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What's Your Love Language?

All you need is love  - The Beatles

On February 14 here in the U.S. we will celebrate love in the annual, commercial tradition of Valentine’s Day.

While expressing your love with flowers, giftsand greeting cards has merit, you might consider a more meaningful gift: speaking the love language of the person you cherish.

As with all communication, in the language of love our actions often speak much louder than our words. We must understand our lover’s language to successfully express our love.

Gary Chapman, marriage counselor for more than 30 years, is author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. * First published in 1992, the book has been a New York Times Bestseller and published in 49 languages.

Chapman believes each of us has a primary love language, a way in which we are most emotionally satisfied to receive love from another person. Our lovers may find satisfaction from an entirely different love language.

The secret to communicating love, then, is to understand our partner’s language and act on that sincerely and consistently. “The one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision every day,” Chapman says.

These are the five love languages identified by Chapman along with my thoughts:

1) Words of Affirmation
Kind, loving, supportive words that express appreciation. The tone and the intent of the words, of course, carry as much weight as the words themselves.

2) Acts of Service
The saying is “Actions speak louder than words” and for people who favor this language of love nothing could be more true. Simple acts of service will speak deeply to your love.

3) Receiving Gifts
Throughout all cultures and civilizations, the act of giving gifts has been seen as an expression of love and appreciation. Certainly the engagement ring is one powerful symbolic example. But speaking this language is not about expense. A small gift or thoughtful note sincerely given can mean far more than an expensive gift without thought.

4) Quality Time 
In our hectic, over-scheduled lives, nothing is more valuable than our time. Giving someone undivided attention, being fully present in the moment, is one of the best ways of showing love. Sharing quality time has impact on everyone but is enormously powerful to those who speak this love language.

5) Physical Touch
Human beings thrive on physical contact, from holding an infant, to consoling loss, to expressing appreciation. Research finds deep emotional and physical benefits of touch. If this is your partner’s primary love language, nothing will communicate more deeply than your touch.

Questions for you:

What is your primary love language? Does your loved one know that?

More importantly, what is your lover’s primary love language? Are you speaking that language consistently and sincerely? 

If you don't know, there's an easy way to find out: ask, and listen carefully.

Serious questions, since love is all you need.


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash


Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford
We all know people who always seem to be optimistic, ready to take on a challenge even if it means risking failure.
And we also know people who live in pessimism and fear, unwilling to try anything outside of their comfort zone. They focus only on tasks at which they think they’ll succeed.
Human nature?
Is that just human nature at work? Are some people just born with the ability to challenge themselves fearlessly, while others are stuck playing small ball, hoping to succeed with their God-given talents?
If you answered yes to these two questions, you may have what researchers call a “fixed mindset.”
That’s the view that we all have limited abilities, whether it be intelligence, athleticism, or any other trait, and we need to make the most of what we have since there’s nothing else available.
Growth mindset

The opposite is the “growth mindset” that sees opportunities to grow by continually testing and stretching your capabilities. In this case, failure is an opportunity to learn and become stronger.
The scientific case for this research is made in the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” *
I discovered this book when one of my clients gave every employee at an event a copy of this insightful read that, as their leader said, gives a scientific foundation to “the power of positive thinking.”
The author, Carol Dweck, Ph.D., has spent some thirty years researching these questions with children and adults of every age. She recounts one of her experiments with school children who were given a very difficult puzzle.

"I love a challenge!" 
The researcher assumed all of the kids would have a negative reaction to the assignment. She was stunned when one boy rubbed his hands together and said, “I love a challenge!” and a few others had a similar take.
Dweck, who says she grew up with a fixed mindset, writes of her reaction: “What’s wrong with them? I wondered. I always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure. I never thought anyone loved failure. Were these alien children or were they on to something?” Those children became her role models, she says, in her research and in her own life, as she sought to understand “the kind of mindset that could turn a failure into a gift.”
Fundamentally, Dweck’s research revealed that the view you have of yourself profoundly affects the ultimate shape, direction, and success of your life.

In my work with CEO's and teams of leaders, I frequently find this stark difference of mindset with many people willing to push themselves beyond their comfort zones. Others will shrink from challenge and often say that they were not "born" leaders, speakers, storytellers, or whatever other ability they perceive as fixed.
Changed her life
Dweck’s research changed her own mindset and it changed her life. “Suddenly we realized that there were two meanings to ability, not one: a fixed ability that needs to be proven, and a changeable ability that can be developed through learning.”
If you have a “fixed” mindset you believe that all of your abilities are carved in stone, which she said means you’ll have an urgency to prove yourself throughout your life and any failure means your abilities are not good enough. You are a loser.

A “growth” mindset does not say anyone can accomplish anything. Rather, it’s the belief that “a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”
A few of the examples I found compelling:

  • NASA avoids recruiting astronaut candidates who have nothing but success in their past and instead looks for people who have bounced back from major failures.


  • Mia Hamm, an extraordinary soccer player, is typical of a person who would stretch farther to grow. “All my life I’ve been playing up, meaning I’ve challenged myself with players older, bigger, more skillful, more experienced – in short, better than me.” She played on the boys’ teams as a kid and the number one U.S. college team. “Each day I attempted to play up to their level … and I was improving faster than I ever dreamed possible.”


  • In Jim Collins’ seminal book Good to Great, * the most successful CEOs had the growth mindset characteristics: “They were self-effacing people who…had the ability to confront the most brutal answers – that is, to look failures in the face, even their own, while maintaining faith that they would succeed in the end.”

So much of our views of our potential are formed in the early years with parents, teachers, and peers. That’s why this book also delves into parenting, school, and sports, as well as relationships and business.
Some people, with fixed minds, thrive on the sure thing. Dweck asks the simple question that I think is the ultimate test: “When do you feel smart: when you’re flawless or when you’re learning?”
She writes: “You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.” Well said.
How about you?
This week think about your own mindset.

Is it “fixed” or “growth”?
Do you seek opportunities outside of your comfort zone, or take on the tasks that you know you can handle with ease to get the gold star?
As a leader, do you encourage stretch behavior and risk taking, or do you criticize “failure”?
There’s a stark difference for all of us in energy, commitment, and results.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

How to Give a Winning Pep Talk

As a leader, a major part of your responsibility is to influence the thinking and behavior of other people.
And sooner or later you’ll be standing in front of a group who need to hear a “pep” talk to motivate them to achieve something special, something beyond their self-limiting beliefs.

Working with great sales leaders on their kickoffs the past two weeks (shout out Midwest and California!) we focused a lot on the importance of inspiring people to greater achievement.
We all have vague ideas, mostly from sports movies, about how to give a motivating talk, as in these memorable scenes:

Hoosiers: Where Gene Hackman as Coach Dales tells his team they are winners to him no matter what the scoreboard says: “Forget about the crowds, the size of the school, their fancy uniforms, and remember what got you here...”
Remember the Titans: Denzel Washington as Coach Boone, who took his players to visit the battlefield at Gettysburg to heal the racial rift that divided the team: “Take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed—just like they were.”
The drama of these movies might make it seem that only in movies or sports can we motivate people with a talk.
We know there’s an art to giving a motivational pep talk. But is there a formula, perhaps a science, to giving a winning motivational speech? It turns out there is.
For decades, researchers have been studying what makes for a successful pep talk. In fact, two researchers at Texas A&M International University have reviewed pep talks and considered how they might be most effectively applied to the corporate world.
For 30 years, Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, a husband-and-wife research team, have done the most extensive study on what they call Motivating Language Theory (MLT) and found that the most successful speeches have three important elements: direction giving, expressions of empathy and meaning-making.
Let me break these down in plain English for your use:

1. Clear Language [“direction giving”]
The researchers call this “uncertainty-reducing language.” What they’re saying is, give your team clear and concise instructions on what you’re asking of them. What exactly do you want them to do?
2. Support Them [“expressions of empathy”]
“Empathetic language” that might acknowledge how difficult the task will be, as well as offering them encouragement, praise and thanks. Basically, be real; be human.
3. Connect to Purpose [“meaning making”]
“Meaning-making language” is helping them find meaning in what you are asking of them. How does this connect to the purpose of your organization or their own personal purpose?
The researchers concluded that a winning pep talk should include all three elements, but to be effective you’ll need to mix them to fit the audience.
If your team is experienced, it may not need as much direction as a new team; some teams will need more empathy than others; but purpose, in my view, should always be strongly emphasized because it’s ultimately the key to motivation.
So mix and match these three elements — clear direction, empathy and purpose — to give your team a winning pep talk.
For example, if you’re speaking at a sale kickoff in, let’s say, January, you might:

Give clear direction: Talk about the specific sales goals that must be met in 2018 and any new strategies or tactics you will employ this year.

Be empathetic: Describe their heroic efforts in the past year, the obstacles they overcame and your deep gratitude for their work.

Provide meaning: Connect with the purpose of your work: Do you protect people’s lives? Do you help small business owners and their communities thrive? Do you sell a product that saves peoples’ lives? By linking to purpose, you give them direct access to the energy and commitment we all draw from meaningful work.

As you speak to purpose, telling a story that relates this meaning can have a powerful effect.
And don’t forget that how you say something is as important, and sometimes more important for motivation, than what you say. Use confident body language, vivid words and all of your passion.

To motivate people as a leader it's critical to speak from your heart.
Here’s to your winning pep talks and the success of your team in 2018!

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Photo by Paul Bence on Unsplash

The Real Key to Success for Leaders

What's the one thing that all successful people have in common? Intelligence? No. Good looks? Nope. Hard work? Not so much.  Give up? The real answer is relationships.

Behind every successful person … or more accurately, around every successful person, is a network of people who are there to provide the appropriate support at the right time.

Think about it. No one has done anything alone.

Steve Jobs? He had Steve Wozniak and a legion of other great minds contributing intellectual capital and engineering skills.

Meryl Streep? (Another Oscar?) She has the writers, directors, supporting actors, agents and others who’ve supported her talents.

LeBron James? He had four other starters, a bench full of role players and various coaches and trainers, as well as a community that protected and nurtured him in his journey.

No one has ever done anything alone
Even accomplishments that seem to be individual achievements are backed by a lifetime of relationships that brought that person to that moment. 

In fact, it seems the more established and influential the network someone has, the greater the person's ability to achieve — to champion ideas, to solve problems and to lead others.


There are no exceptions. Personal and professional success is and forever will be tied to building a network of relationships.

Unfortunately, the term “networking” has been tainted as negative by people who think it’s all about schmoozing at business functions and handing out business cards.

The truth is that great networking is really about creating, building and maintaining relationships. And at the heart of any relationship — whether personal or professional — is communication. It’s that simple.

My friend Frank Agin makes his living helping others create successful relationships. Frank is the founder and president of AmSpirit Business Connections, a franchise organization that helps people to develop stronger business relationships through structured weekly meetings.

Frank is also an author. In his book Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like and Trust to Create A Lifetime of Extraordinary Success, Frank writes that effective networking is not about rehearsed statements or formulaic activities. Rather, effective networking is about getting people to know, like and trust us.

Frank says there is no magic to this; no secret tricks.

In Foundational Networking, Frank writes that building these relationships is merely a function of our attitudes and habits surrounding three things: presence, altruism and integrity. Here is how he describes those attributes:

Presence involves your attitudes and habits toward how you carry yourself and how you appear to others. In other words, what do your words and actions communicate to the world around you?

Ask yourself, who are you are drawn to …

  • The person who is happy or the person who is gloomy?
  • The person who expresses optimism or the person who is pessimistic?
  • The person who demonstrates great courage or the person who lives in a state of fear?

No doubt you are attracted to the happy, optimistic and courageous person.

Now answer this: When people see you, what do they see? When they hear you, what do they hear? In a quiet, private moment, give yourself that honest assessment.

To build relationships which, remember, ultimately drives success, you need to adopt attitudes and habits that communicate happiness, optimism and courage. These things will attract people to you.

Altruism is next. It involves all your attitudes and habits related to your disposition toward contributing to the lives of others. That is, to what extent are you committed to giving to the world around you — not just money or physical assets, but also time and talent.

Ask yourself, who are you drawn to, the person who is focused on giving to the world around them or the person who is focused on getting from it? You likely answered the giver. And that answer is consistent with the research Dr. Adam Grant reported in his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach To Success.*


Here’s what I wrote about how you can apply Grant’s research: How to Be Successful at Work as a Giver, Not a Taker.

Now honestly assess yourself. To what extent do your words and actions communicate benevolence? What do you give? To whom do you give? Why?

You need to remember that when it comes to communicating an altruistic attitude, it’s not really about what you give, or how much you give. Rather, what matters most is the spirit that moves you. Know that people are drawn to those who genuinely communicate a generous spirit.

Integrity, finally, involves your attitudes and habits concerning how you interact with others. Who are you drawn to, the trustworthy person or the person whose integrity comes into question?

While the answer to that question is rhetorical, you can make a candid assessment of your own integrity. Are you trustworthy, doing the right thing even if it might not be in your best interest? Are you reliable, doing what you say you are going to do?

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t answer these questions on the basis of major interactions or significant transactions alone. While those are important, to be sure, 99.9 percent of the population passes those tests.

Where this assessment is most critical is the little things. After all, this is where others judge you the most, looking to see how you communicate your integrity when the stakes may not be as high and when very few people are watching.

Success is relationship-based
In summary, Frank notes that your success is tied to others. It is your relationships and how you communicate with the people around you.

As such, Frank says your attitudes and habits need to be geared toward communicating …

  • A happy, optimistic and courageous existence;
  • A willingness to contribute to the people around you; and,
  • An air of honesty and reliability with everything you do.

This is how others will come to know, like and trust you, leading to relationships that foster success for you, and for them.

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Image Credit: Maryland GovPics via cc

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How to Make Your Resolutions Stick in 2108

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.  -- Aristotle

As we begin the New Year, most of us get the urge to change our lives and make a fresh start.

This year’s Marist Poll finds the usual suspects as our top five 2018 resolutions: being a better person, losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, and getting a better job.

We make bold resolutions and ambitious plans to achieve these and other aspirations.

And we fail. We fail miserably: Research reveals that as few as 8 percent of us are successful with our New Year’s resolutions.

Of course, this is why fitness centers may sign up 5,000 new members in January for a facility that will hold only 500 people at a time.
As we enter 2018, how about considering a different approach?
Try making just two small changes this year. One now, and one in six months. I’ve put this into practice over the past few years with great success. This approach means that every year you will have changed two of your habits by the end of the year.
Small Changes are Powerful
Changing two habits a year might seem too small, too easy. But science proves that the lasting changes in our lives come from making small changes that are easier to implement.
Consider this small, but powerful example: “Replace a soft drink with water at just one meal — say, lunch. With this small change, you will drink approximately forty more gallons of water per year, while not drinking forty gallons of carbonated sugar. You also save up to fifty thousand calories and as much as five hundred dollars.” From Small Change, Little Things Make a Big Difference by Susan and Larry Terkel.
The Power of Habits
I’ve always worked on continuous self-improvement, but never understood how to change habits until a few years ago when I read this great book: The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businessby Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explores the neuroscience of habits, using vivid examples from sports, business and life, including the NFL, Michael Phelps, Target, P&G and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, among many others.
Conserving Brain Energy
Habits are critical to our brain function. To conserve energy, our brains run routines by habit that we don’t have to think about. Duhigg says up to 40 percent of our daily activities are done by unconscious habit. This becomes clear when we drive to the same location so often that we sometimes arrive and don’t remember how we got there.
But the key to this book for me was understanding the simple process of how habits function and how they can be hacked to make a positive change.
The 'Habit Loop'
Duhigg calls this the "Habit Loop.” He explains: "This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which behavior to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward.”
Here’s how it worked for me: I like to work out a lot, so I’ve never had a weight problem, but a few years ago I found myself with a severe nighttime sweet tooth. I didn’t need the extra sugar and calories and started getting some extra winter “insulation” on the tummy.
CUE: At a certain point in the evening, whether I was watching TV, reading a book or doing work, I’d get the feeling it was time for a snack. You know, The Craving.  ;-)
ROUTINE: I would wander into the kitchen for a snack. It would usually be a nice helping of ice cream or a few cookies.
REWARD: I got the sweet taste of the dessert and the rush of blood sugar.
I wasn’t consciously being a Cookie Monster; I realize now that I was just caught in the loop.
I'm simplifying Duhigg's advice here, but his research found that the secret to changing your habit is to identify and tweak your routine.  I successfully used these steps to change my nightly dessert habit.
CUE: For me, the tweak was this: when the cue occurred, my evening dessert craving, I would still wander into the kitchen.
ROUTINE: In initially changing the routine, I told myself I could still have ice cream or cookies, but first I would have a piece of fruit and a glass of water and wait for 15 minutes. I did that and went back to whatever I was doing.

REWARD: This is the interesting part. I was shocked that from the very first time I ate an apple, drank the water and refocused on what I was doing, I was satisfied and not craving more sweets. My substitute reward gave me a sweet taste, the act of chewing and the water quenched my thirst. (Nutritionists say that often what feels like hunger is dehydration.)

Mistaken Rewards
Sometimes we are seeking a reward that is not necessarily what we might assume. Duhigg details getting up from his desk every day at 3 p.m. to get a cookie from the cafeteria at the New York Times building, where he is a reporter.

Then he would walk around and socialize with his colleagues. The reporter tweaked his routine to skip the cookie and go to the social break, which was really his reward.

The other interesting thing that happens is that when you change one habit, positive changes seem to build on one another. If you exercise regularly, you might find yourself wanting to eat healthier foods.

How about You?
What habit do you most want to change?

Think about this habit: What are cue, routine and reward of this habit and how can you tweak them to rewire your habit?

Would you consider skipping the New Year’s resolutions and instead change just two small habits this year?

Give it a try. I believe that if you change your habits, you change your life.

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How to Manage Your Personal Brand in 2018

As we come to the end of the year and you plan for your personal and professional development in 2018, it's worth considering how others perceive you in the workplace.

Last week, I wrote about Your 7 Favorite Stories of 2017

Today I'll offer one of my favorite articles, which I originally wrote in February 2016, titled How to Be A "Tough" Woman Leader with leadership and personal brand advice from successful financial services leader Carla Harris, including a 90-day challenge.

For your use, at the end of this newsletter, I've also included a link to my popular post, Personal Branding: What 3 Adjectives Describe You?  which will give you a simple exercise to learn how you are perceived by others.

Wishing you happiness and success in 2017!


How to Be a Tough Woman Leader
February 2016

Over the past couple of years, a long-time friend of mine has invited me to join her table at the annual meeting of Women for Economic and Leadership Development here in Columbus, Ohio.
That means it’s me and a few other guys in the midst of some 500 smart, enthusiastic businesswomen. The speakers have been awesome. Last year’s keynote speaker, Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, gave some really great advice for women, and men, on achieving success by differentiating yourself in the workplace.
As an African-American woman on white-male dominated Wall Street, Harris faced unique challenges and learned to position herself in a way that allowed her to thrive while being true to herself.

She offered a wide-range of wisdom. These are three core messages. People loved her third idea as much as I did and I would recommend you seriously considering trying it in your workplace.
1) Be Authentic
Too many people try to act in a way at work that is not really who they are. This causes anxiety and disconnection. Harris says being your authentic self positions you for success:

  • “You are your own competitive advantage. No one can be you the way you can be you. The last thing you should ever do is to submerge that which is uniquely you.
  • “Anytime that you are trying to behave or speak in a way that is inconsistent with who you really are, you will create a competitive disadvantage for yourself.
  • “If you bring your authentic self to a relationship, people will trust you and trust is at the heart of any successful relationship.
  • “Most people are not comfortable in their own skin, so when they see someone who is comfortable and confident in their own skin, they will gravitate toward you.”

Harris, who also is a highly successful gospel singer, said early in her career she would bristle when her colleagues would tell clients about her singing. She would roll her eyes when they said, “Carla is an amazing gospel singer, with three CDs and four sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall.”
She changed her mind when she saw enthusiastic client reactions. Potential clients would ask about her career and whether she would talk to their daughters about integrating business and the arts in their lives. 
A Different Lens
“We ended up having a 15-minute meeting before the meeting,” Harris said. “When I sat down to pitch, they heard me with a different ear, they saw me through a different lens.” These conversations helped her to win business as it differentiated her “from five other investment bankers pitching that IPO.”

From that moment on, Harris said she brought to business “all my Carla Harris’s” -- singer, prayer warrior, golfer, football fan because you never know who will connect with something you love.

2) Take Risks
A second way to differentiate yourself is by showing you can take risks, Harris said. During challenging times in a workplace, Harris said everyone tells you to keep your head down so you can fly under the radar.

She recommends the opposite. “When everybody else is besieged with fear and everybody else is ducking, you have a clear vision to see the opportunity,” Harris said.
“In a difficult environment, it’s time to speak up. The issue with keeping your head down is you submerge your voice and your voice is at the heart of your power. Fear has no place in your success equation.”

She said to ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen? She said you might fail, but failure always brings a gift: experience, and leaders will see you as a person of action, who should be kept around.
3) Manage Your Perception
Harris said the important thing she has learned after two-and-a-half decades on Wall Street is, “perception is the co-pilot to reality. How people perceive you will directly impact how they deal with you.
She said that after five years in her career, a senior director told she was smart and hard-working, but he didn’t think she was tough enough for the business of Wall Street. Harris was outraged.
A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard and a graduate of Harvard Business School she had overcome significant challenges to land at Morgan Stanley. In her colloquial speech, Harris shouted to the crowd, “You can call Carla Harris a lot of things, but ‘ain’t tough’, ain’t one of them.”
Not 'Tough' Enough
She thought to herself, “suppose he really doesn’t think I’m tough enough?” One can’t be seen as weak on Wall Street. “I decided for 90 days I would walk tough, talk tough, eat tough, and drink tough, use tough in my language.”
It’s important to have consistent behavior and language, Harris said, and to “use this language in your environment, particularly when you are talking about yourself. You can train people to think about you in the way that you want them to think about you.”
Harris had a reputation for being very good at critiquing management presentations, so much so that before company road shows for a multi-million dollar IPO or stock transaction, her colleagues would ask her to listen to a presentation and give the CEO feedback.
“Next time, after I’d gotten that feedback about not being tough, I said wait a minute, tell me about this guy, is he sensitive, does he have a thin skin? I don’t want to hurt nobody’s feeling, ‘cause you know I’m tough,” Harris said, drawing laughter and applause.
90-Day Challenge
“I kept using this language over and over to describe myself. Sure enough, after 90 days of work, I was behind a group of people, they didn’t know I was behind them.”
She said she heard a VP beating up an associate to make sure they were fully prepared for their meeting:
“We’re going to see Carla Harris, and you know, she’s so tough.”
Carla Harris succeeded in one of the world’s most challenging business environments, Wall Street, by making her authentic self a positive differentiator.
She didn’t need to hide herself -- she let the real Carla Harris shine through.
It may have been tough, but that’s Carla Harris. She’s tough.
Questions for you:
How are you perceived in your workplace?
Is that perception consistent with who you really are?

Would you consider the 90-day challenge to change the perception of you?
Carla Harris recommends an exercise of choosing three adjectives you want people to use to describe you when you are not in the room, because that’s when all of the important decisions are made about compensation, promotion and new assignments. The adjectives should be consistent with the position you seek.

I previously wrote about a similar exercise: 
Personal Branding: What three adjectives describe you?

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Photo Credit: Carla Harris' website