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Houston

Interview, Theatre

Interview: Rachel Landon and Alli Villines Talk SRO’s SPEAKEASY

April 1, 2016
Speakeasy at SRO in Houston

Read the entire interview on BroadwayWorld.

“I got the opportunity to sit down with Rachel Landon and Alli Villines to discuss SRO’s SPEAKEASY. Landon has written an immersive theatre experience featuring popular 1920’s era music, roaring dance numbers and a glimpse into the end of Prohibition. SPEAKEASY is about Texas, the female owner of a Chicago speakeasy club during the Prohibition era, and the various characters that frequent the club.

Houston is bursting at the seams with talented playwrights and writers. With original works being staged at every major theatre in Houston, along with budding organizations and events like the Fade To Black Series and Cone Man Running, SRO has joined the ranks of being known for producing engaging original works. Their previous original shows or revues include productions of HEARTBREAK U.S.A. and FEELIN’ ALRIGHT…”

As originally seen on BroadwayWorld.

Business, Career, Leadership

7 perks of being a leader at work

June 9, 2014

Leader, with great power, comes great responsibility.

Cliff Robertson in Spiderman (2002). “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Alright, alright. It’s true. Being a leader is pretty awesome. Although, being a leader has its downsides, there’s no denying that being one also has its perks.


So, you’re a leader, are you? Good! That’s the spirit. But please, don’t be surprised when no one offers you that director or VP role when you’re fresh out of college or only have a couple of years under your belt. You’ve got to work for it, and you’ve got to learn how to be a good follower before you can become a good leader.


If you do happen to get that coveted position of manager, director, or VP, there are a few things to look forward to. But before you go kicking your feet up on your new desk and start calling your subordinates “kid”, and cracking a joke at their expense, you should know that you must handle leadership with care. In the words of Uncle Ben Parker from Spiderman (2002), “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Let’s run through seven perks of being a leader at work as laid out by Andrew J. DuBrin from the College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

1. Power and Prestige

As soon as you are given a position of leadership, you are automatically given some power. So, don’t squander this opportunity! This is when people start using Mr., Ms. or Mrs. to address you, giving you some sense of prestige, while non-managerial subordinates are still addressed by surnames. “Alright, Mr. Garza. What else do I get with my new position?” Okay, okay. Hopefully your company has enough money to get you that office with a view, a new desk, chair, a laptop, and some vacation time. But don’t push your luck. Some sales professionals are great leaders and barely have a desk or office- their office is the road, the sky, and hotel rooms.

2. Helping Others

You didn’t think this was going to be all about YOU, did you? In your new role, you will be working directly with people. Everyday. Was that in your job description? If you’re not a people person, learn to be one. It’s now part of your job to help develop your subordinates and colleagues into leaders as well. When you see the fruits of your labor in this aspect, it can be one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

3. “Show me the money!”

"Show me the money!"

Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire. “Show me the money!”

I think this is what you’ve been waiting for. More money. “How much more money do I get?!” Well, this is a complicated answer because of the wide range of leadership positions and types of organizations out there. While a Director of Content Marketing may only be making $40,000-$50,000 a year at a non-profit, college, or government agency, that person could also be making $80,000-$90,000 at a much larger corporation. However, don’t expect to get too far without a college degree. Most executive and mid to upper management positions require that piece of paper from a four-year college. So, if you don’t have one, get one.

4. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

“No respect. I get no respect around here.” Don’t worry, Rodney. If you’re not getting respected now, then you probably won’t ever. Just kidding. But if you’re thinking that along with the new position, you’ll automatically be respected, think again. Although you may be respected and treated with politeness at first, it’ll be short-lived if your skills are not up to par for what the position calls for. Ensure that you map out expectations from your subordinates, and that they understand the rules and procedures. Rules and procedures should be part of their programmed (routine) decision-making and should be made formal by putting in on paper and distributing it. This should be handled by a subordinate manager, but if it hasn’t been done, then it may fall on you.


Status most definitely comes along with your new position. Go ahead. You can revel in this one. Wear that sports coat like a champ. Pull out that suit and wear it to your next meeting. It’s allowed. Although be aware of whether you’re working in a casual environment or not. Don’t embarrass yourself by wearing a fine-tailored, freshly pressed suit while your colleagues and superiors are in khakis and short sleeves. With your new position, you’ll start to notice that subordinates may stumble nervously as they try to ensure they greet you appropriately and continue to do their job while you are around. Smile, let them know to keep up the good work (as long as they are) and continue on to your meeting.

5. “Movin’ on up.”

Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson. "Movin' on up!"

Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson. “Movin’ on up!”

In larger organizations, you’ll have more opportunity for advancement. This is not true in all cases. In most small to mid-size companies, there is literally no room for advancement. You will have to move companies all together if you want to move up. In a small to mid-size organization your leadership position is usually right under one of the C-level positions (CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, C whatever O). And I hate to bust your bubble, but you might NOT be called a Director or VP of anything even though you are right under this position. If you are, then kudos to you.


In a larger organization, you may be able to move up the corporate ladder much easier. But again, be aware that this is not true in all cases. I know someone who worked at HP for years as an analyst. The only way he moved up was by moving companies.

6. “Finally, I’ll be in the know!”

Yes, it’s true. You are now in on things. You get some of the inside information before anyone else in the organization gets it. You’ll know about firings, hirings, resignations, and movings. You’ll be privy to financial information, and you’ll hear about the “next big thing” happening in the company. Try to use this information for the benefit and outlook of the company. It is easy to get caught up in the idea that the company is going downhill after there are staffing changes. Stay calm. Do your job.

7. Moving money around

So, now that you have some power, this means that you’ll have a say in how resources and money are used in the company. Again, it should be pointed out that this largely depends on the type and size of the organization. In addition, this also depends on the type leaders you have in the company. If you have a very controlling CEO who allocates money for his own wants and desires, personalized power motive, then there might not be much money left to run your projects. Hopefully though, you do have some say in how resources are used, in which case, refer back to the quote by Uncle Ben Parker.


As you can see, there’s always a catch to being a leader, even when you have some pretty nice perks. Once you figure out what motives drive you as a leader, the upsides can be very rewarding. Seeing someone you advised and led flourish into a better leader than you are will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment, just like completing a successfully run project. So, go on. Get cracking, and start leading.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to subscribe to my blog via email for tips on business and creative writing.

Peace out.

Alexander

Advertising, Business, Career, Marketing

Marketing terms that make you look like an amateur

June 6, 2014

Homer Simpson - Face Palm

Homer Simpson – Face Palm

So, you’ve joined the ranks of marketers and advertisers. Congratulations. You poor soul. Put in your best effort, and try not to look like an idiot. Actually, even if you’re not in marketing or advertising- try not to look like an idiot. This means sounding like you know what you’re talking about. Look up appropriate terminology and take some classes if you’re not formally educated in the field. Here are some of the top marketing terms that you or someone you know may be using that are making you and your buddies look like amateurs.

“Let’s get our eblast going.”

Try not to use “eblast”, “social media blast”, or any other “blasts”. You’re probably thinking, “But Alex, what’s wrong with saying ‘eblast’?” Well, nothing really. It’s not inherently wrong, but there are much better terms to use other than “blast”. Would you want someone “eblasting” junk all over your inbox? Didn’t think so. It sounds like spam. Here are some better terms to use:

  • email marketing campaign
  • newsletter
  • marketing email
  • email promotion

Also, no one likes being part of a marketing list. So, please don’t use the word “list” on your public facing sites or profiles. Try using: “subscribers” or “eclub”.

Related phrases you should never use:

“Sign up for our eblast!”
No, thank you.

“Join our email list!”
Nah, I don’t want to be on your list. In fact, take me off your list, if I’m on it.

“Let us eblast your inbox!”
Just don’t ever use this one.

These are better:

“Join our EClub to receive exclusive events and offers.”
Sweet, I love being in a club.

“Join our network of subscribers.”
I’ll be a part of a network? Fo Sho!

“Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates.”
Yeah! I’ll be in the know! Finally!

“When are we starting our social media blitz?”

Houston Texans

Houston Texans

Again. What the hell is a social media blitz? This means nothing. This is not football. It’s social media. Call it what it is: social media marketing, social media marketing campaign, or you can get specific such as Facebook Ad Campaign, Twitter or Tweet Campaign. I cringe every time I hear “social media blitz”. If you’re hearing this term, then your coworker or client are throwing up a red flag that says “I have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m talking about”. Worse yet, this might mean they probably have unrealistic expectations of using social media for their goals. While we’re at it, please don’t ever say email blitz.


Your client or coworkers may not realize that having a successful campaign usually means allocating a budget for what they want to achieve. Since Facebook limits the reach of page posts, advertising is a must. If your goal is to reach all of your followers, you’ll have to purchase Facebook advertising, or make sure that your campaign is so darn creative, it’ll go viral. Don’t count on this though. Most people don’t realize that much of the viral advertising out there is backed by huge budgets. Chances are you’ll need to purchase advertising.

“How many friends does our company have on Facebook and Twitter?”

If you go online and actually look at any company page on Facebook, you’ll see that the page does not have any friends, it has fans. You cannot have friends on your company Facebook page, you can only have friends on your personal page. Your Twitter profile gains followers, not friends.

A few more.

[one_two_first]
Don’t say:
general photo
samples or test
lettering
make a website
camera stand
video
[/one_two_first]

[one_two_second]
Instead, say:
stock photography
proof or draft
font
design or develop a website
tripod
animation (unless you mean live video)
[/one_two_second]

Don’t correct your boss.

He-Man on Robot Chicken

He-Man on Robot Chicken

Those are just some of the terms that have been brought to my attention recently. There are tons more. And as you come across better terms, use them and trash the amateur talk. So, now you’re a marketer or advertiser or whatever. Now, you know your stuff! “I have the power!” Slow down there, He-Man. Just because you begin using the more widely accepted terminology, doesn’t mean you get to parade around like a word nazi. Be respectful. If your boss wants to call your Facebook fans, friends, then let them. Or if your coworker says they want to do a social media blitz, then just smile, listen, and do your best to provide solutions.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to subscribe to my blog for updates and news.

Peace.

Alex

Business, Leadership, Uncategorized

9 downsides to being a leader at work

June 5, 2014

kevinspaceyhouseofcardsBeing a leader isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. You’re probably thinking: putting your feet up on the desk and barking orders at people both sound like pretty cool ways of leading. And hey, if that’s all leading was about, then I’d be the first to sign up. So, you got a big promotion. Or you’ve been told that you’re a natural-born leader. Your ego is a bit inflated, and you get excited. One day, you’re “gonna be at the top”, the “decision-maker”, the “one who signs the checks”.

Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but leading an organization or team is not always as glamorous as it seems. Now, don’t get me wrong: leadership is a skill that you should strive for, practice, and develop. It’s one of the four pillars of management and it’s vital in today’s business world and society. These are 9 downsides of being a leader at work as outlined by Andrew J. DuBrin from the College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

1. The myth of the 40-hour work week

Say goodbye to overtime pay. Once you’re on salary. It doesn’t matter how many overtime hours you work, you won’t get a dime more (unless you get bonuses). Now this is evident in so many industries. In my current position, I have worked 50-60 hour weeks, without any overtime pay. If your job or projects are flexible, then you may be able to do some of this work from home, but you’re still not compensated for it. Even when I was teaching, if you were in the arts or sports, then you could expect to work 60-70 hour weeks. If you have kids, that means that you’re spending more time with other people’s kids than your own.

2. “May I have another please? An aspirin?”

The number of headache-inducing problems rise with every second that passes while you are a leader. This can be attributed to contingencies. Example: The project demands an intense and comprehensive marketing and advertising campaign. The launch has been expedited. Everything is due next week. Your lead graphic designer just had a baby, so is on leave. Your lead copywriter got another job. And the only thing your intern has learned is how to make a decent cup of coffee. The better the leader you are, the easier it is to handle these types of issues.

3. “Publish-” Er- I mean, “Perform or Perish”.

This can be one of the most stressful things to deal with. If the company doesn’t do well, then who’s to blame? You better believe, that if you’re a leader, the CEO s going to come gunning for you. You better pray that he has a very in-depth knowledge of the market, industry, and organization if the reason for poor overall performance is out of your control. If he or she doesn’t, then you WILL be blamed.

4. They expect miracles from peanuts.

As a leader, you will often be faced with a situation where you are responsible for a goal, that you have little control over. If you are asked to get a fully loaded web and social media marketing strategy executed, you are going to need a budget. If you’re asked to construct a building, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and design, you are going to need some kind of budget. There isn’t a way around it. This really comes down to authority. And, no, I don’t mean YOU pay out-of-pocket and then submit expense reports. That is complete BS. No money. No work. Comprende?

5. Oh, so alone.

Be careful getting too “buddy-buddy” with your teammates. If you get promoted, you’ll be the one deciding their fates- who gets promoted, who gets fired, evaluations, the whole nine. Then what happens? The team goes out for drinks after work, and they don’t invite you. They’re actually going to talk shit about you. It’s true. Get over it. That’s why you shouldn’t hire your close friends.

6. You have to be a people person.

Man, do I hate people. Well, I really love them too. What’s a guy to do? Being a leader means that you will be dealing with people on a daily basis. This means that after you fire John, you’ll be up late at night wondering how he, his wife, and kids are going to pay for their mortgage next month. Say goodbye to college, John’s kids. You did this. Now if you can master being a people person, more power to you. Being a people person isn’t about feeling guilty about firing someone, it’s about being sure to provide employment resources and references for one of your displaced team members, a.k.a. John.

7. Politics is a bitch.

Yup, it’s in your backyard, it’s in your house, it’s in your office, and it’s probably in your pants. It’s in every office in EVERY industry. Don’t believe your pal who brags about how their job doesn’t have that much politics, because it’s all a load of crap. Start learning how to negotiate, and politics will get easier to deal with when it comes up.

8. “We just want different things”.

Conflicting goals is often a source of trouble for you in a leadership role. It is already hard enough to get everyone on the same page, but then Bob has something completely different in mind. Lots of meeting are gonna result from this one. If you’re lucky you won’t have to fire him, and you’ll still achieve your goal. What if he doesn’t budge? Well, there’s a little thing called compromise. This is why being a leader involves a mutual partnership between the leader and the follower. (Yes, I said “follower”. Good leaders are also good followers.)

9. The evil businessman.

Being a leader of a large organization or business often comes with the public perception that you’re evil, selfish, greedy, and generally an overall bad guy. “But, Alex, I’m not a bad guy.” Whatever. You are in the eyes of the “people”. You’ll get people to change their perception once they see some action. Actions always speak louder than words.

Do it. Be a leader.

Don’t let these nine downsides of being a leader discourage you. They are just a realistic view of the challenges that leaders face. Be ready to face them. Everyday. Move on. Be strong. Go lead.

Peace out.

-Alexander

Business, Writing

Selling Your Soul With a Smile: Ethics at Work

June 2, 2014

Here’s the thing. When you’re faced with a situation at work or anywhere, when your values are compromised due to poor leadership or poor leadership ethics, what do you do?

Now, I’m sure your thinking, ‘If my boss or CEO makes me do some illegal stuff, I’m gonna tell him “Hell, no! You can take this job and shove it up your (expletive)”.’ However, what if you quit your job, but you have debt collectors swarming your ass with swat teams, because you can’t cough up one or two thousand bucks per month in credit card, student loan, medical, and other bills? What if the only thing keeping you and your family afloat is the very thing you demonize?

Stand up to the “Man”

Stand up to the “Man”, they say. Oh, the platitudes that once motivated you to take on the world in teenage and college years no longer bear any influence when one “Man” enslaves you with debt and another “Man” pays you for services that disrupt your personal values. Simply put. If you stand up to your boss/CEO, then you WILL get fired. This is especially true for low to mid-level managers that don’t have a strong relationship built with your superiors. I have known some people to stand up to their boss or CEO, and get away with it, some are even respected for it! But these people usually have decades of some kind of working relationship with their superior, and in some cases are family.

But they say “CEOs and bosses want you to give your opinion”. Maybe some of them do. But many also only want to give the illusion that they “listen” to their employees. At the end of the day, they will do what they want. Many also only want your opinion if it aligns with theirs. You can tell this is the case when they start their sentences and questions with  “Don’t you think that…” or “I think that (fill in the blank), and that this needs to go much faster, and (insert mid level manager name) needs to be responsible for (list tasks or goals here)……. What do YOU think?”

Your response: “Well, that sounds very logical. I will contact (mid-level manager) and get that going right away.”

Your internal response: “It doesn’t matter what I think, because you just told me what you want me to do, instead of stating the goal, and allowing me time to come up with solutions.”

Shoot the Messenger

So, let’s say your boss or CEO does give you the opportunity to provide solutions. So you do. The only problem is that the solution is one that he doesn’t want to hear. He doesn’t want to hear that what is really lacking is the establishment of proper processes and procedures that will provide optimal goods and services, he wants to hear the shortcuts and methods to gaining the most money as fast as possible.

But you say, “this will yield better results in the long run” and he says “there won’t be a long run if we do that”. Or he cusses up a storm, slams his fist on the table, and tells you that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Well, if all you’re focused on is short term profit, maybe you shouldn’t have opened a business in the first place, dude. Go back and take some basic business or economics classes. (Wish you could tell him that, don’t you?).

Get a New Job

They say. Like you can just walk down the street and have your pick. Let me reiterate that unless your making more than $60,000 a year, you’re not going to be able to pay all your bills (if you have credit cards, student loans, and outstanding medical bills). There’s just no way. If you have a mortgage and car payments too, forget about it. So, sure- keep looking. It doesn’t hurt to apply. And you need to be staying active in your networking. Let your friends and family know that you’re looking. Reach out to acquaintances who might be able to help. Reach to those who might not be able to help- hey, you never know.

The job market sucks. Most of us get it. It always sucks. The days of applying for two or three jobs and landing one are looooooooong gone. Try more like 300 applications, 4-5 interviews, and zero offers. Yes, my friends, that is the reality of the job market, especially if you come from a liberal arts background.

Go Back to School

Three points here. One. Go back to school as quickly as humanly possible. Stay there forever if you can. Two. Get scholarships, get a company to pay for it, or go to a cheap public university and take out loans. Three. Study something that will actually yield job offers. Look up careers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Sorry to tell you that getting your MFA in anything is not likely to get you out of debt, but if it’s not gonna cost you that much, knock yourself out. I myself still plan on one day going back to get an MFA, but I most definitely don’t expect to get any exciting job offers from it! Go into an MFA for self-enrichment, not to “get a better job”.

Surviving the Day-to-Day

So, finally- what you’ve been waiting for. Surviving the daily grind. Your going to have to suck it up, right? Your going to have to set aside your dignity and values so that you can keep your shitty job just until something else turns up. Well, friends, there is no magic answer for this. The only things you have to remember is to be careful when you get a job offer, because the grass is always greener on the other side. Don’t let your current situation change you. You are still you! You still have wants, dreams, desires, and you still have hobbies, passions, and skills. Disrupt your routine. Take on new challenges at home and at work. Learn new skills and take on new hobbies. Learn to be present when you spend time with family and friends. Because at the end of the day, this is what its all about. This is why you drag yourself to work everyday. So you can love and be loved. Do your best to always disrupt your personal status quo.

Peace out.

Alexander