Posts Taged writing-2

Tools to Help Copywriters Find Their Flow

Tools to help copywriters

In an ideal world, copywriters would have time to let inspiration strike. We would get to brainstorm, let ideas incubate, bounce them back and forth with fellow writers. You know, just like Peggy Olson and Don Draper did on Mad Men. In the real world though, copywriters often have to come up with creative and compelling copy on the spot, alone and sometimes even without a proper brief.

Like most writers, I’m a pen hoarder. But through the years I have compiled a set of tools to help copywriters that make the writing process easier and more enjoyable. The following free apps and websites have rescued me countless times when deadlines were creeping up. Let’s take a look.

Thesaurus.com

I’m going to start with this one even if you roll your eyes because sometimes having a reliable thesaurus by your side makes all the difference. I use Thesaurus.com as often as I reference the AP Style Guide and I’m not ashamed of it. Plus, it’s the most comprehensive thesaurus online and a cool mobile app, and it has never failed me.

Words to Use

This tool may sound like it works as a thesaurus, but it does a lot more than grouping words by their meaning. Words to Use groups subject-related words by parts of speech like nouns, verbs and phrases. The list was created in 2008 by copywriter Amy Pogue, and it continues to grow as a resource for anyone who writes.

Un-Stuck-It

I write a lot of B2B materials and sometimes I unintentionally carry business jargon to less formal, more conversational pieces. Un-Stuck-It is a free web app with a sense of humor that helps you find words that flow better and that may resonate more with your audience.

Free Dictionary’s Idioms Dictionary

Though I would never advise a fellow copywriter to use idioms, I do encourage them to search Free Dictionary’s Idioms Dictionary as an exercise to find new meaning in those overused and trite words. Who knows, you may find a brilliant pun that actually works!

Rhymezone

I never thought I would ever have to write copy in rhymes, until it happened. A client wanted a TV spot to sound like a Bob Dylan poem read by a cowboy in the voice of the dude from the Big Lebowski. Turns out, I was only able to make one of those things happen and I owe it all to Rhymezone.

Live-Keyword Analysis

I see a lot of brands stuffing keywords onto their pages. Over-optimizing SEO is a dangerous game and can get some websites penalized. Plus, contrived SEO is as bad as terrible writing and your audience will quickly notice it. Live-Keyword Analysis helps you calculate the density of keywords in your text so you can reach that sweet spot.

Hemingway App

When Ernest Hemingway’s real estate in Cuba was cleared, his family found some notes he had seemingly written to himself, in pencil. One reads: “You can phrase things clearer and better.” And the other: “You can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.” The creators of the Hemingway App took his notes to heart and developed a program that highlights overly complicated words and suggests alternatives. The app also calls out adverbs, difficult-to-read-sentences and passive voice. The way Hemingway himself would’ve liked it.

Cold Turkey

If you’re like me, you get easily distracted when you’re writing. You go to a site to do some research and before you know it, you’re on a news site or reading emails. Thankfully, there’s help. Cold Turkey helps you quit this terrible habit by locking you out of certain sites or apps for a period of time. While there are many other distraction blocker sites out there, I find Cold Turkey to be the most customizable and easy to use.

Writefull

Writefull is a neat add-on that uses artificial intelligence to improve your writing. The app checks your writing by running it against a database of correct language. It helps you hear how your text reads, translates text in any language into English and finds out which words you’re using most often.

Urban Dictionary

Have you head of galories? They’re calories women consume when you go out with your girl friends. Not to be confused with palories, the calories men consume when they’re hanging out with their pals. Trust me, you’re not getting old, language is just…evolving. Urban Dictionary has been around for ages and it has saved me from sounding like I live under a rock multiple times.

Tools to help copywriters

Happy writing!

 

Why Learning Another Language Makes You a Better Writer

LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER

Most of the time, language is effortless. Despite the labyrinth separating the thoughts in my prefrontal cortex from the words in my mouth, I can ramble all day without thinking twice about the process.

Language is effortless, that is, until we encounter a new one. In a foreign language, finding the right words suddenly takes work, and we’re forced to dissect sentences, rethink our message and consult the dictionary.

This exercise of searching and editing mirrors the process of writing. Skilled writers attempt to construct language in particular ways — clearer, richer, more visual, funnier, shorter, longer — that may not immediately flow to our fingers. Language learning is like interval training for writers; in fact, learning another language makes you a better writer and may be one of the best ways to enhance writing skills.

Descriptions get more creative

When we first learn a language, our vocabulary is limited. At times, we have to be creative to get our message across. For example, imagine that I want to tell someone that I bought a vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, I don’t know the word for “vacuum cleaner.” How can I say vacuum cleaner without saying vacuum cleaner?

  • A thing that cleans the floor that is not a broom
  • A broom that sucks dirt
  • A broom that breathes
  • An electric broom
  • A carpet cleaner without water
  • A floor sucker
  • A mop for the rug
  • Something that washes the ground with air

 

It’s like a particularly painful game of Taboo in which I can only use the words I don’t need. Yet by going through this awkward process — saying the words “floor sucker” while making a whirring noise — I’m stretching my mind to build new, concise definitions and clever descriptions.

There’s a whole new world of idioms and metaphors

Metaphors and idioms add spice to language and help readers grasp abstract or complex concepts. They’re also often unique to languages and cultures. Learning another language makes you a better writer because it gives you a whole new reservoir of metaphors.

Russians use the phrase “spitting at the ceiling,” to describe sitting around and doing nothing. The closest parallel in English might be “twiddling your thumbs,” but that phrase doesn’t deliver quite the same punch that the Russian does. Used in English, “spitting at the ceiling” could add an interesting if icky visual to any prose.


LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER

Foreign languages give new insight into familiar words

Learning another language makes you a better writer by forcing you to examine your native vocabulary in new ways. In English, the word “know” is simple: It has one core definition, and even small children recognize and use it. However, Italian dictionaries offer two different translations of “know”:

  • The first is sapere, which means “to know” something that can be learned or memorized, like a fact or a skill.
  • The other is “conoscere,” which expresses familiarity, personal insight and recognition in the way you might know a song, a person or a place.

 

I took “know” for granted my entire life. A single language lesson led me to reconsider it and has changed the way I use this simple English word. Rather than using “know,” I now seek out terms that add more clarity to the narrative.

It’s English Grammar 101

Even people who sneer at the “AP Stylebook” and “Strunk & White” depend on the English grammar systems. When we use our native tongue, however, we have little appreciation for its complexities.

For example, in English, the word “the” is always placed before a noun, and it always looks the same:

German grammar (6)

Foreign languages learners learn a new grammar system from scratch. In German, the shape of “the” depends on the role it (and its noun) plays in the sentence. For example,

Why Learning Another Language Makes You a Better Writer

In these German sentences, “the” takes multiple forms (der and den) depending on who is doing the biting. The main subject (the biter) takes “der; the object (the bitten) takes “den.” This kind of differentiation between subject and object actually exists in English, but its usage is limited to pronouns:

LEARNING ANOTHER LANGUAGE MAKES YOU A BETTER WRITER

To speak German, I have to learn to recognize the role that “the” (and the noun it modifies) plays in the sentence, and doing so forces me to reflect on a facet of English grammar that most of us never consider.

Learning another language makes you a better writer

There’s some irony in the fact that a new tongue is the best way to understand your own, and that learning another language makes you a better writer. Yet for those of us who spend our days surrounded by words, it’s a powerful way to expand and grow as  writers, messengers and thinkers.

Conversational Writing: The Art of Keeping it Real

Conversational Writing

How often do messages on websites or marketing emails make you wonder if a human wrote them? A lot of content supposedly “targeting” us completely misses the mark. The writing is not conversational. It doesn’t sound like us. It doesn’t make us want to engage, and it lacks personality altogether. Some brands still confuse professional with formal and corporate with serious. Others forget how important it is to tailor content for each medium, coming off stiff and dated in social media and blog posts.

What is conversational writing?

Conversational writing is the kind or writing that makes readers feel you’re talking with them, not at them. It’s meant to keep things fresh and casual, and to help establish a brand’s voice across their website, social media, blogs and contributed articles.

Is conversational content better?

Conversational writing works better in some contexts. When we read content that sounds like us, we immediately feel a connection. As content marketers, our job is to inform, connect, persuade and inspire. We focus on finding the right “voice” for our audience and then on tailoring messages for each medium so they are more likely to convert. Sometimes this may mean relaxing our tone in client’s website’s landing page to establish trust and open opportunities for more personalized connections. Sometimes it’s about writing friendlier, shorter emails with one ask instead of five. It’s not about ignoring all brand guidelines, it’s about tweaking them to match how readers speak in different touchpoints. Some industry experts view conversational writing it as a form of copywriting UX, a way of using language to create more engaging experiences for readers.

But what about the serious technical and business stuff?

There’s still a place and a purpose for jargon and technical writing in formal business pieces like case studies, reports, RFPs and white papers. But don’t expect visitors to stay on a website that reads like an obscure instructional manual or to click on a link inside an email that sounds like a bank’s automated phone system message.

writing, conversational writing, copywriting, audience engagement

Can we write conversationally and still respect grammar rules?

Most regular rules don’t apply in conversational writing because it’s often full of slang and crutch words, creative punctuation and sentence fragments. It’s personable and unpredictable. While it’s never okay to sacrifice clarity for the sake of style, it’s okay to start a sentence with “and” or “but” to match your natural cadence in a blog and to use contractions or #hashtags on social to keep your messages light and your character count low.

A few tips on conversational writing

Conversational writing doesn’t have a style guide. What sounds like a conversation to me may not sound the same to you. The level of flexibility depends entirely on your target audience and the style they connect with. Below are a few tips to start using a healthy dose of conversational writing.

  1. Write as if you were talking to a friend. Start by reading your content out loud. Does it sound like something you’d actually say, or does it sound like something out of the Pelican Brief?
  2. Don’t write for everyone. Know who you’re talking to and write for them. Attempting to write for everyone will only dilute your message.
  3. Start with clarity. Start with your main message first so it doesn’t get lost when you add personality.
  4. Keep your sentences short. You know that amazing white paper intro you want to share on LinkedIn? Try chopping up the sentences to sound less academic. Unless your English teacher is your target audience, you definitely want to keep it short, sweet and light.
  5. Skip the long word when the short one will do. You don’t have to flaunt your vast industry vocabulary everywhere. Don’t let poor word choice stop a reader in their tracks.

Is Jargon Bad?

Is jargon bad?

Forward-facing innovators can optimize deliverables by leveraging a holistic view of language.

Last weekend I used the word “optimize” while out with friends. My husband nudged me. “You’re using your business jargon in real life again,” he whispered. My work is a nonstop cycle of blogs, articles, brochures, press releases, POVs, web copy and white papers, many of them for clients in technology or management services. It’s no wonder these words are creeping into my daily conversations more and more. But is jargon bad?

Like most people in buzzword-laden professions, I have strong opinions on the specifics. Still, I’m careful not to write off jargon simply because it’s popular. Content that is all jargon is garbage, but so is content that is all metaphors, or exclamation points, or flowery language. Just as metaphors, exclamation points and verbal curlicues have their time and place, so does jargon. Some terms – including “evergreen” and “disrupt” – are actually delightfully tactile. I don’t like “game-changing” or “siloed,” though I’ll admit to using them. On the other hand, “synergy” and “actualize” make me want to pour hot tea over my keyboard and then bang on it with the mug.

It may be annoying, but is jargon bad? As a writer, it’s my responsibility to communicate messages well. Compelling content requires creativity; clarity is even more important. But writing doesn’t simply relay information: Writing relays specific information meant to leave a specific impression on a specific audience. My work must be unique but still aligned with the client’s voice and industry. Because most of the content and thought leadership projects we produce at A.wordsmith will be consumed by our clients’ peers and customers, they must fit the style that those audiences expect. Sometimes, that style is business-ese.

The business-ese code

The process is similar to code-switching. I don’t speak to my boss the same way I speak to my husband. I use a higher pitch when interacting with a three-year-old, and it’s different than the small talk I make with my Uber driver. I say “ya’ll” when checking in with old friends from Atlanta, throw in Yiddish phrases when chatting with family in New Jersey and dampen my energy with colleagues here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not limited to verbal communication, either: Watch how President Obama greets a member of the coaching staff for the US Olympic basketball team and then, without missing a beat, changes his body language to address a player.

Is jargon bad?

Barack Obama code-switches like a pro

The change doesn’t indicate insincerity: Neither of these is “the real Obama.” We communicate differently according to our environment and interlocutors. It’s a practice called code-switching, and it’s a natural feature of language that we unconsciously use to indicate relationships, power and culture.

Business jargon is a kind of code that represents the culture of professional interactions. It uses sleek, trendy, smart language because consultants and tech companies acquire business and impress peers by coming off as sleek, trendy and smart. Using the appropriate verbiage establishes credibility by demonstrating that the speaker (or writer) knows what they’re doing and respects the norms of the environment.

Jargon on purpose

We need to get over the idea that jargon for the sake of jargon is wrong. Jargon actually serves a very specific purpose. It’s a hallmark of poor writing, but it’s also a component of skilled and appropriate business communications. My husband sees optimize as a ridiculous word, and, three beers in on a Saturday night, it is. It would be equally ridiculous to write “try really hard to do our very best” in a formal POV targeting CIOs. The challenge is to distinguish between the two, and then infuse the vernacular with enough energy and charm to make it stand out while still fitting in. Every word has a place, even the cloying business jargon we love to hate.

Except for synergy – synergy is gibberish.

What My Public Relations Degree Taught Me

What My Public Relations Degree Taught Me

“What My Public Relations Degree Taught Me” is part two of a mini-series on education and being a millennial in the world of PR, from some of our young professionals at A.wordsmith. Read part one here.

 

I veered towards PR after five years in the education and nonprofit world. The overlap between development and communications is significant, but I realized that specialized training would give me an advantage in the market and elevate my skillset. I pursued a Master’s in Management Communications with a Concentration in Marketing and Public Relations. This mouthful of a degree combined a wide mix of journalism, sociology, social media, marketing, research, and rhetorical methods courses into a surprisingly cohesive curriculum. While I certainly had a lot to learn post-graduation, I graduated with an excellent grasp of the core capabilities required in public relations. These are a few  of the things my public relations degree taught me that helped me get a head start in my PR career:

What makes great writing

The writing skills taught in kindergarten through college programs often focus on grammar and basic style guidelines. I believe that great writing requires this knowledge. I can easily bore even the most earnest listener with my zeal for the Oxford comma, my personal relationships with Strunk & White and Harbrace, and my embarrassing crush on The New Yorker’s diaereses.

However, advanced writing requires something richer. One of my courses focused almost exclusively on metaphors. Another guided me through sensory writing about music and food. Still others spent time on the logistics of understanding and cooperating with your audience. These exercises gave me the toolbox and the je ne sais quoi that makes great writing great, and the ability to tap them for the vast range of topics and markets that our PR clients belong to.

How to become an expert in anything

When I explain that much of my work involves writing and working on articles with media outlets, the next question is always, “About what?”

“Whatever the client needs.”

On any given day, I may be producing content about anything from the FDA approval process for prescription drugs to the hidden gems of southern Oregon wine country. The tasks can rarely be boiled down to simple copywriting or editing – most of the time I am researching, developing, and presenting complex subjects. I spend hours poring over articles and blogs, perusing competitor thought leadership, and interviewing subject matter experts. Fortunately, rigorous research requirements in school left me quite adept at zigzagging through academic databases and lay publications. My marketing coursework primed me in strategic competitor research. I owe my interview skills to a fastidious journalism adjunct and a supportive qualitative research methods professor. These skills let me become an overnight expert in just about anything – and I couldn’t produce quality work without them.

What My Public Relations Degree Taught Me

Why we tell stories

We tell stories because they work. Stories are at the root of communication. They’re more engaging and can reach a wide audience. In every course I took – from Social Media and Culture to Applied Marketing Strategies – the importance of storytelling was pounded into our minds. Journalists and editors can sniff right through a pitch about a nonstory. The case studies A.wordsmith writes tell a company’s success story with a certain goal in mind, and even web copy has greater impact if it illustrates the point. PR shares messages, and the best messages are usually couched in stories.

Look for part 3 of this series next week!

 Have you Heard These Clever PR Terms?

Thesaurus

As a word junkie, I’m always excited to uncover a new language resource. I recently stumbled upon Word Spy, a site that indexes clever PR terms and novel or underappreciated words and phrases. It’s unique in that it tracks neologisms that are both useful and usable. As the site describes, “Word Spy…[looks] for fresh words and phrases that aren’t mere ‘stunt words’ or ‘sniglets’ that were coined once and then never used again.”

Poking around Word Spy is an intriguing way to waste the better part of an afternoon, but it might come in handy during a writing project when the words just don’t feel quite right…

 

Word Spy Words

My favorites of the site’s clever PR terms and writing words

When good writers can’t find the topic…

clever pr terms

They turn to default stories…

clever pr terms

Or social media…

clever pr terms

They go all in with the nouns…

clever pr terms

But still stick to good grammar…

clever pr terms

Even if they’re twisting the story a bit…

clever pr terms

 

More fun at Word Spy.

What Thought Leadership is Not

thought leadership

Thought leadership” is often considered a buzzword in the marketing and PR world – little more than a spruced up advertisement for a company. However, if your content marketing pieces fit this description, then you’re not doing thought leadership. Thought leadership can be a strong, useful addition to a content marketing program and goes well beyond stuffing a reused blog full of keywords and hoping a Forbes editor will run it.

To understand what good thought leadership looks like, it can be beneficial to know what bad content looks like. Here’s what thought leadership is not:

Thought Leadership is Not Link Building

The main goal of thought leadership is not boosting your SEO program. That’s not to say these two programs can’t work together – they certainly can. A well-written thought leadership piece placed in a publication important to your business’ audience might also include a link to your website in your author bio. This is a great bonus and can help your company’s SEO results, but this should be considered a plus, not the end goal. Editors are not looking for opportunities to publish links to businesses’ websites, they’re looking to partner with thought leaders who can provide useful, actionable insights for their readers. Draft and pitch your thought leadership ideas with this at the forefront of your mind, and you will have more success in placing your content.

content writing

Thought Leadership is Not About You

Since editors want content that is relevant for their readers, it’s important to remember that this also means your thought leadership content isn’t about you. While it seems counter intuitive to say that a program designed to position yourself as a thought leader is not about you, this concept is the foundation of well-written pieces. Your content can and certainly should involve things you’ve learned and how you’ve built your personal expertise, but you should frame your articles with your readers in mind. What is useful to them? How can you help them on this topic? Your purpose isn’t to highlight your accomplishments and boost your ego. Focusing on your readers first makes an article more relevant, useful, and likely to be published.

Thought Leadership is Not a Chance to Talk About Your Company and Products

It all comes back to your readers – thought leadership isn’t about your company or products, either. While this type of content ultimately boosts your brand image, it isn’t advertising. Many publications outright prohibit contributed pieces that mention the author’s products and business in the text, and will remove links back to your site. Thought leadership requires brainstorming and planning to come up with topics that don’t focus on your products and services. The key is that the topics will be mildly related to, but not centered on what your brand does. It’s also possible for thought leadership pieces to be completely unrelated to the products your company sells. Think of topics your audience is interested in and that you can talk about without using your own products as a case study or solution.

Thought Leadership is Not Copying and Pasting Your Blog Posts

Your blog can be a great starting point for topic ideas for articles. However, you can’t just take a pre-written blog and try to pitch it to an editor as a thought leadership piece. Many publications don’t want material that’s been published elsewhere, blogs included. Your blog posts will also probably need some reworking to become less advertorial and more reader focused. You can write about the same topic or a similar one, but make sure it’s tailored to your audience and the publication you want to see it in.

Good Thought Leadership Is…

Knowing what thought leadership is not provides a jumping off point to a good program. A good thought leadership article is not easy or quick to put together. It will require some research, brainstorming, and drafting. It will require a constant focus on your reader, and putting your own brand in the background. It will also require some patience – you’re probably not going to be published in Forbes right away. But focusing on quality content can lead you to opportunities with publications your readers know and respect, and eventually lead to a stronger brand image overall.

Streamline Your Writing: Five Tips

Steve Jobs once said: “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” Throughout your PR and writing career, you have heard more than once to tighten up your pitches, your white papers or your press releases. While it takes practice, the result is worth the effort.

Below are five tips to keep your writing clear and concise.

Avoid passive language.

Is the object of your sentence in the position where the subject should be? If so, it’s probably passive. For example, “The dog was walked by me” should read: “I walked the dog”.

Don’t rely on adverbs as descriptors.

Instead, use a descriptive adjective. Not only can adverbs dilute a sentence’s meaning, but they add unnecessary word count. Instead of writing, “He ate his dinner quickly,” say: “He devoured his dinner”.

Use words that resonate with your audience.

While it might be tempting to infuse your writing with large words or esoteric terminology, in most cases, this approach is not appropriate for your audience. Unless you are writing a technical piece or white paper, aim for a straightforward style.

Minimize prepositions.

Prepositions are used to connect nouns and pronouns to each other. Examples include: “of, for, to, by, at, from, on or into”. Instead of saying “The captain of the boat,” you can tighten the sentence by two words by saying: “the boat’s captain”.

Avoid redundant language.

Proofread your piece for words that can be eliminated because they don’t add meaning. For example, you can eliminate “exact” from the phrase, “exact same,” and “time” from the phrase, “present time”. Pay a visit to this site for 200 common redundancies.

Do you have tips or questions about writing more clearly and concisely? If so, we’re all ears. Share your comments and feedback below.

Avoid Bad PR with Good Grammar

Good Grammar

There’s no shortage of articles about the enduring importance of good grammar in the modern business world. They illuminate the ways it bestows credibility on the writer, indicates professionalism, and ensures clarity and accuracy. As a grammar nut myself, I couldn’t agree more. But there’s one more thing I’d like to add to that list: bad grammar is bad PR.

Grammar gaffes go viral quickly. Just last week the world collectively snickered at attempts by Britain’s Labour Party to mock the Tories’ education record with an email titled “NEWS FROM LABOUR: Nothing is doing more to damage English & maths education than the Tory’s failure to recruit enough good teachers.” Mistakes like this used to inspire a chuckle and then fade, but today they are broadcast worldwide.

Don’t underestimate the negative reactions to poor writing. Grammarly recently released a fun infographic that notes the impact of writing skills on online dating success. The company found that just two spelling errors in a man’s online dating profile reduced his chances of a response by 14%, and that “both men and women rank grammar more important than confidence in a potential date.”

This isn’t limited by demographics, either. Millennials are actually more likely to be irked by grammar mistakes than other age groups. “While we’d assume they’d be accustomed to seeing and using abbreviated speech and lingo because they are a tech-savvy generation, we actually found that they have much higher standards,” a Harris poll found last summer.

The takeaway? If professionalism and clarity aren’t enough motivation, just remember what a mess the clean-up will be when everyone is laughing at you. Then proofread, proofread, ask a friend to proofread, ask another, and then proofread again.

Amazon’s product visualization through press release

Amazon executives are typically a reclusive bunch. So its was a rare treat when Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s senior vice president of consumer business, took the stage this week at Seattle University as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series.

In an hour-long talk, Wilke laid out the core leadership principles that make up the tech and online retail juggernaut.

Jeff Wilke is a chemical engineer who moved his young family to Seattle in 1999 to join Amazon as the senior vice president of consumer business.

Jeff Wilke is a chemical engineer who moved his young family to Seattle in 1999 to join Amazon as the senior vice president of consumer business.

Wilke’s appearance was rare, but his presentation format — PowerPoint — was also unusual. According to Wilke internal meetings at Amazon start with everyone in the room spending up to 45 minutes reading in silence as they digest detailed documents known as “narratives.”

“We write our thoughts down because we expect leaders to deep dive,” said Wilke.

Amazon believes so strongly in the power of bringing business visualizations to life by writing them down that the company’s new product concepts start with a press release.

“We try to write the headline and the press release that you’d want to use at the launch of a new product,” said Wilke, showing a slide of the initial press releases that managers conceived for products such as AmazonSmile and AmazonStudent. “It is a way to visualize the things that we want to build.”

Putting thoughts to paper. Reading those thoughts. Sharing and selling big ideas in written form. As our communication options continue to explode its incredible to hear that a company like Amazon still considers it its most powerful method.

Here are the 14 core leadership principles as described by Wilke and on Amazon’s Web site:

Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are Right, A Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong business judgment and good instincts.

Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.

Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Frugality
We try not to spend money on things that don’t matter to customers. Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Vocally Self Critical
Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. Leaders come forward with problems or information, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Earn Trust of Others
Leaders are sincerely open-minded, genuinely listen, and are willing to examine their strongest convictions with humility.

Dive Deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, and audit frequently. No task is beneath them.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver Results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.