What Do You Need to Let Go?

One of the funniest series of ads on television a few years ago was for the website letgo.com. Imagine the silliness of scenarios like the following:

 

  • The astronaut lugging around an old stereo amplifier in outer space because he’d had it since college
  • A woman sitting there staring longingly at her “favorite” pair of red shoes in the closet as her house was burning down around her… even though she’d never even worn them
  • A guy dangling by one hand from the bumper of his truck as it teetered on the edge of a cliff… while still holding onto his “lucky” bowling ball with the other hand

 

In each of these situations, there was another person trying to reason with them, reminding them that they really didn’t need that thing anymore, it definitely wasn’t serving them, and it was time to “let go” (i.e. post it on the website and sell or give it away.)

 

Of course, those examples are deliberately ridiculous… but if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, aren’t there plenty of things in life that don’t serve us anymore (assuming they ever did,) yet we still refuse to let go?

 

And just like the main characters in these commercials, don’t we have our reasons which – in our minds – are perfectly logical, rational, and defensible, for why we simply CAN’T (or WON’T?) let go, no matter the cost?

 

Instead of a bowling ball, maybe you’ve been holding on to

 

  • A grudge
  • A bad habit
  • A relationship (friendly, romantic, professional or otherwise)
  • An excuse
  • A fear
  • A job
  • A belief

 

It can be even harder when what we need to let go of is something that – at least on the surface – seems good, like when you don’t confront someone or tell them an unpleasant truth because you don’t want to hurt their feelings and are trying to avoid conflict.

 

But deep down, isn’t that really about protecting our ego by staying in our comfort zone? And in the long run, doesn’t avoiding the truth almost always make things worse?

 

When is enough, enough?

 

Our guest this week knows a lot about that.

 

In this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, Renee Williams, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, shared her experience as a life-long “people pleaser,” and the consequent growing pains and challenges of taking on top leadership roles where it’s simply not possible to make everyone happy all of the time.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here to hear how and when she realized it was time to let that need go.

 

 

Renee and I explored a range of other negative cultural patterns inside many organizations, and how to find alternative solutions to change the culture tide. For example, do people in your organization ever:

 

  • Complain about problems for the sake of venting, without suggesting solutions?
  • Fire off a slew of texts, slack messages or other questions without a second thought, expecting near-instant replies, instead of compiling non-urgent questions throughout the day and sending one comprehensive email with timeframes for requested answers?
  • Have meetings seemingly for the sake of having meetings, with no clear purpose, agenda or deliverables?

 

I’m sure the list goes on, but the whole point of this note is NOT to dwell in the negative, but to have a candid conversation with yourself and decide who or what you simply need to LET GO of, and what, if anything, you need to replace it with, in order to create a happier, healthier, and more productive environment for all.

 

Naturally, communication skills are a big part of this, so if you need a quick refresher on some success strategies for when you DO decide to have some of those difficult conversations, you can always take a look at my TEDxPenn Talk, “Want to Sound Like A Leader? Start by Saying Your Name Right.”

 

Believe it or not, that video just hit 6.7 Million views! Thanks for continuing to spread the word and, more importantly, the TOOLS for how to be a more effective communicator and inspiring leader.

 

 

You are all a part of this journey and I am grateful as always. Please continue to share the link with others you know who might benefit from it.

 

Our next goal: 7 Million views. (And we’re definitely NOT letting go of that!)

Do You Live in a Google-Search World?

A little while ago I got a rather funny message accompanying an invitation from someone to connect on LinkedIn:

 

“Hi Dr. Laura! I’m getting ready to launch my own podcast, and have been thinking about how I want to introduce myself at the start of             each episode, like whether to use my first and last name, or nickname, etc.

So on a whim I went to YouTube and searched ‘how to say your name,’ and sure enough, the very first link was to your TEDx talk about           how to say your name right.

It’s amazing, you really CAN google anything!”

It’s true – we really are living in a Google-search world.

 

Not to be confused with living in a material world (can you believe Madonna popularized that phrase way back in 1984?! But I digress…), today’s Google-search world demands that if you want to be recognized as a thought leader, you have to proactively share information that people not only want, but are actively searching for.

 

If you can provide that kind of “gold nugget” information even before they know they want it, so it’s available when they do decide to search for it, you get multiple benefits:

 

  • You build the reputation as a trusted resource
  • People voluntarily come back for more
  • They’ll share it – and you – with other people, expanding your reach
  • They’ll “go down the rabbit hole,” following your links, seeking additional information on the subject, and
  • Ideally, they’ll reach out to you directly, as their newest go-to expert!

 

This notion of “living in a Google-search world” was a big part of the conversation on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, with Joellen Meckley, Executive Director of the Center for Special Needs at the American College of Financial Services.

 

To Joellen’s point, an important key to success is building an educated clientele or fan base: The more they understand about and value what product, service or information you provide, the easier it is to work with them, and give them exactly what they need and want. It’s a perfect win-win.

 

  • In the course of educating your target audience (whoever they may be,) Joellen and I explored a range of key topics including:
  • Shifting communication styles for different audiences at different stages in her career
  • Owning your position and authority, no matter who your audience is
  • Handling your most toughest and most critical audience: YOURSELF
  • Empathy vs. sympathy, and how to empathize even when you don’t agree with someone’s perspective at all
  • Convincing yourself, even more than others, that you DO, indeed, deserve a seat at (the head of?) the table.

 

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

 

 

Speaking about getting what you deserve, that’s never a more sensitive topic than when it’s about MONEY. And that’s exactly what we discussed on our Linkedin Live last Wednesday “How to Ask for the Money You Deserve” with Sue Begent, Women's Business, Confidence and Success Coach.

 

 

Sue and I hit on everything from

 

  • how childhood family values around money have influenced our beliefs about whether having money – or not having it – is good or bad
  • specific negotiation tactics
  • And even how to shift your mindset from “Who am I to ask for that kind of money” to “Who am I to NOT ask for it?”

 

One seat you definitely deserve is at the negotiation table!

 

In case you missed it or want to re-watch to take even MORE notes, you can watch the replay here. (Go ahead – trust me, you deserve it!)

 

Sorry if you have the song “Material Girl” stuck in your head for the rest of the day now. (Hey, why should I be the only one?) Enjoy the trip down memory lane!

How to Ask for What You Want

I knew “Angela” had been on a job interview, so I was eager to hear how it went during our next coaching session.

 

“It went well,” she said. “They offered me the job and a good compensation package, and I accepted.”

“That’s great!” I replied. “But you don’t sound terribly excited about it. What’s the problem?”

“Well, when I told my boss I was leaving, she surprised me by countering with a huge salary increase. I’m ready for the career change                and I really want the new position but I can’t afford to pass up the money,” she explained.

“So go back to the new place and negotiate,” I shrugged.

“But I already accepted the first offer,” she protested. “I can’t go back now and demand more, can I?”

“Who said anything about demanding?” I asked. “This is what negotiation is all about. At this point, you have nothing but                 an oral acceptance; it’s not like they already sent you a signing bonus. The simple fact is that the conditions have changed. Go back                  and respectfully – but not apologetically – tell them the truth, and let them know what you’d need from them to be able to take              the position.”

 

We brainstormed a list of other “need to have” and “nice to have” items, ranging from basic salary numbers all the way down to a new home-office desk chair.

 

The next time we met, Angela’s excitement was practically bursting through the screen.

 

“I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “I was up front with them, explained the situation, and shared the list we made. And you know what?             They gave meEVERYTHING I asked for! Even the chair!”

“Wow! Congratulations!” I said. “I’m so happy for you.”

“But you know what the best part was?” she continued. “When we were done, the HR person actually said to me, ‘I’m glad you came              back and continued the negotiation. A lot of people – especially women– are afraid to ask for what they want. Good              for you.’”

 

That fear of asking for what we want is not limited to salary/job negotiation; it can even be asking for smaller things like asking someone to make corrections or revisions to their work, approval to take a day (or even a half-day) off for personal matters, or simply saying “no” to someone else’s request for you to help them with another task when your calendar is already bursting at the seams.

 

It is just as prevalent in personal relationships, such as asking for help.

 

All too often we are afraid to ask for what we need or want because we’re afraid, deep down, of rejection and judgment.

 

Nobody likes to hear “no,” but beyond that, our inner critic can get vicious with what it whispers in our ear:

You’ll sound greedy, selfish, arrogant, and just downright rude!

         They won’t like you anymore.

         Who do you think you are to ask for that?

         They’ll get angry with you.

         You’ll just embarrass yourself.

 

But more often than not, these worst-case scenarios are in our minds alone, and it IS possible to get the message across in a way that allows us to get a lot more (if not all) of what we need and want, while keeping our reputation AND relationships intact.

 

There are lots of tools to help frame and deliver these requests in my book, Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice.

 

Similarly, in this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast , Dr. Mary O’Connor, co-founder and chief medical officer of Vori Health, described not only some of the challenges of doctor-patient communication via telemedicine, but also some lessons about being on the other side of the request.

 

What happens when the request comes in the form of feedback, when you are doing your best to take care of what you think people need, only to find out it’s not actually what they want?

 

Mary offered great insight into how to reframe the request when hearing it so as not to take it personally or get defensive, recognizing the good intentions that were underlying the request itself.

 

She also shared how learning to recognize and work with small differences in communication styles – even preferences around things like making “small talk” in the morning – can make a HUGE impact on relationships, morale, and overall culture.

 

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

 

 

But whether you’re an employee or a business owner/entrepreneur, join me LIVE this Wednesday, July 13, 2022 at 12: 30 – 1:30 ET to discuss overcoming the most expensive fear: How to Ask for the Money You Deserve” with Sue Begent, Women's Business, Confidence and Success Coach .

 

Entrepreneurs are just as hesitant to tell people their fees as employees are to specify their desired salary.

 

But the simple fact is that regardless of your role or request, whatever it is, if you don’t ask for it, you’ll never get it!

 

You can register for the event here .

 

You won’t want to miss it… and for that matter, who can afford to?

How to Create More Impact in People’s Lives

Here in the US, on Monday we celebrated Independence Day. There are many inspiring quotations about related themes of freedom, liberty and the like, but one of my favorites is engraved around the inside of the Thomas Jefferson memorial in Washington, DC:

 

“I have sworn upon the altar of God,
eternal hostility against every form of
tyranny over the mind of man.”

 

It’s a powerful statement, but uniquely frustrating when the “tyranny of the mind” is self imposed.

 

For example, have you ever had one of those seemingly out-of-body experiences when you hear yourself starting to ramble, and think,

 

“I really should stop talking now. Their eyes are glazing over. Why am I still talking? I think I’ve made the same point three times, but I can’t stop myself. For heaven’s sake, stop talking already!”

 

It’s like a verbal runaway train: you can’t find the brakes, and can’t bring yourself to jump off, so you just sit there helplessly as it runs away, with you as a captive, full-speed ahead.

 

The irony is that there is a secret emergency break that’s easily within reach.

 

I often hear people lament, “I hear myself rambling on, but it’s not like I can just cut myself off mid-sentence, you know?”


But actually, you can!

 

It may be counterintuitive, but whether you're in a meeting, on the phone, or on a zoom call, all you have to do is to interrupt your own run-on sentence at any point and say to your audience, “Wait; let me stop myself there. Before I go on, what questions do you have so far?”

 

And just like that, you set yourself — and them — free!

 

Beyond that, what’s interesting is that knowing when to cut yourself off and having the confidence to do it (better late than never) actually reflects positively on you, because it shows good emotional intelligence (“EQ”), self awareness and control, and allows the conversation to proceed far more productively.

 

Plus, most of the audience will probably think to themselves, “Thank you!”

 

(If this hits home for you, you can get even more insights on when to stop talking and how to do it in chapter 8 of my book Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice.)

 

The best part of it: You manage to use fewer words while making a bigger impact.

 

Having more impact is also the goal of Keisha Jordan, president and CEO of the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia (CSFP), who is this week’s guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast.

 

Lack of safe, high-quality, accessible schools is its own form of “tyranny over the minds” and futures of children. The CSFP’s mission is to provide children from under-resourced families, in neighborhoods with under-performing schools, with financial access to high-quality, safe, K-8th grade, tuition-based schools, thereby increasing their long-term economic and social success.

 

 

Keisha shared how the organization was moving from a model of “more scholarships” to “more impact,” recognizing that short-term access to scholarships was less impactful than the continuity of access for the children served.

 

Of course, in order to provide that continuity of opportunity to the scholarship awardees without simply having fewer winners each year, Keisha explained how she had to challenge herself professionally and learn to be an even stronger communicator in order to do more fundraising and campaigning for the growth of the program.

 

If you’d like to fight “tyranny over the mind” by having a positive impact on a child’s academic opportunity, and economic and social future, check out their website at csfphiladelphia.org.

 

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

 

And remember, the next time you catch yourself rambling past the point where you know you should have stopped, hit that verbal emergency brake, and JUST STOP – yes, right in the middle of your own sentence.

 

After all, the real goal is to have a CAPTIVATED audience, not to hold them captive. So in the spirit of Independence Day, set your audience – and yourself, FREE!

 

How to Activate Your Limitless Potential

Ask yourself this: How often do you catch yourself putting something off over and over, making excuses for why you haven’t done it yet? Maybe the little voice in the back of your head says something like:

 

“I still have time left; I’ll start that unpleasant task after I finish X…”

“I really should make an appointment with the doctor to take a look at (specific pain), but I’m too busy right now”

“The increasing workload is getting unbearable; I can’t keep working 12-hour days but I don’t want my boss to think (negative                               evaluation)”

“I know I should incorporate more water/veggies/movement into my day but…”

 

The list could go on and on, of course, and if you’re like most people, you can probably see yourself in more than one of those examples already.

 

But more often than not, we don’t make those changes even though we know what we should be doing (we’re great at “should-ing” all over ourselves!) until we have put it off so long that it’s too late, and the consequences are dire:

 

We miss a major deadline and lose a big contract. We end up in the hospital with an ulcer, a heart attack, or worse. We start to dread going to work and learn to resent bosses, coworkers and others.

 

To say that these outcomes limit our potential for success and happiness is an understatement.

 

And when we finally hit that point , we look in the mirror and think, “How did things get this bad?”

 

Then comes the fun part: we look for treatment.

 

We try to find a solution to fix the problem, are overwhelmed at the magnitude of the amount of effort it would take, (assuming the problem is fixable in the first place,) and kick ourselves for not taking more proactive steps sooner, before the problem got so big.

 

That’s why I absolutely LOVED speaking to this week’s guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast, Tracy Ashdale, Executive Director of Girls on the Run (GOTR) of southeastern PA, and author of the upcoming book, Switching Lanes: Looking at Where We Are, Where We Want to Be and What Barriers are Getting in the Way.

 

(I wonder if the subtitle to the book should be “…what barriers we’re putting in our own way”!)

 

Their vision: a world where every girl knows and activates their limitless potential, and is free to pursue her dreams.

 

Tracy explained that GOTR is distinctly a national prevention program and not a treatment program.

 

They recognize that the best way to ensure that girls become healthy, joyful, confident and successful women is by giving them the guidance, skills, inspiration and tools to have a healthy, joyful, confident and successful adolescence first – not wait to see what problems arise and then try to fix them!

 

And unsurprisingly, developing good leadership and communication skills is at the core of that success.

 

 

GOTR teaches these life skills through a fun, experience-based curriculum which integrates running, and culminates in having everyone – girls, staff, volunteer mentors and more – run a 5K race.

 

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

 

Then ask yourself a second question:

 

What’s one proactive step YOU can take to activate YOUR limitless potential?

 

  • A step to take better care of yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually
  • A step to clear the air with someone, make your intentions better understood, and gain clarity on their intentions in return
  • A step to ask for help, confidently and unapologetically
  • A step to make your voice be heard and captivate people when you speak…

 

Wait, “captivate”? That sounds like a lot more than a step.

 

Nope! Believe it or not, there are tons of single steps you can take, any one of which, even on its own, will help you to be a more captivating speaker, and inspiring leader.

 

Want to know what some of them are? Be sure to catch the replay of Friday’s LinkedIn/YouTube Live conversation with Ryan Foland, “How to Captivate Your Audience (Not Just Hold them Captive.)”

 

High energy, fast paced, lots of fun and chock-full of tips and tricks you won’t want to miss, even the most confident and experienced speakers are sure to walk away with some gold-nugget moments that make you say to yourself, “Wow, I never would have thought of that!”

 

Now don’t wait – take proactive measures to ensure your audience is always engaged, not glazed-over, and have fun in the process.

 

Watch how that can unlock potential you didn't even know was possible.

Are You Asking the Right Question?

I have to say, the fireworks in Disney World were truly impressive, but they weren’t half as impressive as what I saw the next day.

 

After another long, hot(!) day at the park, we went back to the hotel to relax by the pool in the evening. Apparently every other family had the same idea – it was packed.

 

My six-year-old son entertained himself by jumping into the shallow end, over and over again, to see how big of a splash he could make each time.

 

A social kid by nature (no big surprise, given who his mother is!), he was dying for another child to play with. So I watched, as he stood at the side of the pool each time, and asked any kid within a five-yard radius the same question:

 

“Wanna jump with me?”

 

It didn’t matter the gender, age, skin color, size, or native language. And there was no follow-up question about names, where they were from, favorite Disney ride, or other distinguishing information.

 

All that mattered was their answer: Yes, or No.

 

Before we knew it, he had amassed a miniature army of children lined up along the side of the pool, waiting for the countdown.

 

 

“Three… two… one… jump!”

 

On cue, they all jumped in together, laughing and splashing, then climbed out to do it again, often with a new addition or two to the group.

 

 

And just as beautiful was that on the other side of the pool was the little flock of parents – black, white, Asian, and LatinX – side by side, with video cameras recording the action together.

 

I caught the eye of two parents – one from Venezuela and one from Jamaica – and said, “This is how it’s supposed to be, isn’t it.” Their smiles beamed as they nodded their agreement.

 

All because my son figured out the one and only question that mattered in that moment, to connect with his audience, and get straight to the heart of what he (and they) cared about, in order to get the response he was looking for.

 

Any researcher will tell you that the quality of the questions you ask will directly impact the quality of the answers or results you get.

 

But how often do we struggle with asking the right question?

 

Sometimes we ask lots of peripherally relevant questions, but not “the $64,000 question,” as the old game show expression goes.

 

Maybe we know conceptually what we want to ask, but can’t find the words to articulate it clearly, succinctly, or diplomatically.

 

Maybe we DO know what the question is, but are afraid to ask it, so we dance around it with indirect references and diminishing words like “maybe” and “this probably isn’t important but…”

 

And sometimes we ask the question that seems most important to US, without realizing that it’s NOT the most important question for THEM.

 

We often overcomplicate things, when the right question may actually be very simple.

 

When I was 23, shortly after college, I moved to Los Angeles to become a teacher. Before I left, I asked my father, who taught public school for 40 years, one single question:

 

“Dad, how can I get the students to respect me?”

 

Although I didn’t process the depths of the wisdom he shared in the moment, his answer was one of the most seminal pieces of career advice I’ve ever received. He said:

 

“Laura, you can’t DEmand that they respect you; you have to COMmand it with your presence.”

 

In the spirit of Father’s Day this past weekend, thanks, Dad, for that piece of wisdom that turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

 

Someone else who knows a thing or two about creating a commanding presence and captivating an audience with both thought-provoking questions and entertaining, informative answers alike is Ryan Foland.

 

Ryan is a professional speaker, personal branding expert, stick-figure extraordinaire, and self-proclaimed “ginger.” He’s also the host of THREE different podcasts, and is the only person I know who has given more TEDx talks than I have. (I’ve given three; he’s given four.)

 

But what’s most important is that this Friday, 6/24 at noon ET, Ryan will be joining me for a FUN, FAST-PACED, and INFO-PACKED conversation on LinkedIn live: “How to Captivate Your Audience (Not Hold Them Captive!)

 

Trust me – you won’t want to miss this ride!

 

Of course, we’ll record the interview and you can always catch the replay later if you can’t make the live event. But if you CAN join us live, you’ll have the chance to speak with us personally and ask your most burning questions about how to engage your audience.

 

You can RSVP for the event here.

 

And finally, here’s my final big question for you:

 

Who has been your favorite podcast guest and why?

 

Please cast your vote using this link: https://forms.gle/CPQQaRoA6HWm8RQV9

 

The episode with the most votes by 11:59pm ET this Friday 6/24 is the winner.


“But WHY should I vote, Laura?”
you ask.

 

Another great question!

 

1.Because knowing what matters most to you helps me continue to provide the best content

2. PRIZES! Specifically:

 

a. The winning guest gets to donate a free membership to my online course, “Virtual Influence” to the person of her/his choice
b. The person with the most compelling reason for their vote also wins free access to my Virtual Influence course (a $1,497 value)
c. Everyone who votes for the winning episode wins a free digital copy of my book, Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your                                        Leadership Voice

 

I can’t wait to hear your answers to my questions… and for that matter, any questions you want to ask me – so ask away!

How Can You Measure Your Qualitative ROI?

It’s official, summer vacation is here, the kids are out of school, and this week I’m revisiting a place I haven’t been to in 30 years. No, it’s not my high school – quite the contrary, it’s a place whose nickname is literally “The happiest place on Earth.”

 

You guessed it, I’ve taken the family to Disney World.

 

 

Now, the cynics out there might say, “Sure, it’s ‘the happiest place on earth’ because if you’re crazy enough to stand there in 95-degree heat under the blazing Florida sun for 10 hours a day, you’re happy to pay $22 for plastic spray bottle with a battery-operated fan that’s actually worth $1.75.”

 

And while that may or may not be true, (okay, it was the best $22 I ever spent in my life), it also offered a crash course on a crucial lesson in brand-value: the critical importance of qualitative ROI.

 

When most people think about ROI (return on investment), they think in quantitative, typically financial terms, e.g.,

 

  • “If I invest $100 in this stock, how much interest will I earn?” or
  • “If I hire someone to do my marketing for me, how soon will that investment yield enough revenue to break even and beyond?” or
  • “If I take a class for $1,000” to learn skill-X, will it eventually pay for itself by helping me earn a higher salary?”

 

Qualitative ROI, in contrast, may not have a payout that can be measured in dollars or other tangible means, but otherwise yields an undeniably better experience, and that pays long-term dividends.

 

So what would compel an otherwise rational and arithmetically-competent adult to buy a $22 plastic spray bottle?

 

I’ll tell you this much: It wasn’t for my physical comfort; it was for my sanity.

 

Yesterday was Disney Vacation Day 1, and after a fun but long and hot day at the Magic Kingdom, we spent the evening at the hotel pool, which ended up being the highlight of the day for my 5-year-old.

 

So today, we were at the Hollywood Studios theme park for all of about 15 minutes before it started: “Mom, can we go back and play in the pool?”

 

Needless to say, the answer of, “After dinner you can play in the pool again” just didn’t cut it.

 

Although he did genuinely enjoy some of the Mickey Mouse and Star Wars rides, the two minutes of fun each of them provided still left us with seemingly endless hours of walking and standing in line, for which this over-tired, over-heated, under-interested child tortured us with what felt like death by 1,000 paper cuts:

 

“Mom, can we go back to the pool?”

“I told you, we’ll go swimming after dinner.”

“But can we go now?”

“What did I just say?”

“After dinner.”

“Right.”

“So can we go now?”

 

And when the interval between these episodes is never more than a minute, because children have a laser-focused one-track mind, it’s enough to drive you batty. Explaining, warning, reminding, pleading, negotiating, threatening, ignoring… nothing works.

 

Around 3pm it finally hit me: there was no talking my way out of this. If you think in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I was trying to appeal to his higher “self fulfillment” needs, when he still needed his basic physiological needs met. You can’t satisfy them out of order, period.

 

I had fallen into the trap of listening to his words at their surface value rather than hearing what was motivating them on a deeper level. I needed something that would both alleviate his discomfort and entertain or at least distract him for a sustained period of time.

 

That’s when I saw the little spray-bottle fans, and remembered how much he had loved playing with a simple dollar-store spray bottle in past summers, spraying everything in the yard – including himself – on hot days.

 

“How much?” I asked the cast member (a.k.a. Disney employee) at the kiosk.

“Twenty-two dollars,” she said sweetly, with no trace of irony in her smile.

 

I blinked incredulously for a moment, then handed over my card.

 

Within 30 seconds, the badgering and whining stopped, and a smile spread across his face. Walking through his own perpetual cloud of mist as we walked across the park, spritzing everything in sight, my typically happy and good-natured son repossessed his own body.

 

Had I known it could be that simple I would have bought the bottle at the first available kiosk upon entering the park on Day 1… and frankly, knowing how much pain and suffering it would have alleviated (especially mine!), I would have paid even more if I had to.

 

At that point, it was about quality of life. For a mere $22 I bought myself – and my son, and everyone else within earshot – peace of mind and the ability to enjoy being in the moment, and the bonus hope of enjoying the remaining days of our trip.

 

And for my son too – not only is it his new favorite toy, but now there’s a much better chance he’ll remember this family vacation as a fun life event, rather than a week of sweaty misery.

 

Is there a direct dollar value I can put on that ROI? No. But am I certain that the value is WAY more than the initial $22? 100% yes.

 

That’s the value of qualitative ROI.

 

Whenever I take on a new coaching client, we start by operationalizing goals and success measures, which, more often than not, are defined in qualitative ROI terms, e.g.:

 

  • Feeling more confident in your role, or exuding the confidence needed to demonstrate readiness for a bigger role
  • After giving a presentation, getting questions from the audience that show deeper interest and curiosity about something you shared, instead of hearing silence or getting questions that ask you to repeat something you’ve already said
  • Learning to tell the story of the data in a way that showcases you as the expert while making people lean in attentively, instead of zoning out because you got “lost in the technical weeds”
  • Building your reputation and strengthening your name recognition among higher-ups or your ideal client base
  • Reducing stress enough to be able to get a decent night’s sleep the day before giving a big presentation
  • Finishing a media/podcast interview, meeting, presentation or pitch and knowing you knocked it out of the park
  • And more.

 

Someone else who places great weight on the value of qualitative ROI is this week’s guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast , Nick Ryan, CISO (chief information security officer) of Baker Tilly, the ninth largest accounting firm in the world.

 

 

 

 

  • increase clients’ trust in the brand name (“no news is good news”),
  • impact whether or not they are likely to continue doing business with them, or
  • refer another prospective client to them.

 

Are those factors linked to revenue? Sure, but indirectly; that’s why they’re more qualitative.

 

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

 

But regardless of your industry or role, don’t overlook the qualitative measures of your success, particularly as they relate to your reputation among peers, coworkers, clients and any other stakeholder group.

 

Why? Because, (ahem) “It’s a small world, after all…”

 

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Ever Felt Like You Just Can’t Be Yourself?

“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”

 

This piece of ageless wisdom has been attributed to many people over the years, from Sun Tzu in The Art of War, to early writings of Niccolo Machiavelli, and more recently to Michael Coroleone (played by Al Pacino) in The Godfather 2.

 

Why is that concept so popular across the ages and the continents? Why does closeness matter?

 

Because, as another famous refrain explains, “Proximity is power” (Tony Robbins).

 

In other words, the closer we get to someone, the easier it is to benefit from what and who they know (their sphere of influence,) and the more influence we can have over them as well.

 

With friends, the closer we are, the better we understand each other, empathize, support, encourage, give and receive, protect and defend. They are our people, our family, our tribe.

 

That’s why we gather for holidays, talk on the phone, meet for lunch, email, text, and share photos on Facebook: the closeness keeps those bonds strong.

 

On a professional level, we may want to get to know a senior coworker in hopes of earning their support for a promotion or introductions to other key stakeholders. Or we may join a professional organization in hopes of gaining insights into an industry we want to enter.

 

With opponents (i.e. competition or “enemies”), it’s about anticipation and power. The better we know their goals, motivations, desires, intentions and plans – particularly to the extent that success in those areas means directly or indirectly harming us – the better we can anticipate their moves and either thwart them or at least protect ourselves in the process. At the core, it’s no different whether it’s a battle for land, market share, or romantic affections.

 

That’s why we watch their social media posts; who they hire, fire and where they position their people; what products they’re rolling out, and what trends they follow.

 

Sometimes, part of the challenge, regardless of the relationship, is that gaining access – and beyond that, acceptance – requires learning to “speak their language.”

 

That ability to shift back and forth between speech styles is what’s known as “code switching,” and the learning curve can be steep, in both healthy and unhealthy contexts.

 

On the (arguably) healthy side,

 

  • I had to learn to speak Japanese when moving to Japan (about as wide as a code can switch, from world language to world language),
  • I had to learn to speak and write like an academician in order to earn my PhD, have my research published in journals and present at global conferences (what may be called “register shifting”)
  • I later had to UN-learn those same oral and written communication styles when I shifted OUT of academia and into corporate consulting (so people’s eyes wouldn’t glaze over)
  • And as I have had the opportunity to work with clients in fields such as asset management, healthcare and cybersecurity, I’ve had to learn a lot of the jargon, cultural/behavioral expectations (e.g. within teams or at industry conferences), and even their humor, in order to establish rapport and social credibility.

 

A learning curve is often uncomfortable, because by its nature it forces us out of our comfort zone. As long as our intention behind learning the code is driven with integrity, we are still being authentic in our learning journey, which is healthy.

 

However, when we are code-switching because we are being explicitly or implicitly forced to do so, actively pretending to be someone we aren’t, or otherwise hiding aspects of who we really are for fear of rejection, that “switching” becomes “covering,” which is on the UNHEALTHY end of the spectrum.

 

But what if your work EXPLICITLY REQUIRED donning an entirely new identity, in name, appearance and speech?

 

Of course, professional actors do it every day for fun. Undercover agents in law enforcement fields have to be just as effective on a daily basis… but NOT for fun.

 

For them, being convincing when playing their new role is literally a matter of life or death – theirs, and other people’s.

 

On this week’s Speaking to Influence podcast episode, our guest is Stephen Forzato, who spent 33 years of experience in law enforcement, 28 of which were as an undercover agent in narcotics and human trafficking, before becoming the director for the Center of Addiction and Recovery Education (CARE) at St. Joseph’s University.

 

 

While under cover, Steve spent decades working under the alias “Tony Randazzo.” When asked to describe Tony, Steve just said (in the understatement of the year), “You wouldn’t like him very much.” Yet he had to learn to literally embody that character, in words and actions, because to be “himself” would have blown his cover, his mission, and the safety of all involved.

 

Of course, after thirty years or so of having to put on this “unpleasant” persona — the way other people put on a suit — in order to go to work every day, he had to unlearn all the communication styles and behaviors he had appropriated, in order to follow his heart in a way that allows him to help everyone he meets at CARE.

 

During our conversation, Steve shared how the center addresses the public health crisis of addictions, partnering with treatment centers and other groups to develop educational curricula, including intervention strategies, not for those experiencing addiction, but for everyone else around them who is affected by having a person with addictions in their lives.

 

Now, instead of having to sit by and watch people harm themselves and others with drugs, he can focus all his efforts on helping individuals and families heal, and become the people they truly want to be!

 

Think talking to a stubborn boss, coworker or sibling is frustrating? Imagine how challenging it is to motivate, influence and persuade people who are under the influence of a controlled substance.

 

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

 

But if your goal is to be your most confident, authentic self and inspiring leader each and every day, I have exciting news for you:

 

Starting this Thursday, 6/9, women’s business coach, Sue Begent is leading the “Powerful, Confident and Visible Summit: Speaking Excellence for Women,” and I’m honored to be a featured guest expert.

 

But whether or not you’re a woman, the take-aways from the entire summit are immediately applicable for everyone! Listen in to this series of interviews to:

 

  • Become poised and polished, and a powerful speaker
  • Feel confident and magnetic as the expert you are
  • Be compelling whether your presentation is online or in-person
  • Command a room in a powerful, yet feminine way.

 

You’ll also learn how to

 

  • Feel confident when saying your price or asking for a raise.
  • Make best use of Zoom for business (It does much more than you think)
  • Find those speaking gigs and get booked.

 

Twenty-one experts in the field of speaking and communication have shared their wisdom and it’s free to sign up so please join us!

 

The Summit Starts June 9th, so register HERE today. (Feel free to spread the word.)

 

Be sure to tune in and connect with me and these other powerful speakers, as well as our podcast guests. Why? Because remember – proximity is power!

What if Your Job was to Help Others Have More Fun?

I recently finished running a half-day “Speaking to Influence” training for a client’s leadership team and received an unusual question during the debrief at the end:

 

“Have you ever seen the show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. Set in the 1950s in New York, the show is about a woman – Mrs. Miriam “Midge” Maisel, played by Rachel Brosnahan – who initially is supporting her husband’s hobby of doing standup comedy before it becomes clear that she is the one with both the comedic brains and talent.

 

(My husband and I agree that it’s one of the sharpest and funniest shows on television – and we almost never agree on anything TV-related so it has to be true!)

 

“Love it!” I replied. “Why do you ask?”

“You have a very Maisel-like quality about you.”

 

I laughed as others in the group expressed their agreement but what I took to heart was that the comment was intended as high praise: beyond helping them sharpen their communication skills, they actually had fun in the process.

 

One of the most frequent misconceptions I hear from clients is the fear that “fun” and “work” don’t mix. That if they allow their personality and sense of humor to come through during a presentation, webinar, podcast, meeting, conference talk or quarterly roundtable – especially in industries like asset management or cybersecurity, for example – that the audience will think they aren’t serious about their work.

 

Mind you, I’m not suggesting you turn your weekly team meeting into a silly free-for-all, make inappropriate jokes about a security breach, or that you try to force jokes into your presentation. (Especially if you don’t consider yourself to be naturally funny. Just… don’t.)

 

But a well-placed anecdote, activity, comment, personal share, icebreaker, demonstration or other momentary experience that makes the audience smile, laugh or otherwise experience some form of joy gives them a quick shot of “happy hormones” like dopamine and serotonin that helps them internalize and remember (i.e. learn) what you’ve shared.

 

Knowing how to intersperse and combine those moments of pleasure along with the consistent gravitas underlying the content I’m delivering over the course of the minutes, hours or days in which I present information (by now I’m sure you know how seriously I take my work) elevates my audience’s experience, and I am always striving to take that to yet another level.

 

As I see it, a big part of my brand is making sure that my audience learns as much as possible because they are enjoying the experience.

 

In other words, a big part of my job is ensuring that people have fun.

 

Think about it: What if your full-time job was helping more people have more fun every day?

 

This week’s guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast, Kathy Govier, chief marketing officer of Geppi Family Enterprises, knows something about that.

 

Geppi Family Enterprises is a leading distributor, licensor and creator of pop culture products worldwide, from comics to games, toys and collectibles.

 

For example, have you ever played Pokemon, or Dungeons and Dragons? Or read a Spiderman, Hulk, or Avengers comic book? If so, thank Geppi Family Enterprises.

 

 

But Kathy’s work isn’t all fun and games. Along with catering to the interests of new and expanding fan demographics, and the resurgence of interest in board games and the like since the start of the pandemic, there are hard conversations to be had, too.

 

What if someone isn’t meeting quality control standards in their tasks? What if a client is unhappy?

 

And for that matter, what if someone else needs to present some unhappy feedback to you? Particularly considering relative power differentials and positions on the org chart, have you created the culture of trust among your people that everyone feels safe enough to give and receive this kind of input?

 

Kathy shares some great examples of how she created the relationships and the protocols among her team members so this kind of necessary-but-not-easy conversation can be had, knowing that everyone involved has the best interest of the individuals and the company at heart.

 

Here are a few other things you’ll learn during this conversation:

 

  • How Kathy varies her messaging between hardcore and new collectors
  • The importance of acknowledging input from every team member
  • How to understand and communicate your own thought process with your team, and why it's essential

 

and more.

 

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

 

But whether you work in an amusement park or an insurance brokerage, and whether you manufacture airplanes or bake cookies, I offer you the same challenge: every day, even if it’s only for ten seconds, do something that adds a smile to someone’s face.

 

(Hint: try adding a smile to your OWN face first; it’s contagious!)

 

Make it official: one “duty” in your job description should be that you help others have more fun!

We Couldn’t Have Done It Without You

I can’t wait to click “Send” this week!

 

We have multiple major milestones (how’s that for alliteration?) to celebrate, and I truly mean “WE.” How, you ask?

 

For starters, most of you know I’m a big supporter of The Adoption Center whose mission is to help older children in foster care find their forever families (i.e. get adopted before they age out of the system and are all alone in the world!)

 

Well, Thursday night was the Adoption Center’s 50th Anniversary fundraiser gala, with special guest Jon Dorenbos – America’s Got Talent finalist and world-class magician, former Philadelphia Eagles long snapper, AND former foster kid himself.

 

If you’ve attended one of my trainings or heard my Speaking to Influence podcast, you know we talk a lot about the skill of being able to get right to the point when necessary. Dorenbos proved to be a master of that too!

 

Check out his 30-second greeting to all of you:

 

 

 

It was a perfect event. Hundreds upon hundreds of people (including many of YOU!) came out to show their support, share their foster care and/or adoption stories, and spread the word to help ensure even more children find permanent, loving homes.

 

Better yet, if you missed out on the event but still want to show your support, you can go to https://adopt.org/donate-today to contribute to an incredibly heart-centered cause. (Click the link NOW to open it up so you can easily go back to it later if needed!)

 

As follow-up to the evening, the next day some colleagues and I joined up with students and staff at the Hope Partnership for Education , an independent middle school and adult education center in north Philadelphia for a community partnership day and school beautification project celebrating their 20th anniversary too.

 

A school should be more than a building – it should inspire curiosity, creativity and joy. Hope Partnership's mission is to create a future of equity, compassion and joy by offering quality, holistic, and accessible education to their learning community. In that spirit, we built planters to add flowers to the front entrance, painted classrooms, and even got to paint a mural around the gym.

 

 

One of the most beautiful moments of the day had more to do with semi-organized chaos than coordinated planning.

 

To commemorate the event, everyone got a t-shirt with the school logo on the front, and a picture of “The Tree of Hope” on the back, which one of the students had submitted to an earlier art competition (and won):

 

 

But what made the moment extra special is that throughout the day, the kids were grabbing markers and signing their names on each other’s t-shirts, year-book style. What’s special about that?

 

We all struggled through the “Covid era,” but these kids suffered more than most through it all. As the principal explained, the conditions created by Covid-19 weren’t just challenging, frustrating or annoying for them… they created wave after wave of compounded trauma for this community.

 

For them, school isn’t just a place for learning. For many, it’s their community, it’s their source of meals, it’s their safe space, their refuge and more. When you’re spending all your time just trying to meet basic human needs, simple pleasures like joy and fun go out the window.

 

That’s why signing each other’s t-shirts was so symbolic: it represented a day of pure joy, beauty, fun, creation, and goodness that they all wanted to cement in their memories. Each time they wear their shirts and see the names of their friends, they’ll remember the day they smiled ear to ear, wrapped in a short-sleeved cotton “hug,” and ideally will relive the joy they felt together that day.

 

 

I loved being a part of that. I bet you would have too. If you want to learn more, check out Hope Partnership for Education to see how you can make a donation or otherwise get involved.

 

But there’s even more to celebrate!

 

This week the Speaking to Influence podcast – specifically Episode 105 with Cindy Lewis, CFO at Coho Partners – ranked a whopping #38 in the Apple Podcasts Top 200 business/management podcasts!

 

 

(Whether you listen to your podcasts on Apple/iTunes or other platforms, go here to find the platform of your choice.)

 

That’s a huge honor and accomplishment, and I know I have YOU to thank; without listeners, it never would have happened!

 

Also coming to you from the ICYMI desk (that’s “In Case You Missed It” for anyone who doesn’t speak Gen Z text lingo), here are a few more great “listens” for you:

 

First, last week’s live stream on The Brain-based Science of Communication with Dr. Ali Atkison was terrific! Although LinkedIn had some technical glitches with the video, we were prepared – we were simultaneously broadcasting it on YouTube Live, and THAT recording is picture-perfect! You can watch it here.

 

Second, I had a blast talking with Pete Mockaitis on his podcast, “How To Be Awesome At Your Job.” In the few days since that episode aired, I’ve had dozens of people reach out to me on LinkedIn to tell me what communication nuggets they’re already putting into practice to be more persuasive and influential.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, one of the nuggets everyone reports as a key “A-Ha moment” is how to say their name. It’s a concept that I first talked about in my TEDxPenn talk, “Want To Sound Like a Leader? Start by Saying Your Name Right.”

 

 

It’s a constant reminder for me that small details make a massive difference in so many ways – after nearly eight years, it’s still relevant: that talk has nearly 6.7 Million views, (another incredible milestone to celebrate), and people still contact me regularly after stumbling upon it when searching YouTube for leadership communication resources.

 

Haven’t seen it yet? Watch it here.

 

We’ll resume next week with a new STI episode, but in the meantime, have a very happy, healthy and blessed Memorial Day. Once again, THANK YOU!