized an equal need to more clearly define Dotted Line’s product offerings and perspective.

And now, months later, perhaps you’ve noticed the fresh look of our website, but that’s just one result of our dedicated efforts to update Dotted Line’s brand positioning and messaging.

Of course, you might think that a marketing firm has the ready tools and resources to consistently update its brand, but a targeted exercise ensures you’re doing that strategically and effectively. At the same time, we saw the opportunity to practice what we preach to our clients about continuing to analyze your brand. So, we invite you to peek behind the curtain on our process and re-walk that journey with us.

The meaning of meaning

The secret to effective branding is creating authentic, personal connections between the business and the customer to foster greater trust in the buying process.

Studies show that 84% of millennials don’t trust advertising, but that 82% of individuals base their purchases on reviews and effective content that engages with consumers. In short, consumers trust other people’s perspectives before they trust a company’s paid message. Brands that communicate like people wanting to help other people create trust more quickly – facilitating a faster, more effective sales process. And the positive effects of these brand touchpoints last long after the immediate sale.

We all know actions speak louder than words. People trust actions, not lip service. Demonstrating that your organization is oriented toward its stated goal by living it through your work and beyond is the best proof point you can give a consumer.

At Dotted Line, the insights we collected – which prompted a search for deeper clarity – led us to develop a set of belief statements to serve as a North Star for Dotted Line’s brand and our team’s day-to-day work.

Beliefs fuel brand identity

Our first step was to ask ourselves some central questions. To name a few: What has happened in the past to drive our passion? What’s happening now in our world that gets us fired up? Why do we exist? And what really matters to us?

From there, we dug into what our target clients care about. We interviewed several core clients and augmented that research with team observations, which informed the creation of several target personas.

Ultimately, we arrived at four powerful belief statements:

  1. We put creativity to work to grow businesses because problem-solving is the fastest way to achieve ambitious growth.
  2. We start by putting the dots in a row because we know a strategically led approach fights inefficiency and ineffectiveness for our clients’ marketing.
  3. We bring together top performers in new and traditional media to execute omnichannel campaigns.
  4. We are people who care as much as you do. Strategic partnership requires co-ownership of goals and results.

By determining which beliefs drive meaning for our agency, we could then analyze our visuals, messaging, and client experience to see if they were consistent in executing our ideals. Moving forward, we’ll continue asking ourselves what actions we can take to generate the right moments that prove our beliefs, and how we’re teaching and reinforcing these beliefs to our team.

Brand building is never finished

The operative words in that last sentence? Moving forward. As Dotted Line continues to grow and evolve, we’re always working to build our brand: enhance our visual identity, sharpen our message, and create meaningful moments for clients.

It’s tempting to view brand building as a destination, but it is, in fact, a journey. A company that consistently evaluates its own beliefs, and whether those beliefs drive its brand identity, is better equipped to drive traffic, leads, and conversions.

That’s not just conjecture. Lucidpress and Demand Metric found in 2017 that brand consistency drove an average 23% revenue increase for companies. If your beliefs don’t align with your messaging, identity, and moments, it’s time to consider a shift.

As a team of creative, content, and brand strategy experts, Dotted Line is equipped to build your brand through collaborative, research-driven methods that yield lasting results. Click here to reach out.

Tuesday Thought: Re-Engineering Our Habits for Success

“Vision without action is just a dream.” – Joel Arthur Baker

“Destiny is not a mystery. Destiny is daily habits. It’s mind over matter. It’s nurture over nature. It’s a daily grind in the same direction. Show me your habits. I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Batterson

•••

I’ve never been a big fan of setting ambitious goals or dreams without having a supporting action plan. I talk with many people who share grand hopes for the future, but in follow-up conversations a year or two later, I learn most didn’t achieve what they’d dreamed.

Days turn into months, and behavior changes never happen to instigate the necessary activities that turn actions into outcomes. For example, a big problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we fail to consistently practice the action that’s needed for us to succeed. Whether it’s getting out of debt or getting into shape, the habits we adapt dictate our progress.

A recent Duke University study shared that 45% of our daily behavior is automatic. So if we want to see meaningful change in our lives, we must reverse-engineer the steps toward a goal to put the right habits in place to achieve that desired outcome. As I think about some of my goals this year – for me personally, for my family, and for our agency team – this topic of habits and building a successful system is top of mind.

I recently heard author Mark Batterson talk about how he thinks about his habit formation, as he explores more deeply in his newest book, Do It For a Day. He assesses his habits with three questions: “Are my habits measurable? Are they meaningful? And are they maintainable?”

  • Measurable: We map miles, count calories and budget dollars. Our habits are quantifiable.
  • Meaningful: If I take on the desired persona, I believe I can do it. I believe I am a runner, so, therefore, I am able to run 30 minutes today.
  • Maintainable: Can I do it for one day? If so, I can do it again tomorrow. I spent time writing today, so, therefore, I can also write tomorrow.

Batterson looked at the habits of some of the most successful leaders in American history to hack their routines. What he found is that the top trend across all of them was their ability to focus and put discipline around their daily habits. Batterson shares that we often overestimate what we can do in a year or two and vastly underestimate what we can do in five or 10.

The encouraging news is that you’re always only one habit away from any goal you set.

In those moments when I feel like I just don’t have the time, I remember that a friend told me the average person spends two and a half hours per day on social media. That’s 15% of our typical waking hours. Unfortunately, when I look at my weekly iPhone activity report, my social media usage isn’t far off (even if some of it is work related).

So how do I accomplish big goals? This week, I’m focusing on one new habit to integrate daily.

What one habit could you adopt this week to see if it makes an impact in a month?

Tuesday Thought: Be The Buffalo

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

Before the start of the school year, I spent an intentional couple of days away with Dotted Line’s leadership team in the West Virginia mountains. We talked proactively about the health of our business, what’s coming up for our team in the next few years, and some current challenges. The good news is that the business is healthy and growing, and we have exciting opportunities on the horizon. Much of our conversation focused on the complexity facing our team right now. As a positive consequence of that growth, we’re aggressively staffing up, refining processes, and working hard to preserve our core, our mission and values – all at the same time.

I invest a lot of time speaking with and listening to other founders and business owners, learning the practices and tools that can enable our growth while making it as painless as possible for everyone involved. As I chatted with a friend recently, he mentioned a story about buffaloes and cows in Colorado.

For those that don’t know, Colorado is divided almost exactly in half by the Rocky Mountains. The western part of the state is the mountains, and the east part is the Plains. Because of this unique geography and landscape, this rare spot has both buffaloes and cows living together. As a storm builds from the west and spills over the Plains toward the wildlife, the cows and buffaloes respond very differently. In their lumbering way, the cows walk away from the storm, which prolongs how long they’re in the storm and maximizes the amount of pain, time, and frustration they experience from the wind and rain. The buffaloes take a different approach. They wait for the storm to roll over the ridge, and then turn and charge directly into the storm.  By running into the storm, the buffaloes run straight through it, minimizing their pain, time, and frustration.

It’s the same storm, but their experience is wildly different.

In life, we will always have storms. At Dotted Line, we’re constantly trying new things. One thing I love about our culture is that we’re not afraid of complexity or storms. Maybe we have a struggle with a client. Or a difficult conversation with a team member. Or a new idea that could revolutionize how we do service but could be difficult to implement.

Procrastinating on a problem usually amplifies the pain. But when we address it head on, we’re more apt to act with greater intention.  This week, I’m working hard to be mindful of which direction I’m running when faced with a storm. How can our team be like buffaloes and charging into a storm? And how can you and your team live that spirit?

Tuesday Thought: Filling Up The Bucket

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Charlie Jones

My daughter Savannah has become fixated on trying to help with chores around the house. I think it’s the act of watching my husband and I complete certain activities, and her trying to mimic them as part of her quest for independence. One of the chores that she has taken to is helping to water our plants every day. Our daughter has her small watering bucket, and each morning, she follows me outside to try to help me. This morning, she was growing frustrated because she kept trying to tip the bucket to water the plants, but she was forgetting to fill her bucket first with the water.

While this seems so obvious, I can see how it might not be for someone at her age. At Dotted Line, we talk a lot about the importance of personal growth and development. This interaction with my daughter this morning was a timely reminder, particularly amid the back-to-school season, the importance of filling our buckets to grow our abilities. 

I’ve learned that growth, whether it be me as a person, or the plants in our front yard, just doesn’t happen. Developing my abilities is the best chance of becoming the person I was created to be. I must be intentional about it. In practicalities, it is asking myself…am I growing to be the leader Dotted Line needs in to be successful?  This same thinking can be applied to all areas of our lives, professionally and personally.

What does growth look like? It’s developing the right attitude, learning your strengths, tapping into your passion, getting in touch with your purpose, developing your skills. And becoming a more effective and fulfilled individual starts with having a plan. For many years, I was intentional about working, reaching my goals, and being successful. The strategy was hard work. But working hard doesn’t guarantee success and hope isn’t a strategy.

I’ve learned that most people underestimate the importance of growth, and they get distracted. I know I have done that. As a result, I put growth on the back burner. Famous author and speaker, John Maxwell writes “If you want to reach your goals and fulfill your potential, become intentional about personal growth. It will change your life.”

This week I am thinking about what I am doing to fill my bucket so I can pour into others more effectively. It’s hard to build strength without growing my capacity to do and be more.

Tuesday Thought: Navigating Uncertainty with Certainty

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

The pathway to your greatest potential is often straight through your greatest fear.

Craig Groeschel

We are in a high growth phase right now at Dotted Line. The demands of our current account expansion are weighing on many components of the business and our team. We are all having to lean into the work for our clients in new ways and stretch ourselves.

But adjusting to new norms and unprecedented growth is nothing new to me. Several years ago, my husband, Shawn and I decided to move out of our townhouse into a more spacious, family-friendly home all while I was 7 months pregnant. We were trying to prepare for the baby’s due date, coordinate all the move logistics, and juggle our multiple businesses and family needs. Plus, the last stretch of pregnancy is emotionally and physically tiring. It was a stressful season for sure. We knew where we ultimately needed to be — in our new home before the baby’s arrival with our sanity still intact. But there were many moving pieces we were trying to manage through the process.

Create distance

During seasons of uncertainty, I find it easy to get caught up focusing on the things immediately in front of me.  Famous Navy Seal, Jocko Willink shares in his book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics, how he grew to create distance, both mentally and physically, before high-stakes military missions to gain the appropriate amount of perspective. He shares “I made it my goal to never be completely caught up in minuscule tactical aspects of a problem; my goal was to get a higher mental and physical altitude to see more…The more often I detached, the easier it became to see and understand the tactical picture, and the better I got.”  Being intentional about creating a certain level of distance in complex situations helps me to see the way forward more clearly.

This week, I am asking myself… how can I get above a challenging situation?

Make room for margin

When the future is uncertain, we are often our most vulnerable. A good friend and mentor once shared with me how important it is to give yourself twice as much space as you’d typically need in times of high stress. It seems counterintuitive when you think about it but creating lots of margin across multiple areas of your life provides space to be more prepared for opportunities and challenges that come your way. If I make a wrong move, I have the ability to quickly cover. The margin might be in terms of time, investments, a financial situation, or capacity to remain mentally flexible.

Are there ways in which I can create space within the demands of an assignment? Or with my schedule and time?

Keep things simple

Have you ever heard the saying, “you eat a giant elephant by taking one small bite at a time?”  When faced with a complex problem, keeping it simple and breaking it up into manageable, bite-sized pieces can help provide the guidance to move forward. For me, journaling, meditating or talking through how to simplify a situation are mechanisms to get to the bite-sized pieces.

When faced with an elephant, how can I simplify and create bite-sized pieces?

As a new leader, it can be easy to get caught up in trying to do our best, making the right moves at the right time.  Creating distance, making room for margin, and keeping things simple are small, tactical steps that can create a huge impact in our lives. As I continue through the rest of this week, I am thinking about how I can put these steps into practice to grow my abilities with focus and clarity.

Lauren

Tuesday Thought: Remember Tomorrow

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

“Remember tomorrow.”
Jesse Itlzer

After attending a tremendous Entreleadership Summit (for those that aren’t familiar with the program, the content is focused on equipping and developing leaders to grow healthy teams and small businesses) last week, I am reminded of one of my absolute all-time favorite speakers from a previous year’s event, Jesse Itzler. In his talk to the event audience, Jesse shares stories from building several high growth companies, his personal and familial adventures, and other life resume builders. Jesse shares how he focuses on living life with as much adventure and fulfillment as possible.

In his talk, Jesse draws on his experience inviting a navy SEAL to live with him for 30 days. Jesse wanted to learn the “secret sauce” of grit and mental perseverance from a figure who was operating at a level he couldn’t even comprehend. The first day the SEAL shows up at his house, the SEAL orders Jesse to the gym to tackle pull-ups. Having self-declared that he could only do 4 pull-ups at a given time, the SEAL coaches (or forces) Jesse to complete 100 pull-ups before they can leave. In his talk, Jesse shares that there is statistical research that shows when your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually at 40%.

I love this story because it highlights that the limitations we put on ourselves are self-imposed.  Last year, when I started training for a half-marathon, I remember thinking “there is NO WAY I can run 13 miles.” And by taking it one mile at a time, working on my mental toughness, and building grit, I learned I could tackle it one small piece at a time.

Last Monday I had lunch with a friend, and we were talking about the importance of having an abundance mindset. Most people are conditioned with a scarcity mindset. Limited resources, short-term thinking, and lack of opportunity. Scarcity mentality is what keeps many of us from achieving our goals. An abundance mindset refers to the paradigm shift that there is plenty for everyone. Opportunity and abundance are born out of our grit. We each create our own luck. The small things we do daily, and the way we speak to ourselves, create the environment for what we are becoming.

As I head into this week, I am remembering Jesse’s words and training my mind to look for possibilities. If we don’t win this pitch, good – we’ll win the next one. If we have a failure, good – we’ll get it right next time. Possibility is everywhere, we just have to remember tomorrow.