No. 37 – Take 5 Minutes to Assess Your Current Career Relevance

Smart people do stupid things all the time when they forget that, at this moment, the next new/big thing is coming around the corner, chasing them. In that situation, frankly, the less talented individual will win out if she or he has more fight. If you think your personal brilliance will keep you above the fray, you’re wrong. If you think none of this affects you yet, you’re wrong again.

How you decide to act in the next few minutes will decide the person you’re going to be from now on. So shut the door, ignore unsolicited emails, and let the phone calls go to voicemail.

Take a moment for a personal relevance-reality-check, because at any age these painful things can start happening to you. If they do, you’ll want to change your course of behavior:

  • You increasingly feel that your smarts are getting you nowhere; your skills aren’t being used.
  • You aren’t sought out.
  • You aren’t taken seriously.
  • You sense disregard for your authority by those above, below, or around you.
  • You can’t seem to gain new responsibilities; your current ones are chipped away.
  • Your honest self-assessment tells you that your expertise doesn’t always fit present day needs; you aren’t ‘with it.’
  • Your ideas to improve work aren’t welcome.
  • You experience notable indignities, such as being ignored in meetings, being left out of the loop on key decisions, or being omitted from the circulation lists from important e-mails, meetings, and social gatherings.
  • You get heavy and steady criticism of your work.
  • You are frequently passed over for the most interesting, important, or prestigious assignments.

All of these things can happen if you allow them to happen. But you, my dear reader, will not let this happen. You’ve got the fight in you, or you are ready to get it back if you’ve let it slip. To turn your situation around: 1) be aware of the need to change, 2) get feedback from appropriate people as to what you can do to change, and 3) do it.

– Debra

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

No. 36 – Project Confidence and Build Influence by Learning to Remember Names

Names matter | Debra Benton blog

You probably like to hear your name favorably called out. Well, so do others. People never forget that you remembered.

It’s funny; the same guy who says he can’t remember names remembers the Tennessee/Florida football game score in 1991 or the wine he drank in Tuscany two summers ago. Why does he remember the score? He watched the game so he heard the score (over and over). He talked about it with his buddies after the game, repeating the score. He read the newspaper articles about the game the next day, seeing the score again.

Why did he remember the name of the wine? He read the label when it was placed on the table, sniffed the cork, maybe even saved the cork and soaked the label off for his scrapbook. Later he shopped for that specific wine at the market, repeating the name to the clerk. The steps required to remember anything are hear it, repeat it, read it, use it.

To remember names, it is first of all important to make sure you hear it. As one person said, “As soon as he told me his name it went in one ear and the other.” Despite the fact you have a million different things going on in your head, have the person’s name go in one ear and stay there.

When you introduce yourself to others, you generally hear only your own name. No wonder you don’t remember theirs. When they say it, right then clarify the pronunciation if it’s unusual and verify it. “What is your name, again, slowly?” Or if you heard it clearly the first time, “It’s Seth, right?” To further associate the person and the name you can ask a question such as “How do you spell that?” “Is that a family name?” or “What inspired that name?” If there is a story, people like to tell it.

Some people are particularly sensitive about the pronunciation of their names. People named Susan don’t like to be called Suzanne. Elaines don’t want to be called Eileen. Kathays don’t want to be called Kathy. Michaels may not like Mike, just as Roberts may not like Bob, and so on. It takes a little effort to get it right, so do.

If you get the person’s business card, look at it and read the name. Tying the visual with the audible doubles your chance of remembering. Add a note on the back about something you learned about the person in the conversation, the “do list” item you want to follow-up with for the person, or some distinguishing characteristic.

Use the person’s name to introduce him or her to another person. State the second person’s name clearly, so it increases the chance of the first person hearing and remembering it also.

When I’m walking my dog on the bike path and people stop, chat, and bend down to pet him, I’ll volunteer, “His name is Scooter,” and inevitably the person will say, “Scooter, you’re a good dog… or Scooter you’re a cute dog.” And when we depart, they’ll usually say “Good-bye Scooter.” Then weeks later I’ll run into the same people and they’ll say, “Hi Scooter.” They remembered the dog’s name because they repeated it so many times.

If you’re with someone who can’t remember the name of someone you are both meeting, you can be the one to initiate an introduction with, “I’m Debra Benton, this is my friend Kristie.” Then pause and let the person say his name. You end up making it easier and smoother for both of them (a two-for-one maintaining of esteem!).

By the way, at a meet and greet when you wear a nametag, place it on your right shoulder, not your left. It’s easier to read when people shake hands with you because they can see it and therefore remember. I saw a man in a wheelchair put his nametag on his hat to make it easier to read. The worst are name tags on neck chains that hang around your chest or drop below; if you are a well-endowed female this causes men and women to study your bust area to see your name.

When you meet a person again, volunteer your name to make it easy on them whether you do or don’t remember theirs. Preferably you can say, “Roger, nice to see you, Debra Benton,” as you extend your hand to shake with a smile on your face. If you can’t remember his name, you can say, “Hello, I’m Debra Benton,” pause and shake. He’ll likely volunteer his name. This time, make sure you register his name in your memory so you do remember next time.


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

Photo: Parker Knight

No. 35 – How to Create and Cultivate Career-Long Connections

Earlier this month in blog post #33 I wrote about the importance of physical touch. To follow that, you should stay in touch figuratively as well.

Whatever your connections are with people, it’s important to periodically touch base with them. It takes less than four minutes to reach out in the following ways:

• Send an email and comment on an article or a new book you found that would be of interest.

• Send a link to some pertinent research.

• Write a short handwritten note to compliment on a business success.

• Forward a post you wrote that relates.

• Phone or e-mail to ask for an opinion on something you’re working on.

• Email an inquiry as to whether the person was affected by the flood or snowstorm that hit his/her area.

• Contact the person’s administrative assistant and thank him/her for some efficiencies they provided.

You get the idea. The list is endless.

About once a month, I receive a link to an article of interest from Paul Schlossberg. He’s the CEO of D/FW Consulting and when he travels he constantly clips articles to send to people in his community of contacts. One of his secrets is that he has envelopes pre-addressed and stamped in his briefcase, so when he sees an article, it takes about three seconds to send it out.

Another person who knows how to make himself a valuable source is Eric Weissmann. When I finished interviewing him for a book I was writing, he asked this simple but great question: “Is there anyone you still need to interview for the book? Is there someone I could introduce you to?” Offering your assistance is a sure way to win someone over.

Mary Mandell says that every time someone asks for her help or advice, she goes out of her way to give it to them. Every time a headhunter calls, she “always, always” returns the call and gives a referral. “I’ll even refer people I don’t know if I think it will help them.” She adds, “I always ask how the recruiter found me, too.” That way she can follow up with the person who passed along her name.

People like Schlossberg, Weissmann, and Mandell really get it.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to create connections on your own daily and weekly – to reach out and touch someone.

– Debra

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

No. 34 – Learn to Stand Out as Well as Fit In to Get Ahead

How to stand out and fit in | Debra Benton blog

When you are visible, good things happen for you. People seek you out because they’ve heard about you and your capabilities. They invite you into business meetings and conversations when they don’t have to. Your name pops up when people talk and gets passed upward and outward. You are top of the mind and tip of the tongue. You receive calls from people you’ve never heard of inside and outside the company. You get endorsements from people because they know you. “Yeah, I know him. He’s a good guy” is all it takes, versus “Hmm, no, never heard of him.” And you cause people to remark, “Let’s get him before somebody else does.”

It’s very easy to become invisible. When that happens, headhunters don’t call, bosses don’t promote, and mentors don’t respond.

Being visible does not mean that you embellish your work, are pretentious, show off, seek the limelight, have a popularity contest, or over self-promote. It means you:

  • Go the extra mile.
  • Go out on a limb.
  • Distinguish yourself.
  • Care about what you’re doing (more than you care about being photographed doing it).
  • Stand out, but not grandstand.

Being visible can be as simple as this story told to me by a client: “I remember joining this several-billion-dollar company years ago right out of college, and I happened to see the CEO unexpectedly walk by my cubicle one day. I stood up, went out to him, and introduced myself. He asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and explained that I had just joined the company, and he said, ‘Well, keep up the good work.’ And then he made a point to stop at my cubicle months later when he happened by again.”

In talking with CEO and C-level executives, they tell me:

“Get noticed early in your career and preferably by the top people; that’s how you get anointed.”

“Unless you fight against it, in business you can become like a rock in the river, tossed, turned, and ending up pretty much like every other one.”

“Being visible is not going to every Starbucks and introducing yourself to everyone.”

“It’s not who you know, but who knows about you.”

“The best way to be visible is to tell others how great your team is. You must toot everyone else’s horn. And if you don’t have a good team, lie that you do, and then go change your team. The ones who tell me they are wonderful themselves always make me wonder if they are.”

– Debra

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

Photo: Brussels Airport Company employees

No. 33 – Physical Touch: A Little-Used But Powerful Tool for More Effective Communication

Physical touch is a communication tool few people take advantage of. It can help you bond and connect with people way beyond just communicating by dispensing data. Who doesn’t appreciate the positive recognition of a “pat on the back,” literally or figuratively?

And, yes, you can touch strangers as well as colleagues at a business event if you do it with the right attitude and technique.

One CEO told me, “Every time I meet someone new I give the person a bear hug. They relax and enjoy it or go catatonic, but they never forget it.” He went on to explain, “It lets them know right away that I’m an energetic partner in the conversation, I want to get to the heart of the matter right away, and I don’t want to waste time with useless formalities.”

Here are some tips on effective use of touch in a business context:

  • Reach out and touch the person you’re talking to on an acceptable part of the body: hand, forearm, elbow, shoulder, high back (nothing below the waist). Maintain physical contact for a split second as you speak directly to the person.
  • Place your hand and remove it in an equally purposeful and definite manner. Don’t be skittish; you look nervous and lacking confidence.
  • Relax, smile, and look as if you expect the other person to accept the touch with the intent that you gave it: supportive, encouraging, caring, and respectful.
  • Do not use touch with any intimate overtones. (This leaves out twerking.)
  • Be sensitive to the person’s reactions. Ask about the exchange if you sense discomfort, and immediately remedy any misunderstanding so they clearly understand your respectful intent.
  • Always put yourself in the other persons’ shoes and consider their reaction so you choose the right approach to begin with.
  • Be consistent. Use touch with men and women, young and old, the likeable and the not-so-likeable. You cannot just do it with the ones you know and like; that’s what gets you in trouble.
  • Above all, try it. You’ll never experience the positive impact unless you try it. Even if you’re skeptical about this, you may be amazed by the outcome.

If you refrain from reaching out and touching someone (appropriately) you’ll lose a valuable opportunity to connect and bond. Yes, I know that “touchy” and corporate policies instruct not to do it. Fact is, the most powerful leaders do it; they just do it well. And that’s what I want you to do: Do it well so as to be memorable, genuine, trusted, and appreciated.


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

RSS Feed

Recent Posts

View Older Posts

Debra Benton Discusses How to Exceed in Your Career