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3 items from February 2014


How Not to Become a LinkedIn Viral Rejection Source

IStock_000010294012_webOrson Rega Card said "Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken."  Wise advice indeed.

You have probably heard the story by now - a person in Cleveland rudely replied to a LinkedIn connection request...and her rejection request went viral.  I saw it on several news sites this morning.  Everyone knows what she said.  I am not going to use her name here because I am sure she has been beaten up enough and that's not the point.

She has apologized and included the following statement: "Creating and updating the _______________ has been my hobby for more than ten years. It started as a labor of love for the marketing industry, but somehow it also became a labor, and I vented my frustrations on the very people I set out to help."

It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticize her, but when I hear that statement, I realize this could easily be you or me.  I have certainly felt frustration at what once used to be a pleasure.  And all it takes is one person to post a poor communication from us and there you go...  Years of goodwill can be dismantled.

In all likelihood we will not find ourselves as a news story on CNN, but how do we keep ourselves from one mistake that eats away at our reputation?  Two ways:

1.  Proactively evaluate your life

What is a source of joy and passion?  What is a source of stress and even resentment?  Don't wait to address this because stress and resentment will come out some day.  We're human.  We feel.  We can't keep it bottled up forever.

While there is no easy answer for what to do (each situation is different) let me make a few suggestions:

  • Talk to a mentor (ask someone you trust to listen and provide you with some advice)
  • Read a book such as Start or What Color is Your Parachute.
  • Find a way to give back to others, such as a charity or ministry.

2.  STOP your communications

How do we check ourselves to make sure that we don't communicate poorly in a moment of frustration?  Airline pilots use an extensive set of checklists to ensure that they do not make a mistake and properly manage their risk.  So I came up with the following checklist to follow BEFORE sending out any piece of communication (verbal, written, or electronic):

S - Step Back.  Do I need to step back and wait before communicating?  Am I communicating from emotion?  Do I need to take a deep breath and come back later?

T - Tone.  Is my tone positive and respectful, rude, or even apathetic?  How could it be perceived by the recipient?

O - Objective.  What do I want to accomplish with this communication?  Is my articulation of that objective clear?  Is it articulated in a simple form that the recipient will easily understand?  Is the objective worth pursuing?  Does it build up this relationship?

P - Purpose.  Why do I want what I want?  To win?  To be right?  To collaborate?  To make the other person look good?  To make me look good?

If you sense that feeling of frustration, let that be a red flag.  Be proactive and make the changes necessary to resolve it.  And when you do make a mistake (we all do), be like the person in Cleveland who was very gracious, honest, and apologetic in her responses.




4 Actor Techniques to Be More Persuasive in Your Delivery

IStock_000015522057_webLearning the communication skills of persuasion and influence helps you become a better leader and more proficient at your job (read: more valuable).  It is one of those skills that makes a big difference when used as a tool (and not a "weapon").

While most of us want to become more persuasive, most of us have work to do on our delivery.  In fact, how we deliver our messages is what is restricting our effectiveness.  Whether you are influencing a peer, a team, or an entire organization, these four actor techniques will help when the "curtain goes up" and all eyes are on you:

1.  Persuade with your eyes

Most of the time we focus on our words when attempting to be persuasive.  It was once said that our eyes are the window to our soul.  Focus your attention to your eyes.  Think about the most dramatic movie scenes you have seen.  Watch them again and pay attention how the actor(s) convey the true drama with their eyes.  When you are giving a persuasive message, focus on your eyes by making solid eye contact, and intentionally conveying emotion and passion.  You may try "rehearsing" in front of a mirror by reciting your "message" internally while focusing on generating emotion coming from your eyes.

2.  Invent your Enthusiasm

Let's face it - sometimes we really, really need to be persuasive, but we just can't get enthusiastic from the context, content, or purpose.  That lack of enthusiasm and energy shows.  So...invent your own enthusiasm, by creating an "as if" scenario.  If your passion is to teach people, act "as if" you are teaching people and let your enthusiasm come out.  If your passion is software coding, act "as if" you are creating or discussing a great piece of software code.  Find an "as if" scenario that you can connect with that creates enthusiasm for you.  It works.

3.  Smile like a Capuchan Monkey

I don't know if capuchan monkeys actually smile, but it invokes an image for me to smile like I never would otherwise.  Like our eyes, smiling has an incredible effect.  Your recipient will respond both physically and emotionally.  Even on the phone, the person at the other end will be able to "hear" the smile in your voice.  You may feel sillier than a capuchan monkey but it won't come across that way.

4.  Make it about your Audience

An actor wants to connect with and move their audience.  The focus is on the audience, and when we are trying to be persuasive, it is no different.  What's in it for them?  Do you care more about being persuasive or about what's best for the other person?  Is your motivation to look good and get what you want?  Or to make them look good and help them get what they want?  Do you want to win?  Or build a long-term working relationship?  People can feel your authenticity and sincerity, and whether you are more concerned about them or yourself.  Make it about them.  Change your thought process by asking "what's in it for them?" or "what if I were in their shoes?"

While you may not literally be performing on a stage, each of us are performing on your own "stage" every day.  Focus on one of these techniques and watch for the subtle differences they have in your audience.




The Power of a Personal Story

IStock_000035105200_webAfter conducting a great actor-based training session on Motivating through Storytelling for Business last week, I learned something from an unexpected source: my eleven year old son.

One of his classmates shared how she is experiencing a difficult time because her parents are divorcing.  The class was discussing what it's like to go through a difficult time in your life.  This prompted my son to share a personal story about how we had to evacuate our home in California a few years back because of a wildfire that was coming towards our neighborhood.  We could literally see the flames from our window, though the fire was at a far enough distance that our house was not in imminent danger.  He shared how that was tough for him, and how fearful he became of fire over the next few years.

That had a positive impact on his classmate, to the point that she went home and told her Dad, and her Dad mentioned it to the teacher a few days later (who in turn mentioned it to us).

I found it fascinating because it is hard for me to equate a kid going through divorce with an evacuation.  After all, we got to go back home and all was well.  And yet it did have an impact.

I believe it was because:

  • He was authentic and sincere.
  • It was a personal story - not an anecdote or someone else's story.
  • He was willing to share it in a vulnerable setting.

In a business setting, do we need to be wise about telling personal stories?  Sure.  But personal stories can be a powerful way to come alongside a team member, motivate a team, build trust, and have a positive impact on the lives of those around you.  Too often we separate our personal "selves" from our work "selves", but when we are vulnerable and sincere, we become better leaders and influencers.

"But I can't think of any personal stories!"  That is a statement I often told myself, but in reality we have many stories we could tell if we would stop coming up with excuses as to why we shouldn't tell them.  Our stories do not have to be unique or compelling or even emotional - just personal to us.  That's the power.  Here are some ideas to help you prime the pump:

  • What happened to you today?  This week?  This month?  Last year?  In the past?
  • What happened to you at home?  At work?  Someplace else?
  • What is something on which you worked (i.e. a project)?
  • What is something a team experienced on which you worked?
  • What is an adventure you took (i.e. vacation, team building, hobby, fun event)?
  • What is an event or story that really gripped you?

Perhaps we could learn something from a pair of eleven-year olds.  I know I did.