Archive for March, 2012

Corrosive Power Or Conscience?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The business of football got uglier when information about the bounty for pain scandal surfaced. This scandal is currently decimating the management, income, and personal brands of the New Orleans Saints. The ironically named Saints are not the only team of people to pool money and put people in the cross-hairs, in hopes of destroying opponents’ bodies. By destroying their opponents’ bodies, they also are destroying their careers, and future ability to take care of their families.

The desire to do harm with the physical, financial, or mental gifts you have been given – or via the wherewithal you’ve worked to acquire – is a powerful motivator when you are unrestrained by your own conscience or an outside controlling force that has a conscience.

Why would someone agree to pay-for-pain?

Competitiveness, fear, jealousy, greed, and a general belief that any way to win puts a win on the board all tumble together. This soup of malevolence often creates not just one bad person, but it often draws together an anti-social society of thug-comrades.  These people work together powerfully in sports, politics, business, even a sorority until someone shines a light on the perpetrators. Then it takes someone with some authority to do something to stop them.

But such an intervention is rare. Victims aren’t enough. Outrage isn’t enough. The power to do something about these powerful people is rare.

Malice is occurring everywhere

I’ve had to stop watching most news channels during these Republican primaries because I can’t stand what the candidates are saying about each other. The mockery, bullying, outright lying, and the push polls – are sickening.

What these same candidates are saying about our President of the United States is sickening.  It’s racism, competitiveness, fear, jealously, greed, and a general belief that any way to win puts a win on the board. These people and their supporters, including 5 mega-billionaire donors, have created a near master race of antisocial people with no one to stop them.

At the same time, we are having some kind of national discussion – with YouTube ads – about why kids bully other kids. This is ridiculous. Kids bully kids because they see adults do it to each other constantly.  They see their parents do it to each other, neighbors, other family members, people who disagree with them, teachers, and the family pet. These kids are bullied in their own homes. They see antisocial behavior on the web, on television and radio. And have you seen reality TV? Even the food channel? Chopped, crushed, turn in your apron, you loser.

I have listened for the last time to radio’s number one talk show host, the man with the biggest personal brand in the business, because he demands that women who use contraception to be forced to appear in pornography that we broadcast on television – among other filthy insults. Republican candidates’ mumbling “that’s not the language I would use,” isn’t even close to the NFL commissioner firing the Saints’ coach, suspending Saints management, and getting ready to go after the players. Yes, Republicans have the power to shut their broadcasting hatemonger by disavowing him if they would – it’s what the advertisers are trying to do by shunning this man’s program and his audience by withdrawing their ad money. But they won’t because their brand strategy has hate pulling in followers.

What can be done in such an environment?

You cannot be in business without being affected by all this: the punishing anti-social climate we are now in. You can join it or you can eschew it.

I can’t keep coaching you to assiduously monitor your mind and your mouth so you positively influence those around you – without admitting that it’s getting uglier out there.

What to do? Be a beacon. Make light and even love a part of your personal brand. Align with power that seeks to do the most good while doing well. And when you have power, wield it with conscience.

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Arouse Don’t Assault

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

8c18395v_medium_imageI have a client who persists in assaulting unprepared “prospects” with sales messages on social media. Not that this “jump them” attack can’t result in someone buying something. It is just the lowest percentage approach when it comes to actually generating revenue.

Selling tactics of the past

In the early days of selling, sneak attacks had a kind of novelty to them. A door-to-door salesman would ring the bell of a lovely suburban home, and on the homemaker’s smiling appearance – he would throw a small cup of dirt on the rug inside. Then, pulling out the vacuum cleaner he hoped would soon be on an order form, he’d suck up the dirt and then some.

For the unsuspecting homemaker alone with her housecleaning, laundry and gardening chores, the interaction with the itinerant peddler (in a suit and shiny shoes) was itself a lift from a lonesome day. If she had the budget much less the need, she saw this unexpected visitor with a gee-whiz appliance as a welcome break, plus the visit threw a bit of optimism onto her self-esteem and status.

So, in the earliest iteration of selling tactics it was true that you could compel people into buying products and services with tricks, sleight of hand approaches and high-pressure techniques.

Selling tactics of the present

That worked until it didn’t. Today selling assaults do not work in part because we have become accustomed to building relationships – even faux relationships – that qualify sellers by their personalities and behaviors: their personal brands. We expect to come to know the people we buy from, although we generally know them only through their interactions on social media, like their contributions to LinkedIn group discussions.

Note that the bar of familiarity is “interactions” not “appearances”. Appearances are posts and pins. Interactions are responses and comments. Simply linking your latest blog post or announcing your new product, and doing it relentlessly as you create or make news, may get your photo and link pasted up there– but it won’t make relationships.

Success with social, outreach calls and emails, and in-person networking now demands that you don’t just offer something of value – or that you push who you are or what you have on other people’s desktops. Success demands that you become interested in the lives, businesses, activities, accomplishments, concerns and needs of these other people.

If you’ve stopped progressing or you’re stumped completely even after you have nailed down your personal brand, your strengths, talents, skills, interests, and social media activity: your lack of forward motion might reflect your failure to focus on someone other than yourself.

Rather than force yourself on us, consider how you can arouse our interest in you. It starts with your arousing your interest in us – and expressing that in a way that causes us to think, “Wow, this person gets who I am, and that’s why I want what he or she has.”

Remember, this is an audience economy. Until you’re more interested in your audience than you are in yourself, you may find yourself on the margins of not just society but also the economy.

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The New Girl Nice

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

new-girlI had the opportunity to spend Friday afternoon and evening with Zooey Deschanel, star of the hit Fox show The New Girl. She filmed an upcoming episode at one of my companies’ locations, and the producers cast my business partner Jon Torerk and several of BioMechanixLA trainers in the show. I can’t give away too much more than that, except to say that the plot is really funny, other high wattage stars were there, and a village of production people swarmed the location.

Zooey is her own personal brand. She’s quirky, comedic and very assertive. She’s also really pretty with inimitable style.

I’ve been working with the show’s location scout for about three weeks, putting all the details together on our side – including casting and logistics, and had met the technical team and set designers. Every single interaction had plenty of smiles, a good amount of socializing, and always topped off with a hug or hearty handshake.  No matter how pleasant everyone was, it did not prepare for the dynamics of the day.

The start of an eventful day

Trucks and equipment pulled up at 1 PM, stretching several blocks long. An army of what appeared to be about 150 crew members began trickling in until the place was swarming. In less than three hours, whole sets were built, the environment was transformed, and a few rooms of what looked like air traffic control stations were set up. The shoot ended ten hours later.

What was most remarkable about the entire production was how NICE everyone was. I mean everyone. The director, the sound people, camera people, grips, guys that move stuff, and people who suddenly appear with food trucks filled with fresh delicious meals made before your eyes, and the location scouts who were on their feet for hours and hours.

Everybody made conversation, told stories, interacted with my staff, asked questions, compared their ice cream treats, showed us where there was food and more food, and loved answering questions about what they’d done that landed them where they are now. They were all happy people. Happy to work that hard. Happy to do what they did – at every level. Happy to learn about us and hear our stories.

I’ve worked in television and radio for decades – but I’ve never done a sit-com or spent that long with a cast and crew in one day. The currency that got everyone through it was being nice. Thoughtful, funny, generous, kind, patient and totally focused on doing whatever it would take to get the job done right – with a priority on keeping all the relationships intact, and actually improved.

After hearing so much grief about bosses, co-workers, subordinates and clients from so many people in business, I think I have an approach that might change the workplace dynamic. If you’re struggling with relationships at work, how about going Hollywood and being nice?

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The 5 Languages of Nice

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

3451559030_2237705085_a2b5121461_xlargeAs my creative partner @FamousAlice says, “competent and nice beats genius and difficult” when it comes to hiring, promoting and collaborating with team members – or selecting and working with vendors and consultants.

Competence is broadly understood as being good at what you do; but do not dismiss what it takes to be good – the education, experience, failure, success and of course opportunity. You might feel heartened to know that getting to the top rarely demands you to be the Wily E. Coyote, the super genius of your generation.

Actually, unless you have the idea and lone-wolf determination to launch the next Apple or you’re floating in pirate-free waters on a yacht as an heir to a Madoff-proof fortune, nice is the significantly larger factor when it comes to achieving success for most of us.

The great advantage of being nice – or learning to be nice

Nice is not the natural state for many, many people. You know it and so do I.  I interact with tens of thousands of people from speaking and working in branding and communications. I interact with professionals, business owners, students, young managers, mid-career changers, and the gamut of people who work from all over the world.

About 20% of these people are nice. Another 25% can pretend for a while. The other half are acting irritated, frustrated, angry, rude, bored, and certainly self-centered.  A fraction of those are just plain nasty. This makes your life as a nice person fantastic when it comes to the odds of people wanting to help you, hire you and send the best work your way.

Learn the language of nice

So, if you are looking to get ahead or get into your next great gig, learn the five languages of nice. Yes, it is that easy.

  1. Trustworthiness. For example, learn to keep a secret. In fact, keep all of them. Be a vault. There’s no gain in sharing anything that someone tells you in confidence. Oh – and when you say yes, mean yes. And, do it.
  2. Generosity. Keep your eyes open for a job that someone else might do well – and transfer the information to them. Be selfish about your karma.
  3. Kindness. Next time, offer to go get a sandwich for a co-worker who’s going to miss lunch to make a deadline.  Bring back packets of mayo AND mustard.
  4. Compassion. For instance, sympathize with your boss. Act like you understand what it’s like to have all that pressure – and everything else that’s going on in his or her life.
  5. Empathy. Feel the joy when your friend gets good news. Let tears of happiness well up in you when you see a soldier get that first kiss on home soil.

Being nice takes work

If you know my work, you know I say: “There is no magic threshold.” You can’t be nasty, indifferent, lazy, untruthful and unkind in your personal life and somehow be a nice person when you cross the threshold at the office door, meet a recruiter or prospect or write an email.

Paul Zak, cited by the New York Times as a leading authority in the emerging field of neuroeconomics, has been researching neuro-chemicals. There could be a possibility that genetics can cause people to be not-so-nice and based on these findings, what profession they are most suited for can be determined.

Apparently, if you can’t speak the languages of nice: you can always be a Wall Street trader.  That counts you out of a whole lot of other opportunities – but at least you know where you belong.

Want to learn more about making your fortune by being nice? I will tell you for free. Email me: [email protected]

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