How to Take the Road Less Stupid

If I'm going to be honest with myself, I have to admit that many of my greatest strengths and my greatest weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin. For example:

 

  • I'm really good at being flexible and rolling with unexpected changes in the daily schedule… but I'm not always great at sticking with the priority tasks on the daily “to-do” list even when there are no interruptions.
  • I love creating new ideas for programs and services… but can sometimes fall victim to “shiny object syndrome,” wanting to try a dozen new things before I've completed the old ones.
  • And I love engaging hundreds or even thousands of people on stage or on camera because I am excited to share ideas, content and experiences that will change their lives for the better… but I'm terrible at sitting in the quiet, taking sufficient time to process and digest those experiences, or to meditate thoughtfully as part of strategic planning.

 

This last one is particularly challenging. Sitting still and focusing 100% of my mind on one specific problem and how to solve it (not just daydreaming randomly or letting the mind race through my to-do list while driving or making dinner) often feels self-indulgent, as though I'm not actually “working” unless I'm actively “doing” something… and somehow “thinking” doesn't seem like “doing.”

 

Yet “thinking time” is a shared practice of the most successful leaders. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and John Donahoe of Nike are just a few.

 

And it's not just making the time to think that matters — it's the quality of the question you ask that makes the difference.

 

One of my newer favorite books is a treasure trove of great leadership “thinking time” questions, strategies and tactics for maximizing the value of thinking time: It's Keith Cunningham's The Road Less Stupid.

 

 

The premise is simple: we'd all be more successful if we made fewer bad decisions, and bad decisions are frequently due to a failure to think through things sufficiently.

 

Does it feel like you don't have time to “just think” about things? If so, let me ask you this: if you don't have time to contemplate key questions, how will you ever find the time to FIX the problems you create by making the wrong decision because you didn't think it through enough the first time around?

 

Put more concisely: If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

 

Taking time to think about challenges also gives you time to listen for that little voice inside that frequently knows better, but that we often tend to ignore. Call it your gut, your intuition, your conscience, your guardian angel… whatever it is, it often shares words of wisdom, if we let it!

 

Carlos Malatesta, CEO of Apex Energies, joined me on this week's Speaking to Influence podcast , and shared a variety of experiences when he did and did not listen to his intuition, especially when communicating with people about difficult topics. In particular, he realized that his inner voice usually had great advice around timing when it comes to making important decisions.

 

Similarly, he shared an important insight that it's that inner voice that often reminds him to listen to the unspoken signals about the “mood” of the moment, and how that should influence his timing.

 

For example, he described when he enthusiastically and impulsively decided to talk to a business partner about an opportunity even though his instinct realized that the partner wasn't in a mental or emotional state that would allow him to hear Carlos's idea. Not so surprisingly, the conversation ended in a yelling match. (Hmmm, how close to home does that hit?)

 

Listen to the conversation here or watch the video here.

 

 

Today is also National Philanthropy Day. Feeling a little extra generous in your heart but not sure how to express it? We've had some amazing leaders of not-for-profit organizations over the last two years on the podcast, and all of them would help ensure your generosity went directly to making a difference in someone's life who needs you.

 

To refresh your memory overall, go to https://speakingtoinfluence.com/podcast to see the full list and hear their amazing stories. But here are just a few for starters, in case you missed them, with direct links to their organizations:

 

Bringing Hope Home
Congreso de Latinos Unidos
Urban Affairs Coalition
Education Works
Foundation for the Support of the United Nations
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Chester County OIC
Women Against Abuse
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts
The Adoption Center
PA Family Support Alliance
JDog Foundation
Please Touch Museum
Alice Paul Institute

 

Find whichever inspires you in the moment and click the link to make your difference.

Not sure? Listen to that little voice inside. It will steer you right!

4 People Who Inspire Me

(Read to the bottom for four gifts you can give to yourself and others!)

 

Some days we need a little more help getting out of bed. This morning I woke up with a head cold, which is always more of an incentive to roll over and go back to sleep. But then a few things caught my eye that totally changed my perspective.

 

Across the room on the dresser I saw the participant’s medal I received from Sunday morning’s Cooper Norcross “Run The Bridge” event. It’s a 10k race (6.2 miles) over the Ben Franklin Bridge between New Jersey and Philadelphia, benefitting the Larc School, a beautiful community that serves children and adults with special needs, as their website says, to “provide opportunities for growth, development, and independence with dignity and respect.”

 

But let’s get a few things straight: I am not a natural runner, and I hate cold weather. My goal was not to “win” the race, but to merely cross the finish line on my own two feet instead of on a stretcher.

 

Nevertheless, I sign up for the Bridge Run almost every year because – standing there in 30-degree weather at 7am on a Sunday morning, knowing my knees will start hurting by mile 4 – it reinforces my gratitude that I can run the bridge, that my family is healthy, and that I truly am blessed in many ways, so I am glad to raise awareness for them.

 

And watching members of the Larc School community running in teams, even pushing wheelchairs over the bridge and back for 10 kilometers inspired me even more.

 

Now, I’m not usually a proponent of the “everyone gets a trophy” school of thought, but I’m proud of that participant’s medal because I worked for it and I earned it, and seeing it reminds me of that inspiration and gratitude.

 

 

After I reminisced about the run for a moment this morning, I reached for my phone to check the calendar to see how much leeway I had before I had to get up, and I saw that today’s podcast guest is Daina Trout, Co-Founder and Chief Mission Officer of Health-Ade Kombucha.

 

Daina was a lot of fun, and shared not only how her passion for “real food” and the core importance of “gut health” drove her to launch her line of Health Ade drinks, but also the unique challenges of her decision to go from CEO – the most powerful position in the company – to her newly created role of “Chief Mission Officer” – which has no official power!

 

How do you influence people throughout the company and beyond to make your recommended choices to drive the company toward your vision when they don’t technically report to you? Listen here or watch here to find out!

 

 

Oh – and be sure to read to the bottom for Daina’s generous pre-Thanksgiving gift to all of us!

 

One more item on the calendar today is World Adoption Day. (Actually, November is National Adoption Month overall.) Many of you know I’m a big supporter of The Adoption Center whose mission is to help children in the foster care system find their forever homes, and this year the Adoption Center celebrates its 50th Anniversary!

 

One of my favorite singers, Sia, adopted two teenage boys who were aging out of the foster care system. She said, “Just because my sons didn’t come out of me 19 years ago doesn’t mean they’re not my children.”

 

While my own 19-year-old is technically my stepson, that’s exactly how I feel about him. Both of my boys inspire me every day.

 

Does someone in your life have room in their home and hearts for a little more love? Check out The Adoption Center for more info or go back to listen to Executive Director Christine Jacob's Speaking to Influence interview about influence in this space. After all, there are no unwanted children – just unfound families!

 

Again, love and gratitude serve as powerful inspiration and motivators.

 

And lastly, looking ahead, Thursday is Veterans Day. To all the service members out there, past and present:

 

 

For a little extra Veteran’s Day inspiration and gratitude, check out some earlier Speaking to Influence episodes with amazing guests like Ralph Galati who spoke about veteran resources and communications, or Tracy Flanagan, co-founder of J-Dog Brands, a veteran-owned and operated cleaning and junk-hauling franchise company.

 

So with all of that in my mind, the head cold didn’t seem so much of an issue anymore. Armed with some decongestant, tissues and a cup of tea, but a very light heart, I started my day!

 

I hope some of my inspiration has touched you in some way today. Inspiration and gratitude make all the difference.

 

PS: Here are four ways you can feel GREAT about yourself by doing something good for others:

 

Check out the Larc School’s Amazon Wish List and send a gift today.

Daina is giving a generous 15% off discount on any Health-Ade products on their website exclusive to my subscribers and listeners. Use the promo code SpeakingToInfluence15 upon checkout and is valid until December 31,2021.

Can’t adopt, but want to make a difference in the life of a child? See all the ways you can support children through the Adoption Center HERE.

Are you a veteran who needs a bit of support? Or know a veteran who does? Go to JDog Foundation for more information on how to get the services you have earned and deserve.

How Did You Get *That* From What I Said?

It has happened to all of us at one point or another.

 

We're having a conversation with someone, and make a casual comment, to which they indignantly respond, “Oh, so you're saying XYZ?!” and all that goes through our bewildered mind is, “Huh? How did you get THAT from what I said??”

 

At that point, one thing has become suddenly clear: there's a giant gap between what you thought you said and what they thought they heard.

 

My job as a coach is to help identify and close that gap for clients — or better yet, help them predict where the gap might be and successfully avoid it in the first place.

 

But why does the gap happen?

 

Truthfully there are countless possible reasons. For starters,

 

  • It could be a result of a difference in experience, priorities, or responsibilities (e.g.accounting, engineering, or sales roles).
  • It could be due to the nature of your relationship (e.g., platonic, romantic, coworker, client, boss) and if that includes a power differential.
  • It could stem from cultural or demographic roots such as generational, gender, racial, religious or ethnic differences.
  • It could be tied to the body's circadian cycles — is one of you extra tired or hungry, perhaps?
  • It could even be something much smaller, such as reminding them of something they saw on television last night.

 

The reality is that it's usually more than just one singular factor.

 

However, there is often one particular factor that is an influence more often than not:

 

It's that we don't hear what the other person meant because we don't fully listen.

 

I know I'm certainly guilty of hearing part of what someone says, and then mistakenly believing I know where they're going with their story, jumping the gun and giving a response to a question they neither asked nor wanted to ask.

 

In a busy world, it’s easier to listen and give immediate feedback to the other person than to take the time to understand and to reflect about what the other person may be feeling or putting myself in their situation.

 

The analogy I often use is that most people listen in a conversation like they're participating in a game of double-dutch jump rope: they watch the speaker's lips as if watching two spinning ropes rhythmically opening and closing. Their posture is at the ready with one foot forward and one foot back, starting to rock back and forth, poised to leap in and start jumping (or talking) the moment there's a good opening.

 

The antidote is a combination of mindfulness and empathy.

 

Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment, listening for the sole purpose of more fully understanding what someone is (or isn't) saying, and why.

 

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes and feel (or at least imagine) what they feel.

 

Both of these skills are critical for building both personal and business relationships, and essential for developing strong leadership skills.

 

Listening with empathy is a major theme this week on the Speaking to Influence’s podcast , with special guest Lesley Pyle, Founder of HireMyMom.com.

 

Lesley began her work-at-home career way before it was “the norm.” For her, it started back in 1996 after giving birth, and realizing that she still wanted to work, but as a freelancer on her own terms, schedule, and fees, so she could continue to be present for her young children the way she wanted.

 

Soon after, she saw an opportunity to help two important groups of people:

 

  1. Other professional women – especially working mothers – who wanted to find flexible, legitimate, home-based work, and
  2. Small businesses who needed to find talented, virtual part-time team members and freelancers.

 

With that, the fabulously-named HireMyMom.com was born!

 

 

On the show, Lesley shared mistakes she made when she made assumptions mid-conversation instead of fully listening to hear what her clients had to say. Unsurprisingly, giving advice that does not answer a clients’ needs is not a recipe for success.

 

Of course, mindfully listening with empathy is just as important when marketing to prospects if we ever want them to become clients.

 

Listen in here as we explore how communication changes when common ground is found, how to recognize when prospective clients are not a good match, and how to deal with conflict in a more empathetic (and successful!) way.

 

Catch the full episode here or watch on YouTube here.

 

By the way, did you have a good Halloween? If you're like me, the scariest part of the holiday is the giant bowl of candy that calls to me at night after the kids go to bed… My mindfulness and listening skills need to better tune in to the inner voice that says “No, you do NOT need another piece of chocolate… go to bed!”

When Should You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

When I was first setting out on my own as a consultant and entrepreneur after grad school, I had a big pitch to make for a prospective client. I wanted to make a good impression, so – among other things – I went to a store in south Philadelphia and bought a big new purse to carry my laptop.

 

 

But it wasn't just any purse – it was an imitation Coach handbag. The original probably retailed around $300; I paid $30 for the knockoff, and hoped it would help me look successful.

 

 

When I got to the interview, I put it on a chair next to me at the conference table and did my pitch for the team. They then described to me how the three key women traveled to different client sites around the country together, and after the trainings were complete, they'd often go to dinner, sometimes get mani/pedis, or hit outlets for some good bargain shopping.

 

 

“Do you like to shop?” One asked me.

 

 

Her colleague jumped right in: “Girl, of course she likes to shop, look at the bag!”

 

 

I was in – primarily because I was the right candidate professionally, but it didn't hurt that I also looked like I'd be a good cultural fit.

 

 

We all like to tell ourselves that we're above judging people on their appearance, and we know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But it's not about whether or not we should. The simple fact is that we do — it's a part of human nature.

 


The real question is whether or not we let ourselves make decisions based on that first impulsive evaluation.

 

 

That's why it's so important to know your audience, your industry, your objectives, and the broader context for each engagement – so you can “play to your audience” as the saying goes, and make sure that your appearance is still stylistically authentic to you, but appropriate to the context in a way that, at a bare minimum, won't distract or otherwise negatively bias your audience against you.

 

 

In my book Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice, I talk about the messaging channels in speech, a.k.a the Three V's: Verbal, Vocal, and Visual communication. The way you groom or dress is just as important as your facial expressions and body language as components of the third or “Visual” channel.

 

 

Why? Because people make their first judgments about you from that first visual impression, long before you even have a chance to say “hello.” (Then, of course, when you speak, you will either prove their first impression to be right, or to be wrong, for better or for worse!)

 

 

Nobody knows that better than my guest this week on Speaking to Influence , a pioneer in the industry as one of the very first certified image consultants in all of India, Sonia Dubey Dewan, Founder of the Indian School of Image Management.

 

 

 

 

In this episode, Sonia talks about why it's important to learn about how to create your image, and how she's helping people around the world master the “ABCs of Image Consulting”: Appearance, Behavior, and Communication.

 

 

But even more importantly, Sonia has built an incredible program that is not just about her clients' (students') external looks, but also what internal transformation they need to undergo as well.

 

 

Specifically, once they understand the art and science of image consulting itself, she then teaches them all to be skilled entrepreneurs, (what she calls “an MBA on steroids”) so that they can take control of their own destiny as a successful business owner.

 

 

Listen in we discuss the needs of online training today, managing assertiveness throughout cultural expectations, initiating your own personal transformation, and being your own trainer.

 

 

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

How to Know When You’re Hypnotized

Last weekend I saw an amazing stage act. A hypnotist brought a dozen people on stage and before we knew it, hilarity ensued.

What hit me most powerfully was that at one point, he had them thinking they were bodybuilders posing in a competition (which was just downright funny to watch), but then he put a simple aluminum folding chair in the middle of the stage and told them that despite their incredible muscles, they wouldn't be able to lift it.

 

One by one, they scoffed at the challenge, strode up to the chair… and sure enough, not one person could get it off the floor!

 

At the end of the show, the hypnotist turned to the audience, looked straight at us and said with no trace of irony:

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, understand that they couldn't lift the chair because in their minds they believed that they couldn't. Your own success in every area of life is 100% determined by your own beliefs regarding your limitations. You've each hypnotized yourselves with your own limiting beliefs. You are the only thing holding yourself back from greatness.”

 

That smacked me right between the eyes.

 

We all tell ourselves stories about

 

  • what we're “just not good at”
  • where we feel inadequate
  • what we should or shouldn't already be/know/have/do
  • why we constantly beat ourselves up over small things, or
  • why we are justified in throwing our own “pity-party for one,” acting like an innocent victim of circumstance, certain that someone else is the villain and that we had no hand in creating our own unhappy situation

 

Any of that sound familiar?

 

They're ALL stories we tell ourselves that perpetuate our own successes and failures alike by strengthening our own self-hypnosis, literally.

 

Ironically, we're all fully aware of the power of the art of storytelling when trying to get others on board with our vision. (Heck, even Jesus taught through parables!)

 

Stories make concepts relatable to people, and a well-told story allows the audience not only to understand your point, but to experience it with you. Effective storytelling is its own form of hypnosis that allows people to be fully present and in mental lock-step with you.

 

That's why in this week's Speaking to Influence episode, Christopher Mominey, CEO of the West Chester University Foundation, shares the role that storytelling plays in fundraising efforts and ongoing team communication alike, and how he uses it as the core of relationship development.

 

 

Tune in here to listen or watch the full video here.

 

So with that, let me ask you: What stories do you tell yourself? Where have you hypnotized yourself with a story that reinforces a limiting belief? If you're honest with yourself, I hope you can identify which is the anchor that keeps you from achieving your goals.

 

What do you think? Is it time for you to tell yourself a NEW story?

What NOT to Do in Your Investor Pitch

I love an encore. An encore means the audience loved every minute of the experience and wants even more. I love going to concerts, hearing all my favorite hits, and not wanting it to end, cheering for the band to come back out and play one last song.

 

And the honor of GIVING an encore is just as exciting: there's nothing more inspiring and validating than speaking to hundreds and hundreds of people at a virtual conference for a 45-minute engagement then sticking around for another NINETY minutes for live Q&A because even though there were other speakers in other zoom rooms, nobody wanted to leave!

 

That's why I'm so excited about this week's Speaking to Influence episode: It's an encore performance you won't want to miss.

 

Today I'm bringing back my very first podcast guest, Ellen Weber, executive director of Robin Hood Ventures, for a down-and-dirty crash course on the do's and don'ts of nailing the investor pitch.

 

Now wait – before some of you tune out, thinking, “I'm not a business owner; why do I care about an investor pitch?”, the simple fact is that the principles that underlie an investor pitch are the same ones that underlie ANY pitch.

 

  • Ever try to get funding for a new initiative in your department?
  • Or convince an organization to try something new when they're perfectly content with the comfort of “the way we've always done it”?
  • Or even merely apply for a promotion?

 

If so, you've tried to convince investors to put their faith (and time, money and other resources) in you.

 

 

Listen in here or watch it here.

 

One thing I love about Ellen is that she shoots straight from the hip. So when she got down to business, explaining some of the core philosophies of the investor and what pitfalls to avoid when pitching, I knew I would need to take notes! To share just a few key insights:

  1. Investors look at three core components: your product, market, and leadership team; Don't focus so much on explaining your product or service that you neglect to get specific about your people, because more often than not, the team is the most important factor in anchoring investors' trust.
  2. “If you want money, ask for advice; if you want advice, ask for money.” (Tune in to see how this pearl of wisdom applies to just about everything and why!)
  3. Don't get caught in so many details and “specs” that you forget to share your motivation or “your why”; the more you have a personal connection with the product or service, the more people want to connect together.
  4. Don't preface your answer to every question with “That's a great question!”.
  5. and so many more!

 

Going back to Episode 2, Ellen's first influence challenge to everyone was simply to pull the proverbial trigger and make the ask you've been sitting on, for whatever reason. Still solid advice.

 

But before you take her up on that challenge, catch her new interview appearance HERE , so when you do make the ask, it hits the mark and has the positive impact you want it to have, so others are ready to make an investment in you.

When I Had to Eat My Words

I don't know about you, but I'm really glad words don't have calories… because I eat WAY too many of them.

 

When I was a kid, I didn't necessarily know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew what I did NOT want to be: a TEACHER.

 

I came from a long line of teachers – my dad, two of his brothers, and several aunts and uncles on mom's side – and talk around the dinner table or at family gatherings always seemed to be about school, school, school. No way, not for me! I wanted out.

 

As many of you already know and the rest of you have probably guessed, shortly after college, I packed my bags and moved to LA to be — you guessed it — a teacher. Not only that, but I even spent a few years training teachers (a teacher's teacher, if you will.) And now of course, my calling has evolved to leadership communication coaching and training; in other words: a teacher!

 

Why? Because I wanted to make a difference, and when I look back on all the formal and informal teachers, coaches, and mentors who shaped my path, the impact is undeniable. To name just a few:

 

  • My undergrad Japanese professor, Dr. Miwa Nishimura, who looked me square in the eye one day and said, “You should be a linguist.”
  • Dad, who gave me the single best piece of teaching (leadership) advice ever: “You can't just demand that people respect you; you have to command it with your presence.”
  • Chris Caine, then-VP of government programs at IBM who learned about my research when I was in grad school and said, “Your work has valuable application in the business world. Come do a training for my global leadership team,” thus beginning my entrepreneurial journey
  • JV Crum, my business development coach who helped me understand (and quantify) the value I deliver to clients

 

In case you didn't know, today (October 5th) is International Teachers Day, a perfect opportunity to honor our teachers, coaches, mentors and people who have helped us become the person that we are now.

 

History is full of people who have been direct and indirect teachers for us all. That’s why this week, on the podcast is Allison Titman , Executive Director of the Alice Paul Institute. Does that name ring a bell? It was named after Alice Paul, a lifelong crusader for gender equality, following in the footsteps of Susan B. Anthony and others to finally pass the 19th Amendment and get women the legal right to vote.

 

The institute now seeks to continue her legacy and train the next generation of leaders in gender equality, helping them find their voice to create positive change in their community. For Allison, it's all about education.

 

 

Tune in and listen to the podcast here or watch it on YouTube here to hear how they're expanding their virtual reach to educate even more people around the world on civil rights.

 

Then keep listening to discover which professor gave her (and her whole class) a “loving kick in the pants” to take ownership of her education and future, and make her own voice heard. (Allison, I think your professor would be very proud!)

 

To wrap it up, here’s my invitation to you: Think of a teacher/professor/ coach/mentor or other person who has been influential in your personal and/or professional development and success, then find a way to reach out to them and simply say, “THANK YOU!” Let them know the difference that they made in your life, and watch it make their day.

What My Kids Taught Me About Leadership

Today is National Sons Day and what better way to celebrate this than to honor the boys (and all children) in our lives. Raising my boys has been a blessing (and often a challenge,) but for all I have tried to teach them, I've probably learned just as much if not more from them in return, regarding life in general, and more specifically, about leading.

 

Lesson 1 – Children thrive when led by parents who want what's best for them. It's not always convenient or popular, such as limiting snacks or screen time, but when the intention is clear, it builds acceptance and respect. It's every bit as important for adults to understand that leaders are trying to make decisions in the best interest of the group, and not just for themselves, even if the decision isn't what they had hoped for.

 

Lesson 2Encourage people's passions. I may not understand why some things inspire such passions (video games and anime come to mind,) but passions can be the seeds of expertise. My teenager's interest in video games has inspired him to take a programming class, and his favorite anime – Naruto, specifically – has prompted him to ask more questions about my time in Japan, how to translate different words into Japanese or English, and to go to Japanese restaurants to try authentic ramen.

 

Lesson 3 – Speak with conviction. If you’ve heard a sales pitch or an idea from a kid, especially your kids, you know what I mean. They're fully invested, and are fully committed to their idea. It's clear in their words, voice, and body language, and they are willing to share it with just anybody willing to listen.

 

Lesson 4 – Don't be afraid to try and fail. Watching a child who is determined to learn to do something is truly inspiring. Shortly before my son turned 5 over the summer, he decided he wanted to take the training wheels off his bicycle, like the big kids. I anticipated days of back-breaking bending over to help hold the bike upright, but he kept swatting my hand away, saying “I can do it myself!” Yes there were a lot of false starts, falls, close calls and a skinned knee, but sure enough he figured it out and was off to the races with the others, beaming with pride.

 

All of these lessons are reinforced in this week’s podcast episode, with special guest Trish Wellenbach, President and CEO of Please Touch Museum.

 

 

As the head of one of the top ten children's museums in the country AND the first female chair of the board of Thomas Jefferson University, Trish reinforced the importance of leading by getting out of people's way, meeting people wherever they are, and taking smart chances by taking jobs that you might not be 100% qualified for – trusting that you can learn the rest, which gives you something exciting to look forward to.

 

Tune in to listen to the episode here or watch on YouTube here.

 

Whether you are a parent or not, don't miss this conversation with lots of words of wisdom from the world of children AND adults alike.

 

And if you have a son, celebrate them today and the life lessons they taught you.

Here’s Why You Should Still Look the Part

A couple of weeks ago I had an experience that felt oddly foreign to me.

 

I had the pleasure of heading out to do a live “Speaking to Influence” leadership communication training for a client (something I've missed very much), and in getting ready to go, I put on… pumps.

 

As soon as I stood up in them it was as if my feet looked up at me and said, “Hey, what are you doing? What's with these high heels and squishing us into pointy toes? Are you mad at us or something?”

 

I confess, in the “new normal” of virtual engagements all day every day, over the course of the last year my footwear repertoire has been reduced to a rotation of flip-flops, fuzzy slippers or sneakers — and the sneakers are only if I'm going to exercise or run errands.

 

Maybe that sounds all-too-familiar, but what are the rules for the do's and don'ts of what to wear in the virtual world?

 

Heck, for some people, working from home has normalized working and attending meetings in pajamas after waking up just in time to click “Join Meeting.” (Note: I do NOT recommend this.)

 

Remember the importance of Verbal-Vocal-Visual alignment when speaking? Your verbal channel is your message content (content, word choice, fillers, etc.), and it needs to match up with your delivery, i.e. your vocal (e.g. intonation, speed, pausing) and visual (facial expressions, gestures, clothes, hair, etc.) communication for you to be seen as credible, a cornerstone of establishing your leadership image.

 

The way you dress – even online – speaks volumes through your visual (“non-verbal”) communication. And while we may espouse and state beliefs about not judging a book by its cover, the simple fact is that people do exactly that, unconsciously, even before their brain consciously processes the nature of what they're specifically judging about how you look.

 

Does it LOOK like you feel

  • Confident or uncertain?
  • Approachable or standoff-ish?
  • Engaged or disinterested?
  • Respectful (and respectable) or dismissive?

 

The first rule of marketing is that people need to know, like and trust you before they'll do business with you or buy what you're selling. And their first instinctive judgment will be based on what they see.

 

It all plays to establishing your personal brand – whether as a business owner or employee, remembering that that you are the company’s brand ambassador every time you're on a video conference.

 

That's why in today’s episode, Francesca Zampaglione, Founder of Dressed Smart™ LLC, demystifies the relationship between the closet and the camera. She shares lots of easy but important tips about how to look your best, and explains why the way you dress changes the way you feel and what it communicates about you.

 

If you're looking to up your game in the virtual world and recognize the simple fact that presentation matters, tune in for great tips about what to wear and what not to wear on virtual meetings or webinars in order to be your authentic self while projecting confident, competent leadership.

 

(And you'll learn what I discovered is my own regular fashion faux-pas on video calls!)

 

Listen more to it here or watch it on YouTube here .

 

 

And of course, once you've put yourself together to knock'em dead in video conferences, you still need to make sure that your physical setup does you justice so that you look, sound, and feel like a million bucks every time. Download the complete Virtual Influence Progress Checklist for FREE here and see for yourself.

 

Now, where are my flip-flops…

Forget Lemons- What To Do When Life Gives You Manure

Many of you know that I live in a suburb of Philadelphia, not far from the beautiful Longwood Gardens. (You may remember Paul Redman, CEO of Longwood Gardens, who was my guest on Episode 6 of the Speaking to Influence Podcast. Definitely check out our conversation here.)

 

Well, Longwood Gardens is in a town called Kennett Square, PA, which has an arguably dubious honor: It is the mushroom capital of the world! Kennett Square produces 50% of all mushrooms consumed in the US, and a large proportion of those enjoyed by the rest of the world, from the most basic to the most exotic (and expensive!)

 

But why is the honor “dubious”?

 

Because in order to grow the most exquisite mushrooms in the world, and in such huge quantities, there's something else they need in vast quantities: MANURE.

 

Manure – along with similarly organic but icky ingredients like compost – is the ideal environment for mushrooms to multiply and flourish.

 

This irony has become a go-to metaphor for me when dealing with catastrophe. Forget the nonsense about “when life gives you lemons…” Way beyond lemons, what happens when life gives you acres upon acres of manure?

 

Kennett Square's answer is simple: You use it to grow world-class mushrooms.

 

I remind myself of this today, in the wake of the 20th anniversary of the atrocities of September 11, 2001.

 

Lest you think I'm being too cavalier about the date, that was the day my cousin, Matthew Douglas Horning, and a high school classmate, Christopher Noble Ingrassia, both died in the Twin Towers. I don't take the date lightly.

The destruction and carnage of that day left a seemingly insurmountable metaphorical mountain of manure on our families, our country and the world. And yet, the aftermath brought out some of the absolute best in humanity in the weeks and even months that followed.

 

We were less concerned with political, religious, or cultural differences, and people came out of the woodwork, traveling to New York or DC to donate food, water, blood, clothing, supplies and more to anyone who needed it. We were more civilized to each other, and were united by a common love for our country and desire for safety and security.

 

Somehow, over the last 20 years, the remnants of that brotherly and sisterly civility and caring seem to have faded away. Discourse has devolved into “us/them” rhetoric and gross overgeneralizations that are just begging for a fight. Everyone seems to assume “the other guy” is purely self-interested and inherently evil in motivation.

 

And the conversations in the news and on social media… well, 'nuff said.

 

I truly hope people take stock of where we are – hip-deep in an acre of manure. So what are we going to do with it?

 

If we're smart, we'll realize it's an opportunity to step out and work with everyone to cultivate a new species of world-class mushrooms. We'll learn from the state of the world and take active steps to make it better, one conversation at a time.

 

If we don't, that means we may need something as catastrophic as 9/11 to wake us up again. And I pray that this is NOT necessary.

 

So that's exactly what I set out to do this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast: I wanted to look at discourse habits both 1:1 in real time as well as when firing off he-said/she-said missives on Facebook or an equivalent platform post, and give real-world tips and strategies to turn things around.

 

Tune in for simple but crucial ways to speak with people in a way that makes the current “manure” perfect fodder to rediscover our own best, most collaborative, most forgiving, most verbally charitable selves.

 

Is it easy to flip that kind of switch? No. But all it takes is a moment-to-moment check in on things like:

      • asking questions instead of making assumptions
      • not stereotyping people because of their political affiliation, mask preferences, religion, or ethnic background
      • watching your tone of voice
      • or even asking yourself, “would I want my kids to know I said this to someone?” before hitting SEND.

 

Don't shovel more manure onto the heap. Cultivate – and SHARE – the mushrooms instead.

 

Tune in for more tips on this week's episode HERE or on YouTube here.

 

In the spirit of honoring each other and celebrating our diversity, September 15th kicks off Hispanic Heritage month.

 

In case you missed it, check out the Speaking to Influence conversation with Carolina DiGiorgio, CEO – Congreso de Latinos Unidos. Congreso de Latinos Unidos is a not-for-profit serving Philadelphia's Latino communities so that they not only survive, but thrive, with education, workforce development, family and housing services and more.

 

She shared how she connects with various audiences on multiple levels in order to empower them to take action.

 

If you missed that podcast episode, you can check it out here for some inspiration!

 

In the interim, take stock of your environment. There is ALWAYS plenty of visible manure, whether on television, at work, around the dinner table, or elsewhere. But my question to you remains: what are you going to DO with it?

 

Don't just complain and keep reiterating that it stinks. As Mother/Blessed/Saint Teresa and Ghandi are both accredited to have said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

 

What kind of gourmet, world-class mushroom are YOU going to cultivate from it all?