Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘Career’ Category

How to Win People Over

July 1st, 2013

Jackie Onassis had it, so did Pamela Harriman. Hugh Downs and Bill Clinton have it, too.

Charm can be a communicator’s secret weapon. With it, we can communicate with anyone.  We can win others to our side.

By using these five tips, you can put the power of charm to work in your own life.

One: Focus.  Nothing is as important in developing charm as the ability to communicate with a person as if he or she was the only person in the room.

Someone asked Queen Victoria once whether she preferred the company of Benjamin Disraeli or William Gladstone. She answered that when she dined with Gladstone she felt he was the most interesting man in England, but when she ate with Disraeli she felt she was the most interesting person in the world.

Like Disraeli, we can put our egos aside and focus on the other person. We can make a conscious effort to put others’ wants and needs before our own, and one way we can do it is to ask questions.

“Questions are the sparkplugs of conversation,” says Nicholas Boothman in his book, How To Make People Like You.  Through questions, we learn where another’s passion lies, and when we show interest in another’s passion, we are well on our way to establishing rapport.

Questions are only as effective as our ability to listen, and key to listening is providing feedback. “Feedback,” says Ken Blanchard, co-author of the The One-Minute Manager and other motivational books, “is the breakfast of champions.”

Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., is his book Charisma, offers these four suggestions for providing proper feedback:

  1. Offer verbal responses such as “Hmmm,” “Really?” and “Wow.”
  2. Provide acknowledging gestures such as smiling, nodding and leaning forward.
  3. Make clarifying remarks that restate the speaker’s points.
  4. Establish eye contact.

Eye contact is also important in establishing credibility. In one study, speakers who are rated “sincere” looked at their audiences an average of three times longer than speakers ranked “insincere.”

Two: Help people feel good about themselves.  Find something – anything — you can like about a person. People can sense if we like them.

Begin by looking at people with empathy, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. F. Scott Fitzgerald is reported to have once said that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to see him or her exactly as he wishes to be seen.

Three:  Smile.  Pianist and comedian Victor Borge once described a smile as the “shortest distance between two people.” Anyone can smile, but a sincere smile shows in our eyes and can light up a room.

Four:  Remember the details. Charming people remember the details. Charmers remember names and those other details most of us are quick to forget. Keep notes if you need help remembering.

Top salespeople maintain customer files. By referring to their files, these salespeople are able to refresh their memories and demonstrate a personal interest in their clients’ lives.

Five:  Be energetic, enthusiastic and positive. People who possess personal magnetism are usually self-confident optimists. Be upbeat, sing praises, and freely give appreciation.   Energy, enthusiasm and a positive attitude are contagious.

In summary, charm can be learned, but it still must be earned. Sincerity and warmth cannot be faked; they must come from within. When we are naturally charming, we are at our communications best.

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The Power of Listening

April 1st, 2013

I often think how much easier my job would be if only clients followed my advice, yet I know better. I am more effective as a consultant and coach when I help clients find their own solutions.

When I share a problem with a friend and he or she says, “What you need to do…” I bristle. All I really want is for my friend to listen. Clients must feel the same way. Most need me to just listen while they find a solution on their own.

Al-Anon (a fellowship for friends and families of alcoholics) teaches not to tell others what to do, but instead to share “our own experience, strength, and hope.” Others may relate our story to their own and see a solution they had not seen before.

I once worked with a young man who was passed up for a promotion and was unsure on how to proceed. “What do you think you should do?” I asked. “Quit,” he too-quickly replied.

I then told him about one of my first jobs out of college; I was constantly making mistakes because I couldn’t handle multiple projects. Instead of facing an upcoming review, I quit. Months later, in a new job, I found myself in a similar situation. Only when I learned how to manage multiple details did my career advance.

My young client identified with my story and soon came up with a plan. He would ask his boss for feedback on his performance and ask what he needed to do in order to get promoted. He would then draft a development plan, review it with his boss, and seek his help. My client’s plan worked and within six months he was promoted.

As consultants, managers, and leaders we shouldn’t be in the business of just doling out answers; instead we should give others the encouragement they need to find their own solutions. Only then can real learning take place.

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Secrets of Powerful Presenters

March 2nd, 2013

Students of my presentation training often tell me one of the “pearls of wisdom” they value most is learning how to distinguish between a performance and communication orientation.

Speakers with a performance orientation view audiences as critics who are judging how they make their presentation. As a result, these presenters become over-focused on their wording and delivery. Presenters with a communication orientation focus on connecting and communicating with their audiences. They look at presentations as conversations, not performances, and enjoy one-to-one, friendly, personal connection with individuals in the audience.

Understanding the difference between hypervigilance and attunement can be as valuable to great communicators as shifting from a performance to a communications orientation.

When we are hypervigiliant, we are constantly looking for signals that we are not loved, appreciated, respected, cared about and helped enough. We are stressed, fearful and anxious, grounded in a flight-or-fight mentality.

Twenty years ago, I was appointed general manager of a large public relations firm and charged with building the Atlanta office. Although I did my best to cover it up, I lived in constant fear I might fail.

Uneasy in my new role, I became hypervigiliant. Something as simple as an employee’s suggestion that we do something in a different way felt like a direct assault on my authority. I heard the employee’s suggestion as a criticism that I was not good enough.

Once I became more self-aware and comfortable with myself and my abilities, I began to operate from a place of attunement. I was more relaxed and receptive. My desire was to know, understand, communicate and connect. I was no longer threatened by suggestions.  Instead, I welcomed them.

When we are attuned, we resonate with ourselves and other people. We seek connection over safety.

To find attunement, we must first be attuned to ourselves. We have to separate our feelings from those of other people. Becoming aware of our bodies helps us accomplish this.

To tune into your body, take a deep breath, release it fully and drop deep inside. Scan your body. Notice what you are physically feeling. Are you tense? Relaxed?  If so where? Just notice, don’t judge.

Monitor emotions, thoughts, judgments, tension and calm. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling now?”

Psychotherapist Charlotte Kasl in her wonderful book If the Buddha Married offers these additional questions to help us be more attuned to ourselves and others:

  • What is going on with me?
  • Am I afraid?  Am I angry?  Am I hurting?
  • Am I calm?  Am I open?
  • Am I really asking for what I want?
  • Did I agree to something that I don’t really want to do?
  • Are feelings of inadequacy or confidence underlying my words?
  • Am I being honest?
  • Is there a more skillful way to handle the situation?

When we think we know what another is feeling it can be valuable to ask if we are projecting our own feelings onto others. Is it us or them who are feeling angry, elated, hurt or content?

The journey toward connection challenges us to become more self-aware. By shifting from hypervigilance to attunement, we own our feelings, become more open and receptive and pave the way for authentic communication.

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How to Live Life with Purpose

February 3rd, 2013

In my work (and my book Engineer Your Career), I address four “Ps.” One of those “Ps” is Purpose. I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose. Identifying and  sharing my gifts–my special talents, skills, and attributes–is crucial if I want to live life on and with purpose. This summer, I found these two passages in Paul Ferrini’s book “Silence of the Heart.”

“You think the gift is ‘a doing,’ but it’s not. The gift is a ‘way of being’ that is effortless and exultant. It comes naturally to you. It immediately and palpably brings joy to others.”

“Whatever you do, you can express your gift. You don’t need a special role, a special platform.”

Over the past few months, I’ve been pondering how my life’s work can be more “a way of being” instead of “a doing.” I don’t have all the answers, but in Ferrini’s words I’ve got a direction.

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