My 2014 in Review

At the end of 2013 I thought I’d had the best year of my life.  

I thought I couldn’t top it but I just did.  Now that 2014 is over, I’ve had the best year of my life, again.

It wasn’t an easy year.  It was probably the hardest and most fulfilling.  I finished co-authoring Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence.  Cotential, my consulting business, gained more clients, and I moved back to New York with my husband.  We settled back into the big city and now I’m gearing up for my book launch in February.  

And so, to celebrate a new year and the end of a great year, here’s a roundup of my writing and media appearances from 2014:

How You Can use Youtube to Turn Your Passion into a Career in Forbes

Inside the Minds of Biz-Savvy Millenials in Fortune

How to Connect Intelligently over the Holidays in Linkedin

Women in the Workplace in HuffPostLive

Why Did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Go Viral? in Linkedin

How Chevy Turned an Epic Fail into a Social Media Success in Forbes

How Much Should You Invest in Young Talent? in Chief Learning Officer Magazine

The Power of Connection on Work Life Radio

How to Create High Quality Connections at Your Next Event in LinkedIn

6 Steps for Getting Noticed in Any Setting on FOX Business

Why You Don't Need to Be an Inventor to Be an Innovator

6 Ways to Improve Your Next Conference

Why the Crowd is the Ultimate Engine of Creativity

What the Art Museum Can Teach Us About Innovation

6 Ways to Improve Your Next Conference

The Value of Networks at Social Media Week

Six ways to Make Innovation a Reality

Why did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge go viral?

This post originally appeared on Linkedin.

Did you notice the uncanny urge for people to dump buckets of water over themselves the past few months? From YouTube to Facebook, social media outlets were flooded with videos of Ice Bucket Challenges as individuals challenged others to raise awareness for ALS. Nominees were dared to complete the challenge of donating a small amount to ALS research and getting doused with a bucket of ice water. If one was unable to complete the Challenge within 24 hours, the nominee was supposed to donate to the ALS Association. Once completed, the participants uploaded their video to social media, used the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag, then nominated three more people to engage with the challenge.

The Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t tied to ALS Association until Chris Kennedy, whose relative suffers from the disease, dedicated the challenge to ALS on July 15. Kennedy used the hashtag #StrikeOutALS, which became a signature of the Ice Bucket Challenge and was initially linked to a number of charities as a fundraising platform. Eventually his video reached the news feed of Pete Frates, former Boston College pitcher, who was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2012. Upon hearing about #StrikeOutALS, Frates uploaded his challenge to social media. Then the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge spread like wildfire.

People all throughout the country brought attention to ALS by taking the challenge. The ever-growing support network blossomed from a small group to thousands of communities across America in just a few months. More than three million people participated in this viral fundraising campaign, which raised over $100 million for the ALS Association.

The exposure that the ALS community has received in the past year is the kind of exposure every organization craves. The domino effect is due in part to the ultra-accessible nature of the campaign, and if it worked for the Ice Bucket Challenge, it can work for your idea, too.

Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, your platform can inspire others to make a change. Here are four guidelines to help your organization reach the masses like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did:

1. Define your Design:

The Ice Bucket Challenge was much more than people dumping water on each other because of a dare – it was about charity and awareness, and supporting those who needed it in a fun and exciting way. Participants were mandated to ‘donate’ only if they chose not to do the ice bucket challenge, leading to a counterintuitive way to spread the message and mission. Keep your ideas fresh and stimulating while also staying simple. Dumping water on your head is as easy as it gets, but its effects were profound.

2. Evaluate your Resources:

Most Americans have access to water and to social media, which is what made the Ice Bucket Challenge so easy to complete. Despite critics who disregarded the challenge as a waste of time and water, it became a substantial force of positivity for the ALS community. Those who didn’t have the means to donate took part in the effort by completing the challenge and sharing it with their social networks. On Facebook alone, the Ice Bucket Challenge was shared across newsfeeds over 2.4 million times. It linked communities and resources from the East coast to the West, and guess what? It’s possible for your organization to do the same.

3. Leverage your Connections:

For the first time in a long while, ALS caught the limelight thanks to individuals challenging others within their deepest social networks. Many celebrities – from actor Robert Downey Junior to Triple H of WWE – took part in the fun. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters created a short film by turning his challenge into a prom queen’s nightmare. Bill Gates created an ice bucket contraption, which resembled a miniature version of the giant bucket dumpers in the kid sections of amusement parks. Even Homer Simpson took the Challenge! Using social media as a gateway to the public eye is inexpensive and it gives individuals the capability to connect with future colleagues and collaborators. Use technology to fuel innovation and exposure.

4. Encourage Creativity:

Extremists like Paul Bissonnette, Charlie Sheen, and Muhammad Quereshi amped up the hype for the Ice Bucket Challenge through peculiar innovation. Bissonette, a professional ice hockey player, used actual glacier water for his challenge, which turned out to be the third most-watched Ice Bucket Challenge on YouTube. Charlie Sheen’s challenge featured him ‘saturating’ himself in $10,000 cash, which he donated to ALS. In the name of science, Quereshi, a chemist, used liquid nitrogen for his challenge. These extremists weren’t afraid to break the rules, and neither should you. Make your plan creative enough to capture the public’s attention.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of utilizing social networks in order to spread an idea or concept. What started as a simple notion revolutionized the world of ALS as we know it, and in so doing, it shifted the mindset of how organizations will fundraise and spread ideas in the future. All of this because someone decided to dump water on his head in the name of ALS.

Pre-order Erica's forthcoming book: Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence


Monday Inspiration: Nic Askew

"Perhaps our deepest fear is that we don't belong to the "tribe". That we're separate. And perhaps it's this fear that drives us to "be a certain way" in order to belong. And compels us to hide what we believe to be imperfect."

Nic Askew,

What are you hiding for its imperfections?

How to Get Motivated At Work

Have you ever tried to “get motivated” at the office—but nothing works? You start to feel terrible, like you’re falling behind in your business or career. You’re bored, lethargic, and you don’t want to meet up with your friends because you don’t want to talk about what you’ve been doing. (Or, more accurately, what you haven’t been doing.)

I’ve totally been there, too, and I’ve felt the frustration that comes from a lack of motivation at work.

But I’ve also got some good news. There are some key things that contribute to your work being motivating (or not), and once you recognize them, you have the power to redesign your workday in a way that gets you moving.

Here are five things you should make sure you’re getting out of your day-to-day tasks—and if you’re not, the changes you can make to jump start your motivation.

1. Task Identity

Work is most motivating when it’s clear what, exactly, you’re accomplishing. Think about it: How great does it feel when you know you’ve gotten a launch off the ground or made great progress on big project? On the other hand, nothing is worse than working all day and thinking “What did I even do today?!”

If you’re feeling like you’ve been spinning your wheels, try this: At the end of each day or week, make a “Got Done” list (the opposite of to the to-do list!), where you outline all of the tasks you’ve completed. For extra motivation, keep it somewhere you can see.

2. Task Significance

Another key to staying motivated is knowing that the work you’re doing makes a difference in some way—recognizing the impact you’re making on your clients, company, or the world.

If you’re not totally seeing this connection, try to dig deep. You could map your weekly sales reports to the increase in your company’s bottom lines or sales unit, for example. Or, say a key metric your company tracks is customer acquisition cost. Make a list of the tasks you do that reduce this cost for your company, and find ways to focus on those aspects of your job more often.

3. Skill Variety

Feel like you’re doing the same old repetitive work, day after day? It’s not so stimulating, to say the least. But when you’re engaging lots of different skill sets—that’s fantastic for your motivation.

Try to structure your days so that you’re working on different tasks (and thus, making use of different skills) throughout the day. For example, instead of writing all day on Monday and then building your client presentations on Tuesday, try to do both in smaller three-hour chunks each day. When you stimulate different parts of the brain, your motivation will be recharged.

4. Feedback

One of the most motivating factors you can have is getting feedback on your work. Not only for the ego boost you get when you’ve done a good job, but because the right feedback can help you hone your skills even further. It can also help you see the difference that your work is making. On the contrary, if you don’t know how you’re performing, it’s easy to lose steam.

If you find that you’re in a black hole of feedback, ask your manager, or even a colleague, for standing check-in meetings every one or two weeks. Let her know that you’d like to use the time to check in on your projects, and that you’d love honest feedback on where you could improve.

5. Autonomy

Finally, this is a big one: having autonomy in your job. Now, this doesn’t mean that you always get to do what you want—it just means you get a domain of choice about how you’re doing things.

For example, say you need to secure three more clients for the month. It’s much more motivating to be able to determine how to do that on your own—perhaps you want to build your online presence, or perhaps you enjoy building relationships offline. Sure, in the corporate world, there are plenty of things that have to be done a certain way—but there are also plenty of places where you can ask your boss for more autonomy.

And that brings me to my final point: Unless you work for yourself, you probably don’t have the power to totally rewrite your job description. But what you can do is communicate with your manager. You can identify the skills you want to develop, ask for feedback more often, probe for clarification when tasks are not clearly identified or seem insignificant, or ask to take on different tasks or have more autonomy on a project.

More than likely, you’ll be able to change something about your workload. And not only will you be more motivated—your boss will be impressed you've taken the initiative.

So what’s getting in the way of you being motivated at work? Find out, and then find a solution.

This post first appeared at Daily Muse.

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P.S. I'm hiring a Spring intern! See more info here.

You are who you walk with

Some people think that in order to make change you need to influence the community you are already apart of. But sometimes, what is more important is to first find your own community instead that will help YOU change first.

When I left my life on Wall Street , to pursue my creative life as an entrepreneur, I felt there was something missing in my life—a curated network of teammates, cheerleaders, and geniuses that were on the same path as me. I found myself surrounded by a lot of people that were living a different life than me.

When I left the academic world at Harvard, I deeply missed the intellectual buzz of my classmates, the constant questioning, but I realized that I was also a changed person now. And in order to cultivate my tribe now –I needed to build a new base again. I was not letting go of who was important from my past, but I was honoring who I am now.

Gina Rudan, author of Practical Genius writes about how at different points of your life, you need to shift the balance of people in your life from ‘just because’ to ‘on purpose.’ Throughout our life stages, we must raise the bar and build our networks with others who are living purposeful, inspired lives that match our values as we grow.

Who are the people you surround yourself with? Do they add to your life and to your story?

Remember –you become like the five people you spend the most time with –and you can choose this deliberately for yourself. You need to curate your own community. You are who you walk with.

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P.S. I'm hiring a Spring intern! See more info here.

Don’t Go it Alone: Collaborate

Being a leader in today's world is about collaborating, giving the work back to a group, and experimenting with new solutions. Most importantly, leadership is always about working with others: we cannot go it alone and live in solitude– our greatest challenge is about trusting, testing and letting others in to our most important work.

Oftentimes, we don’t share those hours we work, the sweat we build up, and the tears we give. It’s easy to hide and not share your challenges. It may be for many reasons, you don’t feel ready to talk to people about it, you’ll think they’ll say negative things, or you just don't want to share it.  The truth is feedback is all opinion and all positive. We just have to be in the right place to engage with others.

Here are four key ways to make sure you don't go it alone and collaborate:

1) Improve your capacity to ask for help: We all have to learn to ask for help. We need to work with confidants and allies. You can't lead alone. You need people to debrief with everyday.

2) Get comfortable and confident with yourself:  Connect with your inner spirit that gives you energy. Connecting to our hearts give us an internal force that helps us grow–it's that little inkling of, I know myself and I can do it.

3) Create structures to stop feeling alone: Find an accountability partner, a buddy who is on your side and helping you grow in the same way you are helping them grow. Choose someone who knows your strengths and can help you move forward.

4) Build a board of quotes: Inspirational messages or some type of mantra / affirmation are excellent ways to reframe your mind, keep you motivated and energized for your next challenge.

My keynote on unleashing innovation across the multi-generational workforce

Here is a clip from my recent keynote speech at Rotman School of Management. I touched on some of my new material around driving innovation across multi-generational workforces, thriving in 21st century work environment, and reframing generational dialogue altogether. More keynote sneak peaks to come as I'm travel to over 5 cities in the next few months for speaking events. 



Hire Erica Dhawan to speak at your next event. Click here for more information.

You have to talk the walk

In today's age of innovation and networks, to step out of the unknown and to move into spaces of impact, you need to let yourself be seen, for who you really are, regardless of what happens. For me, the most important aspect of any life practice is whether I walk the talk. I must embody my work and make sure I truly live what I am teaching.

But recently productivity guru David Allen reminded me that I need to embody the reverse of this statement just as much: I have to talk the walk.

What does "talk the walk" mean? Well–do you tell people what you are doing and why you are doing it? Do you share your story and why it matters to you and connect with others? Are you intentional about branding yourself in relation to the conversation people have about you? We can't live out our greatest aspirations unless we are telling people what we have to offer first.

So if you are fundraising for your nonprofit, selling a gamechanging product, or advocating for a cause, make sure you talk the walk. Remember its just as important as walking the talk. 

Monday Inspiration: Steven Pressfield

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s

evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward

pursuing it. –Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

What are you resisting?

The last time I felt

The last time that I felt success was:

The last time that I did something that I really, really didn’t want to do, but did it anyway, was:

The last time I felt truly happy was:

The last time I felt truly at peace was:

The last time I felt really proud of myself was:

The last new skill that I developed was:

The last time that I felt totally focused was:

The last time I felt exercise helps you to appreciate life and enables you to know when you are experiencing certain ‘feelings’. It gives you a point of reference for the future to feel that experience again. Try it!