Monday, December 29, 2008

A Thank-You Still Goes A Long Way

Ho, ho, ho!

Oh no, oh no, oh no!

More gifts I don’t like, what to do?

If this may be what you're thinking ...

I’m not your mother, but let me remind you of two things when it comes to gift getting and being gracious.

1) A “thank you” goes a long way. When you receive a gift, regardless of your inner reaction – smile, and say, “Thank you!” If you can feign a little enthusiasm, too, it shows appreciation. After all, people have different tastes and different budgets, so they are doing the best they can. A follow-up thank-you note is a nice gesture, too.

2) When the gift has been sent or given to you by someone other than the “gift giver” in person, it is essential that you send a note. OK, a phone call is better than nothing, and an e-mail is further up the food chain, but nothing beats a handwritten note. It shows consideration. It shows class. And think about it -- what, really, is the cost to you? Probably 5 minutes and the price of a stamp. So, keep a box of notepaper handy, and write a three-sentence note. It can say something like: “Dear ____. Thank you so much for ________. I will be able to use it to __________. Your (creativity, imagination, thoughtfulness) are greatly appreciated.”

Remember, people have spent time and money (OK, so maybe there’s a bit of re-gifting going on, but they still took the time to think of you!). The least you can do is show some appreciation.

And, who knows, maybe next year, you will like the gifts you get.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bad Humor Is No Joke

Using humor can be a great lead-in to an effective presentation, and even sprinkled throughout a talk.

But U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is now apologizing for telling Polish jokes at a gathering of Pennsylvania political insiders earlier this month.

Senator Specter says he was recalling stories that had been told by the late Philadelphia Republican political boss, Billy Meehan. He explained, “On the Pennsylvania Society weekend, the subject came up and I told a couple of Bill Meehan stories. And they struck a nerve. And they were insensitive and, I now see, inappropriate.”

Even seasoned orators like Senator Specter need to remember a few rules for the effective use of humor when giving a presentation:

1)Never disparage any ethnic, gender, age, or racial group. This type of humor is NEVER funny, nor appropriate – despite what you may think.

2)Don’t repeat a joke that someone else used, thinking the blame for it if it bombs won’t be placed squarely on you (see above story RE Senator Specter).

3)Humor often doesn’t “travel” well (internationally or regionally).

4)Work on your timing – a humorous story improperly delivered is ineffective.

5)Self-deprecating humor can be good, unless they take your foibles seriously.

6)Don’t blame others for your poor judgment (Senator Specter take note)

The good news is that Senator Specter realized that he had made a mistake in using this inappropriate humor and apologized. Many speakers whose presentations fail due to bad use of humor don’t often realize in retrospect why their message wasn’t effectively received.

Senator Specter says that he makes a lot of speeches, and usually uses humor in good taste. But he says sometimes he makes mistakes –-and this was a big one.

Presenters can learn from this example, and carefully consider the use of humor – following the guidelines above.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some Thoughts on Time Share Ownership

Do you remember the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles? Great song!

There was one section that goes: “’Relax,’ said the night man, We are programmed to receive. You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave.”

That sounds a lot like owning a time share to me – it sure feels like you can checkout, but you can never leave.

My husband and I are time share owners. For the most part, we have been satisfied with our accommodations, and the ability to trade our beach time for skiing. However, what is often promised is rarely what is received.

As I last blogged, we spent last week in Riviera Maya, at our time share – and in order to get the related 10% discount on all food and drink – not to mention other goodies – we once again had to attend the time share presentation.

These are really a 90-minute talk where they try to up sell – more time, better accommodations, etc. According to our salespeople, their close rate is over 70%. Not bad, when you consider it is a very short selling cycle, and big ticket numbers.

These people are fast talkers, and great promisers – by the time you leave, your head is spinning. Then, reality strikes – what did I just agree to?

Here are some words of advice and caution if you, too, find yourself in this type of selling situation, from someone who considers herself to be a savvy consumer and good negotiator:

1)Use your head, not your heart. Ask yourself these questions: “Why am I doing this?” “Will I use it”; “What are the units selling for online?”; “Can I afford it?”; Remember, this isn’t a business investment, it is a guaranteed vacation week.

2)Have a price in mind. Be willing to walk away if you don’t receive it. When we originally bought the time share, we gave what we thought was a ridiculously low price – and they said, “yes.” We should have offered less!

3)Get everything – and I do mean everything – in writing.
And, again, be willing to walk away if they don’t put it in writing.

All of this being said, most time share owners continue to buy more, and new buyers continue to sign on -- it’s a thriving industry. If you want a week in some sunny destination, will use it, and can afford it, time share ownership can be a great way to vacation.

Just keep in mind, however, that you can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Toast To You

With colder temperatures here, and already signs of snow, I am more than ready to sit on the beach, read some books, and get some sun … and, the great thing is that I am actually doing it!

This week, my husband and I are in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Is it the best time to take off? Probably not. But, if you don’t take/make time for yourself, you won’t get it.

I encourage anyone reading this to block out some time for yourself, and your family over the upcoming holidays – and, in general year round.

Personally, my motto is: “Work hard and play hard.” I know that this won’t work for everyone.

But, consider this -- when a study was done interviewing people over 65 (no, I’m not there, yet), and researchers asked, “What would you do differently in your life?” … The resounding response was, “I would have taken more risks. I would spend more time with my family. I’d take time to stop and ask the big questions.”

As I sip my margaritas in the warm sun this week, and follow this "advice," I will think collectively of anyone reading this, and offer a toast to you!

Monday, December 1, 2008

More Reflections & Being Thankful

I love Thanksgiving!

We had 22 people at our house on Thanksgiving day, including three women in their 80s and four boys 5 and under.

Think a happy kind of chaos!

My husband and I are always thrilled when our four children (and spouses and grandchildren), are all together. Like many families, we are all scattered across the country, so it is special when everyone can be in one place.

In our crazy, fast-paced world – filled with working longer hours, layoffs, recession, conflicts in various regions, and terrorist attacks like what happened in India – sometimes we need to take a step back and remember, and be grateful for, what really matters: quality time spent with family and friends.

I hope that we all have many opportunities to celebrate throughout December, and in the New Year, too!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Reasons to Be Thankful

Even in down times, it is critical to take inventory about what is good and what is working.

This is particularly true at Thanksgiving – what are you thankful for?

I can’t speak for you, but here are some things that I am grateful for. Maybe you can identify with a few:

•I am healthy (at least as far as I know!) -- I choose to ignore aches and pains.

•I have family who usually appreciate me.

•My friends think I am funny, reliable, thoughtful, and insightful (I choose to let them think that!)

•I love my work. If you don’t love yours most of the time, perhaps it’s time to rethink your purpose and be willing to take some risks? Life is way too short to be stuck.

•I have food on the table. And, for most of us, it wouldn’t hurt to eat a little less, and better.

•I have clothes that fit – believe me, that takes some work!

•There are many books to read, movies to see, and, of course, a new season of “24.”

•I can make a difference – and so can you. Do some volunteer work, give to a charity, and serve on a committee.

What are you thankful for? Whatever it may be, take an inventory, and be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's a Time for Business & Personal Reflection

I just got back from attending the National Speakers Association Board of Directors meeting and fall conference in Scottsdale, AZ.

Usually I come back feeling overwhelmed with a list of things “to do.”

This time, however, I feel different. Instead of just “doing,” I am now thinking, “Why do?”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the newest and coolest approaches. Remember TQM? Six Sigma? EI?

All good programs and initiatives, yet they only will be worthwhile if it gives you the results YOU need.

Now I look at blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Second Life, etc. -- all of which I’ve been active in -- and ask myself first, “What is the relevancy to my business?”

I still need to figure this out by fine-tuning my approach and involvement, then deciding what to do, how to do it, and what the priorities should be.

How about you? Do you take time to reflect and think before taking action?

Speaking of reflection, Thanksgiving is a good time to step back and think about -- and fully appreciate -- all that you have, and, most of all, the people in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Power of Mastermind Groups

As I wrote this blog, I was in Phoenix having a mastermind group meeting.

So many people ask me, “What is a mastermind group?”

It’s simply a group of like-minded businesspeople who regularly get together to share ideas.

One member from one of my mastermind groups said that he’s made more than $6 million just from the ideas he’s gotten from the rest of us!

Historically, I was a non-joiner, but began to hear more and more of the value of belonging to a mastermind group.

Ultimately, I became a founding member of two different groups -- one that has been meeting for 11 years now, Master Speakers International; and the other for seven years, Business Builders.

For me, mastermind group meetings have been a place to get great new ideas, receive feedback on my current ideas, help others, and share experiences -- not to mention develop incredible relationships.

This week, I’m giving a presentation about mastermind groups at the National Speakers Association conference. I’ve also invited a panel of professionals to discuss their own experiences – the good and the bad – what makes a mastermind group work, and what are the pitfalls?

If any of you reading this blog have questions about mastermind groups, please feel free to e-mail me. I’d be happy to answer any questions, or share more of my own personal experiences with them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Value of Focus & Humor

Did you ever feel as though you were chasing your tail?

If you work within a corporation, or any business, or have a life at all, I’m sure you can identify with this feeling.

Luckily (despite the economy), I’m very busy with executive coaching and speaking, but it does require lots of flexibility … the changing demands of clients, shifting airline schedules, and coping with family/life issues (in my case, four generations).

These factors all make it very difficult to have things go as planned or smoothly.

The way I’m coping is to:

•Plan (lay it out on paper)
•Be flexible
•Have a sense of humor

I also practice living in the present, appreciating that our only true reality is the here and now.

And, for now, living and meeting challenges is sure better than the alternative!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The World Isn't Fair

Granted, things are shaky with the economy and businesses everywhere.

So, what are your choices?

Give up or step up?

I am speaking about this very topic on November 6th in Chicago -- delivering a workshop presentation twice at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) Leadership Conference. The title is “Step Up! for Success.”

Here is one of the key points that I’ll be making:

The world isn’t fair – it’s your attitude that counts.

People walk around lately as though they are victims. We aren’t.

We have choices – not always good ones, but choices all the same. No one wants to hear your whining. If you are lucky enough to still have a job, look for ways to make it more interesting. Make the changes that are necessary, or accept what you can’t change. Leaving is always an option.

Another thing you can do is hang around with winners, not whiners.

Negativity is toxic, and it spreads quickly. Every day, think about -- or better yet, write somewhere -- things that you are grateful for.

That attitude of gratitude -- which some of you may see as cheesy -- really does go a long way.

I’ll be sharing more of this message regarding stepping it up, and thriving in your career, despite economic factors, in my open-enrollment BRODY BOOST Camp career development workshop on November 13 in Plymouth Meeting, PA.

There are still some seats open for BOOST Camp; visit to register, or call 800-726-7936.

Monday, October 27, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love Business Travel

It was Sunday afternoon when I wrote this, and I’m on a flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas.

From there, I head to San Diego on Tuesday to deliver a speech. Then, it’s a red eye home.

Last week, I had at least five people say, “Don’t you hate to travel? Aren’t you dreading the next few days?”

Although I don’t like leaving home on Sundays, my response to them was, “No.”

Since many of you reading this also travel for work, I thought I’d give my top 10 reason (in no special order) that business travel is a gift.

1) I am working. Given the state of the economy, I feel blessed to be working -- and I love what I do.

2) Dragging my suitcase (I only do carry-on) and my laptop, etc., around the airport give me great exercise. I used to complain about this, but now that I view it as gym time, I say “Bring it on!”

3) It gives me more chances to DO...
Whether it’s waiting before a flight, or sitting on the plane (trains work, as well), I have time to catch up on reading, writing or thinking. When else do you have hours of uninterrupted time?

4) I have a chance to see different areas of the country.
Granted there’s not much time, but by arriving a few hours early or staying late, I can take a tour of the city, go to a museum, or just walk around.

5) By staying in hotels, I have the luxury of ordering room service. And, I can try foods from different regions.

6) In the hotel, I have total control of the remote control. Not to say that my husband doesn’t share, but he doesn’t!

7) I can go to sleep whenever I want.
This means I can stay up and watch late night TV or go to bed at 7.

8) There are fascinating people all around -- other road warriors, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, clients, etc. I’ve learned a lot simply by asking questions.

9) Did I mention that I’m grateful to be working?
To have a job that helps people be more effective, to love that job, and to get paid for it – what could be better?

10) The chance to go home.
Having missed family and friends, and to be missed, I look forward to business travel, so I can go home again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gain a Professional Edge at BRODY Boost Camp, November 13, 2008

I just came back from Pittsburgh, PA, where I was speaking to a client about the importance of personal marketing.

In these times of “troubled waters,” the ability to sell yourself is even more critical.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating now: It’s not just who you know, but who knows you -- and what you’re capable of doing -- that counts!

My upcoming BRODY Boost Camp on Thursday, November 13, will help attendees enhance their professionalism, persuasive speaking, and personal promotion.

There are still some seats available.

You can check out the full agenda, and register, by visiting this link on the BRODY Professional Development site:

If you have any questions, just give me a call or e-mail me at

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pre-Debate Coaching/Advice for Presidential Candidates

The official count down to the election next month has begun.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of the political rhetoric.

I would love one (both would be better!) of the candidates to simply call a halt to the negativity.

People want straight talk. People want solutions. People want honesty.

I wouldn’t miss the next debate this Wednesday, even though it’s my 20th wedding anniversary!

That said, I will forgo the usual “dining out experience” so I can be home watching the TV. Fortunately, my husband concurs.

Aside from the politics, it’s fascinating for me as a speaker and presentation skills coach to watch the candidates do what we at BRODY Professional Development say not to do, and also what to do.

A free bit of coaching advice to both presidential candidates:

1) be respectful of each other
2) look at the audience and the camera
3) don’t over talk, or cut each other off
4) don’t make condescending comments
5) avoid repetitive words or phrases (examples from last time: “my friend” and “look”).

Oh yes, and one more thing – with the advent of fact checking, let’s be honest with the information shared, please.

The truth will come out at some point, so why not now?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Political Presentations: Is It What You Say, Or How You Say It?

I hope you are having as much “fun” as I am watching and listening to the debate buzz.

Of course, I have friends on both sides of the fence. A few have asked if I was coaching any of the candidates – and a few have suggested that I do so (I’d be delighted)!

The answer is, “No, I’m not coaching any of the four candidates.” But, the real question is, “Who is?”

My work, and the work of BRODY Professional Development, is to help people in all industries hone their message and delivery – hence, the effectiveness of corporate professionals.

It’s always amazing to me to see and hear the difference that a little coaching and training can make.

Just last week, I was coaching a young female who works in an older, male-dominated environment. In a short time, with coaching, she was able to shift her message and maximize what she brings to the table.

She walked away with a greater sense of self confidence. I have no doubt that she will accomplish her objectives (selling her credibility and her ideas), when she delivers her next message.

If you have any suggestions for our presidential and vice presidential candidates on clarity and consistency of their messages, and how they should be delivering them, why not send them to me? I will post your ideas here.

My message for the week: “Speak up. Speak Out. Let others benefit from your ideas.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

Presidential Debate: All About Style & Delivery

The first presidential debate is over, and the political pundits have weighed in on both candidates’ performance.

Most of you reading this probably watched the debate, or at least read/heard about it.

So much of endless conversation following the debate had little to do with substance – and much to do with presentation style.

On one hand, this saddens me – and on the other hand, this is no surprise.

I see this regularly as I coach and train people on their presentation skills. We work on the message and the flow, but even with a great message, it can be ruined by poor delivery.

Here are four questions that presenters need to ask themselves (take note Senators McCain and Obama for your next debate):

1) Is my delivery congruent with my message?

2) Do I have good eye contact?

3) Do I have an executive presence (good posture, animated face, open gestures?)

4) Am I credible, believable and authentic?

There will be more presentation skills to analyze this Thursday, as we see the first Vice Presidential debate.

These are certainly interesting times!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ancient Rhetorical Concepts Relate to the Presidential Election

As a communications expert and coach, the whole Presidential election process has been fascinating to watch and listen to.

During the upcoming presidental and vice presidential debates, I urge all of you to think about the principles that the great Greek philosopher and father of all public speaking -- Aristotle -- identified. They are: Logos, Pathos and Ethos. And, think of how you are personally responding to each concept.

Logos is the Greek word for Logic. That means how the candidates (president and vice president) are structuring their messages. Keep in mind that facts and figures, which we think always should be logical, are often manipulated or partial truths.

Do your due diligence, so you’re getting more than clever sound bites. Look at their voting records, backgrounds, etc.

Pathos translates into emotional appeals – information that hits close to your heart and gut. Clearly, your values come into play here. The goal of the candidates and their front teams is to hit those hot buttons (like terrorism, the economy, government involvement and health care) -- so you’ll take action, ie. vote for them.

The third concept Aristotle identified is Ethos, which loosely translates into credibility. We tend to believe the person who we perceive to be the most credible, ethical and shares the same values.

The question is do they really share those values? Are they just espousing this, or do their actions demonstrate them?

The candidates are using Aristotle’s three speaking principles in their commercials and public presentations.

So, as you watch and listen to the first Presidential debate next Friday, September 26th, and subsequent debates, pay attention to how these three principles are relevant even today and note how you are being influenced by them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Latest Risks Taken ... Waiting for Results

Well, the marketing flash e-mailers went out, and the PR machine has cranked into high gear, notifying professionals and the media about my new BRODY BOOST Camp --

There is lots of great feedback about having this event, but, so far, no one has signed up. Remember the risks I spoke about last week?

It’s early yet, and I have found that being an optimist is a good thing. You do your best, and assume that things will work out – most of the time, they do!

So, what else is new?

On Friday, I recorded some audio files for a new venture with SoundWise. Their slogan is “Concise advice to improve your life 24/7.” My material was on networking, presentation skills and women in business.

Check it out – It’s a real mix of subject matter experts and topics.

And, tomorrow, September 16th, I make my "debut" in Second Life -- the virtual world that has increasing real world applications for leadership and professional development companies like BRODY, and executive coaches like myself.

I will be the guest speaker based on one of my books -- participating in a roundtable discussion titled "Career MAGIC: A Woman's Guide to Reward & Recognition." The event will take place on Athena Isle in Second Life at 3 pm ET -- 12pm PST/SLT.

Second Life residents can attend my book chat by going to:

Here’s my challenge for you all:

What are you doing this week that assumes some risk?

What are you doing that is new and interesting?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Business Risk I’m About to Take …

For those of you who know me, you know I am a big promoter of risk taking -- In fact, I’ve blogged about it before.

Without risk, you’ve already decided that you will fail. With risk, the chances of success are good.

I have decided to take a big risk, and offer a public seminar – not the typical boot camp stuff – a Boost Camp.

Why is this a risk? Maybe no one will come!

Or, worse yet, only two or three people will be in the large hotel conference room we’ve booked, with breakfast ordered!

Since I am doing this Boost Camp once in October, and once in November, in the Philadelphia area (then will take this on the road), I figure my next five or six blogs will be about this new journey -- and how it's all working out.

That way, you may decide to take a risk yourself – or join me on mine!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Showing Thanks -- It’s Easy to Do & Pays Dividends

Kindness and empathy truly do matter in the workplace.

The Gallup organization did a poll and asked 8 million people to respond to this statement: “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.”

The result was that people who agreed with this thought were more productive, had strong client relationships, and longevity with the firm. We spend most of our waking hours at work. So, ensuring this statement is true is critical.

Everyone has a bad day, but if you manage others, remember the impact that your words and actions have.

Many times you are not even aware of the subconscious “communication” your body language and eye contact offers others.

So, I suggest you make a CONCIOUS effort to choose your words carefully -- two, in particular.

Say “thank you.”

Sure, it sounds so easy to do – but how often do you show gratitude for members of your team and others around you?

You may think that you are thanking people (and in your head, you are!), but does it actually happen?

You may think you appreciate others, but take a step back and re-evaluate your behavior. There is more than likely room for improvement.

I suggest keeping a daily log or journal of thanks – it may seem hokey, but I guarantee it will reap rewards.

Track how many times you say “thank you” during the business day, and to whom it was said – Joe in accounting, your assistant, client, the mailman, UPS delivery man, or your boss.

These “thank-yous” can be conveyed in person, via e-mails, IMs and text messages, or on the phone. Of course, nothing beats a handwritten note. Just track them during the course of one work week, and see the results.

You don’t have to go overboard, just be genuine. Believe me, people can see through fakeness and transparent attempts to curry favor.

I guarantee you will have a more positive work environment, with more smiling faces. And, over time, your “thank-you” efforts will pay off with increased employee loyalty and longevity, and increased sales.

Two words, said with sincerity and repeatedly – thank you. Try it today. Thank you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Remember -- Your Brand is Viral, Too!

We all know about YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn.

But, have you heard about Twitter? Buzzle? Blogger? Plaxo? Ecademy? Spoke? Naymz?

There’s no question that online marketing and blog web sites have exploded in recent years – a new one seems to pop into the picture every month.

More and more professionals – myself included – are taking advantage of these free sites, and creating profiles. After all, viral marketing is yet another way to get your message out there to the masses, and expanding your “brand.”

Don’t forget, however, that even online branding efforts must have a consistent message and “feel.” Whatever you do in the real world via traditional marketing materials like letterhead, business cards and your web site, must “jive” with your profiles and images on these new social networking sites, too.

Carry over any tag lines you use to viral marketing – and use the same or similar pictures, too. Sure, it’s OK to also create a more edgy look and content for your profile and diary on Twitter. After all, you don’t want to appear staid online -- the audience you will reach there is anything but.

By all means, have fun when expanding your online presence. But, just remember …. Don’t say or post anything there that you wouldn’t want your top client, prospect, or future employer, to see and read.

It’s OK to have an opinion about the latest social or political event, but ask yourself whether it’s wise to post it where millions could see it and possibly misperceive your intent.

Even e-mails between colleagues have been misinterpreted – it’s hard to truly understand one’s intent in the written vs. spoken word. Just imagine what your blog entry may be saying about you.

Your brief moment of perceived levity or sarcasm could end up costing you, big time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Don't Participate! (Guest Blogger Jeff Blackman, CSP, CPAE)

This week, I’m featuring a guest blog from my fellow National Speakers Association colleague Jeff Blackman, CSP, CPAE.

“A fascinating e-mail arrived on my desktop: 'Jeff, recently heard you speak. Loved it! Really valuable. However, I'm still struggling with something you said. You urged us, when asked by others, “How’s the soft economy affecting you?” to say, “I’m choosing not to participate!” How do I do that?'

Wow! Great question! So here's a rant ...

My choice 'not to participate' isn't an expression of a cavalier attitude, it's really a mindset of fiscal necessity. It would be far too easy for me to grumble or mutter:

'The economy stinks!'
'Nobody wants to do anything!'
'Nuthin' is left in clients' or prospects' budgets.'

Not only would the preceding be mindless mutterings of discontent, they'd be false! We're having a great year. Helping lots of folks achieve remarkable results. Yet I know, my success starts with me.

My belief system. My choices. My behaviors.

So for you, it's pretty simple ...

*To make more, you need to do more.
*Therefore, start doing things differently!
*To do more, you need to think more.
*Therefore, start thinking differently!

The responsibility for your success, starts with you!

No matter what the 'state' of the economy, there will always be predictors of doom and gloom. The naysayers. The critics. The question is, 'Do you choose to listen to them?'

It’s too easy to blame your 'plight' on others. Claim the economy is lousy. Or, accuse your company of giving you worthless leads.

Realize, today, right now...

* LOTS OF ... customers are making buying decisions and receiving significant value and results.

* LOTS OF ... deals are being done.

* LOTS OF ... money is being made.

Choose to participate in THAT triumphant trifecta!

* Eliminate your moans and groans.
* Eradicate your complaints and whimpers.
* Remove your bellyaches and gripes.

Heck. Just Stop Whining! Start Selling!

Just ask yourself the question:

What one thing, could you do once a day ... or one more time a day, that would have a significant impact on your life or business?

Then, just do it!

Your results will inform the world."

Jeff Blackman is a speaker, author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. His clients call him a "business-growth specialist." Contact Jeff at: 847.998.0688 or And visit to learn more about his other business-growth tools and to subscribe to Jeff's FREE e-letter, The Results Report. Jeff's books include Stop Whining! Start Selling!, (an Amazon Bestseller) and the revised 4th edition of the bestselling Peak Your Profits.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meet & Greet Others With Poise & Purpose

Earlier this year, I blogged about various strategies for networking success. But what about the art of introductions?

As I’m back from attending a National Speakers Association conference, this topic is fresh on my radar, as I met many colleagues who I haven’t seen in awhile – and whose names didn’t jump to mind -- and dozens of new people, too.

Sure, life would be much easier if everyone walked around with name badges all the time – eliminating the need to be introduced. But, that sure isn’t going to happen!

So, professionals need to master the fine art of introducing themselves and others. There are certain protocols to follow when making introductions in a business or work-related setting.

How to Introduce Others

When you’re standing with other people and are not introduced, how do you feel? Probably awkward. Some professionals who are in this situation don’t feel confident or assertive enough to introduce themselves to people they haven’t met.

Here’s where you can demonstrate your professional polish and make others feel comfortable. The proper introduction involves three steps. You always start and end by mentioning the person you want to honor.

•First mention the name of the person of greatest authority or importance. Gender or age is not the deciding factor. When a client is involved, he or she should be mentioned first.

•The second step includes saying something about the person you’re introducing to the key person and his or her full name.

•To complete the introduction, go back to the person of highest rank (customer, etc.) , state his or her full name, and say something about him or her.

This is an example of a proper business introduction – combined with all three elements: “Bill Smith, I want you to meet Pam Holland, who is our Chief Operating Officer. Pam, Bill is the Training Director at ABC Corporation, our valued client”

Here are two other pointers to remember when making an introduction or being introduced:

•It is appropriate to stand whenever possible, regardless of gender, if you are seated, before making an introduction or when you are being introduced.

•If no one is available to introduce you -- or when the person you are with forgets to do so, it is always good manners to introduce yourself.

Always have self-introduction ready to use. This should be brief, informative and memorable -- a bit like a 10-second commercial. For example: "Hello, I'm Marjorie Brody. I work with people to improve their professional impact.” This type of introduction will almost always encourage the other person to ask something like, “How do you do that?” promoting further dialogue.

In a small group setting, what should you do if you forget the name of someone you need to introduce to another person? The clever way would be to introduce the person you already know. Say, “I don’t believe you’ve met Marjorie Brody, have you?” This will almost always result in the third person saying, “No. We’ve never met. My name is Frank Black” – or words to that effect. Or, at the very least, say something like, “My name is Marjorie Brody. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

If the person doesn’t offer his or her name, you can say, “And your name is …?” or “And you are … ?”

If, however, there is no other person, and it’s just a one-on-one encounter, just say your name. Don’t assume everyone remembers you – most likely, the other person will then give his or her name, too. If not, then use some humor or admit your lack of memory by saying something like, “I’m having a senior moment. You are….?” Or, “I have totally blanked on your name – please help me!”

Oops! Now What?

What are some mistakes to avoid when making introductions or being introduced?

•Mispronouncing someone’s name

•Getting person’s title or company name wrong

•Speaking so fast that no one understands you or hears the information you’re saying

•Forgetting to shake hands or having a weak handshake

•Not making effective eye contact

•Only talking about yourself and your achievements

I once witnessed the following exchange: A manager introduced one of his employees to a client with whom he was meeting. The employee’s name was unusual. After introducing the employee with the unusual name, the manager said, “Can you believe that any mother would name a child that?” It’s important to remember that what is an unusual name for you may be perfectly normal elsewhere – and it’s poor etiquette to mention any observed differences anyway.

Meeting and greeting doesn’t have to be something you dread. If you prepare yourself and remember the advice here you’ll be a confident networking pro!

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Quit, But Forgot to Tell You (Guest Blogger Terri Kabachnick)

This week, while I’m away on a business trip, I thought I’d have my mastermind group colleague Terri Kabachnick of The Kabachnick Group,, share some of her wisdom regarding how to keep a company’s most important asset at hand and productive – the people – and focusing on the importance of job satisfaction vs. retention.


As customers, we have been 'served' by people who quit but never left. As employees, we have been managed by bosses who quit but managed to stay. As managers, we have managed people who physically attend but mentally pretend.

Far too many companies suffer from the tremendous cost of employee turnover and what they must do to retain valuable workers. Retention remains a critical challenge for all businesses, but it’s time to redefine the term. We must examine the reasons for retention, as well as its benefits and costs, and realize that the virus of disengagement is spreading throughout the workplace – usually faster than turnover.


Retention is not a cure for turnover. Retaining a disengaged employee is far worse than letting him go – regardless of how valuable he once was. Far too much time and money is wasted on training workshops and seminars teaching disengaged workers how to 'talk the talk,' when in the end, they won’t 'walk the walk.' Instead, we must learn to recognize disengaged workers before we waste more time and money in futile attempts to change them.


1. Take the temperature of your organization often. Use unbiased tools and assessments to unearth the truth.

2. Continually coach employees to improve job performance.

3. Alert employees when they’re about to make a mistake.

4. Teach employees new ideas and concepts so they can increase their value.

5. Be brave enough to communicate in clear, direct language.

6. Focus on the individual’s assets.

7. Be honest in understanding your own strengths and limitations as
a leader.

8. Pay attention to your 'quiet talent,' recognizing their consistency and dedication; reward them in quiet ways.

9. Invite top performers to meetings they would not normally attend.

It is critical that managers know their employees’ job satisfaction status. If disengagement has set in, a thorough assessment must be completed before any solutions are prescribed.

Managers need to uncover the roots of disengagement and define the focus of improvement. Trying to determine reasons for disengagement by simply asking the employee is like trying to diagnose a heart condition by merely listening to the heart."

And, the employee must agree that your assessments and analyses are correct. Opinions play no role in diagnosing disengagement.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Six “Easy” Steps to Selling & Prospecting By Phone (Guest Blogger Art Sobczak)

This week, I asked my friend Art Sobczak of Business by Phone Inc.( the most important considerations when making outgoing sales calls -- to current clients and prospects.

Here's what Art had to say:

"A panicked caller asked me, 'What’s an easy and quick way to get good at making prospecting calls? I’ve got to bring in some business now!'

Well, that’s like asking a contractor, 'What’s an easy and quick way to build a house?'

There is no easy and quick way. There are some fundamental processes and principles you can follow that will help avoid mistakes, and get 'yes' answers from prospects and customers by phone.

Let’s look at them.

1. It Needs to Be All About THEM!

Get this one fact in your mind and remind yourself of it before every sales call or negotiation: Prospects do not care about you and what you want. They care about themselves. If you talk about how big or great or respected your company is, and do not tie it directly into what it might deliver to them as a result, you create resistance. They do not care that you want to meet with them or be their vendor. They are concerned about how whatever they do next will affect them.

Action Step: For everyone you call, first ask yourself what you might be able to possibly help them gain, increase, enhance, or enlarge. The more you can apply these to money, the better. And, what might you be able to help them avoid, decrease, eliminate, or cut. Further, apply these to pains, problems, fears, and to costs.

2. Learn About Them Before Calling.

Why does everyone hate telemarketing calls at home? Because they are like talking mass-mail, impersonal form letters, delivered robotically. Conversely, when someone knows about you, about what's going on in your world and communicates that, you take notice. Customized calls are like handwritten notes. They are about the listener (see point one above).

Action Step: Go to company websites, do online searches of your prospect companies and individuals, ask questions of screeners, executive assistants, or anyone in your prospects' company. Then use that information in your opening (see the next point) and throughout the call.

3. Create Interest and Curiosity in the First 15 Seconds.

The beginnings of calls elicit interest or resistance. No gray area. Most calls create resistance. That's because they are about the caller, and what he wants, (see point 1 again) and the listener feels he is being sold, so he shifts into 'getting rid of salesperson'-mode.

There are many opening statement mistakes you need to avoid. For example, even insinuating you are going to ask them to buy from you or meet with you is a huge error that creates resistance. Such as, '...and I'm calling to see what it would take to become one of your vendors.' (For a free list of telephone opening statement mistakes that create resistance, go to
Action Step: Follow this process for creating interest-grabbing call openers:

a) Introduce yourself and your company
b) hint at what relevant results you have delivered for others and might be able to provide for them
c) move them to the questioning -- for example, 'Hi, I'm Pat Seller with Advantage Industries. We specialize in working with CFOs of food distribution companies, helping them address the issue of how to control fuel costs without cutting service to their customers. I'd like to ask a few questions to see how much of a concern this is for you, and if we might have the basis for further conversation.'

4. Question at the Higher Level.
Good salespeople ask questions. Great salespeople ask the NEXT question. That's simply listening to the answer, and following up with a deeper question to get the reasons behind the first answer.

The reasons are why someone will take action, and eventually buy from you. Easy in principle, but not always followed. Probably because many sales reps are so concerned about what they'll say next that they don't listen to the answers to their own questions. For example, a sales rep asks, 'What is your biggest challenge regarding meeting your sales goals this year?' The prospect answers, 'We really need to ramp up our new customer acquisition.'
The sales rep then says, 'Well let me tell you how we can help you do that...' That rep absolutely blew an opportunity to get the prospect to see and feel his problem, which therefore puts him in a more receptive frame of mind to hear the solution later. In response to the answer, the rep could simply say, 'Oh, why is that a concern?' Now the prospect is giving better information, more about why he is motivated, and the pain is getting deeper.

Action Step: Listen to the answer, and ask the NEXT question to get better information.

5. ASK!

To get hits, a baseball player needs to swing. To score, a basketball or soccer player needs to shoot. A salesperson needs to ask. Doing everything else right will enhance your chances for a yes -- maybe even moving them to say, 'Sounds great, how can I buy from you?'

But in most cases, you still need to ask for a decision. You do not need a hundred different ways to close the sale. You DO need one or two conversational ways of simply asking for the business, an appointment, the sale, an upsell, or whatever your objective is.

Acton Step: Force yourself to practice the behavior of asking, in all areas of your life. You will get no's to be sure, just like an athlete misses shots. But do not focus on the misses; reward yourself for the simple attempts, and cherish the yes answers. They will become more frequent.

6. Be Yourself

You become a better salesperson the less you SOUND like a salesperson. The more conversational and natural you are, the more effective and likable you are. Pretend like you are talking to a good friend. Write out, practice, and digitally record your openings, questions, answers to anticipated questions, next questions, and ways of asking for the business. Then repeat the process. Being natural and conversational means being confident with where you will go next. That comes through preparation and practice.

There is no easy way to sales and prospecting success using the phone. There are proven, time-tested success principles that, when used, gives success easily."

Art Sobczak, provides how-to, conversational ideas and processes for painless, conversational sales and prospecting by phone. Get his free ebook, “29 Telesales Tips You Can Use Right Now” and his weekly e-mailed tips at

Monday, July 21, 2008

Leadership During Chaos (Guest Blogger Ed Oakley)

When you Google the word “leader” you will find 368 million – that’s right, MILLION -- “hits.”

When you visit and enter “leader” in a book search, you get 433,048 possible titles.

“Leader” and “leadership” are difficult concepts to define. It’s more of a “I’ll know it when I see it” type of thing.

I frequently speak to corporate women’s initiatives regarding leadership. And, of course, read as much as possible about the subject – including blogs.

My colleague, Ed Oakley of Enlightened Leadership Solutions, had the following post on his "Leadership Made Simple" blog.

Ed's blog was nominated one of the Best Leadership Blogs of 2008. His story just proves that you don’t need a fancy business title to “Step Up! for Success.”

“February 23rd 2008 -- I was waiting for my flight from Richmond, Virginia, last month after presenting 'Leadership Made Simple' to 150 managers of a large company headquartered there. That is when I experienced impressive leadership in the midst of chaos.

It all began when United Airlines’ 'Simon' (an automated message system) informed me via my cell phone that my flight through Chicago was cancelled. After an hour wait on a priority line, I knew there was a real problem of some kind. When I finally talked to United, I discovered that snow in Chicago had closed the airport and created major travel problems within the entire United system, and no doubt, other airlines, too.

The only chance I had to get home the same day was if I could make a flight to Washington Dulles that left in one hour flat. I did the 'OJ' dash to get to the airport and the gate, huffing and puffing, only to find that the airplane had not yet arrived. I was actually quite relieved.

The entire air travel system was in chaos, and there was a line of dozens of people waiting to talk with Michael Quintel, the United gate manager. Every person needed to share their problem - concerned about connections mostly - with a gate agent who really had little or no control over anything.

I was sitting about 10 feet away from Michael’s podium, so I heard everything. I was personally calm because my connecting flight from Dulles to Denver was several hours away. I was in the right state of mind to simply watch and listen how Michael handled the situation.

This guy had the patience of Job! He listened to the same story over and over and over. Yet, every person was treated as if THEIR story was original. Michael was absolutely MASTERFUL at having every individual believe he was there for them and was doing everything he could do for them. And he sincerely was! It’s where he naturally came from. In every single case, the frustrated and concerned passenger walked away more calm and confident than before he talked with Michael.

What I realized was that Michael was able to stay 'Forward Focused'
no matter what happened. What a model he was for what I want to be like when I grow up. It is a model of emotional maturity - and I am continually working on mine.

If I were to try to create a simple model for what Michael did so well, it might look like this.

He stayed 'Forward Focused' while he:

- Listened completely to each person, honoring them and their situation.

- Shared exactly what the situation was - in terms of how the situation affected that individual - no matter how many times he had to tell the same story again.

- Offered any options that he could find in his computer, helping them take responsibility for their own decision.

In every case, they walked away feeling better about their predicament.

My hats off to Michael Quintel, United Airlines representative, a proven leader in a challenging situation!”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Customer Service Basics Are Timeless (Guest Blogger: Lisa Ford)

All businesses -- no matter what product is sold or services offered – are in the business of serving customers; it isn’t rocket science.

Why then, do people have such a hard time being customer focused and providing excellent service?

Lisa Ford is THE customer service expert. Read on for her guest blog commentary -- she makes a lot of sense!

"Today’s new buzz words in the world of customer service are 'customer engagement' and 'customer centric.'

The concepts are very valid and important to create a relationship with the customer. But as I read the articles, I can’t help but think these are just new phrases for the same old stuff that has been around forever.

It is all a reminder that we are in business for one reason – to service and sell the customer. The customer holds all the cards and the customer rules. Seems pretty basic.

So, what do customers want? I am sure the list could be quite extensive however, here are my top five:

1. Do what you say you will do. That simply means deliver on your promise whether that is a brand promise or a promise from an employee. Just do it. Be reliable. You don’t deserve to deliver a lot of fluff or wow if can’t deliver on the basics to start.

2. Be responsive to their needs. Even better, anticipate their needs. So how do you determine what they need – ask and listen, then act.

3. Take responsibility. Walk them through the problem to a solution. In other words, OWN their concern and see it to a resolution.

4. Pay attention to the details. Use their name, call back when promised, choose your language carefully and create an experience because you are passionate about customer service!

5. Remember it is the customer’s time and money. You are not doing them a favor. They are doing you one - don’t forget it.

Customer satisfaction means relying on the basics. They work every time. The problem is we make it all too complicated. Yes, we need customer relationship management strategies, customer engagement and a customer-centric focus. But we don’t have the right to go there until we deliver the basics first.

I speak at many company meetings where the slogan for that gathering is something like -- 'The Year of the Customer.' I always wonder what year is not the 'Year of the Customer?'"

Lisa Ford is a speaker on customer service issues. She is the author of Exceptional Customer Service. More on Lisa’s work can be found at; 770.394.4860.

Monday, July 7, 2008

10 Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation (guest blogger Dr. Alan Zimmerman)

I am away much of July – time with my husband in Scotland (he will be playing golf, I will hike!), and then time with most of my family in Italy to celebrate my husband’s big birthday.

My thought for this month is to get some “guest bloggers” from some of my buddies in my two mastermind groups. I know you will enjoy reading what they have to say, too!

While I'm away, I plan on applying this week's guest blogger's wisdom, from Dr. Alan Zimmerman --

"As I read your blog and some of the issues you’re dealing with, it strikes me that a lot of people get stressed out when they’re supposed to be relaxed … such as supposedly relaxing on vacation or during holidays. So I thought you might enjoy my top 10 list for a stress-free vacation or motivation. Some of the tips come from my book, PIVOT: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success. Some of the other tips I added just for you.

1. Do only the most important things.

Every activity and gathering may seem important during a holiday event, but they are not. Focus on the family and friends who mean the most to you and get to the others later in the year.

2. Practice an attitude of gratitude.

The more thankful you are, the less stressed you can be. Every day during a holiday season, take two minutes to list all the things you're thankful for.

3. Remind yourself, 'You'll never get it all done, and that's OK.'

No matter how hard you work or how fast you work, you'll never get all your chores done. There's always more you could do. So be it. Let it go. The founder of Christmas said, 'I come to give you peace.'

4. Avoid mind binders.

Never say such things as, 'I get so stressed out during the holidays ... There's so much to do ... I always come back from vacations more exhausted than when I left.' The more you think or say such things, the more stress you'll have.

5. Set your spending limits in advance.

You may be stressed by all the expenses and overspending on a vacation or a holiday weekend. But don't get fooled into thinking it's the high cost of living that's causing your stress. It's the cost of living high.

6. Choose your fights carefully.

Holiday gatherings at work or home can sometimes bring difficult people together. Don't get sucked into a conflict unnecessarily.

7. Do a check up from the neck up.

Examine your attitude. 85% of people have a less than positive attitude. If you fall into that category, give yourself the gift of a new attitude for the holiday by setting the goal of getting a better attitude, doing some affirmations, and have others hold you accountable.

8. Pay attention to your body.

A vacation is supposed to be joyful, but it has become too stressful for some people. Listen to your body to see if you're off balance or have too much stress. You'll always have signals that you must listen to. If you don't listen, your dis-stress will lead to dis-ease.

9. Be an actor.

Instead of re-acting to other people's holiday expectations or demanding behavior, choose to respond in a way that you feel good about. Don't come down to their level. Let your enthusiasm bring them up to your level.

10. Remember you can change.

Don't buy into the big lie ... when people say, 'I can't help the way I feel ... That's just the way I am.' You may not know how to change your attitude, but it is totally changeable if you simply spend 5 minutes a day practicing a few simple disciplines.

That’s it. Now go out and really enjoy a stress-free holiday or vacation."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hazy, Hot & Humid Temps Are Here -- How Much Should You Show At Work?

With the long July 4th holiday weekend just around the corner, and more companies holding barbecues, picnics and other social outings, the topic of conversation this time of year usually turns to what is acceptable – and not – to wear in a work-related setting.

In many offices around the country, short sleeves, short skirts, bare legs and flip-flops have been visible since Memorial Day.

What are you wearing right now as you read this blog? Would you say it’s appropriate for an office setting or to meet an important client or prospect on a sales call?

This time of year causes many professionals confusion – not being sure what is acceptable to wear at work or in other business settings – and also make serious fashion faux pas.

If you’re unsure how to answer the two questions I asked above, it’s time to think about your "package,” and what it may be saying about you. If your managers are upset with the choice of clothing you have on, but are hesitant to tell you, your summer outfit could, ultimately cost you a job or desired promotion.

Here’s my list (in no particular order) of most certainly do NOTs for warm weather professional attire – what I like to call “Things Your Boss Does Not Want to See This Summer:

- T-shirts with writing on them (except company logos)
- Tank tops
- Sweat stains
- Ball caps
- Stinky shoes
- Cargo shorts
- Jeans
- Chest hair
- Flip flops
- Braless outfits (it doesn’t matter what your size is)
- Tan lines
- Loafers with no socks
- Sunglasses on your head
- Beachwear
- Patched/safety-pinned clothes
- Belly rings
- Tattoos that show
- Underwear lines
- Low rise pants (thongs sticking out)
- Colored underwear
- Athletic shorts
- Yoga pants
- Sleeveless shirts
- Athletic sandals
- Sneakers
- Backless shirts
- Short, short skirts
- Buttons/zippers undone
- Cleavage
- Anything that is too tight
- See-through skirts
- Loud, flashy patterns

Now, for some acceptable “Classic Casual” and “Smart Casual” summer wardrobe options for professionals ...

Women have the following options for “business casual”

• Casual skirts, slacks or “skorts”
• Cotton shirts in solids, prints, or muted plaids
• Sweaters (not too tight)
• Blazers look good over slacks or casual skirt

Men can wear the following as acceptable “business casual”
• Chinos or “Dockers”-type trousers
• Sport shirts with collars or banded necks
• Polo shirts (with collars)
• Sweater or sport jacket
• Casual loafers or lace-up shoes

The image presented to clients, whether in their office or yours, is of utmost importance. If you are in doubt about whether an outfit is appropriate this summer, it’s probably not.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Your Handshake Can Make or Break a 1st Impression

“National Handshake Day” is this Thursday, June 26, 2008.

You may read this and laugh or think, “What will they think of next?

So, why did I create this "holiday?" Despite what many may think, handshaking is a serious topic ... since a person’s handshake can make or break a business deal -- not to mention create a horrible first impression.

Unless you’re major “germaphobes” like Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, or Donald Trump, who avoid touching anyone’s hands whenever possible, start practicing your handshake now!

Here's some general information about the handshake:

1) Handshakes have been around practically since the birth of civilization, and were originally a way to prove that you had no weapons in your hand when meeting someone new.

2) A study by the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, to be published in September 2008, marked the first time researchers quantified the importance of a good handshake in job interviews. The study found that students who scored high with five trained handshake raters were also considered to be the most hireable by job interviewers from Iowa City-area businesses. The professor who coordinated the study said, “We found that the first impression begins with a handshake that sets the tone for the rest of the interview.”

3) One survey of HR professionals indicates that potential employers are MORE likely to overlook visible body piercings or tattoos than an ineffective handshake. They said they’d turn down an applicant who has a weak handshake than one with obvious body piercings or tattoos!

Let's hope you don't recognize your own handshake in this list of 10 Nightmarish Handshakes to Avoid:

1) The “macho cowboy” ... the way many businessmen like to shake hands, with men and women alike, with an almost bone-crunching clasp – what are they trying to prove, anyway? There’s no need to demonstrate your physical strength when shaking another person’s hand.

2) The wimp -- usually delivered by men afraid to “hurt the little lady” when shaking women’s hands. Modern female professionals expect their male counterparts to convey the same respect they’d show their male colleagues.

3) The “dead fish” – delivered by men and women alike, and conveys no power. While no need to revert to the #1 macho death grip, a firm clasp is more powerful than one that barely grabs the hand.

4) The “four finger” – when the person’s hand never meets your palm, and instead clasps all four fingers, crushing them together

5) The cold & clammy – when it feels like you’re shaking hands with a snake. Warm up your hand first BEFORE grabbing someone else’s.

6) The sweaty palm – what else needs to be said except “yuck!” Talcum powder to the rescue!

7) The “I’ve got you covered” grip – when the other person covers your handshake with his or her left hand as if the shake itself is secretive.

8) The “I won’t let go” – when a shake seems to go on for eternity, because the other person won’t drop his or her hand. After two or three times pumps, it’s time to let go.

9) The “southpaw”– when the person uses a left hand to shake, because he or she has a drink or food in the right hand. My advice – at cocktail parties or any social event, always carry your drink and plate with your left hand ... keeping your right one free for meet and greets.

10) The “ringed torture” – when the person’s rings hurt your hand. Try to limit the rings you wear on the right hand to only one or two, and be mindful of any rings you wear that have large stones.

Here are effective handshake guidelines, from my book Professional Impressions … Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day:

1) As you approach someone, when you are about three feet away, extend your right arm out, at a slight angle across the chest, with your thumb pointing upward.

2) Lock hands, thumb joint to thumb joint. Then, firmly clasp the other person’s hand – without any bone crushing or macho posturing.

3) Pump the other person’s hand two to three times and let go. The handshake is a lot like a kiss -- you know when it’s over!

4) Six steps for an effective meet-and-greet involving a handshake:
• Stand (men and women)
• Step or lean forward,
• Look at the eyes of the other person
• Have a pleasant or animated face
• Shake hands
• Greet the other person and repeat his or her name

Monday, June 16, 2008

A“Business” Look At Why Hillary’s Quest for the Presidential Nomination Failed

I believe there are five reasons that likely contributed to Senator Hillary Clinton’s failure to become the Democratic nominee for President, some of which she could have controlled. Professional businesswomen can make a mental note to avoid similar scenarios in their own careers.

1) Senator Clinton cried on more than one occasion. Pollsters last winter had a field day pointing to the fact that Senator Clinton’s tears during a campaign appearance before the New Hampshire primary helped garner further support with women, and, ultimately, the edge over Senator Obama in that state. But, I don't think it helped how many others viewed her. Unfortunately, women are still held to a different standard when it comes to showing emotion in their careers – if a woman cries at work, she is seen as losing control or being weak. If a man gets emotional with outbursts of anger, however, it’s viewed as a sign of his strength of character and passion for the issue. Still, it’s a point best remembered.

2) Her outward physical appearance was more a topic of conversation at times than her actual message. Think about it … how many times were her hair, outfits and accessories mentioned, critiqued and/or analyzed? I can’t think of one time when Senators McCain or Obama’s suits or ties were cited. Unfortunately, there’s not much that Senator Clinton could have done here, short of calling this to the media’s attention and crying “foul” -- as once some of her campaign personnel did.

3) There were several aspects of her presentation skills and delivery that hurt Senator Clinton.
First, her visual signals – her body seemed very tense as she spoke, and her smile often seemed forced. She could have benefitted from some body warm-up exercises and stretching. Some aspects of her vocal delivery also needed help – her voice would seem shrill at times, which could have been better controlled by breathing from the diaphragm. Senator Clinton also needed to better allow for the audience reaction – frequently, she jumped her own laugh lines or applause, not allowing the audience reaction to finish before she moved on. This also may have prevented Hillary from making a better connection with both her live and TV audiences.

4) Whether intentional or not, she let a prominent man in her campaign – her husband, former President Bill Clinton – take over the spotlight, and do a lot of her “pitbull” attacks when it came to defending policy views and issues that arose during the campaign. This led to the appearance that she was not powerful or confident enough to fight her own battles, taking ownership for her own opinions, and being confident in them. I’ve seen this happen frequently in business. It’s bad enough that she had the husband/wife dynamic to overcome … but allowing former President Clinton to have such a prominent role ultimately hurt Hillary.

5) Related to #4, Hillary had the power -- as Senator of New York State – yet, at times she seemed to equivocate; she didn’t always “own” her power. All professional women in positions of authority are constantly aware of the need to strike a delicate balance – excelling at their chosen fields, yet not appearing aggressive in interactions with male peers or subordinates. The “bitch” label is something never far behind.

As I watched many of the debates, heard the commentary, and read the news stories, I kept thinking how remarkably similar it all sounded to what goes on in the world of business.

It seems that women still need to justify their actions, and watch their behaviors much more than their male peers. For every step forward that professional women achieve, and raise themselves to the ranks of CEO, there are still thousands of others still struggling for equality – let alone a seat in the boardroom.

Yes, there are more working women in corporate America than ever before, but are they still on equal footing as their male counterparts? We know they still aren’t from a salary perspective – many statistics bear that out.

What about from behavioral or attitudinal perspectives? Professional women still have a hard time speaking up at meetings, taking credit for their achievements, and otherwise using self-marketing strategies.

Until women take ownership for their success and never let others define their potential, this will continue to be the case – and the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that Hillary spoke about won’t go any further toward shattering it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Key to Networking is Follow Up

You may do a great job of meeting and greeting people at networking events, and distributing your business cards, but what do you do when you return to work?

Proper follow up after a networking event/opportunity is critical.

Always follow up the initial contact with a brief note.

Be sure to express your appreciation if the person provided you with any information or other assistance. If not, just let the person know that you are grateful for the time he or she spent talking to you.

Once you have established a connection, find ways to keep it alive.

For example, if you see a magazine or newspaper article that might be of interest, it would be a thoughtful gesture to forward it along with a brief note. Acknowledge any awards, promotions, or positive publicity your contact receives with a congratulatory note. Call to say hello or to meet for lunch. Always look for ways to help the other person.

Remember, it is people who constitute a network. Business cards sitting in a Rolodex or names in a database can’t do anything to help you. They are just pieces of paper or words on a screen -- unless you put in the time and effort to keep the personal connection going.

If you do, the results will be more than worth it. Too often people wait until they need help before making connections. Do it when you need nothing; be willing to help others – they will definitely be there for you.

Effective networking can only enhance your career – adding new clients and, with follow up, building valuable and lasting business relationships.

Please post a comment and share a networking strategy that has worked for you. Then e-mail me -- so I know where to send your free e-book, 21st Century Pocket Guide to Proper Business Protocol.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Work a Room With Confidence

Last week I discussed how to effectively use your business card as a networking tool.

But, what if you are unsure about initiating conversations?

“Working a room” or “schmoozing” can be intimidating for many people.

“Working a room” doesn’t mean flitting from person to person, pumping hands, and aggressively handing out your business card.

It also doesn’t mean scanning the room for bigger and better opportunities when you are already in the middle of a conversation.

It simply means being alert for networking opportunities. It means keeping your eyes--and your mind -- open.

Take advantage of any offers to introduce you to people you don’t know. If you don’t receive such offers, or if there is a particular person or group of people you would like to meet, it is perfectly appropriate to ask the host for an introduction or introduce yourself.

What if you walk into a party or event and find that you don’t know anyone? First, don’t panic.

You basically have four options:

•Find the farthest out-of-the-way corner and hide there for the duration of the event. This practically guarantees you a miserable time, and no contacts.

•Stand there and hope someone comes up to you. Of course, if you choose this option, chances are you will find yourself standing alone and feeling awkward for quite a while.

•Find someone else who is alone, approach that person with a friendly smile, and introduce yourself. This is an effective strategy.

•Or, in a large group, approach a person that is in a gathering of three or more people. Two people might be engrossed in a real conversation and wouldn’t want to be disrupted.

Initiating a conversation can be relatively simple and painless -- if you prepare ahead.

Have your professional handshake and 10 second self-introduction ready. Look the person in the eye, and use one of these suggestions for opening lines: make an upbeat observation, share a pleasant self-revelation, or ask an open-ended question.

If you want to move from contact to connection, make sure you exchange business cards. Later, when you return to your home or office, note right on the card where you met the person and any pertinent information you recall about him or her.

You shouldn’t worry if your networking attempts don’t meet with success every time.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are going to run into people we genuinely dislike or don’t wish to see again. When this happens, the best thing to do is to cut the conversation short in a polite but firm way.

“Sorry. Gotta run” won’t cut it.

Instead, try, “It was nice meeting you, but I must be going now” or “Let me introduce you to …” or, “I promised ___ that I would talk to him ...” -- all perfectly acceptable ways to bow out.

No matter how you feel about the person, don’t forget to smile and say goodbye. Never “burn a bridge.”

Besides, the other person may be happy to make an exit, too!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Business Card: Another Aspect of Effective Networking

Networking can occur anywhere, and it’s important that you are ready to capitalize on any such chances.

So, always carry an ample supply of your business cards with you wherever you go.

One never knows who they might run into that could be a good business contact -- whether you are in a grocery store, movie theater, plane, elevator, restaurant, conference, or the gym!

This has paid off for me, in the strangest places. One day this preparedness paid off – when I was on a skiing vacation, I gave my companion on the lift my card. It turns out she was in a position to book my services … and did!

Even if your company doesn’t print cards for you, spend some money and have a calling card – name and personal contact information – printed.

If you do make contact with someone you want to speak to again, ask for a card, then give the person yours. This way, you can make the next move.

I also like to jot down a note or two on the back of the card – where we met, what we talked about, and I want to do when I return to the office (send articles, follow up with a phone call, etc.).

If the other person doesn’t have a card, take yours and write his or her contact details on the back, crossing off your front information so you don’t accidentally give that card to someone else!

Enter all business card information in your computer database, Rolodex, or PDA as soon as you return, and, most importantly, do what you promise!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Networking Nuances

Every day businesspeople are presented with opportunities to network.

How would you rate your networking skills?

Do you cling to the wall like static electricity when you’re at a cocktail reception? Or, do you confidently move about the room, meeting and greeting new people?

Successful networkers have the ability to enter a room where they don’t know anyone, and make beneficial contacts before they leave.

The contacts you make at networking events can open doors for you throughout your career.

If you feel nervous about the idea of networking, consider this: You have already been doing it all your life, without stopping to think about it.

Everyone you have ever met is part of a network you have already constructed, and it is larger than you think. It is made up of all your friends, neighbors, social club or sports team members, your doctors, dentist, banker, your accountant and religious leader, as well as any current and former co-workers, customers and competitors. A surprising number of people are part of your personal network.

There are opportunities to network all around you, even in places you would least expect. You simply have to train yourself to channel your networking efforts into furthering your professional goals.

Always keep your eyes open for networking occasions.

Here are some opportunities for networking within an organization:

•Sporting events. If your company has any, join in. It doesn’t matter at all if you aren’t a pro. Learn as much as you can about the activity, arrive equipped, and have fun!

•Lunch. This is a great time to get to know your colleagues on a more relaxed, informal basis. Don't eat alone at your desk; if you do, you are relinquishing a good opportunity to network. Besides, everybody needs an occasional break from the office.

•Look beyond your own position or department. Volunteer to assist with company-wide events or activities. This is a great way to demonstrate your versatility and your team spirit.

•Be a volunteer. Become involved with a charitable organization or cause in your community. Donate your time, not just money. The good feeling you will get from helping others will be an extra bonus.

•Join organizations and participate actively. Naturally, it is important to join professional or trade organizations related to your career. But there are many other good opportunities as well, such as participating in programs given by your local Chamber of Commerce, or running for a place on the school board. There are social groups and groups that form around a specific interest, such as investment groups, book clubs and photography clubs. Speak up at meetings, serve on committees and attend the events.

Revisit my blog over the next few weeks, when I’ll explain more networking strategies, and how to really work a room.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Risk-Taking Redux: Getting Started

My post last week encouraged everyone to start taking risks – accepting a new assignment, trying something outside your “comfort zone.”

Risk taking can lead to reward. But, if taking risks is hard for you (or someone you know), it’s OK to begin slowly.

I’ll call this “Risk Taking for DUMMIES” …. Hey, they’re best-sellers after all!

1) First, write down small risks that you would be willing to take.

Here are some suggestions:

•Deliver a presentation to your peers
•Be responsible for a segment of an upcoming corporate or departmental meeting
•Volunteer to serve on a company-wide initiative or taskforce

2) Next, put a deadline date next to the risk you plan to take. Then, ask yourself the questions I posed last week: “What is the worst that can happen?” … and, “Then what?”

3) Then, take the risk. Evaluate how everything turned out.

4) Celebrate the accomplishments – even the smallest steps of growth.

Keep building from taking small to larger risks. Embrace the adage, “Success breeds success.”

Remember your childhood when you were in the playground on the jungle gym? In order to cross to the other side, you needed to let go of one hand, and move it forward to grab the next bar.

That is what I suggest we all do for career-related risks – let go of one hand. Open up to the possibilities. See what you can learn, and contribute.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What’s the Worst That Can Happen? And, Then What?

To risk or not to risk – that is the question. And, it’s a great question to ask.

Throughout our careers, we are faced with opportunities that require some risk-taking.

Some risks that you may already have faced include:

•Switching industries
•Asking for a raise
•Taking a new position

What are some of the things that you need to ask yourself, as future situations arise that require risk?

Here are 3 questions that I always consider before taking a new risk:

1) What is the worst that could happen?
2) What are the odds that it really will happen? (In other words, how often does the worst thing happen)?
3) If the worst DOES happen, then what? For the most part, if you are taking calculated risks, there will always be a “then what?”

Years ago, I had the opportunity to take an early retirement from my job as a college professor -- allowing me to turn my part-time training and coaching business into a full-time venture.

Talk about risks! I was the sole support for my two daughters, and never had worked in business before. I first discussed the situation with my dad – a successful businessman. His response was, “Are you crazy?”

That was not what I wanted to hear.

What I have since learned, over the years, is that it is important to surround yourself with people who are positive. Positive people can still be cautious – but at best, they help you explore all possibilities.

Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Some people are naturally negative – stay away from them! Other people may be overly cautious, even fearful. Their negativity may be fear-based, but don’t buy into these fears.

Of course, I’m not talking about jumping out of a plane without the parachute! Calculated risks are what I’m talking about – and, the bigger the opportunity, the bigger the risk.

Consider this model:

Big risk = big reward -- Probably worth taking
Big risk = small reward – Questionable

The people I know who are most successful in their careers, and are satisfied with their lives, are the ones willing to take risks.

What risk are you willing to take?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gender Disparity During Presidential Race, Too?

As the presidential primaries draw to a close, I’ve been struck by how the two Democratic candidates and their debate performances have been reported in the media.

There’s no question that Senator Hillary Clinton’s gender has affected how her message and effectiveness have been perceived by the media and everyday Americans. Some would argue that the same is true of Senator Barack Obama’s ethnicity.

Regardless of who you support to win the Democratic primary, or why you feel either candidate is better than the other, gender has most definitely defined many moments of this election year.

Pollsters last winter had a field day pointing to the fact that Senator Clinton’s tears during a campaign appearance before the New Hampshire primary helped garner further support with women, and, ultimately, the edge over Senator Obama.

Another factor that helped her, these same pundits theorized, was that two of Senator Clinton’s male rivals at the time "ganged up" on her in their debate responses.

As I watched many of the debates, heard the commentary, and read the news stories, I kept thinking how remarkably similar it all sounded to what goes on in the world of business.

It seems that we as women still need to justify our actions, and watch our behaviors much more than our male peers. For every step forward that professional women achieve, and raise to the ranks of CEO, there are still thousands of others still struggling for equality – let alone a seat in the boardroom.

Yes, there are more working women in corporate America than ever before, but are they on equal footing as their male counterparts? We know they still aren’t from a salary perspective – many statistics bear that out. What about from behavioral or attitudinal perspectives?

If a woman cries in the workplace, she can be seen as weak and spineless. If a man gets emotional or actually cries, however, it’s usually perceived as a sign of his strength of character that he can show emotion when warranted.

We as women are constantly aware of the need to strike a delicate balance – excelling at our chosen fields, yet not appearing demanding or bossy with regard to interactions with our male peers.

Professional women still have a hard time speaking up at meetings, taking credit for their achievements, and otherwise using self-marketing strategies.

Until we take ownership for our own success and never let others define our potential, this will continue to be the case.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Power of Positive Self-Talk

Those who know me well have heard me refer to the children’s book The Little Engine That Could. This timeless book teaches children the value of optimism.

I think adults should be required to read this book again and again as they reach every decade of their lives … at each milestone birthday -- 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and so on.

Why? Because as we go through life’s many ups and downs, the message the little engine shares – “I think I can. I think I can.” -- is priceless.

We can do it, no matter what obstacles we may face. We will make it through, we will survive, we will pick up the pieces, and go on.

Sure, it can be hard to rebound from the pain of a lost loved one, being fired or laid off – but don’t let it drag you down in despair forever.

It’s OK to be sad, to grieve, to allow yourself a moment of frustration or pain. But then, pick yourself up, shake it off, and start planning for the future again.

Then, you, too, can be like the little engine and congratulate yourself by saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Office Politics 101

Navigating the nuances of any business environment can truly be a nightmare at times. There’s unspoken rules and dynamics that new hires often don’t realize.

Even seasoned veterans, however, can make missteps.

How do you deal with backstabbing coworkers who take credit for your ideas? It’s easy to just throw the towel in and quit. But, you may find yourself in an even worse position at your new job.

I suggest the following basics of workplace survival – three ways to master office politics.

First, identify those in power. Who are the movers and shakers in your organization? Who is respected, admired and even emulated? Knowing all you can about these key players, and building relationships with them, is critical.

Be the go-to gal or guy. When others value your contributions and opinions, you become perceived as an expert. This makes you more indispensable than those who aren’t. So, whatever it takes to get there, become an expert – signing up for training programs, getting coached – do it.

Show appreciation for others, even your enemies. Always seek out opportunities to praise your colleagues and team members. But, remember, sticking close to those who love you is easy. It’s more challenging to work with those who you’ve had issues with, but the potential payoff is great. Others will be impressed, and you may even turn your enemy into an ardent supporter – or realize he or she wasn’t that bad to begin with!

You know the old expression about keeping your enemies close?

I think Abraham Lincoln said it best: “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Time for E-mail Etiquette Reminders

If the countless messages now in my “in box” are any indication of the larger electronic messaging community, it’s clearly time for a reminder about the basics of electronic communication protocols.

We all know by now not to send messages all in uppercase letters -- cyber “shouting” is never acceptable – but what other e-mail etiquette mistakes are we still making? Here’s my top three.

Monitor the monitor. I’m still getting lengthy e-mail messages that run more than one screen, making me scroll on and on. If you have that much content to share, perhaps consider writing a snail mail letter or fax, or even picking up the phone to call the person. E-mails are meant for fast sharing of information, not sending out mini white papers. If, however, you have an important attachment to send along, it’s OK to do so with a concise message in the body of the e-mail – as long as you know the recipient is expecting the attachment, or doesn’t mind receiving information in this manner.

The subject line is there for a reason. This is the best way to let your recipient know immediately what your message is about, and entice them to read it. So, why waste this critical opportunity by saying something like, “A Message from Jane Doe,” or, worse yet, leaving it blank? Be as specific as possible. “Save Thousands on Training Programs,” “May 1st Project Deadline” or “Critical Sales Meeting Next Tuesday” certainly would grab my attention.

Wireless woes. Now that people are using cell phones, BlackBerrys and other wireless devices with more frequency to send e-mails, it’s important to note how you’re sending a message. People on the receiving end of messages sent from these types of gizmos aren’t going to realize why they received a brief, five word e-mail with abbreviated spellings. So, your message may come across as angry, annoyed, or just plain rude. Tell the recipient right away how you’re sending the e-mail and avoid this misinterpretation of your message.

Remember these etiquette pointers before you click “send,” and you’ll increase your e-mail effectiveness.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Watch Watercooler Chat

Everyone likes to chat about the latest developments on their favorite reality TV show – come on, who won’t cop to watching “American Idol?” “Big Brother?” “Survivor?” “The Biggest Loser,” “Celebrity Apprentice?” or other reality shows?

I, too, can’t wait to share my take on what happened the night before with various staff members.

But, when it comes to gossip, and spreading rumors, that’s a whole other story. Although tempting, it’s just not nice to share stories about those you work with – whether your bosses or colleagues. Gossip can be hurtful, dangerous and rude.

So, resist the temptation to chime in, when others start dishing their latest theories on who’s been dating who, or having an affair. Also, stay away from gossipers -- you don’t want to be associated with them.

Remember, what goes around comes around.

Karma’s a funny thing … you certainly don’t want to be the topic du jour for next week!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Words Are Powerful

How many times do you say something to someone in haste, only to wish you hadn’t?

If only you could hit a “rewind” or “delete” button before it comes out of your mouth or on your screen.

Words are powerful tools in every day communication – whether you are writing or speaking them. And, they are often abused or misused.

For example, why on earth would you use the word “heretofore” in a letter instead of “previously?”

Just because it’s the written word doesn’t mean you can’t choose words wisely. After all, sounding pretentious is not OK.

Here’s some guidelines.

•Keep it simple. This includes avoiding jargon and acronyms.
•Avoid “power robbers.” Words like “I believe” or “I’ll try” don’t exactly instill confidence.
•Don’t use “weasel words” like “sort of,” “kinda,” “probably,” and “maybe.”
•Use confident language like, “I suggest,” “I recommend,” and “I urge.”

Choose your words well. Remember they are powerful.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Business Travel Used To Be Fun.

Well, maybe it wasn’t fun, but it sure wasn’t as frustrating as it is today.

Aside from late arrivals and departures, hours on the tarmac, no food, overbooked flights, and lost luggage (carry-on rules!), the behavior of fellow travelers has deteriorated to the point of no return.

Let me tell you about a recent experience.

I was returning after speaking in Las Vegas, and enroute was struck once again about the impact of our travel behaviors. On my flight from the East Coast was a group of people who were attending the convention and sponsoring a booth. To say that they were rude on the flight is an understatement. The beer and vodka flowed. They were loud and even “hit” on one of the flight attendants. The other passengers around them were not amused by their disruptive behavior. As I observed, I was wondering if any of their customers were watching this.

The next day I did an educational session called “Successful People Are Connected People.” At one point an audience member said, “I was flying here from the East Coast yesterday and a group of attendees were so obnoxious on the flight. Before the trip I had thought of contacting them about buying some or their products, but I wouldn’t consider it now.” This was no surprise to me. I had to wonder how many people felt the same about the group on my flight, and how many other flights this same thing was happening.

If you are a fellow road warrior, you probably can relate – the goal, of course, is to put up a mirror and ask yourself, “Is she talking about me?”