Archive for January, 2013

Get ready for Super Bowl XLVII with some trivia

Bring out the salsa and chips because it’s Super Bowl week.

Last year, a record 111.3 million people tuned in for the big game and its equally popular commercials. While this year’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens may struggle to top the ratings generated by last year’s matchup between the larger market New York Giants and New England Patriots, the telecast is certain to be a powerhouse for both the NFL and its advertisers.

Some interesting facts about Super Bowl XLVII:

  • This is the first time two brothers have served as head coaches: San Francisco‘s Jim Harbaugh and the Raven’s John Harbaugh.
  • The 49ers are making their 6th appearance (5 wins), while the Ravens are at the big dance for the 2nd time (1 win).
  • At last check, there were a handful of tickets available, with prices ranging from $1,900 to $12,516 each. Tickets for the first Super Bowl, in 1967, sold for $12.
  • New Orleans is hosting the event for the 10th time.
  • Cost of a Super Bowl commercial is $3.7 million. Sponsors range from Anheuser-Busch (4 and 1/2 minutes) to Wonderful Pistachios (one 30-second ad).
  • The season is getting longer. The first Super Bowl, in 1967, was played on January 15. Super Bowl XXXVIII, in 2004, was the first to move into February.
  • Longer season, yes, but it’s worth the extra hours. Members of last year’s winners, the NY Giants, earned $88,000 for the victory. The losing New England Patriots settled for $44,000.
  • Former Rams’ and Cardinals’ quarterback Kurt Warner holds the top three spots for most passing yards in a Super Bowl.
  • There’s some debate about the economic impact of the Super Bowl on the host city, but according to the NFL, the value is about $500 million.

Who’s going to win? That’s one fact I don’t have.



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Communication lessons from FDR

I recently watched a show on the History Channel about the hours following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was taken by how brilliantly President Franklin Roosevelt responded, particularly in the delivery of his legendary speech to Congress:  “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy …”

With those words, the President began the most important remarks of his presidency, concluding with a request that Congress declare a state of war against Japan.

Interestingly, the speech, hailed as a success by historians, was an uphill battle for Mr. Roosevelt. His Cabinet unanimously panned the draft, arguing that it needed more details and background.

President Roosevelt, born 131 years ago next week, held firm, following two principles that hold true today:

The President wanted the speech to be short enough that everyone would listen in its entirety. He knew that even the best speech wouldn’t be effective if he lost his audience. Additionally, if you give too much information, you risk diluting your key points.The “Infamy Speech” was less than 4 minutes long.

Mr. Roosevelt felt the speech should be clear and understood by all. This was especially critical, given the huge number of immigrants the country had welcomed in recent decades. It was a call for action, simple and direct.

Congress declared war, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sidebar: Trivia
Due to concerns about a possible assassination attempt, the FBI wanted the President to ride in a bulletproof car. The only one available — and the car that brought Mr. Roosevelt to Congress that day — had been seized from gangster Al Capone.


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Fight the flu: tips to stay healthy

 This year’s strain of influenza has proven to be much harsher than any we’ve seen in years. It’s highly contagious and packs a wallop when you catch it. Symptoms range from body aches and chills, to fever and cough.

You can reduce the odds of catching this nasty bug by taking a few precautions, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):  

Get a flu shot
It’s not too late, and this year’s vaccine is a good match for the virus that’s circulating. The shot takes 10-14 days for full effectiveness, but your resistance will build up gradually during that period.

Wash your hands — a lot
Washing your hands with good old soap and water or a sanitizing gel is one of the best things you can do to prevent the spread of germs. Germs lurk on surfaces such as door knobs and table tops, so it’s especially critical to wash before eating.

Don’t touch your face
Touching your face — particularly your eyes, nose, or mouth —risks transporting germs from your hands to inside your body. That’s good for the bugs, but bad for you.

Stay hydrated
Air in homes and offices is generally drier during winter months. Drink lots of liquids, especially water, to keep your body well hydrated.

Catch some shuteye
The body needs sleep, and most of us don’t get enough. Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, your first defense against sickness.

Minimize contact
If you can, avoid contact with sick people (or wear a mask). If you’re especially concerned, staying out of crowded places, such as malls or movie theaters, can help reduce your exposure.

If you still become ill, call your primary care provider. If it appears you have influenza (as opposed to a stomach bug that’s also circulating), he or she may prescribe an antiviral to help you recover more quickly.

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Lessons learned from my best bosses

A good boss can really make a difference in your job and career. I’ve been fortunate to have worked for some terrific people, who really understand the right way to motive people. Here are a few characteristics:

Be a regular guy (or gal)
I worked for a VP who may be the best motivator I’ve ever met. Despite being a very smart guy, he’s also perhaps the most down-to-earth person I’ve known, and he truly cared about his people. Better yet, his philosophy was to set a vision, then “get out of the way” and let his staff make it happen. And, when our unit succeeded (which was quite often), he was very quick to redirect praise away from himself to the team.

Trust staff to do their job
I was a few days into a new communications job when my boss told me “You’re the expert. It’s my job to support you.”  Wow. Talk about trust and making me feel really good about my work. I’ll never forget that.

Positive feedback works wonders
One of my favorite supervisors completely understood the value of positive feedback. The performance appraisals she wrote were incredibly thorough, and included many examples of my good work throughout the year (she regularly listed things I’d forgotten). If something didn’t go well, she provided honest and candid feedback, but was always encouraging.

Focus on the mission
Whenever I found myself scratching my head over the goings on at one job, my boss would remind me of our mission, and the positive impact the organization had on our community. It kept me grounded when things around me seemed off the mark.

‘Got your back’
I’ve been fortunate to work for three or four bosses who served as a buffer between our team and senior leaders. They sang our team’s praises when we did well, and stood by us when we made mistakes. Good support from leaders is particularly important in a field like communications, where you often make decisions based on your experience, instincts, and gut feelings, and second-guessing can hurt the end product.

Learn from mistakes
This is a corollary to the previous item. Having a supportive boss gives staff the confidence to take calculated risks, rather than playing it too safe. Someone once said if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. A good boss understands that and supports you through thick and thin.

It’s about relationship
As the saying goes, you do get more flies with honey than vinegar. Build relationships, and work together. This is especially important in fields where you generally lack formal authority over those you interact with, and have to rely on influencing without clout. One director taught me the end result isn’t as important as the process and the relationships within a project team. I’ve found that this view pays off in the long run, as the bridges you build today help you meet goals tomorrow.

Lead by example
I spent nearly 15 years at L.L.Bean, a company that does the vast majority of its business during the holiday shopping season. During “Peak”, leaders from throughout the organization — including the CEO — leave their job and spend time helping customers in the store, answering phone orders, picking and packing items in the Distribution Center, and more.  Staff appreciate that. Read my blog, 9 things L.L.Bean taught me

Think outside of the box
Times change, and it’s important to keep up with new practices and technology. Years ago, when newsletters were the primary communication vehicle in Corporate America, I was hired to develop visual communication tools, ranging from video kiosks to splashy photographic wall displays. My boss was a visionary. Unfortunately, two months after I joined the department she resigned, but we were able to continue forward with some of her ideas.

Your turn…. What lessons did you learn from your best bosses?

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