How to Explain Your Business in One Sentence

Q: How is solving problems like wearing a miner’s headlamp?

A: Because it let’s you see everyone else’s clearly, but you’re still in the dark when it comes to looking at yourself.

Do any of these sound familiar?

 

  • “I tell others not to beat themselves up for mistakes, but I have a hard time forgiving myself.”
  • “I’m the first one to offer to help others, but the last one to ask for help, and I’m uncomfortable receiving help from people.”
  • “I know exactly when my friends are in a good relationship or when they need to get out of one, but I’m always hesitant to commit to/break up with someone.”
  • “If someone wants to lose weight/be healthier, I can give great advice, but I just can’t seem to do it for myself.”
  • “I’m great at recognizing and being able to state what someone else’s professional ‘superpower’ is, to help them come up with their elevator pitch, but I can never seem to get my own to crystallize.

 

Were you with me on that list from top to bottom, or did I lose you on that last one? Is that just me?

 

I’ve written posts and made videos and led workshops on doing elevator pitches in the past, but truth be told, I’m never 100% confident in my own.

 

But last weekend I attended a terrific workshop with Don Miller, founder of Storybrand, and author of Building a StoryBrand: Clarifying Your Message so Customers will Listen.

 

The workshop wasn’t just about how to craft an elevator pitch, it was about “creating a captivating one-liner.”

 

That was right up my alley, because no matter how concise I try to make it, I always feel like my own introductory “pitch” would need to be in an elevator of a REEEEALLY TALL building!

 

His process was simple and comprised of three simple (though not necessarily easy) steps:

 

  1. State the problem/pain point you fix from the customer’s point of view
  2. Identify your solution (NO DETAILS!) and how your solution is linked to their survival
  3. Clarify the reward, i.e. paint the picture of how great their life will be after you fix their problem.

 

I had the chance to work through my own elevator pitch and get feedback from Don himself, and not only did I find the process valuable and end up with an elevator pitch I was really happy with, but I realized how teachable it is.

 

That’s why this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast I’ve decided to share the steps with you, taking you through my evolutionary thought process as a “case study,” for you to use as a model (of what not to do, if you don’t like my final product!) in creating your own “captivating one-liner” that helps you get the immediate response we all want to hear:

 

“Tell me more.”

 

 

But here’s the other kicker:

  • No matter how great your elevator pitch is – whether one line or more – you still have to be able to DELIVER it in a way that sounds like you truly BELIEVE it, and are HAPPY about it, if you want anyone else to want to hear more.
  • Great content with lousy delivery is like a pearl coated in mud: There’s real treasure in there, but you can’t see it, and have to work to find it. AND
  • Great delivery with lousy content is like putting lipstick on a pig: Somebody might find it momentarily entertaining, but there’s no real value in it (and it’s probably cruel to the pig.)

 

So if you’re wondering whether I’m going to share my final “one-liner” elevator pitch, the answer is, “Of course!”

 

Just not here. 🙂

 

You’ll just have to tune in here or watch the video here to see how it unfolds!

What To Do When You Can’t See the Staircase

“Take the first step in faith.
You don’t have to see
the whole staircase,
just take the first step.”

-The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Yesterday we commemorated the incredible life and works of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I won’t begin to pretend to understand the reality of the challenges faced by my African American neighbors, friends, colleagues and loved ones, whether pre-1960s or in current society.

 

In various aspects of life I’ve been judged based on my gender, my age, my height and weight, my nationality, my car, my clothes, and even my race from time to time… but there’s no illusion in my mind that it’s the same, so I won’t pontificate on it.

 

Dr. King was known for innumerable pearls of wisdom – most notably his “I have a dream” speech. But some of his less-widely known statements can be instructive in that they invoke the shared experiences of all people. His quote about faith, above, is a perfect example of this.

 

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have fears, experience self-doubt, play the internal “what-if” mental game with ourselves, and hunger for approval, love, respect, opportunity, significance and self-efficacy. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, regardless of how much we try to plan for it; we can’t see the staircase, but to move forward, we have to take that first step, in faith.

 

Just like everyone else, regardless of skin tone or other differences.

 

Hearing or reading this kind of quote makes us realize that “You feel like I feel, and we have similar fears, ambitions and needs.” When we have moments of clarity like this, it can help us realize how connected we really are, and better appreciate the inherent equality and similarities of all people.

 

Another favorite quote of mine from Dr. King is:

 

“You will change your mind;
you will change your looks;
you will change your smile,
laugh and ways but
no matter what you change,
you will always be you.”

 

It actually makes me smile because when I read the second line about changing your looks, I can’t help but think back on my middle and high school yearbook photos over the years. I’ve already confided in you in the past that I’m a child of the ‘80s, so shoulder pads and big hair (permed and teased galore) along with a number of other fashion atrocities were a natural part of the “uniform.”

 

And yes, I’m glad I changed my mind AND my looks since then!

 

The last two lines, however, are the most powerful: “no matter what you change, you will always be you.”

 

This only seems like a problem when we’re in a situation with people who seem to indicate – implicitly or explicitly – that who we are simply isn’t enough.

 

And while some people face those unfair biases far more often than others, it’s another one of those things that we ALL share from time to time, no matter how much we’d like to believe that some people never have to face it.

 

This week’s Speaking to Influence episode gives us a little peek into this reality, along with a chance to confess, “wow, someone didn’t want to do business with him because of THAT?”

 

In the podcast, Joseph Chott, Senior Vice President at Brown Brothers Harriman, shared the challenges in working at an extremely “old business” at a young age. Among other things, these include having prospective clients outright challenge his credibility because of his age. (Did your mental HR siren just go off?)

 

More importantly, he shared some strategies for how he overcame these challenges, and how he leveraged the opinions and findings of others who had more established authority and credibility to make his point.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

 

 

So no matter what you look like or whom you work with, remember that on any given day, we all might be standing at the bottom of that staircase in the dark, trying to muster the faith and courage to take that first step. When in doubt, offer a hand (and a flashlight.) Chances are, they’ll reciprocate when it’s you who is looking blindly up the staircase.

When to Use Honey and When to Use Vinegar

“Which is right? Being clear and direct, or sugar-coating everything?”

 

If I had a dollar for every time a client asked this question – or some version of it – I could have retired by now. (Okay, maybe not, but I’d be a lot closer!)

 

It’s a common expression of frustration when people get feedback that they’re “too blunt” or need to be “more diplomatic.”

 

The flip side of the coin is when I hear, “I know, I’m too nice. People don’t take me seriously and I get ignored. I can’t stand it!”

 

The main problem in both of these situations is the “Either/Or” mentality regarding communication and influence: “EITHER I’m clear OR I’m nice.”

 

This is an artificial choice; a false binary that frames conversation as black and white rather than infinite shades of gray that shift (or at least need to shift) based on other contextual factors.

 

There’s an expression that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but (a) we’re talking to other people, not catching flies, and (b) if I have honey and vinegar, there are far more productive things I’d rather do with them than catch flies.

 

For starters, I’d make salad dressing. (Remember, I love to cook because I like to eat even more than I like to talk!)

 

Salad dressing is all about the balance between acid and oil, with salt and sweetness to taste. Traditionally, the ratio is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, although I typically like it more balanced. Then the spoonful of honey, maybe a little dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper to finish it off.

 

But this can be modified depending on what it’s being paired with, and who will be eating it. For example, my husband likes his dressings a lot sweeter, whereas my mother prefers much less oil in the mix. Alternatively, if the salad has bitter flavors like radicchio and endive I’ll add a little extra honey to the dressing; if it has chopped apples or dates, I’ll add a little extra vinegar to balance it out.

 

It’s the same with diplomacy: your message needs to be “dressed” with the right balance of “acid” and “sweetness:” The underlying point needs to be clear and unambiguous, but the delivery needs to ensure the person you’re serving it to doesn’t find the taste so off-putting that they send it back to the kitchen and leave the restaurant.

 

This is as true in family discussions as in business conversations… so imagine how important (and challenging) it must be if you’re running a family business!

 

That’s exactly what we explored this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast with David Reale, CEO of Phoenix Tube Co. David started working for his dad in the family business of steel tube manufacturing (ever ride a bus or subway and hold on to the bar for balance? That’s his!) when he was 14 years old. Decades later, he and his brother now run the show.

 

 

One unique thing about having risen through the ranks in the same company for his entire career: he’s literally done every job at the company at one time or another. This provides a uniquely powerful perspective as a leader, and David shared how it influences his style-shifting decisions in order to effectively translate messages to different stakeholder groups.

 

In our conversation, he shared lessons in business and leadership he learned from his father (who was comparatively very heavy-handed with the vinegar), and how he decides when to follow in his father’s footsteps or go a different direction, adding more honey to some interactions than others, and which discussions don’t ever need to be sugar coated, period.

 

Listen to the full conversation here and watch it on YouTube here .

Good news: I’ve finally gotten permission from LinkedIn to run LinkedIn Live events! Stay tuned for links to join my first live broadcast next week on Thursday 1/20 at 3pm ET with Kari Schneider, high-performance coach to executives and professional athletes alike. She’ll share all the inside secrets to keeping your energy up and your focus sharp when you’re in back-to-back video conferences all day. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this!

How to Become Captivating in 2022

( Comic by José María Nieto @humorjmnieto)

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

Why happy? Because I’m choosing to make it happy.

 

Don’t get me wrong – it would be easy to join the blamers, complainers and nay-sayers. After all:

 

  • Most of my family had some (thankfully minor) version of Covid over Christmas
  • New Years Eve traditions were abandoned in favor of quarantine and watching the Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up” – which should have been entitled “Don’t Look at ALL”: despite a star-studded cast, it was 2.5 hours of my life I will never get back
  • The news is as depressing as ever, regardless of what outlet you dare to listen to

and the list could go on, but why bother?

 

I’d much rather focus on other facts:

  • 2021 was my best business year ever, and 2022 looks even more promising
  • I just got to spend three uninterrupted weeks with my oldest son who is home from college.It was 60 degrees over the weekend – crazy New Year weather for Philadelphia, and I got to go for a jog in fresh air for the first time in months
  • Apparently most of my extended family decided my 5-year-old needed to jump the loose energy out of his system, as three different people sent him “stomp rockets” for Christmas, which proved to be TONS of fun

and THAT list goes on too.

 

As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I did on New Years Eve: I sat down for about 90 minutes, combing through my calendar entries from 2021, and made a 5-page success/gratitude journal for the year.

 

There is nothing more inspiring than taking stock of all the good things that happen, large and small alike, whether daily, weekly, monthly or as often as possible. And the funny thing is that the more items you can list from the past, the more inspired you become for the future.

 

And inspiration is captivating.

 

Now let me clarify something: The word “captivate” simply means to attract and hold someone’s attention, generally through positive means.

 

What’s most exciting about this simplicity is that it’s completely achievable by anyone – even those who wouldn’t normally consider themselves to be “captivating.”

 

Think about it: Look back on 2021 and ask yourself a very simple question, “At any time, was I able to positively attract and hold someone’s attention?”

 

If so, congratulations! You were captivating! And if you did it once, I’ll bet you did it more often than you realize, and better yet, you absolutely can do it again – and frequently – if you just put a bit of conscious effort into it.

 

But if you’d like a little extra guidance on how to captivate people regularly and effectively, look no further than this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence.

 

Our first guest for 2022 is Sam Katz, award-winning documentary film creator and founder of History Making Productions.

 

 

Sam – a former aspiring-politician-turned-filmmaker – went straight to the heart of the matter: To educate (i.e. to persuade) people in today’s world, you’ll be far more successful if you can also find a way to inspire and entertain them in the process.

 

(I suddenly had a flashback to the lyric from the musical Mary Poppins, “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…” My apologies to those of you who will now be humming it to yourselves all day. Hey, why should I be the only one?)

 

Educating people through inspiring and entertaining them is exactly what he set out to do with History Making Productions. During our conversation, he shared numerous insights regarding how to educate, inspire and entertain people in our own personal and professional lives, including:

 

  • how he manages to collaborate with both creatives and community members to create legacy-worthy films that captivate audiences and tell stories that represent the viewpoint of all stakeholder groups
  • how to find the balance between informing and entertaining what it takes to captivate an audience, and
  • how to align verbal, vocal, and visual content for effective communication.

 

Plus, he gives us all direct instruction about how to be more effective on video. Heck, who better to get “how to be awesome on video” tips from than an award-winning film maker??

 

(Of course, if he inspires you to really get your act together and up your virtual game for the new year, you can always check out my online course, Virtual Influence for a comprehensive deep dive into how to do it quickly and easily, and even enjoy the process!)

 

Catch the full conversation here or on your favorite platform.

 

If you want to learn even more about how to confidently captivate any audience, don’t forget that my book, Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice, is always available to you, and is chock-full of mindset tips, strategies and tactics to help you do exactly that.

 

You will learn how to command the room (or screen), get the full respect that you deserve and the results you want. What better way to start the new year?

 

So decide today how you are going to choose to be a more captivating, inspiring leader in 2022.

 

Remember – last week, I shared a smorgasbord of 24-hour influence challenges from 2021. Which challenge(s) have you accepted so far? If you need a refresher, check out the show notes here. I’ve heard from some of you and have loved the stories you’ve shared! Can’t wait to hear more.

9 Ways to Finish 2021 With a Smile

Be thankful for what you have;
you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have,
you will never, ever have enough.
– Oprah Winfrey

 

We did it again! We are in the home stretch of 2021 and looking back, I am incredibly grateful for everything I have:

  • a nice home and wonderful, healthy family
  • a great job that pays the bills and makes me look forward to getting out of bed every day
  • plenty of good food, clean air and water
  • a fully functioning body and mind (okay, that last one might be debatable, but just go with it for now)
  • and so much more.

 

On the morning of the 31st I plan to take some time to reflect on the entire year and make a special “gratitude journal” entry for 2021. It’s so easy to get lost in the frustrations, losses, disappointments and everyday annoyances, but this practice helps keep things in perspective, and that changes everything.

 

Sometimes, however, that’s easier said than done.

 

Maybe you feel like there are a lot of unfinished things on your “to-do list.”

 

Maybe you suffered the loss of a job or a loved one that has cast a shadow over a big chunk of the year.

 

Or maybe you’re just exhausted at the end of yet another pandemic-driven year (is there anyone this does not apply to?)

 

The good news is that it’s not too late to end the year on a WIN!

 

As my little gift to you, I’m giving you a menu of NINE different ways to do something good for yourself and/or for others. Each of them can be done in minutes or hours, so even if you only pick one from the list, you’re virtually guaranteed to end the year with something that makes you smile inwardly and outwardly, and say to yourself, “I’m so glad I did that!”

 

You may recall that each week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, our guests participate in the “24-Hour Influence Challenge” – inviting you to take and complete just one step in 24 hours to have more influence. These are the good kind of challenges, the transformative ones. And this year, 38 guests provided 38 unique, creative, and inspiring opportunities to do just that.

 

That’s why this week’s Speaking to Influence episode is the “Best of the 24 Hour Influence Challenge from 2021. ” I’ve compiled a “listening smorgasbord” of nine guests’ challenges over the course of the last year, each of which falls into one (or more) of three categories:

 

  1. Personal vision and clarity;
  2. Skill Development; and
  3. Leading (and giving to) others

 

And yes – all of those categories help to increase your powers of influence!

 

Listen to the full podcast here or watch it here.

 

 

Whether you use a vision board, a to-do list, a flip chart, a SMART plan, or anything else to plan ahead for the upcoming year, let me know which of these other nine challenges you accepted as a way to close out the current year with a smile and a WIN.

 

I can’t wait to hear about your success, and how they change YOUR outlook for 2022.

How to Make Others See Your Point of View

“Diplomacy is the art of letting others have your way.” – Daniele Vare

 

When my older son (technically my stepson) T., was around 12 or 13, we got an email from one of his teachers informing us that he had been clowning around, talking too much, and otherwise being disruptive in class – a trend that needed to stop.

 

That evening when he came home, my husband Larry sat down with him at the table to have a chat about it. But before too long, T got loud and defensive, stormed up to his room and closed the door.

 

I gave him a few minutes to cool off, then went upstairs and tapped on the door.

 

“Can I come in?” I asked.

 

“Yeah,” came the muffled and unenthusiastic reply.

 

I entered to see him sitting on his bed, arms and legs crossed, and a scowl on his face.

 

“You okay?” I inquired, and sat at the foot of his bed.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Want to talk about it?”

 

“No.” (You can see where this conversation was headed.)

 

“Okay, no problem,” I said. “Just out of curiosity, when your dad brought it up, did he seem mad?”

 

“No… I guess not,” he mumbled.

 

“Did he yell?”

 

“No.”

 

“Did he tell your (biological) mother?”

 

“No.”

 

“If he had, would that have made it worse?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

I paused briefly to let it all sink in.

 

“Okay,” I shrugged. “Well, if you change your mind and want to talk, you know where to find me.”

 

I went back down to the kitchen to start preparing dinner, where Larry was at the table reading.

 

A few minutes later, T came downstairs and entered the kitchen.

 

“Dad, I’m sorry I yelled. You were just trying to talk to me and I was a brat. Thanks for not telling mom I got in trouble. I won’t do it again.” Then he hugged his dad and left the room.

 

My husband turned and looked at me, incredulous, as if to say, “Did you see that? Was that the same kid from 15 minutes ago? What the heck got into him?!”

 

I just smiled and went back to making dinner.

 

Sometimes asking just the right questions can get us infinitely further toward our ultimate influence goal than formulating the most articulate argument.

 

And it’s not just about asking “leading” questions (although that can be extremely effective, as I described above). Sometimes it’s about asking the right open-ended, fact-finding questions, to help shed light on an issue, and change our own perspective.

 

Yet ironically, our educational system, society, and most jobs seem to have placed more value on knowing and providing answers than on seeking them. So it often feels counterintuitive when we realize that asking the right questions helps us make an even greater impact as a human being and as a leader.

 

That’s why in this week’s podcast , Crystal Ashby, Executive Vice-President and Chief People Officer, Independence Health Group, digs deeper into how asking good questions not only makes interesting and meaningful conversations, but more importantly develops trust.

 

As Chief People Officer, Crystal’s role is focused on providing opportunities for her team as well as empowering them to find their own ways to shine, especially in today’s “new normal.”

 

Listen in as we discuss forecasting and reimagining a hybrid workforce, providing equal opportunities to remote and in-person team members, and how great leaders teach their direct reports to advocate for themselves and solve problems before stepping in.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video here .

 

Here’s to your success,
Laura

 

PS: If you’re a “last minute shopper” (frantic mall sprint on Christmas Eve, anyone?), consider giving someone an alternative gift: the gift of success through greater Virtual Influence! This is the last chance to register for my online Virtual Influence course to up your game and maximize your confidence, presence and influence online for ⅔ OFF the normal registration fee ! Go to virtualinfluence.today  and enter the promo code INFLUENCE21 to take advantage of this limited time offer today!

Why We Self-Sabotage and How to Break the Cycle

I did it again.

 

This weekend I started my annual Christmas cookie baking frenzy, which is always fun and a great tradition to do with my kids.

 

There’s just one problem.

 

With each batch, I tell myself, “I’m JUST going to taste one to make sure it came out okay…” but inevitably one leads to a second and a third, and before I know it, I’ve eaten a month’s worth of sugar in the course of an afternoon. (Today, I succumbed to the temptation of the chocolate peppermint bar cookies… sooo addictive…)

 

When I was a kid, my parents were ardently opposed to swearing. No “four-letter” words were allowed in the house. But they failed to include what might be the most destructive “four-letter word” in my vocabulary: JUST.

 

The word “just” can be a mental and verbal grenade in everything from how many cookies we eat, to our productivity and our self-esteem.

 

Think about it – how often have you said or heard someone else say something like:

 

  • I’m not multitasking, I JUST want to finish sending off this email while I listen in on the meeting
  • I’m not a leader like you, I’m JUST a (manager/accountant/developer/solopreneur… insert job title here)
  • I know I really should finish (important task that I don’t want to do), but I JUST need to go to the bathroom/get a drink/return that phone call/clear off my desk first…
  • I will ask him/her out, I’m JUST waiting for the right time.

 

Sound familiar?

 

When we hear ourselves or others use the word “just” in this sense, our mental radars should kick into overdrive, because it’s indicative of one giant personal and professional landmine: self-sabotage. We “JUST-ify” self-destructive behaviors.

 

And the irony is that we kick ourselves, because in theory we “know better.” So instead we ask ourselves the ultimate question for the thousandth time: WHY do we keep falling into the same destructive thought and behavior patterns over and over?

 

The answer is surprisingly simple: We self-sabotage because we have conflicting internal needs.

 

Think about it:

 

  • We want a new job/client (need for more money, challenge, respect, etc.) but we are afraid the learning curve might be steep and we might make mistakes, so we “somehow” miss the deadline to apply and stay in our current job (need for control and stability; comfort zone).
  • We know that that important task will help us be more successful in the long run, (need for variety and growth) but we also know it will be tedious and boring so we do what’s more interesting instead. (Need for certainty/certain reward)
  • We’d love to go on a date with someone (need for love and companionship) but don’t ask them out for fear of rejection (need to preserve the ego)
  • We want to eat healthier (hope/need for future physical and mental health) but we inhale a mountain of Christmas cookies, or french fries, or… (need for certainty, guaranteed pleasure)

 

There are many reasons why we self-sabotage:

 

  • Lack of self-worth
  • Fear of success
  • Wants some sort of control in oneself or other
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of judgement

 

And more.

 

So here’s the key: When you catch yourself in this vicious cycle of self-sabotage, ask yourself: “What internal needs are at war with each other inside me right now?”

 

State them outright. By giving them a name, they become clear and finite. (And you may even realize how silly some of them seem when you say them aloud.) Most importantly, when they are clear and finite, you can defy them!

 

What if you hear someone else sabotaging themselves by “JUST-ifying” unproductive behavior? Often, we’re most able to recognize other people’s self-sabotage that’s due to a lack of confidence. Sometimes the easiest remedy is simply helping them see their worth by expressing gratitude for what they do.

 

That’s the challenge levied in this week’s episode on Speaking to Influence, with Josh Elledge, CEO – Up My Influence.

 

Having appeared in the media over 2,000 times(!), Josh shares the power of creating connections through media to boost your influence and strengthen communication with your ideal audience. We also discussed:

 

  • how you know you’re making an impact,
  • the importance of communicating gratitude to those around you, and
  • how to make the most of your limited time in front of mass audiences.

 

Listen to the conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

 

 

In the podcast, Josh talked about his favorite part of his job: seeing the impact in the lives of people he worked with and creating the legacy he wants to leave behind. He shared how he does this by helping B2B service providers go from six-figure to seven-figure revenues by filling their schedules with their dream clients using zero paid ads. Not too shabby!

 

Be sure to tune in for Josh’s free gift to Speaking To Influence listeners to ensure you get more high-end sales leads for your business!

 

One way or another, stop JUST-ifying thoughts and actions that sabotage your success.

 

When in doubt, check out my book and the podcast at speakingtoinfluence.com anytime you need a dose of positive inspiration and ideas for new, positive and helpful suggestions to re-empower yourself and others!

What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Audience

A little while ago I was running a day-long training for the national sales leadership team – about 100 people – for a major tech company, and in the middle of the program I heard something I’d never heard before:

 

“Booooo!”

 

I was stunned. Where the heck did THAT come from?

 

I looked around searching for clues, and then I saw it: On the screen was an image of people on a Zoom call… and I was doing the training for a primary Zoom competitor!

 

The energy in the room stopped cold. Now what? Tucking my tail between my legs and slinking out of the room after the faux pas clearly wasn’t an option. I needed to get my audience back.

 

How could I regain both the audience’s respect and trust, and the momentum of the event?

 

I did the only thing I could think of: I joined in!

 

“Oh, Booo! I boo myself! Rule number one is always ‘know your audience’! I totally forgot this slide was there. My apologies for the oversight.

 

But here’s the thing: I actually spend a lot of time looking online for images. It’s really hard to find images that have the right content, feeling AND good enough resolution to project large up on screen without getting grainy.

 

So let me ask you a question: In all that time, why didn’t I find a good, high-quality image of (your product)?”

 

I let that sink in silently for a second, then followed it up.

 

“I don’t know the answer either, but let’s fix the problem together: Who here will work with me, and commit to sending me a high resolution image of (your product) after we’re done today, that I can officially substitute as the new image when leading this program for other clients in the future?”

 

Instantly, half a dozen hands went up.

 

“Excellent. Do we have a deal?” They nodded. “Great — so are we resolved here? Shall we move on?”

 

And move on we did.

 

But what was most important was what happened AFTER the program was done. One after another, participants came up to me and shared the same feedback:

 

“I can’t tell you how glad I am that that happened! Thanks for modeling how to successfully handle a ‘screw-up’ in real time. Aside from the fact that it’s good to know you make presentation mistakes too, watching how you handled the situation was the most valuable part of the day.”

 

Now, sometimes there’s a moment like that where you lose your audience in an instant. Other times you feel them slipping away, losing interest and focus little by little, both online and offline.

 

Either way, it’s a terrible feeling, and the key is being able to get real, re-establish connection, and move forward together.

 

That’s just one of the mission-critical issues on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, with Michael Fomkin, Co-Founder of VIP IGNITE.

 

 

Michael and I also dove into the importance of having a good elevator pitch, building confidence speaking from the stage, learning to speak off the cuff, and how to give criticism in an impactful way.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video here.

 

Of course, in order to keep your audience’s attention you have to capture it in the first place, which most people have a particularly hard time doing in the virtual world.

 

If you think this might be part of the challenge for you or someone you know, check out my Virtual Influence online course here. It’s a great alternative holiday gift for someone you want to help have even greater confidence and success online!

 

If you’d like to take advantage of that opportunity, as my gift to you, use the promo code INFLUENCE21 for a 67% DISCOUNT off the regular registration price through the end of the year.

What a 4-Year-Old and an Alzheimer’s Patient can Teach Us about Leadership

A few years ago, about midway through my dad's progressive battle with Alzheimer's, I remember getting an exasperated phone call from mom:

 

“I can't let him bring in the mail anymore,” she said. “We get so many solicitations from every kind of organization asking for money, and I just realized that whenever he gets the mail, he's been writing checks to ALL of them!”

 

Now, fortunately he still was clear-headed enough at that point to make the donations in reasonable amounts so that he wasn't giving away their life savings by the armload, but I certainly understood why mom was concerned.

 

But in hindsight, part of me can't help but wonder: was it actually a lack of discernment that moved dad to contribute to all those causes? Maybe he had ultimately reached a point of such pure, innocent, even child-like clarity that he knew exactly what he was doing:

 

Trying to help as many people as possible simply because it was the right thing to do, and it just felt good knowing he would make a difference to so many people.

 

Helping people simply because you can is one heck of a leadership lesson. And it's no accident that I described it above as having a “childlike clarity.”

 

Sometimes children – unencumbered by decades of baggage and excuses and social expectations – can be our very best models of selfless leadership.

 

You know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, four-year-old Alex Scott took that to heart, and boy, did she ever make lemonade…

 

Over $1,000,000 worth of lemonade, and she donated it all to childhood cancer research, before she died just a few years later at the tender age of 8.

 

If this story rings a bell, you may recognize it as the history of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), and I’m both honored and excited to have Liz Scott, the co-executive director of the foundation – AKA “Alex’s mom” – join me this week on Speaking to Influence.

 

 

To date, ALSF has raised more than $200 million toward fulfilling Alex’s dream of finding a cure for childhood cancer, having funded over 1,000 pediatric cancer research projects and assisted more than 10,000 families through their national support programs.

 

Join the conversation as Liz shares not only her daughter’s amazing story, but offers a behind-the-scene look at what it takes to create a movement.

 

Hint: it requires knowing how to find the right balance among clear, scientific, and inspirational communication.

 

Not only that, but building a movement also requires conscious emotional and mental strategies as well as the importance of self-care when leading and inspiring others for the long haul.

 

As a mom, my heart aches at the thought of losing a child, and listening to Alex’s journey reminds me to be thankful for every moment I get to spend with my kids. But whether or not you have children, and regardless of your professional role, I promise you, Alex’s story and legacy of hope will have you asking yourself what kind of legacy you want to leave for the world.

 

Listen to our conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

 

Leaving a legacy may seem like a major journey, but as the ancient proverb says, “A journey of a thousand leagues stars with a single step,” and when better to take that first step than NOW?

 

Today is Giving Tuesday, which is a perfect opportunity to take one small step and make a difference to someone whose cause touches your heart.

 

If you’d like to support Liz and Alex on their journey, you can donate to ALSF here.

 

And in case you missed National Philanthropy Day on the 16th, (or felt so good by helping others that you want to do it again!), here's an updated list of all the amazing not-for-profit organizations our Speaking to Influence podcast guests lead.

 

Find one that touches your heart, and show your support for the amazing work they do:

 

 

Imagine if everyone reading this gave just $10 (or $1,000… who am I to put limits on your heart?) to one of these groups. What a difference we could collectively make!

Take the Quiz: Which Thanksgiving Food are You?

It's two days before Thanksgiving, and knowing that in 48 hours I'll be hosting two dozen people for the first time in nearly two years, my life is already full of lists:

 

  • What I still need to pick up from the grocery store
  • Who is bringing what (tons of appetizers, side dishes, and most likely an obscene number of desserts… hey, we're Italian…)
  • House cleaning and setup checklist (a dining room table plus two card tables and lots of couches in front of “can't-miss” football)
  • Timing schedule for day-of marathon cooking (turkey AND ham, mashed potatoes, two types of stuffing/dressing, cornbread, vegetables…)

 

and more.

 

Everyone seems to have their favorite dishes. Personally, I don't care about mashed potatoes, but I absolutely love all the cured meats and cheeses in the antipasto appetizers (like I said, we're Italian), and I could eat a whole plate of stuffing with some cranberry sauce on the side (the jellied kind that slides out of the can and still LOOKS like the can… old habits die hard…) and a huge slab of mom's homemade apple pie for dessert. What's your ideal plate?

 

While it's fun to anticipate what foods you'll eat, here's a fun little twist: Have you ever thought about which Thanksgiving food you'd BE? Try this 60-second personality quiz to see which thanksgiving food best reflects who you are! (FYI, it turns out I'm a turkey! No comment from the peanut gallery…) 😉

 

 

Food avatars notwithstanding, here's the thing: I'm one of those crazy people who loves the chaos of hosting a big holiday gathering. But I'm also very lucky that my family members all get along with each other!

 

Gatherings like Thanksgiving create anxiety for many out there because it means bringing together people with very different but strong opinions on everything from football allegiances to politics.

 

The key to keeping the day in the holiday spirit is knowing whom to engage, whose comments to ignore, and how to have a meaningful and enjoyable conversation with someone who insists on steering the conversation into what's wrong with the world and who is to blame, when all you want to do is hit the couch to slide blissfully into a tryptophan-induced food coma.

 

Ironically, this is not all that different from engaging in workplace conversations with people with different perspectives, pressures, interests and needs.

 

That's what we dove into on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, with Luciana Bonifacio, Chief Development Officer of Save the Children, whose mission is to ensure all children around the world have a “healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm.”

 

 

Luciana shares how she finds passion and joy in work that often involves engaging in difficult culturally and emotionally-charged conversations.

 

Listen in here or watch the full video here as Luciana and I discuss the power of not speaking first, the difference between understanding data vs. understanding perspective, and how the nuances of labels and language used to discuss her work impact the success rate of projects and new opportunities.

 

And don't forget: Giving Tuesday is just around the corner! Consider how much we're all going to eat on Thursday. At a restaurant it would be at least $50-100 per person… but did you know that the same $50 can feed three children for an entire month? A little can go a long way. Please consider making a Thanksgiving gift to Save the Children here.

 

Finally, I want to share one of my new favorite quotes of the season:

 

 

Taking that cue, in case I haven't expressed it clearly or explicitly enough, every day I give thanks for all of YOU!

 

I'd love to know what you're thankful for. Better yet — let someone else know!

 

Here’s my Thanksgiving challenge to you: Think about someone who made a positive difference in your life, big or small, but whom you have not told yet, and send them a message of thanks. Trust me, it is NEVER too late, and you'll thank me when you've done it and see their response.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!