If You Can Do This, You Win

September 30th, 2014

thumbsup1What does everyone want more of?

Think about the power you would wield, if you knew the answer. What if you knew what everyone secretly and truly wants? What is it that they’re not saying aloud to anyone, but keeping as a dark secret?

Go one step further and imagine if you could DELIVER what everyone wants!

Now here’s news that’s disappointing but not surprising. According to the New York Times, you can simply Google “being more” and find out the answer. So many people have typed: “being more …” into this search engine, that Google autocompletes “being more” with these top three answers:

1. Being more confident

2. Being more assertive

3. Being more productive

Do you have one of these “being more” goals? Do you want to be more sure of yourself? Do you want to be a better advocate for yourself? Do you want to get more out of every hour you dedicate to work?

These are the top three things that most people want. So, it’s likely you do as well.

However, the real use of this information is not for your own navel-gazing. The most beneficial insight is how you can use this knowledge about what other people want to develop rewarding relationships with them.

No matter what you do: frame it with these top three goals in mind. Discuss what you do in terms of confidence, assertiveness and productivity. Don’t define yourself by what you actually do, or the features or functions of your product or service that deliver results.

For example, a dentist isn’t selling his ability to fill cavities – instead he’s selling confident good looks. A prospective intern isn’t offering to help with social media – instead she’s offering to assert a company’s message to prospects, customers, media and investors. A business consultant isn’t recommending a new project management system – instead she’s boosting your productivity or the productivity of your workforce and systems.

What happens when you speak in terms of what other people truly want? What happens when you offer to deliver one of the three things they rarely admit to needing?

Simply put: you win.

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A Surprising Physical Secret Behind Intelligent Thinking

September 25th, 2014

indexTapping, typing and swiping give you instant access to all kinds of things you want. For example today on Buzzfeed, I tapped open a list of 37 ways to hack IKEA furniture so it looks a little less like IKEA furniture. I typed up a list on Workflowy, to organize the assets of a new learning program I’m about to launch. And, I swiped my credit card to pay for 1,000 monk grass seedlings to surround the treehouse I just built in my backyard.

My brain did almost nothing the entire day.

Turns out when we tap, type and swipe, we fail to engage our brains in a deep and meaningful way. With this device at our fingertips mentality, we are reduced down to poorly operating robots, because we’re simply following prompts, and even worse: we’re easily distracted.

As someone who spends the better part of 18 hours hooked up to a device of some kind almost every day, the new neuroscience on device dependency alarmed me. We are short-circuiting the thought process that comes from writing. The teacher who demanded you learn cursive or at least print out letters and numbers with a pen, pencil, crayon or piece of chalk actually knew best.

Apparently, the physical motion of writing with your hand and fingers while your eyes watch the characters emerge engages your brain in a powerful and positive way. One that cannot be mimicked by any other means, even that cool new feature where you can talk your texts and emails, and the device does the tapping, typing and swiping for you.

If you are in a position – or would like to be in a position where you are trusted to make decisions or advocate for your organization:

  • Push away from your device.
  • Remove your hands from your screen or keyboard.
  • Pick up a pen and get old school – literally.
  • It’s always a surprise when something simple is the fix for what ails you.

If you have been struggling with creativity, motivation, focus, assertiveness, or communication: consider getting out a pen and paper and simply writing down the problems you’d like to solve. Then write down what comes to mind, maybe some key words, a list or even just doodles.

Turns out going device free for a few moments every day might be the key to getting ahead in your career and business.

Uplugging? It’s not just for balance. It’s for business.

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Why You Should Do the Worst First

September 16th, 2014

using-laptop-in-dark“My dad taught me an important lesson. If you rehearse every maneuver ahead of time, people don’t panic when things get really intense.” So says, Peter Hancock, CEO of AIG when discussing how competitive sailing led to his management philosophy.

The worst is likely the last thing you want to think about when you are preparing for a job interview or new business meeting. It’s the last thing you want to imagine before going on camera or leading a presentation. And, it certainly isn’t how you visualize each day at work, when it seems everything is going all right.

But, on any given day in any given circumstance, it pays to be prepared. Not simply ready. Prepared for everything around you to fail.

I recently graduated a group of young managers from my Global Marketing course on campus at UCLA. Thirty presentations in three hours, including switching out presenters, finding PPTs and making sure the technology stayed up. We almost made it. Then, the last presenter came up at 9:50 PM. It was Umut, the gentleman from Turkey who graciously had taken the final spot because he had my permission to go a bit longer than the others. In the middle of this stellar visual display of a new product introduction into a foreign market: bam. Lights out.

Are you prepared for things to go all wrong on your big day?

That day could be a big job interview. Your pitch meeting with producers. The ship date for your trade show exhibit.

Imagine your big day. Gone terribly wrong. Are you ready?

Do you have a back-up plan? Do you have a back-up plan to your back-up plan? Have you rehearsed exactly what you will do?

Our presenter did. Umut took his laptop and his index cards. He faced the laptop toward us, sat on the table with it and used the light to see his cue cards. Turns out it just lit up his face, because his eyes stayed focused on us.

He smiled. Of course, he did. Umut had given that presentation in the dark for the last seven days. Right before he went to sleep, he rehearsed. He practiced during the day, while he was driving. In those rehearsals, no visuals supported his narrative.

Whatever matters to you: first rehearse for the worst. Prepare as if no one else could help you, support you or save you. Rehearse for the intense times, when someone else might panic.

As I watched Umut present I could only think how lucky we were to listen to him, and how lucky his future employers will be.

Luck might be the meeting of preparation and opportunity. That’s the opportunity to succeed when others might fail. What display of mastery, confidence and calm should you be rehearsing for right now?

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Why Your Left Hand Hates Your Right Hand

September 9th, 2014

400-04590123erIn a typical population, left-handers make up about 15%.  Of course, not every population is typical.

  • Among the five designers of the first Apple computer, four are left-hand dominant.
  • Three of the last five presidents are left-handed.
  • In a group of alcoholics, left-handers triple their typical representation.

So, your left hand might have a lot of interesting stats, but odds are you’re right-handed,  so it’s likely you ignore it unless you really need… an extra hand.

On the other hand….

Your right hand pretty much stars in life’s events. It shakes all the other hands that are stuck out to welcome you. It gets supported in those little desk-chair units at school. Scissors are made for it, no special request needed. It waves hello and good-bye.

Actually, given all the action your right hand sees – your left hand might be jealous.

Sounds nonsensical, doesn’t it? Your hands are simply doing what comes naturally. It’s silly to think that something underhanded (ha!) is going on.

So, let’s get serious. What does your left hand have to do with your attitude about other people at work?

Like your body parts, your co-workers are functioning largely as they are naturally inclined to do. Some are quiet. Some seem to dominate every meeting. Some seem to be incapable of helping when you need boxes carried or midnight oil burned. Some seem to want to jump in (lend a hand?), anytime you look stressed.

Sure, some of us have better titles, more initials after our names and bigger spaces to work in. Some of us have special training and skills. Those attributes don’t change our nature. Largely we each are doing what we do, as we are naturally inclined to do it.

So stop being mad at everyone who acts differently than you want them to. When you stop taking others actions so personally, you become a much happier person. A person who is more in control of yourself, and your career trajectory.

The next time someone infuriates you, maybe you could take a breath and think:

Wow. Just like my own left hand. It often isn’t strong enough or quick enough to do what I need. That’s the way things are.

What does that take? Charity. Patience. Compassion. Three personal branding qualities that you want to keep in mind and on hand.

(With my apologies to left-handers!)

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How To Value Yourself So Others Will, Too

September 6th, 2014

Hurray we did it!Twice each year, I give a personal branding boot camp on campus at UCLA. The single hardest part of camp will be helping each participant appreciate themselves. Appreciating yourself is a weird concept for most people. We are used to talking about our strengths and weaknesses. We are comfortable talking about our hard and soft skills.

Yet that simple sense of internal value is fundamental to setting up a sturdy foundation for a personal brand. Irrespective of what you can do. The most valuable part of you is simply who you are.

When it comes to that personal intelligence, most people have a very hard time identifying something wonderful about themselves that has always been a quality carried deep inside. Something that will be carried throughout life.

Often it’s a knack. Like a knack for giving the perfect gift, which is a connection to the inner needs of others. Or it might be a power. Like the power to light up a room just by entering it, which is positivity. Or it might be a force. Like the force of a calm mind when everyone is in chaos, which is leadership.

This quality of yours will appreciate over time. That is, if you recognize it, attend to it, give it space to grow and speak about what it’s done for you and others.

There are plenty of reasons why you aren’t regularly celebrating your real value.

During many of your so-called formative years, you heard your parents say the word “no” to you; about five times more than you heard them speak your name. And, maybe the recession, which turns out to have been bigger than the 1930s Depression, you had a particularly tough time.

Of course, it’s easy to not see the truth about life, as well as your personal brand. Almost everything about your situation can change, when you change how you think and talk about yourself.

So start celebrating. You. Start looking back at the smiles you’ve had, the smiles you’ve won and the way you want to bring more on. Maybe you have to change your scorecard – maybe you’ll need to rethink the job title, the salary, the type of company, or where you live.

But, before any decisions are made: Celebrate. You.

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Why the Good Survive and the Best Enjoy Success

August 13th, 2014

I believe there’s a list in the universe like the one we believe Santa keeps all year. At his annual retreat with senior elves, Santa wrestles with finite resources he allocates at the end of Q4, among all the good boys and girls. At work, the good get to come back next year, and keep doing what they’ve done. In a metaphysical context, the list of deeds you’ve been racking up becomes a karmic accounting of your character. As such, you’d be worried not about this year or even next, but rather how you’ll fare in the coming lifetimes. If you own a business you’re often basing what you can do in the afternoon, on what you’ve netted in the morning.

So whether your perspective is today, this year, next year or a lifetime from now, it’s a good moment to take stock of yourself. We’re more than half past 2014. We’re just in time to ask whether you see evidence that your stock is worth investing in, or would an objective analyst recommend a sell order.

I am mixing as many metaphors as I can, to help you consider two things.

Thing One: Are you the person you wished you would be, when you made resolutions?

Maybe those resolutions came at the beginning of this year, and maybe they are as old as a decade or more, when you thought a certain career or business would the highest and best use of you. Maybe you never got to do that thing you thought would be amazing, or maybe you did – and now feel like it’s a failure, you’re a failure or the company you keep is failing you.

The only three questions that matter right now are gross measures of success.

  • Are you doing as good as you thought you would?
  • Are you doing something better?
  • Are you the best you can be?

Thing Two: How are you going to approach the balance of this year?

Take advantage of summer doldrums, before the bite of a crisp autumn apple seduces you into believing you’ll get moving after the holidays.

Success never takes a holiday.

It’s never too late or too early to take one hour to review your goals, revise your course and even plan for your next big move. You might do this each week – I do my own “Is this success?” assessment, each Friday at 3 PM PT. This meeting appears on my iCal calendar, permanently. If I have to move it, I get an automated prompt with one of the scariest messages I’ve ever received:

Do you want to change all events in the future?

Sometimes I do. Not just the weekly calendared hour with myself to ask “Is this success?”

Sometimes I want to redefine success entirely. So I do.

Perhaps you need to ask, with a blank paper in front of you:

  • What is the best use of me?
  • What is the depth of misery?
  • What is the height of awesomeness?

You and I grow up a little every day. It pays off to take stock of whether this is the best we can be, or is this just good enough – even when it’s a bit better than the last time we checked.

Kick this day, this week, this year and your career into high gear. Set the best expectations for yourself. Revisit and repeat. Each week let your brain route the shortest, most joyful course to what you want. What you really, really want.

When you take time to see yourself at your best, you’re it.

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Why Your Boss Probably Hates You

August 6th, 2014

angry bossAs a career coach specializing in communication, I’m presented with a wide spectrum of work stories. Some end in, “I don’t know why my boss hates me.”  Variations on this are:

  • My supervisor hates me
  • The project manager hates me
  • The recruiter seemed to hate me
  • Everybody at work hates me

Of course, hate is an awfully big and painful word. Most often given some details, I realize hate isn’t the appropriate word. It’s more accurate to describe the situation as:

  • I get a weird feeling from her
  • There’s a lot of tension at the office
  • I don’t like the way I’m treated
  • I don’t get recognized for doing my job

So it’s not hate, but there are a lot of negative feelings between managers and staff, or business owners and employees. A lot of suspicious, unfriendly recruiters.

Where do these negative feelings come from? What could be the origin of so many employees feeling underappreciated and undervalued?

You probably have never done anything wrong at work, but consider all the people who have come before you. They trained your boss to be skeptical, distrusting, and irritated by the mistakes, waste, slacking and even outright lies some employees dole out.

I got a call on Sunday evening from a business owner as he was getting off the roof of his building, taking care of the endless chores associated with running a physical therapy practice. He had cleaned the exterior of the building, swept out the parking lot, folded towels, put away piles of files that were laying behind the front desk, and was about to take a shower before completing the charts he prepares each evening before he meets clients the next day.

“I pay a lot of people,” he said. “When they’re broke or in trouble, they come to me for loans – and I always say yes. I accommodate their school schedules, friends’ wedding plans that take them off shift, sick days and everything else they feel free to ask of me. They ask me for advice, and I always make time for them.”

“Now, I’m doing maintenance and chores that the cleaning crew left, my staff overlooked and it’s all things my clients see. Some days it’s really clear that no one really cares about me or this company. Maybe a few people do on occasion, but four years is a long time to learn that unless you’re hard on people, they take it easy.”

No, this doesn’t mean YOU take it easy at work. It just means people who can’t avoid being held accountable like a manager or business owner may be worn out by the staff who came before you.

Getting a weird vibe at work? Make a contract with yourself to do a really good job everyday and to look for one more thing to do, that’s outside your specific duties. Let your boss or the recruiter learn that you are that one in a million, the person who really understands that work is more than a paycheck.

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The Second Biggest Mistake You Are Making

July 31st, 2014

10745740_lMy career transition practice is full of amazing people with a huge well of talent, potential and experience. Each person is completely different. And with each person, I’ve identified a specific obstacle they are overcoming, so they can quickly move ahead on their goals. That problem identification and problem solving is the primary focus of our work together.

Typically that obstacle has arisen from a mistake in their understanding of the specific challenge or opportunity they have, and the right way to approach it. Of course, this would be a specific problem to solve in each specific situation.

However, no matter how specific the #1 mistake or obstacle is for each individual, the #2 mistake they’ve been making is pretty much the same. I suspect you are making the same mistake as well. The second biggest mistake people make in a career transition or business is this…

You think you need something else.

You think you need something more than what you have right now at your fingertips.

I hear these things:

- “I need to brush up on my Spanish skills.”

- “I need more ideas. I need new content.”

- “I need a website. I need a new website.”

- “I need a contact management system.”

- “I need a project management app.”

- “I need more recommendations on LinkedIn.”

- “I need to get another certification, MBA, to finish my AA…”

- “I need a partner.”

- “I need an investor.”

- “I need an office.”

- “I need to convince ….”

No. You. Don’t.

You don’t need a business card, location, degree, another degree or anything else. If you are reading this from some device with your own eyes and you understand this content: you have everything you need right now.

Stop yourself from looking for reasons not to succeed. Stop yourself from wasting one more moment.

You have you. That’s what you need. Anyone who ever told you a piece of equipment, the perfect resume or portfolio, or anything else is wrong. Anyone who ever told you that you are not enough is wrong.

Now go tell everyone you know exactly what you do – or want to do. Speak plainly. Then, ask them whom they know among their friends who might need what it is you do. Or, could possibly connect you with someone who might.

What you need is hiding in plain sight. Stop looking for it. See it.

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