Cosmic Collaboration: How to Optimize Personality Differences in the Workplace

Cosmic Collaboration: How to Optimize Personality Differences in the Workplace

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Being the young, fun, progressive company that we are, we take personality evaluations VERY seriously around here. During our onboarding process, we have new hires complete the Myers-Briggs, Gallup Institute-StrengthsFinder, and DISC assessment before their first day.

Why do we do this? A) When you understand your wants, needs, and non-negotiables, you understand how to optimize your workflow to create positivity, creativity, and deeper fulfillment.    B) It’s just plain awesome to read about “why you do what you do,” and arm yourself with data-driven excuses for your road rage and other shortcomings. (“It’s an element of my personality archetype!”)

But in all seriousness, the beauty of having access to this kind of self-discovery, is deep-diving into how our differences make us stronger as a team. Today we’re going to take a closer look at the relationship between two very different personality types, and how their teamwork makes the dream work.

As you might imagine, Digital Marketing Firms draw an overwhelming number of artists, designers, photographers, and general creatives; Or in Myers-Briggs terms, ENFJs (aka, the Protagonist). At Elevate United, about 50% of us are ENFJs.

If ENFJs were an animal, they would be a unicorn. Why? For starters, because they dubbed themselves that...but more accurately, this personality type possess an otherworldly combination of golden personality traits such as:

●      Very charismatic

●      Altruistic

●      Skilled imitator

●      Natural leader

●      Decisive

●      Creative

●      Tolerant

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But every silver lining has a cloud, so what’s the flipside to these powerful wielders of whimsy?

●      Sometimes too selfless

●      Very idealistic

●      Often too sensitive

●      Vulnerable to criticism

●      Perfectionistic

●      May find it difficult to make tough decisions

●      Highly fluctuating self-esteem

●      Always need to have a cause

To recap: We’re in the business of creativity, and we’re well stocked with creatives. But what about the rest of us? How do you navigate the herd when you weren’t born with a magical horn or rainbow tail?

As an ENTJ (the Commander) type, I prefer to think of myself as more of a majestic, barrel-chested, black war horse charging down the hill and plowing through weapons of resistance left and right.

Some qualities of the ENTJ are:

●      High self-confidence

●      Quick and versatile mind

●      Strategic thinker

●      Energetic

●      Jack of all trades

●      Charismatic and inspiring

●      Honest and direct

●      Very efficient

●      Strong-willed

The downside of the war horse:

●      Stubborn

●      Arrogant

●      May be cold and ruthless

●      Poor handling of emotions

●      Intolerant

●      Loathe highly structured environments

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “this sounds like a disaster.” And you’re not wrong. The potential for disaster is imminent anytime you put two people with opposing views in the same room. But what if we shifted from what’s imminent to what’s possible? Sure, there will be times when the very efficient, honest and direct communication style of the ENTJ takes the rainbow right out of the unicorn’s mane; and when the idealistic, sensitive ENFJ will occasionally put a knot in the war horse’s tail, but let’s look at the top four ways these types benefit each other.

  1. Energy Conservation - Having a no-nonsense communicator on the team takes the pressure off of those who prefer to create art instead of boundaries. The war horse protects the unicorn’s creative energy from demanding clients and scattered co-workers. On the flipside, war horses consider emotions to be an energy drain when they’re in their productive zone. Unicorns excel in emotional intelligence, and can create a buffer between the war horse and the rest of the team when they’re not feeling all the feels.
  2. Personal Improvement - The unicorn’s gentle and selfless temperament often rubs off on the war horse over time, resulting in a force field that neutralizes their less positive attributes, and creates a harmonious work environment. Meanwhile, the war horse empowers the unicorn to be bold, and believe in him or herself.
  3. Structured Creativity - When the creative ideation of the unicorn and the strategic systems of the war horse intertwine in a moment of cosmic collaboration, time stops, the air fills with the sound of butterfly wings, and the work you put out as a team is truly excellent (aka, clients are happy and everyone gets paid).
  4. Momentum - Unicorns tend to get overwhelmed when there’s a big decision to be made. Often the artist is deeply connected to his or her art, making it difficult to be objective or decisive. Enter war horses, with their surgical approach to decision making, and hard lean towards logic. They can often separate feeling from action and move things forward when they’ve stalled. Then the unicorns coat everything in glitter so no one gets offended.

While all personality archetypes have not been represented in this post, these scenarios represent a universal truth: When a group of people optimize their strengths, and cover each other's weaknesses, the results in the workplace—and in life—are powerful.

 

 

 

Color Psychology

Color Psychology

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Have you ever wondered why certain colors pair together so well? Or how a logo or an image makes you feel those feelings you never thought you had? The answer may be less complicated than you thought.

It is…wait for it...psychology! Color psychology, to be exact.

The Color Wheel
Before we get into the different colors, here’s a little pre-blog history lesson on color.

Colors have two main categories: “warm” (red, orange, yellow) and “cool” (green, blue, purple). If you want, we could dive into the different sectors--primary, secondary, complementary, analogous, etc.--but let’s not make things too difficult. All you need to remember is warm colors evoke a higher-energy emotion, and cool colors have a calming effect on viewers. But don’t let that fool you. Each color has a positive and negative attitude depending on how it’s used.

Now, here’s the best part:

FUN FACTS!

RED // energy
Draws more attention than ANY other color
Raises blood pressure
(-) Anger, murder, aggressive, danger
(+) Love, passion, action, confidence, protection

ORANGE // creativity
Stimulates activity and inspires social behavior
Combines the energy of red w/ happiness of yellow
(-) Cautionary, superficial, overbearing
(+) Creativity, success, self-confident

YELLOW // happiness
The “happiest” color in the color wheel
Activates memory & stimulates nervous system
(-) Caution (stop lights), deception
(+)Sunshine, high-energy, enthusiasm

GREEN // relaxation
Gives both mental and physical relaxation
(-) Envy, rotten, inexperience
(+) Renewal, harmony, soothing, natural, alive

BLUE // trustworthy
Associated with masculinity, water, and athletics
(-) Cold, sad, immoral
(+) Calmness, clean, fresh, technology, future

PURPLE // uplifting
Energy of red and calmness of blue
(-) Instability, arrogance, self-involvement
(+) Bravery, creativity, calming, magic, sensitivity, wealth

Now that you know more about the psychology behind color, take a look around and pay attention to people’s logos and designs. What colors do they use? How does it make you feel? Do you think they are being intentional about their color choices?
 

How To Say No

How To Say No

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Who here has been asked to do more than they can physically accomplish in the allotted time? Please raise your hand.

Or just stand up. Please.

Or just stand up. Please.

Okay, so I'm just assuming you've raised your hand if you've ever had a job before. Many professionals feel overworked or overwhelmed at certain points in their career--in fact, according to the Families and Work Institute, almost one third of employees in the United States feel this way at any given time. Often, job-type is a big indicator of this. My wife is in sales with a large enterprise company, and when not specifically calling on clients (which she does often because she's a true rockstar at her job), her job can be quite reactive, answering emails and taking phone calls. But, that type of position allows for a certain kind of freedom--freedom to run errands, etc when needed--that's often specific to sales. I, on the other hand, am the only full-time developer at a start-up branding and marketing agency, and my job isn't quite like that.

My job is really special, and I get to work with a lot of different types of clients. I'm afforded the opportunity to make decisions on which clients should use which technologies, and I fully understand how rare that is. I'm still in my first year as a professional developer, for crying out loud! However, the tough part of my job is that with the number of clients we have, I'm often at the mercy of how much work has to be done. In my job, I'm literally reading a book about the importance of having only one priority, and then being given four priority projects.

Please help.

Please help.

Outside of producing during my billable hours each day, a large chunk of my time is spent balancing this super sick problem:

I'm gonna work super hard and try to get all this done no matter what to make my boss proud of me

VS.

I just literally can't finish all of this

(with a little bit of crippling imposter syndrome sprinkled in, for flavor).

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BUT, faithful readers, what I've learned, and what I'm going to share today, is what keeps my head on straight. (I've lost my mind long ago, lezbeyonest). In the words of our favorite D.A.R.E. officer from 5th grade, "JUST SAY NO."

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Well, I take some of that back. It's really about managing expectations. Here are 4 ways to say no that will save you from getting too overwhelmed, and make your clients, colleagues and boss think you said "yes!"

1. Use over-sharing to your advantage

When I get assigned an important time-sensitive task from an account manager, I've realized it's best to avoid the annoyed "No", as well as the stressed out diatribe of "I'm just, like, really busy, and I guess I can try to get it done today, but it's gonna be tough, and also, I think I'm getting a stye." Instead, consider thanking your boss/client/colleague for keeping you top of mind for this project, and then share what you were PLANNING on working. This does two things:

  1. It tells them that you're flattered (because you are!)
  2. It shares that you already have plans to be busy.

The second key there gives them the chance to ask something else to be moved back in the queue, which gives you more insight to what the real priority is!

2. Offer a "Why"

You know all those "stupid millennial" memes that try to make fun of our need to know "why"? Well, they're kinda right. (Sidenote: if you want to disprove the "millennials are fragile snowflakes" trope, disagree with someone in their 50s or 60s about LITERALLY ANYTHING.)

When we are discussing a particular plan of action, providing a clear reason to accompany the plan is an effective way to sell the plan. As much as people want to know their role, they equally, if not more so, wish to know why their particular cog in the machine matters. "My way or the highway" isn't a super great way to get people on your side.

*Not my actual boss.

*Not my actual boss.

This is particularly important when you're going to have to "shoot down" a bunch of your client's ideas. By rationalizing your own actions through addressing their requests, together, you'll both gain clarity as to why particular choices were made and how they'll add value.

By offering a "why" to accompany your plan of action, colleagues and clients are able to envision their role and are more likely join in wholeheartedly.

3. Prove you're already addressing the request

Maybe more than anything, your clients just want to know and feel like they're being heard. This is not the time for Don Draper-isms like, "This is why you hired me," or "Let me do my job," or my personal favorite:
 

There is a sip of Canadian Club between each "wah".

There is a sip of Canadian Club between each "wah".

Allow the client to completely finish what they're trying to say, and REALLY listen. This can allow you to fully tailor your response to what they're asking. Most likely, you're already in the process of doing part of what they're asking. This is a great time to celebrate a victory by sharing that. It's also an effective time to share that you're all on the same page.

4. Be (98%) Honest

Sometimes, there are just things you don't want to do. Maybe it's because it's not your skillset, but it also could just be that it doesn't interest you. Many times, it's your co-workers asking. The last thing you want to do is lie to people you spend most days with every week and count on for other work, but at the same time, if you get asked to help on a project that is absolutely not up-your-alley, give a kind, but real reason: "Sorry [co-worker name], I stink at social media stuff, and have no clue how to use Docker or Ontraport." It's also a great idea to honestly recommend someone who would genuinely be better for the task. People love to be thought of as experts, and that person just might send something your way the next time that you can actually be an asset on.

Agency work is tough. Having multiple clients with numerous projects per account can be mind-boggling. It's up to you, more than anyone else, to be an advocate for your own time and sanity. Setting these boundaries allows the people you work with to understand what you're capable of, how much bandwidth you have, and how valuable you are. That gets you that much closer to a raise, or at least to being elected "Unicorn of the Week," (which is an actual thing we do at Elevate).

Do you use any other tactics when it comes to saying "no"? Please share in the comments!

The 4 Causes of Writer’s Block & How To Beat It

The 4 Causes of Writer’s Block & How To Beat It

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I’ve been a writer for just about as long as I could talk. In fact, I pretty much started writing because I talked so much it annoyed my brothers and I needed a place to put all of the extra words.

I’ve been writing professionally now for more than ten years. I’m a songwriter. I’m a marketing writer. I live and breathe words. It’s my life to play with words on a page. And I love it--most of the time.

But sometimes, the words just aren’t there. Writer’s block is a real thing. No matter how long you’ve been a writer, it still happens. These days, it doesn’t stick around for long because I’ve finally cracked the code of what causes it.  

Uncovering these four causes of writer’s block have saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count, so I hope sharing them is helpful for you too.

Why You Can’t Will Writer’s Block Away

Whether you’re a professional writer, you’re aspiring to launch a new brand, or you’re simply wanting to increase your personal following, you’re going to need powerful, creative messaging to help you cut through the noise.

But knowing you have to create kick-ass content is intimidating, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself at a block in the road, if you haven’t already. If you’ve ever experienced writer’s block, you know that you can’t just WILL yourself to not be blocked. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, the harder you try to break the block by sheer force or will or denial, I guarantee, the worse it will get.

To truly beat writer’s block, you have to first understand WHY it happens. And no, it’s not because you’re too distracted or spending too much time on Facebook. Those things are just symptoms of your block--not the causes.

Here’s what I’ve found to be the four main causes of my writer’s block. Once you can identify which one is tripping you up, you can quickly tackle it and be on your merry way.

Cause #1 - You Don’t Have Enough Information

Often, you sit down to write something before you have enough information gathered. I always say that 80% of writing is done before you start putting fingers to the keyboard. If you are stuck, it’s usually because you haven’t done your due diligence. Before you’re really ready to write, you must first:
 

  1. Know Your Purpose
    What you are writing and who you’re writing it for. It’s essential to first define the purpose your writing serves or you will wander around like a confused and lost little puppy.
    (i.e. I’m writing about beating writer’s block for the purpose of helping other writers save themselves from wanting to bash their heads against the wall.)  
     

  2. Gather, Organize and Outline Your Information
    For me, this usually involves interviewing clients, which is my favorite part. If you listen well and ask quality questions, usually “the writing” is already done for you. The voice and the story are there, you’re just “harvesting” it from the interviewee, organizing it and putting it down on paper in a way that makes sense to readers. One key tip: No matter how “experienced” I am, outlines are my friend. Outlines are roadmaps.

Honestly, once you know your purpose and your audience and have gathered and organized your information, I swear the thing practically writes itself.
 

Cause #2 - You’re Not Being Completely Honest

Writer’s block is an honesty issue? Yes, definitely. For example, my co-worker recently wrote a very personal (and amazing) article she shared on our company blog. When she was facing writing it initially, she shared with me that she “felt kind of stuck.”

But after talking through it for a few minutes, the truth was, she knew exactly what to write about. She was just nervous about writing about the topic on her heart because it was so honest and vulnerable. I encouraged her to go with her gut. She did, and it turned out to be one of the best blog articles our company has ever released.

If being honest and vulnerable isn’t for you, you should probably be a car mechanic and not attempt to write. #toughlove. We write to bring about change and to challenge people to think differently. You can’t do that when you’re playing it safe. It’s perfectly okay to be nervous about being vulnerable, but you just need to recognize it, accept it and decide to be brave. Then you’ll be able to push past your writer’s block.

Cause #3 - You’re Tapped Out  

It happens. In our company, we write for multiple clients varying in every topic imaginable. Sometimes, after the end of a long week or two, you’re just tapped out. That’s when we encourage people to take an “educational” break. You need to feed yourself before you can pour out words for someone else.

I pick up a book, take a long walk or, honestly, sometimes just stare at a wall to let my brain breathe. For those A-type personalities out there, this might seem like a waste of time. And it is--if you do it all the time. But if you’re truly tapped out, you aren’t good to anyone until you take a step back and take an artistic chill pill.

Trust me, if you take some time to recharge your creative juices, you’ll come back refreshed and with much better ideas.

Cause #4 - You Have Your Editor Hat On

I save this till last because it’s probably the one I see plague writers and aspiring writers the most. STOP JUDGING YOUR WRITING before it even has a chance to get on the freaking page. Seriously. Not your job. Write it. Let the words come out. The sentences may be dumb. It may not be ground-breaking.

But here’s the deal. If you:

-Have a strong purpose and know who you’re writing for and why

-Are being honest with yourself and the characters/content

-Have done your due diligence in gathering, organizing and outlining your information

Then you’re ready to write. The only thing that is stopping you at this point is that you are trying to do a job that’s not yours. So stop. Just write. THEN, once it’s written, you can go back and put your editor cap on. Stop trying to control freak and police yourself out of creativity.

Ugh! I used to do this to myself all the time and it makes me so mad when I see crazy amazing creative people self-sabotage their work before it even has a fighting chance to breathe its first breath.
 

Why This Is So Important

Why am I so passionate about sharing this? Because I believe that in a world completely oversaturated with advertisements and marketing campaigns hitting you in the face around every corner, creating unique and compelling content is more important than ever.

If  you don’t learn to beat writer’s block, one of two things can happen:
 

  1. You can’t pull it off and you miss your deadlines

  2. You turn in crap  

In a digital age, having a quick turnaround for content is crucial. Companies depend on it. Marketing campaigns count on it. So if you’re a quirky content person like me, your job and your sanity depends on beating these 4 causes of writer’s block.

Good luck and may the words be with you.

 

Beware of Buzzwords

Beware of Buzzwords

We all know a buzzword when we hear one.

(Even “buzzword” itself is a buzzword.)  

In the marketing world, buzzwords are important-sounding words or phrases, usually bits of jargon, that are popular in a particular context at a particular time. They’re meant to generate “buzz” about something, to grab someone’s attention. And it’s understandable how they become popular in the first place: they often pack a ton of meaning into a pithy, memorable word.

The problem is, when overused, they become stale and rather meaningless. And they can leave people feeling confused, wary, left out of the loop. Which certainly doesn’t endear them to your brand or business.

So here are a few categories of buzzwords to beware of:

Adjectives that Don’t Really Say Anything

  1. Innovative

  2. Unique

  3. Dynamic

  4. Strategic

  5. Ultimate

  6. World-class

The above words are all fluff. If someone described a product or service with them, would they have any effect on you? Probably not.

As copywriter Henneke Duistermaat says in this article, it’s better to explain why or how these adjectives are true of something. Clearly and briefly lay out the features and benefits. Take Apple’s marketing copy about the camera on their new new iPhone 7:

“iPhone is the most popular camera in the world. Now we’ve reengineered that beloved camera, adding optical image stabilization, an ƒ/1.8 aperture, and a six-element lens to make it even better for shooting photos and videos in low light. And with advanced new features like wide color capture, your photos and Live Photos will look even more vibrant.”

See that? Features and benefits. I know I’m sold. Anyone want to buy me one?
 

Titles Business Leaders Give Themselves

Things Like:

  1. Guru

  2. Ninja

  3. Rockstar

Are you a spiritual leader and guide within Hinduism, a warrior who is highly proficient in the Japanese martial art of ninjutsu, or a famous musician in the rock-and-roll world? No? Then these titles might not apply to you.

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Of course, these words have less literal meanings, but they’ve been played out. People see these words so often on social media and blogs that they’ve started not to mean much. If tens of thousands of people are “business gurus” and “rockstar sales analysts,” who exactly does one trust?

This excerpt of an infographic by copywriter Kathryn Wheeler gives some good alternatives:

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Random Words That Bug the Copywriter in Me

Every blog will have different words they say are overused. There may not be one right answer, but the key is to be aware of language, and to constantly analyze it to make sure it still packs the punch it was meant to. Here are a couple buzzwords I think we should move away from:

  1. Hack

“Hack” can mean: to chop, to cleverly modify a computer program, to break into with the intent to cause harm, or refer to a professional who is bad at his or her job. Nowadays, it seems everything’s a “growth hack” or a “life hack.” And it’s making me hack (cough, cough).

Some alternatives: shortcut, tip, or solution.

     2. Actionable

Remind me why we turned this noun into an adjective? It just sounds silly. If a business is basing decisions on some data, they could just talk about why they’re taking action instead of calling it “actionable data”.

Some alternatives: practical, applicable, ready-to-use, easily implemented.

Here’s a list of some other buzzwords that are white noise in your customers’ ears:

  1. Leverage

  2. Alignment

  3. Pivot

  4. Synergy

  5. Optimize

  6. Disrupt

  7. Viral

  8. Scalable

  9. ROI

I’ll leave you with this:

Buzzwords often draw attention inward to you or your business, when the focus should be outward toward your customers or clients. You want to increase trust and relatability, not alienate people with gibberish. If you’re wondering whether your writing is too buzzword-y, freelance copywriter Alaura Weaver suggests asking yourself these questions:

  1. Is this written like I’m talking to a good friend?

  2. Is this word essential to the story I want to tell?

  3. Is this how to voice in my head actually sounds?

  4. Does this sound natural when read aloud?

If you answered “no” to any of these, you may have a few buzzwords holding your writing hostage. People just want to know why they should care. Why should they spend their time or money on a marketing scheme and what it’s selling? If they should care, explain why. Clearly, eloquently, in plain English, with maybe a dash of humor.

If you can do that, you’ll have all the buzz you can handle.