Getting Ahead

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Just could not pass this up. I have to share it with you. This ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 (yes, that’s tomorrow). It specifically deals with fashion design, but I find it applicable to strategic communication, public relations and marketing.

The source: Ann Burton, Wolfgang Harbor, in partnership with LGM Consulting, West Hartford, Conn., offers these tips on how to build a career in:

  • Education: Seek degrees in design, merchandising business, marketing, fashion design.
  • Internships: Look for positions that transition into strong executive training programs, offered by companies such as Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor.
  • Executive training programs: Tend to teach solid financial practices, management tools, and brand-appropriate taste and merchandising skills.
  • Start-ups: Experience in small or midsize start-ups allows early breadth of responsibilities and signals ambition, passion, teamwork.

This holds, too from Ann Burton – describing merchandise planners, who are among those in demand:

“They are the historians of the company. They know what sold last year, what color, what time, did it rain on the day we ran the promotion.”

For the full story, see The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 – Page C1.

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10 worst-paying college majors

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According to, these are the 10 worst-paying college majors during 2014-2015 with starting salary and mid-career salary:

  1. Exercise science = $32,000/$51,000
  2. Horticulturalist = $35,200/$50,900
  3. Animal science = $33,600/$55,200
  4. Music = $35,700/$51,400
  5. Biblical studies = $35,400/$50,800
  6. Child and family studies = $30,300/$37,200
  7. Culinary arts = $34,800/$51,000
  8. Photography = $36,200/$55,500
  9. Social work = $33,000/$46,000
  10. Art history = $38,900/$59,000

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Intern to employee

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According to Accenture Strategy — a survey of 1,001 college graduates from 2013-2014 — 47 percent say their internship led to a job. That number is trending up — especially for communication majors.

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Strategies: Bookstores show small biz how it’s done

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(From Rhonda Abrams — Special for USA Today)

Independent bookstores are a dying breed, right? Amazon and ebooks killed them, correct? And aren’t all independent small businesses similarly doomed?

As Mark Twain might have said, “Reports of their death are greatly exaggerated.”

Here’s news that’s almost certain to surprise you: Independent bookstores are thriving.

story from Chase


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April 30, Independent Bookstore Day, is right around the corner, and all brick-and-mortar small retailers can learn a lot from these poster children of small business survival. Head out to your local indie bookstore, buy a book or two (or three), and take careful note of what these smart, resourceful and creative small business owners have figured out.

Many people imagine independent bookstores as a beleaguered group, destined to disappear. Not so. Sixty new independent bookstores opened in 2015; 59 new ones in 2014. In the most recent Census Bureau estimates, bookstore sales rose 7.2% this past February compared with February 2015, to $732 million, marking the sixth consecutive monthly increase.

What? Hasn’t Amazon killed them all off? No, instead, independent bookstores banded together, changed their product mix, added events, and launched an aggressive campaign to rally support.

“A lot of independents came back up in the ashes of the Borders collapse (in 2011),” said Paul Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books in San Francisco. “We just opened a second store a year and a half ago, which we had never done.”

Mulvihill was the driving force behind the creation of Independent Bookstore Day, inspired by the success of Record Store Day (and yes, there are still independent record stores, too). The high sales and support for each year’s Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) demonstrated that shoppers want to show their love for local, independent stores.

Launched first in California, after two successful years, Independent Bookstore Day went national in 2015. This year, 400 bookstores will participate. Canadian independent bookstores created a similar event, also on April 30.

“It’s a way for all the stores to tout their strengths on the same day,” said Mulvihill. As Independent Bookstore Day expanded, authors and others jumped in, making appearances and even creating products only available at independent bookstores.

“You can get exclusive items from publishers and authors that will never be for sale on Amazon,” Mulvihill explained. This year, only at independents, you can buy a Curious George toy wearing a “Read with me” T-shirt, or get a “Draw me!” coloring book for kids 6-12 or an Anthony Bourdain illustrated guide to making the perfect hamburger. For the full list — and to find your local bookstore — go to the Independent Bookstore Day website.

“We have events and activities, crafts, raffles and live music, anything we can think of to make it fun,” said Mulvihill about activities at his store. In 2014, author Dave Eggers sat at a table and dispensed relationship advice.

So, what’s the secret of independent bookstores’ unlikely success?

One crucial element is the burgeoning “shop local” movement — good news for all small retailers. “We’ve been talking for 10 or 15 years about shopping local,” said Mulvihill. He has seen a big uptick in support from political and civic leaders. “For the first time last year, (San Francisco) Mayor Lee launched a shop local movement. City Hall is getting involved in spreading that message because it’s important to the local economy and to the tourist economy.”

Some business students recently studied Green Apple to gain insight as to why bookstores are thriving. Their findings came down to four factors:

• Community. Customers want vibrant and strong local communities. “People vote with every purchase with their wallet,” said Mulvihill.

• Discovery. “An algorithm that says, ‘If you like this you might like that,’ is not the same as either being left alone to browse the store and stumble onto something you didn’t know you wanted, or talking to an experienced bookseller who knows if you liked this you’ll like that.”

• Beauty. This success factor came as a bit of a surprise to Mulvihill. “People like our store for being beautiful in a certain way.”

• Duty. “Customers realize ‘if I don’t support this store it’s going to be gone, and I don’t want my retail corridor to be without a bookstore.’”

I’ll have more about what small businesses can learn about survival and success from independent bookstores in an upcoming column.

Among Rhonda Abrams‘ recent books is the 6th edition of Successful Business Plan: Secrets & StrategiesRegister for her free newsletter at Twitter: @RhondaAbrams.

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Your email???

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One in five receive more than 100 work emails every single day. (Source: USA Snapshots — Samanage survey of 1,500 adults – Jae Yang and Janet Loehrke)

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7 Small Business Marketing Tricks for Busy People

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By Rhonda Abrams on Sept. 18, 2015

Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015

This article originally ran in USA Today on September 18, 2015

As a small business owner you have a lot on your plate — creating your product or delivering your service, managing your money, motivating your employees, ensuring operations run smoothly.

Phew! How do you find time to actually attract customers? For an overwhelmed small business owner, how do you manage to take care of one of your most critical business tasks: marketing?

Each year, I talk to thousands of entrepreneurs around the country. The one question  I get the most: “How do I attract more customers?” Marketing is always top of mind, but often the lowest task on the to-do list.

The truth is you will have to invest some time into marketing. But think of it as just that — an investment. But how can you increase the return-on-investment? How can you get the most marketing bang with the least amount of time?

There’s no magic bullet, of course. But if you’re thoughtful, these seven marketing tactics can save you time and bring in customers.

1. Put your marketing on auto-pilot.

Email is still an extremely effective method of keeping your name in front of prospects and customers. Whether it’s a newsletter, announcement of special discounts, free content, regular communication into an in-box works. Fortunately, you can set up and schedule a whole series of such communications using services like Constant ContactVertical Response, MailChimp or others. You can easily set up a series to automatically go to every new prospect or customer who registers to receive communication from you. To entice prospects to provide you with their names and email addresses, offer them something of value in exchange. Once you have the addresses, auto-responders trigger so your series begins to go to their in-boxes.

2. Schedule a few hours for social media.

Your customers expect to see you on social media but that doesn’t mean you should be dealing with it all day long. Spend an hour every two weeks to plan what you will post for those weeks. Choose pics and write your brief posts. Use a tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule your posts in advance. During the week, check in occasionally and respond to comments.

3. Focus your social media efforts.

Do you really need to be on absolutely every social media site? No. Stick to the social media sites that work best for you. If you have highly visual content — you run a restaurant or food company, a doggy day care or an art studio — Facebook and Instagram might work best for you. A company that sells creative items? Then Etsy or Pinterest might be the right choice. Are you running a B2B (business-to-business) company?  LinkedIn might be your best bet.

4. Join a local organization and go regularly. 

Nothing beats the effectiveness of face-to-face marketing. Yes, this takes time away from the office or shop. But it’s a great way to get new customers and generate referrals. If you schedule this, it becomes a regular part of your month.

5. Look for a strategic partnership.

You don’t have to do everything alone. A strategic partnership is a relationship with another company for promotion, distribution, product development, or add-on sales. A strong strategic partner that’s already serving your target market can give you a real edge in reaching that market. For example, if you run a yoga studio, you could work on a marketing campaign with a local spa.

6. List your company online.

This is a no-brainer. Make sure prospects can find you online when they’re looking for a business like yours. Spend a few minutes listing your company’s location, hours, photos and other business information on GoogleYahoo, Bing and Yelp.

7. Get help.

If you don’t have time to put some of these marketing strategies into place or to maintain them, hire someone who can.

Whatever you do, make sure you make marketing a priority. A bit of time now will reap rewards for months to come. The hardest part is just getting started.


[To comment: larry at larry litwin dot com]

17 Ideas to increase sales you can us (almost immediatelty)

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 This week’s blog comes from:

Dale Carnegie Training Newsletter

By Anita Zinsmeister, President —
Dale Carnegie® Training of Central & Southern New Jersey 


  1. Don’t be greedy.If you always try to profit from the first sale, you ignore the real value of the customer. This is a mistake. If you do not invest as much as you could to get customers – you will not get as many profitable customers as you might. Also, your competitor, who does know the value of a customer, can outspend or underprice you – or both.
  2. Concentrate on customers more than prospects.Research by McGraw-Hill into why retailers lost customers showed that 68% went elsewhere because of indifference or the attitude of their salesforce. Only 14% went because they were dissatisfied with the product or service and only 9% went to the competition. Your customers will remain loyal if you pay them attention.
  3. Go where the money is – all customers are not created equal.10% of cognac drinkers account for 50% of consumption. 39% of cognac drinkers account for 44% of consumption. The remaining 51% account for only 6% of consumption. So focus on the top 10%.
  4. 4Never lose an opportunity to cross-sell.Research by banks into the number of accounts held by customers and their likelihood of switching showed those with four accounts or more were 100-1 against switching, those with only one account had a 50% chance of switching. Your existing customer is 3-8 times as likely to buy as an identical non-customer. Someone who has responded to a promotion is twice as likely to buy. Anyone with any relationship with you, however slight, is more likely to buy.
  5. Never spend without testing.  Look before you leap.
  6. Test new products on customers first.They appreciate being treated as special – and to you they should be. The risk is lower: they are more likely to buy. Only if it sells well to them is it likely to sell outside.
  7. Never lose a chance to communicate.Here are some golden opportunities: When you have anything to say of interest to customers or prospects new product, price, offer, news. When they are about to decide. When your competitors are cooking up something. When something big is happening in the market.

Those who communicate most do better than those who do it least. Do not worry about talking to customers too often. Worry about being a bore. Talk whenever you have something you think will be of interest. But do not mail or phone just for the sake of it. Think constantly what prospects and customers might be interested in.

  1. Say “Thank you”.A retailer rang up a file of customers one month after a product had been bought to say “thank you; do you have any questions?” They didn’t ring a similar file, and researched the difference.

70 percent of those rung said they welcomed the call and would like more. 45 percent of those they did not ring said they would welcome such a call. Over the next 6 months 13% more of those called bought compared with the others. The average number of orders increased by 16% per customer called.

  1. Do you offer after-sales service?Sell it.
  2. Do you have a guarantee people fill in?Use questionnaires and build a mailing list.
  3. Do you offer account facilities or sell on credit and have to invoice people regularly? Sell them at the same time.
  4. Do you have accessories or software to sell? Do it aggressively, not passively, often there is more margin in accessories.
  5. If your sales force spends too much time canvassingand not enough selling. Get leads for them through advertising(and find out when prospects are interested).
  6. Do retailers or wholesalers dictate to you? Go round them direct to customersand build a database.
  7. Sell to your most recent customers first.They are usually your best respondents. The best time to sell is when they have just bought.
  8. Offer a store-card to best customers and create special events for them.They are about five times as likely to buy as casual customers. A special preview sale for them may be as profitable as the entire sale that follows.
  9. Watch for critical moments.In the prospect’s life e.g. marriage, new house, birthday. Before buying: sending for brochures, looking in stores, working out what they can afford. After buying – the “afterglow”; having a problem; time to buy again. These help determine your “contact strategy”. An example is: People often adjust their investments when they move house.

Bill Fryer is Creative Director of Bill Fryer Direct, a direct marketing agency in Warminster, Wiltshire. By talking to him you may get even more sales ideas. Send mail to

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9 Ways To Create (And Sustain) A Positive Work Culture

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 This week’s blog comes from:

Dale Carnegie Training Newsletter

By Anita Zinsmeister, President —
Dale Carnegie® Training of Central & Southern New Jersey 

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” Peter Drucker 

9 Ways To Create (And Sustain)

A Positive Work Culture

·         Word count for this issue: 565

·         Approximate time to read: About 2.3 minutes

@ 250 words per minute

Your staff is the engine that drives the success of your business.  To make your operation all that it can be, you must encourage your staff to work to the best of their ability.  Thus, developing and maintaining a positive work culture should always be a top priority.  Employees immersed in ahealthy environment generate far better results than those who are not.  That is why we put together a list of nine tips for creating the healthy environment employees need.

 1.  Advertise Openings In Trade Publications – When you are looking for a new hire, be sure to advertise through a trade publication.  If you do, you will have a better chance of finding a candidate who is sincerely interested in their profession.

 2.  Contact References When Hiring – Never hesitate to contact a candidate’s previous employers, as they can be an extremely valuable resource.  To ensure you reach them, contact them via phone as opposed to e-mail or letter.

 CLICK HERE to learn more
about Contacting a Candidate’s References.

 3.  Enforce Company Policies Consistently – The workplace should be a level playing field where everyone follows the same rules.  State policies clearly in a staff handbook and make sure rules are enforced equally throughout the company.

 4.  Give An Exit Interview – When an employee leaves the company, make a point of giving an exit interview.   Exit interviews are a smart way to learn more about your work culture and identify any problems you ought to address.  They also help minimize negative word-of-mouth from ex-employees.

 5.  Make Communication A Priority – Strong team bonds result in more positive work attitudes.  Furthermore, team communication is crucial for maintaining productivity.   Keep everyone in the loop and keep in contact regularly via meetings, e-mails and even a bulletin board.

 6.  Offer Creative Incentives – Competitive positions such as sales need not be incentivized with monetary bonuses.  Benefits like job-share and flextime can be just as appealing to employees since it allows them to have more control over their work life.

 7.  Use A Referral Program – When a position opens up, your employees may know people who would suit the role — and your company.  Encourage them to speak up by creating a formal referral program and rewarding them for their participation.

 8.  Welcome New Hires – First impressions are always important, especially in the workplace.  If a new hire feels unwelcome on their first day in the office, it will negatively affect their productivity.  It usually takes 60 to 90 days for new hires to acclimate, so make sure you do everything you can to make them feel welcome during that period.

 9.  Write Accurate Job Descriptions – If you want the right person for the job, you have to describe who the right person is.  When you advertise, give a detailed job description that includes level of skill needed, prior experience required and whether or not further training will be necessary.

 Executive Summary:  Every business should make sure its employees work in as healthy an environment as possible.  Be selective with who you hire, maintain a positive culture at all times and make sure employees who leave the company do so on a good note.  After all, your business is only as strong as its people.

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13 Time Management Tips You Ought to Know

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 This week’s blog comes from:

Dale Carnegie Training Newsletter

By Anita Zinsmeister, President —
Dale Carnegie® Training of Central & Southern New Jersey 

As a small business owner, managing your time and expectations are extremely important if you want to maintain the proper focus. I struggle with this issue and can be easily distracted by a phone call or a tendency to check my emails more often than is probably needed.

Time management is one of those skills no one teaches you in school but you have to learn. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you can’t organize information well enough to take it in. And it doesn’t matter how skilled you are if procrastination keeps you from getting your work done..


I’m going to share some of my favorite time management skills in this post. I hope they will help you.

  1. My personal favorite – cut the clutter. Keep a clean desk and desktop, clutter can be very distracting.
  2. Use your peak productivity time well and make sure you get sufficient rest. Coffee will not assist you forever. It’s OK to take breaks throughout the day. Some of us are ‘morning people’ others are ‘night owls.’ You know what your strengths and weaknesses are better than me.
  3. It’s most important to know how you structure your day and manage your time that makes the difference. Know the best days and times to target your prospective clients or targeted companies – which may be different than you first think.
  4. Set daily goals for yourself and making sure you don’t work past your burn out time. This might include networking in person, making follow-up calls, writing a business proposal or putting a budget together – each day complete one specific goal – you’ll feel much better being able to check something off your ‘to do’ list.
  5. It’s absolutely OK to block out some non-planned activities. Life happens and there will also be some unexpected event or emergencies to deal with. Or maybe you’re under the to manage your time properly
  6. Plan for some specific time away from the computer and phone, 30 minutes a day. By that, I don’t mean a coffee break or to eat a meal. Talk a walk, run some errands, anything to take your mind off your business. Meet a friend for a cup of coffee.
  7. Start your day by prioritizing what you need to get done (To-do list!). Block time out on your calendar each day to ensure you get work done.
  8. When you are on a deadline and you need to finish something – Close your door (if you have one), put your phone on “send to voicemail”, close your email, and turn off the instant messenger. It is liberating! Not everything is urgent; yes, some things can wait until the next day.
  9. Minimizing distractions – distractions are a big time waster. A lot of us have this constant urge to check our email every 15 minutes. There are many other common distractions and it is important to limit them.
  10. Make sure social networks serve your purpose. Do you really need to be on all of them? Pick one or two that are really important and discard the rest. Be careful not to check your social sites while at work. It is a big time waster even if big brother is not watching.
  11. Decide the time or times when you will check mail and stick to those times. There will always be some distracting message in your in box. Keep your emails short. That is how they are meant to be. Use the phone in preference to email where feasible.
  12. Know your target company or companies whether it will be for job search or to find business partners. Starting out, that’s one of the most important things to consider. If you’re not sure what you want to do, it’ll be hard for you to communicate that to another client or company
  13. Yes weekends are a time to take a break, but not entirely. Use weekends to review the previous week’s successes (and failures) which will give you the opportunity to prepare your upcoming week. The goal is to hit the ground running on Monday morning.‘

Can you think of more time management tips? Please let me know in the comments!

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Pope Francis on Leadership

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Visiting Philadelphia, New York and D.C. last month, Pope Francis  showed us a leadership style we can all learn from. (For more on leadership, check out The Public Relations Practioner’s Playbook for (all) Strategic Communicators via It is loaded with excellent strategies and tactics for today’s “leaders.”)

By William Vanderbloemen

“Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.” Those were the words shared—on Twitter—by Pope Francis, Time‘s “Person of The Year” in 2013, who assumed the pontificate that year and has since projected a transformational leadership style.

Those who aren’t spiritual leaders should also rethink what their most important responsibilities are—people over processes, names over numbers.

That approach has earned him titles like “Holy Reformer” and “The People’s Pope.” In New York City today on a visit to the United States, Pope Francis reflects not just the changing tenor of the Catholic Church but evolving ideas about leadership itself. That makes his trip this week a perfect time for entrepreneurs, CEOs, politicians, and other leaders of all stripes to reflect on their own leadership styles. Here are five lessons all of them can learn from the Pope’s.

  1. Be Accessible

Pope Francis is arguably best known for availability and openness to the public. On his first day as Pope, he reversed the tradition of blessing the people by inviting them to bless him instead. He’s since decided to ride in a bus with his team rather than in a bulletproof limousine. Pope Francis has also been seen getting around Rome in a Ford Focus and a Fiat during his U.S. visit.

Personal, handwritten thank-you notes and birthday lunch invitations to the homeless of Rome take priority in his schedule and exemplify his leadership vision.

Those who aren’t spiritual leaders should also rethink what their most important responsibilities are—people over processes, names over numbers. Accessibility sows trust and loyalty among colleagues and customers, making other transformations possible.

  1. Don’t Ignore Social Media

The Pope is a tweeting aficionado. His primary Twitter handle (@Pontifex) is the English-language equivalent of eight others—in Latin, Arabic, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and German. And the English account alone has 7.3 million followers. In other words, communication matters, especially digitally.

Social media has proved one of the most effective—and democratic—mediums for influencing current generations. Its 140-character interface is clear, concise, and relatable, whether you’re a Starbucks barista, a Fortune 500 CEO, or anyone in between. For any business leader who has an idea to offer or a message to convey, social media is the main avenue for doing so. But bear in mind that the social sphere is about sparking conversation, not dictating from on high. The Pope’s tweets are popular not just because he’s the Pope, but because they’re humble, inviting, and pluralistic.

  1. Flatten Your Organization

Pope Francis bypassed bureaucracy and reevaluated his organizational structure. He started with his own title, changing it from the “Supreme Pontiff” to the “Bishop of Rome.” Upon adjusting and delegating some of the papacy’s traditional responsibilities, he took a radical approach to age-old customs and rearranged his management team, reducing its sense of hierarchy.

As a result of Pope Francis’s innovative methods, the organization of the papacy got flatter. As a result, the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work referred to him as an “intrepreneur”—someone who generates genuine, sustainable change in an organization that’s resistant to it.

In the first few months of his papacy, Pope Francis took risks.

Flattening an organization can be one of the best ways business leaders can institute their vision without relying on the prevailing means. Restructure, revamp, and realign so that the top leadership drives the vision, and the subsequent layers can execute and sustain it.

  1. Take Risks

In the first few months of his papacy, Pope Francis took risks. He made unprecedented claims and unconventional decisions. “To listen and to follow your conscience means that you understand the difference,” he wrote, reaching out to atheists and agnostics. He also proclaimed a year of jubilee for women who’ve had abortions but have since chosen to reflect on the Church’s teachings on the issue. It’s worth nothing that in both cases, Pope Francis didn’t revise Catholic doctrine, but his leadership style offered a refreshing new perspective to many who might have previously felt shut out.

In the business world today, many leaders are blinded by the fear of failure. Big changes are hard to make—they take time, and often many people, to institute—but messages are easy to change. Still, risk is vital to your business’s growth and your own development as a leader. Risk can help you rise, even though it sometimes leads to failure. But it will always prove a worthy teacher.

  1. Value Input From Subordinates

Risk can help you rise, even though it sometimes leads to failure. But it will always prove a worthy teacher.

Pope Francis has shown he recognizes the intrinsic value of every person. First, he decided to transform the Synod of Bishops under his leadership into a decision-making body rather than a ceremonial group. And within his first 10 months at the Vatican, Pope Francis washed the feet of laity prisoners, women, and Muslims, rather than performing the ritual only on priests. He also refocused the role of bishops toward more pastoral activities, premised on the notion that human relationships should be esteemed above all else.

Leaders should approach the people in their organizations much the same. There’s real value in your lower subordinates—what they think and believe and the skills they offer—to achieve real progress. But it’s up to leaders to go out and seek that value, then develop it in everyone they lead.

In just two years, Pope Francis has taught us another lesson as well: It’s important to act. Start cultivating the right leadership style now, and you’ll begin writing your legacy today, rather than waiting for it to catch up with you later.

William Vanderbloemen is the coauthor of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works and president and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, a startup that leads in executive search for churches, ministries, and faith-based organizations.

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