Do you work with a colleague who is perceived as a bit of a flake? Here are two articles on what to do about the appearance of this trait in yourself or a co-worker:
You have secured that initial meeting- congratulations! There is a good chance you are talking to your next client. In most cases, your host will begin with a discussion of the problem, including a bit or a lot of history. Whether you permit your prospect to take up most or all of the meeting in filling in the back story and “getting you up to speed” is beyond the scope of this article. (Hint: It isn’t a good idea.) We have all been there. That said, there are several powerful questions you can ask in a short time to help demonstrate that they are right in choosing you for the job and add value immediately.
Here are some of my favorite questions I use to get the ball rolling and to build confidence in my prospective client. You don’t need to use all of them but one or two delivered at the right time can do much to seal your working relationship. If you can immediately demonstrate that you can listen well then better describe the nature and scope of the problem than your prospect, it is a logical next step to for them to believe you also can also deliver an effective solution.
Question 1. “What concern(s) haven’t we discussed but I should be asking you about if I was smart or insightful enough?”
This inquiry gets your client thinking deeper and reflects well on your listening and probing skills. It is an excellent technique for one-on-one team member interviews where the initial responses are the safe, “party line” type but there is a more important issue that people may be avoiding.
Question 2. “What outcome would show everyone that we have ‘knocked it out of the park’ (for an event) or completely resolved this issue (for a problem or challenge)?”
This inquiry allows you to agree on the deliverable(s) ahead of time so that it is very obvious to all if things go well. It puts clients at ease knowing that you are just as concerned as they are that the money they will invest in retaining you will be worth it. No one wants to take the fall for wasting money on a useless consultant.
Question 3: “What have you been doing? What could you be doing? And, based on what we talked about so far, what do you think you will do as a first step?”
When delivering this classic multi-part question, allow ample time for reflection and response between each query. This deceptively simple question can be highly effective and, at the same time, underscores that the responsibility for the desired change ultimately lies with the client, not you.
Question 4: “How much has this problem cost you so far? What will it be like in six months if it isn’t resolved?”
This question serves both you and the client well. First it reveals the financial and emotional cost that the challenge has created to date. As a bonus, it gives you a rough sense of what your consulting solution is worth. An organization that has a six-figure problem shouldn’t expect you to be paid hourly or “cry poor.”
The bonus question below addresses the very real possibility that you are not the right fit for your prospect and, at the same time, pushes back “tire kickers” respectfully when you are being manipulated to offer a free hour of consulting or a highly detailed proposal describing your intended intervention to prove you can “deliver the goods.”
Bonus Question. “I am happy to answer more of your questions about my background but it is important for me to determine if we are the right fit. As I take on a certain number of clients each month, it’s essential to see if we would work well together. Agreed? So I would like to ask you a few questions at this point if you don’t mind….”
Don’t be shy about stopping a barrage of questions in mid-volley. Sometimes you will get the clear sense that your prospect is making the rounds with potential consultants trying to see how many free hours of advice he or she can get so the organization can then do the work internally and hire no one. Whenever I hear someone say, “We are currently interviewing a number of potential consultants,” it is time for me to qualify them with a list of questions of my own. This changes the “air in the room immediately” and I cease dancing my hardest to get the job to inviting them to join me on the stage.
Have a great consulting question of your own? Tell us about it.
Dr. Bill Dyment heads Dyment & Associates, a seminar, coaching and counseling firm. Over the past 20 years, he has spoken 2,400 times to 465 organizations assisting top executives and key employees on peak team and self leadership. He is also the co-author of Fire Your Excuses.
By Dr. Bill Dyment, Author of Fire Your Excuses
What are the most valuable and instructive books for entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs to read in 2015?
One of the most impactful books to emerge in the last 10 years is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown In it, McKeown masterfully addresses the innovator’s most common challenge—maintaining strategic focus. You will find it on the 2015 list below.
Whether your are an entrepreneur who is starting or building an organization outside of the corporate walls or an intrapreneur, one who is innovating within them, you will find personal and career “gold” in many of books below. Not every book will relate to your particular situation, but in this carefully curated list from my own reading and that of many other entrepreneurs, you will find powerful classics and contemporary contributions to personal and business innovation.
The list contains the very best resources to such challenges as self-leadership, strategic positioning, marketing, branding, client acquisition and retention, and the development and launch of new products in a crowded digital marketplace.
Enjoy, comment on what books you think we missed, and then let’s get reading!
(In alphabetical order)
By Dr. Bill Dyment, Co-Author of Fire Your Excuses
It was ten years ago when I finally “got it.” I was seated in a ballroom listening to one of the top speakers in my organization and he was tremendous. Yes, his content was insightful, but what I will never forget was the way he crafted his presentation. Every minute, less in some cases, he utilized a different technique to draw us in as his audience. Almost instinctively, I found myself taking notes, not on his content, but on the structure and timing of his speech. It was truly a work of art. I knew that instant that there was another whole level of communicating to an audience and I had plenty of homework to do. What he gave me that day was a new way of thinking as well as template for improving my delivery, content, and audience involvement.
Over the past twenty-three years, I have had the privilege of delivering more than 2,300 presentations to 400+ organizations. Yet, in a very real sense, I am just getting started. There is still so much to learn and communication styles and technology continue to evolve at a rapid clip. Still one thing remains: The best speakers are truly performance artists and master storytellers.
What do they do differently from the rest of us? First, like a great orchestra conductor, they know just when to utilize each instrument of their trade, changing tunes often for today’s “ADD” audiences.
Second, they share far more stories than statistics. Florence Littauer, a highly paid women’s conferences speaker and author, only tells stories– with a strong message, of course. If she has 30 minutes, she’ll just tell two stories. If she has 45 minutes, she’ll tell three. That’s confidence!
Third, top presenters skillfully deliver content in multiple ways so that every learning style can appreciate and absorb their message. Finally, the “pros” see themselves as “edutainers,” imparting insights that are sprinkled liberally with classy humor. (For 20 tips on how you can create your own content-related humor check out, The Science of Creating Humor.)
As a busy presenter, it is easy to fall into the rut of “good enough.” Some of the best advice I ever received was this: “Never believe that your platform enthusiasm can adequately mask your lack of preparation. Believe me, your audience and host will be polite, but they know the difference.
Feeling a bit discouraged by your own speaking ability? Don’t be. Charles Swindoll said it best: “We don’t just need experience, the school of hard knocks will give us plenty, we need guided experience.” The great news is that by utilizing just a few of the techniques listed below, you can instantly and significantly improve your own speaking ability in very little time.
(Tip: If you are a leader who has a big presentation to deliver where taking immediate, positive action on your message could mean thousands for your organization, hiring a presentation coach for an hour to help choreograph your delivery is the obvious choice.)
Speaker’s Toolbox: “The Pro’s List”
1. Start with a powerful story. This first tip is straight from the prime time playbook: One minute you are watching the painful elimination of your favorite “top six” singer in Hollywood, the next you are staring at a mysterious crime scene in Chicago. You are now watching a new show without even realizing it and “hooked” before you know it.
Grab your audience in a similar fashion: Don’t start with the “credits.” Just jump right into your opening story. Walk onto the stage, silently pause just long enough to make people a bit nervous, then launch into a great story. If you must tell your audience your learning points (big yawn) or give a bit of your background, do so only after your story.
2. No “death by PowerPoint,” please. Avoid bulleted lists and lengthy text. While audience members are reading your slides, they are not listening to you. Make your maximum number of words/slide 40 words, which the average reader can absorb in 12 seconds, so they can quickly refocus on you. An even better goal is no words on all or most of your slides—just display a symbol, image or metaphor for your next point.
By Dr. Bill Dyment, Co-Author of Fire Your Excuses.
June 6, 1944. As the shadows on Normandy Beach grew longer, wounded allied soldiers shared a cigarette and a joke as they awaited evacuation and treatment. It is said the morphine they had received on the beach was so effective in dulling their pain that many did not realize they were mortally wounded and had only hours, even minutes left to live.
It is not uncommon to meet skilled “third quarter” career professionals whose current position also has no true future. Dulled and tired from heavy workloads, fueled by denial, and surrounded by other similarly “wounded comrades in arms,” many are also unaware of their looming fate. Either they will become an expendable commodity as cheaper, younger employees compete for their position, here and abroad, or they will manage to retain their jobs with the sad knowledge that, for them, upward career mobility and its accompanying salary increases have ended.
Consider Matt, a mid-level manager, who has delivered superlative work for nearly 15 years. In recent months, he has grown increasingly tired and stressed. He is now expected produce more, much more, with no additional compensation or staff. Further, there is talk of layoffs and little reason to hope for a significant raise or promotion. At the moment, with a daughter about to enter college, he is simply hanging on. He desperately needs this job but after years of exemplary work and rewarding recognition, these days, he is feeling overworked, devalued and discouraged.
Ellen is one of many we meet who quickly volunteers that “her industry is not what it use to be.” While she sees no job threat on the near horizon, she is restless, bored and has been passed over whenever she has applied for a more senior position. In the parlance of the Old West, her “horse is dead” and she needs to “stop riding it and look for another.”
Ellen is no longer excited to come to work or about the direction her industry and organization are headed. Yet at this point in her career, she has no idea what she would do if she left. She feels as if it is too early to retire and too late to start over. “How did she get here?” She muses.
Both Matt and Ellen now recognize what is happening but each were caught off-guard by changes within their organization and market sector. Each believed that, like the bosses who hired them, they alone would be making the decision when either leave to take a better outside offer, or to retire at a level comfortably higher than where they find themselves now. Instead, market forces have chosen for them.
I will never forget walking into a huge room where, in one half of the space, cubicles that one held highly-skilled workers had been neatly knocked down, row after row, like harvested corn. Each time I returned, the inexorable march of job elimination had pushed the border of flattened cubicles a little further across the room, rendering the band of survivors ever smaller in number. In a year, the plant, once booming with thousands of workers, fell silent altogether and its remaining operations moved out of state.
It is rare that once-valued employees are afforded so obvious a signal that their job is in jeopardy as the ever-closer border of dismantled cubicles, yet the creep of obsolescence and commoditization is very real. I have also become convinced that such a fate need not be ours. There are many who have positioned themselves as industry leaders and work into their early 70’s and beyond for the sheer love of the game. There are remedies that we can each take to ensure our continued success, even in a crowded, international marketplace. In addition to being skilled and having a sufficient EQ (emotional quotient) today’s mid-career professional must also develop a robust CQ, or “change quotient.” The choice is ours.
Below are five common career mistakes and five executable strategies you can use to avoid early job obsolescence or a career trajectory that fails to reach its intended altitude. These “half-time” interventions are not difficult. However, they do require a thorough, unflinching, diagnosis of our current career health and to take immediate action before we are either too bruised or too tired to act.
Mistake #1: “Sitting This One Out.”
Quick, what was the first year you used a computer in a serious way? If you are currently in the middle of your career, you may have been in your teens or older before you hopped on a keyboard to work on anything other than your video game score. Marc Prensky called those of us who were not born with a mouse in our hands, “digital immigrants.” We may be quite proficient these days in all things electronic but it is important to keep in mind that the digital world is our “second language.” In contrast, Prensky’s “digital natives” are those who can’t remember ever not using computers and the Internet to communicate.
While we are all learning new digital platforms; ways of communicating and doing business, digital “immigrants” are especially susceptible to declaring a new site, platform or media avenue, a fad, not-relevant to our industry, or my favorites, “unprofessional” or even “unethical.” These biases make us vulnerable to being isolated from where the real action is taking place in our industries, often at the new edges of technology.
Two years ago, a clinical colleague in his early 30’s praised Psychology Today’s online therapy directory while we were catching up over coffee. I had heard of it but was skeptical. Experience had cynically taught me that most paid directories only served to enrich the publisher and a few featured star performers while the hundreds of other professionals, who received little or nothing in the bargain, paid the bills. Entry was typically steep, billed yearly, and usually yielded only a lighter wallet. Reluctantly, then, I decided to try the directory for a month. I am glad I did. Today 30% of my clinical referrals come from the site. It wasn’t hard to see what was going on, the site was heavily populated by digital natives, less so by digital immigrants. The paradigm was shifting, the general rules of the game had changed, and I was late to the party.
A Challenge: The next time you dismiss a new app, site, platform, or digital trend, pause for a moment to ask, “Am I biased against this new offering because of my “immigration status?” Use wisdom, but test out the new opportunity. Don’t be afraid to be the first among your colleagues to see if it is right for you and anticipate a learning curve.
By Dr. Bill Dyment, co-author of Fire Your Excuses
Do you think being funny is an innate trait? Some people do seem to be “born funny,” the rest of have to work a little harder. The good news
is just as you can be a decent photographer by learning your camera and a bit about post-production, you can get better, much better at using humor in your writing, presentations and at friends and family gatherings.
Humor follows a pattern. It can also be a bit mathematical in its structure and rhythm. Deconstruct why you like certain sketches, jokes, videos and spoofs and you being to understand what you can do to create humor of your own.
Want to use a special joke with your work team, family or friends?
Put your “material” through these 20 filters and humor is likely to appear.
E.g., This guy on the freeway today tried to be the semi-whisperer. It did not go so well. We sat in traffic for over in hour.
E.g. Academic Armageddon.