What’s Wrong With Your Image?

July 23rd, 2014

You may not realize you have an image.
And the image that exists for you may not be ideal. The goal of reputation management and personal branding is to intentionally and authentically put together an image that is coherent, consistent and compelling.

What distinguishes your image from your personal brand or reputation? Your image is more diffused. It encompasses much more about you, although it plays a big role in your personal brand and reputation.

You may be very surprised that how you earn your living is the LEAST important aspect of your image.

I have described my new concept to many of my coaching clients, and they are surprised at what matters to recruiters, hiring managers, and even their bosses and co-workers – much less all their contacts.

So I created a simple way for everyone to think about the image we hold in our heads about you and the other people who pass through our lives, businesses, networking events and more.

I – What are you IMPROVING? What can you say you are actively learning about, studying, seeking more information about, and otherwise trying to add to or modify about yourself? Could be something like learning a language. Or something smaller, like learning good manners for cross-cultural business etiquette.

M – What are you MANAGING? What financial matters, education courses, workload, community commitments, family circumstances, and more are under your control? You are your Chief Life Officer, after all. What would we be impressed to know you manage now?

A – What are you ADVISING other people about? What expertise, knowledge, or special skills are you imparting to others? Do you do some informal or formal mentoring? Could you be a resource on a topic that another person or business needs to know about? Do you use social media to get out that information for free, or perhaps do you exchange services or even do it for free (right now)?

G – What are you GIVING? Where is your social philanthropy, your cause-oriented work, your support for people in need, pets in need, the planet itself or simply in your own family and community?

E – Finally, how are you EARNING your living? What are the large (and small) jobs you have and have held in the past? Do you do more than one thing? That’s so good for us to hear. Perhaps you hold down a full time job and do freelance work in another field. I have a client who manages a small business, she does bookkeeping for it and another company, plus she is a dance instructor. How impressive is that? That’s real multi-tasking.

When you fail to let us know these great things about you, something’s missing from your image. We may overlook you, just because someone else IS prepared to talk about these major dimensions of their life and personal brand.

Pepper your conversation with all these dimensions of your image. If you want to try out this formula for yourself, just jot down your thoughts for each letter, and send your IMAGE to me at Nance@NanceRosen.com. Subject line: IMAGE.

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What Secret Weapon is Hanging in the Air?

July 16th, 2014

Scientific American cites some shocking news about time
. The more quickly you have to respond to a question or report results, the more likely you are to lie. Or, consider the reverse. The more time you take, the less likely you are to lie.

Lying is in the air. Literally, the fewer breaths you take, the more lies come out of your mouth.

Mentally hitting pause is your secret weapon!

Want to tell the truth, so you don’t have to remember what you pretended to know? To quote Faith Hill: just breathe.

That is the only way to avoid the “lying bias.” That is the tendency to lie when put on the spot. Keep in mind, lying undermines everything else about your personal brand. I’d rather have an employee who’s slow, mediocre and annoying, than a liar who’s fast, talented and charismatic.

So, take your time before responding to your boss or a co-worker who appears to be pressuring you for something. The question might be as simple as: “Do you want to go to lunch with us?” “Do you want to put in $25 for Penelope’s baby gift?”

The question might have bigger ramifications for our trust in you. Your boss might ask: “Did you visit all of competitors when you were at the trade show?” “When was the last time you called on your prospects?”

The problem with lying is not just a moral one. The problem with lying is what happens to you when we find out the actual facts. You aren’t just wrong, you might be fired. Demoted. No longer sent on those special projects. Experience a seriously stalled career.

How do you prevent a neuro-chemically induced, reflexive lie?

I advise my clients to frame their brain before responding to ANY question. I use two techniques:

  1. Silently repeat this mantra when you know you’re about to be questioned: “Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.” That gives your brain ready to open its file cabinets and come up with the true answer.
  2. Have a trigger word or phrase that allows you to speak while you are thinking. “On trigger” is an expression I use to describe automatic words and phrases that come out of your mouth with no thought at all, so it appears you are responsive, and not just stalling.

When you are asked a question, say aloud, “Let me think for a moment.”

This not only lets people know you heard them, it also commands your brain to do exactly what you said.  After all, your brain only needs a moment to actually find information that it stored awhile back.

There’s an old expression. When in doubt: deny, deny, deny.

Let’s change that. When in doubt, breathe.

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Do You Deserve a Better Job?

July 10th, 2014

29302409_sYou will not always do what you are doing now. You will go on to as many as seven distinct careers, ten to fifteen different jobs, perhaps a dip or dive into your own entrepreneurial venture and hopefully, some significant philanthropy.

That’s why the thing that you do, what you actually accomplish at work, may not be all that interesting to the people you’ll meet in the future.

It’s likely the job you have now won’t even exist in the future.

What will exist into the future? Your character, intelligence and persistence.

So, if you are seeking something grander than the job you have now: don’t focus on the nuts and bolts of what you do when given the chance to talk about yourself. Recruiters, hiring managers, investors and graduate school interviewers are listening to your stories to ascertain your core values and evidence of your curiosity, focus, friendliness, good manners, and empathy.

We care about the inspiration for your aspirations.

We want to know what’s in that portable device you carry with you all the time: your brain.

So, when you’re asked, “What do you do?” or “What did you do at Acme Insurance?” make sure to follow up your job title, with HOW you do your job. That’s where the secrets about you are, when it comes to your character, intelligence and resilience.

More than any special skill or vast amount of knowledge you’ve accumulated in a field like engineering or a function like social media manager, it’s your ability to articulate your analytical process and decision-making that’s really important.

The big winners in any occupation, profession or venture are people who can crisply say why they act the way they do, and how their behavior has changed as they learned more and held greater sway.

Simply put: the most desirable candidates are brimming with personal insights.

So, spend some time reflecting on the how and why of what you do. Then, be ready to explain how your thinking and working processes – not your duties – are your real assets.

Those of us in your future, want to welcome you to it.

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What’s Inside the Worst LinkedIn Invite Ever

July 4th, 2014

MTU-Faculty-10-Jan-BlogAsking a complete stranger to connect on LinkedIn can be fine! No worries. Just have something – like a group – in common. That means you look up who you want to link with, and join their group. Participate two or three times, and then fire off that invite. You might write: We are both in XYZ group, and I’d like to be a connection of yours on LinkedIn.

So, what’s the WORST invite ever? A sloppy outreach to a stranger with no reason for wanting to connect – followed by a request for referrals, and a vague description of what you do. Here’s an example I received last week:

Thanks for agreeing to be my connection. I appreciate any referrals. I empower women to get out of their comfort zones.

What? Even if I knew YOU, I have no idea what empowering women means. I have no idea what’s wrong with a comfort zone. And, I don’t know why I would want you doing whatever this is, to anyone who might trust ME.

Make sure you tell people what you do.

Not just on LinkedIn. Anyone. Anywhere. You. Go.

That means you have a simple, clear, specific sentence that describes what you do.

What’s wrong with this fine example of the worst ever LinkedIn invitation?

1) Whatever she apparently thinks is inherently bad about a comfort zone, I might think it’s great. My comfort zones are work, home, family, friends, my dogs, or Cream of Wheat in the morning with bananas and blueberries. These are things that I love. They bring me comfort.

2) When she leaves her “empowering” to my imagination, I think:

A makeover? A resume rewrite? A pep talk? Frankly: I have never seen anyone do empowering – and I’ve been a lot of places.

The solution: Speak plainly. Be specific. Give examples.

Remember: you really cannot go wrong, when you do the simple things right.

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What Successful People Read that You Don’t

June 25th, 2014

18567633_sI was finalizing a purchase with a new company this weekend and because it was a new vendor, I had to complete the deal by registering on the company’s website. The sales representative was charming and extraordinarily knowledgeable throughout the entire negotiation, so it didn’t surprise me when she wanted to coach me through this last “mile.” We sat together while I completed some forms online.

When the website wouldn’t take capital letters and persisted in translating everything I input to lower case, I laughed and said,

“Wow, your company will think you’re doing business with e.e. cummings.”

“No, we don’t do business with an e.e. cummings, “ she replied. “At least not in my territory.”

Because I am both an educator at UCLA Extension and a working MBA, my heart sank a bit. I know we teach you sales, business, accounting, marketing, operations, human resources, manufacturing, and then some in business school. But if that’s really all you know, we have failed you by graduating you.

The most successful business people read.

They read way beyond their business field. They consume poetry, fiction, science, philosophy, science fiction, science fantasy, religion, psychology and then some. Without these references, you are doomed to lose prestige when your product knowledge is no longer at issue.

We may have done you a real disservice if you have an undergraduate business degree.

Consider whether you have an education deficit, which is more of a liability than you might think. Consider what subject areas would expand your point of view, like anthropology, fine arts, sociology, physical science, biology, mathematics, linguistics, political science and the whole host of topics that enliven the world with different perspectives.

You can be an autodidact, a MOOC-addict or at least a casual reader in these other fields. However, nothing comes close to being engaged by a teacher or mentor who is dedicated to challenging you on a new subject.

Successful people actively widen or deepen the shallow areas of their education. They never stop learning – really learning, not just apprising themselves of a topic with a Buzzfeed style list.

Read and learn to get a richer framework for life, and life brings you greater riches.

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SnapChat CEO Reveals Secret Behind Disappearing Function

June 4th, 2014

17034072_sIt’s no surprise where the idea for instantly erasing texts came from. SnapChat CEO Evan Spiegel had a secret buried in his past that explains the whole concept.

Last week Stanford University ProvostJohn Etchemendy cast a much wider net around the filthy email trail left by Spiegel from his college days. It’s not just regrettable what Spiegel “thought” (that women were sluts and then some). It’s not just repugnant that he needed to broadcast his impressions, along with instructions to his fraternity brothers about how to take action against women.

What the Stanford provost brings to our attention is how many people received the emails that were “crude, offensive and demeaning to women.” And, all those men seeing those emails, didn’t one have a sister or mother? Didn’t one have a friend in a sorority house?

Not one person spoke up and said: “Hey, that’s disgusting. Stop it. We’re better than this.”

Truth is, this derogatory speech goes on all the time.

Not just about women. Not just about minorities. About  anyone who is different. Anyone not in power at the moment. Not in the clique, or the club, or the boardroom, or wherever there’s potential to put down someone who somehow is different.

Mean boys are no different than mean girls. Bullies all of them.

What’s worse is that we let them say their piece, and we never speak up. Even if we don’t agree, or don’t find it funny – we are loathe to say to the bully: Stop.

The Stanford provost wants us to be better than this. It’s not enough to ignore it. Or pretend you didn’t hear it or read it.

If you don’t speak up, you are part of the problem.

I spent a good part of last year policing a client. He is a good man in a very angry time of his life. The result was some mean-spirited blogs and posts. I never let one go by. I urged, hectored and insisted he remove them. We finally decided we could not work together.

That’s why it’s hard to speak up. Because you will not hear: “Thank you, you brought me to my senses!” You will however replace that client, friend, club, or whatever it is you’ll give up for something better.

That’s the lesson. Do what’s right, even if you did nothing wrong.

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Why a Bowling Pin Boy Beats an MBA

May 28th, 2014

national_size1Millennials are getting a bad reputation for helicopter parents, ADD and lack of commitment at work. Plenty of Millennials disprove that stereotype. However, almost every employer and manager I speak with – some Millennials themselves – worry aloud about the work ethic and engagement of this generation as a whole.

In Sunday’s New York Times, reporter Steven Kurutz neither laments his own humble work history nor regales us with his arduous first job, when he was working as a pin boy in the bowling alley of his rural Pennsylvania hometown. In the 1990s for $5 an hour plus tips, this is the job:

“To perform the job of pin boy, you sat perched above a pit on a wooden bench, hidden behind a latticework of machinery. As the ball thundered down the lane, you waited for the crack and jumped into the pit. Then, in a series of movements as fast — and nearly as well choreographed — as a Nascar tire change, you grabbed the scattered pins, placed them in their corresponding slots on the pinsetter, picked up the ball and pushed it down an iron track back to the bowler.”

By happenstance, my great uncle Jerry also worked as a pin boy, before he joined the Navy toward the end of WWII. He was a New York City high school student studying avionics. There wasn’t pay for pin boys then, just tips from the bowlers.

For the rest of his life, Uncle Jerry always held a job where he was paid for performance. He always worked hard and loved work. He was meticulous about keeping records. Plus, he could have become a pro-bowler, he was that good, but he didn’t like the potential earnings. When he moved to Southern California, he played football on Sundays with Elvis, would have been a movie star if stage fright didn’t overcome him, and married Miss Hungary, who was a Miss World finalist. Of all the great stories Uncle Jerry tells about his life, some of the funniest and most inspiring are about jumping around the bowling alley putting up pins, and avoiding being knocked out or badly bruised by incoming balls and flying pins.

Kurutz writes that his hometown still has the same setup in the bowling alley, and the pin boys do the same job, and take home the same money he did. The pay is the only thing that stinks about the story.

What’s amazing is that high school boys or girls putting up pins and dodging danger in the pits today, can grow up to be a top apparel executive like my uncle Jerry, a New York Times reporter like Steven Kurutz, or if I am lucky: someone who works for me.

That’s the Millennial I want to hire, as do lots of other executives and business owners. I want to hire individuals who know that sweat is a sign of strength. Who think and move fast. Who knows laboring in the background to make things right in the front of the house is a great job on the road to future success.

When you put together your work history – not your resume or LinkedIn profile – but your actual working life: try to find a job that shows you can sweat, pick up heavy items, or do repetitive tasks with speed and verve.

I could easily turn down an Ivy League MBA for employment. But a pin boy or girl? You have an unbeatable competitive advantage.

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What Successful People Hate About Feedback

May 21st, 2014

6527285_sA horror story played out at a board of directors meeting this last week. A venture capital firm called Deep Knowledge appointed an algorithm to its board. The algorithm is engaged in picking the firm’s investments, which are largely in emerging drug companies that develop medicine for aging related diseases.

This sorry reliance on data gathered about past success and patterns of behavior (AKA feedback) to predict the future, was portrayed as “futuristic.”  Of course, the algorithm’s appointment was largely a stunt to get our attention. Not positive attention, but attention nonetheless. It is a cautionary tale.

Consider this in your business or career. If all past events could be used to predict future ones, then the world would be a boring place. It would be ridiculously predictable, which of course the world is not. Not at all.

For example, at some point in primary school, you spelled some words wrong that you probably could get right today. In fact, you’ve likely come a long way from spelling even being an issue in your life.

As I recall, in third grade I spelled “stagecoach” wrong, because I was absent the day Mrs. Cooper assigned it among that week’s vocabulary words. No one thought to catch me up; in fact, in fifth grade the school district offered to take me off my parents’ hands and put me in college. So, there were no worries about my academic prowess from early on.

But, of course, being smart doesn’t have a whole lot to do with predictable success. Smart and lucky are a famously excellent set of conditions for success. Here is a nod to whomever defined luck as “opportunity meeting preparation.”

Successful people know that looking back to predict what will happen going forward is a fool’s game. It’s why by law, financial companies selling investments while touting a stellar record from a past time period must announce some version of: “past performance is not an indicator of future performance.”

Simply put: feedback does not equal feed-forward.

It is not just accidents, flukes, “100 year floods” that come twice over two years in a row, or a cleaning lady who is secretly a millionaire leaving her estate to you that stops the world and your life from being some version of Groundhog Day (the movie).

Successful people know that past data does not predict behavior.

“Just as looks can be deceiving, data can also be deceiving because they’re not the whole picture,” Tony Haile, the chief executive of Chartbeat, which provides real-time analytics for ESPN, CNN and The New York Times Company, opined in the New York Times on Sunday.

For every thousand data slaves armpit deep in analytics, there must be one futurist who is in charge of leading an organization, at various levels. You might be that individual. I hope so.

To rise above the past, means you have the career-enlivening characteristic of good decision-making now. It means you can ignite conversations about the nuances and the easy to believe but wrong-headed correlations that data would otherwise represent about you, or the industry and world around you.

If your personal brand includes problem solving and the ability to sift through data to find what is relevant and not relevant: we really need you in our organizations so you can lead them. Match these qualities with perseverance, resilience, humor, and compassion, and you are unstoppable.

Stay skeptical about your past, my friend. Search for bigger, deeper connections than those that come from simple, mechanical calculation. Make sure you are living with ideas about yourself that might be nonsense today, but could be the truth going forward.

Don’t let an algorithm or anything else steal your seat at the conference table. Mean more. And tell us exactly what your brand promise will mean to us.

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