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. 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. 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?
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.
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 ...