Predictive Analytics: Making Data ValuableThomas Davenport says that we live in a predictive society. Black Swans notwithstanding, most human behavior is quite regular and predictable.
Predictive Analytics. For example:
One of the most straightforward commercial applications of predictive technology is deciding whom to target when a company sends direct mail. If the learning process identifies a carefully defined group of customers who are predicted to be, say, three time more likely than average to respond positively to the mail, the company profits big time by preemptively removing nonresponders from the mailing list. And those nonresponders in turn benefit, contending with less junk mail.Data, while often considered eminently boring, “embodies a priceless collection of experience from which to learn.” It’s a way to leverage what you know—where you’ve been.
This mind-numbing work can be done—and is done—almost automatically by computer. With computers we are able to discover new patterns and develop new knowledge by processing huge amounts of data—almost automatically. “Machine learning,” as it is called, “develops predictive capabilities with a form of number-crunching, a trial-and-error learning process that builds upon statistics and computer science.” Interestingly, Siegel writes, “the machine actually leans more about your next likely action by studying others than by studying you.”
Prediction empowers the organization with an entirely new form of competitive armament. “Predictive Analytics is the process by which an organization learns from the experience it has collectively gained across its team members and computer systems. In fact, an organization that doesn’t leverage its data in this way is like a person with a photographic memory who never bothers to think.”
“Predictions drive how organizations treat and serve an individual, across the operations that define a functional society.” How can we use this emerging science to use data-driven predictions to improve the effectiveness of business and the quality of our lives?
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Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race
The iconic Sydney to Hobart Race, a 723-mile deepwater challenge—often called the "Everest" of offshore ocean racing—is considered one of the toughest in the world. Unpredictable weather and seas make each race demanding, but in 1998, an unexpected "weather bomb" hit the fleet, creating 80-foot waves and 100-mile-per-hour winds.
Many bigger, better-equipped boats tried to maneuver around the storm, but the crew of the AFR Midnight Rambler chose to head directly into its path. After battling mountainous waves and hurricane-force winds in the Bass Strait, the tiny 35-foot boat arrived safely in Hobart, 3 days and 16 hours later—winning the coveted Tattersall’s Cup.
There are two central themes in Into the Storm. The first is the importance of exceptional teamwork in overcoming challenges at The Edge. The second is the value of distributed leadership—a team culture that allows every person to provide direction when he or she has expertise that will help the team succeed.
The story of the AFR Midnight Rambler exemplifies the power of exceptional teamwork and distributed leadership. But where does this leave a formal team leader—the skipper of a boat, the CEO of a corporation, the commanding officer of military unit, or the President of the United States, for that matter? Is there a unique role that he or she needs to play? I believe there are some critical things—some unique responsibilities—that fall to the skipper.
The leader needs to keep the team aligned.
The varied performance of boats in the Sydney to Hobart Race underscores the importance of having a coherent, unified team. Some boats, like the Midnight Rambler, demonstrated extraordinary cohesiveness even under the most terrifying, life-threatening conditions. At the other end of the alignment continuum, some crews were fragmented, with key team members at odds with each other—in a leadership vacuum.
Adrienne Cahalan, one the world's best navigators, has had a chance to observe the role of the leader in more than twenty-five years as a professional competitive sailor. She has been named Australian Yachtswoman of the Year twice—and has been nominated four times for World Yachtswoman of the Year.
Cahalan characterized the leader's role this way:
"Skippers need to keep the team focused. They need to keep an eye out to see if someone is wavering, or a faction developing. They need to have the skill to manage all the personalities, to bring them together and to get them working toward their common goal. Not everybody's perfect, so a good leader is able to deal with imperfections. And they need to be able to do it all under pressure."
Managing personalities and bringing people together can be challenging in any situation. But the pressure of a storm—or a tough business obstacle—calls for exceptional leadership.
The leader needs to demonstrate passion.
The leader's passion is a magnetic force that pulls other people in. Describing the impact of Ed's enthusiasm, one crewmember observed:
"What makes Ed an exceptional leader is his desire to win. He is committed to driving the boat as fast as it can go. And he can take risks because of his comfort and trust in the team."
No one who has ever sailed with Ed Psaltis has any doubt about his absolute, total commitment to winning. He is so passionate that his excitement sometimes needs to be offset -- by humor, or by the composure of others. But there is no mistaking the electric spark that comes from a leader who is excited to win. That enthusiasm is contagious, and it is a contagion that leads to victory.
The leader needs to instill optimism and confidence that the team will succeed.
Ed Psaltis and navigator Bob Thomas have a close relationship. They have complementary personalities, with Bob's cool demeanor balancing Ed's passion. Both Ed and Bob joined forces during the storm, and their combined leadership provided a reassuring presence for the crew. Crew member "Mix" Bencsik recalls:
"Their leadership played a large part in making sure that no one gave up. Ed and Bob constantly instilled optimism and confidence that we could handle the conditions, and that the crew had the ability to win."
While there was no question about Ed's formal role as skipper, Ed and Bob together reinforced a sense of unified leadership. And because of their close personal relationship, they were able to send a joint message of reassurance and optimism.
The leader needs to set an example.
Ed realizes that people are watching him, and he makes a conscious effort to set an example. Coming off his watch as helmsman, Ed will take a forward position on the rail. In this exposed position, he is subjected to the first onslaught of water and spray. It is cold and uncomfortable, but it is clear that Ed is not afraid to do his share.
Ed will also take his turn in "the bad bunk." It seems that every boat comes equipped with a berth that—for one reason or another—is undesirable. Nobody wants the bad bunk, but Ed makes sure that he takes his turn. He is sending a message.
Leaders need to set an example on a daily basis, but there are some moments that are different. There are times when leaders need to inspire others though fortitude, courage, and skill. One such moment came for Ed Psaltis in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race.
Mix Bencsik reflected:
"I've been through a lot of storms with Ed. Sitting on the side of the boat—wave spotting while he was helming -- was something that made me feel really proud. I thought, Here's a person who has my life completely in his hands. He was performing extraordinary feats of strength and seamanship, holding a 35-foot boat on the right course in those conditions."
"Ed was giving more than 110 percent. The well-being of the boat and crew were in his hands, and he didn't falter. It was an outstanding feat of seamanship. Even to this day, it's quite emotional to talk about. That was his finest moment."
Not every leader has the ability to steer a boat through a storm like Ed Psaltis. But there comes a time when every leader needs to be willing to step up and give "more than 110 percent." For every leader, there can be a finest moment.
Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race is by by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Jillian B. Murphy. Dennis N.T. Perkins is CEO of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty and change. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DNTP Jillian B. Murphy is the director of client services at Syncretics. She works in the areas of leadership, executive coaching, and team effectiveness. Follow her on Twitter @jbmurf For more information please visit syncreticsgroup.com.
At Work, "Yes" is Great, but at Times "No" is Even Better
This is a post by Michael Carroll, author of Fearless at Work.
At work, we want our jobs, assignments, projects and "stuff" to move along smoothly: achieving objectives, getting promoted, winning contracts. It's almost a twitch reflex to want our jobs to behave themselves. And if we are honest, sometimes we may even secretly wish that the workplace could deliver a continuous, uninterrupted "yes"—"yes" I got the plum job; "yes" the budget was approved; "yes" the redesign has been accepted.
And not only do we want "yes" from our jobs, we also want to deliver "yes" in return - especially when results are expected: "yes" we can deliver doubled digit growth; "yes" we'll exceed the deadline and come in under budget; "yes" we can close the deal.
But, as we all know, work doesn't behave this way. It's far too unruly: deadlines are too tight, salary increases are too small, business deals wither. And often instead of saying hello to "Yes", we find "No" at the front of the line offering personnel conflicts, career disappointments and project derailments. But rather than treating "no" as an annoying intruder on our journey to "yes", maybe we could take a different approach—maybe "no" isn't such a bad guy after all—maybe "no" is exactly what we've been looking for. And here are three reasons why.
Emphasizing "yes" can dull our edge
When we impulsively look for "yes" from our subordinates, colleagues, vendors and others, we tend to emphasize harmony over clarity; convenience over excellence; perception over results. Such seeming harmony can dull a team's creative edge and mask issues that need our attention.
Are we emotionally confident enough to hear the facts rather than a "managed narrative"?
Do we rush past problems in order to get to a solution or can we linger and explore difficulties thoroughly?
Do we invite "no" from others when we sense that it is being held back?
When we appreciate the importance of "no", convenience becomes irrelevant, our intelligent "edge" is permitted to clarify problems and getting a realistic picture takes priority.
Avoiding "no" represses candor and causes team problems
It is typical for team members to test boundaries and try to form reliable relationships and inevitably, such testing creates friction where individuals say "no" to certain group demands and limits. We all know what this looks like: Why does Sally get to lead this effort, why not me? Those budget estimates are way too low, but no one listens to me. I authored the sales plan, why can't I present it? When we are uncomfortable with the emotions accompanying such conflict, we may tend to avoid the required candor, hurrying toward a false "yes" of familiar routines and politeness. When teams choose avoidance over candor, we can end up repressing feelings that later arise as simmering frustrations or at times active resistance. Too often, by avoiding "no" we disguise problems rather than solve them.
"No" creates much needed psychological space
Finally, when we are constantly chasing "yes" -- trying to become smarter, faster, cheaper, and more profitable -- we can at times speed past the very things that need our attention. Such speed to succeed can blind us, but "no" can slow us down and offer some psychological space:
Can we describe the top three difficulties our customers are having with the new release 4.0?
What is the employment turnover with our key sales folks and should it be lower?
What are the three main motivators for our medical affairs physicians and are we focusing in on them? These and hundreds of other similar business questions require us to slow down in our relentless pursuit of "yes" and consider "no" as an ally. And when we make friends with "no", we discover psychological space and time to reflect, not just on where we are going but, as importantly, on how we are getting there.
So, in the end work is very much about "yes" -- "yes" I can take that stretch assignment; "yes" I'll work extra hours; "yes", the project is on track. But if work is all about "yes", chances are we are avoiding some vital issues, and we may need to make friends with "no".
Fearless at Work, worked on Wall Street and in the publishing industry for over two decades, holding executive positions at Shearson Lehman Brothers, Paine Webber, Simon & Schuster, and the Walt Disney Company. Founding director of AAW Associates, Carroll consults with major corporations on bringing mindfulness into the workplace. He is a longtime student of Buddhist meditation and an authorized teacher in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. Carroll has taught mindfulness meditation at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia University, Kripalu, and the Cape Cod Institute. For more information please visit http://www.awakeatwork.net, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
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Rebel Entrepreneurs Avoid Conventional Wisdom
This is a guest post by Jonathan Moules author of The Rebel Entrepreneur. Moules shares lessons learned from hundreds of companies that point to a rebellious entrepreneurial approach. He describes lessons like don’t rely on others to fund your idea, imitate creatively, keep value higher than price, pivot often, and why they typically don’t get loans from big banks.
There is a dirty little secret that most famous entrepreneurs and those that back the start-up culture prefer not to tell you—success in business is a minority sport.
In most developed countries, the overwhelming majority of all privately held enterprises are small – about 95 per cent, according to the OECD, the economic body that measures such things. The vast majority of these are sole traders. There is also an incredibly high failure fate among new ventures. About 8 out of every 10 of the companies started each year do not make it to their fifth birthday. Only a small percentage of those businesses that manage to struggle on beyond infancy then go on to create the real growth drivers of an economy.
However, it is these companies that are so important to the success of economies, providing new products and services as well as improvements in productivity that raise the standards of living of a society, and, perhaps most importantly, the lion’s share of new private sector jobs. Just 7 per cent of businesses are responsible for more than half the new employment created in the UK economy, the British think tank Nesta recently calculated. This figure is about the same across developed nations, according to the OECD. Nesta went further than this in its analysis, however, concluding that the job creation is actually only happening among very young fast-growing companies. Successful entrepreneurship, it seems, is a very exclusive club indeed.
What is it that sets these companies apart? One way to define them and their leadership is as rule breakers. That is what my book, The Rebel Entrepreneur, is all about. I am not saying that founders can only succeed by engaging in illegal behaviour. Sadly, there have been too many examples of this in recent years, but these people are criminals not wealth creators. No, the true rebel entrepreneur knows that the best way to get ahead is to avoid being sucked in by conventional wisdom.
Take pricing strategies, for instance. In hard times, conventional wisdom may say cut your prices to preserve customer numbers and therefore sales. However, as many successful companies have shown, the best policy is often to raise your prices. Look at Apple, the world’s most successful technology business, which insists on raising the prices of its products even as the western world struggles to recover from recession. Does this put off the customers? Not a bit of it. In fact, the high price appears to act as a guarantee of quality. More than this, by maintaining the high price, Apple is able to continue to increase revenue and profit even if sales dip.
Rebel entrepreneurship can be found in most areas of business building if you are prepared to look. Just be prepared to resist following the crowd.
Enterprise Editor for The Financial Times, where he has profiled hundreds of companies and their owners. He has written extensively on successful entrepreneurs. Moules spent 5 years in the FT's New York office, where he held numerous positions, including technology, media and telecoms news editor. He wrote specifically about the US mobile phone industry and new media businesses, and he covered the dotcom bubble and its aftermath.
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The Main Thing: How to Keep Organizations Centered on What Matters Most
This is a guest post by George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, authors of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance. They say that the first challenge of alignment is to get everyone on the same page by understanding the organization in the same way. That means getting to the unifying concept of the organization to which everyone can contribute.
"The main thing is to keep the Main Thing the main thing!"
We loved that expression when we first heard it from Jim Barksdale, then the COO of FedEx. That single sentence captures the greatest challenge that executives and managers face today: keeping their people and their organizations centered on what matters most.
Every organization needs a Main Thing—a single, powerful expression of what it hopes to accomplish. Without it, it's not possible to align the four elements that produce organizational efficiency and effectiveness: strategy, people, customers, and processes.
Does your organization have a Main Thing? Do your people understand it? Are they guided by it?
Fred Smith, the Founder and CEO of FedEx, once described to us his understanding of The Main Thing—which he refers to as the "theory of the business."
Every successful business has, at its heart, a theory of the business—an underlying set of supporting objectives and a corporate philosophy that gives people a foundation on which to operate. Working inside that framework, they've got an idea of what we want them to do—to prioritize. We [at FedEx] have a very clear business mission and a business theory which is understood certainly by every member of the management team, and probably by 90 percent of the work force."The Main Thing is critically important. It is the end that strategy and human effort serve. We cannot achieve and maintain alignment without consensus and conviction about The Main Thing. Yet we are always amazed by how few people can articulate their organization's main thing. When we ask participants in workshops, "What's your Main Thing?" we see people digging into their wallets for the latest mission statement. Others look questioningly to the person sitting next to them. We wonder how these people can formulate a strategy or know how well they are doing if they cannot even state—or agree on—the ultimate purpose of their work.
Some people, however, can articulate their Main Thing without hesitation. Here are a few examples:
What is The Main Thing for your organization? Can you articulate it clearly and concisely? Can your subordinates? In many organizations, people have no clear answer, or will offer a confusing list of lofty goals. Others will describe their strategy. But a strategy is not The Main Thing; it is merely its servant. In some cases senior management defines The Main Thing one way and the people in the trenches define it in another. In these cases people and policies work at cross-purpose; one person is pulling when the other guy is pushing.
As you formulate a Main Thing for your organization, keep these guidelines in mind:
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Why Leaders Can NOT Procrastinate
This is a guest post by Jason Womack, author of Your best Just Got Better—a book designed to show you how to make your best even better, how to achieve more in work and life, and how to sustain those changes over time. Womack defines productivity as: “Doing what I said I would do, within the time that I promised.”
You're about to end a conference call, and someone says, "Great, we'll send you some materials right away." A day goes by, and then a week. What happens to your confidence in that person? Surely, you may continue to do business together, but you'll always wonder if they'll do what they said they'd do, in the time they promised.
So, now is the time to look in the mirror Are you putting something off? Because you forgot, or is it on purpose? Are you missing key resources? Are you waiting for key data before you can make the next decision? Or, are you procrastinating? Begin by exploring your own daily routines. When you understand HOW you work, you can get things done more effectively. Here's an activity you can experiment with this week.
Write down the approximate time you arrive and leave the office every day. This represents your “work-week.” (I call this the "window of professional productivity.") For each single hour you were working, you made choices about what to focus on as “priority.” You also chose what did not get done!
Here are three ways to get going and sustain an action-orientation to your own productivity:
www.womackcompany.com and share your questions and comments via twitter @JasonWomack.
What if Everything is Perfect?
This is a guest post by Scott Hunter. Hunter asks us to take another perspective. What if everything that is happening is happening for our own good? What would happen if we chose to look at everything as a learning experience?
As a leader and someone that your team looks to for guidance and advice, has the question occurred to you… What if everything is perfect? What if everything that happens, everything that has happened, and everything that will happen is exactly what had to happen, is happening and needs to happen for your benefit and the benefit of your organization.
Now I’m not asking you to take this on as “the truth,” even though it might be. I’m asking you to take this on for your benefit, as something that will empower you as you move forward in your position as a leader in your organization and in your life. Because to not take this on, what you don’t realize is that you turn yourself into a victim. And I must say that being a victim is a very popular game. Don’t take responsibility; it’s always something or someone else doing it to you. It’s never your fault. You’re just this helpless weather vane in the wind of life. Sound familiar?
Here’s why it’s empowering to act as if everything is perfect: because then you will learn and grow from the experiences of life and constantly become more of who you could be. And, I assert, becoming more of who you could be is exactly what you want to use this life for.
How does this work? First you have to start from the proposition that life and business is not about winning or losing. Rather, it’s about winning or having learning experiences. So you look at everything either as a win, in which case you celebrate the win and learn how to continue winning, or as a learning experience, not a win, in which case you also learn how to do a better job next time so that you increase the likelihood of winning. Either way, you win.
Here’s a common example: you have a conversation with someone and it doesn’t go very well, maybe it actually turns into an argument, maybe you leave with your feelings hurt, whatever. From the perspective of a victim, you blame the other, they blame you, you dig deeper into your position and you plan your next attack.
But if you look from the perspective of perfection, you look to see what went wrong in the conversation, how come it turned into an argument, what you did to contribute to that, what you could do in the future so that things like that don’t happen again, and you even look to see that maybe you need to apologize to the other and get the conversation cleaned up.
Trust me on this one and give it a try. You will discover a power within yourself that you didn’t know was there if you look at everything as perfect and take responsibility for it all.
Scott Hunter has been transforming organizations for over two decades, through his innovative programs that enable people in leadership positions to master the “being” of leadership rather than the “doing” of it. His keynote speeches, workshops, retreats and management team coaching enable senior managers to shift the paradigm in which they operate so that they achieve breakthrough results and outstanding performance. Scott is the originator of the Unshackled Leadership philosophy and author of the groundbreaking book Unshackled Leadership: Building Businesses Based on Faith, Trust, Possibility and Abundance.
We Blame the 1%, But Still Call Them Our Leaders
This is a guest post by Dave Ursillo, author of Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership. Gen Y author Ursillo shares his personal journey into the meaning of leadership. Ursillo believes that we must choose to be a leader—in life and business—on the inside before we are seen as one on the outside. Therefore, we have to choose to lead without followers first.
Approval ratings have consistently hovered at historic lows for both American political parties for years. Thousands have organized in angered protests on a near monthly basis to express their distrust and impatience with the political and economic elite, spanning stark polarities of social groups like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party. As his own approval ratings have fallen toward the abysmal ratings of former President George W. Bush—and with the 2012 Presidential Election now looming -- the inspired election of President Obama certainly feels like ancient history.
Clearly, the deep leadership problem that is wreaking havoc throughout our modern world is neither a Republican nor Democrat problem.
The real problem, as I contend in my new book Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership, is that we have collectively, quietly, even subconsciously lost sight of what it really means to lead—the essential, fundamental, unshakeable human core of what leadership is, amongst and on behalf of others.
My book is a radical redefinition of leadership. By that, I mean to encourage you to rethink the very relation between a leader and followers. At first glance, we would all deduce that if you have no followers, you cannot lead, because you have no one to lead.
A quote that I often hear attributed to John C. Maxwell goes something to the effect of, "If you think you're a leader but no one is following you, you are just a guy going for a walk." This is the highly constrained, indisputable law of today's definition of leadership.
But what about what you do when you're on that walk? Do you come across others? Get presented with an opportunity to do good, do wrong, or resort to indifference? Become a hero or one of many bystanders who did nothing to help? Lend a hand? Offer a smile?
Nobody lives in a bubble. In our lives, we encounter countless dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Each seemingly routine and mundane interaction—even with a complete stranger you'll never see again—is an opportunity to positively, negatively, or neutrally impact his or her life, potentially forever.
To me, simply living in this world and among its peoples gives you the raw opportunity to become a bona fide leader. By simple choice, with some internal exploration, personal growth and everyday practice, you can become a highly influential leader that positively impacts the lives of others, every day—even without followers.
I argue in my book that "leadership" has become a far too limited term that is more accurately used to define the material wealth and career success of individuals among society—those who have succeeded in acquiring high salary, prestigious job title and social status, perceived popularity and power, and masses of followers. On a subconscious level, we socially acknowledge these qualifiers of material success as indicators of an individual's supposed ability to lead.
Of course, making the assumption is matter simple logic: to rise to such a level of success, one has proven his or her intelligence and abilities—important necessities for leadership on business and political levels.
However, today, and especially as popular protests lambast the supposed "1%" of corrupt politicos and evil big bankers, have we quietly grown into investing far too much attention into the things that individuals have acquired—wealth, status, power, followers, etc.—to shallowly qualify them as the best potential leaders for our world?
Leadership today has become a dirty word. "Politician" is even dirtier. And as public rage swirls at the simple, commonplace status quo amongst the national zeitgeist, what it means to be a leader is becoming further convoluted.
If we are truly dedicated to changing what we see as wrong with our world and feel it necessary to inspire a new generation of leaders to help turn things around, we owe it to ourselves to take a good, hard, long look at how we each define leadership in its typically constrictive terms.
Maybe, just maybe, if we place renewed focus and energy into defining leadership more upon what drives us to do good—passion and inspiration, love and selfless giving, vision and dedication, positivity and hope—than the socially-admired material outcomes, we'll more quickly arrive at the solution.
Not everyone can lead as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There can only be one President of the United States. But everyone, in as little as being human, can take up the vital mantle of leadership in their every day lives based upon everything that they already have—even without followers.
3 Self-Limiting Mindsets that Will Hold You Back at Work
This is a guest post by Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Garfinkle asks, “What makes one person more successful than another?” Getting Ahead is a straightforward guide to help you eliminate your blind spots to improve how you are perceived, increase your visibility and exert your influence. Great material.
The workplace has enough challenges and obstacles without us getting in our own way. But too often, we sabotage ourselves. Whether it’s internal forces that cause us to sell ourselves short or it’s a matter of having been conditioned not to “toot our own horn,” people have a marked tendency to avoid the limelight when in truth they belong in it. What’s more, if you’ve always been the ‘unsung hero,’ management wants to know who you are.
In my executive coaching business, I’ve worked with scores of clients over the years to help them overcome self-limiting mindsets that were holding them back in the workplace. Here are some of the most common issues:
Remember, if you don’t take credit for your own success, someone else will. That doesn’t serve your own interests. And if you think about it, it doesn’t serve the long-term interests of the company. You have a professional duty to yourself as well as your company to make sure your accomplishments are recognized and credited to you.
Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. View his books and FREE articles at his Executive Coaching Services website. You can also subscribe to his Executive Leadership newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”
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