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Personal Brand

How to Tap the Power of Your Smile

Use your smile to change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.

          — Anonymous


Working with a CEO on her conference speech recently, I urged her to smile more during her opening, despite her nervousness. She protested that her smile would look “phony” to her audience because she felt some anxiety.

But after some deep breathing and a couple of run-throughs, she was comfortable and radiated a warm, confident smile. It made a huge difference in connecting with her audience.

Smiles are that important. Substantial research shows that simply initiating a smile in a meeting, presentation, chance encounter, or other social interaction can have a dramatic impact on the outcome for us and others.

Research also finds that smiling has positive effects on our brains, our lives, and our success.

Charles Darwin initiated our modern “science of smiling” in the 1800’s. He noticed that unlike learned cultural behavior like gestures or touch, smiling and its effects are universal.

Ron Gutman gave this interesting 2011 TED Talk on the benefits of smiling. He notes that smiling is also one of the most frequent forms of communication, particularly for children.

“More than 30 percent of us smile more than 20 times a day,” Gutman said. “In fact, those with the greatest superpowers are actually children, who smile as many as 400 times per day!”

As human beings, we are hardwired for smiling from the start. Babies begin smiling fully at five weeks old and babies born blind smile like sighted infants. It’s said that babies learn that crying gets the attention of adults but smiling keeps it.

This holds true throughout life. We’ve all felt the effect of someone speaking with a broad smile. Their face lights up, energy enters the room, and we feel our mood brighten.

There’s little downside to smiling, and a whole lot of upside, so let me give you four reasons to smile more often, especially when you’re involved in an important presentation or conversation.

Smiling makes you more likable
We naturally find people with sincere smiles to be more likable, which is critical to your success in business and life.

Smiling is positively contagious
Like a yawn, a smile can be contagious. When we see someone smile, it lightens the mood and makes others more likely to smile. At the very least, research finds that a smile reduces the likelihood that someone will frown at you.

Smiling increases your confidence
Just as our body language increases our confidence, our smiles improve how we feel. Research has shown that simply holding a smile, real or manufactured, reduces stress and produces positive emotions in our brains. Of course, a smile will also make others perceive you as being more confident.

Smiling can change the way you see the world
Some research suggests that your smile may actually change the way your brain interprets other people’s emotional responses to you. You’ll view other people’s expressions toward you more positively. 

Take action:

  • How often do you smile every day?

  • Are you among the top 30 percent who smile 20 times a day? 

  • This week, notice people who have great smiles and how they affect you and others.

  • Add an intentional smile to a critical situation and see what happens.

That’s how you tap into the power of your smile.
 
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5 Ways to Stop Talking So Much

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about themselves, and small people talk about others.

–– John Maxwell

 
Everyone knows someone who can’t shut up. They’re constantly talking, rarely listening, and don’t know when to stop. Whether during a job interview, presentation, or a conversation with the boss, they just go on and on. 
 
In a recent Wall Street Journal article about talkaholics, Aqua America’s chief executive Christopher Franklin described a job interview in which a woman spent twenty-five minutes answering his first question, followed by another twenty-five minutes on the second one. “I felt like I was being filibustered,” he said. “There should be no need for verbal diarrhea.” Needless to say, no job offer was extended to her. 
 
The problem is that people learn to tune “talkaholics” out, and after a certain point, will stop listening. In today’s information society, attention spans are shrinking. In the 1970’s, the average person saw some five hundred ads a day, and today we see at least five thousand messages a day.
 
Instead of a couple of channels on TV, we have access to hundreds of channels and streaming services, which puts hours of media at our fingerprints. A Microsoft study in 2015 found that people lose focus after about eight seconds, while a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. 
 
There are many different types of people who fall into the talkaholic category, but here are a few I've seen in my work as a communication coach:
 
Ms. All About Me –– These people talk incessantly about themselves and rarely give someone else the chance to speak. It’s always about them. 
 
Mr. Redundant –– This man (or woman) is repeating the same lines, in the same conversation, and repeated conversations.
 
The Know it All –– This person has all the answers and is certain that these are the right answers. He’s going to tell you, whether you asked or not.
 
Captain Obvious –– He or she is saying stuff that everyone already knows. Obviously. 
 
If you've been accused of talking too much, or some of this profile seems to fit you, you might be limiting your effectiveness.
 
Too much talk can hurt your personal brand because it gives the sense that you’re not tuned in. Everything you say just becomes noise, as people tune you out.
 
With that in mind, here are a few tips for overcoming the tendency to speak too much:
 
1. Develop awareness
The first step to solving a problem is to become aware and pay attention. Self-reflection is an important part of growth. If you’re unsure as to whether you struggle with talking too much, ask trusted colleagues or friends what they think. An outside perspective can help illuminate potential weaknesses. 
 
2. Find your listening ratio
A listening ratio is the amount of time you spend listening versus the amount of time you spend talking. For introverts, this ratio might look like 20/80, spending 20 percent of the time talking and 80 percent of the time listening.
 
As I wrote about listening ratios, depending on the nature of your job and your natural inclination, you may find that you need to spend more time talking. For others, they need to concentrate on speaking less and listening more. 
 
3. Be prepared 
It is common to talk too much when you’re nervous or unsure of what you’re trying to say. Prepare your thoughts ahead of time so you stay on track and don’t veer off topic. It’s important to know exactly what you want to say in a presentation or an important conversation with a colleague. 
 
I recommend having one central message that you want people to remember and then develop three points to support that main message. This will keep your conversation clear, focused, and memorable.
 
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
For presentations and other important talks, it’s important to rehearse what you’re going to say. Try using your phone to record yourself and play it back to see if you’re staying on topic. Try challenging yourself to make the point in one minute, then thirty seconds. 
 
The more you strengthen your message and cut out the unnecessary fluff, the easier it will be to convey your point. And the more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with delivering a concise message. Here are other methods to rehearse your talk.
 
5. Less is more 
Mark Twain once quipped, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Less is more when it comes to speech. Since people lose focus quickly, their attention is more likely to be held by a short, concise message. 
 
On November 19, 1863, a famous orator by the name of Edward Everett gave a 13,607-word speech that was two hours long. It was followed by a two minute, 272-word speech given by Abraham Lincoln; the now famous Gettysburg Address. Everett later told Lincoln, “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
 
A main idea can be conveyed in two hours or two minutes. It takes more work to be brief, but you’ll enjoy the many benefits of being a person who is heard and understood.
 
What about you?
Are you, or someone you know, a talkaholic?
 
Have you thought about your listening ratio? If you talk 80 percent of the time, try listening 80 percent of the time and see if you get different reactions and results. 
 
I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories about compulsive talkers. Just hit “reply” to talk with me.
 
If you know of someone who might benefit from this message, please use the buttons below to share.


How to Build Your Story Bank

A couple weeks ago, speaking at a convention in Las Vegas, I was asked a question about how to find your purpose.

As I began answering the question, I spontaneously told a story about a personal struggle I had earlier in my career that helped me find my purpose. It’s an emotional story, with a happy ending.
 
My 'Story Bank' 
The reason I was able to “spontaneously” tell this story is because it’s in my Story Bank. Over the years, I’ve collected my own personal and business stories to use in presentations and personal conversations.
 
If someone asked me under pressure to tell them my favorite story, my encounter with Oprah during a half-marathon might appear, or I might tell them about having a week off before I started a new job in Los Angeles and how I auditioned for seven game shows in three days. But we’ll leave that for another day.

Your favorite story
Let’s talk about you. If someone were to ask you to tell your favorite story, what would you say?
 
Would you search your memory bank hoping to come up with a story that is worthy of being called your “favorite”?
 
Would you be flustered? Maybe tell the first story that comes to mind? Or would you give up searching and let this opportunity pass?
 
This exact scenario may not happen to you, but there are times that telling a story would be the perfect way to engage, inspire, or persuade someone important to you.
 
Stories can build understanding and connection in relationships – so they’re helpful in business and in life.
 
With this in mind, let me give you a few tips for collecting your own stories:
 
Create your Story Bank
You should consider developing a disciplined approach to finding and saving your best stories so that you have a collection ready to use. By sharing your stories you’re giving people insights into who you are and what you value.
 
You’ll find that your openness is rewarded with openness from others in return.

Develop a storyteller mindset
Once you decide to capture stories you’ll notice that stories are everywhere. That’s because we as human beings are hardwired for hearing and telling stories. We tell stories all the time, to others and to ourselves.
 
When you decide to collect your own stories, they’ll start popping up all the time -- when you’re in meetings, driving to work or just waking up.
 
Set a method for collecting your stories
When all of these stories start coming at you, it’s important to have a disciplined approach to capturing them. If you say, “I’ll write that down when I get to home” you’ll never remember that story.
 
I have a notebook I use to write my favorite inspirational quotes and my stories. I keep that notebook on my desk in the office. It’s a white Moleskine notebook with a black drawing of Batman on the cover. Don’t judge me.
 
To make sure I capture stories when I’m traveling or elsewhere, I have a notes file on my phone labeled “stories” and whenever I hear something that would make a good story (or a Sunday Coffee post ;-) I enter it on my phone. If I’m driving, I dictate a quick note.

Strategic approach
During my training sessions, I’m often privileged to hear amazing, and often intimate stories.  People will share tragedies and triumphs, contributing meaningful parts of their lives. 
 
When I ask whether they have shared these stories elsewhere, they often say no.  Sometimes people don’t remember to tell them or they didn’t think the stories were important.
 
This is why it’s vital to take a strategic approach to collecting stories.  Our stories need to be told, but we are the only ones who can tell them.  Take a few minutes to sit down and recall the stories from your life.

Ask for stories from others
If you’re a leader, or in sales, you should also be asking other people for stories. Collecting stories about your organization, successes and failures, helps to reinforce the culture you are seeking to strengthen. 
Rather than asking the old, “how’s business?” what if you asked someone to tell you the most interesting story they’ve heard in their business in the past year?
 
When you ask that question, rather than get the pat answer, “business is good” you’ll get a real insight into the person and the organization. That’s because to find a story, we have to search a different part of our brains, as it takes some effort and creativity. Watch a person’s face, especially their eyes, when they search for a story.
 
And when they share the story with you, the two of you are making the most real, intimate connection available to human beings. You’re sharing yourselves.
 
I call storytelling “the leader’s superpower” because telling a story is more engaging, inspiring and motivating than anything else you can say.
 
So keep your eyes open; stories are all around you. And search your life, for the moments you can share with others.
 
You’ll be on your way to telling the world your story.

Should You Be a 'Giver' at Work?

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” 

 –– Samuel Johnson


You know that guy in your office who is all about himself?

He’s always kissing up to the bosses to get the best of everything; he’s always getting people to do him favors, but he never helps anyone else. He’s a jerk! 

Guys like him know that people who give to others are borne losers -- doormats who deserve to be walked on.

What do you think? Is he right? Or is he wrong?

I hate to tell you, but he’s right. But the good news is, he’s also wrong.

‘Give and Take’

Let me explain. Extensive research on this question finds that some people who care deeply about people and put others first can be left with little to show for it. They end up at the bottom.

However, the more important part of this research shows that some people who give to others are among the most successful.

This is the research of Adam Grant, professor at The Wharton School of Business, documented in his book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. *

I was coaching senior leaders at a national convention a couple of years ago when I had the pleasure of meeting Grant, who was a featured speaker. After reading his book I was struck by the depth of his research, colorful stories and, most of all, the counter-intuitive nature of his conclusions.

Surprising key to success

Grant’s research examines “the surprising forces why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom.”

The professor notes that “in professional interactions, it turns out that most people operate as either takers, matchers or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.”

Grant writes that what your style is at work can have a huge impact on your success: “Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries.”

Here’s an overview of the styles:

Takers ultimately fail

Take a minute and think about this:

That guy in your office, the jerk you were thinking of when I mentioned him a minute ago, doesn’t everyone know that he’s out for himself?

The answer is “yes,” and Grant’s research shows that he won’t have long-term success because there is a long line of people (maybe including you) who are waiting to plunge knives in his back when the time is right. This makes sense since success is all about relationships.

Matchers give to get

Matchers are people who help others with the expectation of return favors. In that way, they can be perceived as only helping you to get something from you. Not a particularly favorable reputation.

Givers fail and win…big

Grant’s research finds the very interesting results of being a giver in the workplace: “Givers dominate the bottom and the top of the success ladder. Across occupations, if you examine the link between reciprocity styles and success, the givers are more likely to become champs -- not only chumps,” he writes.

The difference between winning and losing for givers is in approach, as Grant details in his book.

Grant indicates most of us develop a primary way of interacting with people at work, which determines whether we are successful. “And this primary style can play as much of a role in our success as hard work, talent, and luck,” he says.

For leaders, Grant’s approach is even more important because the composition of your team and people’s individual approaches may determine success or failure.

This holds true for corporate cultures as well. Having the wrong ratio of givers to takers can create a toxic culture producing poor morale and poor results. It's also critical for leaders because people are always watching your behavior, even when you think they're not.

Are you a giver? Are you sure?

Think about yourself: what is your primary style? Are you really a giver, or do you keep a tally sheet of who returns the favor?

What about the people you work with? Identify one person in each category: giver, matcher and taker. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see people, and yourself, in a different way.

And please do me a favor: use the easy buttons below to share this with friends who might benefit -- even the takers.

If you're a giver, please share this message with people you care about simply hit the "share" button below. ;-)

To share your thoughts with me you can visit or have me sign you up for my exclusive Sunday Coffee newsletter, drop me a line on our contact page.

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They're Always Watching You

People have to buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
 

— John Maxwell

 
Humans are tribal people. As much as we want to think of ourselves as individuals, we have an innate need to run with the pack. We follow leaders. We are constantly watching their words and actions.
 
And we are hardwired from an early age to look for inconsistency in behavior in those around us. In a recent training session with leaders, we were discussing the level of distraction all of us experience today. One leader told this story:
 
He and his wife have two small girls aged two and four. He admits to being compulsive about checking his phone, even at home. His wife keeps urging him to put away his phone while he’s at home and pay attention to the girls because she reminds him, they’ll be gone in a blink of an eye. (His wife lost her father at an early age and feels strongly about cherishing the special moments of family life.)
 
One day he was out by himself with his little girls and he reflexively grabbed his phone while licking his ice cream. His four-year-old daughter yelled, “Daddy, put down your phone! We’ll be gone when you blink your eyes!”
 
Her message cut to his heart. He was being watched. He established a practice of placing his phone in a drawer near the front door when he got home and not checking the phone again until the girls were in bed.
 
Workplace tribes
People are always watching us. This is no more evident than in the workplace. We watch our leaders, we watch our peers, we watch our team members to know where we stand in the tribe.
 
This is an important lesson for leaders: people are always watching you. They watch how you think. They watch how you act. They watch how you communicate.
 
They are constantly looking for cues on how they should act. They monitor your moods. They try to predict your emotional responses.
 
More people, more scrutiny
And the higher in the organization you rise, the more people are watching you. Over the years, as your team grows from 5 to 500 to 5,000, you will come under more scrutiny. Not only are more people watching you, but as your power and authority increases, they observe you far more intensely — judging your character, behavior, and speech.
 
This can be positive or negative.
 
On the positive side, you can have a huge influence on the actions and behavior of people in a 360-degree circle around you.
 
On the negative side, you have a responsibility to show up consistently or be called out for not walking your talk.
 
In the workplace, leaders get the same scrutiny when we say one thing and do another. I worked with a CEO who was leading a deep cost-cutting campaign saying, “pennies add up to dollars!”
 
At a town hall meeting, he was called out by employees for using the company plane to fly to his vacation home across the country. He tried an eloquent defense of his behavior by explaining that the board had granted him the use of the plane three times a year as part of his compensation. He twisted and turned but was caught not walking his talk.
 
Here are some ways to ensure that you show up as a leader in a clear, consistent way:
 
Develop your leadership brand
You should take the time to think clearly about who you are and what you stand for as a leader. I recommend this exercise that has you choose three adjectives that you’d like people to use in describing you.
 
Live into your brand
When you’ve developed a clear idea of how you want people to perceive you as a leader, it’s important to live into your brand. Be committed. That means changing your thinking, your behavior, and your communication to align with how you want to be understood by all of the people most important to you.
 
Walk your talk
When we say one thing and do another it creates cognitive dissonance, that uncomfortable mental state of inconsistent beliefs and behavior. We feel it and the people around us know it. As human beings, we are capable of rationalizing anything we think or do, so having the perspective and accountability of others can keep us more closely tied to reality.
 
Becoming your best self as a leader can be a lifelong learning experience, but it starts with self-awareness and a commitment to show up consistently in all of your most important relationships.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. — Maya Angelou
 
Celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. this week has me thinking about the power of expressing sincere gratitude to others in business, and in life.

Signs are all around us of the need for personal, genuine thanks to others:

  • In a digital world, where attention is a nanosecond,  “thank you’s” seem to come as afterthoughts in brief texts (thx!) and hurried voice mails.
  • Employee engagement is at all time low. A recent Gallup Poll found that only 13 percent of people worldwide are actively engaged at work. (Here in the U.S., the number was 32 percent, nothing to brag about.)
  • Our national dialogue, from hate-spewing politics to bleep-coated TV, has become a coarse joke.

People have become so busy paying attention to the constant noise that appreciation of personal relationships seems to have taken second place.

Harvard research
The need is so clear that Ivy League schools are doing serious research to understand the power of “thank you.”

A Harvard professor’s book explores the science of gratitude. Her research highlights how leaders’ expressions of gratitude motivate people.

The professor mentions that her husband is working at a startup. One day, after her husband had been up all night working on a project, the professor received a card and flowers from the company's founder, thanking her for her patience. It was pleasant for her—and a motivator for him.

I worked with a CEO who was the best I’d ever seen at saying “thank you” to people. There were times I would ask myself if it was too much, but I had to say no. The thanks were always delivered sincerely and with the appropriate tonality for the situation.

Sincere appreciation
What can we do to bring sincere appreciation back to life? Think about these expressions as a starting point:

  • Sending a handwritten “thank you” card to a person’s home with a small, relevant gift related to one of their passions.

  • Making a public statement, whether at a team meeting or family event, with clear, sincere thanks to one or more people. It lifts the morale of everyone.
  • A face-to-face show-up with no agenda other than to say “thank you.”

Of course, there’s also that opportunity around the dinner table this Thursday, or those moments this holiday season when you are one on one with someone you rarely see.

What better time to say, “I appreciate you”?

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Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash