Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch

Trying too hardWhy is this the hardest lesson?

It is never about being right.  It is always about being liked. It’s always about fitting in. I need to write that 1000 times until my hand falls off.

What is it about human nature that makes us want to prove that we are right? It never works!

I recently spent some time checking out The Art of Charm.

First, it’s a great name, very catchy. Second, I agree with the concepts of Approachability, Attractiveness and Dominance, as it relates to making strong first impressions. I also don’t Scowl, Slouch nor Stare, so those aren’t the issue.

But there’s more to cultural fit than doing these right things.  It’s knowing when to stop. It’s controlling an overactive enthusiasm that makes you take one step too far.  That lizard brain reactiveness when you have a niggling feeling about whether or not to do something, then you ignore it and do it anyway.

I’ve been working for over 30 years and I still make this mistake. It’s like I’ve got some kind of blind self belief – that’s both the driving force behind much of my success – and also the Achilles heel that holds me back.

If I’m proving I’m right, I must be doing something wrong. I guess it’s like that adage – it’s not who you know, rather who knows you. It’s about a passive strategy, not an offense.  Maybe that’s why that’s called “offensive.”

  • Read the room.
  • Never assume where the partnerships exist.
  • Lead by listening.
  • Less is usually more when speaking.
  • If you’re investing energy in telling someone that you’re right, chances are, you are losing a different battle.




LinkedIn and Other Perils of the Disconnected

Recently I asked my boss’s boss to write a recommendation of my work that I could post on my LinkedIn profile.  He responded immediately by saying he’d be glad to write the rec, but did this mean I was considering leaving my job? Absolutely not, was my eager and honest reply. This demonstrates a common misperception of the value of social media – that it’s merely a tool for job search.

Here’s my Top 7 Reasons for being on LI every single day:

  1. Portability. It’s easier to keep track of what I’ve loaded onto the cloud than what’s in hard copy. I am a fiend about tidiness and organization.  I do not like clutter. Paper is a necessity only when it’s a necessity. This is my only current resume – my LI profile.
  2. Refresh and Circulate. Keeping my Recommendations fresh and 360 degree is important to me. There’s far greater value in hearing what others have to say about someone than what they say about themselves. Be sure to include recommendations from customers, superiors and teammates.  It’s okay to ask for them.  People like helping others. It helps if you offer to write it for them – go ahead and do that in the recommendation request. They can always edit as needed or start from scratch.
  3. Hone your intro talk. Recommendations are a great way to compose your elevator speech. How others perceive you is key to expressing your greatest value. They are also a great reference when you have a bad day or a moment of self doubt. Once you have them, they are yours to keep.
  4. Own it. Your LI profile is your intellectual property. Don’t make it about your company, nor about your job function.  Make it about you and what you have accomplished.  That’s all anyone wants to know. Be succinct and be quantitative when possible. Metrics speak more tangibly than adjectives. Ditch the adjectives. They sound bush league.
  5. Call a spade a spade.  If your title does not accurately represent your role, nor your value, consider a title that does on your profile.  This isn’t company property.  It’s yours. Call yourself whatever you could comfortably say to a hiring manager without hesitation.
  6. Give to others. Be generous with your recommendations of others. I once heard it said that you get greater value from giving recommendations rather than receiving. The idea is that is sort of elevates you, in a way, if you are recommending someone else’s work. Don’t be insincere. But if someone has earned it, don’t wait for them to ask. Most people never will.  Write it and share it.  They will decide what, if anything, to do with it.
  7. Nip and tuck. Your LI profile should not be a repository of everything you’ve ever done. It should be carefully curated to highlight your expertise in the way that you wish to be perceived. Do we need to know you did some time in retail in between gigs? Do we need 30 years of work history, when you really hit your stride in the last 20? Be strategic. This goes online for perpetuity.

Go forth and be swell.

Just Do These 3 Things

The awesomeness of parenthood is NOT discovering what we can teach our children, but rather what we learn from them. Yesterday was a rare occurrence of a teaching moment with my teenage son, which served as a lesson, in turn, for me.

We went together to run a simple errand that should have taken 15 minutes to complete. Instead, it lasted more than an hour. This is because, in the course of working with a shopkeeper, I started making idle conversation. First, only to inquire about the holiday season and if it has been a good one for his business. While chatting, I just happened to ask about his elderly father, having noticed his conspicuous absence from his usual perch at the entrance to the store.

The shopkeeper told me that his 94 year old parents had recently moved into a senior community and, while that was going ok, he wasn’t happy with the community provided in-home care. It was overpriced and the caregivers didn’t show any initiative during downtime on the job. I mentioned I knew a competent, professional, experienced and affordable caregiver and would be happy to share her contact information. The shopkeeper lit up. He asked a couple of questions about her qualifications and I simply responded, I hired her to care for my mother in her final days. Airtight testimony.

We completed our transaction and left the store. My son turned to me and said, “You know, I think he took at least 25% off our tab because of you.”

The Lesson: Be kind, be curious, be helpful. 3 Inescapable Qualities of a Seller.

Get Out To Get In

The hidden job market, those millions of openings that never get formally posted,now accounts for up to 80% of hires, according to a recent article in
Jobs are only one kind of opportunity that can be uncovered by getting out more.

Last week I was asked by a customer for candidate referrals for an anticipated opening. The more I engaged the customer to tell me about his needs, the better idea I had of who I might know to suggest. Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. A contact that I’ve known for 25 years, who’s not even actively seeking full time employment and doesn’t even live in the same city, struck me as a perfect match. I called her that day and after our conversation, she’s very interested in the position and the hiring manager is interested to meet her.

Opportunity strikes those who seek it, make it possible and recognize it when it happens. If I’d not kept in touch with this person over the years, we haven’t worked together in over 15 years, I wouldn’t have thought of her. But I brought an opportunity to her and also to my customer in need.

Another example. Yesterday I rented a car while having some body work done. The young man behind the desk asked me a few conversational questions about what kind of work I do. He was simply breaking the monotony of his pretty automatable job. I was impressed by his curiosity and communication skills and also his easy manner. If I was a hiring manager seeking a seller, I’d probably encourage the guy to interview. In fact, I was so impressed by his demeanor, if he’d asked me for an introduction to a member of my network, I would’ve obliged. He was an opportunist, the good kind.

Discovery is an integral part of sales. You can’t discover if you don’t get out. That means, literally, get out. Step away from the computer. Meet with people face to face – customers, prospects, colleagues, former colleages, prospective colleages, industry peers, etc. People choose people, not titles. Make a human impression. For this there is no substitute.

Get out of your comfort zone too. If your job feels like you’re doing the same thing over and over again, maybe one day it will be automated. What unique value do you bring that isn’t so easily replaced? Stretch yourself until you can answer this. If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying that hard.

Learn new skills. The world is changing. Quickly. If you are not changing, you’re flying without a net. Today I signed up for a certification course that I’m not sure how I will use and I’m half sure I will struggle not to be bored while in the class. However, on a tip that this coursework is valued by my new employer, I asked my manager if he would make this investment in me. He said yes, so how could I possibly pass that up?

Challenge. Raise the bar, not only for yourself, but for your customers. How else can you get a customer to add your offering to an already stretched budget? The greatest enemy to selling isn’t hearing, “NO”. “No” easily leads to, “Why not?” It’s harder to respond to, “I’m not looking to make a change. We are happy.” Well, Mr. Customer, how do you know if you’re getting fair market value for your inventory if you can’t tell me your market penetration in finite quantitative terms?

Get out from the regular to get in to the game.

The Old Woman In The Shoe

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

Her oldest was named Alex and he was the smartest of all. Clever, as well. He always knew everything and he would be the first to let you know. The old woman relied on him day and night, for she was weary from hard work and his contribution to the family was very valuable. He grew older and wiser with time. His confidence was a comfort to her when she was so run down that she needed the peace of his steady stewardship. His brilliance shown bright, except when he needed to play well with his siblings. Then, not so much.

The woman worried. She loved Alex and knew he meant well. He made her life easy with the help he provided, but he also made her life hard because he was disruptive to the family. Some days it seemed that he made more waves than the ocean at high tide. The woman was faced with a choice. To keep him living in the shoe meant she could work less with him nearby. However, she would have 9 other unhappy children pleading with her to intervene in their disputes with Alex.

One day, the strain became too much for the old woman and she had to ask him to leave. He was shocked and incredulous. But she was firm in her decision that he had to go. It was hard at first, but over time, the others learned to pick up the slack and they all live happily ever after. Except for Alex. He was lonely and alone.


Never be clueless of how you are perceived by those closest to you. Make it your business to know.
Solicit feedback from a 360 degree perpective. Some people will never tell you bad news.
Everyone is replaceable. Believe this.
The smartest one doesn’t always win.
People would rather live with someone they like rather than someone who builds the best mousetrap.
Ditto for who they like to work with.

KEY TIP: A recommendation from a customer is worth more than one from a vendor. This is singled out for a reason. From time to time, I solicit recommendations from my customers. They frequently ask that I return the favor. They are my customer, so of course I will say nice things, but that recommendation is biased. Conversely, only a happy customer will write a recommendation for someone over whom they have economic control. A full stock of recommendations has input from supervisors, peers (internal and external) and customers. Vendor input is not needed in this context.

Likeability trumps ability every time. Be likeable. That’s the most important skill. Everything else should follow.

7 Questions to Calculate your SAQ (Self-Awareness Quotient)

There’s nothing like travel to give you a heightened sense of awareness. Getting out of routine, out of your comfort zone, spending time in tight spaces with other people and sharing limited resources all have a role in teaching one how to get along with others. Perhaps the most valuable lesson that frequent non-pleasure travel has taught me is how to increase my tolerance of others.

Are people passing around you more often than keeping a comfortable distance from you?
HINT: Thorough fares are for passing through, not a parking zone. Don’t block passageways; be aware of them and find somewhere else to stand.

Are you often rushing?
HINT: Slow down. Ever notice how people in a rush seem unfriendly? Seriously, how much time does it take to hold the door open for the next person or say good morning on an elevator ride? Oftentimes the most efficient approach with tasks is the least effective way with people.

Do others describe you as a good listener?
HINT: Listen. A friend recently told me that one of her greatest strengths in the workplace is her ability to connect with people. When I asked her what specifically she attributed that connectibility to, she said she truly listens to others, rather than most people, who are just thinking about what they will say next.

Do people often seek your advice?
HINT: Advise on demand only . Some people want advice. Some people don’t. Some people think they do, but really only want their opinions validated, not altered. Resist the urge to share your wisdom with others who seem to “need” it. They’ll ask if they want to know. Never, ever advise on parenting unless you are discussing your own children exclusively.
You can always blog to indulge your need to advise. People choose to read it or not. It’s non-invasive.

Would you rather tell a story or hear one?HINT: Ask don’t Tell. If you spend more time asking questions, you will learn more. Telling reinforces what you already know. Asking opens your world to new information.

Do people share their secrets with you?
HINT: Be open. Let people know they can trust you by being trustworthy yourself. Posing is usually more obvious than not and it does not bond, it separates. If you are open with others, they are more comfortable sharing with you. It’s a natural human response.

Have you added at least 5 people to your personal Contacts in the past year or are you satisfied with your circle as is?
HINT: Mix it up from time to time. New people offer new perspectives. This will teach you about yourself in ways you won’t learn otherwise. You can’t know how flexible you are around others unless you increase the variety of your company.

Scoring yourself with a number on these questions isn’t necessary. If you read this, you want to learn. And that’s all that matters, because self-awareness is key to Sales and Networking Success.

Got To Give The People What They Want – 5 Tips of this Trade

It happened again yesterday that someone didn’t believe my true age. While I’ll take all the compliments I can, there’s a sales and networking lesson here.

Be that guy – Be the person you’d most like to hang with. If that person is appealing to you, then emulate them. Within your means, dress like them, read up until you think like them, practice until you speak like them, observe and mirror.
Control Perception – Think of how FB works. People post happy news they want to share. Does that mean they don’t have problems? Of course not. Be strategic about sharing unappealing personal information. This is only appropriate for your most trusted inner circle.
Give affirmatives, not disclaimers. Forgive my redundancy for having used this example previously, but in a recent job interview, I was asked if I spoke Spanish. I answered in Spanish. Am I fluent? No. But the response I gave was impactful in the best way. Imagine the difference if I’d led with, “Well, to be honest, I’m not fluent, but…”
Accept responsibility – Relieve someone else’s burden. Everyone is looking to lean on others for something. If you can’t be the rock, be the friend. If you are a natural servant, then serve. Find the need and fill it.
Provide safety. Safety is a vital basic instinct. Similar to accepting responsibility, how can you make others feel safe? If you’re honest, then promote that. If you’re strength is detail, demonstrate that. Helping your customers mitigate risk is a crucial success measure is today’s business world. Tell them how you do this and then show them over and over.

He who gives to others will always be valued. Consider this insurance. Insure your future by making yourself a resource.