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How’s Winston?

April 9, 2012

So, you say to yourself, everyone tells you you need to build relationships to move up to the next level of the company. To do that, you know you need to get to know other people on a personal level and let them know you.

WinstonBut really, you think, you don’t do anything that anyone else would like to hear about. After all, you continue to think, all you do is work and hang out with your friends. And you know that no one really cares to hear about either of those.

So how are you supposed to build those relationships that are so important?

Well, here are a couple of handy hints for you.

The first is: you don’t really have to SAY much. Asking good questions is the real key. Everyone likes to talk about themselves so just give them the opportunity. If you are in their office, look around to see what things they have on the walls and shelves. Are there pictures of a pet? If so, ask about the pet. Pictures of kids? Ask about the kids. Trophies? Other interesting objects? Ask about any or all of them. If there is nothing visual to help you, ask about their hobbies, sports, etc.

The second is: be ready to talk about your own hobbies, pets or favorite sports if the other person persists in not saying much. I always love to talk about my dog, Winston. If nothing else, I can pull out a funny story about something he did to help break the ice. I once went to see a client who opened the conversation with the following: Before I ask you how you are or you ask how I am, let’s talk about the most important thing: How’s Winston?

Obviously that person paid attention to me and what interested me! I was able to reciprocate with his favorite sport.

That’s building good personal relationships.

Tips for standing out in a positive way

March 26, 2012
Kicking in the Iron Door - Panelists and Moderator

Pictured from left to right: Ellen Barry, Pat Smith-Pierce, Ph.D., Jill Allread, Jolanta Gal, and Julia Cloud

In this economy, almost everyone is looking for ways to stand out, either personally or for their department, company, etc. Sometimes both.

I recently moderated a panel of executive women who shed some light on ways to make yourself different so you stand out in a positive way. With help from Sonya Evanosky, I’d like to share their thoughts.

Jill Allread, President of Public Communications Inc. said it’s your brand, your business story. That’s what makes you distinctive. Having passion for what you do enhances not only your enjoyment of your job but shows to others and becomes part of your brand. Passion is what keeps you going even when things seem most difficult.

Ellen Barry, Principal of EBarry Group, stressed that you should be the best you can be with what you’re good at. Trying to be something you are not rarely works in the long run. You can always augment your weaknesses by hiring and/or working with others who are strong in those areas. You need to know yourself to make use of your strengths.

Julia Cloud, National Tax Leader at Deloitte for Deloitte Growth Enterprise Services, stated that thinking strategically is a differentiator. It means thinking beyond just crossing items off the “To Do” list. Say “yes:” to opportunities even before you feel you’ve mastered everything. If you look at people you know who have been successful, most probably had not mastered everything before taking on a new task or challenge.

Jolanta Gal, CIO of Feeding America, agreed that if you are waiting to be perfect, you will be left behind. Take on an assignment, move forward and learn. Have an outline of your life with your goals and what you hope to achieve. Look at your portfolio of experiences and see how you are going to get there. Be optimistic!

Whatever your brand is, being the best at what you can do enables you to take on new tasks and master them, even when you are not an expert in everything. Crowning your brand with optimism can set you apart so that others look to you as a leader.

Academy Awards communication: the good, the bad, and the ugly

March 1, 2012

Once again as with last year I watched the Academy Awards ceremony, looking for good speeches.

It wasn’t difficult this year as there weren’t many. The best speech came from Christopher Plummer as he accepted his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It was warm yet witty. It was beautifully delivered and heartfelt.

Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech for Best Actress was excellent because it was not the usual canned “Thank you to…everyone,” said as quickly as possible. She began by thanking her husband because she said most people do it last with the music rolling over it so no one is actually able to hear. She continued by thanking her hairdresser who, she said, has been with her since Sophie’s Choice. Then, with genuine feeling and tears, she thanked her friends, not by name but by category. It was a pleasure.

The best presenter was Colin Firth for Best Actress. He made his short statement about each nominee sound as though he thought each was outstanding.

The worst presenter(s) were the bridesmaids. The two women from Saturday Night Live were not funny as was witnessed by the silence both in the hall and here. The remaining women seemed uncomfortable and ill at ease, making me wish they would just get on with it.

However, the biggest gaffe occurred on the “On the Red Carpet” just before the actual award ceremony. Robin Roberts was with a group of four people, three of whom she introduced: Prince Albert of Monaco and the Princess, both of whom were there because of the anniversary of Grace Kelly’s death; and Robert Iger, the President of Disney, the parent company of ABC (and therefore Roberts’ boss).

However, she did not introduce Iger’s companion—his wife? His sister? A companion? We’ll never know thanks to Robin’s bad manners. Worst of all, Iger and his companion exchanged pointed looks when Roberts so obviously ignored her. You might have thought Roberts would catch the looks and rectify her mistake.

It just goes to show that bad manners can triumph.

Timing is key for Super Bowl & commercials

February 6, 2012

Not much could have been more exciting that the last few seconds of the Super Bowl last night! Talk about Time Management! Those seconds were a prime example of how to use time to your advantage.

As the commercials for the Super Bowl are always given a lot of hype, I watched to see what I thought of them this year. By far the most powerful commercial was Clint Eastwood narrating an ad for the U.S. auto industry. The pictures were mesmerizing and the narration fit them to a tee. Eastwood’s raspy voice enhances the atmosphere created by the pictures.

As with time management for the teams in the game, placement management for the ad was evident.  Eastwood ends his narration with this is Half Time and we are now entering the next half for rebuilding the auto industry. The ad was placed at the end of Half Time and ended with the words “Half Time from Detroit” on the screen. We then returned to the game. Great timing.

The cleverest and funniest ad was the Doritos featuring a grandmother in her chair with a little boy strapped in his swing. An older boy torments them with Doritos which he eats but doesn’t share, always staying out of their reach. The grandmother slyly sets up the younger boy in his swing and then pushes him hard enough to reach the Doritos. The looks on the faces throughout enhance the fun and cleverness.

In my opinion the most boring ad was for hhgregg. It was colorless and lifeless. In fact, so bland I don’t remember anything about it.

One last comment: I found it interesting that NBC had numerous ads throughout talking about its programs while the NFL had quite a few as well. Perhaps there were fewer advertisers than in the past. (?)

What do you think? What did you like? I’d like to hear from you.

When :) isn’t enough

January 5, 2012

body languageIn a recent article titled “Is Technology Killing Your Social Life?” the authors discuss how we as a society are becoming more and more isolated. Yes, we text, e-mail, use Facebook and so on to communicate with others. But our actual personal or face-to-face interactions are becoming more and more rare.

The authors posit that this lack of personal interaction is unhealthy as it can lead to isolation.

I think there is another part of personal interaction that is being missed when we rely so heavily on e-mail, etc. That is our use of nonverbal communication or body language.

Nonverbal communication often tells what a person is really thinking. For instance, we can tell by a person’s tone of voice if they are happy, sad, like or don’t like what they are hearing. We can also tell if they are teasing us, being ironic, possibly may not feel well when we hear a voice. But there is no voice attached to an e-mail, text, or any of the social media. We simply have to go on what we are reading.

The danger of going on what we are reading is that we put our own moods, interpretations, etc. into it. Yet what we put into it may not be what the writer truly meant.

We can get a person’s tone of voice with all it implies over the phone. Yet the authors of the article indicate that we are using phones less as we rely more on social media so we have less access to a person’s tone.

Saddest of all is that personal, face-to-face communication is also getting lost in the transition to e-mail, etc.

Yet think about the number of times you have been with a friend in person and were able to tell what they were thinking by the look on their face. Hugging to show appreciation, comfort, hello and goodbye are obviously nonexistent if we are not physically in the same place. A friend’s happy smile, the twinkle in someone’s eyes, shaking a person’s hand to say hello and using that handshake to understand the person better, when someone leans in to let you know what you are saying is important…the list is endless.

All are missing with just the use of social media. We can’t do without social media. We can, however, remember that personal interactions play an important part in getting to genuinely know and understand another person.

The bottom line is: use them all.

How to Party Like a Professional

December 13, 2011
drunk man wearing crumpled suit and a party hat, holding a champagne glass.

Don't end up like this guy at your office party.

With the holiday season in full swing, many of us find ourselves attending company holiday parties. While we all like parties, company parties can pose a challenge.

As one of my clients said, some people seem to forget that their bosses and colleagues are also attending the same party. While everyone wants to have a good time, a company party is not an occasion for overdoing drink and/or behavior.

After all, as my client continued, bosses and colleagues are there and obviously observing people’s behavior. Someone who becomes loud, offensive or otherwise not socially acceptable causes people to wonder if they would do the same in other circumstances.

So, have a good time and enjoy the people with whom you work. But remember—you do work with them on a daily basis.

Personal spaces in public places

November 15, 2011

This seat is MINE!One thing we all do is “mark” our space or territory. That “mark” indicates to others that the space belongs to us and not someone else. It is what is known as saving or marking our Personal Space to make it ours.

In our offices we use pictures, plaques, books—all sorts of items to indicate that this space is mine. At a meeting we might put a portfolio, papers, coffee mug, pens—anything to show that the space we are sitting at and possibly one next to us is “occupied” to keep other people from sitting in our seat or the one next to us. These are just a couple of examples of how we use items to define to claim our space.

I recently saw an amazing example of someone marking their space and keeping it in a highly unlikely situation.

As anyone knows who rides on a rush-hour commuter train, seats become very hard to find the closer you come to the main destination. On some trains, there are single seats on the upstairs level that fill up early because no one can sit on either side of you.

On a recent, very crowded train, a woman was sitting in one of the single seats. She had several items of clothing as well as 3 bags around her. She decided to get up and leave the seat and was gone through four or five stops. However, she left the items of clothing and the bags at the seat. She had the items pushed away from the aisle so they were not visible from the stairs or aisle below.

At every stop, as people got on, someone would spot what looked like an empty seat, climb the stairs, and walk to the seat. The looks on their faces when they reached the seat, only to see the bags and items of clothing, were very interesting. Some people looked confused. Others looked a bit angry. One person stood staring at the seat as though he was thinking about moving the woman’s belongings so he could sit there.

In every case, the person eventually climbed back down the stairs to look for another seat.

I never would have thought someone would succeed in “holding” an empty seat on a very crowded train!

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