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Lisa Petrilli, a friend and colleague recently posted an interesting blog that caught my attention--"No Bull Riding:  Why Macho Men Make Terrible Business Leaders."

Lisa used a study, “Scripting the Macho Man: Hypermasculine Socialization and Enculturation” (1988, The Journal of Sex Research), for much of her post and added personal commentary to put some things into perspective.

From her blog, here are just a few notes. Read Lisa's blog for a thorough and engaging read on the “Macho Man” and leadership.

- Masculine affects such as excitement and anger are considered superior whereas feminine affects are not only considered inferior, but the feminine is associated with words like distress and fear (damsel in distress). Thus, can a “macho” leader really respect a female colleague and see her as his equal?
- The “ideological script of machismo” descends from the ideology of warfare – victor and vanquished, master and slave, head of the house and woman as complement, patriarch and children.   In reading this I started to see how all of this may play out in hierarchical business organizations if enabled.
- And this quote really struck me: “In his dangerous, adversarial world of scarce resources his violent, sexually callous and dangerous physical acts express his ‘manly’ essence” (and yet the Old Spice Guy expressed it with humor, a well-placed towel and some body wash…!)
- The ideology of machismo is a warrior’s ideology.  The macho warrior holds dominion over all he has conquered.
- To maintain that dominion, the macho man must be prepared to risk all by acts of great daring.

On a related note, When It Comes To Dominance, Men Are Like Dogs may be of interest to you.

What do CEO's and Generals have in common? That's a question I always seem to ask myself because I have one foot in both worlds. I served in the military and I am now making my headway in the business world. Instead of leading a small squad of troops, I now lead a small group of young marketing employees. 

I'm finding that leadership stays true no matter who you're leading. You need to have a strong presence, be a mindful tactician, and play the role of teacher and superior. 

Here are some tips from the military that I've transitioned into my management style. 

Generals Grow Armies
In the military, this is called enlisting and boot camp. In the business world, this is known as hiring and training. The first step is to be a discerning interviewer – you want to look for existing skills and long-term potential as well. I'm naturally more inclined to hire someone who has shown a history of being "hungry," i.e., someone in school or someone who has been promoted multiple times.

These are individuals who will only prove more valuable with time. Also, there is no consideration for late interviewees - if that's their best behavior on the first meeting, then I certainly don't want to see what it's like during high pressure times.

During boot camp, strengths and weaknesses become apparent and natural leaders come out. When you're training new employees keep a close ear to the ground and see which ones take initiative. These are potential lieutenants, or trusted aids, which will help you, run your operation.

Training helps employees not only learn new procedures and protocol, it also is about teaching self regulation and self correction. In my marketing team, I actually have employees check each other's work before providing it to me for submission. This way I know it has gone through a few sets of eyes and minor errors are eliminated. It is a leader and manager's job to see the big picture and not get distracted by the small-scale mistakes. Those self-regulated status checks along the way save time in the end.

Generals Plan their Strategies
“Watch, listen, and learn. You can't know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity,” Donald Trump.

A great leader is predictive and responsive. First, you need to find information on your opposing force. Be honest with yourself and evaluate your operation in comparison to your competitors. Hire outside contractors or send over your own employees to be "test customers." For example, if you're a retailer, find out how their customer service works, how they lay out their products on the shelves, and what coupons or sales they offer. You want a large set of honest objective information - because it is that information that allows you to evaluate where you lead and where you fall short.

A great leader also needs to be flexible. In my line of work, it's fairly easy to be flexible, as we're competing directly with marketing teams from other companies for the same set of customers. We can see their campaigns on their websites and Facebook pages. From there we can determine how to improve our offers and outreach. What you need to be careful of is the difference between being adaptive and being reactive. A reactive leader waits for the other side to make a move first, while an adaptive leader changes and adjusts their stratagem on the fly.

Generals are First into Battle
“The company is definitely set up in a way where myself and the other founders have a lot of control over it,” Mark Zuckerberg.

When spearheading a campaign, responsibility and consequences fall to me because every previous decision and aspect of my force has been chosen, trained, determined, and implemented by me. To be a leader is to be constantly tested against your choices. Not every choice is the best way or even the right way. 

A great leader is one who can admit a shortcoming and improve upon it quickly. Bill Gates is well known for saying, “behind most great and successful products or businesses are entrepreneurs who were turned down a hundred times.” Risks will need to be taken. It's a great leader who calculates the least amount of risk for the highest payoff.


John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation's largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

My teen-aged son and I donated our time on a recent Saturday, performing basic home repair work with others from a group called the Mini Work Camp. Aside from the noble goal of ending homelessness in our community, what made this experience remarkable for us was the passion the leaders of this group demonstrated in everything they did that day.

As first-time participants, we were welcomed as enthusiastically as returning volunteers. When we arrived at the home we were helping to renovate, we were given a tour of the work site and a description of the various jobs we needed to complete. Regardless of our experience, each of us was encouraged to pick a job that interested us and to try different jobs throughout the day.

Almost immediately, the participants went to work. Everyone – teens and adults – jumped in and did whatever needed to be done. Pat, the leader, set the tone early on with his willingness to share both his knowledge and his tools. He took a genuine interest in each and every volunteer. Phyllis, the program’s coordinator, even baked homemade cookies for everyone to enjoy during lunch.

As the morning progressed, the list of jobs that needed to be done grew shorter. By mid-afternoon, we had completed all of the tasks that had been assigned by the site’s construction manager. As my son and I were driving away, Pat motioned for us to stop. He thanked us, by name, for coming and told us he hoped we would be back soon.

If you are the leader of an association, not-for-profit, charity or foundation, is this the kind of experience you are providing for your volunteers? Building support for your cause often begins with a remarkable volunteer experience.

We have various guides and templates in the office. Guides for writing blogs, articles, and tip guides. We have a brand guide for color, font, format, and logo use. What we don't have is a consolidated list, in one place, of all our mantras--the phrases, statements, aha's, rules, etc.--that "guide" us as we create and deliver content, messages, and great business stories.

Here are our top 50. Think about this list and how it can help prompt new and fresh approaches to your business stories. We would love to hear your mantras...please leave them in the comments.

1.    It’s all about them.
2.    Business stories are the engine of relationships and relationships are the engine of continued success.
3.    Write to the 10th grade level.
4.    Be memorable.
5.    Use humor if you want to.
6.    Content is king.
7.    Relationships matter.
8.    Credibility is more important than expertise in the beginning of relationships.
9.    Know your elevator speech / elevator pitch / mission statement (core business story).
10.    Ensure your core business story is unified throughout all communication materials.
11.    Your brand story is everything.
12.    Success stories are key to differentiation.
13.    (Good) blog and article content matters the most.
14.    Strive for “interest” questions. Avoid “understanding” questions.
15.    Social communities are built on personal and business stories.
16.    Everything you write, speak, and record online is a business story.
17.    Content first. Design second.
18.    Always have a second person read your content before publishing.
19.    Design your website for your target audiences (not your employees).
20.    Everyone builds relationships through networking.
21.    Send hand-written thank you notes, especially job hunters.
22.    Audiences are hungry for original thought-provoking content.
23.    Blogs are for sharing, educating, and inspiring…not selling.
24.    Get yourself known (e.g., LinkedIn questions and answers, post to SlideShare, and Tweet good information).
25.    Generating genuine interest in your product/service is the first step in building a relationship.
26.    Active listening is key to building great relationships.
27.    Write in your authentic voice.
28.    But is the worst word in the English language (and many other languages).
29.    Words really, really matter.
30.    Treat everyone like a CEO.
31.    Stop listening to your Mother. Talk to strangers at networking events.
32.    It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
33.    Speak in headlines.
34.    Write and speak conversationally.
35.    Treat every client like your best client.
36.    Maintain a detailed Ideal Target Profile for your key target audiences.
37.    Have positive self-talk conversations.
38.    Change is a choice.
39.    Deliver on the expected experience.
40.    Create your own success momentum.
41.    Be a student everyday.
42.    Be a deliberate networker.
43.    Be a deliberate communicator.
44.    Be a people bridge and make referrals.
45.    Be a mentor.
46.    Be a whole body communicator.
47.    Write emails as if they will be read on a smart phone.
48.    Inspire Action: facts do not persuade and inspire, people do.
49.    First Impressions Make Lasting Impressions: offer a warm smile, firm handshake, and good eye contact.
50.    People are at the heart of every great story.

Charlie Crystle recently wrote a compelling article on venture finance and running a venture-backed company on CNN-Money titled, "What I Learned in Selling my Company for $100 Million." Crystle offers insights, advice, and lessons learned throughout the article.

He walks you through his ups and downs from $100 million sale of his company to the actual $28 million price tag. "How did my stock dropp by 62% in 6 months? Three things: escalating warrants, management shakedown, and the timing of one of the dips in Cobalt's wild ride in 2000."

Here are a few of his tips:

- Try to take over the world
- Floors are cheaper than hotel rooms
- They'll like you when you win
- You won't always be indispensable
- Sweat the details.



“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou, American Poet

“Your first 10 words are more important than your next 10,000.”
— Elmer Wheeler, “Tested Selling Institute,” Late 1940s

“Remember that the person you’re about to meet can become as important to you as someone you’ve known for years.”
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Life's Little Instruction Book, 6/2002 Calendar

“I have no use for engines.  Give me the right word...and I will move the world.”
— Joseph Conrad, Novelist, 1857 – 1924

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
— Plato, Philosopher, 427 BC – 347 BC

“The character of a man is known from his conversations”
— Menandros Chiaramonti, Greek dramatist and comedy writer, 342 BC – 292 BC

"Le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés"
"Chance favors only the prepared mind"
— Louis Pasteur, Chemist and microbiologist, 1822 – 1895

“The customer rules”
— Turkish business credo, as shared to me by my friend, Ilbay Ozbay

“Conversation in the U.S. is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the listener.”
— James Nathan Miller, “The Art of Intelligent Listening," Readers Digest, vol 127, September 1965

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."
— Mark Twain, American humorist, lecturer, writer, 1835 – 1910

 

I'm a huge fan of great quotes. I use them all of the time in my articles, blogs, and presentations. Would love to read yours. Please take a moment and add your favorites in the comments section below.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How to Easily Start a Conversation

I attended a holiday party last night. Toward the end of the night I made my way to the dessert area. It was filled with wonderous sweets and candy. I was looking at the cake section while a gentleman was a few feet away picking out candy. Noticing the vast variety of candy to choose from, I said to him "It's like Halloween here."

Larry looked at me with a big grin. He then proceeded to tell me all about his family tradition called "Tribute." He told his five children when they were growing up that after they returned from trick or treating, each was required to provide a 20% tribute to their good ol' dad. At first, they tried to give him the "unwanted" candy. He amended the Tribute tradition to "Dad gets to pick first." The funny thing is Larry made the whole tradition up from scratch...he just wanted to have some candy. Over time, his children became accustomed to and paid the tribute each Halloween. We both laughed.

My four-worded comment spurred a lengthy conversation bouncing from personal to business and back.

With the holiday season upon us, look to your environment for conversation starters. It will always deliver.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recruiting for the Next 100 Years

My youngest son and I recently spent an afternoon with our Boy Scout Troop, helping with its annual Fall recruiting campout. As a Troop Instructor, he had volunteered to speak to the parents of prospective Scouts about cold weather camping.

As a former Scoutmaster and parent, I offered to assist him with his presentation. I brought my backpack and unloaded my gear on the tent platform that would serve as his stage. I sat in the background and listened intently as he shared stories of his camping experiences with the adult visitors. When it came time for the demonstration part of his talk, I slipped into my sleeping bag and allowed him to show the best way to stay warm on a cold night. And, finally, I chimed in whenever he needed help during the question and answer period at the end.

During the hike out of the woods and back to our car, a number of the parents we had spoken to stopped to tell us how much they enjoyed his presentation. What impressed them most, they said, was the leadership he showed and how we worked together in a very cohesive and supportive way. It spoke volumes about the bonds of brotherhood that can form between a dad and his son when both are active participants in a quality Boy Scout program – the kind of bonds the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been helping to build for the last 100 years.

The thoughts and feelings we left the adults with that afternoon helped form their impression of the BSA brand. The image of a young man teaching adults how to camp in the cold, while his father played the role as his cheerful assistant, reinforced the BSA brand message of building self-reliance through service to others. It’s a story that will be told over and over again in BSA recruiting efforts for the next 100 years. 

What words and images are you using to tell the story of your brand?      

In December of 2009, Robert Half Management Resources released the results of its study, "The Value Meal." The leading sentence starts, "CFO Survey Shows it Pays to Take Your Client to Lunch."

Here is the text of the press release:

Breaking bread with key contacts is good business, according to a recent survey of chief financial officers (CFOs). More than a third (36 percent) of executives surveyed said their most successful business meeting outside the office was conducted over a meal.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, the world's premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, "Other than in the office, what was the location of your most successful business meeting ever?" Their responses:

Restaurant 36% Trade show or conference 25% Sporting event 4% Golf course 3% In a car 1% On a trip/plane 1% Nowhere else, only in office 24% Other/don't know/refused 4%

 

   
  

 

 

 

(*Total does not equal 100% due to rounding)

"A well-chosen restaurant can offer a neutral, more relaxed environment than the office, often with fewer distractions," said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. "Sharing a meal with clients or colleagues puts all parties more at ease and helps to establish rapport."

McDonald offers the following tips to ensure a successful business meeting outside the office:

  • Choose the right location. If you're planning on a restaurant, select one that is quiet, easy-to-find and provides excellent food and service. Make sure the menu has enough variety to accommodate anyone with dietary restrictions.
  • Arrive early. Plan on getting to the meeting before your guests so you can select a comfortable spot and be there to greet them.
  • Stay on schedule. While you want to postpone talking shop until after you've ordered, don't let the meal go on too long if your client has told you he or she has limited time to meet. On the other hand, if things are going well, avoid rushing to get your bill.
  • Give them your undivided attention. Never take cell phone calls or check e-mail at the table. As the host, it's your job to make sure the meeting is productive and on topic.
  • Practice good manners. Always treat the restaurant or facility staff with courtesy and respect.
About the Survey
The national study was developed by Robert Half Management Resources. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportion of employees within each region.

About Robert Half Management Resources
Robert Half Management Resources is the premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals to supplement companies' project and interim staffing needs. The company has more than 145 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.roberthalfmr.com.

I met Marissa Levin of Information Experts the other day. I learned she is a prolific columnist, writing for The Washington Post, www.womengrowbusiness.com, and DC Examiner. One of her recent columns was on advisory boards. Her article is below...

I had the privilege of speaking to the Entrepreneurs Organization DC Chapter this summer at their annual retreat on how to build an advisory dream team.

Constructing this presentation gave me the opportunity to map out the process I followed over one year to build my dream team, which has been instrumental in re-shaping my business, improving profitability, implementing key processes, and ensuring I have the right people in the right positions. It's also given me a level of accountability I did not have prior to implementing it.

I'm going to summarize the steps I followed, but this is in no way an exhaustive description of the intricacies of the process. Still, it should provide you a general framework for how to go about selecting, compensating, implementing, integrating, and leveraging a Board of Advisers.

There are many reasons that companies implement Boards:
- CEOs don’t know all of the answers 
- CEOs find that it’s lonely at the top 
- They need a peer group that gets what they are experiencing 
- The business is stuck 
- The CEO finds himself in uncharted waters 
- It’s necessary to fill in gaps or skills missing in the company that the CEO can’t afford to fill with full-time employees 
- Open doors for business development

In addition, a Board builds credibility and very specific knowledge in highly specialized areas.

BEGINNING THE PROCESS
For me, the Board creation process started about 15 months ago, when I was having breakfast with two partners from our law firm who are close advisers. I was discussing with them how I would like to implement a Board, but I was in the “I-don’t-know-what-I-don’t-know quadrant.”

I had no idea who I should have on my Board, what I expected them to do, how I should compensate them, or how to hold a Board meeting. I was in completely foreign, uncharted territory. But I knew I needed and wanted a Board. I had a vision of what it would look like and what it would accomplish. I just had to find the right people and get it in place.

My strategic advisers from our law firm helped to outline what a Board can do for me, and for Information Experts.

INTERVIEWING PROSPECTS
A Board is an extension of your company, of you, and of your Brand. Everyone that is affiliated with your company – your customers, your employees, your partners, your Board members – all reflect your Brand.I interviewed about 25 prospects for my Board. I know that seems like a lot of people – because it is.

But this was a really important decision, as I will be relying on these people to help me shape my firm and reach my goals. I ask a lot of questions, I try to always be pushing the ball forward, and I needed people who were OK with that pace. I needed to have people in place that were on board (literally) with my plan, and in line with where I wanted to go – or people that would be able to tell me I needed to re-evaluate my path.
I talked with other business owners, retired government executives, and advisers. I met with people in many different fields… government, non-profit, and commercial, retired, active, people who have sold their businesses and are only interested in serving on boards, lawyers, accountants, and bankers.

Things to consider:
- Relevant experience (industry, their business size, working with companies with similar competencies or designations (8a, SDVOB, HUB, etc.) 
- Their experience with serving on Boards – who do they serve; conflict of interests? 
- Recommendations from third parties 
- Their expected compensation 
- Their availability 
- Their value they bring to your specific company 
- How they will integrate into your culture 
- Their willingness to help outside of meetings – how available are they? 
- Their willingness to be integrated into the organization – attend company functions, support other key personnel 
- Their willingness to introduce you to other strategic supporters 
- What you need at this moment in time… a Board is a work in progress and isn’t static. 
- Your gut feel

SELECTING YOUR BOARD
Once you’ve taken the time to meet with prospects and have completed your due diligence, it’s time to narrow the pool to no more than 8 candidates. Initially, I selected 6 candidates for my Board but since implementing it, I added one additional member.
From that number, you may even narrow it down. A Board is a changing entity that depends on what your company needs at any given time. Seasoned Board members know that their tenure is a temporary position, which is why it’s best to put in place short-term agreements (no more than a year at a time).

Before selecting, have a clearly defined plan of what you need from your Board as a whole. Do you need to focus on building your pipeline? Do you need access to certain people or contracts in a specific agency? Are you trying to break into a new market or sector within the government?  Are you hitting another stage of growth and need to upgrade your accounting system or financial processes?

Look for Board members that have taken other firms through this transition.

Especially as a company shifts from the entrepreneurial, grass-roots, bootstrapping model to more of a process-oriented firm, advisers can be especially helpful in helping to adapt the necessary processes.

COMPENSATING YOUR BOARD
I solicited a lot of input from my Board members directly, from other advisors, and from other business owners about how to compensate my Board.

As someone who has bootstrapped her firm and has built it with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, I’m reluctant to hand over any of it to others who haven’t contributed to our success or haven’t experienced the pain I’ve experienced.

At the same time, I recognize that their time, experience, and reputation is very valuable, and if leveraged correctly, can make a quantifiable impact on your bottom line. Compensation can also depend on the size of your firm.

IMPLEMENTING YOUR BOARD
Any change makes a ripple effect. If you stick a thermometer into a glass of water to measure the temperature, the act of inserting the thermometer actually changes the temperature. This change principle applies to organizations too. The smallest change can bring about large ripples.

Bringing in one new employee changes the dynamics between other employees, and can reset expectations. When an employee leaves, there’s a temporary void in both the work load and the employee interaction that has to re-adjust.

Bringing on a Board, even though it is technically external, also affects the company because employees know that the Board is specifically in place to bring about change.

This is why, prior to officially introducing the Board, the CEO should communicate the Board initiative to the organization, and with complete transparency, explain why they are going down this path. The communications strategy behind this endeavor is critical. People need to know that the Board isn’t in place to evaluate jobs or positions, or that the CEO is taking a step back from day-to-day involvement and turning over the reins.

From the moment the CEO decides to venture down this path, they should share the plans with the organization. As they go through the process, they should keep the company informed of progress: who they are interviewing, how the interviews are going, decisions that are made (and why).

At the initial meeting, all employees should have the opportunity to meet the Board, and the executive team should have the option of attending all of the meeting, or at the very least the part where there functional areas are discussed.

I’m a transparent, communications-focused leader, so I choose to have my meetings on site at our office. It’s important to me that the organization see what we are doing, and if interested, they can step in to participate. Acquiring buy-in and trust from your company as you navigate growth and change is essential.

INTEGRATING THE BOARD INTO YOUR ORGANIZATION
A lot of business owners that bring on a Board don’t extend the Board past themselves. The Board isn’t in place just to improve the CEO’s performance; it’s in place to improve the organization’s performance, and the performance of the entire leadership team.

A Board is a perfect way to provide mentorship to your leadership team, and to give them access to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to do their jobs well. If you’ve assigned accountability and ownership to your leadership team, then you are on the hook to be the bridge between what they have and what they need. A Board is one more tool in your toolbox you can use to set them up for success. It’s also a differentiating component of a recruitment strategy, and is a strong retention tool.

So how do you bring them in?

Beyond the first Board meeting, you take the initiative to set up follow-up meetings between specific Board members and the people with whom they align best in your organization.

As the CEO, I have the vision of what we need to go from Point A to Point B. I know who in my organization owns what, as it relates to my vision. My role in all of this is to articulate the vision, clarify the difference between my current state and desired state, and pair up the people to make it all happen.

Being able to recognize where I need support, and more importantly, being able to bring that support into the organization, reassures everyone in the company that we have a clear line of sight on where we are going, and that it’s OK to not have all of the answers internally. Most small businesses don’t have all of the answers internally. But it’s those firms that are open to direction from others that are able to grow.

We also keep the Board integrated by inviting them to all-hands meetings, monthly celebratory luncheons, and our annual holiday party. We keep them in the loop on developments within the firm – both good and not-so-good.

Continuous engagement is the key to integration.

SUMMARY
So these are my five steps for building an advisory dream team - Interviewing Selecting, Compensating, Implementing, and Integrating. I know this was a lot of information to throw at you in a column... and this was the condensed version of my presentation. As the owner of a small business that continues to experience growth spurts, I can't over-emphasize how critical my Board has been to me. They have been a lifeline in many ways.

Invest the time, energy, and money to build and implement a Board. It will be one of the smartest strategic decisions you will make.

I'm available for questions or guidance... email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Article Summary:   Character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

 

When Nobody Is Looking, Character Still Counts: Make Your Business Stories Credible

© 2010. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
February 2010

A friend recently told me about a holiday shopping experience he had with his teenage son. As they were finishing their shopping, they just happened to be looking when some of their fellow shoppers thought they were not. Cutting in line at check out and making rude gestures to other drivers as they navigated crowded parking lots were some of the behaviors they observed.

 As many of us in the business world close the books on another year, what behaviors have we exhibited when we thought nobody was looking?  If you are looking for ways to strengthen your character, here are several of my favorites.

Think of Everyone as the Next CEO
Years ago, when I joined ComedySportz, a professional improvisational humor team, I learned many valuable lessons for improving relationships and communication (see Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker: How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell).

One lesson that stood out was the concept of how people treat each other. I turned it into a business exercise with playing cards. At the end of the exercise, we talk about awareness of one’s words and actions. Invariably, many participants are surprised by how unaware they had been of their negative tone of voice and hurtful words they use. 

Irrespective of where you perceive yourself to be in the hierarchy, you cannot go wrong by treating everyone as if they are the next CEO. This is particularly important for new leaders. Whether you realize it or not, everyone is watching to see how you treat people. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect and you will quickly earn trust.  

Helping Others Helps You
Duane, one of my new team members, has some great stories. While studying at The George Washington University for his MBA, one of his professors, Jerry Harvey (author of The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management) had an interesting approach in his Individual and Group Dynamics Organizational Behavior class. Professor Harvey deliberately structured the final exam in a way that required a collaborative effort by the entire class.  Anything short of full class collaboration ended in a failing grade. On the day of the final, Professor Harvey arrived in the class, passed out the exam, and just as quickly, exited the classroom. Duane told me with a big smile, “There were no individual rock stars that day—only the most cohesive group I had ever worked with.”

In business, particularly in difficult economic times and results-driven environments, how often do you take the time to help your co-workers?  How easy is it to push-off requests for help from your co-workers when you yourself are stressed, particularly when the boss is not looking? Part of your success is often helping others to be successful.   

You Get Out of it What You Put into it
I was reminded of this lesson as I watched Conan O’Brien’s farewell on The Tonight Show. He told us that “if you work really hard and you’re kind, then amazing things will happen.” Think about the work you do, your interactions with your co-workers, and your relationships with your suppliers and customers. Are your outcomes in line with your expectations?  If not, it may be time to put a little more into your relationships.      

Why Character Still Counts
Even when nobody is looking, character still counts. It is the fabric woven throughout our stories. It is the book behind the cover. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true.” Business stories teeming with character speak volumes on their own. Remaining true to the values of treating others with courtesy and respect is what gives our business stories lasting credibility. Most importantly, it is what compels other people to want to do business with us, over and over again.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Fortune magazine recently issued its list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For.” The list includes perennial favorites like SAS, Edwards Jones, Wegman’s Food Markets, Google, Dreamworks Animation, REI, Booz Allen Hamilton, Stew Leonard’s, and Marriott International – all great places to work, for sure.

With room for just 100, there is no doubt there are other great companies out there who may have come close to qualifying, as well.  Is your company one of them?  What makes a company a great place to work?  Why is it important for companies to strive for this distinction?

To help with the first question, I sat down and compiled a list of key words that Fortune used to describe the companies included in their list.  Words like:  trust, appreciation, collaboration, openness, opportunities, associates, culture, wellness, fun, fitness, family-friendly, retention, no-layoff, profit-sharing, sacrifice, celebration, mentors, volunteers,  diversity, leadership, and pride.

The next time you’re in a Wegman’s food market or a Marriott hotel, for example, take a moment to see how many of these characteristics you can find among the people who work there.  Next, apply these same words to your company.  How many of these characteristics did you find where you work?

As the historic weekend snowstorm in the Washington, DC area finally came to a close late Saturday afternoon, forecasters gave word that yet another potentially severe snowstorm was on its way. It occurred to me that forecasting the end of our winter weather was a lot like trying to forecast the end of the economic recession. For sure, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The challenge is to find and implement the best strategy for reaching it.

In his Loyalty-Based Management Theory, business strategist and author Frederick Reichheld noted that the key to business growth and profitability is the realization that human assets are the most important ones of an organization. Winning strategies require ways of attracting and developing the best people and earning their loyalty. Loyal customers, employees, and investors will lead businesses to the light at the end of the tunnel, with outstanding results in growth and profitability.

Similarly, with over two feet of snow on the ground and more on the way, our ability to recover quickly from the next snowstorm requires each of us to attract and develop a loyal army of people, all focused around the singular goal of helping one another to minimize the impact of the storm on our lives – people who drive the plows, stock the shelves at the local grocery store, clear our driveways and sidewalks, respond to fire and medical emergencies, keep our power on, report the news, forecast the weather, etc. Each of us is at once a customer, employee, and investor in this collective effort and our loyalty to each other will drive outstanding results.

Additional Resources:
Overview of Frederick Reichheld’s bookThe Loyalty Effect, Harvard Business School Press, 1996.
CEO Forum Group interview with Frederick Reichheld on the ultimate measure of customer loyalty, "Would you recommend us to others?"

Monday, February 08, 2010

Do a Good Turn Daily

The Boy Scout slogan is “Do a good turn daily.”

It’s about helping others.  Every day.  Even when the snow is accumulating at a clip of three inches per hour and visibility is near zero.

As the parent of both an Eagle and a Life Scout, I wasn’t surprised when my boys ventured across the street to help a neighbor and his wife clear the snow from their driveway.  They could sense my neighbors were overwhelmed with the volume of snow Mother Nature had dumped on their driveway.  So, off they went, trudging across the street with snow shovels in hand.  They worked quickly and quietly, saying very little.   When the driveway was cleared, my neighbors thanked them profusely and my boys came home. They wanted nothing in return, other than the satisfaction of helping someone else and doing a good turn.

Let's start with this question...If you were a television weather reporter, what would you do? Here is the scenario...

If you live in the Washington, DC area, then the expectation is the world is about to end tomorrow, maybe Saturday.

To me it is a fun fest because the public is bashing the television affiliates for their refusal, yes refusal, to comment on the specifics of the weather storm.

In a nutshell, the National Weather Service has been sharing its computer models are predicting a snow storm with accumulations of 12 to 20 inches (maybe more) starting Friday. The television affiliates are pushing back saying something to the effect, "yes we know snow is coming...we'll let you know more 24 hours in advance. Until then, no further information is provided."

Why do they do this? Because the public will scream and yell at them if the information is wrong as the public has done time and time again.

Who is right? National Weather Service, Television Stations, or the Public? 

They all are. NWS's job is to predict and provide advance warning based on computer models. News stations are supposed to report accurate information and not speculate. The public wants accurate information.

Human behavior is the cause of all of this outcry, grief, and frustration. As such, each organization and the public MUST remember the source of the information, the intent behind it, and appreciate that accurate information is the goal of everyone.

If you were a television weather reporter, what would you do?

The other day as my teen aged son and I were finishing our holiday shopping, we just happened to be looking when some of our fellow shoppers thought we weren’t.  Cutting in line to be the first to check out, making rude gestures to other drivers as they navigated crowded streets and parking lots, and failing to yield their seats to elderly passengers on the Metro – none of these qualify as images any of us would use to describe ourselves at a family gathering.

As many of us in the business world rush to close out another year, what will our co-workers say about our character?  What behaviors have we exhibited when we thought nobody was looking?  How have we treated others who we thought were subordinate to us?

Character is the fabric that is woven throughout our story. It’s the book behind the cover.  It’s what gives our business stories credibility. Most importantly, it’s what compels other people to want to do business with us.

altOn Christmas, friends and family members gather to share dinner. For many of us, the day ends with leftovers and overnight house guests.

What happens when Uncle Joe wakes up in the middle of the night and is hungry? Does he wake the host to ask for something to eat? Of course not! He makes his way to the kitchen, where he helps himself to the leftovers in the refrigerator. He prepares a turkey sandwich with all the fixings and takes a seat at the table to enjoy it.

Uncle Joe can do this because he enjoys a close relationship with the host and he has earned "refrigerator rights." Uncle Joe is a trusted member of the family.

Have your customer-facing employees earned "refrigerator rights" among their clients? Are they viewed as trusted advisors?

Organizations whose employees have earned "refrigerator rights" are more likely to drive business process improvements, exceed fundraising goals, attain higher customer satisfaction ratings, and close higher margin sales than those without. Why? Clients perceive their expertise as credible and trust them to help solve the business challenges they are facing.

"Refrigerator rights" begin with a compelling message. The right message inspires people to act. It’s what gets your customer-facing employees into the kitchen. Investing time to understand the strengths and objectives of an organization, program, or initiative is what gains them a seat at the table. Developing and executing on a unified messaging strategy that delivers the results their clients want is ultimately what earns them rights to the refrigerator.

If you are a fan of Dan Pink, then hop on over to see his recent TED Talk on motivation. If you are unfamiliar with Dan, he has three national best sellers under his belt. My favorite is A Whole New Mind (read review here).

From the TED Talk Description:

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

Dan's presentation presents some insightful and compelling information on how businesses approach motivation and rewards.



Friday, May 01, 2009

If Eyes Could Shoot Fire

I'm in the Buffalo Airport this afternoon returning home from a wonderful workshop the day before. I get to the area where you place your laptop, shoes, etc. into the gray bins.

91021From near the upright scanner, I see a very distressed man walk quickly in my direction. He notices that I have two gray bins. He says, verbatim, "Can I put my stuff with yours?"

I look at him and politely say, "absolutely not." If his eyes could shoot fire, I would have been ashes on the floor. He scurried off, grabbed his own bin. As he walked past me, I asked, "did you mean to ask me if you could have one of the bins? If so, I would have…" My ashes on the floor just got burned even more.

Ever see a sign in someone's office, cube, or door, "Your emergencies aren't my emergencies." Well, this flustered flyer could have avoided the additional rise in blood pressure by taking a moment to form his question. Then I would have gladly given him one of my bins and he would have been on his merry way.

The moral of our story today boys and girls is…when stressed, take that extra moment before blurting.

A received a link to an article from O Magazine, "When and How to Say "Enough!" It was not the title that grabbed my interest, it was the short description.

There are two ways of going through life: Gather everything in sight, just in case you need it. Or, trust that you'll find exactly what you need, just in time. Guess which one lets you really stop and smell the roses?

In particular, it was the sentence "trust that you'll find exactly what you need." This really resonated with me. I have been fortunate to be exposed to a wide variety of people, cultures, countries, and organizations. These experiences over the course of my lifetime have helped me understand, appreciate, and empathize with the human spirit and our collective journeys to improve our personal and professional lives. What I find ever fascinating is that people procrastinate to the point where no action will ever take place. I am a big fan of incremental change, incremental improvement.

As such, Martha Beck's (author) concluding comments tie the article up into a nice little bow.

I know that if they'd reroute a few simple brain habits, their lives would improve almost effortlessly. The transformation wouldn't take much work—no need to exhume childhood traumas or hook up an antidepressant IV. We'd just throw the neurological toggle switch that exchanges fight-or-flight mode (the sympathetic nervous system) for rest-and-relaxation mode (the parasympathetic nervous system). Most animals experience this switch in response to environmental conditions. We humans possess an unparalleled ability to create it with our thoughts.

What incremental actions and activities can you do to improve your messaging, communication, customer service, and so on?

I am a customer detective. I help companies understand more about their customers so they can help them connect to their brands. Understanding customers requires that you find “clues” across your organization and put them together. The information is spread across many departments within your company such as customer service, marketing, new product development, sales, etc.  Even within marketing each channel (email, direct mail, telephone, social networks, etc.) has their own vision of the customers and who they are.

If you ask the average organization to define who the best customers are you get a variety of answers. Marketing will say it’s the customers who purchase most frequently. Sales  will say it’s the customers who spend the most. Customer service thinks it’s the customers who never call.  So who is right? They all are.

In order to “serve” customers well the organization needs a common understanding of their “best” customers so they can understand how to engage with them. Take the example of an electronics retailer. This company thought their customers were the tech savvy nerds. It turns out the key customers who were loyal and spent the most money were exactly the opposite. The key customers were technology afraid and needed some guidance on what technology would be right for them. They wanted personalized service and assurance that everything would “work”. Certainly this is much different than the previous picture.

How do you find out who your customer’s really are? There are several key methods. The first is using mathematical techniques to sort and group the customers based on their purchasing behavior. This is called segmentation. This tells you a lot about what customers  purchase but not "why". Secondly you need to do some “ethnographic “research which helps you understand how your customers use your products and what they like and don’t like about them. Ethnographic research happens when you go visit your customers in their homes and in the store to observe their actual behavior.  The third method is called “active” listening. This is done by engaging with your customers in customer service, through social networks, research,events, etc. Active listening requires that you ask customers to rate their experiences, provide you with feedback about their likes and dislikes, suggestions etc.

Customers are different from each other so never assume that one size fits all. You need to personalize the customer experience as much as possible so you are speaking to them as individuals. This will have a tremendous impact on their connection with your company and their feelings about your brand. Personalization can increase marketing effectiveness by 200%.

Customers have a way of changing all the time, this means you need to continuously learn about them and adapt.  Many companies are finding their current customers are very concerned about spending in these difficult times so be sure to acknowledge what is important to your customers, how you can help them and  how important they are.

So get out there! Be a customer detective, find the clues and share them. Then watch your business grow.

by Darcy Bevelacqua, CEO Success Works, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Article Summary:  Words are power. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: "The pen is mightier than the sword." With so much of today’s business communication going digital — e-mail, text messages, thank you notes, job offers, holiday cards — what you say and how you say it are more critical than ever to strong and profitable business relationships. And nowhere is communication more important than in leadership positions. Many of us have had bosses who had an impact on our careers. During my career, two really stand out.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Great Leaders Know How to Put their Words to Work

© 2008. Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
December 12, 2008

Words are power. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best: "The pen is mightier than the sword."

With so much of today’s business communication going digital — e-mail, text messages, thank you notes, job offers, holiday cards — what you say and how you say it are more critical than ever to strong and profitable business relationships.

And nowhere is communication more important than in leadership positions.

Many of us have had bosses who had an impact on our careers. During my career, two really stand out.

They stand out because of how each treated me. They were great listeners, gently offered advice, supported me, appreciated what I did and showed it. They were leaders, mentors and coaches.

Why did they make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us, and the stories we share about these experiences help shape the world around us.

We live through each other’s stories. Told right, business stories can have the same impact as personal stories.

Business stories are memorable, powerful packages that simplify messages. They are the engine of relationships, and relationships are the engine of business growth.

As a leader, it is crucial to tell the right stories and ensure the right ones are being told about you. Great leaders share their vision, knowledge and wisdom through stories.

The best stories have several key characteristics: They are simple, are easily understood, have immediate resonance, are delivered passionately and have a positive outcome or learning experience. Great leaders are great storytellers.

Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting or before thousands at a shareholders’ meeting, use stories to be a better leader.

First, know your audience as well as yourself. Your mantra should be, “It’s all about them.”

The story that plays well with longtime colleagues may not resonate with a potential client. The stories that impressed the group of visiting Asian chief executive officers may fall flat in Chicago. Understanding the audience makes the difference in building the relationship and closing that deal.

During some of my keynote speeches and workshops, I use an exercise called, “What is the Half-Life of Your Story?” It prompts participants to realize the power of words.

Here is an example of the exercise, which can be tailored to suit your group. First, read each of these phrases slowly: recent personal performance review, last big project, most difficult boss and best boss. Then, reread each phrase. What do you immediately think of? A person, a place, event, experience or emotion? Do the experiences that these words conjure up make you grimace or smile?

Great leaders reveal personal experiences relevant to their audience, and the goal of this exercise is to tap into your passion. Sharing stories with passion grabs and keep your audience’s attention.

Nowhere is it truer than in business that "we don’t pay attention to boring things," says John Medina, author of "Brain Rules."

Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. The words you choose and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective.

Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood — or misunderstood — in a number of ways. For example, the expression "You are crazy," can be playful, argumentative or even condescending.

People constantly look to leaders for guidance and advice. Remember it is all about them — your audience.

So, as a leader, what stories are you telling? Does your audience find them inspiring and positive? Are you evaluating their strong points and addressing their weak points? Are your stories generating the results you want?

If not, revise and practice the delivery, impact, timing, opening and closing.

Years ago, contracts were made by a smile and a handshake. The simple phrase "you have my word" meant something. Doing business is not so simple today, especially in light of a global economy with diverse cultures, backgrounds and languages.

Whether you own a two-person small business or are CEO of a Fortune 500 company, your words and stories matter to those around you. I believe words and stories have a very long half-life, perhaps hundreds of years depending upon what you say and where you say it (such as books, articles and blogs).

As you build your teams and your business, be deliberate with the stories you tell. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: "I have no use for engines. Give me the right word … and I will move the world."

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Can You Do in a Minute?

A lot! Here are 10 suggestions.

1. Thank someone, by email, by telephone, or visiting his/her office down the hall
2. Practice the introduction to your presentation
3. Practice your answer to What do you do? ("elevator speech")
4. Hold the door for someone
5. Return a smile
6. Grab something to drink for a colleague a few doors down
7. Hand write and mail a thank you card
8. Brainstorm on a new idea
9. Read a blog entry
10. Follow up on an email that you have been meaning to with a short note instead of a longer one

What suggestions do you have?

Copyblogger's Sonia Simone earlier this month posted "9 Little Known Traits of Successful Bloggers." I agree with eight of the nine, and disagree with 7, Be Negative. See below.

Here are the nine. To read about each of these, visit Copyblogger.

1. Don’t over-explain
2. Don’t know everything
3. Get mad once in awhile
4. Don’t be overly consistent
5. Break unbreakable rules
6. Repeat yourself
7. Be negative
8. Get a little stupid
9. Don’t pay too much attention to “how to blog” articles

Here is the text from #7.

————–
7. Be negative

Positive, “do this” posts are great for spurring readers to take action. But what not to do posts are terrific for attracting attention and interest.

Frank Kern talks about the rubberneck effect. We’re wired to be fascinated by problems, mistakes and embarrassing disasters. The occasional “train wreck” post will help your blog break through attention clutter.
————–

My three cents: Those that know me well, know that I'm Mr. Positive. I can turn any frown upside down. I'm quite resolute that communication should be delivered in positive manner. Our world is full of negative messaging, hurtful language, and purposeful people who perpetuate these crimes of marketing.

Instead of "Be Negative," I suggest that we tell stories that share lessons learned, what we call the "Inspire with Your Vision" story (it's one of our recommended business story types). The "occasional 'train wreck'" post would certainly fall into this category.

Being negative is much easier than being positive. There is an old human resources/management/leadership phrase that I learned very early in my career–Three warm fuzzies to every cold prickly.

Story Setup:
Halloween reminded me to share a story from the past. It is the day before Halloween. I am having lunch with key members of the association management team and their honored guests. I am about to deliver the closing keynote for their annual conference.

Sorry, I have to Miss Your Presentation. It's Halloween:
A few minutes before I should begin, one of the association board members sitting to my left leans over and apologizes. She has to leave because Halloween is tomorrow. And she has to get home to her kids. I looked at her a little quizzically with the sort of tilted head nod to one side. And she answers my look with, "It's Halloween. The most important day of the year to my kids."

Nothing more need be said. I smiled and wished her safe travels.

Do you know what is most important to your clients, prospects, partners, members, advertisers, volunteers, and employees?

Note, this is not a political comment in any shape or form.

I'm sure many of you are following closely the presidential race. I am particularly interested in how the candidates communicate with words, body language, messaging, and of course stories.

The other day, The New York Times ran an article, "In McCain’s Uphill Battle, Winning Is an Option."

In the article, Senator McCain's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, was quoted as saying, "The McCain campaign is roughly in the position where Vice President Gore was running against President Bush one week before the election of 2000. We have ground to make up, but we believe we can make it up."

Can you spot the destructive language? Hint…there are two spots:

a) but: As I have written about before in several blogs and articles, "but" is a destructive word. It often negates everything in a sentence that precedes the word but.

b) We believe: No Mr. Schmidt, you should have said, "we will make it up." Inspire your audience, get them behind you, share your passion. "We believe" is a wishy-washy passive phrase.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Kind of Flirting is Appropriate?

During last night’s class, I posed a question to the students, "Relationship Building is not…"

One woman was first to answer with "flirting." True, very true I responded. I posited that some flirting is good and that’s part of life. Another female student asked, what is good flirting?

She stumped me…why? Because to me flirting is so much of a you-know-it-when-you-see-it and you-know-when-you-went-over-the-line.

One of the other students, Jose, gave a great example.

What are your thoughts and opinions on flirting for business, not the dating kind?

I give a LOT of presentations about conflict resolution and negotiation, and I’ve learned that the best way to teach some of the most important principles is by telling a good story. Here’s one of the best ones that I use:

My two daughters come running up to me in a panic. "Dad, this is the last orange in the fridge and I NEED it" the older one starts. "No, I need it!" the younger responds, predictably. Before the older one can start the never-ending debate about who needs the orange more, you interrupt. You check the fridge, and in fact there is only one orange in the house. And the neighbors don’t have any. And the stores are closed. Really, there is only one orange, and they both need it.

So I do what any good dad would do: I get a knife, split the orange in half, and have them share it. Problem solved! I should win Dad of the Year award–teaching the kids a valuable lesson about equity, sharing, and being fair, right?

Wrong. They both take their half of the orange and run away crying to their rooms. My elegant solution is a complete failure. You see, it turns out that the older daughter was baking a cake, and the recipe called very specifically for "the peel of one orange." When I gave her half the orange peel, she realized the cake would be ruined. The younger daughter, on the other hand, was very hungry. She knows herself well, and she knew that a whole orange would tide her over til dinner, but a half would leave her frustrated. She didn’t get what she needed either.

You can see, of course, that there never really was a conflict here. We had one orange peel, and we had one orange fruit. Both could have had their needs met fully. But when conflict emerges, we tend to try to rush to solutions based only on the information that is presented to us. Whether it is conflict at home, at the office, or internationally (there is a similar story about this same issue from the Camp David Peace Accords), we keep our discussion at the level of what is the best solution, without taking time to ask questions about what the problem really is.

So here’s the lesson: ask questions. If people are unhappy about a particular situation, ask them why. What is it about the current situation that does not work? Get past their immediate answer to the problem (their position) and get at the underlying source of the problem (their interests). It takes a bit more time, but it makes problem solving and conflict resolution much easier.

Jamie Notter
Get Me Jamie Notter

Article Summary:  Your authentic voice is not just your internal and external speaking voice. It comes across in all areas of communication, from e-mails to phone messages to body language.People generally have a tuned ear, eye and gut when it comes to discerning a person’s authenticity. It is vitally important to make a great first impression and leave a lasting impression.  The conversations you have with yourself can seal the deal or end the relationship. They can motivate, or they can prevent you from reaching your potential. They can inspire or keep you exactly where you are. Authentic voice is a key attribute to building stronger and more profitable business relationships. All things being equal, people want to do business with someone they trust and like. 

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Keeping it Real: Learn to Heed Your Authentic Voice

© 2008. Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 18, 2008

The conversations you have with yourself can seal the deal or end the relationship. They can motivate, or they can prevent you from reaching your potential. They can inspire or keep you exactly where you are.

Authentic voice is a key attribute to building stronger and more profitable business relationships. All things being equal, people want to do business with someone they trust and like.

That’s why it is important to find your authentic voice — the one that clearly defines what you want, how you will get it and how you communicate to affect the way others perceive you and your message.

Michael Gelb, author of “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci,” says that your unconscious database — your authentic voice — is much more influential than you think.

“Brain researchers estimate that your unconscious database outweighs the conscious on an order exceeding 10 million to one,” Gelb says. “This database is the source of your hidden, natural genius. In other words, a part of you is much smarter than you are. The wise people regularly consult that smarter part.”

Your authentic voice is not just your internal and external speaking voice. It comes across in all areas of communication, from e-mails to phone messages to body language.

People generally have a tuned ear, eye and gut when it comes to discerning a person’s authenticity. It is vitally important to make a great first impression and leave a lasting impression.

Listen to Yourself

Take stock of what you are saying to yourself. Are you full of positive or negative thoughts?

Think about what comes across externally — your reputation, credibility, likability, and communication style. These characteristics affect your ability to close deals, make connections, receive referrals, earn promotions, reach goals and get people to listen.

The way to fine-tune your authentic voice is to clearly define what you want it to say. Come up with your internal mission statement. Write down exactly who you are. What is your story? What are your goals? What is your passion?

This is a great time to refer back to your business story and your elevator speech — the 30-second synopsis of who you are and what you do. Is your elevator speech delivering a compelling message conveying your authentic voice? If not, why? How can you change it?

Have a trusted friend listen as you attend networking events, talk on the phone and interact with colleagues. Have your friend read some of your materials. The friend should share frank suggestions on how you may be perceived — authentic or not?

Remember, your authentic voice flows out, consciously and unconsciously. More often than not, it is the unconscious that reveals more than sometimes we prefer.

If your authentic voice is constantly saying “It’s just me calling,” or “Gosh, I shouldn’t have said that,” or “I know I should be doing something different,” other people will pick up on your lack of self-confidence.

Head True North

Another step in finding your authentic voice is to think about your True North.

Author Bill George says True North is the internal compass that guides us successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level.

When you follow your internal compass, your True North will pull you toward the purpose of your leadership.

It will be leadership that is authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you.

In finding your True North, start with a personal and professional inventory. Ask yourself some key questions: If money was not a concern, what would I be doing right now? Tomorrow? In a year? What makes me tick? What am I passionate about? What kind of difference am I trying to make?

Practice what your authentic voice is saying and the message your accompanying body language communicates.

People want to meet and do business with positive, open, friendly people. Positive body language will give you the punctuation on a well-crafted authentic voice.

Finally, think about where your authentic voice can take you. You will see a difference when you have the whole package: an authentic voice that is internally supportive and externally confident, a True North that highlights your core values and goals, a communication style that draws people to you and gets them interested in who you are and what you are saying.

Having that identified authentic voice will get your message across more consistently.

You will be able to make better career choices that reflect your personal and professional goals. You will be able to build and maintain stronger and more positive business relationships.

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Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.

 

This morning I became aware of Quacquarelli Symonds’ (QS) website. QS brands itself as "The world’s leading network for top careers and education."

They are on a world MBA tour where prospective students can meet staff and educators from more than 30 countries offering MBAs from more than 200 universities.

For More Information:
- Main website
- List of countries with participating schools
- World MBA Tour dates

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