I’m really sorry to have to write this caution, but be very, very careful what you say. Anyone can be offended by absolutely anything today. You can present a six-hour workshop and say one word (and not even a bad word), and lose a portion of your audience because they disapprove of the word. You can have a fourteen-year friendship, and say one comment that causes the person to never speak to you again. I know, I’ve done both. Whose fault is this need to walk on eggshells with your words? Yours for saying it, or them for being overly-sensitive and judgmental. Both, I believe. I take full responsibility when the wrong thing slips out of my mouth. I try to immediately apologize and rectify the situation. And I try not to repeat my mistake. Still, I’ve made a mistake yesterday and I’ll likely make one today. But I also try to rein in judgment when someone says something I dislike or disapprove of. I try to balance out how many good and “right” things they’ve said and done against the few missteps. And if it really is egregious and bothers me, I ask about it. “Yesterday you said ______ and I’ve been wondering what was behind that comment?” is what I’d ask. I’d ask sooner rather than later. And if the person glosses over the answer unsatisfactorily or is unclear I’ll ask again. “Not sure if I fully understand, tell me more,” and a third time if necessary, “I just want to understand you’re thinking behind it.” By bringing up the elephant in the room you get it cleared up (hopefully). And without giving them some of their own medicine, you let them know something bothered you enough to bring up and clear up. The thing you should not do is keep it inside, gunny sack it, hold it against them, shut down your listening, or turn off the relationship. It’s a waste for both of you.
People who are intellectually curious and constantly learning have greater economic value to themselves and their organizations. So learn a little (at least) about everything that you can. Take advantage of every opportunity your supervisor offers (and ask for more). But most importantly, make learning your responsibility. Those who make a habit of learning things they need to know as well as things not directly related to them: · Tend to be more imaginative, creative, and innovative · Can do more things more quickly and effectively · Have more to offer their teammates and colleagues · Are able to make more of their productive abilities · Are likely flexible, versatile, and forward-looking · Can respond promptly to shifts in customer/superivor needs and preferences Constantly learning new things isn’t just nice to do; it’s a must-do for anyone seeking lasting success. A good nighttime exercise is to jot down at least one thing new that you learned today. If you can’t, you have to come up with two tomorrow!
We all think we’re different, but there are more similarities than differences between us. What is most universal is most personal. Most everyone:
-feels not fully understood
-is the center of their own universe
-wants to see what they own go up in value all of the time
-wants to be appreciated, to feel powerful, to appear clever or smart
People like to say business isn’t personal, but it is personal. All of life is people personally interacting with other people. Work is people interacting with people but with money and title attached to it. Personal doesn’t mean inappropriately intimate; you needn’t border on sexting. If you connect on a human level, you more quickly connect on a business one. How? Simply ask the person about his interests, goals, and objectives; listen and remember what she said; later, bring it up. Connect human to human, not role to role, or gadget to gadget, or mano to monitor. Who, what , when, why, and how are good words to use. Your tone must be one of honest interest and sincere inquisitiveness, not interrogation. Get to know the person behind the computer or the cell phone. Volunteer information about yourself as you ask about others. Every conversation, add a little bit more connection between you aside from the business purpose. Find out, make note, and remember names of spouses, children, hobbies, and things going on in the person’s life. Remembering a small thing like a company anniversary, promotion, birthday, child’s name or interest will put you miles ahead of others. Some hesitate to volunteer personal information or hang back when asked. They are not sure yet as to whether they can trust you. Over time they will learn they can. Even if they hesitate, inquire anyway. Give your own answer to the questions you ask of her, even if she doesn’t ask. Provide it nonetheless. You make it easy for her to get to know you and therefore be more open with you.
You will not succeed without a sense of humor. Many CEOs have told me they see humor as a test to whether they want to work with and be around a person. A person with humor mainly takes the doubt level down a notch and the trust level up. Good leaders aggressively seek out an amusing angle in dealing with others, whether through light humor in a serious situation or the careful use of irony. Bringing appropriate fun to serious and not-so-serious situations also makes you a formidable force. In a recent study people under twenty-five and women of all ages were determined to be the least humorous in our society. Yes, I know there is a desire for both of those groups to be taken seriously; the irony is if you take yourself less seriously, people take you more seriously. The most important reason for being good-natured is that it allows you a gentle way to speak difficult truths. If you want to get away with saying what needs to be said, use fitting humor. One executive coaching client told me, “In my business a sense of humor is not a luxury – it’s a vital organ for survival." Seeing the funny side doesn’t mean you have to tell and forward jokes or add a smiley face to your e-mails. Nor is humor to grandstand and draw attention to yourself. Humor is being human and personal. It:
-shows insight into human nature
-makes life and work more pleasant for you and others
-creates a relaxed, friendly environment; encourages others to do the same
-is a great equalizer across barriers of title, position, and role
Smile when you pick up or click on the phone and continue as you talk, regardless of who’s calling or what the conversation is about. The person on the other end of the line can hear a smile, she can also hear a frown, smirk, and rolling of the eyes. Your articulation improves when your jaw is loosened up; your voice intonation and cadence is more appealing; and you’re less likely to be boringly dull. Your telephone voice is the equivalent of the in-person body language people use to size you up. They hear your sincerity, passion, enthusiasm, conviction – your personality – or lack thereof, in your voice. Their positive reading of you gets you set for a more positive outcome; similarly, a negative reading can start you off on the wrong foot, annoy, hurt your personal reputation and the reputation of your company, and cost you a connection. Have a calm-intensity tone and tempo when speaking in person, on the phone, or on video: That being an audible, modulated, matter-of-fact tone of voice; steady and even-keeled without useless filler words (ah, uh, umh, okay, etc.). I call it a ‘pass the salt’ tone of voice because no matter how excited or agitated, you still usually have an even keel when asking for ‘the salt’ across the table. The expression is just a mnemonic device to remind you to speak like you’d like to be spoken to. Fast, high, shrill, studiously slow, sing song, brusque, too quiet, or too loud – each sends its own emotional message – generally not a positive one. As one executive coaching client told me what his own father used to tell him, “Your words should be like canned green beans, soft and tender, not like corn nuts; makes it easier if you have to eat them later.”
So few people make the extra effort; if you do, that’s really the reason you’ll get noticed. In an age of instant response, slow down and think things through. It’s nice to be fast, but instant responses can prove to be disastrous. Consider others’ questions and interests, then plan a response. Yes, I know you have limited time and limited resources to do this, but if you don’t slow down, pause, and prepare, you will be unable to present yourself, statements, or points clearly. If you seem unprepared, you show that a lack of care toward the other party or the outcome of the discussion. Make sure to: -slow down -get in the moment -consider your audience -construct a message To do that: Seek info in advance, not last minute. Download history surrounding the topic. Consider the current environment. Study the tendencies of people involved. Focus on the person at the other end of the line – your audience of one or one hundred. Think about what they want to know and why it’s important to them. Overly prepare. Do homework to the nth degree. Think, mull over, ruminate, and weigh anything you should consider about the facts, the project, the different angles, the perspective of people involved. Write down and analyze options. Understand the other persons’ fears, dreams, and desires. Figure out the big drivers. It’s all about them; where they are coming from, their fears, and their nightmares. See life from their P.O.V so they think “this person gets me.” Facts and figures are important but feelings count. More decisions are made for emotional reasons than factual. Role play in your mind, even on paper: what will the other party or parties ask, what will they say, what will they bring up that is important to them? Answer, to yourself, every question you might get asked before it is posed. Supervisors or executives will grill you with questions so you might as well ask yourself ahead of time and think through the answer. When the real question comes, it may not be friendly or nice, but your pre-thinking will have reduced your stress. Every time you communicate, practice being smooth. You might think you can stumble all around with a friend and it doesn’t make a difference. Wrong. Everything you do is training your brain, so even with friends try for improved conversing. Do not dismiss serious preparation as overkill for a simple phone call and just assume you can wing it. Take a deep breath before you start talking. It helps when your lungs are full of air. And as one executive coaching client told me, “I put on my power shoes and really pay attention.” Stop pondering after you’ve absorbed what you can. Decide on the point where no additional information, no cramming, no more thinking is going to help. Preparing is not justification for procrastination. Preparation increases confidence and optimism and makes you more interesting to whomever you are speaking. People respond well to someone who is sure of what he wants and goes for it. Before you communicate, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish in this exchange? What is the reason to do this – both implicit and explicit. Why should she give a darn? What is the likely outcome of this exchange?” And then, after it’s done ask, “Did I accomplish what I set out to?” The higher you go in your career, the more preparation is required, so you might as well get in the habit early.
The true test of character is doing the right thing even when no one sees. Eight days a week you will encounter temptation to break your personal code of conduct of doing the right thing. One college conducted a sting to test cheating. Of the 600 students who took the test, one third cheated. When a student was interviewed about it, he said, “What’s the big deal? Everybody does it all the time.” To do what’s right, you merely make one of two choices: be honest or be dishonest. That’s it. It’s not complicated. And you don’t:-intentionally mislead
-straddle the line
-disseminate false information
This is my brother (on the right) escorting a blind buddy of his onto an Honor Flight on Sunday from Denver to join 160 other veterans to travel to Washington D.C. and visit the war memorials. My brother was in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam — tough as nails on the outside — and the epitome of a good, good man on the inside.Even in the mist of hellish war situations, he still took the time to write his little sister the occasional letter advising her on how to deal with her 1960’s high school teenage drama. Years later I told that story to a CEO client of mine who took down a treasured piece of military memorabilia from his book shelf and gave it to me to honor my brother saying, “If he did that while putting up with what was going on over there, he deserves this more than I do."
Having upright character is entirely self-serving: You feel good about yourself and you sleep soundly. You don’t fear how your actions will look in the newspaper or in the blogosphere. You need not agonize over how your kids, partner, parents, friends, classmates, neighbors, and co-workers will view you. Being a solid citizen is the ultimate de-stressor. Consider these three truths:
· Fame, popularity, and riches go away; only character endures.
· Ethos is established at the top, and you’re the top in your world.
· People want to trust you, so make it easy for them.
As for me, I have plenty of faults, but I try to do the right thing.
The good news is tattoos aren’t reserved for sailors, warriors, or rock stars anymore. For these reasons and many others, 1 in 3 people under forty has at least one tattoo. (They are actually an ancient art form dating back to the Egyptians who used them to control the supernatural.) In the future, younger executives will replace older ones and the young ones will sport tattoos so it will become increasingly less of an issue in dress codes and social reaction. But today, a general rule of thumb is: If your boss’s boss is showing his, you can too; if not, cover it. A professor said to me, “A tattoo is akin to wearing the same hairstyle for rest of your life.” That being said, if you have your reasons for getting one—to feel sexy, be rebellious, for sentiment, or because you belong to the Church of Body Modification, then put thought into the following:
-Try a temporary tattoo on as a test for awhile.
-Select the spot on your body very carefully; make sure people can’t see them unless you want them to. Avoid locations that can’t be concealed by normal dress; stay away from your neck, fingers, or hands. One CEO put it flatly, “Don’t bring generously tattooed arms to the office.”
-Think about where you see yourself in ten years and ask yourself if the tattoo fits in the picture. Consider that it will likely limit you in some jobs if visible. You may not as quickly get on the corporate fast track or be nominated for Supreme Court judge.
-Consider who you’ll be with. A friend had his girlfriend’s name ‘Pat’ tattooed on his forearm. When he ended up married to Teresa he changed ‘Pat’ to ‘Bad’ because that was the best he and his artist could come up with!
Rejection is inevitable in life, especially if you’re making an effort and putting yourself out there. Here are some strategies I use to make rejection less painful when I get it. First, try not to expect to get it before you actually do. Most of the negative situations you worry about will never happen. If you fret and dread what might occur, it will show all over your face, in your voice, and in your manner. People will see it and give back what you project and seem to expect. Consider the source, timing, situation, politics, and any other contributing factors, so that you accurately understand the rejection. If in your estimation it’s valid — and usually at least some of it is — immediately do something about your actions/behavior to minimize the pushback from recurring. Later, thank the person(s) who gave it, briefly explain the changes you made, sustain the changes, and then forget about the rebuff. Get calloused to the fact that not everyone will like you or what you do, no matter what. Think about it; you don’t like every person and every thing others do, either. There is a percent of the population that will disapprove of you, regardless of how good you are. Take heart in the fact that some people don’t like the Pope, the U.S. President, Miss America, or Sponge Bob either. Life is not logical or fair. As the country and western song goes “sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” If you’re guilty of any of the following behaviors, you will increase your chances of receiving negative reactions from people; try to eliminate them from your operating style now:
-Lack of organization or goals
-Self-criticism; low self-esteem
Yes, timing and luck contribute to your success. But you also contributed to your success. One of my early mentors, a long time member of Young Presidents Organization, told me that he and his fellow YPOers had to learn to trust their competence — just like everyone else does. He taught me that the first time you experience a great success you think, “Whew, was I lucky.” The second time you make it big you think, “Wow, I guess lightening struck twice for me.” It’s only when you make big things happen a third time that you trust your ability and therefore yourself. Trust yourself; you’re not just lucky. You’re good. Give other people and the gods due credit, but give yourself what’s due, too.
When you drive you may be the one who stays at the speed limit at all times, stops at stop signs and red lights, remains in your lane, and signals well before changing lanes. Even though you are doing everything right, someone in another vehicle rams through the stop light at break neck speed, blind sides you and causes a car wreck. In life there are “human traffic accidents” too. You can obey all the rules, do good deeds unto others, maintain self-confidence, give respect to others and someone rams through all your good behavior and blind sides you with a human wreck. You can not avoid some accidents — car or human. You can only try to minimize them. Be cautious; work with awareness so as to anticipate and react more quickly. Hopefully you won’t be too damaged and suffer a lot of pain. In the car it’s physical pain; in human wrecks it’s emotional. Both are tragic. My prayer and wish for you is that you don’t have too many of either. That you recover quickly. And that you are not the cause of the car or the human wreck.
You have to be willing to pay a ransom for your good name because there are people out there skilled at giving good guys a bad name. If you have any notoriety in your community, industry, or company, what you do is carefully watched by people who like you and those who don’t like you. So what? Your behavior and actions have to be “perfect.” But “perfect” behavior is like beauty — it’s in the eye of the beholder. I hired a consulting firm in my home town. The agreed-upon fee for their project was $6,000. To my surprise, when the project was finished they billed me $9,000 saying they had done extra work for me. I had no choice but to pay the top dollar. I had to pay ransom for my good name. A reputation of not paying would be an even higher price to pay. The consulting firm would be eager to spread chatter that, “She doesn’t pay her bills….she reneges on deals…don’t do businesses with her.” They wouldn’t spread the word that “we charged her 50% more than agreed upon….we surprised her with a claim of more work…we were not open or square in our dealings with her.” The ill repute doesn’t stay in the neighborhood either. A posting on one business owner’s blog (for the world to see) reads, “Don’t do business with M__ L__ in San Diego. He is dishonest, doesn’t pay his bills, and will, hopefully, soon go out of business.” It doesn’t stop there; more than one disgruntled ex-employee or ex-wife has had his or her rant repeatedly viewed on YouTube. To avoid the situation happening in the future I outline my understanding of our work agreement (even if they have also), and get written confirmation. I allow nothing nebulous or ill-defined to occur without immediate clarification and I document date, times, and content of discussions. These two rules go for work associates, partial friends and full-time friends if I’m doing business with them.Still, with all that effort, misunderstandings will occur. I usually elect to pay some bumped-up fee to keep heads cool. Sometimes the best practice means you pay ransom for your good name.