Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘management’ Category

Seek Connection Over Perfection

October 6th, 2013

Great communicators seek connection over perfection. Connection is crucial for communication to take place, and few of us can connect, or identify, with someone who appears perfect. Perfection is rarely reality, and we seek out people who are real.

Most of the executives I coach falsely believe their presentations must be perfect. They put tremendous pressure on themselves to say the right words, the right way, at the right time, all the time. Under this kind of pressure, it's no surprise so many of them would rather eat glass than present in public.

Think back to a recent conversation you had with a friend. You probably can't remember the exact words he or she used but you can remember the point he or she wanted to make. Great communication is far more than the words we use.

Great presenters focus on their audiences and not on a script. Research tells us our words - the actual words we use - account for only seven percent of our credibility as a speaker. Visual and vocal cues make up the remaining 93 percent.

When we strive to be word perfect, we do ourselves a disservice. In the unlikely event that our speech flows like milk and honey, it can also curdle for we appear scripted, stilted and not our natural, authentic selves.

If we stumble and lose our place, we do not have to lose our credibility. We can simply acknowledge we have lost our place and take a few seconds to find it. Most audiences want us to succeed as speaker. They will be patient as we find our place and resume our talk.

If we misquote a figure or statistic, we simply correct ourselves. Most audiences won't think twice about the correction.

If we don't know the answer to a hard question, we say so, but promise to find out the answer and get back to the questioner. Audiences will appreciate our honesty and responsiveness.

Audiences may not expect perfection, but they do demand humanity. They want to connect with the speaker above all else. They want to get to know us; they want to know that we can be trusted. Showing them our vulnerability accomplishes these important tasks.

We can be competent and not perfect. Competence comes from knowing your stuff, and many times we learn our stuff from the mistakes we make.

One of my more effective speeches was entitled, "Confessions of a Reformed Manager." In it, I recounted ten miserable mistakes I had made as a new manager. The audience of new managers was mesmerized during the hour-long presentation for they felt a real affinity with me. By exposing my flaws, I had invited them into my home. By sharing my humanity, we could walk on common ground.

In conclusion, great speakers combine competence with vulnerability. They seek connection over perfection. They know their stuff and are not afraid to show us who they are.

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Getting Goals Wright

May 6th, 2013

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright liked to share a story from his childhood that he said helped shape his philosophy of life. When he was nine years old, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his rigid, reserved uncle. When the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him and pointed out their tracks in the snow. The uncle’s were straight as a line while young Frank’s tracks meandered all over the field.

“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle observed. “And see how mine aim directly at my goal.”

Years later Wright would say, with a twinkle in his eye, “I determined right then, not to miss most things in life as my uncle had.”

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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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How to Build Your Personal Brand

November 12th, 2012

Everything you do in life – from the way you dress to the car you buy, from the friends you see to the club you belong, from the notes you write to the way you speak — either builds or diminishes your personal brand. Below are ten suggestions for building a stronger personal brand.

One:  Become an expert source. Deliver a speech, write a bylined article, post on social networks, and become an expert source for reporters.  Make sure you have a current photo, bio, resume, and speaker introduction. Check your “Google index” to ensure that you are searchable.

Two:  Become a great communicator. Research shows communications skill is the top determinant for upward social and professional mobility.  Join Toastmasters or hire a communications coach to ensure that your written and verbal skills are at their best.

Three:   Draft a marketing plan for yourself annually, and review it quarterly. Include specific goals, strategies, action steps, and a timetable.

Four:  Develop an ‘elevator speech.” Within the time that it takes an elevator to travel one floor – about 60-seconds – be able to deliver a succinct description of what you do, how you do it differently, and the benefit it provides.

Five:  Build your Rolodex. Okay, so we don’t have Rolodexes any more. Build new business contacts and stay in touch with them.  Most people with powerful brands have powerful friends.

Six:  Realize that your boss can be your most powerful ally — or enemy — in building your brand. Be loyal and never speak ill of him or her – to anyone.  We should make our bosses look good, and help them build their own brands.

Seven:  Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Balance your individual style with clothing that will appeal to those you are trying to impress.

Eight:  Become a class act. Learn good business and social etiquette.  Buy elegant personal stationery and send hand-written notes.  Know how to order a good bottle of wine in a fine restaurant and drink it sparingly during dinner.  (Remember, alcohol and branding seldom mix.)

Nine:  Select “significant” significant others. Who you date or who you marry affects your brand.  John Hancock CEO David F. D’Alessandro in his book Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It, suggests that single people not take their dates to company events.  If they do, they will be judged by the outcome of every romance.

Ten:  Give something back. Giving your time, talent, and money to charitable causes is a brand-builder especially when it complements your brand strategy.  Find a cause you are passionate about.  When I was in public relations, I wanted to be known for my creativity.  By limiting my community involvement to arts organizations I was able to reinforce my personal brand.   Not only did my involvement in the arts benefit my career, I enjoyed the work.  I still do.

Your personal brand is one of your greatest business assets.  Nurture your brand, and you will nurture your career.

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