Introductions

What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.

How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others.  But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness. 

I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.

But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?

A lot.

Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives. 

So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"

My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:

  • Nothing
  • Not much
  • Keeping my head above water
  • Busy. Very busy
  • Same ole same ole
  • Nothing to complain about
  • Nada mucho, how about you?

You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.

Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?

We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.

"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that--"Nothing" is simply not true.

So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?  You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to---Negative or positive. 

So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing. 

So now change the setting to an interview.  Are your answers different? Of course.

How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?

How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?

How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client? 

The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do. 

The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.

Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment! 

Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!

Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.

Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading--anything and everything is available to mention.

I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?

You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help--besides yourself?!

Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing? 

I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers--anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs--How do you answer the question: "What's new?"

This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.

Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.

What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.

Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.

Thanks for reading. John


Help Other People Get What They Want

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.  Zig Ziglar

(If you don't know who Zig is, research him, read him, listen to him. We lost him late last year. He was one of the greatest motivational speakers ever.) Zig

People who don't understand this quote do not understand the true power of their lives--they do not understand the power of a networking lifestyle. I have met thousands of people who think networking is a process of take and give. For these people they loathe networking because it feels so disingenuous. But Zig has captured it perfectly in his quote. You help other people get what they want first and you get everything. Skeptical?

Networking is always about giving without an expectation.

It's not about you, it is about WE. 

It is turning off the most popular radio station in the world WII-FM. What's In It For Me. When that station dominates the thinking process you will never get what you want or you will settle for short term gains that are neither sustainable or rewarding.

We want the same things. We want a sense of purpose. We want health and well-being. We want happiness and fulfilment. We want meaningful relationships. And we want to be financially comfortable. 

When we see our selves as helping others, we achieve all of these things. We see our connection to one another. We see that our destinies are tied together. That our purpose, our health, well-being, our relationships and ultimately our financial success is linked. Sure if you just want money this is the worst strategy. Focusing on money first inevitably means that some or all of the other things you want will suffer. 

Yes, you should be compassionate to others who have less and you should give generously of your time and resources to others in need. But I am talking about your network. So besides responding to requests for help affirmatively, what do you do to help others--people in your network.

Here are fundamental ways you can help others in your network. Four proactive ways that strengthen your connections. These are habits that the best networkers practice.

  1. Refer: Send information about potential clients, partners, vendors to your network. Refer people directly to them. Connecting people that can help one another. Everyone is grateful for a warm reference for a service provider. Be the Yelp for your friend network.
  2. Share: Send your network articles, research, and books that you think will advance their thinking for their businesses, careers, and avocations. Amazon loves me. I send out a couple books a week. Few things can link people like a book that can be shared. 
  3. Compliment/Congratulate: Send notes, posts, and tributes to people for no specific reason except that you were thinking about them. This is more random than birthdays, Xmas and new jobs. Send them a note about good things you have heard or how you refer to them to others. I make dozens of donations every year "in honor of the leadership and commitment of ______"--I send it to the favorite charity of people in my network. People are hungry for compliments, especially from a friend or someone they respect. I was asked in an icebreaker once "who my hero was". I did not hesitate I said the principal at my kids' school. She was a force for good. I later told her what I said. This was twenty years ago. I recently saw her by chance and the first thing she said to me was how much that story meant to her.
  4. Introduce: One of the most powerful things you can do is introduce people to one another. Not a romantic matchmaker but a connector of human spirits that could help one another. Different than referrals, this is the active process of linking people in your network to one another. One of our roles as networkers is to make the world smaller. So introduce people at receptions, at meetings, and online. Be a connector. 

If you go out looking for friends, you're going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere. Zig Ziglar

Like everything, your perspective matters most. If you see making friends as a hassle and time consuming and distracting from your real goals, then you will not have complete success. If you see the world as a bunch of potential friends and connections, then you will meet many people and your life will be richer. And when you help those people proactively, then your life will reward you in all the ways you want. 

Choose the lifestyle of networking and helping others and you will get everything you want.

Thanks for reading. John


Insurance of Your Pre-existing Network

I was talking to my relatives in Italy. We were comparing notes on the relative (no pun intended) virtues of our countries. Since they have lived in both countries, they had an advantage in evaluating both. My cousin's wife said, "you have the pursuit of happiness and we have the guarantee of health. She asked, How do you pursue happiness without your health? Here's what the Italian Constitution says:

The Republic safeguards health as a fundamental right of the individual and as a collective interest, and guarantees free medical care to the indigent.

Here was the interesting part for me. When you have a pre-existing condition in Italy you will get medical treatment/care for life! The exact reverse of what we think in the US. A pre-existing condition is a bad thing. It is to be avoided. It will trigger exclusions of your insurance, especially if you change jobs. In Italy, as it relates to insurance and medical treatment, a pre-existing condition is a good thing. It assures you and your family that you will have the medical care you need.

Not here to debate these systems, but perspective is a powerful tool.

Clearly when you have insurance, you have confidence. When you have confidence, you have courage. When you have courage you have the opportunity to become fulfilled and happy.

Each of us has pre-existing conditions of our lives. We have to accept the facts, idiosyncrasies, and attributes of our lives. Sometimes we think of these things as liabilities, as things we should hide or ignore. We know that every liability can also be an asset. One of the most overlooked assets is our pre-existing network of friends and family. It is an under-utilized resource. We seek the new over the tried and true. Why? As Seth Godin says, we tend to like the shiny over the known. Like the youthful and naive sales rep who thinks new customers are the only source of a strong business. We know that most business comes from our existing base of customers and connections. And you gain the new connections through the existing ones--we usually call this word-of-mouth. For some reason we ignore this logic when it comes to our careers.

Connecting with people we know is so much easier --People with whom we have a relationship. But human nature is to think we already know them, when it is virtually certain we do not--because we have not engaged them in the specifics of our quests. We are seeking connections to opportunities at companies, employers, people who are doing what we want to do etc. It is truly amazing who people know and how they know them. Tennis partners, church goers, school parents, college roommates, neighbors, colleagues......never underestimate the breadth of another's network and therefore your pre-existing one.

Your desire to redefine your life, get a new job, go back to school or start something should push you back into your existing contacts. Fewer excuses to talk to people you know. Almost everyone procrastinates meeting new people, because it takes effort and overcoming fear. But talking to people you know to be introduced to who they know is easy and even fun. Don't make this an All About Me mission. You catch up with people, you offer to help them and you engage them in your objectives. Plus your network wants to help you. And you want to help them.

The key is being introduced. Never just get a contact from someone. Always get your contact to introduce you through email or a phone call. Warm hand offs eliminate cold calling.

Your best and most effective insurance plan for the health of your future lies in your pre-existing network. It is a great source of confidence and courage. Mine it. Explore it. Strengthen it. It will help you advance your goals, expand your network, and reconnect you with people you care about.

Thanks for reading. John


5 Micro Habits to Renew Your Networking

We all know how important small things are. Chaos theory asserts how tiny movements create tsunamis. Just think about an atomic bomb. Or consider our DNA. Or the March of Dimes. Think about the advancements in nano-technology. Or micro lending. Little things matter. We ignore these small things at our peril. The details of life. We know how our daily lives are made up of thousands of assumptions, perceptions, and habits that keep us going or hold us back.

Recently, I went through a series of video golf lessons that revealed micro habits and physical aspects of my swing that I did not know were there. Things I felt were the exact opposite of what the video showed. Once I reconciled that my perceptions and feelings were wrong, I could alter my swing. 

We can't see what we are doing or not doing.

There are zillions of examples how micro things can lead to changes or challenges if unattended or ignored. Making a change, getting better at something requires a series of changes in habits, assumptions, and muscle and neural memory. Change it up

In other words, new habits require the breaking of old ones. And at the micro level, you have to be aware of what you do or don't do.

In our minds we have figured things out. We think we are doing things well or the best we can. We are in control of what we do and who we are. If we stop and think about it, we know we are deluding ourselves. Our lives are made up of of thousands of routines that are reflexive and non-thinking moments of reaction. We are constantly disconnected from our consciousness while reality is ignored. Again, like the way I thought my golf swing was dramatically different from my real golf swing.

Sorry I left the planet of concreteness there for a second. I am getting to a point. :) In order to advance your life and your career you need to confront and understand your habits, your micro habits.

HR consultants say they can tell a good resume from a bad one in 8 seconds. Executive recruiters say they can size up a candidate in the first 30 seconds. Scientists tell us that we form an opinion about another person in 100 milliseconds by just seeing their face.

Your face is worth a thousand words. But what does it say? 

So let's consider how you make the initial connection with people. What do you do? What do you say? What does your face say? What is your body language communicate? Sorry to make you self-conscious but taking an inventory by answering these questions is important. 

I am asserting here that you need to adopt several new micro habits to shift your self awareness and your networking---and ultimately your life.

Here are 5 micro networking habits that will change your life, get you to enjoy and appreciate networking and your ability to do it.

  1. Say Hello--You get on the elevator. You meet eyes with someone at the grocery store. You sit next to somebody on a plane. Whereever you are acknowledge the other with a "hello" or a "Good morning." It connects the world for that moment. And often a brief conversation ensues. Force yourself to greet and acknowledge strangers.
  2. Smile more--Really this is a huge change. You think your face always looks pleasant and even happy? Wrong. Not a request to plaster a fake clown face on your mug. My favorite is people who say they are "glad to meet me" with a frown and a scowl. :)When you greet people, when you meet people, smile! Watch the other person's face when you smile, it's contagious. You have a great smile use it! It makes others feel comfortable and it opens up the world. 
  3. Introduce yourself differently-- Don't just mumble robotic words that no longer mean anything to you. Think about a way that engages people and invites conversation. I call this your BIT--Brief Inroductory Talk. Most people provide no energy, no information and no invitation to talk. Don't just utter name, rank and serial number. Reveal something about why you are here. Recently I met a guy that had "Dr." on his nametag. I said, "Nice to meet you Dr. so and so." He said, "I am a medical doctor but now I run a business training immigrants." He anticipated my question about his mdeical profession and gave me a huge opening. I met a woman the other day who said, " Hi I am a lawyer and a soccer Mom." 
  4. Reconnect with someone you care about--This is so easy. Call or send an e-mail to someone you know and like, but with whom you have disconnected. Schedule it. You are not too busy!! I guarantee that your reconnection will be fulfilling and worthwhile.
  5. Say Yes--The next time someone asks you to go somewhere, to meet someone, to experience something new--say Yes! Get out of your routine and  experience new things and meet new people. Don't make excuses to preserve your convenience or your routines. Everyone says they are spontaneous, but they aren't. They prefer plans and limited risk. 

The point here is taking little steps of progress can lead to huge changes. I know this seems simple and intuitive.  Break some little habits and start some new ones. Just try it. New intentional habits lead to new experiences and opportunities. Little changes can push yourself further and further down these paths to connect and reconnect. 

Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible. St Francis of Assisi 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Networking at the Conference

No matter what industry or professional association I have been affiliated with, I have heard this refrain: "best thing about the conference was the networking". While we hope to be inspired and informed by the sages on the stages, by colleagues on panels and or by well known speakers--it rarely happens. Truth is our needs as a conferee are unique. We represent organizations that are different sizes and shapes and in different ages and stages of development. So it is no surprise that the "general sessions" of a conference never quite meet our needs.Conferences

It is It the hallway conversations and informal exchanges that often yield the most value. "Networking" becomes the best source to answer questions, get recommendations, learn new and different ways of doing business that APPLY to our circumstances. Meeting colleagues from across the state or country also gives you resources that you can tap into later. Most important, networking can be fun. Meeting different and new people who care about the same things with interesting perspectives strengthens your sense of belonging to your professional community of work.

So if you don't actively network at the conference, save some money, time and angst--stay home.

The best networking and the easiest networking is at conferences. Conferences bring us together so that we can literally get out of our boxes, reflect on our roles, challenges, and opportunities and ultimately get injected with a bit of new fuel to keep our motors running.

Funny thing, is while "networking" is the consensus greatest benefit from conferences, only a small subset of the attendees develop and execute a networking plan---except the vendors and exhibitors ;)

You have to remember to stick your hand out and introduce yourself. You are in warm and safe waters. Jump into the conference networking pool with both feet!

For non-profit industries and conferences there is a huge advantage and difference from the for-profit world. Many years ago I was on the national board of CASE, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. When I first learned about CASE, I asked a colleague what it stood for. He told me, "Copy And Steal Everything!" I laughed, but realized quickly that in non-profit land we really were not competitors that had secrets. In fact it was the exact opposite, if you asked people they would give you everything. I learned that if you reciprocated in sharing, people would open up their minds and their hard drives! One of many reasons I have returned to the non-profit world.

Let's assume you are reading the trade publications, you follow the industry trends, you know who the leaders are (both individual and organizational), and of course you know well what you and your organization needs. And you are not one of these conferees who just goes to "see what happens." As in everything, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as Coach Wooden would say.

Here are a few tips on how to maximize the networking benefit from your next conference:

  1. Shopping list: Write down a menu of items you are shopping for. Things you need to understand better. Trends you want to learn about. Solutions to challenges you face. Use this menu to evaluate your session attendance. Evaluate this list while at the conference and certainly when you return.
  2. Your BIT: Your brief introductory talk--your BIT--how you introduce yourself matters. Yes, name rank and serial number, but it could also include your needs and interests. For example, "Hi I am so and so from such and such." (firm shake hand and smile) "What were you hoping to get from this conference?"  "I am really trying to find out who could help me with (subject), do you have any suggestions?" At the very least it will start a conversation. Engaging people in your quest and listening to theirs is always beneficial.
  3. Help others: The copy and steal everything world for non-profits or the sharing of great insights in for-profit circles only works if you reciprocate. You share and others will. The marketplace of meaningful networking exchanges depends on your willingness to assist.
  4. Benevolent stalking: These are thought leaders, innovators, achievers, or just plain interesting people you want to meet and or pick their brains. First, are these folks speaking/presenting? Who do you know who knows them? Ideally you would introduce yourself BEFORE the conference through a colleague or even a cold e-mail, to say you want to connect at the conference. You will be surprised how few people do this kind of prep and how receptive people are even to coldish e-mail intros. So you might even attend a session where the topic is less interesting than the speakers to hear what they have to say and possibly connect before or after they speak.
  5. Out of your comfort zone: Don't just mingle with your colleagues from your shop or people you already know. While there will always be benefits from that type of easy socializing, you could do that at other times. Meet people at every session you attend. Meet people at every event. Don't get so caught up in your list and menu that you don't connect with the person next to you. Make it a point to meet new and different people along the way.
  6. Take notes:Write down the names of people you meet and what was discussed or promised. Use the business card as your notecard or your smartphone to record a few words to jog your memory. Nothing worse than a pocket full of cards you don't recall. I refer to this as the cardboard network!
  7. Three foot networking: Meet anyone within 3 feet of you! I have learned over and over and over again, that you don't know who you are standing or sitting next to. Greet people, say hello and introduce yourself. Serendipity is powerful. Remember the object is not quantity it is always quality. Take some time to listen and connect. And if you click or find some commonality, you can reconnect later.
  8. Follow-up: Don't just collect cards and file them. Inevitably you promise people you will send them things. Others made promises to you. You heard several great speakers that piqued your interest and you could contact them to chat or get more info. You met a few interesting and nice people with whom you hope to stay connected. Send them a quick e-mail note. Do all of this in the first day or so when you return, before the work world you left gets its revenge! 

So yes, conferences are great places to network, IF you network! If you do a little planning, focus on your needs, help others, and also push yourself to make connections, then the conference will deliver on its networking promise.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Meetings that network

Like all of you, I attend a lot of meetings! Meeting are a necessary evil in our lives. We have to get together to discuss, brainstorm, report, decide, and to share. But do they have to be "evil"? No one starts, leads or participates in a meeting with the intent of wasting time, but more often than not it happens.

A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted. -Captain James T Kirk

I have been in, led, and endured thousands of meetings. I am guilty as anyone on not doing my part to make that experience more meaningful. I can not go into all the ways that an effective meeting should be run or organized. Most often the number one benefit of a successful meeting is the networking. I want to focus on this networking and relationship opportunity we can miss when we meet.Nice meet you

Just in the last week I attended face to face (F2F) meetings, an online/teleconference meeting, and a purely telephonic meeting. Not referring to regular check-in meetings that by their nature must be highly transactional, but periodic gatherings to get ideas and push an agenda.

I traveled 14 hours roundtrip and stayed overnight for 7.5 hours of meeting. So basically 3 hours of travel to 1 hour of meeting. So you would expect the payoff to be great. Let me be clear, the value of F2F is immeasurable in establishing and nurturing trust. Online and virtual relationships and work are definitely enhanced when anchored to good F2F time. I also attended a kick-off meeting for an event and both a quarterly and a semi-annual board meeting. As I said I attend a lot of meetings. In all three of these meetings people traveled great distances and took out time from their busy lives as volunteers. It's a very different story if one is being paid for their time.

The single biggest benefit of bringing people together is strengthening the network. Strengthening the sense of commonality, community and camaraderie. We all know once these virtues are emboldened then cooperation and productivity go up. We all know that we need to do "the work" but we want to gain perspective and learn a few things too. We constantly yearn for new intellectual connections that help us think about what we do and why.

In my humble opinion, I think meetings that network need to have these basic components:

  1. Introductions--More than the business card and name rank and serial number. A little something that gives insight and background that would help the members connect. Ice breakers for even the long serving of groups can reveal new connections. Amazing who you know who you don't know.
  2. Connections--Time for people to informally talk without the gavel and the chair. Over meals, or in an activity--time for the most powerful networking.
  3. Perspectives--Brief report outs from every member on the the best and worst things about their professional and personal worlds. This is a timed and well moderated session.
  4. Reflection--A very brief wrap-up session (30-60 seconds each)that allows for quick observations from every member about the quality of the meeting and insights gained.

So let me rate 2 of the meetings I attended based upon the quality of the networking.

Meeting A was a full day of discussions and actions. It was a day filled with great conversation and decisions. An "effective" meeting that did little for networking.

  • No ice breaker or intro exercise
  • No sharing of perspectives
  • Good informal networking time with a small group break out activity
  • No reflection at all

1 networking point---Weak networking meeting

While people appreciate the efficiency and effectiveness of this meeting, they wanted a bit more humanity and connection without wasting time. A tall order, but one that has to be at least sought.

Meeting B was another full day that may have been even more successful and effective than Meeting A. I would say that this was due to the investment into and integration of the networking.

  • Ice breaker that revealed surprising commonalities and differences
  • No sharing of perspectives
  • Good informal networking over meals that were not programmed
  • Reflection time which provided ideas and momentum for the future

 3 networking points---Strong networking meeting

If we meet then lets network.

In designing, chairing and participating in meetings think about the value of networking. Making connections advances "the work", gives us valuable insights, and justifies our extraordinary investment of time.

Thanks for reading. John


Chances are not your enemies, they are your change.

As I try to preach and practice: Make every effort to meet people. Go to events and gatherings with an open mind and most times you will encounter fascinating people. People who will reveal  something new to you about yourself. And more often than not, these ideas and people create opportunities in your mind and in your life. The opposite is even more true. When you limit yourself by not meeting people, hearing different perspectives, and ultimately not developing options and opportunities, your life can be so much less interesting and fulfilling.

I am invited to so many events or gatherings that my immediate instinct is to try and bail and to just go home and veg. The gravitational pull of a quiet night on the couch is powerful. But I try to remind myself of the incredible things I have seen, learned, and been inspired by, if I just elude the nearly overwhelming feelings of resistance. And every time I do, something happens. Chance-change

Last Thursday night was no different. I was out of town and flew home after a full day of meetings and travel. Somehow I agreed to a dinner on the other side of town that evening. As I was making my way from the parking lot to the restaurant, I was kicking myself for not saying "no". All the way into the restaurant I kept thinking, "How can I leave early?" "How can I get out of this?" Negative thoughts were darkening my mind and my outlook.

I break out of my foggy darkness to see my host Ted Habte-Gabr, who by the way I reconnected with a couple of months ago. Ted and I met in the good ole dot com days when he was running an extraordinary venture called Fathom and I was trying to advance the field of online education. We met in NY in what later was a failed strategic alliance. Lost touch with Ted for 10 years until he showed up on my radar screen and FB the end of last year. I remembered I was going to meet his girlfriend Lisa Napoli and learn more about newish book Radio Shangrila, her personal journey of self discovery in Bhutan. I smiled because I realized that my negativity was to be once again reversed!

I ask Ted where Lisa is. He looks at my quizzically and says she's back east promoting her book. And before I can digest this bit of off-putting news, Ted pulls me into a group and introduces me to Phil Bredeson, the former Governor of Tennessee (completed his second term 4 weeks ago). I am handed the Governor's new book Fresh Medicine. The black birds of regret return to my cranial roost and I begin to think about my exit again. How did I get into this situation? 225px-Governor_Bredesen

7 of us dined with the Governor and I quickly realized what a privilege it is to talk to somebody who was running a state , even one as distant from my world as the Volunteer State.

Over some very good food I heard another great American story of a boy who grew up in a small rural town in upstate NY and developed a healthcare company. He sold this company at the age of 46 and could have retired, but looked for new challenges. He followed his new wife and crossed the Mason Dixon line and moved to Tennessee. He decided he could run for office and apply his considerable business skills to politics. He becomes the mayor of Nashville on his second attempt and is easily re-elected. He runs for Governor in 1994 and loses. He runs again in 2002 and wins by a narrow margin. In 2006 he wins with almost 70% of the vote in a landslide. What is remarkable about this story, there are many things, but the fact that a "northerner" can move into a state, become mayor of one of its most prominent cities in less than 5 years after moving there! And then Governor!

Governor Bredeson is a humble guy. He has no aires or pretensions. In many ways, the anti-politician. What you see is what you get. He explained that his rural upbringing helped him relate to people at the  "Waffle Houses". He spoke plainly to them and he connected. He discussed how he did not let his mindset get in the way of his chances. For example, he successfully recruited the Titan NFL franchise to Tennessee by building a new stadium. Previously, he had never attended a professional football game!

What I loved most was his advice, "Chances are not your enemies." By keeping an open mind, listening to your heart and to others, you will discover new things and opportunities.

He also discussed his meetings that day with students at Claremont College. The Governor explained that he enjoyed these interchanges because he gets to hear the fresh ideas of the young and they get to see that a leader, governor, or someone who has enjoyed success is pretty normal. That up close and personal "leaders" are just people who have pursued their opportunities and chances. Governor Bredeson hoped that such exposure would give the students more confidence that they could do it too. He said that's what happened to him. When he was much younger he met leaders and big shots and learned how achievable those positions were. I had the same experiences many times when I meet and got to know prominent executives. The lesson repeats itself: meet people, especially people who are doing what you dream to do. When a long shot is brought up close, it becomes real and tangible.

I  was very grateful that I agreed to have dinner at an inconvenient time and place, with someone other than the person I wanted to meet. :) My mind was clear and refreshed again. I learned many things that evening from a regular guy who achieved extraordinary things. We were fortunate to have leaders like Governor Bredeson. If you have the drive and focus you can do impossible things. That being humble will always win out. And overcoming resistance to take a few chances usually pays off in ways you never expected. Chances are never enemies.  I recommit myself to befriend new chances that I encounter on my journey.

 Thanks for reading. John


Parents guide to your kids career development

"Would you mind talking to my kid?", maybe the number one question I get today. Responsible and/or doting parents want to help their children make the connection to find a job. I become an attractive resource when people find out I was an average student and a rebellious teen and young adult! And of course because I am free :) These parents perceive their kids to be stuck and need a bit of outside encouragement and motivation (every self respecting parent knows that advice from outside the family, even if it is exactly the same, has more truth and brilliance!) That's what parents want. That is not what the kids want. Although a few more doses of encouragement and positivity are welcomed, the new gen wants a safe place to discuss their often very mal-formed thoughts about their futures (that do not seem to be going over with the older people) As I have advised hundreds of times and in every speech I give, always and enthusiastically agree to help your close network"s family members in their search for life, liberty and the pursuit of a career. Why? because you will always, always, always, get more out of it than you deliver!Helicopter parents  
 
Back on parent front. This job of trying to steer our heirs into the "right careers", the "right jobs" and our obsession to make them happy (if they just knew what was good for them) is extremely challenging. Why? The whole parenting thing is based on how we were parented, good or bad. And we pass down whatever our notions of career development, job and life values, by what we do not we say. Your kids have watched you, idolized you (until they are 14), mimicked you, whether you like it or not. So now your offspring are facing the worst job market in memory and anxiety and stress are running high. Both parents and their kids are going a little crazy, maybe the parents a tad more! 

You have to invoke mentoring and networking to help your kids.

All of our kids need guidance from us to maximize their options and to realize their potentials. To be honest, we are over bearing as parents. We hover, we nudge, we complain, we want them to be like us OR avoid the mistakes we made. The nurture thing is really important but the nature thing is so much more powerful. Their chromosones give them choices. Their DNA give them decisions. What young people need after they get the basics from Maslow's hierarchy is to be loved and to be supported for who they are and what they were meant to do. There is a wonderful Nigerian word amachi, loosely translated to, "Only God knows what each child brings."

  1. Help your kids find themselves. What are their passions and interests? Not what you want them to know and experience. This applies to pre-teens, teenagers, picking a college major and even later. Met a guy in Baltimore last week, he was bragging about his two sons. The "genius" older son was admitted to Annapolis on a scholarship, but his mom forbid him to go into the military. So his son went to Cornell against his wishes, quit and joined the Navy! Spent 4 years in officer training and returned to Penn St to study nuclear engineering. Once he graduates he returns to the Navy. Mom is proud now. The book Hand Me Down Dreams by Mary Jacobson, describes how we try to control our kids. After I read that book, I became more conscious of my kids strengths. The other day, I advised my daughter to drop her initial major of biology and consider the classics or greek mythology, because she loves those subjects. She was surprised and said sarcastically, "What kind of Dad are you?! How am I going to get a job?" We discussed the merits of picking a major based upon a future job that may not exist or be of interest. We concluded that a college education is much more than a major. I meet dozens of kids who lie to their parents to keep them off their back. They aren't lying about drugs or their sexual escapades. The lie about their career interests so that mom and dad aren't mad and worse, disappointed. These bright and talented young people are so frustrated and anxiety ridden by the dreams that are being forced upon them by their parents. Such a shame.
  2. Help you kids become well-lopsided. I have written here several times about how top schools are now rejecting the "well-balanced" students. Students with good grades and scores and a couple years of community service, couple years of leadership/student govt, a couple years of art or music, a couple years of work experience etc. These applicants have become parent created "commodities" and are being rejected for students with deeper personal interests and passions.
  3. Help your kids meet other people and express themselves. Other people's parents, uncles or aunts, people who care about your kids can be wonderful sounding boards. Help them network, for college choices, for career decisions, for narrowing and focusing their job search. They need other people's opinions and perspectives to shape their search for meaning and a job. These are not necessarily interviews for an opening, these are informational interviews. People to review the resume and to hear the strategy. I never liked it when my Dad and Mom arranged these meetings in my life, but it always helped me see the possibilities. More important it helped me understand how I could discover things on my own and I know it made me a better parent.
  4. Sponsor a career tour. If your kids are younger, this is more important than the college tour-- the exposure to jobs, industries and employers. Meeting people in your network to see and hear what people do. It is amazing who you know and what they do. All of it is interesting. Sure not all of the jobs are super cool, but all offer insights into worlds they don't know. Again, if these jobs involve any of your kids interests that will make a big difference. It may be a product, or a service that your kids love. Meeting an exec, a manager, or another young person at the bottom of the org will be insightful and open their minds to new avenues.

Some of your kids are preparing for college, others will get their college degree soon, still others have returned to the nest to re-tool and find employment. While you can find a lot of things on the intenet, you have to use the power of mentoring and networking to make new connections. Frankly it gets much more difficult after your kids are in their late 20's. But before then, there is so much you can do. First back off your dreams and get tuned into theirs. Second, open up your network for introductions to opportunities. Lastly, connect your son or daughter to trusted members of your network to provide "external" advice and counsel.  

Being a parent is so tough. The tension between pushing and pulling is ever present. Once you start to fully appreciate the extraordinary and unique talents and gifts of your kids, the sooner you will be able to help them fulfill their dreams and find gainful employment. 

Thanks for reading. John. 

 


The Art of the Intro---Do you have a Hype Man?

If you believe that your success is tied to others, then you have to connect. Connect with people that help advance your thoughts and ideas. Connect with people who show you the paths to greater fulfillment. Connect with people who give you validation and an important sense of community and belonging. You have to understand that doing it alone is impossible. That isolation and insulation are your enemies. Once you accept this, then you have to engage others in your quest to become the best you can be. The best way to meet people is to be introduced to them.  Properly-introduce-yourself-572x297

As I have said many times, networking is a contact sport but it is also a team sport. In that vein, working with a partner or a team makes it so much easier to meet people. Meeting people at a social gathering, corporate reception, or other general networking opportunity is so much more fun and productive, if you are being introduced to others. No one is truly comfortable with the solitary process of "cold calling" and walking up to people we do not know and introducing ourself. The process of having someone else pave the way by making the connection is always more elegant and effective. If you want to meet new people or a specific person, form a pact with a person or people you know going to the event, to introduce one another to people they meet/know to each other.  This can turn these often anxiety ridden moments into a pleasure.

After I gave a presentation on networking and the power of the introduction recently, a young, very hip African American man approached me. He thanked me for the idea of "being introduced" to others. He was very excited and animated and told me that it was like having a "hype man". "You know, a hype man, the guy who promotes the rapper", he said (he crouched down starts shaking his dreadlocked head and pointing at an imaginary rapper and rapping) "He's the greatest rapper!" Yes, we all need a team of hype men or women. Advocates to give us third party endorsements. Someone else to talk about us, instead of ourselves. My best friend Willie used to call me his "Press Asian" when we were students. :) I was trying to help him get more visibility on campus. I was unwittingly a very early version of a hype man! We need others to refer us, promotes us, and introduce us to "audiences" and opportunities.

The old maxim holds true, " Could not have said it better myself."

But the art of the introduction goes beyond the sometimes superficial event scene and can be more targeted than general hype and promotion of your brand. You also need people on your hype team who know you well to partake in a much more strategic form of introduction. An introduction to others who you don't know that the team thinks you should meet. Others you have identified and want to meet. In either case, a warm introduction that gives you more credibility and enhances your value can make all the difference. 

The answers to these questions will help determine your strategy to meet people through introduction to advance your network and your career. 

  1. What are your goals, your priorities, your needs? What are you looking for? In other words, you have some direction that guides your networking. Otherwise, you foolishly think opportunity will come up and throw you a surprise party. 
  2. Who do you want to meet? Who do you want to talk to? Have you identified specific individuals, experts, executives, potential mentors/sponsors that you want to meet? There should always be people that you have respect, have a valuable perspective, or could help you-- people you would like to talk to.
  3. Which organizations, companies, non-profits do you admire? At some point you want to know these entities better, understand them, and perhaps be affiliated with them? Like individuals, you should be tracking organizations that you think are leaders, innovative or just plain intriguing. 

With these goals and targets in mind, you need to unleash your hype team. Talk to your inner network and pick their brains on who knows the people and organizations on your list. Start recruiting your hype team members. Make sure they are up to date on your resume and your skills, knowledge, and abilities. And then push them to find connections and introduce you.

These referrals are not a list of names and contact info given to you---that is bad form. There must be a warm hand-off, which requires a personal and professional introduction. In some cases you may want to draft an intro, just as you would do for a letter of reference. What do you want the intro to say and sound like? Why leave it to chance?

Of course, this only works because you are the hype man for your network too. You have to be willing to refer and introduce your network to others. 

Lastly, if you are ever going to be introduced as a speaker, or recognized at an event, make sure you provide some guidance. Often, people will ask you to draft the public intro. Don't just give your resume and cross your fingers--provide the intro and shape your brand!

Use the team concept of networking to meet people and uncover opportunities through introductions. Get a hype team and join a hype team or three. Make every introduction count. You will see that networking can be more enjoyable and successful when you work together. 

Thanks for reading. John


What's your BIT?---How you introduce yourself matters

I conducted workshops for employees of PepsiCo and Gavina Coffee on multicultural networking and mentoring last week. How to connect with different people, from different backgrounds. How to inform your path by actively seeking new perspectives from other cultures and demography. There is always a fascination with my exercises to develop your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk.  Something I have written about several times. The process of obtaining those perspectives, of reconnecting with people you know but don't know, and meeting new and interesting folks, starts with a conversation. All relationships, new and ongoing are about the conversation. Continuing the conversation is the key to all great and fulfilling relationships.Could be e-mail, facebook postings, telephonic, or face-to-face. These exchanges of words and ideas build and deepen relationships. They all start or re-start at the beginning when you introduce yourself or re-introduce yourself.First-impression  
The the most fascinating of these routines is the self introduction. What you say in the first 10-15 seconds. Nothing can alter a conversation more than this. I call this your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk. It is so surprising what people say in their robotic way. They are not thinking before and when they talk. Their introduction is not customized to the situation or context. They often use company or industry jargon outside of work. I was in my son's classroom during his school's open house. I was proudly watching my son interacting with his classmates. I noticed another dad. He was dressed in the full designer blue suit, decked out with the gold Rolex, those little initials on his cuffs, and the $600 shoes--you know the type. I decided to introduce myself to him. With an outstretched hand I said, "I'm John, Bobby's dad." I pointed at Bobby. Mr. super executive wheeled around with his auto-smile flashing and boomed, "Hi, Steve Williams Sr. VP of Sales and Business Development for XYZ Corporation." "Nice to meet you", I replied and added, "Is one of these your kid?" He was still in the fog of work. He suddenly snapped out of it and said, "Oh yeah, Eddie's my son, that's him right there." "Oh good, for a minute there you scared me Steve, you know it is a misdemeanor to loiter on a school campus?", I quipped. Mr. Sr VP chuckled but I am not sure he was very amused. At least Steve accompanied his BIT with a smile and a firm handshake. It is bizarre how many adult professionals do not smile, and apparently lie to me and say, "Nice to meet you" with no direct eye contact and a face that reflects indifference and what appears to be disgust. And how many cadaver handshakes I have endured, the cold dead lifeless excuse for a greeting. Nothing better than to meet someone with these off-putting impressions. :)
 
Most people need to improve their BITs. This is not only what you say to introduce yourself, but how you respond to an initial inquiry. You know, "What brings you here?" or "What do you do?" etc etc  Here's a few basic questions to freshen your tired and auto-pilot BIT:
  1. Is your BIT an invitation or a roadblock?
  2. Is your BIT jargony or industry or company specific?
  3. Is your BIT customized for the situation and the audience?
  4. Is it delivered with some enthusiasm and a smile?  

Listen to yourself. Do you know what you are saying and to whom you are saying it? Be focused and remember where you are and who you are at the moment. Like Mr. Williams in my story above, he is a father first and foremost when he is at the school. No one cares about his classification at work when he is visiting his son's school. We all take on multiple roles and identities in our lives and each one deserves a BIT.

My new favorite BIT, depending on who I am talking to, is "I help wealthy people give away their money?" Always starts a conversation!

Students of all ages are the worst. They erroneously think being a student is a weakness. Everyone wants to help a student. So declaring your quest for knowledge and experience is endearing and engaging. "I am just a student," says you lack confidence and self respect. Versus "I am a 2nd year student at (school) and I am thinking about becoming a teacher." That invites questions and interest.

Weave in your hobby, avocation, current professional development pursuit. "I work for Gavina Coffee and a new mother of twins."  or ...."sit on the board of (your charity)"..........

Stop, think and listen to what you say about yourself. It may surprise you. Your BIT is the start of a great conversation or not. It is a key part of your first or newest impression. If you are not listening to what you are saying and how you are saying it, then odds are your recipient is less interested too.

What's your BIT?

Thanks for reading. John


Non-verbal networking

We all know how important the non-verbal cues are to effective communication, relationship development, and networking. Our body language, inflection of our voice, our eye contact, facial expressions dominate the words we say. Those that study this stuff have said that words are only about 7-30% of the communication we intend. As I said, we know this in our heads, but we are not conscious of it.Body language 2

Tell your face---You see this one everyday, if you are paying attention. We have these robotic exchanges that have become meaningless transactions. You enter the elevator, or the office in the morning and you say something to greet anyone and everyone. It is neither sincere or intentional. We say things like "Good Morning", or "How are you?"--even if the morning sucks and you are not interested in or care about anyone's well-being. In fact, if the target of our pre-recorded pablum speaks, we are awakened  from our slumber and struggle to respond. My assistant for years, Patsy, would greet me every morning with a confusing happy voice and an enthusiastic Good morning! and a severe frown. At first I thought she had been part of a botox experiment gone awry. :( The first time she did this, I said, "if it is a good morning, tell your face!"

Do you remember the Michael Dukakis passionless response to the question about whether the death penalty should be applied to the murderer and rapist of his wife Kitty?

Without putting energy into your daily deliveries of words and messages, you will communicate poorly. Your posture, handshake, intonation, and your facial attention can undermine your persuasiveness.

A few basic tips to remember to keep focused:

  1. Engage the other person by looking into their eyes, listen and observe their body language.
  2. Keep your hands in front of you, instead of folding them, on your hips or in the "fig leaf" position.
  3. Smile. It will always brings energy into your voice and your eyes.

Lead with your passions--When people talk about what they care about, they stand up straighter, their eyes light up, and their voice is overflowing with expression. So funny, because many people have asked me if I have ESP. I listen to and watch people, and when they really smile and start becoming more animated, I tell them how obvious that this is an important subject to them. "How could you tell?", they query. Find out what others are passionate about, then your encounters and conversations will feed off one another.

How can you understand, see and hear any incongruences or distracting body language you create?

You practice in front of a mirror. You videotape your presentation skills. You get candid feedback from colleagues and confidantes. When I started the process to refine my speaking and presentations, I immediately improved. Seeing and hearing is believing. You become a student of yourself. How do others see you? How big is the gap between what you think you are doing and what others see? This is a critical skill, your accurate awareness of you. I became painfully aware of my strange an previously unknown habits and body language expressions through a thorough and relentless examination of my schtick. Still working on it and never again took it for granted.

Always suprised how under prepared people are for making impressions. They wing it. They hope that the right words and body language magiacally appear when called upon. Some people think they are Robin Williams! Most of us know that Robin doesn't ad lib, but draws on a library of practiced and rehearsed routines. I am not saying that you need to script yourself, but preparation with a keen eye on what it really looks and sounds like is essential.

As Allen Iverson said, "Are we talking about practice?" Yes we are!

Connect your mind to your body through your conciousness. Don't let your folded arms, furrowed brow, repeated "ums", shifty eyes, or inaudible voice, steal your opportunities and your compelling ideas.

Carry yourself, express yourself, with the spirit and energy that it matters--because it does.

Your ability to network is directly tied to your trustworthiness, believability, and likability. How you present yourself deserves at least as much prep and attention as your clever words and phrases.

I dedicate this post to my brother in-law Andrew Kim Weaver, who was tragically taken from us this week. Andrew was fiercely candid and famous for his non-verbal communication.

Thanks for reading. John


Networking with humor, part 1

First a shout out to a bunch of rising star managers and leaders I met yesterday from Boeing, State Farm, Northrup Grumman and other leading companies. I was leading a private workshop on what else, mentoring and networking for LEAPLeap

I am frequently asked when I will do a public workshop--I rarely do. When I speak it is usually at the request of a company or an organization (like LEAP--been working with them over 15 years) for a closed group of employees or leaders. However, UCLA's Anderson School of Management has invited me to present for their Career Series on August 19, 2009. Here is the Download Executives_Brochure_pages for their program if you are interested. I asked them for a discount for my readers and they agreed! Here's the deal, enroll before August 1 and you will get $200 (an extra $100) off the full day --you will see me for a half day session then the well-known Bill Arruda on personal branding. (be sure to note that you are entitled to the John Kobara discount per Keith Groya--shhhhhh!)Okay back to our regularly scheduled programming......Ucla_exec_and_career

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A sense of humor is part of the art of leadershsip, of getting along with people, and getting things done. 
Dwight Eisenhower

For those that know me and those that have read a few posts, you know I try to inject humor into my messages. Not claiming to be funny but I do try and lighten the delivery with some levity and a bit of sarcasm. I have found that humor is a powerful weapon to disarm others and reduce some of the tension in the environment. In the context of networking, humor can be the difference maker. 

First you do not need to be a comedian/comedienne. You are not trying to be the class clown or the local jokester. Frankly, these types are not taken seriously. We are talking about the use of relevant stories or observations that provide a humorous perspective.

Before I briefly discuss networking, let me touch on the extraordinary benefits of laughing and making others laugh:
  1. Laughter is the best medicine. Laughing and having an attitude of fun and playfulness makes us live longer. There is great evidence that there are biological changes when we engage in these activities.
  2. Humor makes you more attractive. People that have a sense of humor are more interesting, more popular and more desirable. 
  3. Never laugh at others, but always start by laughing at yourself. We take ourselves so seriously and when we think about it, we do some pretty funny things. Rodney Dangerfield became famous for making fun of himself.  
Again, you do not need to be a stand-up comic. Many people say to me, I am just not funny, I am not a funny person, I can not tell a joke etc etc. If this was true, which is rarely the case, this makes you a great candidate to use humor. One of the most powerful forms of humor is the element of surprise. This can be done through a dead pan delivery or just saying something out of character.

Especially these days, we have to see the humor in things. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Try to see the positive if not the sheer absurdity.   

Ways to help yourself see the lighter side of life: (from Helpguide.com)

  • Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
  • Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
  • Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screen-saver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
  • Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
  • Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
  • Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.
How do you integrate humor into your conversations with friends, colleagues and new acquaintances? First, shift your perspective to see more fun and humor around you. 

Keep track of little incidents that happen to you. Something your kids did. Something you did to yourself that was slightly embarrassing. Maybe a funny thing you heard or saw on tv. You are not trying to get people to roll around on the ground, you are seeking that little smile, a gleam in the eye and for them to open up.
  
When someone says, "What did you do this weekend?" You won't just give the same auto-pilot answer, "Just relaxed." "Not much." 

Instead you say, "You won't believe what my kid did, or what I did to myself, or........" You'll get a smile and then you will usually trigger stories from other people.  They have funny things to say too. Now you are sharing stories instead of robotic answers.

I have gotten great mileage out of stories that happened to me. True life is so much more interesting than any movie or tv show.

  • The other day, I was having an allergic reaction and my face started swelling up. I became self-conscious and asked if it was noticeable to the person I was meeting with. She told me it was and asked me what happened. I told her I had a collagen accident.Then I told her the truth and we laughed. 
  • I was meeting a very important person and I blurted out my name unintelligibly. So I asked if i could do it over again. He agreed, and I did a second take beautifully! He smiled.  
  • I reconnected with an old friend the other day and we compared notes on our kids and I asked, "What are you doing to be a "cool" Dad?" Knowing that is is an impossible question, we laughed and told a bunch of stories about how uncool we are.   
  • An appointment came into my office last week with a new Kindle under his notepad. I said, "Are you going to make me buy one of those things?!" He laughed and proceeded to show it off to me. 
These are merely examples where I try to find the thing to bring a bit of humor to the conversation, usually at my expense. These are not long stories that I memorized, but I try to pay attention and use the element of surprise.

I am resisting with all my might to provide a list of "lines" or jokes that will get you a quick laugh. Those don't work because you have to follow it up with something real that is you. 

The first and most important step to using humor in networking is to make sure we appreciate the humor we experience everyday and especially the funny things we do to ourselves and other people. Your attitude and then your observations and stories will add some fun and spice to your connections.Laughing

Thanks for reading and smiling. Gotcha! John :)



Context, Lies, and Audiotape............

Say what you mean and mean what you say.  March Hare, Alice in Wonderland


What you say, how you start the conversation, how you introduce yourself--really matters. Most people have a bunch of auto-pilot, semi-Pavlovian responses and routines. They say things that may or may not be relevant to the situation or worse, may not be something they even believe! 

What's Your BIT?
The the most fascinating of these routines is the self introduction. What you say in the first 10-15 seconds. Nothing can alter a conversation more than this. I call this your BIT, your Brief Introductory Talk. It is so surprising what people say in their robotic way. They are not thinking before and when they talk. Their introduction is not customized to the situation or context. They often use company or industry jargon outside of work. I was in my son's classroom during his school's open house. I was proudly watching my son interacting with his classmates. I noticed another dad. He was dressed in the full designer blue suit, decked out with the gold Rolex, those little initials on his cuffs, and the $600 shoes--you know the type. I decided to introduce myself to him. With an outstretched hand I said, "I'm John, Bobby's dad." I pointed at Bobby. Mr. super executive wheeled around with his auto-smile flashing and boomed, "Hi, Steve Williams Sr. VP of Sales and Business Development for XYZ Corporation." "Nice to meet you", I replied and added, "Is one of these your kid?" He was still in the fog of work. He suddenly snapped out of it and said, "Oh yeah, Eddie's my son, that's him right there." "Oh good, for a minute there you scared me Steve, you know it is a misdemeanor to loiter on a school campus?", I quipped. Mr. Sr VP chuckled but I am not sure he was very amused. At least Steve accompanied his BIT with a smile and a firm handshake. It is bizarre how many adult professionals do not smile, and apparently lie to me and say, "Nice to meet you" with no direct eye contact and a face that reflects indifference and what appears to be disgust. And how many cadaver handshakes I have endured, the cold dead lifeless excuse for a greeting. Nothing better than to meet someone with these off-putting impressions. :)

Ups and Downs of Elevators
The LA Social Venture Partnership held a contest for the best "elevator pitch" from a non-profit. Non-profits were trained in the business art of delivering a compelling investment message about their work in 180 seconds. The winners received $20000 and all of the participating orgs received invaluable insight into how to articulate what they do and why it deserves support.

While non-profits are learning their pitches. We all have something to learn about making a concise and compelling pitch about our business idea or why someone should hire us. Intuitive as this is, it is no simple task. 

David Rose, the serial entrepreneur, gives in 10 things to know before you pitch a VC for money He discusses how you convey Integrity, Passion, Experience/Knowledge/Skill, Leadership, Commitment and Vision. These are essential qualities for any investment including the hiring decision. What is your elevator pitch for yourself? How do you convey these qualities in the answers to the interview questions? In other words, how are you expressing your qualifications, differentiating yourself from others AND conveying a great sense of comfort that you will fit in. Like a VC pitch, this take work, practice, and feedback. Being brief and concise is much harder to do. It is far easier to babble, ramble and make it up on the fly. :) Mark Twain said, "Sorry I have written such a long letter, I did not have time to write a short one." 

The personal elevator pitch is used when you are asked the hardest and easiest question in the world, "Tell me about yourself." This is where you can shine. You can't rely on your ability to improvise or ad lib. You are ready for this question with your prepared story that is relevant to this context, this job, this pitch. You get to communicate what led you to this moment and opportunity. You are given the chance to highlight your progression and what you learned. A career without failings and therefore learnings is one that is surreal and pretentious. All brag and no fact. So be prepared to talk about your mistakes as well as your successes. One of my most memorable interviews was with the legendary Vinod Kholsa, he asked my to "review my greatest failures in reverse chron order and do not tell me the lesson learned." Never had that one before, he was trying to see if I could reflect on mistakes and whether my mistakes were big enough. In the end, your story gives some clues as to who you are and what makes you tick. Your story can be 2-3 minutes long and it will lead to follow-up questions and your interview will turn into a conversation. This wiki-how page has a good summary Personal Elevator Pitch As recommended, write it down, practice in front of a mirror, make an audio recording of your pitch, work on it to make it feel and sound natural. You can only do that with real preparation and practice. And get feedback from your mentors. They will tell you if your story is believable and engaging.  You can only do that with real preparation and practice. 

Everyone can use a little or a lot of work on their story and their pitch. The buildings where these elevators reside are much shorter today. So stop the audiotape answers, smile, be conscious of the context and tell your story! 

Thanks for reading. John