No. 10 – In Every Culture, Effective Leadership is Key

Posted on November 18th, 2014 by in Best Leadership Practices, Books

Foreign translations of Debra Benton's business books

It’s always a fun email to receive from a client or friend traveling in Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Hong Kong, or other parts of the world who sends a note like, “Saw your book at the Heathrow Airport bookstore today. Pulled it out and placed it on the shelf so the cover was showing, not just the spine!” Puts a smile on my face because I can see them doing it — as I have done it in bookstores around the world.

The publishers send me a handful of copies of my books printed in different languages. If in your diverse circle of friends/colleagues you have some whose native language is German, Turkish, British, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Chinese, or Arabic and you’d like to surprise them with a book, contact me. Drop me a note, and I’ll make them available to you for the cost of shipping only.

– Debra

No. 9 – Clear Thinking Becomes Clear Writing

Posted on November 13th, 2014 by in Effective Communication, Professional Growth

How to write clearly

Whether writing an email, a proposal, an article, or a book, my writing mentors have taught me a simple 3-step test to ask myself. It’s a must after each completed piece, but equally important after each paragraph, even each sentence:

1.  What am I trying to say?

2.  Have I said it?

3.  Is it clear to someone reading it for the first time?

Following that simple test, I’ve found that my writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things I keep out that shouldn’t be there.

I’ve added one more question to the test:

4.  Why should the reader care; what’s in it for them?

This last question is to nudge the reader’s curiosity along to continue reading. The author of On Writing Well, William Zinsser, says #4 is to cajole with freshness, or novelty, or paradox, or humor, or purpose — with an unusual idea, an interesting fact, or a question — something to make the reader smile and linger on what you wrote.

So this blog is a reminder to try and write even the most mundane message in a clear and direct way without being pompous or pretentiousness. That’s where your humanity and warmth will cause people to always want to read what you wrote and be more likely to positively respond.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Photo by Mark Hunter

No. 8 – Wise Words from One of My Mentors

Posted on November 3rd, 2014 by in Career Management Tips & Techniques

Jack Falvey

Reading The Wall Street Journal in the late 80’s, I frequently saw a byline in the Manager’s Journal column “by Jack Falvey.”  Every few months I read Jack’s well-documented, thought-out, and colorfully written commentary on business.  His was the column I always looked for, tore out and saved.

After a couple of years reading his writing, I decided to try to contact him and talk to him in person.  Keep in mind this was pre-Internet days so I couldn’t search Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook. I had to do a little detective work, but I found him in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.  He picked up the phone when I called. No secretary interceding. No voicemail. Just Jack.

I told him I admired his writing and just wanted to tell him how much it helped me as a young career woman. He was gracious, gave me his time, gave me advice, and became a life long friend and mentor.  To this day, I still call Jack when I have a vexing problem and always get a fresh perspective on things.

Daily he sends a missive through MakingtheNumbers.com.  I especially liked today’s message, so I’m passing it on:

“When a customer does layoffs, keep track of where everyone goes.

We sell to moving targets. There are fewer gold watches given out than ever before. That dynamic means that we should have a means of tracking our industry contacts. When someone is hit between the eyes, they always appreciate a kind word. We who are in the business know how to take hits. That is not a common trait, especially among the buying versus selling fraternity. The person who would not return your phone calls, rescheduled or canceled appointments, and generally made your life miserable, will now join you for lunch on an hour’s notice. Make the call. Make their day in as positive a way as possible. Because you are professionally out and about, you have the industry knowledge that cubicle dwellers do not. Share that perspective. It will cost you nothing but a lunch to demonstrate a little humanity. The circle of life is much larger than many small people think it is. Widen their world a bit. Brightening someone’s day will do wonders for your own positive mental attitude, while at the same time being an excellent business practice.”

You can sign up for his missives by contacting him at  Jack@Falvey.org.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 7 – Go For the Top Job: 11 Reasons to Be CEO

World's Best Boss

My expertise is to help people who aspire to the CEO role to think and act like effective ones do.  But sometimes people say to me, “I’m not sure I want to be a CEO.”  My response: “What! Why not?  That’s the best job in the company!”

That top job is the job where you can:

  • Turn things around; make things happen.
  • Make a difference.
  • Select the people you work with.
  • Do something about the problems you complain about.
  • Make your own decisions.
  • Minimize doing things that you think are stupid.
  • Do what you think is right.
  • Choose the chances you’re going to take.
  • Make decisions that can make the world a better place.  (Use your influence and resources for your choice of initiative:  world hunger, malaria, humanitarian relief, global peace, fighting corruption, and so forth.)
  • Make more money (to give away if you want).
  • And control your own destiny.

Most everyone would be happy to be the top dog, the honcho, the chief for the above reasons; but most feel it’s unrealistic.  So they turn it around and act like they don’t want it anyway. But they wouldn’t turn it down if offered!

It’s going to happen to someone; it might as well be you.

You don’t have to be the company’s top record producer, an alumnus of the best B-school, or have the highest IQ. You can come from any walk of life. You can be tall, short, attractive, and not so attractive.

You do have to work on being CEO material before you get the job – that helps you get there, causes them to see you in the role, and increases your chance of success while in the job.

If you’re going to work anyway, you might as well go for the top job. I say, “If it’s not going to happen in your company, go to another company, or start your own!”

A CEO friend of mine said, “I figured I’m as smart as others running the show plus I didn’t like busting my a**  as a good soldier and corporate stooge for someone else. I decided to be the boss that I always wanted to have.”

—Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Photo by Kumar Appaiah

No. 6 – Keep On Keepin’ On In Whatever You are Doing

Posted on October 24th, 2014 by in Best Leadership Practices

Books by D.A. Benton

My book Executive Charisma (McGraw-Hill) was published in 2004.  Last week it showed up on some business bestseller lists, ten years later.  Now that’s an early Christmas present for me! Not only did it please me to see renewed interest, but it means in April and October of next year there will be another royalty check in the mail.

I don’t write this to brag but to give you the back story.  After my first book Lions Don’t Need to Roar (Warner Books) I thought, “That’s it. I wrote a book. I’ve done it.” But what I didn’t know is if it sells well, the publisher wants you to write another one. I thought I was a one-book person – I put everything I knew into that one.

Well, the publisher insisted, paid a nice advance, so I struggled to write another while thinking, “I can’t do this.” Until one night when I woke up at 3 AM and decided to change the words to “I can do this.”  Went back to sleep, got up and started writing How To Think Like a CEO (Warner Books) which made all the big business bestseller lists.

So then I got hooked on writing and ended up publishing my tenth book this Spring, The CEO Difference (McGraw-Hill).  When cleaning out my files yesterday I ran into one titled “Book Proposals” and started going through it.  Although the publisher wants you to write another book, you still have to have a good idea so you pitch a proposal you think they might buy. In one six-month period, I presented eight different proposals to them. Each one was rejected until the last one (on the list that follows) hit the mark.

To give you an idea of what was rejected:

  • How to Present Like a CEO: The Ten Keys to Commanding Authority, Influencing Others, and Leaving a Positive Lasting Impression
  • Do It Everyday: 365 Tips, Tricks, and Tales from a Leadership Development Expert
  • Beyond Brilliance: 101 Ways to Ensure Your Upward Mobility
  • Busting Out of Pink Collar Prison: Career Advice for Women on How to Break Out and Prosper
  • Fix It!: Today’s Business Leaders Show You how to Solve Problems and Become Tomorrow’s Leaders
  • Top Dogs Talk: What Good Leaders Do and You Should Too
  • The Heart of the CEO: The Human Side of the Public Job
  • What to Do From Age 22 to be CEO by 42

Every pitch got rejected except the last one, which was re-titled and became my ninth book, CEO Material (McGraw-Hill).  So when I brag about a new book, remember that it came after l-o-t-s of rejection.  You and I just keep trying though, don’t we!

—Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

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