Agents, beware! We all know children are darn cute…but they can do more damage than a Claymore mine. They are lurking everywhere, ready to set off small explosions while flashing irresistible, angelic grins. Be especially vigilant at open houses, or YOU may be the poor sucker who ends up on a milk carton. I offer you this report as proof:
The Clock Was Ticking
Marcia is a dedicated real estate agent who tries very hard to balance her roles as mother and business woman. We all know that sometimes the real estate Gods are MIA or out playing eighteen holes, so sometimes the juggling becomes precarious. Thus was the plight of our friend, Marcia.
Marcia was packing her van for a Brokers Open when the nanny called to say she could not make it. Marcia immediately called her husband, but he was on the golf course – apparently fraternizing with the irresponsible real estate gods – so he didn’t answer. Unable to rouse anyone else, she gathered up her adorable three year old son, Liam, and went off to show her listing.
Marcia was setting out a luncheon and warming quiches when Liam decided the crayons in his pocket would improve the minimalist design of the kitchen walls. Upon discovering Liam’s bold mural, Marcia’s voice went from zero to sixty as she reprimanded the young artist (freedom of expression for younguns be damned) and told him to eighty-six the crayons. She then grabbed the cleanser and attempted to repair the wall. As distracted Marcia tried to remove the wax road map before her, the compliant child ditched his weapons. Unfortunately, he disposed of the crayons in the sink. Clever little guy.
Beware the Silence
Believing (foolishly) that disaster had been averted, Marcia went back to her prep work, peeling cucumbers and piling the peels in the sink. Liam played with a toy that was loud enough to rouse the dead…but nothing was rousing Daddy. As “go” time was closing in, she ran the garbage disposal and checked the quiche. The disposal churned for a moment or two, and then it did a Hail Mary and decided to lie down and die. Marcia had no idea what had caused the contraption to expire until she noticed a Crayola paper amongst the remaining garbage.
Ever the patient mom, Marcia pressed her throbbing veins back into her temples. She dialed hubby again while instructing Liam that “Mommy really needs your help.” Hubby was still AWOL, and the real estate gods must have been doing shooters in the bar, because someone was concocting a disaster that could rival an Italian soccer match.
Marcia hung up and frantically tried to clean up the septic hole that had once been a sink. Unable to find a straight jacket for herself or a cage for her child, she distracted Liam by telling him to watch out the window and tell her when any big people arrived at the scene.
Be Careful What You Wish For
The little fellow tried to help – he really did, but a three year old has different criteria for helping than us adult types do. For instance, did you know that if you spit on a window and then draw in the spit, you can make pictures? And if you wipe the slobber off, you can then make the window clean? Perhaps you didn’t know that one should not use the owner’s sofa pillow to wipe off the spit. It’s true. Drool pillows are only popular in retirement homes.
Marcia, flabbergasted at this point, yanked her little darling off the couch and gave him a serious lecture. Many tears later, while looking over her shoulder, little Van Gogh spotted the caravan arrivals and yelled, “Mommy, it’s time!” As luck would have it, it was PAST time for the quiches.
Marcia’s consciousness finally made room for the smell of burnt food in the kitchen. She ran to the rescue, only to discover that actual flames were coming out of the sides of the oven door. It seems Van Gogh also had delusions of growing up to be Emeril, because he had “helped” Mommy by turning up the oven knob to 450 degrees. Ah, what a cute little kid.
A Sprinkle of This…A Sprinkle of That…
Marcia pushed Liam to safety and yanked open the oven door. A cloud of smoke and flames licked the air like dragon’s breath. Marcia jumped back and reached for the sprayer from the sink. That’s when she first became aware of a feature in the house she had not noticed before. The house had a sprinkler system, thank you very much.
When the first agents arrived, they abruptly recoiled. The house was raining inside, smoke was rolling out of the oven, and Marcia had her kid in a choke hold. The visitors stepped aside in unison as Marcia ran toward the door with the little beast in tow and tears streaming down her face. Or was it just the unplanned shower that had left its liquid trails on her flushed cheeks?
According to Marcia, one heroic agent ran into the rain storm and duly put out the fire, while another called the fire department. Marcia thrust her delinquent child at an agent from her office and told the nonplussed agent to corral the kid before Mommy dismembered him. Marcia then sat down on the patio for a good cry just as her phone began to ring. Hubby was finally calling, but no words were ever exchanged. Instead, she threw the phone across the yard and waited for a hunky fireman to show up to relieve her of her misery, her husband, her kid and her life.
When the Dust Finally Settled:
The sellers were very understanding, in spite of the crayons still stuck in the sink. Insurance covered most of the damage, but I don’t believe it covered the anti-psychotic medicine Marcia considered taking, the new set of golf clubs to replace the ones Marcia threatened to break over hubby’s skull, or the reform schools she was researching when last contacted.
Moral of the story:
You are better off taking a panther to an open house than a three year old. Panthers don’t have opposable thumbs, so they cannot use crayons or turn up oven knobs. Panthers do not draw pictures in spit. And your odds of survival are probably better – you can shoot a panther.
How becoming better listeners eliminates our culture’s growing isolation
(BUSINESS MARKETING) We have all be frustrated by someone who doesn’t listen to us; so why not make sure that you are taking the steps to not be them, and be better listeners.
We all want the same thing: to be heard. In this digital age, we’ve created an endless stream of cries for attention via comment sections, forums, and social media feeds—shares, retweets, tags, videos, articles, and photos. Worse, our words echo in our digital bubbles or specific communities, doing nothing but making us lonely and isolated. However, in the midst of a divided political climate, we can all stand to strengthen our ability to listen.
Me? A bad listener? What are you trying to say? I got enough flaws to worry about and don’t wanna hear about another skill to improve. Oh, the irony.
“Bad listeners are not necessarily bad people,” assures Kate Murphy in her new book You’re Not Listening. “Anyone can get good at it. The more people you talk to, the better your gut instinct. You’re able to pick up those little cues. Without them, you’re not going to get the full context and nuance of the conversation,” she says in an interview with The Guardian’s Stephen Moss.
Our bad listening aside, we can all remember a time when we weren’t treated with the attention we craved. Moments where you’d do anything for the person you’re conversing with to give a sign of understanding—of empathy—to validate our feelings, to acknowledge the vulnerable piece of ourselves we’ve entrusted to them is cared for. Nothing is worse when we’re met with blank expressions and dismissive gestures or words. These interactions make us feel small and lonely. And the damage can stay with us.
- Show you care by making eye contact and putting away your phone.
- Patience. Everyone opens up on their time.
- Ask open-ended questions. Yes/no responses inhibit the flow of conversation.
- Repeat what you’ve heard. This clarifies any misunderstanding and validates the speaker.
- Give space. Let the conversation breathe—silent pauses are healthy.
By becoming better listeners, we show care. We become curious about and empathetic towards others, leaving our bubbles—we become a little less lonely.
Audio branding: Is this the next big boost in brand recognition?
(BUSINESS MARKETING) Brands have invested heavily in audio branding in 2021, here’s how that is changing up the branding rankings for businesses.
Media consumption and engagement with brands across digital platforms is increasing, according to sonic branding agency amp; and companies investing in audio branding are creating a significant competitive advantage. The Best Audio Brands (BAB) index created by amp uses 5 key criteria to measure audio investment performance: Customer recognition, customer trust, customer experience, customer engagement and customer belonging. The agency claims that companies investing in high quality audio assets for their brands have gained ground by establishing a recognizable audio identity.
Michele Arenese, amp CEO said, “Making a brand heard is more important than ever before. The past 18 months have accelerated the importance of sound and voice as vital elements of the brand identity and customer experience toolbox. Meaningful and purposeful brand communication takes advantage from a ownable and authentic sound ecosystem.”
For the second consecutive year, Mastercard ranked highly across all key criteria measured by the BAB and topped the list. Other brands that fared well on this year’s index were Netflix, which moved up 27 places by using it’s famous “ta-dum” more widely and Coca-Cola which collaborated with Tyler the Creator and invested more in bespoke music. In addition, 5 new brands to make the top 10 this year were Audi, Mercedes, Netflix, Hyundai and Siemens. The highest climbing brands were in the financial sector: HSBC, American Express and J.P. Morgan. The highest climbing sector, however, was beverages followed by automotive. Brands that dropped in the rankings this year were Google, Amazon, Colgate, Goldman Sachs, and Danone.
Björn Thorleifsson, Head of Strategy & Research, amp said: “This year has shown that those who were already embarking on their sonic branding journeys have increased their lead on trailing rivals – now clearly falling behind. Given the evolving ability of sound to reach consumers whatever the device or channel they’re on, we expect to see increased investment from brands looking to stand out amongst the online noise. There are already best practice examples from leaders, such as Mastercard, and we’d encourage those who want to improve brand recognition and even performance, to adopt a little less conversation on sonic branding, and a little more action.”
Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?
(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.
The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”
Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.
Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.
Four-Day Workweek Trials
In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.
“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.
Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.
With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.
“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.
However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.
The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.
What’s in store for 2021?
Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.
“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.
The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.
For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.
Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.
If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.
But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.
“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.
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