Years ago, when my friend Liz Lynch published her book Smart Networking, I took her out to lunch to celebrate. She then wrote this amusing description of the scene that transpired Why An Enthusiastic Friend Can Be One of Your Most Powerful Networking Assets I have bought and recommended her book many times for my clients, friends and associates seeking effective ways to enhance their networking confidence and results.
Since then, Liz has become known globally for her affirming approach. She was even the international ambassador for National Networking week in Australia, where she did a 9-city tour giving 13 talks in 6 days. Yes indeed, I’m proud and impressed!
So when I heard she’d be speaking to a “Princeton Over 40” event in Manhattan, my first reaction was “Oh boy, I’m being targeted by age group, and no longer on the younger side.” My second reaction was, “Well, I don’t want to lose my status as an enthusiastic friend – I’m going!” Taking a tip from Liz, I invited my classmate Adam Weiss, a recruiter for law firm partners, to come along.
Following up on my last blog entry, I had no programmed business agenda and said to Adam before walking in, “Let’s just have some fun and enjoy meeting new alumni.”
Interestingly, in her talk Liz echoed the same sentiments on a more sophisticated level explaining:
Well, after her talk, it was absolutely amazing what occurred in the room. There was an incredible camaraderie and exchange of ideas. Everyone was supercharged and super friendly. Whether we were all so glad to have been released from self-promotional aims, or the natural affinity amongst us was simply enhanced by Liz’s recommendations it’s hard to say.
But what I know for sure is that within two days. I had connected with every single person I had spoken with during the evening. When does that happen? Unprecedented! A real estate executive and a neuroscientist both purchased my ebook. An attorney reached out to say “Hey, we didn’t get a chance to talk at the event, so why don’t we get together soon?” And, Adam was invited to speak to a select group of law firm partners about his book, The Lateral Lawyer.
When I mentioned this a few days later to Mark Newman, who I met that evening, he commented, “Yes, well… there is something self-referential about networking at a networking workshop.” (Mark has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics and leads a data analytics firm that identifies patterns and potential for everyone from major sports leagues to one of the largest global consumer finance companies.) That comment alone was worth attending the event! Every time I repeat it, the other person laughs just as I did. As you know, there’s nothing like a shared smile to fortify new relationships.
It was like being back at college in all the best ways – meeting people from different fields willing to share and explain. We had fun and we followed up. I don’t know about you, but in my view – that’s very smart networking!
Last evening, I was at gathering at my friend’s favorite pub. In addition to the good cheer and drinks on the table, the question arose, “What is the best way to start off strong in 2013 – from a professional standpoint?”
After all, most of us are thinking about that, aren’t we?
As it turns out, I had recently been asked the same question by Elaine Pofeldt in an article for Investing Answers : Turbocharge Your Career In 2013 With These 3 Surprisingly Easy Moves. Don’t worry – not one of the suggestions is “Set goals!” (As if none of us ever thought of that before!) Instead, the article begins with goal-setting as a premise and centers on three specific objectives: 1) getting noticed by your boss, 2) snagging a job offer and 3) expanding your professional knowledge.
When I mentioned this article, someone asked me a simple yet enormous question: “Across all your consulting and coaching interests, what message are you are most passionate about conveying at the start of the year?”
On this, the last workday, and in fact the last day of 2012, I’d like to share my considered reply: Treat your career advancement as a continual learning process, but in a positive way – to benefit yourself, enliven your mind, and increase your enthusiasm for what you do and how you contribute.
For example, I have never quite understood about the breakthrough engineering in Gothic cathedrals that enabled the stunning stained glass windows and graceful ceilings onlookers have enjoyed for centuries since. No matter how many tour guides in how many European cities pointed them out.
On a recent trip to Paris, I decided to skip the tour and the guidebook, and just try to soak it in from a café barge across the river. My colleague Michael suggested my next book will probably be called Drinking Things While Looking at Churches in France.
On another trip, on the way back from a beach day in Galicia, Spain, we stopped to see the famous cathedral of Mondoñedo. The signage mentioned the unusual combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. I tried to sort it all out, but in the end, just enjoyed looking at the stained glass, marble courtyard and stunning doorways, resigned to take a course someday.
Then, last week, I unexpectedly came across an incredible NOVA episode about the secrets of French Gothic cathedrals, starting with St. Denis and leading up to Notre Dame. I was delighted because it was done as if the director knew how long I’d been wanting to understand, and exactly how to make it intriguing and accessible at the same time.
I would like to propose that the same sense of fun and curiosity can apply in business. For many years, it has been my dream to reach an audience in Spain and Latin America where actionable career advice is less readily available, and my blend of personal and business goals is consistently well received. But I always just talked about it. Until this month. I just began working with a young woman from Colombia who has superb writing skills, successful experience with my program and the right contact base to continue my Latin test marketing. But guess what? I met her completely by chance. In fact, Melisa took the initiative to get started on the translation of an article she selected.
(Quick confession…I spent the first ten minutes of our recent business lunch gushing my newfound knowledge about flying buttresses and pointed arches. Oh well. You know what they say about all work and no Gothic architecture!)
It’s just like the television program, the opportunity to explore a new dimension arose - and I took it. Now it’s one of my goals for 2013 to publish my first article in Spanish. I have no way of knowing what will come of it.
What about your own professional adventure for 2013? Amongst the other performance and financial targets you’d like to reach, add in something you’ve simply always wanted to do. For yourself, first and foremost.
If you’d like to share your ideas with me, please contact me. All the best for 2013 !
Recently, I met a 25-year-old French man at a dinner with a mutual colleague in the solar energy field. When Timothée learned about my ebook, The Power of Professional Presence: Get Their Attention and Keep It! , he purchased and read it straightaway. He was gracious enough to write a review on Amazon which included a specific example of how the book had proven immediately valuable:
Very recently, I attended a day-long event hosted by a potential employer. My goal when attending was to really demonstrate I was good at networking with their customers and although I arrived that morning unmotivated, I thought back to the book, focused on my past networking successes and walked into that room much more confidently. I walked out that night even more confident about my capabilities - it's a real virtuous circle!
As an executive coach and writer, I was very appreciative to hear how he had used the recommended techniques to make an excellent impression. It was even more gratifying to later learn he had applied the methods at a job interview and been offered a high-profile business development position for the first ever Middle East Solar trade show. Naturally, professional presence was a key qualification. So we decided to have lunch before he left for Dubai.
We sat down at a café and launched into a discussion about his new job - the reporting structure, the emerging interest in solar energy in the Middle East, the benefit of providing executive briefings from the start. He asked me several cogent career development questions. I advised him to update his LinkedIn profile right away, so his new contacts would see current information and past colleagues would know he had begun a substantially elevated industry role.
After awhile we looked at the menu and Timothée casually mentioned, “I just went to a restaurant you should try. They have a French (Alsation) pizza on a puffed pastry crust – I had one with chicken, wild mushrooms, gruyère cheese, fresh herbs and a touch of Dijon mustard.”
At business lunches and in general, we mature professional women who are quoted in the Wall Street Journal on executive presence try to maintain a certain degree of composure. Apparently, that wasn’t exactly what happened when I heard that pizza description. My reaction evoked a huge smile and his suggestion, “We can just get up, walk out, get in a cab and go there right now. Based on the way you just gasped… Come on.. Let’s go.” We did.
What’s my point (beyond “The Power of Puffed Pastry Pizza”)? Well, actually there are three:
Guess it worked!
The Power of Professional Presence is available on Amazon here and on Barnes and Noble for Nook here. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle reading app here to read it on your Ipad, Iphone, Android, Mac or PC.
The first quarter of 2011 has brought quite an array of economic and political events. From Wisconsin, to Libya to Japan. It’s been a lot to absorb. Meanwhile, while we try to process all of this external news, most of us are also sorting out what it all means for our own professional paths.
For example, when journalist Elaine Pofeldt interviewed me for this article, “Step Up Your Career This Year”, she asked where seasoned professionals should focus if they want to get ahead this year.
Ironically, the crux of my response paralleled the name of the magazine: Money !
Let’s take some inspiration from the golden 2011 on the cover. We may be in a period of economic recovery, but there is also an emotional recovery in progress.
This is the time to shine, not to shy away from the spotlight. Whether in day-to-day meetings or a broader timeframe, your best strategy is to overtly demonstrate how you add to the bottom line, or the top line, depending on your role.
Am I suggesting your professional worth is measured solely in monetary terms? Absolutely not. But as of yet, there is still no balance sheet representation of meaningful employee development, inventive marketing campaigns, or customer service finesse.
Whether you market international performing stars, run operations for an investment bank, or lead strategic IT projects you need to both align your work with successful results and make sure to communicate about it along the way.
There is nothing radical here, I know. More than anything else, it’s about changing your focus, backing up your hard work with easily understandable numbers and taking ownership for sharing ongoing “positive press” for your achievements. As an added bonus: you’ll not only benefit yourself, but your team and clients too.
If you have questions about how this approach applies to your specific role, please contact me, Stefanie Smith Executive Consultant and Coach.
New Year’s resolutions ... they can feel terrific when you make them. And then, suddenly there you are – it’s a few weeks into January and now what? The gym is crowded and cleaning out that closet over the weekend is no more enticing than it was in December. Especially with the NFL playoffs so intense and surprising this year!
Here’s a suggestion to kick off 2011 that is more appealing and will also advance your career.
Think of five to ten people you’d like to take to lunch or dinner this year. That’s it. Not more complicated than that. Except of course, you have to follow through and actually extend the invitations.
The key is to make an actual list of contacts who can mentor you (or you can mentor), or who you consider to be winners, admire or enjoy spending time with for whatever reason. Calling, Skyping, emailing, texting, Facebooking…nothing can replace the old-fashioned breaking of bread together. Not for me at least!
Is there a former colleague you’ve lost touch with inadvertently, who is now in an interesting new field? What about a college or business school classmate who sent you an email awhile back? How about that guy in another department who you are on conference calls with all the time, but have never spoken with face-to-face?
This is the perfect time to reconnect. You don’t have to plan everything for this month. It’s a great idea to spread out the meetings over the year. People are busy. They may have to cancel once or twice. Or, they may be based out of town, so you want to plant the seed about scheduling time for you on a future business trip.
As an executive consultant and coach, it is often ironic and a challenge to walk one’s own talk. In fact, I thought of this blog entry while reading my own quote in an MSNBC.com article Looking for a job in 2011? Here’s how to stand out.
It’s always striking to read one’s own words weeks after an interview in a different context. I realized focusing in on the people you really want to spend quality time with isn’t just about job search, it’s about career and life enhancement.
So, yes, I started my own list and am proud to say, I have the first lunch on the calendar, with a dynamite executive I haven’t seen in well over a year. Now … time to schedule the next one. If you have any questions or thoughts, please contact me and share them.
As an executive coach, I am often asked, in several different ways "What is the secret to strong leadership?" But in 2010, this question really rose to the top of my mind for two reasons. First, I was asked to write a series on leadership for the American Management Association. Second, I was privileged to be the speaker at the New Jersey Society of CPA's Annual Convention for a special leadership session of over 111 (as CPA's, they are exact) CFO's, audit firm partners and attorneys.
So to say the least, the pressure was on. Three articles and 15 Power Point slides later, I derived a set of ten core leadership principles to energize your team, clients and colleagues. But, here is the message I'd most like to share today, introduced with a simple, yet striking quote:
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
John F. Kennedy
Some of us were born to lead. All of us were born to learn. You can learn to become the leader you aspire to be.
Great boxers might be counterpunchers who can quickly and powerfully respond to their opponents or “throw the first punch” type advancers. But pound for pound, the greatest world champions master both styles and switch between them. In the June 1980 “Brawl in Montreal,” Sugar Ray Leonard lost to Roberto Duran because Duran attacked fast and furiously. However, in the November rematch in New Orleans, after five months of intensive training, Leonard counterpunched to the point where Duran famously gave up, saying “No más, no más.” Later, in the 1986 “Superfight” in Las Vegas, Sugar Ray Leonard beat Marvelous Marvin Hagler by decision thanks to his acquired counterpunching prowess.
As a leader, you too can learn to “roll with the punches”:
Becoming a great leader is an evolving process. In the words of a football coaching legend:
“Leaders are not born. They are made. They are made just like anything else…through hard work. That's the price we have to pay to achieve that goal or any goal.”
There will certainly be challenges along the way, but the rewards - for both you and your team - can be profound. If you'd like to read more, please contact me or read Amp-Up Your Leadership: Power Up Your Team.
Spring is here, and it’s been a great season for new beginnings. Last month my client Jason Hartley began an exciting new leadership role at SecureInfo. Jason is a nationally-recognized expert in computer security and compliance, and SecureInfo is a major provider of security solutions to Federal agencies such as the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Air force, the U.S. Army and NASA. He’s already working with a high-profile software vendor certifying. a commercially-developed cloud computing platform for government use. He is traveling around the country to lend his expertise to high-security operations, and recently got a private tour from rocket engine engineers at a military space center. You get the picture – it was a terrific fit, he advanced his career several levels and thriving. I’m more than a bit proud of his achievements, as you can tell.
In this article, Healing the Scars of a Long Bout of Unemployment, Joann Lublin, management editor of the Wall Street Journal interviewed Jason and I about his strong and positive approach to interviewing and job transition. Since then, several people have asked me about some of the items we worked on to ensure Jason would hit the ground running. Since this is a blog and not a novel, here are a condensed version of some tips:
Putting it in “black and white” is better for everyone. Involve your first and second-level managers in editing and approving this document so you start off unequivocally on the same page. You’ll appreciate this clarity when preparing for your first performance review or renegotiating your compensation package.
2. Document your top three priorities for the first three months, with direct input from your boss.
Your plan doesn’t have to be fancy or complex – bullet points work just fine. Winston Churchill said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Achieving tangible goals is the best basis for allocating your time for the first months. Your strategic thinking may be appreciated, but your talent for delivering results will quickly establish your real value.
3. Ask and listen.
Learn about your new colleagues and team while you still have a clean slate. Their candid anecdotes will reveal more in an hour than you might otherwise learn in a year. The “new guy” advantage doesn’t last long. Within weeks, you’ll blend into the culture as a subordinate, manager or potential threat.
Take notes during your initial days and weeks – yes, actual notes with pen and paper. Let people witness the effort. Thank everyone for explaining the background on the organization, corporate procedures or client relationships. Request copies of memos or presentations to get up to speed on key activities and challenges the department faced before you arrived. Awareness of recent history increases your understanding of present activities and enables you to prioritize your initiatives.
If you are a leader, meet with each direct report, including administrative staff, to learn the lay of the land. Position these introductory sessions as their time to describe their roles, share perspectives and suggest ideas privately. Observe their attitudes and behaviors. If they use their time to complain, respond with, “I’m interested in your recommendations, please share them.” Early on, you can’t know if they are just whining, offering brilliant insights or a combination.
Absorb and synthesize the collective input before setting your own agenda. Then lead a team meeting to reflect what you heard and share your observations. Summarize and document preliminary targets, priorities and recommendations. Next, ask for the team’s validation and buy-in. Establishing mutual respect as the basis for action conveys receptivity and trust. If necessary, you can always say “This is how it’s gonna be” down the road.
4. Reserve judgment.
As a newcomer, you don’t even know where to find the coffee maker or who is sleeping with whom (figuratively and literally). First impressions may change - or they may not. Keep your mind open. There will be time to draw conclusions soon enough.
This concludes this blog series on starting a new job. If you would to receive a full length version of my “Success From the Start” recommendations, including questions for you to reflect upon to boost your confidence and focus:
Congratulations on starting a new job! Whether you got “restructured out” for no explicable reason, finally got the chance you’ve been wanting to move to academia or transferred to a more visible role, there is a major change in one of your most intimate professional relationships. You are moving on from your boss of many years, who is suddenly not part of your everyday life and no longer impacts your next performance review or promotion.
You may be in the mood to say “adios” to your boss. But “hasta luego” will actually work more to your advantage. For those of you who haven’t picked up those Spanish phrases along the way, it’s the difference between “goodbye” and “see ya later.”
In this case, when it comes to “see ya later”, sooner is better than later. Don’t let the relationship grow cold. Instead, elevate it to new level. Plan in your calendar to give your former boss a call, thank him sincerely for something or other (doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s sincere) and set up lunch within the first several months of your new job.
I know, I know. Every time I say this, I can see or sense my clients’ feathers ruffle in response.
Even if you are disappointed that he didn’t do more for you after you made him look terrific for years or conversely think he did something he shouldn’t have, or that you wished he hadn’t…it doesn’t matter anymore. This is about your future, not your past. My recommendation holds for three reasons:
This isn’t a testosterone match with the guy who used to hold power over you. It’s a strategy in your lasting best interest.
For those of you who started the year with a new job, here begins a short series on starting fresh.
So, you got the new job! Or, maybe you made a lateral move to a position tailored just for you...the one you've been waiting for with more opportunities, greater exposure and a chance to travel to Rio for Carnival on the corporate account. Fantastic!
One question. Have you updated your online presence to share the news?
I'm asking based on consistent experience having to hound clients and colleagues about this. It's ironic given all the work you've had to do to get the new role. But, it's also understandable because it simply isn't high on your radar screen.
In your first few weeks, you may have a series of meetings with your new boss and team members, schedule meet-and-great lunches, or attend a trade show or networking event to introduce yourself to potential industry suppliers or partners. If any of these contacts want to learn more about you before or after your personal encounter, they will likely do a Google search on your name right off the bat.
Your professional bio, resume, CV, Facebook page and LinkedIn profile may be the first or second impression scores of people will have of you in a very short time period. Do you really want them to see outdated information from your prior company or “Freelance Editorial Consultant” left over from your job search period?
While you should probably hold off on distributing or posting the new version until your start date, it’s to your advantage to prepare before then. Once you start, you’ll be swamped with new information, ramping up on multiple projects and attempting to exude gracious interest while learning the political, technical and organizational ropes.
Think about your connections in your LinkedIn or other social networking groups. Wouldn’t it feel great to let them all know about your career move straightaway? Sharing good news draws people to you, gives them a chance to congratulate you and encourages them to reach out to learn more. Sound good? The only way it will realistically happen is if you get ready in advance or dedicate weekend time during your first two weeks. If it's already been longer than that, no worries. Just do it now.
Yes, you already have a lot on your mind. But I promise – refreshing your online image will be worth the pride, responses and respect you’ll receive in return.
So thanks to my friend Liz Lynch, I finally joined Facebook. It’s been a bit daunting to suddenly see all those names and faces from high school popping up. But at the same time, what a gift to reconnect with people who I believed in years ago and are now thriving.
In the spirit of thinking about “thriving friends”, I’d like to share with you what I’ve been highlighting with my clients and colleagues in 2009: When you want to present yourself as successful and centered, clarity and confidence beat trying to improvise – every time!
Now is the time to hone in on your strong points and practice communicating your special talents. Successful professionals are crystal clear on their strengths.
Don’t worry if you don’t yet feel clear about yours. You will soon. Maybe as soon as an hour from right this moment.
Here’s how you can get started in two straightforward steps:
1. Make a list of your strong points. I’m referring to professional skills in this context, not general traits like “high integrity” or “dedication to excellence”. Think more along the lines of “product design”, “editing and content management” or “client relationships”.
Try to keep it to four, which we’ll call your “diamond of strength”. I’ve found most people have four core strengths and other talents that fold into those main groups. If you are brainstorming and find yourself listing many strengths, that’s great. Don’t stop, keep listing everything. Later on, group them into four categories.
If you can’t think off the top of your head what sets you apart, you might:
2. Illustrate each strong point with entertaining and enlightening stories summarized in 3-4 sentences.
Entertaining means “capture their interest”. People like intriguing or humorous stories they can repeat. Enlightening means they will walk away with a fresh bit of knowledge or insight. If your story is full of generic jargon they probably won’t tune in. If your story teaches them something new, they will listen, pay attention, and remember it.
For example, you could try to prove your expertise by stating, “I structured credit card partnership deals for banking institutions.”
Or, you could explain. “My client was a European bank interested in expanding in the French and Austrian markets. Competitors had launched credit card partnerships with retailers and manufacturers, and they wanted something unique tied to discretionary spending. After testing several concepts, we developed an affinity program for ski and snowboarding enthusiasts, through which they accumulated points towards ski equipment, clothing, and resort stays. It was so successful we expanded it to Switzerland and Germany the following year.”
Which version would you respond to more positively? While drafting your own examples, keep in mind that highlighting details and results makes for a better story and earns you more respect.
What’s in it for you? Glad you asked. You will:
Not a bad set of benefits, for zero monetary investment!
If you’d like to discuss this approach or ask any questions, please contact me Stefanie Smith, Executive Coach and Consultant.