Become the Serena of Your Industry

Serena tennis-664732_1920Despite the controversy in the final match, I was awed watching Serena Williams during her journey through the US Open.  In the Quarter Finals, both Serena and Rafa Nadal found themselves unexpectedly behind and yet somehow they were able to dig into their reservoir of talent and pull up their inner winner. How do champions do that? And more importantly, how can you do that in your industry?

1) Champions expect to win. How many times do you go into a situation with a less than winning attitude? Or go in thinking “well, this presentation, conversation, or sale can go either way but I’m going to give it my best shot.” That is NOT a winning attitude.

We often fear that going in expecting to win may seem cocky, arrogant, or unrealistic. If you are still believing any of those things…STOP! There is too much evidence and research in brain science world to prove you wrong. Your thoughts are powerful. Serena found a way to shake off any negative thoughts. She connected to her knowledge that winning was within her grasp. It would be helpful for you to do the same.

2) They stay in the moment. In that quarterfinal match, after she’d lost several points and had her serve broken twice, Serena looked oddly calm. She was focused on what was next, not on what had just happened.

How much energy do you waste dwelling on past failures and disappointments? Showing up to a meeting worrying about that meeting last week when you offered a suggestion and it was overruled? Or that sales meeting you prepared so hard for that netted nada? What can you do to be more in the moment?

3) They cultivate, embrace, and acknowledge support. Instead of hiding away from her fan base after the birth of her daughter, Serena chose to engage her fans through social media and even a documentary. After a match, Serena and many of the players mention how helpful the fan support was to their win.

What are you doing to engage and rally the people around you who can support you when times are tough and root for you when you need that extra push? Look for and cultivate allies in your office or in your industry. Acknowledge privately and publicly when people have helped, supported, or championed you.

4) They hire and put their trust in good coaches. Any superstar athlete, leader, actor or singer knows the value of having a terrific coach that understands them, challenges them, pushes them, and believes in their greatness. So, if you really want to become the Serena of your industry, wouldn’t it make sense to find someone who will do all those things for you?  Who can help you become not just great, but a Champion? Seek out a mentor in your industry or hire a coach to help you do just that.

For more information on my coaching programs, please visit my website.

Think Before You Act BUT Interrogate Your Thoughts

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.3 Seconds. That’s the time it takes between having a thought and acting it.

To an Olympic athlete, .3 seconds can be the difference between a gold medal or none. To an ordinary human being, .3 seconds can be the difference between thinking a stupid thought and being fired.

What can you do in those .3 seconds? Ask yourself…why you are having that thought? What emotion are you feeling? Threatened, weak, alienated, angry? Do you want the person in front of you to respect you more, like you more, or just plain go away? Is this thought or idea that you are about to act on or speak really even your thought or is it an old societal or cultural belief that you’ve adopted?

Just asking yourself one of those questions could save you from doing or saying something you’ll regret. And if you’ve asked the right question, you may discover another way to deal with your fear or need for respect.

Olympic athletes train constantly to erase the .3 seconds that separates them from competitors or even their own record. Shouldn’t we train as diligently to make good use of the .3 seconds that separates us from doing or saying something that could potentially ruin our lives?

In the next .3 seconds ask yourself, how much better off would you or your team be if you knew how to communicate more effectively?

Let’s talk. You can schedule a phone call here.

Assume and Doom! – 2 Ways Assumptions Doom your Communication.

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You’ve heard the saying “When you assume it makes an “a**” out of “u” and ’me’.” I wouldn’t quite put it like that, but I WILL tell you that when it comes to communication, whether for job interviews, elevator pitches, or presentations, many of us assume our listeners know way more than they actually do.

In this day and age, we’ve become so afraid of giving TMI (too much information) that we often end up leaving out important details. Assumptions that get in the way of communication come in two forms: Emotional Assumptions and Logical Assumptions. Don’t let them doom your next communication.

Logical Assumption: Your listener understands what you do just because you tell them your job title.

I can’t tell you how many times working with clients on job interviews or presentations, a person will give a job title or brief description and then assume that the listener will know everything they need to know. Most of us are so intimate with the minutia that goes into what it is that we do that we make the assumption that everyone else is equally familiar with it and therefore omit important details that can help your listener truly understand what it is you do.

Some of you may be thinking, “But surely for a job interview or a presentation for my peers, the listener should have some knowledge of what I do. Why would I have to go into detail?” The operative word here is “some knowledge.” Yes, people may know in theory what a title like: Financial Consultant, Marketing Director or Human Resource Manager means, BUT that doesn’t guarantee that they understand what it is that you actually do. The danger with giving too few details is that it forces your listener to dig into their memory and pull up their own assumptions. Some of those assumptions might be positive, some may be neutral, and some may be a turn off. If the last financial consultant they met helped them amass a fortune, terrific. But what if the financial consultant that comes to mind is the one that ruined their grandmother’s estate?

Emotional Assumption: You know how your listener or audience feels about a topic.

Many times in preparing for a presentation, my clients will say things like,”I know you all want” “You must be tired of…” Whenever I hear those kinds of statements a little caution light goes on and I encourage a different word choice. Why? Because most people hate being pigeonholed or having their thoughts and emotions lumped together with the thoughts and emotions of a larger group. It may be important to bring up negative assumptions that an audience may have about your topic, (it’s called getting the elephant out of the room), but it’s equally important not to categorically assume what people are thinking or feeling. Feel it out by using modal auxiliaries, (might, could, may, etc.); they’re not called “polite” forms of speech for nothing.

Download a FREE chapter of my book Standing Ovation Presentations for tips on how you can better craft your message.

Sharing Your Story – 3 Women who Embraced Their Albatross & How You Can Too

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As a member of New York Women in Communications (NYWICI), an organization of professional women in media and communications, I’ve attended events with incredible speakers who demonstrate the power of sharing your story.

One event was with Madonna Badger, founder and chief Creative Officer at Badger & Winters, an advertising, branding, and design agency.

Madonna began her presentation by asking for her slides to be turned off. Before she began her formal presentation, she shared how she’d been struggling emotionally with the recent death of her ex-husband. She also shared her life-altering experience of losing her parents and three daughters in a fire from which she was able to escape. You could have heard a pin drop.

At another event, Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski spoke. Within seconds of taking the stage, Mika shared her experience of being fired from a job she loved.

NYWICI also hosted an evening with Arianna Huffington who collapsed because she was so burnt out from overwork.

All of these women used their stories to engage and inspire the audiences but they also used their stories to inform their mission in life.

After her tragedy, Madonna was determined to make a difference in the world. She decided to tackle an industry she knew–the world of advertising. She founded a groundbreaking movement called #womennotobjects

Mika’s mission for helping women know and grow their value is a direct result of the lessons she learned looking for work after having been fired. She has a book and a speaking platform called Knowing Your Value.

And after Arianna left The Huffington Post, she devoted herself full-time to her mission of helping executives slow-down and invest in self-care.

What have you learned from your trying times? How can you apply those lessons to your life goals? How can you turn your misfortune into your mission?

Here are three things you can do (and one thing you shouldn’t):

  1.  Reframe your Shame: Often when misfortune hits, we turn it into crippling shame. Reframe your shame by experiencing the emotion, as painful as it may be, rather than running from it. By experiencing the emotion, you take its power to shame you away.
  2. Own your Value: One thing Mika Brzezinski stressed is that even when your “stock is down,” you need to own your value. Discover and focus on what you’re great at, what value you bring to the world, and what strengths you have. Share them freely and confidently.
  3. Listen for your lesson: Everything that happens CAN be a springboard to a discovery. What have you learned from this? In Arianna’s case, she learned that she wasn’t taking care of herself, a value that had been instilled in her very early in life but she had ignored. Has any of your misfortune come about because you have betrayed one of your values? How can you turn that into your mission?
  4. Don’t be FAUXthentic: Listeners can tell the difference between FAUXthentic and Authentic. When sharing your story on the page or in person, allow yourself to tap into your emotional memory and not your logical interpretation.

I recently heard a well-respected professional speaker say that nobody cares about our stories. I disagree. A well told, authentic, relevant story not only creates instant trust and rapport, it can also be healing to both the speaker and the listener.

If you want to work on your story, I’d love to talk.

 

 

Do You Suffer from Imposter Syndrome? 4 Tips for Overcoming It

 

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Two years ago the phrase “Fake it til you make it” set something off in me. I heard the phrase many times and it always bugged me. All of a sudden I knew why. Who on earth wants to think of themselves as a fake? Who wants to do business with a fake? 

I immediately came up with a replacement expression: Own it While You Hone it.  This phrase acknowledges that you have skill and talent, you just might not have stepped into it yet.

In “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders” (FT Press, 2011), Dr. Srinivasan Pillay talks about the Imposter Syndrome that happens to some (I suspect MOST) successful people.

Dr. Pillay writes, [The Imposter Syndrome] “arises because talented people experience gaps in their awareness of their success because leaps of success often involve unconscious processes and accumulation of unconscious processes can lead to these talented individuals seeking justifications for their success while they believe that something is unbelievable about this.”

 In other words, the actions people take to get where they are, to become successful leaders happened so long ago OR came so easily and naturally to them that they are no longer conscious of the work, effort, or skill set that went into performing those actions. So when they look at all the success that they have accumulated, they have no conscious memory of what they did to get there and they consequently wind up feeling like a fake. But you DO already have all those skills. You just don’t remember acquiring them.

If you’d like help discovering what sets you apart, you can grab a FREE download of the IT Factor chapter from my book, Standing Ovation Presentations. 

Dr. Pillay explains that the brain can become anxious because as a successful leaders, we don’t remember how we got where we are. And that anxiety can get in the way of leaders being able to think and plan. Is your current anxiety coming from the “Imposter Syndrome”?

So how CAN we tackle this pervasive phenomenon? 

One of Dr. Pillay’s points is that the more people become aware of the fact that brain science can account for some of the challenges we face in our business and personal lives, the more effective coaching and training will be in helping us overcome and/or change some of the habits and patterns that keep us from being engaged, successful and fulfilled leaders and human beings. He believes that when we become aware of the brain science behind why we feel like we feel, it can help us to rid ourselves of the effects those feelings have on us.

Now that you know that your brain has either completely forgotten or was not even conscious of all the hard stuff you’ve done to become the great______(Fill in the blank) that you are. Here are four techniques that I use on myself and my clients to remind our brains of how fabulous we are. 

  1. Make a list of all of your positive qualities and keep it nearby. Ask your friends and colleagues what they appreciate most about you. Write those down too.
  2. Make a list of all of your accomplishments and spend some time recalling how you felt emotionally before and after each one. Some of the qualities you rely on now may have developed in you a long time ago. Keep that list handy too.
  3. Create a visual movie of a fabulous day in your life and “watch it” as though you were looking at yourself from the outside.
  4. Give yourself a “Successful. Powerful Avatar.” Give it a different name and make sure she/he is a fully fleshed out person, not a fake. Think Clark Kent / Superman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman/ Beyonce/Sasha Fierce. Step into that “Telephone booth” and let him or her out any time you need to.

For more tips and to find a great list of positive adjectives, download a FREE chapter from my book, Standing Ovations Presentations.  

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 Do you have any tricks you’d like to share?

And remember: Don’t fake it till you make it. Own it while you hone it. Nobody likes a fake!

Ask, Don’t Tell Leadership

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“The wise man doesn’t give us the right answers, he poses the right questions.” Claude Levi-Strauss

For years I’ve been leading a four-session training course, covering communication styles, giving and receiving feedback, time-management and people management, aimed at helping newly appointed leaders in a government agency develop effective leadership skills. 

In one session, participants mentioned how often direct reports come to them in crises wanting to be told what to do. The decisions made are sometimes life and death. So when direct reports came to the new leaders for help, they usually told them what to do and in some cases did it for them. Even though doing so was frustrating and distracting, the new leaders felt that “helping” their direct reports saved time and avoided trouble. But does it really? Or does it create dependent workers who don’t learn to think for themselves and don’t learn to trust their own decisions?

I suggested if they wanted a solid, capable team (and to avoid burn-out), they needed to spend extra time coaching their direct reports by asking them what THEY thought should be done.

The next week, one of the participants reported a huge success. One of her direct reports came to her in a panic. “I thought about what you said last week and I asked her how she thought she should handle things.  It really helped her to calm down. I made her realize that she did have the answers. I couldn’t believe it worked!” When I asked if it took up a lot of time, she said “No!”

Think of the ROI. The time you invest instilling confidence in your direct report will yield amazing returns–confident, self-reliant staff are more efficient, effective, and engaged.

There are definitely going to be times where you need to provide answers BUT next time someone comes to you wanting to be told what to do, try using these –  Ask, Don’t Tell Leadership questions first.

  •  “I understand this is a stressful situation and needs immediate action, how do YOU think we should handle it?”
  •  “It sounds like you’re overwhelmed. I get it. There’s a lot going on. What do you see next steps being?”
  •  In the event you get the answer “I don’t know! That’s why I’m asking you!”  You could try:

o   “What would you say if you did know?”

o   “I’ve seen you handle similarly complicated situations before like when you (give a specific example) I believe you have some idea of next steps.”

Telling your staff or direct reports what to do is not leading, it’s dictating. When teams and organizations feel dictated to, they can develop two mindsets: The Sheep Mindset or the Rebel Mindset–neither of which makes for a thriving, productive, or enjoyable workplace.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” General S. Patton

Here’s to developing a great workforce. If you need help, take a look at my Capability Statement and contact me for information on training sessions.

Analogies: Your Best Friend

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by Narmeen Iqbal & Robyn Hatcher

According to Dictionary.com, an analogy is: “a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects”.

They are also your best friend when giving presentations and communicating with people. Analogies help listeners grasp concepts and ideas more easily. They help listeners mentally visualize the connection between one form of reasoning by interpreting it through another form of reasoning.

An excellent example of the use of analogy by a Marketing Professor at Indian Institute of Management (IIM). I compares marketing concepts to meeting a gorgeous girl at a party.  Like many effective analogies, this analogy uses a touch of humor.

  • You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say: “I am very rich. Marry me!” – “That’s Direct Marketing”.
  • One of your friends points at you and says: “He’s very rich. Marry him!” –“That’s advertising”.
  • You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day, you call and say: “Hi, I’m very rich. Marry me!”-“That’s Telemarketing”.
  • You get up and straighten your tie, you walk up to her and pour her a drink, you open the door of the car for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her ride and then say: “By the way, I’m rich. Will you marry me?” –“That’s Public Relations”.
  • She walks up to you and says: “You are very rich! Can you marry me?” –“That’s Brand Recognition”.
  • You go up to her and say: “I am very rich. Marry me!” She gives you a nice hard slap on your face-“That’s Customer Feedback”.
  • You go up to her and say: “I am very rich. Marry me!” And she introduces you to her husband-“That’s demand and supply gap”.
  • Before you say anything, another person comes and tells her: “I’m rich. Will you marry me?” and she goes with him- “That’s competition eating into your market share”.
  • Before you say: “I’m rich, Marry me!” your wife arrives-“That’s restriction for entering new markets”.

The effect of analogies is long lasting because they force you to form an image in your head and we are conditioned to remember visual information more readily than verbal information. I’m sure many of you reading this will think about these marketing terms the next time you’re at a party or a networking event. “Hmm… is this person using direct marketing or advertising?”

I often use the analogy of baseball pitching to describe “Elevator pitches”(read article) And I love uncovering analogies to help my clients come up with a unique way to describe their business or a  selling point of their product or service. For example; in working with a Whiskey Master Blender who was speaking about an extremely expensive aged scotch whiskey, I replaced an overused and incongruent gimmick he was using with an analogy of a piece of coal (the different raw whiskeys) turning into a gorgeous, luxurious diamond (the finished aged scotch). This analogy was visual, (he incorporated actual coal and diamond props) and conveyed to his audience the rarity and preciousness of his product.

What analogies can you come up with for your business or service? Feel free to test them out here and I’ll let you know my thoughts.

For more information about crafting your content, download a complimentary chapter of my bookStanding Ovation Presentations.

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Reach Out and Touch!

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In my training and coaching, I talk a lot about nonverbal communication: body language, gestures, facial expressions and vocal tone. However, there is one we tend to overlook—physical contact.

In a New York Times article by Benedict Carey, the author notes that researchers have discovered “momentary touches…—whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm— can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words.”

Interesting, huh? The fact is that 40% of the population is most comfortable using a kinesthetic learning channel; which means they communicate more effectively through touch as opposed to sight or sound. Touch, the article explains, is the first language we learn. No wonder it holds so much sway! Messages communicated through touch can immediately affect the way people think and act.

“Students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from a teacher were nearly twice as likely to volunteer in class as those who did not. A sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched.”

The Definitive Book of Body Language also notes that just brushing someone’s hand can create rapport and increase positive feelings and a light tap on the elbow has been found to increase a person’s chances of getting what they want by 3 fold.

Of course, in the age of sexual harassment suits, no one’s suggesting you go around caressing and embracing everyone you meet or work with. However, think about adding a light tap on the elbow, a brush on the hand, or a light pat on the back to your communication. It can make a real difference in the way people perceive you, relate to you, and respond to your requests.

Want to improve your body language? Contact me for a coaching session!

7 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd

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What can you do to make sure you’re winning people over in the new year? It can take only 2 seconds to make a first impression. And almost 90% of that impression is made through your nonverbal communication. But did you know that it can take up to 12 visits to undo a negative first impression! Here are 7 tips to make yours a good one.


  1. Start before you open the door – Many of us walk into a room planning to scope out the situation. By then it’s usually too late. Visualize yourself as a shining star before you even leave your house. Our impression is formed on the inside as well as the outside.
  2. Adjust your focus – Focus on how you are going to engage, communicate with, or inspire the people in the room. Do NOT focus on what they are going to think about you! Set the intention of finding people you can help instead of looking for people who can help you.
  3. Be curious! It will make a difference!  At a recent networking event, I was approached by a woman. I was curious about her embossed name tag and commented on it. She launched into an explanation about the tag. She told me some recent accomplishments and promoted something else she was doing. But she walked away without ASKING ME ONE QUESTION! Don’t be that woman!
  4. Dress your strengths – What’s the one quality about you that you just love? Make one style choice that reflects that quality. At a women’s networking group in New York City only 4 women out of 30 wearing color. Instead of dressing for success all the time, dress to Express.
  5. Become a flasher – an EYEBROW flasher. By simply raising your eyebrows quickly upon entering a room, you signal that you are a friendly, positive person who is also excited and exciting.
  6. Stand in your power – Posture speaks volumes. Stand with your feet hip distance apart, a slight bend to your knees, and your weight slightly forward. That gives you a solid base and pitches your body slightly towards the person you’re addressing. Try to keep your torso fully visible. Folding your arms communicates insecurity. Comfortably displaying your torso shows your confident and trustworthy.
  7. Channel your inner Barry White – The voice is the second most important part of an effective first impression. Speak from the diaphragm and lower your pitch, that goes for men and women. Lower pitches automatically sound more authoritative and confident. Avoid up-speaking – making everything sound like a question – and avoid speaking too softly or losing energy at the end of your sentences.

Click to learn more about the Chemistry of Communication!

“Be Authentic” is Bad Advice

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I’m not sure when the word authentic became the ubiquitous adjective it is today. I somehow suspect Oprah had something to do with it. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to read anything or listen to anyone speak about communication, leadership, presentation skills, interview skills, branding, or even relationships without the word authentic being spouted – repeatedly.

When social psychologist Amy Cuddy spoke about her new book Presence with author Susan Cain, they must have used the “a”-word a dozen times. Hearing the two of them use authentic with no clarification (though she does in her book) surprised me.

I’ve been feeling for some time that someone needs to start a conversation about the difference between being “your authentic self” and being “your effective self.” So here goes!

Let’s start with the Webster definition of authentic:

  1. worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact 
  2. conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
  3. made or done the same way as an original
  4. not false or imitation:  real, actual
  5. true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

Most people, when they use or hear the phrase “be your authentic self,” think of definition #5.

However, there’s a tendency for people to take this too literally. Some people feel that it’s out of “character” for them to dress a certain way or wear their hair a certain way so they don’t. They can assert that it’s their “personality” to use a certain language or tone of voice, to not smile, to keep to themselves, or to push the envelope, regardless of whether it’s effective or not. This gives rise to thoughts and statements like – “I’m being authentic, it’s their problem if they don’t like it.”  But is it really their problem? When you don’t get the job you want, the promotion you may deserve, the work environment you cherish,  the client you need or the second date you crave, who suffers?

Let’s be honest, there are times when being yourself is not being your best.

The fact is, there are certain visual, vocal and verbal habits that are more positive, receptive, and engaging to the average human brain. To not recognize and take these norms into account is a gamble. Sometimes gamblers win but the odds are against them.

Thought leaders, branding experts, coaches, and the like do a disservice when we tell people just be “authentic,” without explaining what we mean by authentic.

First of all, I think of the word genuine. It IS VERY important for people and brands to be genuine. But if we must use the word authentic, I believe the more accurate definition is definition # 2.

This definition of authentic can mean “reproducing the essential features” of the “original” YOU but turning those features into a You 2.0. This way you can still feel authentic AND be more effective.

I was an incredibly shy child.  Even after pushing through my shyness to be an actress and to teach communication skills like I do now, a huge part of my personality is to not speak up and to avoid the spotlight.  But as a business owner I had to eventually ask myself. “How’s that working for you?” It wasn’t.

When you think of your authentic self, is it working for you? If not, identify the “essential features” that make up YOU, and highlight, polish, and reproduce those features. Then lose or mitigate any features that get in the way of your being effective to create You 2.0.  It doesn’t make you any less authentic. According to Webster’s definition #2, you are still conforming to the original.

An important caveat:  I was sharing my thoughts about this with a colleague. She told me she had a co-worker that she just couldn’t win over with her warm and friendly style which is very authentic to her. It’s important to realize that creating a You 2.0 doesn’t mean everybody will find your presentation or communication style effective. When you find people who don’t respond positively to You 2.0 you have two choices–accept that everyone is not going to like you OR if the relationship is an important one, learn the art of subtly adapting to match their style. Just like you wear different styles in different weather, you need slightly different styles with different people. But that’s a topic for another post. Stay tuned!

Please feel free to share your opinions; I know you have some. And if you want help on how to go from YOU to YOU 2.0, please contact me.