STEM is a national education trend, and the newer approach of STEAM (STEM plus Art) capitalizes on hands-on learning, innovation, and making an impact on the world. I’m proud to say my three-year-old grandniece is getting a head start in the math area. She was happily digging into a cupcake her dad gave her that was piled high with pink frosting and white sprinkles. When her mother asked her, “What’s the best part of your cupcake?” her response was “Two.”As you work on your own personal branding, it will pay to encourage your daughter to also. If she can get into a curriculum inside or outside of her school that emphasizes STEM, she’ll be ahead of the game.
At a time with so many ways to communicate in person and online, it’s a reasonable question: Can you over communicate? No, you can never over communicate. It’s similar to the daft expression people like to say, “You can never be too pretty, or have too much money.” How you communicate is what makes the difference. Effective leaders in any walk of life use questions instead of statements as their primary communication tool. They use inquiring words like “who…what…why…when…where…and how,” to find out what is important in a conversation 80% of the time, and pontificate or proclaim by way of statements merely 20% of the time. When you ask questions, be sure to phrase and deliver with an emotionally regulated tone of voice along with a relaxed, non-judgmental facial expression so the query is well received. “I was curious how the report turned out. Can you update me?” is much more effective than, said with a sneer, “Did you even remember to finally do the report?” Query to learn, engage, and let others shine. You don’t do it to interrogate, put a person into a corner, or be hostile. A key component of asking is to then listen to the answer. Even when you know the answer, it is important to ask people to get their reply--their point of view, first. You want to learn their thinking and test how close or far apart you are. If you want to influence people you don’t always have control over, you best find out what they want to achieve and what they want to avoid. By asking, you discover if and where there is a dangerous gap. The most powerful motivating question is “What do you want to steer clear of? When the dust settles, what don’t you want to have happen?” People are more motivated by a negative outcome than a positive one. If I called you at 3 a.m. and told you, “I bought you four new tires for your car,” you would receive the news less favorably than if I called you at 3 a.m. and said, “I was just driving by your house and I see some kids taking the tires off your car.” Avoiding losing your tires is more motivating than getting new ones — at least, at that time! One universal truism is that leaders stand out from the crowd. In an effort to communicate well — even if you were trained to give answers — you will positively stand out when you ask questions before giving answers, recommendations, and solutions.
Talking to a group of graduating MBA students going for their first job, I advised them that it’s important to seek out a good boss, not just a good job. So the question was asked, “What makes a good boss?” He (or she): -Tells you what he wants and doesn’t want in terms of work behavior; is clear, succinct, with no ambiguity -Does not judge or criticize your character or motive, only behavior -Gives “atta boy” pats on the back (literally and figuratively) when you do a job well -Curbs your behavior when you don’t do a job well by going back over as many times as necessary, “this is what I want, and this is what I don’t want” -Lets you make mistakes -Lets you correct the mistakes without reprisal so as to learn from the experience -Is as much focused on you doing well as on himself doing well -Is consistent in his behavior with everyone -Doesn’t lie, steal, or cheat How do you find out if you are going to have a good boss like that? Ask others about the boss if possible but also have the courage to directly question the potential boss yourself with: -How do you manage people? -What do you do if a subordinate is exceptionally good? -What happens when a subordinate makes a mistake? -What do you pride yourself in being especially good at? You have to ask in a conversational manner so as not to make the person uncomfortable. But if you don’t ask, you won’t know until it’s too late. I’d rather raise issues now and see their reaction. They will either be intrigued by your questions and therefore you, or they will be intimidated. Either way, you gather information that you need to know for you to decide if you want to work with that person.Even with that effort, the reality is that the best you can do is cross your fingers and say a prayer that you’ve got a good one.
You need to learn how you’re viewed by others so you can take action to change the view if necessary. So ask. Many companies provide some sort of 360-degree interview exercises to senior people — but don’t wait until it’s offered to you. Initiate your own version. When you do, be open to the results. Be careful not to become defensive. Here is a list of questions to work with:How well do I look for ways to meet or exceed customer needs?How well do I look for ways to meet or exceed manager’s needs?How well do I take a positive approach to business?How well do I work effectively with people in a wide variety of circumstances?How well do I analyze complex situations accurately and in a timely manner?How well do I minimize activities that do not add value to the organization?How well do I value others’ thinking; champion others’ thoughts?How well do I understand how to get things done in the organization?How well do I have in-depth industry knowledge?How well do I overcome obstacles?How well do I quickly act when I see an opportunity?How well do I demonstrate intellectual curiosity?How well do I make sure I can be counted on?How well do I remain in control when stressed or pressed?How well do I gain trust?How well do I admit responsibility for failures or mistakes?How well do I help others?How well do I follow through to get results?How well do I set a good example?How well do I see and understand the broad view of business?
You don’t want to ask in an anxious, aggressive, or intimidated manner. Just straight out seek the person’s opinion with genuine interest and inquisitiveness. Pick one or two questions to try with one person, ask others, and continue over time. If the person says something you don’t quite understand, ask for an example. Sometimes you have to ask the same question 3-4 different ways to help someone answer. Take note if any pattern emerges that is not productive for your career advancement and decide to do something about it. Thank the person for their candor and later report back to him and her as to what you’ve done following up on the feedback and the results you’ve experienced.
I was in a meeting with two executives discussing group training for some of their managers and department heads. In bursts a woman to inform one of the executives about a change in appointments. With rapid-fire words she explained the schedule change. Then as quickly as she had come in, she was gone. I asked, “Is she the assistant to one of the level I’ll be working with?” They smiled and said, “No, that’s who we report to!” Boy, was I wrong! My opinion was based on her appearance, a hasty nervous-looking person who zipped in and out with hunched over posture, saying nonverbally, “I’m not that important and I really shouldn’t be here, but…” Men and women up and down the ladder must slow down for efficiency and effectiveness. Harness your energy. One executive I know says he tries to “start out slow and taper off.” It’s difficult to master when you’re in a hurry. Slow down so you don’t stumble and so you don’t leave gaps. A big advantage of going slowly is that if you’re headed in the wrong direction, you won’t go too far before you realize it. Slowing down does not mean putting on the brakes, being lethargic, or squelching your energetic spirit. It means pacing. Pace yourself so you are fast enough but not frantic, so you have a quiet speed that makes you relaxed, calm, and trustworthy. Speed tends to make you appear unsettled, upset, flustered, confused, and suspicious. The actions of effective people do not seem rushed. The more time you give yourself, the more status people give you. As people around you speed up, try the opposite, slow it down. A client from a software company told me this story:"I always speak fast – on the telephone, in person, giving speeches – all the time. But I was in Germany recently and had to speak to a group through an interpreter. After every sentence I spoke, I had to pause and let the translator restate what I said. I was slower than I had ever been in my life. It made me very calm. My English-speaking manager came up to me later and said it was the best speech he’d ever heard me present. Many people in the audience came up and congratulated me also. Now when I speak, I just imagine someone is translating my words into their language and I slow down to let them catch up. I’ve found I’m much more effective."
A lot of people believe the busier they are the better they are. But if you want to be memorable, impressive, credible, genuine, trusted and liked, don’t “run around the track” for anybody. To get things done more quickly while slowing down, ask yourself, “If I had to leave town tomorrow for a month, what three things would I need to get done?” Do those three things. Controlled reaction thinking is the goal. Slow down your body, feet, and hands. Quick thinking is necessary, but pace your physical response. For practice, do a silent drill. Rehearse in your head what you’re going to say. Listen to how it sounds. Then speak accordingly. Slow down, let people wait a little. Whatever you say or do will be valued that much more. Try to do this silent drill at least once a day. By the way, this is incredibly difficult to do. We just blurt things out 90+ percent of the time. You don’t want to be viewed like one client, who was sent to me for coaching with this description: “He thinks he’s so thoroughly trained he doesn’t have to think before he speaks and acts. I can’t trust him, he’s so fast.” Slowing down does not mean you’re boring, listless, tedious, or lazy. It means doing things purposefully, like you intended to do it that way. It means patience, then acceleration, then patience. You see, 95 percent of business is waiting; waiting for the opportunity to do the right thing. If you’re going through life so fast, you’ll miss the chance to execute well. When you slow down, you buy yourself time and you can think things through. And when you think things through, you can give yourself the time of your life. When you slow down and think, you align attitude and action, and you appear calm and confident. You’ll feel more composed too. When you appear calm, people think you know what you’re doing. They think you must be right. They are much more likely to listen and follow you.
Recently I polled a number of people and asked, “what’s irritating about text messaging?” They told me when people:Text back-and-forth when a simple conversation in person or on the phone would be more efficientUtilize too many abbreviations or they use slang or nonwordsWrite back so quickly that I feel obligated to write back to them quickly; when they exaggerate the urgencyDon’t respondSend unimportant messagesDo noncritical texting during a meetingDrive and textSend information that I need to retainOveruse it and will communicate only this waySend long messages that should be put into e-mailsAssume I am available to respond 24/7 (they are obsessed with connectivity)Use bad grammarRead and respond to texts while I am talking to themLeave the notification sound on in public placesSend text messages that are so long, it takes two or three separate messages to transmitSo now that you are reminded it helps your communication if you refrain from doing those things.
Recently I polled a number of people and asked, “what’s irritating about e-mail?” They told me when people:Give no greeting or sign-offProvide incomplete informationSend messages that have typos and poor punctuation and sentence structuresPut quotes or sayings in their signaturesExpect a reply in five minutesAsk questions that can’t be answered in an e-mail and that require a phone callSound cold or inhumanWrite overly short, curt messagesSend long e-mails or send long e-mail chains that I have to go back into to get context while they write, “What do you think?”Don’t reread their words to determine if the wrong unwritten message was sentSend e-mails with mixed topicsUse subject lines that don’t reflect the e-mail’s contentRepeatedly put in the subject line “Please read” or “Urgent”Don’t use the addressee’s nameForward e-mails without askingDon’t respondSend something important via e-mail that deserves a phone call insteadSend an e-mail rather than having the courage to talk to me directlyType with bold, caps, wild fonts, or red textSit close by, but send an e-mail instead of getting up and stopping by my office to ask a questionGive one-word answers to complicated e-mailsDon’t bother to read the e-mail trail and respond blindlySend long e-mails without paragraphingDon’t include a phone number or any other optional contact informationLazily hit "Reply all" when individual, targeted responses are necessaryWrite in an emotional stateTake a tone in written form they’d never take in personWrite as if they were in an informal conversation instead of being engaged in business correspondenceUse abbreviations and emoticons
So now that you are reminded, it helps your communication if you refrain from doing those things.
Recently I polled a number of people and asked, “What’s irritating about video conferencing?” They told me it's irritating when people:Don’t acknowledge others on the other side of the monitorConstantly look bored or continuously check their cell phonesDon’t speak upUse a cell phone for the call, which is usually a poorer connectionJoin in lateDon’t set up pre-call arrangements, and end up having to spend call time dealing with equipment or call setup issuesInvite too many people to get on the videoHave poor backlighting and contrastTalk louder than necessaryAre not aware of their body languageDon’t smileHave a background that is too busy or distractingOn the other end start multi-taskingTalk over othersDon’t mute their phone when appropriateMove excessively in and out of viewMake statements like, “I know you probably can’t see this…” and then explain a graph or picture without giving details along with the point, i.e. “As you see here, the numbers are…” Summarize instead, i.e., “This graph shows a 30% growth rate.”Don’t pay attention, fidget with laptop and cell phonesOnly speak to folks in the room, not the people on the other side of the monitor, tooTalk all over each other because of time delayAre obviously having private side conversationsDon’t look at the camera; act stiffly around itShuffle papers noisilyDo not pay attention to personal appearanceDon’t operate the data systems correctlyEat or drink while on the callUse excessive hand gesturing
So now that you are reminded, it helps your communication if you refrain from doing those things.
They told me it's irritating when people:Such as my staff, co-workers, friends, etc. feel I should be connected all the timeAre multi-tasking, i.e. drivingUse the phone in inappropriate places — during a church service, funeral, formal settingTalk loudly in public places; or speaking loudly to compensate for bad reception – without consideration for others in the surrounding (train, subway, etc.)Leave their phone on the desk or dinner table like they are expecting a callConstantly check for callsCall me when there is a lot of background noise: traffic, walking downstairs, on stairmasterDrop calls because of bad signals; poor connections – reception fading in and outStay on longer than three minutesMumble; don’t speak clearlyJust start talking without asking if it’s a good time to talkTalk on the cell phone when interacting with other people, e.g. at the grocery store, in line at the bankDon’t tell you that you are on speaker phoneTalk but don’t listenAnswer a cell phone call during a meeting, conversation, while driving with youYell at other drivers or kids in the back seat when on the cell phone in the carDon’t allow time to respond when asked a question; talk over youAnswer in a nasty tone if the call came at a bad time for them, without accepting the fact that the person left the phone onMake irritating sounds: blow their noise, clear their throatHave loud ring tonesHave long conversations in public areas; people going on and on in general and when saying goodbyeCall me when they know I’ll be in the carTalk socially to me for long periods without consideration of my limited phone minutesSo now that you are reminded, it helps your communication if you refrain from doing those things.
One of the benefits of networking is that it’s a great way of improving your interviewing skills. The logic is simple. If you want to become a better actor,act. To become a better writer,write. And to become better at interviewing,interview.Networking conversations are like low-stress, high-impact, self-initiated interviews. By having lots of these mini-conversations when you aren’t under pressure, you get better at explaining what you want people to know about you. And the more you do it, the more skilled and focused you become. "But I hate small talk,” people sometimes protest. Then don’t engage in small talk. Talk about things of interest to you and others. One sure-fire way of feeding a conversation is to try todiscover what’s of keen interest to the other person, then talk more about that. Offer some helpful ideas. Don’t assume, “Oh, she’s probably already thought of that.” Maybe not. And of course you can steer the course of the conversation by inserting information about your own interests also. Pay attention to what people say. Care about what they say. Listen hard, and practice reading between the lines. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t said.” Another secret of effective networking isto give at least as much as you take. If you only take, you’ll get a reputation for that, and in time people will avoid you. If you give – especially if you give first, without knowing whether or not you’ll receive – people will be attracted to you. “An offer of reciprocity gets my attention,” says Alan Grafman, CEO of Modelwire. “It’s my personal secret to always ask the person I’m networking with, ‘How can I help you?’” Why not try this technique right now? Think of a couple of people that you know who might benefit from knowing each other. Call them up, and explain that you think so-and-so would be beneficial for him or her to meet. I recently wanted to use the professional services of an artist I know. I didn’t feel I could afford his top-drawer price, but I wanted his top-drawer work. So I explained that to him. I added, “I know you’re worth it, I just can’t afford it at this time.” Then I volunteered, “I know someone who could use your services. When we finish talking, I’ll call him and suggest that you two meet.” And I did. The second person then called and made an appointment with the artist to discuss some business. Later, the artist called me and said, “Thanks for the introduction. We’re meeting next week. And don’t worry about the price for your project, I’m going to give you what you need for a price you can afford.” The more you do to help someone else’s career, the more willing that person will be to help yours. You know the expression, “What goes around comes around.” With technology, what goes around comes around even faster. By the way, if you’re a “gray” – older than forty – make an extra effort to get to know and network with young people, who tend to be more in tune with new trends. In return, you can make the relationship mutually beneficial by providing insights and advice based on your years of experience in the business world. What if you find your efforts to network stymied by intense shyness or anxiety? Most of the time, you can reshape your behavior and thought patterns to control and overcome shyness. Everyone has some degree of social phobia; most people feel nervous meeting and talking to strangers. If you are excessively shy, you have to deal with it. The truest and best way is to understand that others experience it, too. Other people feel just as nervous as you do at times, maybe more so. So if you bravely act first and help those around you relax, you’ll get more out of your time together. This doesn’t mean you need to become a social butterfly to network successfully; it does mean that you can’t be lazy about making strong, diverse connections on an ongoing basis.
In Post No. 48 I wrote about the questions you will likely get asked in an interview. Now I’m suggesting the questions that you could and should be asking in the interview: • What kind of person do you want for this position? • What’s important about the person you hire? • How many people have held this position in the last two years? • Would you describe a typical workday and the things I’d be doing? • How does this job contribute to the company? • Is this department a profit center for the company? • Are sales up or down over the last year? • Where can someone in this job be promoted to? • How will success be measured in this position? • How long do you think it will take until you make a decision? While the interviewer is trying to find that out about you, you are trying to find out: • Is the company worth joining? • Do they have good products or services? • Do they have workable plans for the future? • Will I have a qualified, competent boss? • Will they support my growth and development? • Will they reward my efforts? • Will I be proud to work for them? • Will I make the money I want? Make sure people answer your questions, just like you answer theirs. If they give you a vague, general response, ask, “Can you give me an example?” Concentrate more on listening and grasping what they’re saying than on thinking ahead to what you are going to say next. When you get home after the interview, debrief yourself on what you learned and what you still need to find out.
In a job interview, they are looking to learn about your qualifications, of course, but also your “fit.” The questions behind their questions are: Is he lazy? Does she have common sense? Does he have fire in the belly? Is she qualified? Is he lying? Will she fit in? Will he embarrass me? So in addition to the standard questions asked in an interview: • Tell me about yourself. • Why are you interested in joining our company? • What do you see yourself doing three years from now? • What sort of money are you looking for? • What are your strengths and weaknesses? • Why do you feel you’re qualified for this job? • Why did you leave XYZ company? Expect more questions like: • What do you like to do in your spare time? • Ever have a disagreement with a boss? Why? Why not? What did you do about it? • Have you ever been fired? • If hired, how long would it take for you to make significant contributions to our company? • What do you expect from a boss? • How do you affect people? • If there was something you could change about yourself, what would it be and why? • How many hours are in your workday? • What makes you happy? Unhappy? • Talk about your failures. Tell me more. • Tell me about your best friend in high school. What would they say about you? • What should I know about you that we haven’t already discussed? Your interviewers are trying to learn about the person behind the credentials. Many people look good on paper or online, but face to face don’t meet the “will she fit it/will he embarrass me” criteria.
If you’re at the point in your career where you decide, “I don’t want to work for someone else anymore. I want to do my own thing, start my own business, be the boss—the CEO.” Good for you. You know what you want. But, a wish is nothing; action is everything. Venture capitalists tell me that they see, on average, 1,000 business plans a year and invest in only 8. The 8 are chosen as much for the idea as the founder and his or her leadership skills. So whatever job or role or level you are, start today to develop the leadership and generalist skills required in an effective leader. Although it takes specialist skill/knowledge to get to the top, once there you have to be the generalist running the whole show. So what are those generalist leadership skills that venture capitalists look for? You: -Know a niche where you can produce stellar results. -Will take the initiative to do whatever it takes (that’s legal, moral, and ethical!) -Never think you are smart enough or know enough. You crave more information from everyone and anything and soak it up like a sponge. -Have a fire in the belly to sustain you through rejections and setbacks and mistakes – because there will be many. -Think, act, and look confident so that people will follow you. You believe in yourself, but back it up with preparation and homework. -Are utterly trustworthy. (If you don’t have this, you have nothing.) -Listen more than you talk, but when you do speak you are clear, concise, and contribute something of value. -Are decisive and fearless to address tough issues. You don’t hesitate to strike out and do what needs to be done. -Don’t spend/waste time on the wrong issues. -Seek candid feedback early and often, and then do something about it. -Cause people to want to be around you by doing all of the above; follow you when they don’t need to. -Develop people around you. (You can’t move on to bigger things if you don’t have a backfill.) -Are willing to be a tireless cheerleader and coach 24/7. (Remember the first rule of starting your own enterprise: You are in sales.) -Keep your personal life in check – it’s what matters at the end of the work day. Before you become CEO of an organization be sure you are CEO of your Life. Do not let anyone else be in charge of your development; you are in charge. What’s cool is that you can home school yourself on being a leader instead of waiting for any big organization’s institutional rigor to click in. In fact, you can’t wait. Starting today, take on your own authority to think and act like the owner, the top boss, the CEO; do it regardless of your current job and title. Prepare before you leap, but then have the guts to actually leap. Do it for yourself, your family, your career, your future, your organization, your team, your life, and your legacy. You will work harder than you ever have in your life, and it will be worth it.
To write The CEO Difference: How to Climb, Crawl, and Leap Your Way to the Next Level of Your Career (McGraw-Hill, Feb. 2014), I asked over one hundred CEOs and C-suite executives these three questions:What causes someone to positively stand out in your eyes?What do you look for in people you promote?And, what did you do in your career to get to the top?
The answers from those 100-plus interviews can be summarized into six words:
Learn how to exceed among exceeders.
You see, others are working just as hard as you with goals and dreams of success just like you. If you want to be über-marketable and have a potent impact, while staying ahead of hyper competitive colleagues — not only in your own company but also outside of it — you have to set yourself apart from every other overachiever to whom you compete. People who excel always do things different and better. Why?
That’s how your boss chooses among comparably talented people to promote.
There can be many benefits to switching jobs. Moving to another company is likely to bring you a bigger and quicker raise and perhaps an opportunity for promotion. And many people find it stimulating and refreshing to periodically take on new challenges, new surroundings, and new colleagues. There’s an excitement about changing jobs that can be a bit intoxicating. The first few weeks at the new company often feels like the early days of a new romance. You’re “the new kid on the block” and everyone is curious about you and interested in you. You and your new co-workers haven’t yet had the chance to learn about one another’s shortcomings. Everything you say and do is observed hopefully and optimistically. By contrast, “sticking it out” in a job you’ve held for some months or years can feel stifling, boring, and oppressive. The excitement of the early weeks has long since vanished, and in its place is routine work that often seems like drudgery. You’ve had a chance to discover your company’s and colleagues’ flaws, and they’ve learned about all of yours. As a result, it’s easy to start daydreaming about the next job. We all have days when we want to “chuck it all” and escape to a new job – any job. But that feeling alone usually isn’t a good reason to do it. Remember, job changes have a downside, too. There’s always a cost and risk involved in shifting companies, industries, and career tracks; it’s never possible to be absolutely certain that your new position will really be better than the familiar one you’re leaving. And there’s a definite psychological, emotional, and physical cost attached to the personal upheaval of changing jobs. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for change with a purpose. But you need to really understand your motivations in order to make an intelligent and successful job switch. The best way to decide whether to stay or go is to ask yourself some serious questions that can help you focus on whether or not leaving your current job makes sense for you. Check how many of these can be answered with “yes”: 1. My job offers me real opportunities to expand my career horizons and job skills. 2. In my job, I spend at least half of my time doing work I’d like to do more of in the future. 3. My job offers significant upside potential for advancement. 4. My job offers me the opportunity to meet and work with interesting people from whom I can learn a lot. 5. My job gives me the opportunity to manage my own work and take responsibility for the results. 6. The people I report to know and value me and my work. 7. The people I report to are known and valued by those to whom they report. 8. Most days, my job is fairly interesting. 9. My job lets me live and work in a geographic location that I am happy with. 10. I am paid the kind of salary that I feel is fair and that satisfactorily covers my personal needs. 11. There are significant opportunities for advancement in other departments or divisions of my company. 12. My employer offers benefits (health care, vacations, retirement plan, etc.) that meet my needs. 13. My working conditions are reasonably comfortable for me. 14. I like the products and services my company produces. 15. I am proud to be associated with the policies and ethical standards my employer represents. If you can't say “yes” to a majority of these, you may need to consider changing jobs. But whether you choose to stay or go, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it just because “everyone else is doing it,” because you’ve been in one place for three or four years, because it will look good on your resume, because you can’t get along with certain people you work with, or just because your husband, wife, or best friend is pushing you to move. Don’t do it for any reason that does not fit your long-term career goals.
This is a bright young man: Jose. He emailed me to ask about coaching. He explained he’s not at a high enough level for the company to invest in him this way but he was willing to pay out of his own pocket. He said, “Since starting my career, I’ve learned how do good work, to shine, to look good, to have the answers, and to say all the buzzwords…but I need more to become all I can be.” He couldn’t put his finger on it exactly but he saw it in the people I write about in my books, so he decided to contact me. What a treat to get to advise that attitude. Frankly, it’s refreshing. Old or young, male or female, black or white, too many times people mistakenly think, “If I just get smarter, that will get me ahead.” Once competence is there, the difference maker to move up is 80% leadership style and 20% more competence. The effective leadership style that is the differentiator is not in how you shine, do good, look good, or even have the answers — it’s how you communicate, deal with, and influence others so that they shine, do good, look good and have the answers, too. That’s what this smart young man was looking for. Leadership is quite simple: It’s not just the productivity you provide but the productivity you cause others to provide. That’s how you simultaneously get pushed up from below and pulled up from above in your career to leapfrog ahead of your competition.
You should have humor as part of your personal branding – but make sure your humor fits the situation: Choose the right time and place to use suitable, relevant, and brief wittiness. Still, if in doubt, go for it. Good people will be grateful for your attempt to put them at ease. To ratchet up your quick wit: do or say something unexpected, present a paradox, give an anecdote, state an odd fact or outlandish detail, or simply cleverly arrange your words to offer a surprise. One business journal writer took the slogan “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and cleverly titled his blog post, “What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness.” That’s good humor. And don’t use sarcastic, corny, or slapstick humor. Light self-deprecating humor is good because it doesn’t offend anyone. It’s also an offensive move because it prevents someone else from throwing the first punch at you. Self-deprecating is okay, but never deprecate others. Also, don’t overdo your self-deprecating as this may signal a low self-esteem or other undesirable traits. Yes, there is a risk in using humor as there is in everything else. Every once in a while your attempt at levity will fall flat. Sometimes you don’t express the funny side well, or whomever you're speaking to may have his mind elsewhere and you caught him off guard—or you just weren’t that amusing. Your attempt might have been too esoteric, sardonic, sarcastic, mean, nasty, bizarre, or just not understood and people will not laugh out loud. Do not let past misjudgments inhibit you from trying better the next time. Rethink your choice of levity, but do not stop the use of it. Your wit doesn’t have to make others chortle, or generate the kind of laugh that makes them have to cross their legs, but it’s good to at least cause a gentle smile. If you make your conversation or messages boring from a lack of good cheer you will not be first choice or taken as a serious and powerful contender. A C-suite executive who lost favor with the CEO was described, “He talks too fast, doesn’t smile enough, and had no sense of humor.” Now there were other factors that led to his downfall, but that was the sentence said to the board. Sometimes having good-natured humor is more important than the right answer, decision, approach, look, or response.
A photo is around a long time, especially when transmitted around the world via social media. Although it looks like they do, good “spontaneous" photos don’t just happen. You need to think it through in advance so you have the photo readiness – not the photophobia – that delivers the message you want. Years ago I saw comedian George Carlin during a promotion tour of one of his books. When people asked to be photographed with him he agreed, and in every shot would hold his hand in a “thumbs up” gesture toward the other person. It instantly animated the photo plus maintained the self-esteem of the person by making it look as though Carlin was giving him or her thumbs up. A friend of mine talked about her friend Carly Fiorina, “During Hewlett-Packard negotiations Carly didn’t want to be photographed, but she was aware that she was anyway. She held her head high and maintained a slight smile, so that when it happened it turned out favorably.” Later I read a quote from Fiorina: “I’m a very deliberate person. It doesn’t mean I’m infallible. But deliberate. Very little happens by accident.” If you're going to be photographed, you might as well take deliberate action to ensure the photo sends the message you want. Reality stars with their selfies admit to taking several hundred shots at various angles, with different lighting, changes of clothing, and numerous facial expression try-outs before the one they select gets posted. So whenever you’re going to take a photo or selfie size up the area and move to where the photo has better background and lighting. Light facing you, not behind you, is better so that you don’t look “shady.” At a business event men could button their coat jacket to appear neater and conceal excess stomach hanging out. Turn at a slight angle; it’s more flattering to the camera’s eye than straight on. Have an arm bent at the waist slightly away from your sides (like you were holding a drink but don’t be holding a drink!) to look relaxed, even though it doesn’t seem more relaxed. Don’t hold a glass in your hand, even if it’s water. To the photo viewers you’re a “drinker,” a party person. It becomes your “history” because it’s in print, and it sticks in their heads. They wouldn't say the cliche, “a photo is worth a thousand words” if it wasn’t true. Reach out and touch another person in the photograph, if possible (appropriately, of course). But keep your posture erect, and don’t slump or lean on someone or something. Widen your eyes, make your neck longer, but also lower your chin and put your head like sliding it on a shelf so the photo shot isn’t up your nose. Push your face forward slightly to jump into the picture. Keep your head level. Look the photographer in the eye (even though you can’t really see the person’s eyes). The famous paparazzi, Ron Galella, said, “Eye contact makes for a good picture.” Have a comfortable smile and engage your eyes. If it’s a formal setting with a professional photographer think through what you want as a finished photo; don’t just rely on the photographer posing you. Prior to the session review business publications you read and pay attention to photographs of executives. Think how different poses, dress, backdrops, and so on affect you. Tear out and give samples of the ones you’re impressed with to the photographer. It’s more efficient for him or her to see what you have in mind.
When Richard Maracinko, author of several books on the NAVY SEALs, shakes hands, he uses two. The left is to check your pulse to see if you’re nervous meeting him, and then he acts accordingly. A famous restaurant owner in New York lets people know what their status is with her based on her choice of greeting: Newcomers get a nod of the head, semi-regulars get a handshake, regulars get a peck on the cheek, and a favored few get a stand-up kiss and hug. Probably better than a TIME magazine article reported on a tribe in Papua, New Guinea, where men meet each other with a genial clasping of each others' genitals instead of a handshake. The Center for Nonverbal Studies reports on the “latest” touch to seal the deal: the bump. That’s what Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard was fond of doing during her days at the helm. Haven't seen her do it with Donald Trump, though! Say you choose to stick with the traditional good mutual handshake: Start with your good posture when approaching the person. Pause before you reach out so as not to get too close too soon. Plus, it makes the handshake gesture feel special and directed to the person. Clasp palm to palm. Women should pay particular attention to not letting their fingers be what the person grasps. Palm to palm helps avoid squishy shakes or painful ones with your fingers squashed. Hold on a split second longer than necessary. Three pumps versus one. Retrieve your hand. Check your distance: eighteen inches in New York, twenty four inches in Cheyenne. You’ll be disliked instantly if your distance is wrong. Adjust if necessary. You can put your left hand on the person’s wrist, elbow, shoulder, or even hug. Pelvises don’t touch. Clavicles can. Bad technique is too sweaty, far away, close, late in release, early in the release, high, low, many pumps, or few pumps. The two-handed shake, hug, backslaps, pats on the back, pat on one cheek while kissing the other, bumps, grasps can be done with anyone at anytime based on the effect you want. If you want to avoid being the recipient of a hug or hand kiss, get your arm/hand out on your approach. The person may still try it, but you’ve set the stage for the stiffer arm shake, and you’ll more likely succeed in getting it. While you avoid the physical contact you don’t wish to engage in, you still have to maintain the person’s self-esteem and not leave the other person feeling rebuffed. There are times you do not want to bond with the shaker. And you choose to do the opposite: Give a brief, brusque, flea-flicker shake, with no eye contact. Everything depends on the effect.