Tag Archives: learning

What is a balanced life really?

life balance

We hear  a lot about work life balance and there is much talk in the media about the importance of it and how to achieve it. Having been a mother and wife for my entire working life, balancing career and family has always been an important topic for me. I’ve always felt strongly about not confining myself to one particular role i.e. I am not just a mother, I am not just a wife, I am not just a business women I am all of these things and more, and it’s always been important to me to grow in all these areas simultaneously. It occured to me recently that my notion of a balanced life has changed. I used to think of balance in terms of putting equal effort in to all the respective areas of my life. After all, a common definition of balance is:

“An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady”

But in actual fact I’ve found that maintaining balance in my own life very rarely means that. Life is not neat and tidy, at every stage in life there will be one or two areas that require more of your time, effort and focus than others. Therefore in life, balance never means equal.  I’m reminded of Ecclessiastes 3:1

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

Sometimes the  season and where the focus is needed is obvious, and it will be dictated by circumstances e.g. if your family is having a hard time financially it will be obvious that you need to focus on increasing your income and earning potential. Or if your child is having a hard time at school then the focus will be more on family.

However, often the change in season is not that obvious, in fact we would do well not to wait until circumstances dictate a change in focus. Quite often there are signs way before we reach this point which indicate that we need to adjust our priorities. Therefore maintaining balance for me,  means that I am aware enough and mindful enough to gauge where I need to apply the most focus in my life at any given time.

Right now in my own life I sense a change in season. From the outside looking in,  it all looks good and to be honest it is. I’m at a very good place in life and yet change is on the horizon because in my heart I know it’s time. No one can detect the times and seasons in your life better than you, you can read all you want to on maintaining a healthy work life balance, but none of it will tell you what is right for you.

So I leave you with a question, what season are you in and as we enter a New Year where do  you need to apply the most focus?

Blessings,
Katrina

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5 top tips for learning on the go

Learning is a life long process and as I’ve mentioned many times before, the more you know is the more you realise that you don’t know. Like many of you, my life is busy but I’ve always made learning and acquiring new knowledge a priority, because I believe it’s the most important investment you can make in yourself and it will always pay dividends. As the saying goes, you can always find time for the things that are important to you, so if learning is a priority for you too, here are a few top tips that work for me:

1.  Sign-up to Audible

The number one way to acquire knowledge is through books, yep not even the Internet can replace the value of a good book. My absolute favourite pass time is to find somewhere secluded, preferably with a nice view and a cup of tea and just read for hours. Unfortunately life rarely affords such luxuries, so the next best thing is Audible. Audible is Amazon’s audio book division, there are various subscription options available and a great mobile app that allows you to download and listen to books whenever and wherever you are. I subscribed to Audible in 2010 and can’t recommend it enough, I’m one of those people that can’t bare to waste time so it’s a great way for me to utilise the three hours a day I spend commuting to and from work, and provides a great companion while doing the housework.

2.  Use mobile apps to capture your thoughts

Yes we can learn a lot from others but we can also learn a lot from ourselves. Many ideas come to our minds each day and we often fail to acknowledge them, simply dismiss them or forget them. You never know when a good idea will come in handy so I recommend capturing your thougts and ideas whenever you feel that they’ll be worth recollecting at some point in the future. The main app I use for this is Evernote it allows you to quickly type, and store notes, record voice notes, capture pictures, screen grabs and more on the go. The clip below pretty much demonstrates how I use the app regularly, if you only have one app on your phone to boost productivity it should probably be Evernote.

3.  Always have a book in your bag ( or a Kindle)

I’m a little bit obsessed with books so I tend to have a few paperbacks in my car and my Kindle in my bag at all times (I know my husband thinks it’s over kill too lol). But the thing is you never know when you’re going to have an inbetween moment and a few free minutes e.g. waiting in a queue or arriving early for a meeting, and as I mentioned earlier I hate to waste time and a good book is a great time filler.

4.  Listen to podcasts

A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Podcasts are a great wat to keep up to date with authors, speakers and thought leaders that are prominent in your industry and beyond. Stitcher is my latest, favourite app.

It’s great for making sure I never miss an episode of my favourite podcasts which include:

5.  Become a professional listener

You can learn something from everyone and anyone, we often miss nuggets of wisdom imparted by others in our daily lives because we’re more interested in expressing our own opinions as opposed to listening to those of others. Much can be gained from listening keenly to what others have to say.

I hope you’ve found theses tips for learning on the go useful and I’d love to hear if there are others you’d like to recommend so feel free to comment below.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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6 ways to be great in and outside your organisation

fly high

You can be equipped for a job but ill-equipped for success beyond that job. The reason is that most companies will train you to be great within the confines of that organisation and the way they work, not beyond it. This is why if you stay with one company for too long it can sometimes go against you because some employees may feel that you are too used to another companies way of working and may have difficulty adapting to theirs.

I value loyalty and personally I’m not one to change jobs every five minutes but I also believe that variety is valuable and the more varied you’re working experiences are the more equipped you are to handle a variety of situations and people. I think the reason why many people are frustrated and bored in their jobs is because they’ve simply stayed too long. Many people are too scared to look for something new; a job might be mundane and boring but many will say ‘at least it’s safe’. Staying in a job too long can knock your confidence and give you the feeling that you can’t do anything else and find anything better. I’m reminded of something I heard recently from a Pastor I know; “Never be afraid to lose your job to find your calling/purpose in life”.

I believe we all know in our hearts when it’s time to move on and look for a new challenge but many times we ignore the nudge and settle for the safe option, in this post I want to encourage you to embrace the ‘nudge’.

I’ve always made it a priority to train not just for where I am but for where I’m going  this has meant that although I haven’t made many career moves they’ve tended to be big career jumps, because I’ve been prepared for promotion, for example:

What How
Secured my first marketing job 3 days after my last university exam, before I had my results I knew what employers would be looking for, tailored my CV accordingly and applied for jobs while studying for exams
Promoted from Marketing Coordinator to Head of Marketing within 8 weeks of arriving in a new job I had the necessary experienceI had industry standard professional qualifications not just a degreeI worked to the standard before I had the title

Equipping a team as well as yourself

As a manager I also train and coach my team to equip themselves for success within the company and beyond it in the following ways:

  • By sending them on trainings that are relevant to their work as well as the direction that the industry is moving in
  • I deliberately get them to work to goals tied to the company’s success as well as their personal development goals
  • I encourage them to stay close to the industry and build their own networks in and outside the company
  • I constantly challenge their assumptions and encourage them to ask better questions, after all, the quality of learning is determined by the quality of our questions

In this way my role is twofold, both manager and a mentor.

So here are my  6 top tips for equipping yourself for success inside and outside the walls of the company you work for:

1.      Build your own networks inside and outside the company

LinkedIn makes this a whole lot easier than it used to be

2.      Stay close to your industry

This includes connecting with key influencers, becoming a member of relevant trade organisations and attending industry events. For me this meant becoming a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing very early on, through which I am now Chartered and sit on the local non-executive committee. I also connect with marketers I admire across social media.

3.      Read broadly

For me this is crucial it’s almost impossible to stay ahead of the game without reading; everything from, books to blogs and biographies

4.      Be committed to  continuous development

Continue your training and remember that ‘a degree is just that a degree of knowledge’ as my Pastor recently said. With the rate of change and knowledge increase in most industries, you cannot afford to stop at a degree. For me the CIM CPD program has been invaluable in this regard. It’s not your employers responsibility to keep your knowledge relevant and up-to-date, it’s yours so live life learning.

5.      Have a balanced life

Make time for a range of interests, research shows it makes you better at your job as it broadens your vision and improves  creativity.

6. Always be preparing for where you’re going

Focus on the future not just where you are today, remember a job is no longer for life it’s just for a season

Finally, don’t live to work, work to live.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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Chartered Institute of Marketing: 4 reasons budding marketers should join

CIM

Firstly, no, I’m not being paid for this post  :) but I have been a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) since 2007 and I am a member of the CIM East of England Committee, so yes I am a fan!

The Chartered Institute of Marketing provides marketing support, resources and training for anyone interested in the marketing profession; from students to senior marketers and business owners.

Marketing is an increasingly competitive sector and anything you can do to make yourself stand out among the competition will help. Within our current social media driven culture, credibility and trust count as key differentiators, and CIM goes a long way in providing credibility to its members.

So whether you’re a budding business owner or marketer, here are 4 reasons to join:

1.     Marketing knowledge

  • Professional training from some of the best marketing practitioners in the world – people that do marketing for a living not just teach it!
  • The Marketer Magazine is one of the best marketing magazines in the UK with great editorial content and news on latest trends

 2.     Marketing resources

  • Access to the latest market reports and case studies
  • A comprehensive collection of practical and informative guides and templates to support you. Everything from strategic planning templates to guides on implementing marketing programmes  and measuring success.

3.      Networking

The Chartered Institute of Marketing gives you a platform to meet, share and network with other business owners and marketers in similar situations to you.

 4.     Continuing professional development (CPD) programme

Marketing evolves at such a rapid rate that if you want to remain relevant you have no choice but to continue learning. The CIM CPD programme ensures that your marketing knowledge is current and up-to-date.

CPD ultimately leads to Chartered Marketer Status.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing has given me a rounded marketing education and a depth of knowledge that is increasingly scarce. A lot of people think marketing begins and ends with social media and digital marketing, although these are an increasingly large piece of the marketing pie, they are definitely not the be-all and end-all.

The CIM will give you a solid marketing foundation on which to build all your marketing endeavours

The CPD programme helped me keep my skills sharp even when my job had stagnated and there was no longer any room for growth.

If the above appeals then look into joining the CIM.

Other marketing organisations and resources I recommend are:

Speak soon,
Katrina

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Leadership Lessons from Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham

Now I’m always inspired by women that have gone before me and blazed trails in various walks of life. Katharine Graham, prolific publisher of the Washington Post, is one of these women. I had actually never heard of her until I came across an article by Warren Buffet on LinkedIn last May in which he explained that women are the future of American prosperity. This lead me to find out more about her and in doing so I came across her Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography and I did indeed learn a few leadership lessons.

1.       She was aware of her weaknesses and vulnerabilities

She acknowledged that she lacked business acumen and experience when she was suddenly put in the position of heading the Washington post following her husband’s untimely death. She acknowledged that she had insecurities and viewed herself as inferior to the businessmen that surrounded her. I really appreciated this transparency and honesty, it’s refreshing and something you don’t always expect from someone that was raised in great wealth and privilege and counted a number of US presidents amongst her close friends. I’m reminded that self-awareness is an important leadership quality; it enables you to guard against pitfalls, develop in areas of weakness and play to your strengths.

2.       She persevered and did not give up even in the midst of great difficulty

A common theme throughout the book is Katharine Graham’s endurance, she just kept going. When her husband past away she kept moving forward, throughout President Nixon’s effort to discredit the Washington Post during the Watergate political scandal, she kept going. Through various other difficulties she just kept moving forward. Sometimes there were setbacks, sometimes she moved fast and sometimes slow, but through it all she continued to press forward and there is a great lesson in that.

 3.       She realised the value of advisors and mentors

Even when Katharine Graham didn’t know what she was doing or which way to go, she surrounded herself with people that did and learned from them. Warren Buffet was one of these mentors. In this excerpt from her Personal History it is clear what a huge impact he had on her development as a business leader. I’ve often heard business people say that mentors are a crucial component in business success, and it would seem that was definitely the case for Katharine Graham.

“On September 11th 1974, Both Warren and Don Graham went on the board of the Washington Post Company. No two people were of more help to me over the next several years. And I needed all the help I could get. With most things regarding the business side of the company, I still felt uncomfortable, fragile and vulnerable. Here, Warren really went to work on me. My business education began in earnest – he literally took me to business school, which was just what I needed. How lucky I was to be educated – to the extent possible by Warren Buffet, and how many people would have given anything for the same experience. It was hard work for both of us – Warren admitted that I needed what he called “remedial work” – but absolutely vital for me.”
Katharine Graham, Katharine Graham Personal History, p577

Despite being 677 pages long and tedious to read in places, this autobiography is worth a read. Katharine Graham lived a fascinating life, she was and still is known as one of the most significant female leaders of her time and there is much that can be learned from her Personal History.

Speak soon,
Katrina

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The Heart of Marketing is the Art of Communication

communication

3 Core Skills the Modern Marketer Must Have

1.   Writing

“A word after a word after a word is power.” 
   – Margaret Atwood

Of all the marketing skills I’ve learnt writing has probably been the most valuable. I started my first marketing job three days after my final university exam as a Marketing Assistant and from day one I was expected to write copious amounts of copy; everything from company profiles, product marketing documents and newsletters, to advertisements, newsletters, press releases and web copy. What astounded me was that I was not taught a shred about copywriting in my entire marketing degree, hopefully things have changed.

Words are powerful and if you learn to use them well in your writing it will give you a solid foundation for all your marketing endeavours.  The ability to write well is more important now then it’s ever been due to the rise of content marketing.  If you’re interested in honing your marketing skills this ebook The Marketers Pocket Guide to Writing Well is a good place to start.

2.   Reading

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”
       – A C Grayling, Financial Times 

Most of my ideas begin with things that I’ve read, not just marketing books but a variety of genres. The more you know is the more you realise that you don’t know and reading is a great way to get in the know. I don’t necessarily mean reading books, it could be industry blogs, magazines and content from thought leaders on social media. The point is that knowledge multiplies at such a rapid rate that if you don’t read, you’re likely to be left behind.

Twitter is my source for a lot of the information I read, it allows me to scan what’s new and drill down to the information that interests me, I simply follow some great people and a few relevant hashtags like #SmallBiz #Marketing etc. Audible is also a good option. The most important thing is that you are regularly updating your knowledge in relation to your customers and market, the channel or medium you use to do this is less important.

4.   Listening

“To succumb to the disease of not listening is to become mentally and intellectually deaf”
    – John Adair

As John Adair states in John Adair’s 100 Greatest Ideas for Brilliant Communication It’s very easy to confuse hearing with listening, the latter is about thoughtfulness and openness towards what’s been said. A lot of times what we call listening is simply what we do while waiting to talk.

It’s amazing how many ideas are stimulated when we truly listen to others, I like this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Everyone is my superior in that I learn from him or her”

My point is this; great communication is at the heart of great marketing, master the art of communication and you’re well on the way to becoming a stellar marketer.

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Create Your Own Marketing Path – The Art of Marketing Warfare pt 6

This post is about capitalising on your strengths and minimising your weaknesses to create your own marketing path.

Marketing path

War is a chess game in which the value of the pieces and the nature of their possible moves vary both with the training of the pieces and the skill of the individual player – it is a matter of skills and training and a commitment to continuous learning.  My focus here is on practical wisdom that comes from practical experience, and learning from your market and the movements in your industry to create your own, unique marketing path.

Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field is fresh for the battle there is such a thing as first mover advantage, but even if you’re not first in the market (a rarity these days) you can be first in terms of creating  your own marketing path. An example of this that I mentioned ‘in attack by strategy’ is Amazon they were way behind the curve in terms of entering the book retailing market, in fact when they emerged in the late1990’s many thought they didn’t stand a chance but because of their focus on adaptive innovation and consequently being the first to employ the strategy they did in terms of online marketing and retailing, they proved all the naysayers wrong and squashed the competition in the process.

As Sun Tzu said the clever combatant, imposes his will on the enemy but doesn’t allow his will to be imposed on him. A lot of people follow the leader the one that is first in the field, be free from this and clear your own marketing path, learn from the best but don’t necessary follow them.  your business has its own identity; one mark of a great general  is that he fights on his own terms or he doesn’t fight at all.

So here’s five tips:

1. Go for places that are undefended – look for keywords with low competition  but are very relevant to your business, optimise your website content for these keywords.

 

2. Create customer personas that largely dictate your marketing path. Let your customers lead you. It is true that customers sometimes don’t know what they want until they see it, after all few people thought they needed a tablet until Apple presented the iPad. But more often than not your customers are best placed to tell you what they want and set you on the right path.

 

3. Think creatively about new ways to reach your target market don’t be limited by what has or hasn’t been done, take notes from other industries. What might by an old idea in one industry can often be new in another. Take stock of your own strengths and weaknesses and use your strengths to your advantage. Think about what advantage can be gained from your location, your unique skills, experiences and relationships.

 

4. Check out the new generic top-level domains (gTLD’s) you may or may not know but in early 2014  the next stage in the Internet’s revolution will begin: new top-level domains (the part after the dot in a web address) such as .app, .blog, .hotel, .london and many, many more will be released. If you’ve ever tried to secure a domain name (web address) you’ll know that it’s almost impossible to secure the exact .com and increasingly .co.uk domain you want. The right web address can give you a huge competitive advantage when it comes to being found on Google. These new domains will give you a new opportunity to help your business make its mark, so my advice is to check them out and pre-order the new domains that will work for you, before someone else does.

 

5. Never stop learning. My pastor recently said in a sermon that a degree is just that, a degree of knowledge, and it’s so true. Don’t be content with a degree of knowledge.  In order to know how to create your own marketing path, you will have to study your market and your customers, it will also help to stay on top of what’s new in the field of marketing as the industry is changing constantly.

If you need further assistance creating your own marketing path, feel free to contact me and as always feel free to comment below, it’s always great to hear from you.

PS: Why not read The Art of War for yourself, definitely a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

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Live Life Learning

In this post I really want to encourage you to pursue lifelong learning and use every experience in your life whether good or bad as an opportunity to learn and grow.

One of my favourite quotes is, “The more you know is the more you realise you don’t know”.

This quote has always humbled me and built in me a continuous thirst for knowledge, knowledge that has equipped and prepared me throughout my life.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:15;

“An intelligent man acquires knowledge and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge”

So I encourage you to seek knowledge and pursue lifelong learning it will pay great dividends in your life.

This week I have been absolutely spoilt with learning opportunities;

Earlier this week I spent two and a half days completing the last module of leadership training that I’ve been doing for the past year. It’s actually been one of the best courses I’ve been on (perhaps I’ll tell you about it one of these days), to be honest I was more sad than I thought to say goodbye at the end of the course and it actually felt like a mild form of ‘mourning’.

However, that’s not why I’m wearing black I’m actually about to go into another significant learning experience. I’m in a hotel in Frankfurt about to go down to the annual management meeting held by my employer each year where 4-500 senior managers within the company from across the world, meet to network and hear from the Board of Directors.

I have to tell you these events use to intimidate me and build in me such insecurity, the thought of being amongst people who I perceived as better, smarter and more successful than me used to generate such fear. THANK GOD THOSE DAYS ARE OVER now these are simply opportunities for me to learn and let the light God has given me shine.

So I encourage you to live life learning – let no situation in your life intimidate or defeat you just use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Blessings,

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