Not qualified? Try anyway.

Citrus Marketing Lean In ReviewI’m about a quarter of the way through Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.  If you search online, you’ll find extremely differing reviews of the book. Some reviewers skewer Sandberg for not mentioning the stable of nannies and cooks that likely supported her efforts to rise to the top, while others believe that the book is, overall, a win for women. I’ll withhold judgement of the work until I’m done, but I did happen upon a few paragraphs that immediately resonated with me in light of some recent conversations with professional colleagues.

In the chapter “Sit at the Table,” Sandberg offers both personal anecdotes and supporting research that shows that women are less likely to grab opportunities for which they’re not 100% qualified (on paper). Conversely, men seem to exhibit the confidence to apply for positions that are a a real stretch for them.  This is such a timely read for me because, just last week, I was encouraging a friend to apply for a very cool, executive level position that she would absolutely rock.

She read through the job requirements and knew she could handle this job, and yet she continued to focus on a few of the line items for which she had no experience. I scanned the list and told her, “who cares about those, you’d learn them in a day!” This friend is a continuous learner and can pick up anything fast, so it’s troubling to me that she could even linger on line items that are not critical components to a job.

What will be even more troubling to me is if the HR/hiring person won’t see beyond those line items.  I’ve always claimed, and continue to insist, that hiring talented people means evaluating the person’s ability to learn and communicate/collaborate with others. When I interview, I look for smarts and personality first and specific skills second. You cannot teach smarts. You cannot teach character, but you can teach skills.

Sandberg states, “One of the things I tell people these days is that there is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit around you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

Regardless of how I’ll feel about Sandberg at this book’s end, I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Women do need to put themselves out there, stretch for opportunities that may seem out of reach. If we don’t do that, we’ll be stuck with only lateral moves or in support roles, watching those with courage and confidence (but maybe not as much talent) gobble up all the opportunities.

I have plenty of insecurities–who doesn’t–but one thing I’m proud to say is that I’m not afraid to stretch to reach the next opportunity. There have been several times when I’ve put myself out there for projects that I knew I could do but needed to quickly learn the skills to complete. It’s a scary feeling, but I’m not daunted. I dive in, read up, practice whatever it is I need to, learn from others, ask questions and voila! I’ve reached the next level and learned a lot in the process.

If you’re in the position to hire someone soon, here are a few things I’ve gleaned from life and this new read:

  • Ask the candidate(s) about their learning style. Ask what they’re reading and how they self-educate. People who take the initiative to read, learn, and grow without prodding are likely going to be self-starters in the workplace too.
  • Ask them about how they’ve stretched themselves or gone out on a limb. Don’t slam-dunk them if they failed because of that. I’d rather work with people who try hard, stretch far and occasionally fail than with people who never take any risks. No risk = fear. Fear = lack of innovation. Lack of innovation = slow death in competitive industries.
  • Ask women you interview to self-promote. Sandberg claims that men are better self-promoters than women because society encourages men to tout their accomplishments but punishes women who do (as being too bitchy or arrogant). If you’re interviewing a woman, press her to brag. Tell her to let all her successes hang out! Because many women have been conditioned (whether they know it or not) to minimize their achievements, you may miss out on hiring someone amazing because they’re being too humble. It’s not necessarily their fault; they just haven’t had a safe environment to step up and “lean in.”

I’m interested to see how the rest of the book unfolds and if I agree with most of Sanberg’s work.

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Are you fine? Are you mediocre?

Citrus Marketing and Walgreens blog

Setting the bar at fine!

Last night I read an article about the closing of Madison-area company Bergmann Pharmacy. Although the owner cites multiple reasons for the store closings,  an important one is the difficulty in competing against a big box brand’s ability to deliver conveniences like longer open hours and drive-thru services. As a community member, I’m sad to see Bergmann Pharmacy go. I haven’t used them since they closed my neighborhood store on Midvale Boulevard but fundamentally it’s not pleasant to watch locally owned companies atrophy in the presence of big corporations.

That being said, I fully admit that I love the convenience of Walgreens. Their mobile iPhone app is solid, a clean and simple User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX) is easy. When one of my kids or I need a prescription in the middle of the night, there’s a Walgreens nearby to find relief.  Their technology supports express pay, rewards points, one-touch refills and more. Simply put, Walgreens and the like make my life a little easier when I need it to be.

I’m sure this sentiment is why even staunch “localists” can be heard in the alleys…in hushed tones…under the cloak of night, whispering, “I hate to admit it, but Starbucks is really a blessing when you’re on the road.” Or worse…the hipster may even be found, on occasion, sneaking into Walmart for that superhero t-shirt he can’t get anywhere else. Most of us have done it.

Is it any wonder community businesses face serious challenges? Is there any area in which a big box brand can’t do it better?

Well, of course there is; there are, in fact, lots of things that a big brand cannot always do better. For the purposes of this blog, let me illustrate that customer service can be one of those things.

On a recent trip to Walgreens, the cashier asked me to go online and rate his service. As he was asking me to do this, I thought, “wow, I’d be happy to because he’s certainly nice.” He put a sticker on my receipt and handed it to me at which point my mouth dropped open.

The sticker read, “I did fine? Give me a 9.”

There’s likely a marketing genius (who has bigger and better chops than me) who came up with this rhyming little number as a catchy call-to-action and it’s even likely that this is an effective tactic. But, I can’t help think, “fine?” Is this the level of service to which Walgreens is striving? Is this what it’s come to? Would my clients be satisfied and come back to me if the best I could do was fine?

Hey, let’s try a few others on for size. Do any of the following inspire you (note ,none end in an exclamation–too much energy):

  • I was there
  • I’m adequate, hire me
  • I made requisite eye contact, come again
  • My mind is elsewhere, have a nice day

Of course, I’m picking on Walgreens a wee bit. But this little sticker is a funny reminder that we should all strive for more than fine and when it comes to spending our hard-earned money, maybe we need to focus on spending it with companies who are also more than fine.

Do you hear that sound? It’s the door creaking open for local businesses to stand up, shout out, and follow up with, “I did amazing!”

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Little acts of courage

Karen Hitchcock take the leap

Your fear is the ball & chain. Reach down, release. Repeat.

I’ve been hankering to write on a more personal note, but alas, this is a business blog. And so I find myself weaving things that feel highly personal into a narrative that addresses professional issues. People always say, “business isn’t personal.” I agree to some extent, but really, the line is pretty fuzzy, isn’t it?

My last post was about trust. The concept, the thought, and the emotions that underly this simple word. Trust transcends business and personal. Trust transcends culture and race. Like human dignity, it’s fundamental, don’t you think? We all look for trust in work and play.

Today I’m thinking about courage. I made the leap, took a jump, tested the waters and did something courageous last night in my personal life. I wrote a poem . It came to me in only minutes after writing three pages of random thoughts, arranged with scattered cadence and rage and grief. The subject matter is not important here; what is important is that I shared it. I put it in the universe for someone else to read and comment and laugh or cry. In fact, I shared it with three people. This is big time for me!

I’ve always loved to write, but since winning many creative writing awards in high school, I lost my mojo. I was tethered to college papers, serious work and serious play in college. I got out of practice. I stopped sharing. I kept it to myself in scattered bits in secret drawers.

But last night, I did it! In fact, I got so bold as to share with one of my best friends in the world, Valerie Laken, a Pulitzer-prize nominated author and professor of creative writing. I knew she would be supportive because she’s an amazing mentor to friends and students, but I’ve always been intimated to share with her because she is so good! Her writing is honest and brutal and sweet and fluid. To pass over my sixth-grade quality poem felt scary and real and raw.

But I did it. And all of a sudden, I felt brave and full and light. The fear that kept my pages blank was in my head and in my heart. No one on the other end is spending his or her days thinking, “Damn, I hope Karen doesn’t send me a poem today, that would be awful!”

So how does this translate to me in business, you in business, us in business? My advice is to be a little braver. Share a little more and hold back a whole lot less. The fear of introducing a new idea, standing up to a manager who’s bullying you [you know who you are] or looking stupid is your own creation. The world needs your ideas, your thoughts, your words and if the person with whom you share them makes you feel like the world doesn’t…well, it’s time to find a new person…NOT a new you.

Thanks for reading, K

If you’re up for a good read, check out Valerie’s book Dream House. Her short story collection, Separate Kingdoms will also inspire and evoke. She’ll be in Madison in early November for a reading. Ping me if you want to meet there or look for my post with the date/place/time.

To get started finding courage, you can read Anne Lammots’ instructions on life, Bird by Bird or Eric Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within. Thank you Leila. Thank you Val.

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Endorse who?

IB Madison Ask an Expert Karen Hitchcock

At a recent Ask An Expert Panel, I noticed that Todd came across as a trusted, credible source of information for 5Nines. Great job!

Through my work with SoLoMo this past year, I’ve done a lot of reading about trust and the importance trust plays in business relationships (with both your staff and your clients). Although this isn’t a new concept, I’ve noticed that people are digging much, much deeper into it. Because information is so widely available online about each and every one of us and because our digital world forces a transparency that companies have rarely initiated, the public is seeking answers to this question: who do i trust?

The ability to trust doesn’t come with an on/off switch. We’re now segmenting trust into different pieces. You may hear phrases like these:

  • I trust you with this, but not that.
  • I trust you, but won’t bet my life on it. So fair warning: I can pull my trust at any time.
  • I trust him but not her.
  • I don’t trust “them” at all, but it’s my only option.

We need to divide trust into manageable pieces. I’ll press organizations and people to expand our vocabulary regarding trust. Let’s get more granular so we can talk about the elements of trust. Then, we can tackle these smaller pieces that to build trust.

I was just on LinkedIn and realized that there’s something that’s shaking my trust in that platform and it has to do with credibility. People trust when they feel that you’re credible. You do what you say most of the time and you follow through well. To be credible, you may need to be selective. Take LinkedIn’s new endorsement feature.

The majority of my LinkedIn contacts are people I know. Based on this easy-to-use endorsement tool, I could quickly endorse nearly everyone I know for something. I’ve definitely endorsed a handful of people. It’s a pretty cool feature, but I’m not endorsing everyone.

There are some people on LinkedIn, however, that are endorsing nearly everyone they know. Now, I wonder how credible these people really are. I forget what movie this quote is from, but there was line that went something like this, “When we make everyone special, then no one is.”

If you endorse everyone, you’re not selective; this lack of discernment may affect your credibility. And without credibility, trust is hard. And without trust…well…there’s not much left, is there?

I’m currently reading The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey’s son. If you’re interested in this topic, check it out.

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What Goodbye Parties Tell You about a Company

Once I worked for a company that didn’t give goodbye parties. In one of my first weeks, another employee left and I asked my boss, “aren’t we going to do lunch or something to send her off?” The reply was rather surprising considering this person was leaving to advance her career. “No, we just let people go quietly, we only celebrate when they start.”

I thought of this anecdote this past week because I transitioned to a new company. My boss, Liz Eversoll was disappointed that was leaving, but encouraging for the new opportunity. She said, “well, we’ll need to throw quite the party and the door is open to

Karen Hitchcock HR Advice

Just because your employee moves on, doesn’t mean she should be dead to you.

you!” What a difference in attitude. I think bosses who send off good employees with so much positive energy are:

  • Confident leaders who value people
  • Cognizant that the world is a small place and good relationships now mean more opportunity in the future
  • Aware that if their employee gets a better or different opportunity, that is the way things should be. The job of a good company [besides profit of course] is to grow its employees and to continue to help people advance their careers. Some companies are big enough to even create advancement within.

All this being said, you can imagine how pleased I was last week when I started at a new company, MEDSEEK, at the time another woman is leaving. The office is throwing a goodbye lunch for her to wish her well!

No company, no boss, no employee, no contractor is perfect. But I advise that if you’re looking for a change, in your next interview ask your new boss: “What do you do when an employee leaves?”

If they treat employees well on their last day, I’d argue it might be a pretty nice place to work. Good luck in your search!

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Customer Intelligence Double Entendre

The double meaning of customer intelligence.

Customer Intelligence is, essentially, a collection of data that helps companies better understand what customers and/or prospects want, why they buy, what they buy and even, why they leave the store. Companies pay big money and make extraordinary efforts to collect this data by purchasing lists, trolling social media sites, measuring web traffic, bounce rates and even hiring secret shoppers. Customer Intelligence is all about data extraction, prediction and manipulation. It’s driven by companies for companies. And it’s a big industry.

It occurred to me this afternoon (since SoLoMo is working on a cool platform that helps individuals manage their identities and connect with brands they trust), that Customer Intelligence very much has a double meaning–Customers ARE Intelligent and companies that recognize this and implement cooperative marketing tactics (rather than sneaky spy tactics) will emerge as tomorrow’s favorite brands.

Customer Intelligence a New Way

Think about a new way, an Open Door Policy to marketing. Give (promises) and ye shall receive (trust).

Customers are more knowledgeable than ever, due to the rich digital world in which we live, where data violations rise quickly to the surface and brands must engage armies of PR agents to mitigate the damage. Some companies still seem to hold their customers in low regard and seek to use duplicitous tactics to win them over.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Great companies will engage in “trust tactics” to win customers. This somewhat new approach takes executive leadership, a sound strategy and the right tools to enable trust relationships. That’s, of course, what we’re working on here. But, I won’t digress into a shameless plug.

Instead, I invite you to follow Fatemeh Khatliboo’s blogs about Customer Intelligence and Personal Identity Management (PIM). She writes with reason and passion about individual rights to personal data and the future of relationship marketing. Check her out. Our CEO Liz Eversoll and SVP Chris Kelly had a great conversation with Fatemeh last spring and continue to be impressed with her observations.


From one Intelligent Customer to Another,

Karen Hitchcock, VP Marketing

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Science Pub is On for September

Science Pub Madison and Skip Evans

Thanks Dane101 for letting people know about Skip

Here’s an exercise in last-minute planning. I’ve volunteered to organize and maintain the website for Science Pub, which was run by my coworker, Skip (who recently passed). Although many friends of Science Pub are volunteering to help, I’d love suggestions or help filling the September 9 @2PM spot. We don’t need the Nobel prize winner in science and Science Pub, from what I understand, features any topic from weather to geology to behavior science and more. The talk I attended was on nuclear physics. Heady stuff.

Please join us. Sign up to receive emails from Science pub by emailing me at or comment on this post. Thanks friends!

And a shout-out to Dane101 for listing the tribute to Skip. It takes a village, ya know.

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