Help Your Organization Leverage the Power of Twitter

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

#worldcup2014.  #ipad . #followback.  #android.  These are just four of the topics trending on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:06pm.  The amazing thing is, these so-called trends are subject to change at any given moment.

Welcome to the world of Twitter, populated with 230 million active users who send more than 500 million tweets per day.  Although its dynamic nature can be somewhat intimidating, Twitter is a cost effective tool that gives organizations of all types and sizes a way to promote their brand, connect and engage their target audience and truly create a unique customer experience.   This is precisely why the social platform should be integrated into your marketing communications plan if you have not done so already.

Too often small organizations create Twitter accounts just to leave them sitting idle – failing to leverage its innate power to communicate and interact with their niche audiences.  The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are on the right track to implementing a Twitter strategy that drives results.

  1. Complete your profile and maximize your presence.

First and foremost, you must complete your profile with information that will help others easily find and identify your organization upon a search.  Make sure to choose a Twitter handle that is simple, easy to spell and does not include an abundance of special characters.  Ideally, your Twitter handle should be the name of your organization as that is the name that the public directly associates with you and will ensure that your account is easy to find.

In addition to choosing a Twitter handle, choose profile and header images that represent your organization and positively reflect the industry in which you serve.  Also, make sure your bio communicates your organization’s specific purpose, includes your location and has a direct URL to your website.

  1. Design and implement an insightful strategy that drives results.

With your profile complete, it’s time to design and implement a strategy that drives results. Although this may seem like a rather large task to tackle, if you break the process down into smaller steps it will be a much more manageable.

  • Define your purpose and set goals. Before you even begin to think about designing a strategy, you must know what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to generate awareness for your organization?  Are you trying to generate leads for new membership sales? Do you want to increase member engagement?

No matter what your primary intention may be, make sure it is clearly established and set goals that will ensure that you are working to fulfill that purpose.  For example, if you are seeking to generate audience engagement, you should set goals for the number of mentions, retweets and favorites that you receive on a monthly basis.

  • Build your network.  Building a network is essential to setting up a successful strategy.  More is not always better. Although it seems as though the more people you follow, greater awareness will be raised, this is by no means the best way to attract the type of audience that you want and need to fulfill your purpose.

Start by following customers, clients, vendors, business partners, local businesses and other organizations in your industry. Additionally, take the time to identify and connect with industry thought leaders and experts. These types of connections will help create relevant content for your target audience, as well as provide engaging material to share with your followers.  To discover your industry influencers, check out Topsy, a popular social tool that allows Twitter users to analyze the social web based on specific search terms.

  • Know the platform. If you want your strategy to be successful, you have to do a little bit a research.  Twitter is not rocket science, but in order to attract and engage effectively, it is imperative that you know exactly how to interact.

In a nutshell, there are five different types of interactions on Twitter (see chart below). You should familiarize yourself with each and incorporate them into your strategy.

The Tweet.  A message that a Twitter use originates and may not exceed 140 characters in length.
The Retweet (RT).  A re-posting of another user’s tweet that appears on your Twitter timeline.
The @reply.  A public update that contains your response and the hyperlinked username of the person whom you are replying.
The Direct Message.  A private message you can send to your followers.
The Mention.  Any tweet containing a username within the tweet, including the @reply.

Beyond these interactions, you must master the art of the hashtag (#). By using a hashtag in front of a word, or phrase, you can potentially reach any Twitter user that is monitoring that specific hashtag. You can use your Twitter sidebar, or tools such as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Radian6, Trackur and Twitter’s search tool, to identify trending and relevant hashtags that will help you to connect with your defined target audience as well as industry influencers. As a general rule of thumb, never use more than two hashtags per tweet.

  • Develop quality content. Creating engaging content for your followers on Twitter can be a challenge as you only have 140 characters to attract and capture their attention. With this in mind, keep your tweets interesting by asking questions, leading with numbers and statistics, use images, videos and links, and promote your events. Most importantly, ,take the time to reply to those who mention you.   
  1. Add Twitter to your current marketing plan. Adding Twitter to your current marketing efforts will help  drive other users to your profile.  You should add a Twitter button to your website, or even embed a live feed., Promote your organization’s events, hosts contests and link to your other social accounts, such as Instagram.
  1. Measure your results and adjust accordingly.  As you employ your strategy, you need to make sure to measure your performance over time. This will ensure that you are reaching your goals and will give you insights into improving your strategy to better accomplish your purpose. Luckily, tools including Klout, Twitter Analytics, Demographics Pro, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, make managing your account easy and will help you to efficiently measure your reach and influence.  Explore the different features of each tool and choose one that best suits your needs.

As I mentioned above, Twitter is not rocket science. Therefore, have fun with it and don’t be afraid to adjust and experiment.  For example, try tweeting during different times of the day in order to determine when your audience is most active.

Following these simple steps will help you to leverage the immense power of Twitter.  Optimize your account, execute an insightful strategy, integrate your account with existing marketing, measure and monitor your results, be creative and, most importantly, and have fun!

For more Twitter tips and tricks, download WebLink’s free eBook 4 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Tackle Twitter.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.

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When An Employee Has A Serious Complaint

by Bruce Clarke, J.D.Clarke, Bruce 2014

It happens in every workplace.  The same serious and unlawful misbehavior we see in our communities sometimes find its way to the job.  People are the greatest asset of an employer but can be the “crabgrass in the lawn of business,” as my friend says.

What should happen when harassment, discrimination, abusive treatment and other serious misbehaviors rear their ugly heads?

Managers, please view a complaint as an opportunity to make a situation better AND the long-term relationship with the victim stronger.  Psychologists in workplace studies say that an emotional crisis is a key point where your response can make the employee’s attitude much better OR much worse.  Some even say that the best predictor of whether a problem will end in a lawsuit is how fairly you process the problem, not the problem itself.

Good managers do several things.  They embrace the complaint, rather than avoid it, and focus on finding the right solution.  Neither of you caused the problem, so let the chips fall where they may and avoid prejudgment.  You will create a much better investigation and solution if you remain neutral on the outcome.  If you cannot be objective, ask for help.

Follow through with good listening, appropriate pushback to the victim for the whole story, and appropriate speed and discretion.  Take any quick steps needed to prevent repeat behavior while you work.  Ideally, keep the victim informed of your progress.  Get help from HR or a mentor.  Follow your company’s complaint process, at a minimum.  Precedent can be important to consider, but avoid a foolish consistency as the saying goes.

Employees making complaints have an equally important role.  Follow the complaint policy if there is one, but skip to another manager you trust if needed.  Your manager wants to hear how you feel, but must have facts to investigate.  Focus on the facts.  Who can help support your story?  Bring the problem to a trusted manager sooner rather than later.

Be honest about any part you may have played in the problem or steps you have already taken, good and bad.  Have some discretion and give this time to work.  What is your manager going to hear when he or she investigates?  For example, be prepared to hear some things about your performance you may not like (but need to hear) if work quality is an issue.

An important question that employees and managers often fail to ask is:  “What is the ideal outcome here?”  I am often surprised at how reasonable employees can be even in serious situations.  They know employers cannot guarantee perfect behavior by all.  But they have the right to expect help when they seek it.

Solutions to early-stage problems handled properly by all can be simple and effective, preserving relationships and protecting careers.  Problems that are buried like a bone in the backyard will only get worse with age.

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 NC employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.

Social Media For Job Hunters

Clarke, Bruce 2014By Bruce Clarke, J.D.

Are you seeking a new position in your field? You will be much more successful if you understand the methods company recruiters use to select candidates.

First, HR recruiters will view your LinkedIn account. If you do not have one established, you are at a real disadvantage. If you do have a LinkedIn account, you can depend on potential employers performing a careful review of your online network. They will read every single one of your LinkedIn references, too, so you should ensure that your profile properly reflects your true skills and abilities.

Good HR recruiters, however, do not stop with LinkedIn. They regularly follow and connect with candidates who have a genuine interest in your business and industry. Interacting with candidates via Facebook and LinkedIn accounts provides recruiters with an advantage in finding the best people to fill positions quickly and effectively.

We live in a time when job hunters must be engaged via social media to be viewed as relevant and current.

In the job market, you are competing with students fresh from colleges where faculty and students alike use social networking sites for class communication. Some professors even use Twitter and Facebook to disperse assignments. The Jenkins Graduate School of Management at North Carolina State University is addressing the demand for social-media-savvy employees through courses on social media in its MBA curricula.

Social media recruiting is still in its relative infancy, though. There are no specific laws as yet from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission covering the legal limits of social networks for recruiting beyond what is stated in the traditional Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures.

Many companies have established metrics to calculate the success of their recruiting efforts. They look at page views of their blog, followers on their social media accounts, retweets of recruitment opportunity announcements on Twitter, and discussions on a firm’s wall posts on Facebook. If the results are low for any of these, chances are the smart company will take steps to improve its social media presence overall, not just for recruiting.

Of course, social media is not the only answer for the recruitment process. As a candidate, you will be interviewed in person and/or over the phone to provide the recruiter with a sense of whether you will be a good fit for the corporate culture. But that step only comes after you have successfully made it through the social media process.

The recruiter will more than likely Google your name to see what comes up. You should do this regularly yourself and remove anything you do not want recruiters to see.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation found that the online tracking of individuals is pervasive.  According to WSJ, the 50 most popular U.S. websites regularly install tracking technology onto your computer.

You may not realize it, but you have been building a reputation since the first day you signed onto Facebook or posted to an online discussion group. Be smart about what you post online. Your next job

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 NC employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.

6 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Interact, Engage and Celebrate with Members via Social Media

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

For years member-based organizations have existed to bring together a group of individuals with common interests, attitudes and opinions.  Fittingly, they have long represented the traditional network and served as the ultimate way for people to connect.  However, as technology has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on the ways that we interact and communicate, we have come to expect information with the snap of a finger.

Your members are no exception to this trend.  Luckily for you, in today’s tech-driven environment there are a multitude of cost effective tools that you can use to communicate and engage with your audience.  One of the most well known and widely used is social media.  From Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter, the creation and implementation of a social media strategy that attracts, retains and engages an audience is critical to maintaining member relationships and heightening the exposure of your organization.

Here are 6 simple steps to help you maximize your social media communication efforts:

  1. Set Goals. First and foremost, you must establish your purpose and set goals designed to accomplish that purpose.  For example, you may desire to increase your member’s engagement and interaction across your social media channels.  As a means to measure your progress, and ultimately success, you could set a goal to increase the amount of likes, shares and retweets that your connections and followers post.

 Always remember that your goals should be specific, timely, relevant and attainable.  You do not want to set your self up for failure and setting SMART goals will help to ensure that you are on track to implementing a social media strategy that drives results.

  1. Make a plan. With your goals set, you must now design a plan that will help you meet those goals.  Planning can often be overwhelming, especially when you are creating and developing a strategy that is subject to the unpredictability of the human behavior.  Despite this, you must realize that if you are patient and take the time to actively listen to and observe your audience, you will be more likely to realize success in the long run.  The following tips will help you get started:
  • Gather Data.  Before you can begin to maximize your communication efforts, you must gather data that will aid you in making informed, strategic decisions.  Use the tools that you have readily available, including the information in your current association management software (AMS) and web analytics, to collect information that reveals which social media platforms are the most popular among your members.  Additionally, consider creating surveys to ask members their preferred means of communication.  After performing the necessary research, you can choose which social platforms will best meet your organization’s needs and the needs of your members and target audience.
  • Name a Manager.  Once you have established your primary social media platforms, you should appoint one person to manage all of the accounts.  This will prevent the duplication of information and ensure that your organization maintains a consistent tone, voice and personality across all channels.
  • Create a Calendar. Beyond designating a single social media manager, it is important to create a calendar that will help you get organized. You can use tools such as HootSuite, Sprout Social or Buffer to schedule the times and days of the week that you want to post specific content. Make sure to observe and note the days of the week and times of the day that your members are the most active.  Additionally, don’t be afraid to test and experiment with the timing and types of your content posts.
  1. Create Quality Content.  Content is king when it comes to effectively marketing your organization and engaging your target audience.  Make sure that you showcase your expertise within the industry by posting original content.  Master the art of content creation and curation, share relevant content from thought leaders within your industry, include images, videos and links in posts, ask questions, be responsive to your members and celebrate your organization’s and its members’ achievements.  

Download the e-book, 6 Ways to Produce Content Your Members Will Value, for more tips and techniques on how to create content that engages your target audience.

  1. Follow Through. Creating a plan is one thing, sticking to that plan and following through is a whole new ball game.  To keep your organization’s audience energized share company and member stories, respond to comments and questions, create contests, sponsor giveaways, participate in chats and, most importantly, be yourself!  Social media is great opportunity for you to increase the exposure of your organization and let your personality shine through. 
  1. Monitor Behavior.  Monitoring the behavior of your social media accounts will help you determine where to focus your future marketing efforts, as well as provide you with insights into the performance and effectiveness of your different content campaigns.  Make sure to use monitoring tools, including Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Analytics, Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Klout, Social Mention and Pinterest Web Analytics, to help guide you in your efforts.
  1. Measure Your ROI. After you have set goals and initiated a plan, it is time to see if that plan is working.  Measuring the ROI of your marketing initiatives is essential to justifying both the monetary and time expenditures of future plans. Although there is no universal way for each and every organization to measure the ROI of its social media, and accurately measuring its value can be tricky, there are a few tools that you can use to help get started.  For example, you can use your existing AMS to track social media profiles, try the social reports feature within Google Analytics or access online calculators such as HubSpot’s ROI calculator that can help you measure your social media traffic conversions and quantitatively place a value on your social media efforts. 

Unfortunately, social media strategy is not a perfect science. In order to get it right you must be open to experimentation.  The six steps outlined above provide you and your team with the foundation that it needs to start maximizing your social media presence.  Make sure to set SMART goals, design a plan, execute that plan and use the necessary tools to track your progress and, ultimately, measure your success.

Additionally, never forget to engage, interact and celebrate with your members, after all they are your most important assets.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.

AENC Committee Announces Award Winners

2012-2013 Award Winners

Distinguished Service Award – Kristen L. Feneley, MPA, CAEFeneley,Kristen 2008
This award represents the highest honor AENC can bestow upon a key association staff member, excluding the CEO.  This award reflects extraordinary achievements and the promise of future accomplishments within the association management profession.  AENC awards this honor in recognition of a member’s exceptional contributions to his or her employing association.  It also honors distinguished service to AENC and other professional organizations, as well as continuing professional development and participation in community and civic affairs.

This year’s Distinguished Service Award winner is the Director of Volunteer Relations and Hallmarks Development with the NC Nurses Association and has been a member of AENC for  over 5 years and has been involved since day one. In addition to serving on numerous committees (Membership, Trade Show and Annual Meeting) she has served as co-chair for the Membership Committee and will be leading our FUEL group in 2013-14. Outside of AENC, our winner has also been an active member of ASAE. She has served on the ASAE Social Networking Task Force and was a pilot member of the “Association of the Future.

A graduate of LSU, our winner also recently earned her MPA from NC State University and earned her Certified Association Executive (CAE) in 2012.
Please congratulate this year’s Distinguished Service Award winner, Kristen  Feneley.

Patsy B. Smith Award – Denise D. Ryan, MBA, CSPRyan, Denise
Patsy B. Smith, for whom this award is named, was the first Affiliate member to serve on the AENC Board of Directors.  She was a member for several years, during which time she maintained an active interest in the organization and its members.  In memory of her outstanding contributions, AENC presents this award as the highest honor bestowed upon an Affiliate member.  While recognizing outstanding professionalism and exemplary service to the association community, the award also recognizes a member’s contribution to his or her employing organization and to other professional organizations.

This year’s Patsy B. Smith Award winner has been a member of AENC for 10 years. She has been a consistent face on the Professional Development committee. In addition to her committee work, she has assisted with the trade show for the past two years and over the course of her membership has checked people in at events (everything from the Legislative Reception to the Golf Tournament), helped with the Silent Auction, moderated panels, given seminars, facilitated the board retreat, and written articles for Success Magazine.  As she stated in her application, “I’ve tried to come when AENC calls and I’ve appreciated every opportunity!”

In addition to her involvement in AENC, she has been an active member in the Carolinas Chapter of the National Speakers Association and has been a member of MPI and the Society of Human Resource Management.
On a professional level, this year’s winner is a professional speaker and has been working full-time at FireStar since 1999. And in addition to earning her MBA, she has also earned the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional designation, which is held by fewer than 10% of all professional speakers.
Congratulations to this year’s Patsy B. Smith Award winner, Denise Ryan.

James J. Lowry, Jr. Award – Gregory K. Griggs, MPA, CAEGriggs, Greg 2012
James (Jim) Joseph Lowry, Jr., for whom this award is named, was an extremely active member of AENC for over 20 years. He served as both a Trade Show Co-Chair and chaired the Legislative committee. He also served on the AENC Board of Directors. Lowry won the Outstanding CEO Award in 2006-2007. The award was named in his honor shortly after his passing in November 2010. This award represents AENC’s highest honor for an association’s chief executive officer (CEO).  The award reflects outstanding leadership and achievement in association management.  “Outstanding” executives serve AENC, their industry, and participate in various civic and community affairs.  This individual exemplifies the best in association management by continually bringing credit to the profession and the association community.

This year’s Lowry Award winner is so stranger to AENC. He has served on numerous committees within AENC, including the Professional Development, Annual Meeting and Legislative Reception committee. He also was a co-chair for the AENC Legislative Reception and was recently a valuable member of AENC’s Recognition Task Force. Our winner is a graduate of the Institute for Organizational Management and has maintained his Certified Association Executive (CAE) since 2005.

This year’s winner has spent over 20 years in association management. He formerly served as manager of special projects of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, as CEO of the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce and as Executive Director of the Association Executives of North Carolina. He has been on the staff of the NC Academy of Family Physicians since 2005 and their EVP and CEO since 2007. He is a Past President of the Henderson Lions Club, a past member of the Board of Directors at Kerr-VanceAcademy, a current member of the Advisory Board of Maria Parham Medical Center and an active member of FirstUnitedMethodistChurch in Henderson. Congratulations to this year’s Lowry Award winner – Greg Griggs.

Leadership in Associations

Best Practices and Experiences – AENC Leadership Roundtable, 5/ 17/2013

Leadership Development:

1. Be in the driver’s seat and define the characteristics and competencies of the leader before searching for them.  Go slow to go fast later.

2. Have intentionality when nominating and be aware of generations, experience, etc.

3. Look at someone’s capacity to invest and be a non-partisan visionary.  Focus on the ‘what’ and let the team take care of the ‘how’.

4. Passionate leaders can hurt the organization by dominating and burning out, leaving a vacuum.  Rotate chairs, bring in new blood, be open to non-conventional sources for membership and leadership talent.

5. Create a Leadership College that requires skin in the game with an intention of growing leaders of all ages.

6. Create term limits to encourage leaders to get things done.

7.  Observe people in the organization and ask them to serve.  Also give permission to some not to serve.  Passion leads to vision, and leadership takes time.  Leadership development is a commitment to the individual.

8.  Develop a program to reach out locally for leaders and take the crop of the Top 25 into a 2 day immersion program.  That creates a win-win by increasing the pipeline of leaders long term and benefits the firm who sends the leader to the immersion program in the short term.

Leading From Behind:

1.Communicate and have dialogue on new leaders to convey mutual expectations at the beginning of the year.

2. Get everyone on the same page – mission, objectives, etc.  Get buy in and then throw out ideas to the Board, let them digest, and don’t push.

3. Associations of the future blend a combination of pushing and pulling.  The art is leading down a path and making it look like it’s from behind.  Look toward peer organizations throughout the country for models and inspiration.

4. Ask questions to get others thinking like you.

5. Identify the train wreck before it happens, identify issues, and help leaders think beyond the way they think.  Sensitize them to what they can make progress on.

6. Define outcomes and let the Board make decisions and mistakes.

7. Find the “why” of leadership and for the organization.

8. Resist setting an agenda as the Executive and encourage other’s input.

Also, if you are interested in a great video on how leaders inspire action, check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk

The AENC Association Executive Roundtable was facilitated by Sarah Levitt, Executive Coach and Motivational Speaker.
To learn more about executive coaching and workshops: sarah@sarah-levitt.com, 919.210.8532, www.sarah-levitt.com.

Don’t Punt Away Opportunities

If you want to bring value to your members don’t “punt away” opportunities 
by Sandy Costa

“If everyone agrees out of fear or ignorance to sort of play
ultraconservative, nobody really has an advantage.”

                                                                                                   –Brian Burke

The quote above comes from a really interesting article I read about football.  The article claims that when faced with a fourth down, teams would be more successful it they tried to make a first down rather than always punting the ball away.  The point is that coaches always punt for fear of being criticized for taking unacceptable risks.  Simply stated, they won’t change!  Of course, if no one changes then no one gains a competitive advantage.  There are lots of things your members seek from your association.  But no matter how long the list, first and foremost what members really want is for your association to add value.  Value that contributes to the overall success of your member companies but also to the benefit of the folks who run them.  But if your association won’t step off the curb of conformity, if it won’t change in new and exciting ways, then how could it add more value to its members?  Blind hope won’t do it- even hope requires the will and way to achieve a goal.

Here are a few tips on how to embrace change and enhance the value of your association.

1) Promote a culture that embraces change.  Look at a list of the top 100 companies in 1900 then fast forward to the year 2000.  Guess how many of those companies survived?  Give up?  Only sixteen companies-not many!  Think about it – those companies survived two world wars, the Great Depression, countless recessions and unimagined changes in technology, social and cultural norms.  How did they do it?  They remained great learning organizations.  Make sure everyone in your association is a great “learner,” individuals who pay attention to the changes that occur daily and are excited by the opportunities imbedded in those changes.  You and those you work with must be folks who don’t want to be left behind!

2) Fear of change evaporates when facts come on the scene.  “Fearless” people have fear come into their lives just like you and me but they are not afraid.  Why is that?  They have the courage to examine the changes taking place.  When dramatic change occurs what most of us do is hunker down and hope it will fly past- that it won’t affect our lives.  But with no facts in hand we conjure up the worst possible scenarios of what a change will bring about.  We freeze in our tracks.  Before you tell your team and your members how you are changing, tell then why change is needed.  In that way they will understand that you are changing to get to a better place! 

3) Mistakes are sometimes overrated.  There is no question that we have all made mistakes that were whoppers.  Now in certain professions we are compensated to make as few mistakes as practicable.  We really prefer that our doctor makes as few mistakes as possible-right?  But in the operational realm of organizations, if folks aren’t making some mistakes I can guarantee you that your outfit is dead in the water.  So relax in knowing that creativity and innovation spawn success but also some false starts, and that imbedded in most mistakes is a teaching worth finding.

4) Shun the status quo.  Every now and again someone will claim to offer you a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”  But that’s not true.  Throughout our lives, we are offered only one such opportunity-it is, of course, this day.  It will never come again-nope no “do-over’s” allowed. Think about that when you get up tomorrow morning.  Think about the unique chance each day offers for you to succeed at one of your key responsibilities-to increase the value of what your association offers its members-a once in a lifetime opportunity for sure.

Remember, make sure your association is imbued with a cultural DNA that embraces the need to change in ways that brings a constantly increased value to your membership.

Sandy Costa formerly served as senior vice-president and general counsel for Glaxo and as president and COO of Quintiles. He is author of Humanity at Work and can be contacted on his website at www.sandycosta.com