Tuesday, October 31, 2006

SPEAKER SAVVY -- Talk Like You Mean It

I just spent a half-hour interviewing one of my favorite author/speakers, Mark Sanborn, who has a great new book out called You Don't Need A Title To Be A Leader. He's also a past president of the National Speakers Association, so I took the liberty to ask him for the advice he gives to people who want to become professional speakers.

Mark told me the biggest mistake would-be speakers make is to work up some clever topics or catchy titles, when they should figure out what they're passionate about first. Figure out what your message is...then start writing.

Once you decide what your message is, Mark Sanborn then says it's just as important to identify who will pay you to talk about your subject. You might be passionate about being a pet owner, but there aren't many groups who will make it profitable for you to speak about it professionally.

Your marketing and networking will be much more successful if you take care of those first two things. Message, market, money, in that order. (If you're ready to make a serious move into the world of professional speaking, I can help. Email me at mark@marktalks.com.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

LIVING SAVVY -- A Lesson For Everyone

Scott Adams, the creator of the popular "Dilbert" comic strip, revealed an amazing story last week--and provided a compelling lesson for everyone to use in his or her own way.

Scott lost his voice 18 months ago. It's a rare disorder called spasmodic dysphonia, where the part of your brain that controls speech just shuts down. Permanently. There's no cure, but there are options (because, apparently, people with this disorder can sing but they can't talk.)

Rather than give up, Scott tried a number of new tricks to reprogram his brain and regain his speaking voice. He tried daily affirmations. He used self hypnosis and voice therapy exercises. He tried speaking in different pitches and foreign accents. For 18 months, Scott worked on a "cure" until one day, he spoke.

He was helping out on a homework assignment when he realized that he could speak perfectly when rhyming. He repeated the rhyme over and over, remapping his brain, until his speaking voice returned. Not 100% but close enough for celebration.

What an amazing story! Here's a lesson for everyone who encounters obstacles, big and small. What have you done to overcome adversity--and how far are you willing to go when others tell you there's no hope?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

LEADERSHIP -- Mentor or Coach?

Many of my clients have been asking whether they need a mentor or a coach. My answer is...BOTH!

There's a big difference between a mentor and a coach, but each one is invaluable to your growth as a leader and your success as a person. A mentor is an experienced leader in your field who can show you the ropes as well as offer you his wisdom. A coach won't try to tell you how to handle things--he'll ask you the right questions so that you'll discover the answers for yourself.

It's like being in a Broadway musical where the choreographer shows you the moves while the director asks you what you think about your character's motivation. Both roles are necessary for a successful production, and neither should intrude on the other's territory.

Make sure your mentor and coach are in place before your curtain comes up!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

LIVING SAVVY -- A Little Failure Never Hurt Anyone

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -- Robert F. Kennedy
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. -- Winston Churchill

I'm always interested in observing how people handle setbacks. My son, Drew (the 10-year-old Mad Scientist) is such a perfectionist that if something in one of his projects doesn't turn out right, he throws everything down and walks away. For about a day. But then he invariably picks up the project with renewed enthusiasm and, more importantly, a better sense of how to succeed.

That's the key. Maybe kids get it instinctually and only lose that persistence after years of failure without perspective. Here's something I once read in the Wall Street Journal that provides that encouragement everyone needs:
"You've failed many times although you may not remember. You fell the first time you tried to walk, didn't you? You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim. Did you hit the ball the first time you swung the bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also struck out a lot. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. English novelist John Cracey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books. Don't worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try."

A life with little failure is a life with little risk. We were designed to take chances--it's when we start accepting the results that we really fail.

Monday, October 23, 2006

SPEAKER SAVVY -- The Lost Art of Interpersonal Communcation

I'm disturbed about a story I read in Forbes over the weekend that shows a trend among younger employees to rely on email and text messaging to communicate not only with co-worker...but with older bosses, who can't understand why their young recruits, for all their brains and technical skill, hardly ever come over and actually talk to them.

We're running into a critical time in the business world where the next generation of leaders might not have a clue how to interact face-to-face, a skill that most experts will tell you is a key to success. Here's an example from the Forbes article:
"Ruth Sherman, a communications consultant says common complaints about younger workers range from lame handshakes and poor conversational skills to super-casual attire and personal use of company e-mail. Some show up at job interviews in tee shirts. What the Gen Yers don't see, she says, is the meaning and value of gestures and other nonverbal skills that don't come through in a text message."
Advice to the under-30 people who aspire to management--want to get a huge leg up on your competition? Learn how to handle in-person interaction. Understand that there's a difference between chatting with your buddies and talking to the CEO. Use complete sentences in your written correspondance and remember that Googling doesn't necessarily qualify as research.

Otherwise, you're going to spend most of your career stuck in a cubicle. With a serious case of Blackberry Thumb.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

MEDIA SAVVY -- There IS Such A Thing As Bad Publicity...

...when it comes to ballot measures that require lots of positive opinion to pass. Take notes, because here's a classic example of how not to handle a PR campaign.

Here in Sacramento, the big measures on the ballot this November are designed to set up a temporary sales tax to raise money to build a new downtown arena for our NBA team, the Kings. The campaign has had several setbacks, from a lack of communication between the owners, Gavin and Joe Maloof, and city leaders, not to mention brownfield cleanup issues and a general perception that the Maloofs are wealthy enough to pay for their own arena.

Needless to say, tongues were wagging yesterday when a new nationwide TV ad for Carl's Jr. debuted, featuring the Maloof brothers chowing down on hamburgers at the family's Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. "Net worth: $1 billion," flashes on the screen. The brothers wash down the burgers with a bottle of 24-year-old French bordeaux, poured by a woman in a slinky dress. The ad closes with: "The Carl's Jr. $6,000 combo meal, exclusively at the Palms."

This is a serious lack of judgement by the Maloofs. Why take part in a high-profile TV commercial flaunting your affluence so close to an election that asks voters to fund a $600 million arena and entertainment complex for you? What, they couldn't have waited three weeks?!?

When you're trying to influence public opinion, you need all the positive mojo you can create. In the case of Gavin and Joe Maloof, they just blew a layup at the end of the 4th quarter.

Monday, October 16, 2006

LEADERSHIP -- That's What Friends Are For

Today is "National Boss Day," so I thought I'd toss out a little out-of-the-box question for your management types out there. Is it OK for the boss to be a buddy, too?

You've heard the warnings before--"Maintain a professional distance so friendship doesn't cloud your judgment." Which sounds good in theory...but too many managers take it to the extreme, and studies show that most people think their boss is the person they'd least like to spend time with. So is there a happy medium?

Yes. John Maxwell says it best: "The best leaders are the ones who forge personal ties with their team and interact with each member in light of their specific preferences and desires. Employees respond to the care they receive from a boss. When treated with human dignity and kindness they gain energy and positive emotion, but when treated like a pawn of corporate production, worker motivation nosedives."*

Great leaders know how to create friendship and respect within their organizations. Which means you can step out with your employees without stepping over the line.

*This excerpt is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at www.maximumimpact.com.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SPEAKER SAVVY--Preparing For The Big One

My wife was asked last month to give a speech at an important women's retreat in November, and at the risk of sounding like a proud hubby, I know she's going to make a dynamic presentation. So why is she going to succeed when most people fail.

First, most people who are asked to give a big speech put off working on it right away. They rationalize that they've given speeches before and done OK so they figure they'll just wing it. My wife is a naturally gifted speaker, but she knows how much work it takes, so she started preparing months out.

Second, most business people write a speech based on a specific topic--my wife is crafting a speech based on her audience. She's interviewed a number of the people involved in this retreat and will have a personalized presentation that will make the audience feel much more involved.

Finally, while the majority of speakers run through their talks just enough times to have the main points memorized, Sally has talked through her speech a number of times with all kinds of people and is now polishing it to perfection. (She's heard me say a thousand times, "Practice doesn't make perfect--PERFECT PRACTICE makes perfect!")

My wife is going to be a big hit because she's not taking her presentation or her audience for granted. Take a tip from my blushing bride--mastering these performance basics will give you a solid speaking base to build on for the rest of your career.

Monday, October 09, 2006

LIVING SAVVY--Positively Monday

Most people will tell you that Monday is the worst day of the week. Why? Because Monday means back to survival mode. They drag themselves through the workday so they can relax in the evening. They endure the week so they can celebrate on the weekend. They work all year so they can go on an exhausting vacation. If you stretch the logic, they put up with life so that they can finally relax when they're dead!

Why try to compartmentalize your joy? Doesn't it make more sense to look for opportunities every day rather than plan them in short bunches? Stop postponing life--instead, tell yourself that Monday is the beginning of your celebration, not the end.

A simple attitude adjustment will not only make Monday your favorite day of the week, it'll also put you far ahead of the gloom n' doomers stumbling and grumbling through the workday!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

LEADERSHIP--Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly

One of the most important lessons I learned during my leadership years was how to hire and fire people. My mentor promised me that those two things would shape my success or failure as a leader...and they did. Because at first, I hired too quickly and fired too slowly.

Whenever I had an opening, I tried to keep our corporate momentum going by filling the position immediately. Big mistake. But an even bigger mistake was hoping that bad performers or bad attitudes would get better simply by the power of my management skills.

I quickly realized that great leaders are prepared for turnover. I started recruiting and training replacements on a regular basis--and even then, I took my time and hired only when I knew I had the right person for the job. And if an employee was becoming a liability, it was important to get them "off the bus" as soon as possible, as Jim Collins advises in his masterpiece, Good To Great.

Building an effective team is your most important responsibility and the most expensive decision you make as a leader. Remember, hire slowly, fire quickly.

Monday, October 02, 2006

MEDIA SAVVY--Paperless Promotion

When it comes to establishing a media presence, sometimes a lack of experience can be a good thing. I have a client that is virtually starting from scratch...not even a press kit. That's the bad news. The good news is that my client will immediately be able to benefit by using the Internet to hold an online press kit.

Why is this beneficial? You're using technology to make your organization's promotion more efficient and less expensive. You create a destination for web traffic. Photos and files are stored online and downloaded at the user's convenience. Your online press kit gets submitted by a click instead of a stamp. It cuts down on your publishing expenses and uses much less storage. Information and photos can be updated immediately and with the same high quality as traditional methods. (And since the people downloading your online press kit really want your information, the likelyhood your PR gets used increases dramatically!)

Sure, a formal, hard-copy press kit is still an essential promotional investment--but since virtually everyone uses the Internet these days, desing an online press kit and make your web site work for you.