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?”



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!)

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


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.

What do Goat Yoga and Business Development Have in Common?

Q: What do “goat yoga” and business development have in common?

A: They both require you to do a LOT of stretching.

(Sorry, that was “B-A-A-A-A-D”…)


Terrible joke notwithstanding, this past weekend I attended a four-day intensive business development training program in Long Beach Island, NJ, and to say there were a lot of “firsts” outside my comfort zone would be an understatement.


The first assignment was to get up early enough the first day to watch the sunrise over the water:



…followed immediately with a dip in the ocean around 6:30am (remember, I am NOT a morning person!) before starting the day. Let the stretching begin!


Sometimes that stretching was more literal than others. The third day at the end of the seminar we were escorted out of the classroom and back to the beach to find these these very non-aquatic creatures waiting for us:


Goat Yoga greeting


You guessed it: Goat Yoga on the beach. If you’ve never heard of Goat Yoga before, that’s where you do yoga in a room/pen full of goats, and as you move into different positions, the little goats will randomly decide that you look like a good place to hang out, at which point they’ll climb up on your back and look around until you change positions or they get bored, whichever happens first. (I SWEAR I am not making this up.)


There were a lot of experiences I had where I had to suspend disbelief, find my courage, and try something new, ranging from making some strategic business decisions to jumping in the ocean at midnight in the dark.


But regardless of the activity, I’ll tell you this: sometimes the greatest lesson I learned was about the importance of knowing when it’s time to ponder a decision for long stretches of time, and when it’s time to just pull the trigger and GO (which is the ONLY way to plunge into a cold ocean, FYI.)


The choice can be more complicated when the issue at hand is things like how to develop cultural ties and bonds among employees and coworkers, and how to get people excited about changes and new opportunities.


That’s why, in this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence , Nathan Peirson, SVP of Talent and Employee Experience of Paycor, shares with us his primary focus of empowering leaders and building culture and community in today’s remote and in-person workplaces.


Unfortunately, happy hour gatherings, both virtual and in-person, are still a standard default effort, but people are getting tired of both: the semi-forced “fun” of a decidedly un-festive Zoom event, and when working from home, nobody wants to make the commute into the office just for a glass of wine among coworkers.


As Nathan said, “A happy hour isn’t a culture driver.”


So what’s the solution?



The answer is: It depends on the group, the motivation, and the purpose, for starters. Ultimately, it’s about building a shared experience that is employee-centric.


His team has arranged everything from volunteer service events to trivia nights to speaker series and more. Seeking input from various employee resource groups regarding what kind of event they would like to facilitate gets buy-in from the members, and is much more likely to be culturally relevant, unique, and reflective of the company culture.


To get buy-in, whether for a cultural event or any significant culture change, Nathan realized that there were four big stakeholder groups whose support he needed, each of which required a very tactful approach and unique focus:


  • The executive team who focus on the investment, impact, and drive confidence
  • Non-senior leaders (directors, VP, etc.) who care about the impact on their teams, retention, and their role
  • Associates, who want to know the impact that any changes would have on their direct jobs, and
  • The team of workers doing the actual execution, who want to understand how their role fits into the organization.


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


And speaking of getting buy-in on massive scale, join us this Friday, September 30, 2022 from 11:30 PM – 12:00 PM for another lunchtime Linkedin Live with Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO of Hawke Media and former Speaking to Influence guest.


Erik and Hawke Media are getting ready to launch a massive new initiative that is going to require getting everyone on board and excited about it with minimal friction for optimal results.


In our live session, we will look at it as a case study into the inner workings of building excitement for a launch, diving into the thought process behind the messaging in the build-up to the launch, to ensure maximum buy-in.


You can RSVP here.


Don’t miss it!

Did You Know That Went into Your Coffee?

                   “Would you like anything to drink?” the waitress asked.

                   “A cup of coffee would be great,” I responded.

                   “Cream and sugar?” 

                   “Just cream,” I smiled. “I’m sweet enough!”

                    She laughed. “Yes you are, honey! Coming right up.”


Okay, so the line is a little corny, but it never fails to make the other person smile whenever I say it, and more often than not, putting a smile on someone’s face is an even better pick-me-up than whatever’s going to be in the cup.


And what’s in my cup is pretty darn simple by today’s standards: straight up black coffee if it’s a good roast, maybe with a splash of milk or cream, and that’s it.


(It’s strange because I love coffee ice cream, and I may have my coffee alongside a slice of chocolate cake or other sweet treat, but I absolutely can NOT drink it if there’s any trace of sugar or other sweetener IN the coffee itself. The same goes for my tea. Don’t ask me why.)


I marvel at the rainbow assortment of decorations people put in their coffee/tea nowadays. From six different colors of sweetener packets and an equal number of different “milk” options (only half of which come from a cow), to syrups and sprinkles of cinnamon or cocoa powder and more, it’s amazing!


No matter how you like your morning (or afternoon… or evening…) cup, one thing we all agree on is that that cup makes a difference!


But what if your daily cup of coffee also made a first-hand difference for thousands of young people?


That’s exactly what Nick Bayer, CEO and founder of Saxbys, set out to do.


In this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, Nick described the evolution (or was it a revolution?) of his company from being “just another café chain” to becoming a pioneer in experiential learning.


Beyond the coffee, as Nick says, they’re “in the human development business.”



Nick explained how today, every branch of Saxbys is on or near the campus of a partnering university, because they give students (average age is 19.5 years old) full authority over managing the entire business!


With the idea of teaching hands-on entrepreneurship to the next generation and incorporating the power skills of emotional intelligence, critical thinking and cultural agility, his philosophy is that combining these skills with their traditional classroom education will prepare young people for real-world leadership.


Even more impressive, Saxbys is a certified B-corporation. If you’re not familiar with it, certified B Corps are driven by the values of creating a more “inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy.” Way beyond lip service or a values statement on the wall, the company’s entire social and environmental impact are objectively measured by a third party. Needless to say, it’s a rare achievement.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here – perhaps over your next cup of coffee!


I’ll think of you with a smile as I drink mine.

How to Take the Awkward out of the Silence

Just for fun, here’s a two-question music history pop quiz for you:


Q1. On December 4, 1965, what song hit #1 on the US Billboard Top 100 charts?

(Hint: It was sung by the group The Byrds.)


A1. The hint may have helped – does anyone remember anything else The Byrds sang? – but the answer is “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”.


Now, while the original version of the song was written by Pete Seeger in 1959 and several other artists recorded their own renditions of it in the early ‘60s before The Byrds topped the charts with it, this brings us to question #2:


Q2. What was the original source of the lyrics?

Memory jog: The song begins:

            To everything (turn, turn, turn)

            There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

             And a time to every purpose, under heaven…


A2. It may surprise you to know that the entire song is taken nearly verbatim from the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) in the Bible.


It discusses how, in life, there is a time for everything: for sowing and for reaping, for crying and for laughing, for war and for peace, etc.


But the line that sticks out to me is “a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.”


It’s amazing how the simplest concept in the entire song, silence, is so elusive for most of us in today’s over-scheduled, hyper-stimulated, constantly-plugged-in, FOMO culture.


Yet whether we self-identify as more extroverted or introverted, when we do experience silence, we often find it to be awkward or uncomfortable, so we do everything possible to FILL it! Errands, activities, Netflix, phone calls, chores… anything to avoid being left alone with nothing but our thoughts.


And we often do it to our kids too – filling every waking moment with activities, gadgets and more, even chastising them if we see them sitting there “doing nothing.” Then we lament that they’re stressed out as teens and into adulthood. (It reminds me of another iconic folk tune by Harry Chapin, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” A beautiful wake-up call… but I digress…)


But the truth is that we NEED silence, even momentary silence, from time to time, to be able to frame and articulate our thoughts, feelings, wants and needs clearly and accurately when we do choose to speak.


The GOOD news is that there is a way – many, actually – to make time for and peace with ourselves, and our thoughts, in that silence.


That's exactly what we explore in this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast takes an unique twist, exploring the role of SILENCE as an essential communication skill.


Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz, authors of the brand-new book “Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise,” (and consultants for little organizations you may have heard of like NASA and the US Congress) join me to demystify the importance of embracing silence for physical and mental wellness, and how to create a culture that values quiet time in the workplace.


We explored a range of topics such as:


  • how to overcome the fear of silence – like when you’re in a meeting and someone asks a question but nobody jumps in to answer
  • how to set time for silence and honor that time, such as by making an appointment with yourself and treating it as an important meeting
  • how to create micro-spaces for silence in the workplace, with family and friends in an age of constant chatter and the noise of social media


and more.


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



In the past I have also addressed the importance of silent “thinking time” (which, I confess, I still don’t make nearly as much time for as I should), as crucial for making good business decisions.


One of my favorite resources for what to think about when I do actually honor those weekly time blocks, is The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham.


Simply put, the underlying premise is that most of the biggest mistakes we make in business (and in life) are made because we didn’t ask high-quality questions to derive high-quality, well-thought-out decisions.


The Road Less Stupid helps us to figure out what questions we should be asking to make better decisions.


But here’s the kicker: once you pick the question, you have to set aside a block of thinking time, IN SILENCE, to allow yourself to think it through!


Look, if Mahatma Gandhi could commit to taking EVERY MONDAY, IN ITS ENTIRETY, to silence – even though he still took meetings, just to listen – then you and I can commit small blocks of time each week to thinking, or at least breathing, in silence.


In the podcast, Justin and Leah share ways to start at the micro-level. This includes simple steps such as making the conscious choice to breathe for five seconds before entering a meeting or joining a call.


Here’s the nutshell version: As the saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.”


In other words: Pause to think in silence → clearer/better ideas → fewer mistakes in communication and execution → less stress/more success!


Let’s start the journey by celebrating a win: Congratulations for allowing yourself a few moments in silence to read this message!


Now anchor it by closing your eyes for just 10-15 seconds, breathing deeply, and allowing yourself to reflect on what thoughts, ideas, emotions, experiences, arise for you as you sit with what you’ve just read. Then start the rest of your day!


(I’d love to hear what answers you come up with, so please share them with me!)

That’s Great, But What’s the Catch?

How many times has someone made you an offer, given a gift, or done something nice for you out of the blue, and just as you were about to say, “Wow, thanks so much!” your sixth sense kicked into gear, and instead your response was, “Wait, what’s the catch?”



  • Your teenager spontaneously cleaned their room or washed your car without being asked (or begged, or threatened…)
  • Your significant other encouraged you to call your friends and set up a boys’/girls’ night, or bought you a gift “just because”
  • Your father/mother-in-law actually paid you a compliment
  • Your friend showed up and returned the $100 they borrowed a decade ago
  • (Or maybe YOU were the one on the “giving” side of the equation in one of those moments?)


The point is that most people are jaded in this day and age, wary of scammers, from online dating profiles that are too perfect, to business opportunities that seem too good to be true.


And yet, sometimes it’s the opposite that is true.


Maybe it’s not that you’re deliberately trying to hide something, but rather, you may not realize that you left out some information, which allowed them to draw unrealistically “rosy” conclusions for themselves.


This is an important lesson learned the hard way but shared the easy way on this week’s Speaking to Influence podcast episode. Kris Burkhart, Global Chief Information Security Officer at Accenture, recounted an experience dealing with a ransomware attack, when he had been clear about providing positive updates to key stakeholders, but did not clearly state what areas those updates did NOT pertain to, thereby allowing the listeners to infer that the coast was clear, when in fact the full battle wasn’t over yet!


His big take-away from that experience:


“Don't just be clear, but be complete in your communications.”



Another important topic Kris addressed was how to draw the line between essential quality control and micromanaging.


It’s something we often take for granted, but in all fields, to some extent or other, there’s a true satisfaction in successful problem solving.


This can be challenging as a manager/leader, when you can see what the answer is or why something clearly won’t work, knowing how much time and resources would be saved if you just told your direct report the answer.


But telling them exactly what to do and how to do it, especially in detail, starts to loom dangerously into the world of micromanaging, and that would rob them of something even more valuable.


The process of experimentation, trial and error, research and development, and reaching one’s own solution is so helpful in learning and confidence building, that sometimes (even judiciously selected times) it’s important to let people make mistakes and figure out the solution for themselves.


To put it more simply, as Kris said, don’t “steal the joy from your employee working to find a solution,” (even if they get frustrated in the process!)


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


That way when they do finally discover a great solution, they don’t think it’s too good to be true, i.e. there’s no catch!

That Sounded SO Much Better in My Head…

I don’t get starstruck easily. But apparently, I’m not immune.

Most of you know I’m a foodie. I love to cook, used to regularly have the Food Network on in the background, and have more photo albums full of recipes than of pictures of people.


One of my favorite celebrity chefs is Lydia Bastianich, an icon of Italian cuisine and near-permanent PBS fixture. So when I found out she was coming to Philadelphia to promote her latest book, I was excited to hear her speak, meet her in person and of course have her sign a copy for me.


I do have one pet peeve as a chef: It bugs me when a recipe doesn’t include the courtesy of a time estimate for how long it will take to prepare the dish. In meal planning, my decisions will change if I know something takes 25 minutes to prepare vs. two hours or longer. Don’t make me guess!


Unfortunately, none of Lydia’s recipes include prep time estimates. So I also thought that while she was signing my book, it would be the perfect opportunity to humbly request that she consider including prep time estimates in future cookbooks. After all, it couldn’t hurt to ask, and would make people even happier, right?


The day came. I went to the beautiful Philadelphia public library where her event was, listened to her tell stories, then dutifully got in line to have her sign my book.


Finally it was my turn. But in the blink of an eye she was done and I was being ushered toward the door to leave, when I suddenly realized I hadn’t made my request.


On reflex, I whirled around and heard myself blurt out: “Oh! Lydia! You know what you need to do? You need to add prep times to your recipes!”


There was a split second of silence as she – and the other zillion people still in line in the cavernous, marbled, echoing atrium – stared at me.


“Oh, I do?” was all she said. Then turned her attention back to signing the next person’s book.


I felt like a total moron.


That was NOT what I had planned to say AT ALL! I’d had the exact words planned out in my head, but what got blurted out made the exact opposite impression from what I wanted to make.


I desperately wanted a do-over. But interrupting her again to apologize, to explain, to make the respectful – and respectable – request I had planned to say, etc. would just have extended everyone else’s time in line, when I’d already had my turn.


Plus, I rationalized, she didn’t know me from Eve or care about my opinion, so it was just my ego needing exoneration and forgiveness. So I tucked my tail between my legs and left the library.


Should I have created a “do over” opportunity? It’s too late now.


But when it’s NOT too late, having the courage and vision to make amends with a do-over can be a beautiful thing.


And sometimes, it’s not even about a do-over for yourself!


As an example, on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, Dana Reyngoudt, VP of Partnership Marketing at NBCUniversal, shared how she sometimes uses do-over conversations with employees when needed to help them understand why they didn’t get a promotion, and get clear on what they need to do to make sure that next time around they are successful in getting it.



She compared the effects of these conversations on her relationships with those employees as well as on their career progress, relative to earlier experiences in her career when she did not have those conversations. They may never be easy conversations, but in the long run, NOT having them is much harder!


Dana also shares insights on how she came to realize that she was speaking to her family in the same way as if they were work colleagues or employees… and unsurprisingly, why that didn’t work. More importantly, she explained how she chose to listen, adapt, and find the best communication tactics for each situation: at work with her team and at home with her family, respectively.


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


And here’s one more great opportunity for you:


Last Friday, August 19, we had a jam-packed 30-minute LinkedIn Live & YouTube Live conversation with tons of immediately actionable take-away points inside 3 Simple Marketing Hacks to build your brand and Grow Your Business with marketing expert Kimberley Day.



If you missed it live, you can still catch the replay here. The conversation was fun and fast and full of gold nuggets on how to grow your business and your brand.


Do you plan to eat lunch? Go for a walk? Wash dishes? Prep dinner? Tune in to listen then – you’ll have fun, the time will fly, and you’ll get tons of great ideas.


Aaaaand, yes – it sounds just as good when I say that out loud! (*whew!*)

How to Listen Past Your Ego

Just about everyone likes movies of one sort or other. Sometimes I need a straight-up “feel good” movie to put a smile on my face and balance out the negativity that seems to be on every other channel and website.


One of my more recent favorites is “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” in which Tom Hanks (who can do no wrong on screen in my opinion) plays the role of the iconic Mr. (Fred) Rogers. But to me, the most inspiring moment in the film was one of palpable tension.


Cynical reporter Lloyd Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys) gets the chance to interview Mr. Rogers, and eagerly seeks to prove that the beloved children's television icon isn't the modern-day saint the world makes him out to be.


That's when he zeroes in, and baits the hook by asking point-blank about Mr. Rogers' own sons: “What was it like for them growing up? It must have been really hard to have you as a father.”


Anyone who is a parent (and likely anyone who isn't) would instantly bristle at such an overtly insulting question, no matter how you objectively try to rationalize what he could have meant by it.


But Mr. Rogers just sat there, immobile and silent, for what felt like forever, with a look on his face that made plain the thousand possible retorts swirling through his mind. When he finally broke the silence, however, he did so with a very deliberate, measured reply:


“Yes. I'm sure it was. Thank you for the perspective.”


I was floored.


Talk about the road less traveled. The grace, self control and humility it must have taken to listen past his ego, not lash out in anger, self defense, or worse, and even find something to affirm in the personal attack, must have been a herculean effort… at least it would have been for me!


But how was he able to do it? Because he realized that his big picture goals were more important than the fleeting catharsis of verbal retaliation, and it simply wasn't worth taking the bait.


Greg Muzzillo, founder of ProForma and this week's guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast , also shared a powerfully personal lesson in leadership when he, too, had to listen past his ego.



As his company grew, he created a franchise advisory council, in which he invited his franchise owners to be advisors to him.


To his great surprise, the council's first unanimous decision was that for future meetings, Greg would not be allowed in the room! It felt like a punch in the stomach.


But while his momentarily wounded pride may have told him to stand his ground and refuse to leave, to his credit, he resisted the urge to let that reflex drive his response.


Instead, he objectively understood why the council needed him out of the room to be able to speak freely, and that this freedom was not only necessary for them to achieve the best decisions, but it was also ultimately for his own benefit.


After all, HE had picked THEM to help him make the best decision for the company. Did he want a room full of “yes men,” or was he going to trust their collective wisdom, and let them do the job he specifically selected them to do?


So he responded with the three little words that all truly successful leaders need to be able to confidently say to their team:


“I trust you.”


And another subsequent success story was born!


Tune in to the full interview on your favorite podcast platform here or watch the interview on YouTube here.


How about you? Where does your ego make it hard to hear what's really being said and make smart decisions in your response?


As carpenters and contractors say, “Measure twice, cut once.” In those moments of tension, take a moment to breathe and get perspective before responding, and see how much better your results are!

When to Admit You Don’t Know the Answer

“If you can’t explain it simply,
you don’t understand it well enough.”
                                       -Albert Einstein


I often find myself in what many might think is an awkward position:


I have to demonstrate my ignorance.


My biggest clients are leaders in areas ranging from cybersecurity and asset management to construction and pharmaceutical research, all industries in which I know next to nothing, in the grand scheme of things.


So when they want help preparing for conference talks, media interviews, public info webinars, or even presentations to internal clients in different divisions, they need to figure out how to clearly explain the most important – and often the most technical – issues to a diverse audience with an extremely wide range of technical knowledge, sophistication, and interest in those technical details, and ensure that everyone gets it.


How do we measure that success?


Simple: I leverage my ignorance.


More specifically: I listen to each key point, and feed back to them what I understand them to have said. As long as there’s still something I’m clearly not getting – for whatever reason – we need to keep working on it.


NOT until I’ve learned enough about the topic, but until THEY’VE finally figured out how to explain the concept, tell the story, contextualize the issue, or interpret the data without talking down to me or over my head, but in a way that makes me (and any other non-expert in the audience) say, “OH, now I get it!”


When I can summarize what I’ve heard well enough that they can say, “Yes, that’s it!” then and only then can we move on.


I don’t recall who originally said it, but one of my favorite phrases is:


“A teacher is someone who is good at

explaining things to people

who are not good at understanding,

and is good at understanding people

who are not good at explaining.”


That’s a perfect description of my guest on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast.


Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a.k.a. “The Earth's Virology Professor,” is an award-winning professor of virology (the study of viruses) at Columbia University, who has not one but SEVEN concurrent podcasts, including “This Week in Virology,” which has been running weekly since 2008 – that’s 15 years – with over 924 episodes to date!


But what’s more important for our purposes, is that these podcasts are NOT “by scientists, for scientists.” On the contrary, the intention of each series is to make the most cutting-edge research on these topics available, intelligible, and interesting to the general public.



That’s why in this episode, we spent our time talking about how he changes his communication style as an on-going experiment with the seven different podcasts, to see what works best.


Ironically, having the “power combo” of both confidence and humility also allows him to admit (without shame, and without losing status) when he does NOT know the answer to a question – whether because he doesn’t have it but will do his best to find out, or simply because as of yet there IS no available answer.


Beyond that, Vincent shared his “must-do” list for anyone who wants to be a thought leader with an ever-widening sphere of influence, and you’d better believe it includes:


  • Be able to translate your expertise
  • Make it relevant
  • Don’t talk over the heads or down to people who do not share your level of expertise
  • Have fun
  • Share your passion


Why? Because, as he put it: “The best thing that you can do is share what you know with others and empower them.”


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

Vincent recently was awarded the Richard Ernst medal for science communication in the Netherlands. You can listen to his acceptance speech here, about how scientists can and must communicate their findings to the public. The part on podcasting starts at about 32:20. I confess, I never thought I’d listen to an entire lecture on virus communication (including NON-POLITICAL coronavirus research findings from his own lab), but it was truly FASCINATING!