Do You Just Want Me to Rubber-Stamp This?

Q: What is a camel?

A: A horse designed by committee.

 

(Okay, there’s your first groaner of the new year!)

 

There’s nothing more frustrating than when something seems like it should be an easy decision or process only to be derailed by having to get so many people’s input that the process is painstaking, and the final product has so many compromises that nobody is truly happy with the result.

 

How often do we wish we could simply submit our own plan for a perfunctory “rubber stamp” of approval and be done with it?

 

At the same time, how often do our plans come to a screeching halt because we forget to get other stakeholders’ input on key decisions first?

 

The last thing we want to hear is a boss, key client, investor, partner or other collaborator asking, “Are you hearing me or do you want me to just rubber stamp this?”

 

Yet that’s the exact experience Kelley Morse, Senior Vice-President of Human Resources at Bullhorn, describes on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast.

 

Kelley walks us through her thought process and the steps she took to course-correct both that conversation and its long-term effects on the relationship.

 

 

Kelley also gave great examples of why and how to meet other people where they are in terms of need and knowledge, and how she adapts her communication style to accommodate those differences in a way that still allows her to get her message across.

 

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

 

I almost forgot – Happy new year! (Anyone want to take “over-under” bets on how long it takes before I stop writing 2022 as the date?)

 

In case you were on vacation last week and missed it, if you’re looking for a great way to jump-start the new year with some smile-inducing quick wins, be sure to check out last week’s episode as well: it’s our annual “Best of the 24-Hour Influence Challenges” 2022 review.

 

In just a few minutes, you’ll be inspired by nine guests’ ideas for easy action steps, any of which can be completed in just a few minutes apiece, to kick off the new year with a boost to your powers of influence!

 

At the same time, I also understand that for many of us, the joys of unplugging for some much-needed personal time off over the holidays are often met with an overactive reality check upon heading back to work this week.

 

The world is full of questions, from personal health and finances, to the global economy and beyond. Yet as leaders, it’s important to be a voice of reassurance to those around us.

 

That’s why I’m inviting you to join me on Linkedin Live on January 13, 2022, from 12:00 PM to 12:45 PM when I’ll share essential tips for “How to Instill Confidence in Uncertain Times.” Register for the event here.

 

 

We’ll dig into specifics regarding your message content (what to say as well as what NOT to say) and your delivery (how you say it – voice, body language, and platform).

 

And if you think you don’t have time to think through and plan for all those little details, remember this: what you successfully communicate is whatever the other person hears, regardless of what you intended to convey.

 

The more effort you put into preparing for those key conversations, the smaller the potential gap between what you think you say and what they think they hear!

 

Don’t just “rubber stamp” these important discussions with your stakeholders. Join me for this first LinkedIn Live conversation of 2023 to start off the new year by helping ensure your people have confidence in themselves and in YOU.

What NOT to Do with Smart People

I don’t know about you, but I often find that the best advice is not only crystal clear and simple… but frustratingly hard to implement despite its simplicity.

 

For example, Steve Jobs wisely declared:

 

“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

 

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Why would anyone do otherwise?

 

Clear and simple, with one small challenge: Letting others make the big decisions (and sometimes even the small ones) requires two things:

 

  1. Trust
  2. Willingness to let go

 

Anyone out there have some latent (or not-so-latent) “control-freak” (i.e. perfectionist) tendencies? We all have them in some aspect of our lives, and we are addicted.

 

Letting go is hard.

 

But for there to be any possibility of letting go, mutual trust is a prerequisite.

 

Particularly in today’s virtual/hybrid world, when we only know each other as names in black squares or at best as floating heads in a virtual meeting, it can be even harder to develop that sense of true trust in others, both as competent professionals and even as people overall.

 

But what can be done to develop that trust, and even then, how do we let go?

 

This was one of the many themes of this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast.

 

Peter Joniec, co-founder and President of the Jonus Group, a staffing firm specializing in the insurance industry, shared his own journey on the path to letting go and learning to trust in his people.

 

It’s always hard to transfer the proverbial reins to someone else, especially when we’ve been doing the task for a long time and can do it extremely well, knowing that the other person will inevitably require a bit of a learning curve, and that may mean potentially substandard performance or production for a while.

 

Hint: There’s a very fine line between when you should and should NOT use the phrase “When I did this job…”

 

SHOULD: During instruction, especially if someone is struggling, e.g. “When I did this job at first, it was frustrating because… but I discovered it’s much easier if…”

 

SHOULD NOT: When repeated regularly, which sounds like haranguing and a constant reminder that you think you’re better than they are.

 

Those of us who are business owners feel that twinge even more strongly when we hire employees for our companies. It’s our money, our reputation, our customer relationships and more that is on the line, and the buck stops with us.

 

And as Pete described, that can be terrifying.

 

But since then, he has learned to put structures into place within his company to set up new employees for success, both personally and professionally.

 

One of the first stepping stones on that path is making key introductions to help them cultivate relationships with key partners, collaborators, and other stakeholders and resources from Day-1.

 

After all, don’t we perform better when there is a whole pool of resources out there to lean on from time to time?

 

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

Is it Just the Illusion of Being Heard?

One experience that always makes me question my own sanity is when I come out of a meeting or conversation (whether with colleagues, friends, family, whoever) thinking we’re all on the same page regarding next steps, and a conversation like the following ensues:

Me: Hey (Jordan), do you have document X?

Jordan: What document X?

Me: The one we talked about last week. I told you I need it for Y. I asked if you could have it ready for me today, and you said you
could.

Jordan: Oh, you mean you wanted me to do that? I didn’t realize that’s what you wanted.

(Or better yet–)

Jordan: Sorry, but I don’t remember talking about/agreeing to that.

Ah yes, watch my head spin…

This week I discovered that there’s a great term for that phenomenon.

Marc Brownstein, president and CEO of the Brownstein Group, a parent company including Brownstein Advertising, Red Thread, Public Relations and Nucleus Digital, a digital marketing agency, refers to that as “the illusion of thinking you’ve been heard.”

This week on Speaking to Influence podcast, Marc shared all sorts of wisdom regarding how to get your message across, as only a marketing expert could.

You may be familiar with the “marketing rule of 7,” i.e. that people need to be exposed to a product or service at least seven times before they feel like they are likely to purchase it.

Marc contends that nowadays it’s even harder to get your message (of ANY sort) heard with the perpetual inundation of social media messages, email, text messages and every app under the sun competing for everyone's attention.

No wonder we have the ILLUSION of being heard. We may have repeated ourselves or attempted to confirm understanding to the point where we think, “they MUST have heard me by now!” and yet… it still wasn't enough.

It's part of what creates the gap between “What you think you say” and “What they think they hear.” No one understands that better than marketers.

Marc also shared tips on:

  • How to decide when people need to come to the office vs. when to hold a meeting virtually
  • What he does if he doesn’t have an idea he really believes in
  • How not to have any favorites when leading a team
  • Holding everyone accountable
  • How to break past the illusion of being heard and
  • How YOU can assure your team and your clients that you are truly listening to them.

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

Congratulations to Rachael Jones, founder of Syntax and last week’s podcast guest – her Speaking to Influence episode jumped right up to #151 in management podcasts on iTunes/Apple Podcasts! In case you missed it the first time, catch our fun conversation here.

 

How Do You Create the Greatest Value?

About a mile from my house there’s a big ol’ pothole in the road.

The first time I hit it while driving I didn’t even see it, since it was dark out, and it’s on a shaded curve so it blended into the shadows. WHOMP!

I muttered a few choice words under my breath and made a mental note to beware next time I was on that part of the road.

It’s probably not a surprise to learn that I hit that same darn pothole more times than I care to count, even when I remembered in advance that it was coming up and was looking for it.

It made me feel only marginally better to know that this experience is not uncommon, because – as the saying goes – “Where focus goes, energy flows.”

In other words, the natural reflex is to stare directly at the object you want to avoid, but because we’re staring directly at it, our body homes in on it and coordinates all energy and motion toward that same point.

Although counter-instinctive, the remedy is to look NOT at the pothole (or other object) itself, but at some other part of the road, where you DO want the car to go; then you’ll be most likely to avoid making contact and steer the car to safety.

But that expression, “Where focus goes, energy flows,” can work IN our favor too.

In particular, in our personal and professional lives, often the hardest decisions to make are regarding where NOT to focus time, attention and efforts, when everything seems important.

By eliminating anything that is not the top priority, we are able to focus 100% of our attention on what matters most so “energy flows” in that direction, and we get the job done.

That’s when we create our greatest value.

And that’s what Rachael Jones, Founder & CEO of NewCo @ Redesign Health was talking about this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, when she explained how “energy drives action” and shared her emphasis on communication that promotes “clarity of goal, clarity of role.”

 

 

In other words, not only do we need to ensure that everyone is clear on what the collective goal is, but we need to be equally sure that everyone on the team is clear on their individual role and the value they create for any and all other stakeholders in order to help the team and company overall to achieve that goal.

That clarity helps them focus their own energy flow in the right direction to get the best results.

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

Of course, sometimes we’ve outgrown our current position and know that we could be providing much greater value to the world through a different opportunity.

That’s why I’m teaming up with April Mason, a top-tier career consultant with years of experience working at the forefront of hiring for Fortune 100 and Fortune 1000 companies, along with 20 other experts in her free series Lead Your Career in Turbulent Times beginning December 5th at 12 noon EST.

 

Click Here to Grab Your Spot

 

This is your chance to turbocharge your leadership, discover your purpose and learn to LOVE your work again.

In other words, our goal is to help you get clear on where you can create the greatest value.

Now, I also understand that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the context of all this talk of “greatest” value, “maximizing” productivity, contribution and the like. So there’s one other detail that’s important to bear in mind in order to keep perspective that nurtures a life of gratitude, balance, joy and fulfillment every day.

One of my favorite quotes is from the humblest of heroes, Mother Theresa, who reminds us that “Not all of us can (or want to) do great things, but we can (all) do small things with great love.”

Sometimes it’s the smallest acts that have the greatest meaning, when done from the heart.

So in the spirit of Giving Tuesday, today, I invite you once again to support one of the non-profit organizations we’ve featured on the Speaking to Influence podcast (links to the episodes as well as the organizations’ home pages are below) but WITH A BONUS TWIST.

You may recall that in last week's podcast episode, Dave Rowan, CEO of BLOCS challenged everyone to donate not just money but some TIME to a charity of your choice.

(Side note: Dave's episode was so popular it hit an awesome rank of #129 on Apple management podcasts! If you missed it then, check it out now!)

 

Well this time, as a special “thank you” to anyone who accepts my invitation, if you reply to this email and tell me which organization(s) you supported and how (no need to disclose any financial specifics), I will send YOU a free digital e-copy of my book, Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice, in PDF or ePUB (Kindle/iPad/etc.) format as you prefer!

Here’s our list of fabulous not-for-profit guests and the organizations they lead:

Ep.8 Paul IsenbergBringing Hope Home

Ep. 21 Carolina DiGiorgioCongreso de Latinos Unidos

Ep. 34 Charmaine Matlock-Turner – the Urban Affairs Council of Philadelphia

Ep. 36 Jamil RiversEducation Works

Ep.43 Marcus AllenBig Brothers Big Sisters

Ep.44 Jeannine LisitskiWomen Against Abuse

Ep.45 Joyce ChesterChester County OIC

Ep.67 Christine JacobsThe Adoption Center

Ep.68 Angela LiddlePA Family Support Alliance

Ep.69 Ralph GalatiJDog Alliance

Ep.73 Patricia WellenbachPlease Touch Museum

Ep.74 Allison TillmanAlice Paul Foundation

Ep.81 Luciana BonifacioSave the Children

Ep.110 Tracy AshdaleGirls On The Run

Ep.111 Keisha JordanChildren’s Scholarship Fund

Ep.113 Joellen Meckley – the American College of Financial Services Center for Special Needs

Ep.114 Renee WilliamsNational Center for Victims of Crime

Ep.115 Virgil SheppardHope Partnership for Education

Ep.129 Samantha SaywardAlzheimer’s Association

Ep. 131 Dave RowanBLOCS

 

Perhaps tell a loved one you're going to make a donation in their name/honor, as an “alternative” holiday gift that brings joy to the receiver, the honoree AND the giver!

Remember – no act of kindness or value created is too small, if done with great love.

Why Would You Partner with Him?

I love stories of unlikely allegiances that lead not only to triumph, but to a “win” for the greater good. Recently I heard two such tales.

 

First, my husband and I (finally!) finished watching Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which took us several weeks to complete as we had to watch each movie spread out over multiple sittings. (Who has time to watch a three-hour movie, much less three of them?)

 

Unlikely and trepidatious alliances between elves and dwarves, hobbits and humans served to collectively triumph over evil and provide all with the opportunity to prosper in peace.

 

The second was connected to this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast.

 

My guest was Dave Rowan, CEO of BLOCS, i.e. Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools. And BLOCS, as I learned, though not combatting the dark lord Sauron, did begin with an unlikely alliance in the effort to combat a most formidable foe: the combination of urban poverty, underperforming schools, and the need for a qualified labor force.

 

In 1980, then-Cardinal Krol, head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, approached William Fishman, the Jewish businessman who had been CEO of what is now Aramark, to lead a coalition of business leaders to support the Catholic school system in the city.

 

Why would a Catholic Cardinal want a Jewish CEO in this role?

 

As the website explains, at the time, the Philadelphia Archdiocesan schools constituted the eighth largest school system in the U.S., providing a higher quality education than the public system was able to provide for thousands of children in the poorest neighborhoods who would ultimately become the city’s labor force.

 

Fishman polled his employees and discovered that, indeed, more than 50 percent of the workforce at Aramark had attended Philadelphia Catholic grade schools, regardless of their religious affiliation.

 

Kroll and Fishman joined forces and a fundraising campaign was launched among the city’s industry leaders of all sects and sectors to help support the extraordinary financial burden of the city’s Catholic education system (which was, incidentally, alleviating an equally enormous tax burden off the public schools) in order to keep the city’s future economy strong for years to come.

 

Today, BLOCS provides need-based scholarships for students in underperforming school areas to attend ANY private tuition-based school, Catholic or otherwise, through the Pennsylvania State Tax credit program.

 

During our conversation, Dave not only told some great stories about his “former life” in the world of professional sports, but he also:

 

  • threw down a particularly inspiring 24-hour Influence Challenge in the context of the onset of the holiday season this week
  • discovered a perfect “escape” button for the horrible moments when you find yourself wishing you could put the words back in your mouth or frantically trying to unsend the email. (Or more seasonally, you can’t uncook the turkey!)
  • revealed how he fired someone with such empathy that the (former) employee later invited Dave to his wedding!

 

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

 

 

 

If you want to take Dave up on his 24-hour Influence Challenge and are looking for a charity to support, consider supporting one of our prior Speaking to Influence podcast guests:

 

But above all, Dave shared that his favorite part of the day is waking up every day knowing through their donors and schools that they’re helping provide these kids a brighter future, i.e. not unlike the Lord of the Rings, providing all constituents with the opportunity to prosper in peace.

 

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving this Thursday, I give thanks to all of YOU for your readership, feedback, input, comments, event attendance, invitations to speak at your events, and in general for putting your trust in me. It is an honor I don’t take for granted, and for which I am continually grateful.

 

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and joyful Thanksgiving!

Are You Willing to Bet On Yourself ?

I am what some might call an “accidental entrepreneur.”

 

Nearly 15 years ago when I was finishing grad school, I attended my cousin’s wedding. At the reception, I was chatting with a man who was also seated at my table, when another cousin came by and congratulated me on having recently defended my doctoral dissertation.

 

The man asked about my research, so I shared the highlights.

 

“You know,” he observed, “I’ve always had an interest and an instinct about what you study, but I never had the data to back it up. You have the data, and I think it’s relevant in today’s global economy. Would you be interested in doing a training for my team about it?”

 

“Sure,” I said. After all, I had been teaching at the university for years, so how different could this be?

 

We followed up by phone a few days later, at which point I learned he was actually the vice president of government programs at IBM, and the “team training” he wanted to run meant him flying in about 75 country- and regional leaders from around the world for a two-day private event!

 

I had no business background or aspirations to that point, but the dice had been cast: he saw potential and decided to take a chance on me, so I had an important question to answer and decision to make:

 

Did I have the confidence to take a chance on myself?

 

We agreed on the parameters of the event, and as I hung up the phone, half excited and half terrified, the thought racing through my head was, “Oh my God, what did I just agree to do?!”

 

That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, and the man was Chris Caine, who you may recall from episode #47 of the Speaking to Influence podcast.

 

Over the last 15 years Chris and I have continued to work together on projects and in places from Washington, DC to Cairo, Egypt. And last weekend I got to share this “origin story” with nearly 100 entrepreneurs in New York at the general assembly of the USA Women’s Entrepreneurship Cooperative, a program founded the Center for Global Enterprise, Chris’s non-profit.

 

They are the newest cohort of leaders in whom Chris and his team saw potential and were willing to bet on. Now they need to take what they’ve learned and bet on themselves every single day moving forward to build their businesses and achieve their vision.

 

Every day we are faced with opportunities to challenge ourselves and play bigger. But how many of those opportunities do we talk ourselves out of because they require stepping our of our comfort zone, and taking a risk of some sort, no matter how small?

 

Ironically, this was one of the themes of this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast. I say ironically because I had not one but THREE amazing guests: Cindy Lewis, CFO of Coho Partners , Kathy Govier, CMO of Geppi Family Enterprises, and Dana Reyngoudt, VP of partner marketing at NBC Universal, who had the top three performing podcast episodes of 2022.

 

 

None of them had ever been on a podcast before, and they all confessed that they had initially balked at the invitation to be on the show.

 

The voice of the inner critic had lots of tried and true messages in the arsenal, e.g.:

  • “I don’t like public speaking”
  • “What if I sound stupid?”
  • “I’m not a storyteller”
  • “I don’t like the sound of my own voice”

 

(If that last one resonates with you, here’s a quick two-minute video I posted a few years back explaining WHY your voice sounds weird on video.)

 

But to expand your reputation as a thought leader, you have to lead by example, and that starts by being willing to step outside of that comfort zone.

 

(Heck, if Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi could overcome their fears of public speaking, can’t everyone?)

 

As Cindy so wisely shared, at a certain point she had to ask, “Am I willing to bet on myself?”

 

In this panel discussion, they shared how they found their deeper motivation to challenge themselves and support the next generation of leaders, and went “from spreadsheet queens to storytellers” in their newly adopted role as podcast guests.

 

And boy did we have fun in the process! Tune in to laugh with and learn from the group.

 

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

 

And last but not least, in case you missed it, on Saturday was an amazing event, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s (#endalz) at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia.

 

In this quick clip Kristina Fransel, executive director of the greater Delaware Valley chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association explains how you can STILL get involved and help them find a cure that affects 6.5 Million Americans.

 

 

For me, it’s personal: My father died two years ago after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s, and that became mom’s full-time job for most of that time.

 

The statistics are terrifying regarding how quickly the number of people living with Alzheimers’ and other forms of dementia is increasing, as well as the number of loved ones who become full-time, primary care givers at home, or otherwise be responsible for the wellbeing of someone struggling with significant cognitive impairment with aging. Chances are, it will affect all of us in one way or another, in our families and in our lifetime.

 

If you’re like me, you can run into a convenience store to pick up one thing and “accidentally” spend another $10 before you know what happened! If that sounds familiar, take that “accidental” $10 and deliberately donate it today at https://alz.org to help them find a cure.

 

A bet on the Alzheimer’s Association is an investment in your future whose ROI keeps on giving.

This is How I Show my Gratitude

This week is full of diverse experiences that remind me of my many privileges for which I am grateful.

On Sunday morning I participated in the Cooper Norcross Bridge Run, a 10k race from Camden, NJ over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to Philadelphia, PA and back. I marvel at and am humbled by the thousands of people who come out to the race in support of the Larc School, which offers special education programs and therapies for students with moderate to severe disabilities, to help them maximize their potential growth, development, and independence.

 

As I’ve shared before, I’m NOT a runner at heart, and certainly don’t strive to “win.” If I cross the finish line on my own two feet, it’s a win!

 

(When I shared this philosophy with my 81-year-old mother-in-law, she laughed and said, “That’s what my friends and I always say: the goal is just to stay vertical and ventilated!”)

 

But it’s a privilege to be healthy and able to run and raise awareness in support of the Larc School which is why I do it almost every year. That’s why I wanted to share my “vertical and ventilated victory” with all of you, so I’ve brought you all with me across the finish line (try not to be TOO unimpressed by the time on the race clock):

 

(Click to play: Cooper Norcross Bridge Run Finish Line)

 

Special thanks to all the race day volunteers who work to make the event possible!

 

Today, of course, is Election Day here in the US. Campaign season in general seems to bring out the worst in most people because it reduces any possible relationship between a candidate and voter to a momentary transaction: which button they push or box they check on the ballot.

 

I may not always like my options at the polls, but I am very aware of the fact that although voting is my right as a citizen, it’s also a privilege I have that many have fought and died for, from the revolutionaries of 1776 to the women’s suffrage victory in 1920 and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. It's also a right and a privilege far too many around the world still do not have.

 

So I will always vote when I have the ability to do so, at the very least to honor their sacrifices, even if I have to “hold my nose” in the process. I encourage you to cast your vote today as well (whether or not you hold your nose too) if you share the same privilege.

 

On the other hand, something I’m extremely happy to share with you is that my guest this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, is Samantha Sayward, Senior Walk Director for the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

Alzheimer’s is a particularly personal disease for me, as my father passed a few years ago after a five-year bout with it. (Here’s a quick one-minute video overview of what it really is.)

 

The Walk to End Alzheimers is an annual event at sites all over the country, and I can only imagine that it's no small task to coordinate dozens and dozens of events with hundreds of employees, thousands of volunteers, and tens of thousands of participants, while ensuring that everyone is safe, happy, feels valued and like their efforts made a difference!

 

For me, the biggest point of distinction in our conversation was the importance of making a relationship transformative, rather than transactional. We are all in such a rush nowadays, it’s easy to focus too much on the task at hand and forget to take the time to build a relationship with the person collaborating on the task with us, whether a future client, volunteer, donor, employee, or otherwise.

 

That extra effort may seem overwhelming at times, but its impossible to build a connection with the other people involved without it. As Sam discussed, failing to build these relationships can determine whether employees respect the boss as a person, or just the boss’s rank. And the difference that makes to the culture and success of the organization overall is equally transformative, for better or for worse.

 

Some key leadership lessons she shared to close this gap include:

 

  • The value of asking discovery questions and then simply LISTENING without interjecting personal experiences, and opinions
  • The importance of encouraging your staff to provide feedback on your leadership style (hint: if you put your ego aside and receive the feedback objectively and gratefully, it makes you a better leader)
  • Being accountable for your actions
  • Being kind to yourself in the process – leadership is hard and the learning curves are often steep!

 

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

 

 

Apropos of this week’s theme, I’m also grateful to Sam, a US Navy veteran, for being on the show in time for Veterans Day, coming up on Friday.

 

To Sam, Ralph Galati, Joey Fay, Tom DiBiase, Sheriff Errol Toulon, Stephen Forzato, Jennifer Ewbank, and any other prior podcast guests – as well as any of you, my readers – who were formerly or currently are actively in the armed forces, law enforcement, or any other similar role of service, THANK YOU.

 

It is because you selflessly put your own lives on the line to protect my rights and freedom that I can sit here and write these newsletters; freely voice my opinions and observations on podcasts, stages, tv and radio; and even openly complain about my government and candidate options at the voting booth.

 

How often do we have trouble simply walking away from a disagreement without trying to get the last word in, much less refusing to relent until we “win”? Despite these very human tendencies, Veterans, active military personnel and other law enforcement professionals fight for my rights to do these things even if they disagree with every last opinion I hold.

 

For me, I think that is the greatest lesson in servant leadership and humility.

 

Finally, I thank each of YOU for your continued support, and allowing me to provide value, ideas, and even a little inspiration to you each week.

 

(Don’t forget to vote!)

The Most Important Question You Must Answer

Last week I received a great surprise invitation that made me put my money where my mouth is.

 

Kelsey Fabian, morning show host at WPHL 17 TV here in Philadelphia – invited me to join her on the air Wednesday morning to debrief the one and only debate between Mehmet Oz (“Dr. Oz”) and PA Lt. Governor John Fetterman in the contest to win the soon-to-be-vacant PA seat in the US Senate.

 

You may recall that last week’s newsletter covered what I anticipated looking for in that unique debate, for a number of reasons, and you can see my full review of the event in my LinkedIn post here.

 

One theme I have harped on election cycle after election cycle, and in my leadership communication training overall, is the importance of being able to get your message into “tweetable and repeatable” sound bites.

 

The “strict interpretation” of that phrase, apropos for campaigns of any sort, is being able to essentialize your key points into short phrases. (e.g. “Make America Great Again” – whether you loved it or hated it, it’s extremely “sticky” in marketing terms, i.e. easy to understand, remember, and repeat, which also made it very effective.)

 

But the “loose interpretation” is more universally necessary. It’s simply the ability to be clear and concise in a very short period of time. In my case, it was in a six-minute television interview.

 

Now remember – that’s not a six-minute monologue. It includes their introduction of the segment, showing a few clips from the debate, and Kelsey’s questions and comments… which left me with somewhere around 3 minutes total time broken up to answer questions about three different clips (AND share my book title and website when she generously invited me to do so at the end.)

 

Here’s a link to our interview – you can judge for yourself if I succeeded in making my points clear and concise, and hopefully interesting too!

 

 

But one thing I realized from the experience was that there was something else I had in common with the candidates besides super-short windows of time in which to make my points.

 

I realized that our audiences are all asking the same implicit core question:

 

“Why should I take a chance on you?”

 

That was also a theme that came up in this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast. My guest, Charles Stiles, head of the Mystery Shoppers Professional Association, and president and CEO of Business Evaluation Services, recounted a moment early in his career when speaking with his very first client who had a chain of thirty schools (and was probably old enough to be his father). The client looked at his young face and point-blank asked the question, “Why would I take a chance on you?”

 

But whether you are a doctor, attorney, sales rep, entrepreneur, or heck, anyone who has ever pitched an idea to someone – from throwing your hat in the ring for a promotion or new job, to just suggesting where the group should go for lunch – you still have to answer that same question somehow or other.

 

By the way, if Charles’s name is familiar to you, you’ve probably been a long-time fan of the Food Network: Charles hosted the show “Mystery Diners” for eleven seasons!

 

Incredibly, there are over 2 million mystery shoppers across the country. Does it sound like fun to get paid to shop in a store or eat in a restaurant and secretly evaluate your customer experience? Maybe mystery shopping is for you!

 

With a little insight into how mystery shopping works, he also shared that now more than ever, one of the biggest challenges pertains to motivation.

 

In today’s “WFH” world when people have gotten comfortable working in pajama bottoms with no commute, and mystery shoppers are independent contractors (1099s), not “employees,” the hardest question sometimes is how to get people motivated to actually go out the door, turn the key in their car, and GO to work!

 

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

 

 

Last but not least, last Wednesday I also had the honor of being invited to moderate a panel for the annual Women In Philanthropy event for the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia (CFGP).

 

“Philanthropy” can be an intimidating word for a lot of people, conjuring images of Bill and Melinda Gates walking around handing out enormous checks to charities.

 

But note that even if you’re just sending $10 checks to your alumni group, it means you somehow got an answer to the key question of why you should take a chance on them, compared to all the other charities out there.

 

Of course, although checks are certainly nice (and necessary, eventually,) the women on this panel shared a range of manners in which they selflessly gave of their time, money, energy and resources for the sole purpose of serving others.

 

Not only was I utterly inspired by their stories, but as a bonus, I got to meet former podcast guest Milena Lanz of Maternal and Child Health Consortium! Here’s a photo of me with Milena (center) and CFGP President Sarah Hanley (left).

 

 

How can you decide which of the myriad charities in your neighborhood or around the world deserve your donations of time, money and resources? Start by – literally – asking them the question:

 

“Why should I take a chance on you?”

 

 

What’s the Easiest Way to Expand Your Influence?

There are two ways to make yourself indispensable:

1. You can provide the grease that helps the wheels of the entire machine turn smoothly

OR

2.You can withhold a cog, without which the machine won’t run at all

 

The second way is often our fight-or-flight reaction to feelings of insecurity. We can create or otherwise exploit an existing scarcity to increase our feelings of certainty, power, and/or significance, perhaps by

 

Refusing to teach others how to do something you can do very well

Not making introductions so others don’t horn in on your relationships

Not showing others where to find essential resources; or

Withholding or otherwise waiting an unnecessarily long time before providing requested information

 

We make ourselves feel more important, more powerful, because we have ensured that – for the time – we are necessary.

 

Do we wield influence in these circumstances? Yes. But it is manipulative and forced, which is far less gratifying, lonely, and most importantly, it is stagnant at best, limited to that momentary exchange.

 

In contrast, and perhaps counterintuitively, the first approach – being “the grease” – creates a completely different dynamic.

 

When we voluntarily offer assistance, resources, information, advice, or introductions to others, even when we don’t have to, it comes from a place of generosity, collaboration, and integrity.

 

It demonstrates confidence and selfless integrity, and shows that you want to help others succeed for their own sake, and for the benefit of the organization overall, knowing that in a healthy culture, each person’s success benefits the group.

 

Do we wield influence in these circumstances? Absolutely. And THAT kind of influence has a very different flavor. It builds trust, and encourages others to reciprocate to you and others alike with similar generosity and transparency.

 

Extending the offer to share something or include someone is not only the easiest way to have momentary influence, but the residual effects are positive and lasting.

 

Simply put, “Influence expands when you share information.”

 

Those words of wisdom were shared this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast by our guest Jennifer Ewbank, Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (the CIA) for Digital Innovation.

 

When working with global teams on covert operations that could literally mean life or death for people, it’s no time for a power play. Ensuring all collaborators have access to all necessary information is the fastest way to ensure success – and safety – for all.

 

Most importantly, she realized that once she started proactively sharing information, others did the same. To me it sounded like there was a “stone soup” effect of sorts, where each person’s contributions led to a new whole that was truly greater than the sum of its parts: Barriers came down, relationships built up, and her influence began to expand.

 

 

Is it a contradiction to “be yourself” and do undercover work? Not when it comes to building your team. From early on in her career, trying to fit in as a young female team member in a room full of men, Jennifer discovered the secret to her success:

 

“Be yourself and succeed or be someone else and fail.”

 

More specifically: “Be the best version of yourself.”

 

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

 

You’ll learn more about how many languages she speaks fluently (I speak three well, and bits and pieces of several others… and I was IMPRESSED by and JEALOUS of her answer!), how to avoid the pitfall of being “on transmit more than receive,” and so much more.

 

One other conversation you won’t want to miss is this Friday at noon ET on LinkedIn Live and YouTube Live.

 

Do you ever feel like you know exactly what value someone would get from using your product, service or company, but don’t know how to explain it clearly and simply to others? If you’re like most people, there is a resounding “YES!” going through your head right now.

 

That’s why our topic is, How to Articulate Your ROI In Concrete Terms” with Keith Campagna, Chief Sales Officer of The ROI Shop. We’ll use his company’s product as a case study and metaphor for how to look at operationalizing the quantitative and/or qualitative value of your product or service on October 21,2022 from 12:00 Noon to 12:45 PM. RSVP here.

 

 

You’ll even get a chance to practice applying what you learn to your own elevator pitch. What could be better? Tune in HERE and find out!

 

But this week I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Jennifer:

 

“Effective communication is at the heart of a good relationship.”

 

Whether business or personal, you can’t argue with that, so register HERE today.

How to Make People Want to Listen to You

Although I speak regularly in front of audiences from all walks of life, yesterday I found myself uncharacteristically nervous before I took to the stage.

 

I had the honor of speaking at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s annual Leadership Conference in New York, hosted by none other than the Sheriff himself, Dr. Errol Toulon (and former Speaking to Influence podcast guest from episode #101 back in January.)

 

 

 

Of course, I take all of my speaking engagements seriously, but somehow the idea of giving back to first responders by providing them with an experience that was worthy of serving as thanks for all they do for us every day felt like I had to set an even higher standard for myself than usual.

 

When I got to the stage, there was a much heavier, almost military energy in the auditorium full of very serious faces.

 

Undeterred, I launched right in with a story about my interaction with an officer who pulled me over for an illegal U-turn (oops) my first year teaching in south-central Los Angeles back in the ‘90s. It was complete with a photo of my first class of students, with me standing alongside them, complete with my 1990s “Jersey-Girl hair” and outfit to boot.

 

 

Ironically, I had a little trouble gauging engagement during the talk, as the spotlights on stage were rather blinding, I only heard soft waves of chuckles around the auditorium at points that normally would have gotten full belly-laughs from other audiences, and there were few questions at the end.

 

Had I gotten through? I wondered.

 

My silent question was answered in technicolor as soon as I finished. There were lines of people waiting to talk to me afterwards, and at every stretch or meal break in the program for the rest of the day, straight through the cocktail reception into the evening.

 

Each person shared their favorite parts of my talk and biggest takeaways, why it hit home with them, and asked for advice or tips for themselves or their teams on how to be more effective communicators in different contexts.

 

The common thread that wove implicitly through everyone’s respective comments was universal appreciation for what can be known as “infotainment.”

 

Infotainment, a.k.a. Information + entertainment, is a commonly misunderstood and underappreciated engagement strategy.

 

In the past, infotainment (or edutainment, in the world of education) was synonymous with dumbing-down your content, or otherwise being “content-lite”: e.g. 60 minutes of talking, consisting of a few value nuggets glued together with a lot of cute, fluffy, potentially fun filler. Infotainment was hardly the hallmark of the thought-leader or other expert.

 

There’s also the deeply ingrained fear among many people that adding any sort of personality, humor or fun to an otherwise serious topic would be a form of self-sabotage that would undermine the speaker’s authority, credibility and reputation. That gravitas and any sense of “fun” were mutually exclusive.

 

For many, the belief is that serious topics need to be addressed seriously if you want to be taken seriously, period.

 

However, nothing could be further from the truth.

 

The truth is that humor and personal connection opens listening.

 

That’s because there is an instant dopamine hit. Remember that dopamine is one of the very addictive “happy hormones” that makes our brains say, “hey, that felt great; I want more!” And since you were the source, that means they want to listen to YOU even more.

 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT suggesting that you try out your new standup comedy routine at the next board meeting. But in the midst of an otherwise perfectly serious topic and discussion, like when I teach about leadership communication, executive presence, and influence, one of the most effective strategies I can use is to incorporate some moments of fun, as well as moments of heart-felt emotion, empathy or vulnerability, and aspirational vision.

 

No matter how important the information is, the ability to sprinkle in the right quality and quantity of humor at the right times to add some unexpected variety to the energy of the room can be the very difference between fully captivating an audience… or just holding them captive.

That’s why Infotainment is the topic of this week’s Speaking to Influence podcast episode . Tune in to get my top secrets, strategies and tips to help you effectively and authentically incorporate my most powerful teaching tool into your presentations and talks with any audience.

 

 

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

 

(FYI: That’s the perceived “magic” that makes clients invite me back for more half-day [3-4 hour] virtual trainings because everyone loved the first one, whereas most people can barely stand to be on a 30-minute video conference with each other without being bored out of their minds.)

 

And speaking of 30-minute videos, one that you absolutely can NOT afford to miss is the replay from last Friday’s LinkedIn Live/YouTube Live conversation with another former Speaking to Influence Podcast guest, Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO of Hawke Media.

 

Erik and I first connected over a year ago on Episode 53, and this time on Friday he walked us through how to proactively think through the stages of a new product, service or business launch. Start to finish, there were tons of immediately actionable take-aways you’ll want to add to your tool belt!

 

 

Catch the replay HERE.

 

At the core, it's the ability to shift from one stage to another, from serious to humorous and back, from one platform to another, with the confidence that conveys “I know exactly what I’m doing; you can trust me,” that creates the magnetic leadership style that ultimately makes people want to listen to you.