What Does a Leader Look Like?

What Does a Leader Look Like?

What does a leader look like? When you conjure up an image of a leader, what do you see? What do you hear? How do you feel about that person? When I started coaching on presence and presentation skills, the assumptions were clear and widely shared. They’ve changed quite a bit, especially in the past decade or so. Let’s delve into the differences. Senior business leaders long looked for confidence, decisiveness, and a blue-chip pedigree in each other, in the executives they brought onto their teams, and in the consultants, lawyers, and others they worked with. When it came to communication, they expected great speaking skills, forcefulness, and the ability to command a room. And they valued a polished appearance along with tallness, youthfulness, and slimness. (Are you thinking what I’m thinking?) Some of that is still at play. And some of it is played out.

Turn the Lens Around

Turn the Lens Around

Turn the lens around. It’s a tough task for job-seekers. And independent professionals seeking clients. And sales people hoping to create new customer relationships. In short, just about anyone in any business runs into the challenge of talking about themselves … while putting their focus on somebody else. The idea is to speak about the people you before yoou launch into how perfect you are for the job. In other words, frame their description of their own value in the context of what a potential employer needs. The way to do that is to talk about the people you serve first. And then, when they’ve established that you “get” those people, describe the value you would bring to the organization.

It’s All About the Energy

It’s All About the Energy

It’s all about the energy. You’ve heard the punditry, I’m sure. Surprise! The president of the United States is an older guy, and sometimes he wanders off topic or mixes up a few facts. This is not a news flash, is it?  Still, that report from the Justice Department’s Special Counsel is getting a lot of attention, and it puts Joe Biden in a pickle, along with the Democrats who’d like to see him re-elected. The funny thing is, Biden’s all-but-certain opponent is not much younger. And Donald Trump is at least as likely as Biden to misstate facts, confuse names, places, and dates, and say things that just don’t add up. And yet, Trump gets a pass from his voters and from the media, in a way that Biden just doesn’t. What gives? And how can our businesses benefit from understanding it?

Feet First …

Feet First …

Feet first. Where are your feet? Seriously. Check in and notice your feet now. Are you sitting at a desk with your legs crossed or are both feet on the floor? Sprawled in a comfy chair, your feet tucked up beside you? You could even be lying in bed, checking your email before you get up and start your day. Any of those positions are fine for article-reading. A friend reminded me the other day how important our feet are in other situations. “People need to be more grounded,” he said. And he’s right. In meetings, in virtual presentations, even in casual conversations, your feet set the stage for what we hear from you. Our conversation about being grounded took me back to a Sunday morning, and a group of seven or eight, sitting in a circle of folding chairs. Each of us with a chance to express our experience, our emotions, and our point of view.

Tell Me About Your Sorrow

Tell Me About Your Sorrow

Tell me about your sorrow. Still with me? What went through your mind when you saw that title, “Tell me about your sorrow”? Did you contemplate skipping this one, moving on to some other, cheerier subject line? “10X your business before summer” or something like that? Mostly, we shy away from even acknowledging sorrow or suffering. When it’s our own, we might ignore it, eat about it, drink about it, or use drugs to block it out. Or maybe we stay busy, trying to bury it in frenetic activity. There are a lot of ways to turn away from our own sorrow. And when it’s somebody else who’s suffering?

Professional etiquette? What IS that?

Professional etiquette? What IS that?

Professional etiquette? What IS that? So, I’m about to do a program on Professional Etiquette. And I was surprised at the invitation, to tell you the truth. Do professionals—or anyone else—care about etiquette anymore? It’s sort of a fusty word, don’t you think? “Etiquette” conjures up Emily Post, Amy Vanderbilt, and wearing white gloves to fortnightly, sitting with our ankles crossed and our hands demurely folded in our laps. Does that make me sound old-fashioned? “Étiquette,” it turns out, has been around since the 15th century, French for “ticket.” The meaning was later expanded to include “proper court behavior.” That’s “court” as in the royal court, not the traffic court where we, today, might deal with a ticket. What about now? Brittanica tells us etiquette is “a system of rules and conventions that regulate social and professional behavior.” Truth be told, I’m not that fond of rules.

Ready to Face Your Face?

Ready to Face Your Face?

Ready to Face Your Face? It’s there in our inboxes, social media feeds, even in our old-fashioned physical mailboxes, the ones by our front doors. The message shows up over and over again. Fix your face and fix your life. A bit of Botox here, a little filler there, perhaps a peel … and you’ll be radiant. Youthful, or at least youthful-looking. And your personal and professional dreams will come true. The message is seductive, even to young women whose faces are just fine. And certainly, to older women who are painfully aware our faces no longer quite fit the American standard of youth and beauty. At the New York Times, Jessica Grose points out, “according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, neuromodulator injection, which includes the use of Botox, was up a staggering 73% in 2022 compared with 2019.”
Maybe you, too, have been tempted to try enhancing what Nature gave you. Or diminishing what Nature has doled out over the years. I’ve been tempted, and I succumbed, way back in the pre-Zoom days of 2018.

What Are We Having Tonight?

What Are We Having Tonight?

What are we having tonight? You’ve heard the same things from some perky server at a restaurant you frequent, haven’t you?
“How are we doing this evening?” “Would we like to hear about the specials?” “Will we be having dessert tonight?” This seems to be the convention in the restaurant business. You hear it all the time, whether you’re lunching at the local diner, taking the kids out to a family restaurant, or splurging on dinner at fancy-pants steakhouse. Clearly some hospitality industry consultants are teaching servers to talk that way. I’m guessing they believe it will help them bond with diners who will then order more food, spend more money, and leave a larger tip. Here’s the thing: I don’t know anybody who relishes being on the receiving end of that forced, phony patter. It feels like fake intimacy …

Starting Fresh

Starting Fresh

Starting fresh. You may know that I’ve been very much occupied caring for my husband, Frank, and wrapping things up after his death in November. The question confronting me now is, “What’s next?” And that’s where you come in. Even as a full-time caregiver, I was doing a bit of part-time coaching with clients who wanted to be better at speaking and networking, and were willing to give me some grace if I needed to interrupt our work to tend to Frank. Speaking? That’s been off the table since I had to call a friend to fill in for a gig back in June. I was headed to the ER—again!—instead of Zooming into a meeting to coach jobseekers about framing their talents and skills for their interviews. I stopped scheduling speaking engagements after that. Well, the New Year is a perfect time to relaunch, isn’t it?

Do They Like You? Are You Sure?

Do They Like You? Are You Sure?

Do they like you? Are you sure? It’s been years, but the memory still stings. That program director, sitting across the desk, telling me they were letting me go because, “People just don’t like you.” Well, you can imagine how that felt. Not only was I unemployed and staring straight at social and financial ruin. As the guy said when I pressed for some further explanation, I was also “just not likeable.” Yikes! In hindsight, I’m not totally sure he was right about me. I am sure that being likeable is important, and not just in radio. Relationships matter, whatever kind of work we do. It’s not enough to be bright, to have an advanced degree or years of experience. What are sometimes dismissed as “soft skills” turn out to be essential elements of success. Here are five of them…