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Archive for month: March, 2013

Networking. Friend or Foe?

Networking. Friend or Foe?

348800fa8lo7j8cWould you agree with this? Networking is one of the most intimidating parts of business. Whether you are looking for new clients or a new job, it’s almost a “given” that you’ll be concerned about how you  should look, talk or act when you’re out there “among them”.

However, regardless of how we feel about it, it’s a vital part of our business success. We need to turn that “foe” into a “friend”—maybe we can become less anxious and actually enjoy it?

Full disclosure here: I love networking! It is one of my favorite activities as a business owner. And, not to ‘toot’ my own horn or anything (well, maybe just a little)—but I think I’m pretty good at it too.

If you find networking intimidating or want to spruce up your skills, here are some tips from a “serial” networker that just might help you out.

15 Do’s and Don’t of Networking Success

1. Do go to an event with a specific goal in mind. Before you go (even better, before you commit to attend), think about what will make you say, at the end of the evening, “This was worth my time.” Work toward being able to say that throughout the entire event.

2. Do make sure that you make three to five  new connections. Don’t immediately qualify the immediate benefit-to-you of having met and connected with new people.  All new connections are valuable to you.

3. Don’t work the entire room—unless you are a butterfly. Really making a connection requires spending some time to listen to each person you meet. Give that person the time they deserve.

4. Do focus your attention on the person you are meeting.   Listen.   We rarely remember the person who talked and talked and talked. But we do remember the person who listened to us.

5. Don’t talk about yourself the entire time. See number four above. This point is so critical to your success in networking that it deserves two spots on the list.

6. Don’t throw out sales pitches. You’re there to meet—not to sell. Just realizing that you’re not likely to sell anything—that you’re not even supposed to sell anything at a networking event, should remove lots of the anxiety.

7. Do have an elevator pitch to keep you from having a ‘deer in a headlight’ look.   Write it and practice it.   When someone says, “What do you do?”  What is that—in words that really mean something.

8. Don’t be a wallflower.  The other people attending the event may also be ill at ease. Focus on making them feel better by being the person who says, “Hi, my name is _____, and you’re….?”  They will be so pleased that someone else took the first step.

9. Do show enthusiasm about what you do. You do that work, so it means you must like (love?) it? Let the people you meet see and hear your passion.

10. Do invest in great business cards. We’re not all digital yet. When you walk away, it’s your card that new person will refer to when they’re remembering the person who listened so well.

11. Do ask questions and show interest in the people you meet. Yes, it’s coming back around again…more listening to the other person, less talking.

12. Don’t scan the room when someone else is talking. That’s just rude…and hurtful to the other person.

13. Do follow up immediately with new connections. They’ve made their three to five connections at that event also.  Make sure that you’re the one they remember.

14. Do keep your word if you tell someone you are going to do something for them. Good business, ethical, polite…all of those things that lead to success.

15. Do stay confident even if you are a nervous wreck.  And how do you do that?   By remembering that the “other guy” is probably a nervous wreck too.    Look out for him (or her or them) and you’ll also take care of yourself.

Networking doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating.

The more you do it successfully, the less worry you will feel. The most important things to remember when networking is to be yourself, lighten up, and listen, listen, listen.

So take a deep breathe and get out there!

Two Essential Skills of Highly Effective Leaders

Two Essential Skills of Highly Effective Leaders

questionsLeadership seems to be the buzz word these days. In fact it appears that many of us are wondering what skills need developed to become highly effective leaders.

Chances are you will receive a variety of thoughts on this subject. However, two of the most powerful skills are listening and questioning.

When we are in a leadership role where we are helping to develop a team, it is essential to enhance our listening and questioning skills. By taking these skills to the next level, we will rapidly propel our team towards success.

In a recent Fast Company article: “How to Ask — And Listen — Like You Mean It” written by Kevin Kashman, it is discussed how listening and questioning provide a loop for a continuously growing conversation. Kashman writes that in order to deepen the level of questioning, you need to deepen the level of listening–resulting in trust, collaboration, and co-creating.

A requirement for innovation is the ability to develop creative solutions. As leaders, we need to understand that our teams are full of these solutions, we just need to help bring them to the surface.

What you need to do to ask the ‘right’ questions:

1. Ask open ended questions. What are open ended questions? Keep in mind that any question that requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response is considered an open ended question. These types of questions invoke thinking and creativity to respond.

2. Probe deeper by layering questions. Hold yourself back from responding to their answer. Instead, ask another open ended question. Sometimes, the creativity is down deep and needs several questions to bring it into the open.

3. Be open. When your team begins talking, don’t stop the creativity by being judgmental. Approach this brainstorming with openness and possibility. Nothing is wrong at this point or in need of critiquing. Be curious about who is speaking and continue the questioning process.

Asking these fabulous questions are pointless if we are not listening for the responses, right? This is often the most difficult skill to develop, requiring each of us to slow our minds and focus on who is speaking. Active listening requires discipline for the us as listeners.

What you need to do to actively listen:

1. Take off your expert hat. When you are in the role of a listener, you are not an expert. This is perhaps the hardest part of the listening process, but the most important. If you are always in the role of an expert, your team will be afraid to share. Don’t provide information or feedback until you pause for a minute or two after the person is finished talking.

2. Keep frustration at bay. Often when we are in a listening role it is easy to get frustrated or bored with the person who is talking. You may find yourself thinking of how you could do it right or even about all of the items on your to do list. Slow down and really focus on what is being said.

3. Listen to what is not being said. Sometimes there is information behind the response. When you are listening, pay attention to what is behind the words. This means observing body language and reactions. When you are able to bring those to the surface–that is when the magic happens.

To become the best leader possible, enhancing our listening and questioning skills is a must. Whether you want to practice with family members or need to enroll in a workshop that teaches these skills, the rewards are worth it.

How about you? Do you have someone in your life that has developed these skills? Notice the level of conversation that occurs with these individuals.

Share below your experience–I’d love to hear.

Why We Should Often Challenge the Way It’s Always Been Done.

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. This is not only an odd number, but it has meant massive re-tooling for the rail manufacturers and substantial wasted raw materials.

So why is that figure used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were laid out by English expatriates.

Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did the tramway builders use that gauge then? Because those builders used the same jigs and tools they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? If they tried to use any other spacing, the wagons would break on some of the old, long-distance roads. Why? That is the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So why are those ruts at that spacing? Because the first long-distance roads in Europe were build by the Roman army for their legions, and the ruts were first made by the war chariots.

Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. This is the distance just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

“And that’s the way we’ve always done it.” – when is now a good time to challenge or review your career or life system?

What to do When Things Don’t Go as Planned

wide eyed womanTechnology.  We all love it, right? In fact we’ve grown so dependent on it, that when something—anything—goes wrong, we’re stopped dead in our tracks.  (I recently had a friend who reported that she’d had a TERRIBLE week because she was totally consumed with computer printer problems.)

This week, as I was organizing a new part of my website—one that I needed finished ASAP—my entire site went down. Talk about a technology nightmare! It certainly unnerved me and my team. We have been working so hard to bring this new project live, that the mere thought of a glitch was, well…not even a consideration!

Yet it happened. And despite hours of concern and a few hours of lost sleep, everything is back up and working perfectly.

However, looking back, there are a few things I would tweak with my reaction, because I really am not a fan of losing any sleep.

How to Maintain Peace of Mind When Things Go Wrong

 

1. Breathe. First and foremost, when things change unexpectedly or go wrong.  take a deep…I mean really deep breath. In fact, you may even need a full five minutes of deep breathing.  Take a drink of water, walk around, and shake it off.

2. Stop living in the future. I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes it can be easy to think about all of the worst-case scenarios when things go wrong. This is called living in the future.  Stop. Bring yourself back to this exact moment, deal with the reality of here and now, and calm down.

4. Play the ‘what if’ game—positive ‘what ifs’. If you find yourself struggling to bring yourself back to the present, ask yourself, ‘What If”.  For example, what if my website came back online in the next hour? Problem solved!  Or what if a new client called me for a consultation today—something that’s a whole lot more wonderful than any technology? Think of a few examples that would calm you down and could dramatically change your current circumstances for the better.

5. Take inventory. After you take some deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present moment, it’s time to take inventory of the situation. What happened, and what do you have control over? If it is something out of your control, let it go, and turn to or wait for (maybe reminding) someone else who can bring it under control.  When you do what you can to help ease your worries you’ll know that you’re doing something positive and that makes a huge difference in yourself, and in the resolution of the problem.

6. Sleep. If the problem is not resolved at the end of the day, find a way to have a peaceful night’s sleep. In fact, if your situation is anything like mine, there is a good chance that when you wake up, it will be resolved.  What a delight!  If it’s not, then having a refreshing sleep will, at the least, give you a fresh perspective in the morning. So meditate, listen to calming music, stretch, do whatever you can to relax—and sleep

We are living a life that is full of possibilities. However, I would be lying if I told you that things don’t go wrong.  (You certainly know that’s not true.) Stuff happens, but it is up to us to determine how we let that stuff affect our well-being.

What works for you when things go wrong? Share below. We’d love to hear.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

wide eyed womanTechnology.  We all love it, right? In fact we’ve grown so dependent on it, that when something—anything—goes wrong, we’re stopped dead in our tracks.  (I recently had a friend who reported that she’d had a TERRIBLE week because she was totally consumed with computer printer problems.)

This week, as I was organizing a new part of my website—one that I needed finished ASAP—my entire site went down. Talk about a technology nightmare! It certainly unnerved me and my team. We have been working so hard to bring this new project live, that the mere thought of a glitch was, well…not even a consideration!

Yet it happened. And despite hours of concern and a few hours of lost sleep, everything is back up and working perfectly.

However, looking back, there are a few things I would tweak with my reaction, because I really am not a fan of losing any sleep.

How to Maintain Peace of Mind When Things Go Wrong

1. Breathe. First and foremost, when things change unexpectedly or go wrong.  take a deep…I mean really deep breath. In fact, you may even need a full five minutes of deep breathing.  Take a drink of water, walk around, and shake it off.

2. Stop living in the future. I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes it can be easy to think about all of the worst-case scenarios when things go wrong. This is called living in the future.  Stop. Bring yourself back to this exact moment, deal with the reality of here and now, and calm down.

4. Play the ‘what if’ game—positive ‘what ifs’. If you find yourself struggling to bring yourself back to the present, ask yourself, ‘What If”.  For example, what if my website came back online in the next hour? Problem solved!  Or what if a new client called me for a consultation today—something that’s a whole lot more wonderful than any technology? Think of a few examples that would calm you down and could dramatically change your current circumstances for the better.

5. Take inventory. After you take some deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present moment, it’s time to take inventory of the situation. What happened, and what do you have control over? If it is something out of your control, let it go, and turn to or wait for (maybe reminding) someone else who can bring it under control.  When you do what you can to help ease your worries you’ll know that you’re doing something positive and that makes a huge difference in yourself, and in the resolution of the problem.

6. Sleep. If the problem is not resolved at the end of the day, find a way to have a peaceful night’s sleep. In fact, if your situation is anything like mine, there is a good chance that when you wake up, it will be resolved.  What a delight!  If it’s not, then having a refreshing sleep will, at the least, give you a fresh perspective in the morning. So meditate, listen to calming music, stretch, do whatever you can to relax—and sleep

We are living a life that is full of possibilities. However, I would be lying if I told you that things don’t go wrong.  (You certainly know that’s not true.) Stuff happens, but it is up to us to determine how we let that stuff affect our well-being.

What works for you when things go wrong? Share below. We’d love to hear.

How to Cultivate Business Passion From Your Team

How to Cultivate Business Passion From Your Team

110 percentAs a team leader are you creating passion from your team or dread?

Creating a workplace that enables creativity and passion to flow is up to you–the leader. You may be thinking you are doing all the right things, but actually it is easy to slip into bad habits that can cause more harm than good. In order to increase productivity, happiness, and excitement from your team, the environment you create is key.

Are you ready? Check out the list below to get your business moving in the right direction.

15 Do’s and Don’t to Keep Your Work Environment Innovative, Healthy, and Creative

1. Do speak authentically and openly.

2. Don’t speak when someone else is talking.

3. Do listen and be open to ideas from others.

4. Do hold yourself and others accountable.

5. Do admit mistakes.

6. Don’t think small or allow others to think small.

7. Don’t take others for granted.

8. Do show your appreciation.

9. Do provide honest and genuine feedback.

10. Don’t give less than 100%.

11. Do show you care and are interested.

12. Don’t gossip or allow others to gossip.

13. Don’t stomp on anyone’s idea.

14. Do allow others to use their strengths.

15. Don’t be afraid to give up control.

Building a business that you and others are proud of starts with you. Create an atmosphere that enables your team to be passionate about where they work, which ultimately leads to your success.

Do you need to make changes? What kind of atmosphere are you creating? Share your thoughts and comments below–we’d love to hear.

Know When and How to Throw Down the Glove

Actually, this LeaderSnip is not about challenging someone to a fight—it’s about challenging a process, a directive, a plan that’s been previously established and agreed-to.  It’s about having the courage to say “Whoa!” when you should.

To ensure that we are on the same page, I offer this differentiation between “challenges” and “suggestions for improvement.” A challenge questions something that has been previously agreed to.

A challenge usually means, “Whoa! We have to rethink something before we move forward.”

The outcome of a challenge that is accepted may include changes in time, resources, and/or plans that have linked ramifications. For example, a challenge to the time allocated to complete a specific task may lengthen or shorten the anticipated overall completion time and may require more or fewer resources assigned to the task. A challenge carries a risk of less-than-pleasant confrontation or hard-to-deal-with rejection.

In contrast to challenges, suggestions for improvement are much simpler and address how to make something better rather than how to change it substantially. Suggestions are done “on-the-fly” and ordinarily do not require a stop or slow-down in the overall progress—they just flow into whatever is being discussed or worked on.

Suggestions should be made whenever or for whatever a Follower believes will help enhance what is being worked on.

A suggestion may become a challenge when a someone tries to force-feed, or impose, an idea on another person who actually owns responsibility for the activity. When a person doesn’t know when to stop suggesting the same thing, confrontation or rejection may arise quickly. A worthy challenge always includes suggestions for how to proceed. But when a suggestion becomes a challenge, it’s not a worthy suggestion, and the ensuing challenge becomes more difficult to resolve because it started improperly.

Challenging the direction, the pace, or the plans means knowing what, when, and how to raise the challenge flag. What should be challenged? The most effective challenges are about the right things—the tactical elements of the plan, which usually include timing, assignments, steps in the process, or methods of communication. If a change will be required that impacts multiple things or people, then the idea should be offered and approached as a challenge, rather than the more casual, “How about if we do…” technique that is common for suggestions.

When should the challenge happen?

The most appropriate challenges are raised after all the details of the initiative are well understood but before continuation down the already-agreed-upon path causes a predicted problem. A challenge raised without full information is often premature and the challenge, and the challenger, will be summarily discounted. A “challenge” that is withheld, for any reason, until after the problem surfaces is not an appropriate or even a real challenge. It is more often evidence of a person’s lack of courage or foresight in raising the right challenge at the right time. A professional is never heard saying, “Well, I’m not surprised! I thought that would happen. I was going to bring that up.”  A quality challenger “brings it up” when it’s needed—before there’s a problem.

How to raise a challenge? The guidelines on how to challenge successfully are complex because they are dependent on whose idea is being challenged, the urgency of the challenge, and the communication and conflict resolution skills of the challenger and the “challengee.” Look for the “how-to-challenge” topic in future LeaderSnips.

From Be the Horse or the Jockey by Jeanne Gulbranson, BBD strategist, leadership expert and award-winning author.  You can purchase Horse or Jockey and Jeanne’s other books on Amazon.

Reaching your goals is all about luck. Right?

jackpot signHave you ever wondered why some people seem to have all the luck?  You know the type—the ones that seem to have an easy time reaching their goals or appear to just “stumble” into success while the rest of us are working hard, day after day.  Do you think that those people are just born lucky?

The truth is that regardless of whether you are trying to lose weight, get out of debt, or build a successful career it takes more than luck to reach your goals. While it would be wonderful, you can’t just wave a magic wand or will it to happen. (I know.  I have a wand in my office that I wave around periodically.  Nope.  Nothing changed.)  Reaching our goals means that there’s work—real work that need to be done.

Does this mean that it needs to be hard?

Well, that depends. If we try to  achieve a goal without a plan, then yes, it will be hard. However, if we create a realistic, attainable (with just a little stretch to it) plan and stick to it, it’s surprising how much easier goal attainment becomes. It almost appears “lucky.”

5 Tips to Reaching Goals With Ease

1. Write it down. Did you know that by writing down your goals we will increase our success rate by 50%? That’s an incredible difference! By clearly stating and writing goals, we increase our direction and focus.

2. Create a long-term vision. Be sure to have a long-term vision of how you want your life, career, or business to look. Where do you want to be in 5 years? What do you want to be doing with your life? What do you want to create? Be very clear, very detailed in this vision.  Make it “alive” for you to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

3. Next, focus on the short-term. Since you have a clear picture of five years out, be sure to bring that vision closer to where you are now. What do you want a year from now to look like? How about six months? What does it look like in 90 days, or a month, or next week?  Making the goal attainable in bite-sized pieces will significantly increase the success you’ll experience.

4. Develop your plan. Now that you have a clear vision, bring your attention to developing a plan that will work for you. Focus on a high- producing action everyday that is in alignment with your goals. Commit to this action and to moving yourself forward on a daily basis.

5. Don’t give up—keep your focus. After you have a clear plan and your goals written down, don’t forget about them by placing them in a drawer or allow them to be buried under a pile of other to-dos on your desk. . Make sure that you develop a routine of reading your goals each and everyday. Keep them in the front of your mind—keep that vision in sight—so you remember your focus.

Reaching our  goals requires focus and clarity.  Because we want to be successful, we can’t ignore these important elements in the process.

Are you ready to try your luck? Raise your odds by taking the most important steps first.