Thomas McAteer loves to put on a show. An expert in theater, McAteer is a master of creating an illusion for an audience. His players use words and body language to express emotion, and convey messages.

But McAteer isn’t in the theater business, at least not anymore. Today, he is in the restaurant industry, working as maitre d’ at the new Agricola restaurant on Witherspoon Street. He has reached high levels both on the stage and in the front end of restaurants and discovered there are great similarities between the two performance venues.

“The theater experience feeds very much into the service experience. It’s about being able to keep the illusion alive: the illusion that even though you are there day in and day out meeting hundreds of people, that each person is new and fresh and genuinely welcome,” he says. “You must be aware of the messages you are sending and how you send them.”

McAteer, who grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the son of a housewife and a garage owner. He has had dual careers in theater and in restaurants since he arrived in the U.S. in 1979. He was onstage and behind the scenes as co-artistic director of the Mirror Theater Company. He was also at one time the maitre d’ of the Russian Tea Room in New York and previously owned a wine bar in Ireland.

McAteer says the dining experience is as much about the performance of the staff as it is about the food. “People are going out to eat with expectations, and the food is only part of it,” he says. “If you paid $27 for a piece of chicken and it’s served in a bare room, you will be disappointed. If you paid $27 for a piece of chicken and everything around you is beautifully executed, it’s worth every penny. The added value is in the service.”

This is true not only for restaurants, but for any business that involves customer service. McAteer says businesses that pay minimum wage to poorly trained and unmotivated employees who are the face of their companies are making a big mistake.

“Why would you spend $5 million building a restaurant and then hire someone for $8 an hour to man the front door?” he says. “I believe you get what you expect. You need to raise expectations. I’ve found throughout the years that there are some remarkable people working in the service industry who are under-engaged and under-utilized.”

One key to getting good employees to engage the customers better is a bit counter-intuitive coming from a theater pro: don’t give anyone a script, McAteer says.

“Nothing is more unauthentic than someone saying something by rote,” he says. “You want them to engage the person the same way an actor engages the audience, not the part you wanted them to, but all of them. Nothing resonates better than authenticity.”

McAteer hopes to improve expectations in the local service industry by teaching business owners about how to apply various aspects of performance to their establishments. He has done this kind of work before: while he was working for the Mirror, he led a series of workshops in city schools and even Rikers Island prison, teaching students and inmates alike how they could use the dramatic arts in everyday life.

One of the most important lessons he teaches is about body language. “First of all, be aware of it,” he says. “We tend to teach service staff and waiters to read the customer. But they forget the customer is reading them just as much. You need to be aware of the space you occupy, and what you are doing. What you say and how you say it is more important than the actual words in the sense that, if you tell someone you are happy to see them, and not saying it with a ‘happy to see them’ face and tone of voice, they will pick up on the emotional value of what they see, and that has an impact. All those things affect your relationship with the customers.”

“If the employees feel they are onstage the moment they are in the workplace, their behavior is different.”

McAteer, says theater is a great tool for making someone aware of how their own behavior affects others. “Theater is not just about entertaining,” he says. “It’s a very useful tool.”

— Diccon Hyatt

Reprinted from the June 19, 2013, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

#b#Why Good Storytellers Make Good Leaders#/b#

People remember stories, not facts and figures, according to Patti Anesetti. “In this busy world of today, so much information and detail is communicated to us that often presentations tend to be a data dump,” says Anesetti, of TaskLogic Group LLC. But those “data dumps” are often forgotten as soon as the next set of facts and statistics comes along. The way to persuade people as well as to teach them is to make your case through stories.

Anesetti, the founder and president of the Mahwah-based consulting company, is an organizational development consultant to numerous Fortune 500 companies. She manages high-profile engagements for internal and external clientele. She is credited with improving the profitability, market share, and operational effectiveness of global organizations, where she has consistently increased productivity by a minimum of 50 percent in all of her engagements.

A native of New York, Anesetti received a bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Buffalo in 1983. “I wanted to make an impact in adult education,” she says, so she joined Manufacturers Hanover as a trainer. “I moved logically from training to organizational development to coaching,” she explains, and eventually opened TaskLogic 11 years ago.

Anesetti also holds a master of science in educational technology and adult learning from Ramapo College, is certified in distance learning, is a certified coach, and holds a number of professional program certifications. She has been an active member of ASTD and SHRM.

“We know that using data and metrics is a surefire way for human resources professionals to elevate their game and demonstrate that they can talk the same language as business leaders.

“But PowerPoint slides, data, and metrics should only be the backdrop to the story we use to make our case,” says Anesetti. “Facts aren’t influential and don’t change how people think until they mean something to someone. It is the power of the story that converts data into engaging, enlightened, and interesting discussion.”

Being able to tell a good story is the critical element in any presentation or conversation where a person wants to make a point, gain support, or influence someone. “Always give as much information as you can,” says Anesetti, but also remember that the way in which that information is presented is important.

Anesetti adds that there is often a lack of communication between people in technical fields and those in marketing or administration. The divide isn’t just between people in different parts of a company, but between people with differing styles of communication. Anesetti discusses the “big picture” people versus those whose orientation is technical and detailed.

“When you begin a meeting with someone it is important to quickly pick up on their style and then communicate your information to them in the way that they will best understand and appreciate it,” she says.

— Karen Hodges Miller

Reprinted from the January 9, 2013, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

#b#Visual Cues For Negotiators#/b#

It is just another business cocktail party, but Greg Williams has come here for a very special bit of business. Standing quietly in the corner, Williams scrutinizes the elegantly dressed CEO holding forth across the room. The man greets each newcomer, clasping their outstretched palm with both hands. This can be the sign that the CEO is a genuinely warm-hearted soul or that he is a control seeker. Judging from the glint in the CEO’s eye, Williams opts for the latter.

Tomorrow, Williams will be negotiating a contract with this man, and he has come here to assess him on neutral ground. The body language is telling Williams that he will have to employ terms like “as you have just pointed out” and words that will delude our CEO into thinking that he is always comfortably in control.

Growing up bone-edge poor in Philadelphia, Williams watched his mother and grandmother bargain every purchase down to the last nickel. He graduated from Penn State University in 1974 with a dual major in data processing and business and also took psychology and linguistics courses.

Using these skills in his early information tech positions, he worked his way to the C-suite, and then became the chair of the New Jersey Business Development Authority. “I was always negotiating contracts for small businesses in that post,” Williams says.

Williams also kept his mind active and his pocketbook filled as a professional blackjack player. “I started out as a card-counter,” Williams says. “Then I learned to win without counting by just reading the table.”

Author of “Negotiate: Afraid, ‘Know’ More — How to Negotiate Your Way Into Success,” Williams also passes on his knowledge as an international speaker and as a private consultant out of his Roselle office (

“Negotiation, any negotiation, is mostly a matter of mindset,” says Williams, “and it is best to determine exactly the attitudes of each stakeholder sooner rather than later.”

Most negotiators believe in entering the fray toting arm loads of factual ammunition and even some clever, pre-scripted phrases. But negotiations are conversations between individual people — not a duel of facts. Knowing the person is more vital than combatively pre-judging the content of his discourse.

Williams suggests finding or setting up a non-threatening atmosphere beforehand in which you can pre-acquaint yourself with a person’s signals. Make some small talk and watch.

For example, most people look up and to the left to recall an item, e.g. “Let’s see, I had the trout for dinner last night.” Gazing up and to the right, however indicates use of the creative side of one’s brain, e.g. “Why yes, I had that delicious trout almandine, and you will not believe the CEO who dropped by.” Actually, you are right. I won’t believe it.

A host of other small signals will be broadcast, and the reason for them can be made apparent and placed in your negotiating arsenal:

Pressed lips — This gesture might indicate dislike, an attempt at sexual appeal, or a prelude to a smile. What is it with this person?

Eyes — Beyond the left/right gaze, is she looking at you with interest, or with a squinting focus and an intent to dig something out.

Hands — At ease in your presence? If not, where do they travel as you bring up different subjects?

Feet — have they begun to point away from you in an attempt to leave you and the conversation?

The negotiator who enters the hall with the intention of triumphing over his opponent is owned by that opponent. He is giving them the lead and ends up only combatively countering. If you are able to radiate the feeling that we are all good folks here and what we all want is to see this deal accomplished to everyone’s benefit, half the battle is yours. And your nights before and after will prove a lot more restful.

The art of negotiation takes time and practice. And speaking of time, Williams offers one final ray of hope: the more time you take, the more likely you are to make a deal. So hang onto your patience.

— Bart Jackson

Reprinted from the March 27, 2013, issue of U.S. 1.

#b#Presenting Your Best, Most Brilliant Self#/b#

‘Every encounter is an opportunity to positively influence clients, colleagues, neighbors — even competitors,” says Frances Cole Jones, a writer and editor who consults on preparation for interviews. “Not only your words, but your tone of voice and body language speak volumes. The question is: are they working together to say what you want them to as effectively as possible?”

Jones is the author of “How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation” and “The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World.” She has also developed an iPhone and iPad app called “Interview Wow” to give job seekers tips and encouragement.

She appears frequently on ABC and Fox News and is a business etiquette expert for Demand Media’s eHow video series, and a job interview expert for She speaks frequently around the country on topics such as “10 Things You Can Do Today to Wow Tomorrow,” “Catch Your Customer’s Attention — Keep Their Trust,” and “The Art of Sales.”

Jones received a degree in English and creative writing in 1986 from Connecticut College and a master’s from New York University. In 1997 She founded Cole Media Management, a media training company focused on cultivating clients’ strengths to develop more powerful communication skills.

Prior to founding her own business, Jones worked in publishing, as an editor of commercial nonfiction. Says Jones: “The experience of helping authors translate their ideas into books that retain their unique voice” led her to working with them on their presentation skills, also. “There’s no point in my writing a perfectly crafted sound bite that you have to strain to remember. You need to sound like you. You on your best day.”

Her father worked at a variety of careers, “everything from meat packer to writing books to working for a group that detected art forgeries,” she says. Her mother was employed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

She says she was made aware of the power of presenting yourself properly from an early age. “It was rather like the Von Trapp Family in my house,” she says, referring to “The Sound of Music.” Her father would line her and her brother and sister up in the hallway to practice shaking hands. “I remember doing this as early as four years old. And he always told us to look the other person straight in the eye.”

Those early lessons have paid off, she says. She still emphasizes the need for eye contact to her clients.

Getting What You Want. Better presentation skills mean you are more likely to get what you ask for, and the person you are asking will also get what they want. A win-win, says Jones. But many people sabotage a great presentation by the way that they present themselves.

It’s not enough to have the words perfect. Studies have shown that people remember only 7 percent of what is said to them. But 55 percent of physical presentation is remembered. That means that the tone of your voice, your body language, and your facial expressions are more important than your words.

Creating Trust. “People trust us more when they can see our hands,” notes Jones. Make sure that you don’t discuss money with your hands out of sight. Keep them on the table. And that casual pose with hands in pockets is not saying that you are relaxed, but rather that you may not be trustworthy.

We are rarely consciously aware of these subtle reactions, but differences in voice, in the way we stand or sit, and in eye contact can impact others strongly. “That too-cool-for-school pose when you sit down in a chair and lean back with your arm flung over the side is not flattering,” says Jones. It says we are uninterested in the other person.

Instead, make sure you sit with your feet flat on the floor, and have an upright, slightly off the back of the chair posture. “Not leaning too far forward, just slightly,” says Jones. This shows interest in the other person.

Maintaining Eye Contact. Eye contact is important, particularly when speaking to groups, says Jones. “You want to check in with your audience and see how they are reacting, not just look over their heads.”

Another tip for speaking in public is to stop frequently and invite questions.

Jones wants people to learn that they have far more control — even in situations that they feel are out of their control — than they realize.

“What I want people to take away from listening to me is that speaking in public is not as difficult as people would have you believe. It is easy to get good at it, and a lot of it is just practice and common sense.

“I want to pull the curtain back and help take the mystery out of being good at making presentations.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Reprinted from the April 10, 2013, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

#b#Making Your Brand Work For You#/b#

Coca Cola is worth $100 billion, but only a small fraction of that amount represents trucks, factories, offices, and beverages. “Coca Cola’s brand is worth $72 billion,” says branding expert Suzanne Pease, owner of Ampersand Graphics. “Image is worth much more than fixed assets.” This is true for Coke, which has become shorthand for any cola drink, and it is true for small businesses and entrepreneurs as well.

“Anybody can make soda, it’s not that hard,” Pease says. The same could be said for any number of products or services. The key to getting them into customers’ hands in nearly every case is branding, and that’s no small thing. Doing a really good job, she says, “takes many years and lots of money.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Pease moved with her parents, a welder and a stay-at-home mom-turned- secretary, to a tiny town in Louisiana when she was a teenager. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Louisiana and a master’s degree from Washington State University. She moved to New Jersey with her husband, Rod, now retired, when he accepted an AT&T posting in the state.

Pease advises owners of start-ups, her favorite clients, to think carefully about just what their business is and who its customers will be before they spend a penny on a logo, a slogan, a sign, or a website. But she herself didn’t follow this advice, not at first. Her business began by accident, and followed along for some time, quite successfully, as the result of a chance meeting in a coffee shop 25 years ago.

“My son’s school was having a building campaign,” she says. She decided to draw a rendering of the new building as a gift for the school and was working on the project in a coffee shop when an architect happened in and asked if she did freelance work. The heretofore stay-at-home mom said “Yes” without hesitation, and her business, Architectural Illustrations, was born on the spot.

Pease enjoyed doing the renderings and her business flourished for eight years or so. Then two things happened: Housing starts fell dramatically and builders’ demand for renderings of model homes plummeted.

At the same time, Pease, who can’t say enough about the help that NAWBO has been to her business, was getting more and more work from fellow NAWBO members who wanted logos or full branding campaigns. Her work had evolved beyond architectural renderings. She had outgrown her name.

Pease changed her company’s name to Ampersand to illustrate that her company was architectural drawings and logos and print campaigns and brand consulting and possibly branding and design services that didn’t even exist when she was rebranding herself some 17 years ago. She urges entrepreneurs to also slow down and begin to develop a brand that can expand and change as they do.

An example of a group that tends not to follow this advice, she says, is banks. They may start out in a town or section of a state or region and name themselves after their location. But as they move into other markets, the name may no longer represent their range. Rebranding may be the only choice, but, Pease points out, “it is very expensive.” And the highest cost is rarely in the dollars spent on new logos and signs. “You lose your equity in the brand,” she says.

If rebranding becomes necessary, she says, do it “slowly, over time, or with a tagline that links you to the brand.”

Think twice about branding around price. Start-ups need to decide whether they want to be known as the least expensive option or the best option, says Pease, who has seen that competing on price is awfully hard to do profitably. In her view it is generally better to go for value and service.

Be known for consistency. Whether a start-up chooses to be known as the low price choice or the top quality choice, Pease says that consistency is essential from top to bottom in creating a brand.

Starting out with colors and fonts, the start-up should make sure that every type of branding — from letterhead to website — is uniform. Don’t let a web developer tell you that a font similar to that in your print ads is good enough, she says. Insist on uniformity.

Aspire to be a big brown truck. “You want to get to the point where people don’t even have to read your words,” says Pease. The ultimate goal of branding is to be so closely associated with dog grooming or financial planning or lawn maintenance in the area in which you do business that customers and potential customers just have to get a quick glimpse of your truck or your license plate or your pleasant face in a crowd to bring the positives of your business to the forefront of their consciousness.

“When you see blue and red on a soda machine, you know it’s Pepsi,” Pease gives as an example. “When you see golden arches, you know it’s McDonalds.” And when you see a big brown truck with gold lettering, you think UPS.

“You want to be that big brown truck,” Pease says. Doing so takes work and cash, but given time and consistency it is within the reach of every small business.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

Reprinted from the May 15, 2013, issue of U.S. 1.

#b#Developing Your Leadership Voice#/b#

Whatever you think about her message that women need to “lean in” to get ahead in their careers, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has become a role model for women’s leadership communication, according to Robyn Odegaard. “Sandberg has overcome biases and found her leadership voice and the courage to advocate for her own best interests, something that our culture discourages in girls and women,” says Odegaard, whose business is called Champion Performance Development.

Odegaard grew up in Texas, where her father ran a ranch and taught school. She received her bachelors in psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and her doctorate in applied organizational psychology with a concentration in performance and sport from Rutgers.

She is the author of the book, “Stop the Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams,” where she shows high school and college-aged women how to use effective communication and productive conflict to eliminate gossip, backstabbing, and catty behavior and achieve more from their potential.

“Communicating authentically is often a challenge for many women, and many do not know how to have a tough conversation,” she says. The problem begins early in life. “Watch a group of young boys on the playground. One of them starts to cry. The other boys ask why he is crying and he says it is because he hasn’t had enough turns at bat. The boys rearrange the order and make sure he gets his time at bat. Problem solved.”

Now watch girls at play. When one of them gets upset the group gathers around. They discuss the emotions. “Women are more likely to concede to something they don’t want just to avoid conflict,” Odegaard says.

Nice girl syndrome. “Nice girls don’t argue. Nice girls don’t cause conflict. Nice girls are friendly. That is what we teach young women, but too often these messages get translated into ‘Nice girls never say something mean to someone’s face, better to say it behind their back.’” Odegaard says. Unfortunately, in the workplace, this can destroy a team culture or turn into emotional bullying.

“The reason the project failed is that no one else worked as hard as I did,” is one typical example of the type of cattiness that can seriously undermine team spirit. In fact, much of our television culture not only emphasizes, but praises this type of behavior, Odegaard says.

“As a whole we are failing young women. We are not providing them with the skills to deal with conflict in a productive way. We don’t teach the communication skills they need to be able to have tough conversations, work through an issue and move on. We don’t hold them accountable to owning their own feelings about a situation and speaking directly to the person with whom they have an issue. Sadly, we even encourage cattiness and drama by glorifying it on reality TV.”

A Better Way. One strong characteristic many women have is their ability to collaborate. Brainstorming and talking through an idea to reach the best solution is where they can shine. Understanding how to take advantage of each person’s strengths without alienating your teammates will go a long way to creating a team that meets and even exceeds the sum of its parts.

— Karen Hodges Miller

Reprinted from the May 29, 2013, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

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