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These articles have been adapted from the weekly Survival Guide
section for 2005 for the January 4, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.
All rights reserved.
Launching Your Career
Thanks to the Internet, everyone with a keyboard can now be a
published author, and anyone with a webcam and a broadband connection
can be a video performer. While the Internet may make books, and even
this newspaper, eventually obsolete (or take on a radical new form),
the Internet will also demand more from us as writers and spekers.
Every audience is bathed in information and entertainment around the
clock, making it increasingly more difficult to get – and keep – their
We begin this section on personal and career growth with advice on how
to deliver a message that will cut through Information Age clutter and
reach its mark.
`Your words should reflect who you are," says Roger Shapiro. In the
age of E-mail this fact is worth thinking about. "Before beginning a
writing project, you need to understand its objective," adds Shapiro,
the founder of Mitchell Rose, a communication consulting firm at 2500
"Often a client will come in and ask for a brochure. When I ask them
why they need it, they don’t know," says Shapiro. A brochure, or other
piece of marketing literature, should not just share information. "It
should have a purpose," he says. "It should be designed to generate
leads or to increase sales, but sharing information just for the sake
of sharing information is a waste of money."
Founder of the Mitchell Rose full-service marketing firm
(www.mitchellrose.net), he is also an instructor at Mercer County
Community College, and is the author of "Write Right: 26 Tips You Can
Apply Right Now to Improve Your Writing Dramatically."
His book doesn’t suggest that there is only one way to write well.
"Everyone has a different style of writing and no one can replace that
creative genius," says Shapiro. While not everyone has a talent to
easily and quickly write creative copy, there are technical aspects to
writing that can be taught.
"You can do concrete things right now to make your work stronger," he
says. These are simple things anyone can do to make sure that writing
achieves the desired results. His book is divided into one to
three-page tips that can be applied easily to a particular project.
Some of his tips:
Issue a call to action. How often have you received a brochure or
other piece of advertising in the mail and wondered why you received
it? What does the advertiser want you to do? "You must direct the
reader to take action, motivate them to do something," says Shapiro.
Make sure your copy includes statements like, "Place Your Order Now,"
"Click Here," or "Call Today."
"Know what objective you want from your reader. What words will
motivate your reader to that action?"
Make your phone number easy to find. While at first glance this may
seem obvious, Shapiro says he is amazed at the number of times it is a
challenge to find a company’s phone number on a brochure or
advertisement. Remember, if they can’t contact you, the most well
written advertisement is still a failure.
Eliminate prepositions. Words such as "at," "by," "with," "from,"
"on," and "in" make your sentences longer and keep the reader from
getting to the primary message right away, says Shapiro. "While you
can’t eliminate every preposition, evaluate them and decide if they
are really necessary."
Watch your language. Make sure your grammar is correct and that you
have used words correctly and consistently, says Shapiro. "A reader
may not consciously notice it," he says, but sloppy writing will
reflect badly on your company.
E-mails are one area of business writing where sloppiness abounds,
says Shapiro. "An E-mail can be a very powerful and persuasive
sentence or two. Your approach to writing still should not change. You
are writing because you want a response back, `Yes, I will meet with
People are often too casual in writing letters or E-mails, he says.
"They don’t proofread and there are misspelled words and other
mistakes." Even if the E-mail is less formal "it should still be
grammatically correct." Shapiro recommends the AP Stylebook as a great
resource for correct grammar and usage.
Use statistics. Numbers are "a hook that a person can easily latch
onto and quickly grasp a concept,"
Write for one reader. Writing good advertising copy is "like playing
one-on-one basketball with your reader," says Shapiro. "You need to
personalize it and create an emotional link with your reader. Each
person cares most about his own needs and requirements." He suggests
using words such as "you" and "I" rather than "us" and "them" to help
make that connection.
"Even if you are writing copy for a billboard, think about making it
personal," he says. "Maybe 100,000 people will drive by and look at it
but you are writing for that one right person who will make a
"If you adopt even one tip, your writing will improve," says Shapiro.
"When you use them all each time you write, you will propel yourself
into the unique class of writers who develop communications that
generate measurable results and achieve objectives."
Knees and joints only last so long. Few men have had this point
pounded home more forcefully than NFL offensive lineman Brian
Baldinger (www.footballstories.com). After a lifetime of playing
football and basketball, including 10 grinding years for the Dallas
Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, then the Philadelphia Eagles, it was time
for a new career. Sports announcing would make a graceful retirement,
he thought. But to be one of those rare ex-jocks who make it in this
competitive field, Baldinger realized he needed more than an
encyclopedic knowledge of the gridiron.
Seeking a new coach, he turned to Nadine Fischer, founder of Nadia
Communications Inc. of Westhampton (22.214.171.124) Baldinger,
with coaching from Fischer, has succeeded at making the leap from the
playing field to the announcer’s booth. He announces for NFL Europe
for FOX, is a game analyst for the NFL, hosts Sports Talk NJ for CN8,
and co-hosts the new One-On-One-Sports radio show.
Fisher herself is the equivalent of an NFL-level player in the
communications coaching field. A native of Morristown, she earned her
B.A. in speech and dramatics from Montclair University in l969,
followed by a masters in speech and language pathology from the
College of New Jersey. She has gained a host of professional study
certifications including psycholinguistics and the neurology of human
behavior from Harvard.
Fischer draws a sharp line between talking and communicating your
point. Just because you talk a lot, doesn’t mean you’re very good at
it. An active executive may speak 25,000 words during the work day.
The question is: How many of these words are actually communicating a
message? And how many of those messages are the ones you intended? As
with anything, sheer dint of repetition will only carry your speaking
skills so far.
Message mapping. "We live in a data smogged society," says Fischer.
"Amidst all the stuff thrown at us, you have to thoughtfully encode
your message and make it memorable." The biggest blunder Fisher sees
with speakers, however brilliant, is the tendency to gush. They add to
the data avalanche, rather than editing their speech concisely.
Message mapping primarily entails setting priorities. First determine
your message. This is not so much what the speaker says, but what
concept he wants the audience to carry away. What understanding do you
want your communication to create? From there, work out a process
leading your audience to the conclusion of your message. Too often
speakers get fixed on a medium before even discerning their own
All too familiar is the thought pattern of "I’m going to make a
PowerPoint presentation; now what should I say?" PowerPoint is merely
fascinating wallpaper. Let the main theme serve as the foundation, and
choose your wallpaper to enhance it, suggests Fischer.
The precious pause. Ours is a society that urges us to fill every
moment with sound. Since we can’t keep our minds racing as fast as our
speech, we often stop and still try to keep control of the
conversation with verbal pauses: "Ahs" and "Uumms." Unfortunately,
such paralanguage only distracts from the speaker and his words. It
takes practice, but it is worth working at eradicating these words.
"Most people need to slow their speech to the pace of their thought,
and effectively employ poignant pauses for emphasis," says
Fischer.When actor John Wayne was first given one-line parts, he
deliberately made pauses to give his face more on-camera time. Later,
after learning how powerful these pauses made his speech, he kept them
Examine the instrument. "Your voice is a powerful instrument, "says
Baldinger. "You have to look inside yourself and find those qualities
you naturally have that appeal to an audience. It’s almost a spiritual
For the visually oriented, speakers must create colorful images; for
the auditory learners, speakers must offer a rich resonance. And for
those who react most strongly to emotional speech, speakers must imbue
their voice with sentiment.
Visualize the audience’s response. Coach Fischer is a great believer
in recording her pupils’ voice and letting them hear themselves as
they truly sound to others. She also shows students their voice
patterns on a spectrograph. During our interview, Fischer noted that
this writer’s voice has a tendency to trail off at the end of
sentences. By watching my speech pattern on screen, I could practice
delivering a stronger finish.
For students requiring an entire change of tone, Fischer employs a
visualization technique. One speaker complained that his recorded
voice always sounded preachy and pompous, as if his every word
required a podium. Her solution: "When you speak, envision yourself
out from behind that podium, sitting in a chair, shirtsleeves rolled
up, conversing with your audience."
Brand your speech. "James Earl Jones is probably the best example of
voice branding," says Fischer. "All of us recognize his voice
instantly – and we pay attention." Such distinctive voice branding
should not involve taking it beyond its normal pitch or forcing it
into something unnatural. But it is possible to study and exaggerate
Tony Curtis began as a striving actor with a "dese, dem, dose" accent
straight out of Brooklyn. To give his speech more leading-man
erudition, he emulated the wildly successful, British-born Cary Grant
and ended up with a Brooklo-Yorkshire tone that invariably marked him
as cultured, suave, yet American.
Both Baldinger and Fischer advocate a more self-developmental
approach. Study, but don’t wholly imitate the best. Rather, try for a
distinctively individualize style based on natural speech.
"It’s all in the training – hard training," says Baldinger. "You would
laugh if you saw me in the car when I’m driving. I’m always doing
vocal strengthening exercises."
In addition to the sound, this athlete trains equally hard on his
content. He has a mental list of 1,500 players complete with personal
anecdotes, and is ready to add them into his speeches and game
commentary. He studies yoga for breath control and avoids "hard
partying" to keep his voice pure. "I said that when I went into this
business, I was going to be better than I was as a player on the
field," he says. His growing list of network contracts suggests that
he has met his goal.
When a psychologist starts to wonder about her own performance as a
singer, she does what she’s trained to do – she noses around in the
literature until she finds out the whats, whys, and wherefores. In the
case of Pamela Enders (email@example.com), it was sports
literature that helped her move from performance anxiety to relaxation
and enjoyment. She now applies what she has learned from this
literature to performance in both corporate and performance situations
through workshops and individual and group coaching.
Mental toughness is a term that emerged from research in sports
psychology. Enders defines it as "the ability to consistently perform
toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of
competitive circumstances. It is the constellation of psychological
and cognitive qualities that determine one’s competitive edge." She
cites five mental factors necessary for excellent performance:
Reboundability. The ability to mentally bounce back from setbacks and
Ability to handle pressure and stay calm in the clutch.
Concentration. The ability to focus on what’s important and block out
everything else. Trial lawyers in the middle of a trial, for example,
must concentrate on cross-examinations no matter what else is
happening in the courtroom.
Says Enders, "the good news about mental toughness is that these
skills can be trained and taught."
Enders’ work is based on psychological theories, one of which
describes concentration, suggesting that it can be focused either
internally or externally, and either broadly, looking at the big
picture, or narrowly, focusing on one thing. This theory implies four
types of concentration:
Broad, external. Used to quickly read and react to the world around
you. When lawyers walk into a courtroom, they use this to size up the
jury, see who the witnesses are, and see what the other side looks
like. Basketball players would use this to decide where to move the
ball on the court.
Broad, internal. "Lawyers and CEOs tend to favor this one," says
Enders. "It is used for big picture work." It involves taking
information from the environment and using it to analyze issues, solve
problems, and plan strategy for the future.
Narrow, internal. Used to rehearse an activity or a speech. It focuses
on only one thing and involves systematically repeating the activity
Narrow, external. Used to hit a ball, shoot a basket, or sink a putt.
When balls are coming to batters, they must ignore the fans screaming,
the other team, and focus only on the ball.
"It is important to know what type of concentration is required for
each kind of action," says Enders, "and to become aware of what might
interfere with concentration." She cites two major types of
distraction: external, which includes things like noise, people
talking, or the weather; and internal, which involves things like not
feeling well physically or engaging in internal dialogue.
Enders tries to help people become aware of negative thinking that can
undermine their performance. "It is often so automatic that people are
not aware of it," she says. "They are just aware of the consequences –
anxiety and depression." A batter in a dugout who is up next with
bases loaded and a tie score in the ninth inning may be thinking,
quite unconsciously: How can I possibly get a hit? I struck out last
inning. But if the batter is aware of these negative thoughts, he can
change them into something positive, like thinking about his RBIs and
hits during the preceding week."
"Changing this way of negative thinking," says Enders, "you must be
able to dispute and debate your negative thoughts." The first step is
to evaluate the beliefs expressed in these negative thoughts. Enders
describes the thought process you might use to debate these beliefs:
Evaluate the evidence to see if the belief is true. Although the
baseball player did not do too well in this game, in the previous
three games he had RBIs and a home run, and he has a contract for $X
million. "Most of time you will have reality on your side," says
Think about alternative explanations for the belief. "Many events have
many causes," she says. The baseball player may not be doing well
today because of a pulled muscle, a bad cold, fatigue, or simply
because he didn’t practice enough the previous day.
Analyze the implications of the belief. For the player it is that he
will be lousy today in the batter’s box. If the negative belief is
correct, which it sometimes is, then the person must decide what steps
to take to address the problem and to develop an action plan. The
batter might need to work closely with the coach, get feedback, and
find out what is wrong.
"Too often," says Enders, "people give up." She advises developing an
objective, dispassionate perspective – as if someone else has the
`My vision is to take the boring out of the board room," says Eileen
Sinett. As a speech and presentation coach she has worked for over 25
years to "give people comfort and authenticity in speaking to groups."
Sinett’s Plainsboro-based company is Comprehensive Communications
Services (609-799-1400). "I want the speaker to transcend the
information," she says. "The speaker should be as memorable, and as
remembered." Her advice includes:
Begin with the end. Think about what you want to leave behind. What is
the outcome that you want from this speech? The map, or plan, of the
speech is the final step in preparation. "This is not an outline like
we learned in high school," says Sinett. Instead, she sees the plan of
the speech "more as a landscape or a flow chart. It allows you to use
both the right and left sides of your brain."
Sinett suggests a number of formats to help the speaker plan the
presentation. She sometimes uses the outline of a hand to illustrate
her point. The thumb is the opening and the little finger is the
closing of the speech. The three fingers in between are the major
points of the presentation, while the webbing that connects the
fingers are the transitions from one point to the next.
Use a map strategy. Changing from an outline to a map strategy of
speech planning, "gives you double the benefit with no additional
effort," says Sinett. A second possible format for her presentation
map is a quadrant, with boxes or circles above and below for the
opening and closing. "You can color-code your quadrants and as you
them, you see everything you need at a glance," she explains.
By using color, text, and shape to develop the presentation, "you
improve your retention" of the content of the speech, she says. It
becomes one less thing to be worried about when making your
Limit the number of concepts. A speech or presentation should include
no more than one to three concepts, says Sinett. "Most people can
retain three to five ideas, plus or minus two. That’s between one and
seven ideas that they will remember. If your presentation involves
more concepts, you risk your audience not remembering them," she adds.
Stand up straight. A major piece of the presentation is "what the body
is doing in front of the audience," Sinett says. "Speaking in front of
a large group is not the typical routine for most of us. There is
adrenaline and excitement. The body reacts unconsciously to that."
Unconscious mannerisms can often become distracting to listeners.
Small mannerisms, such as picking at nails or straightening a tie,
will distract the listener. The speaker may move too much, or may not
move enough, making themselves "seem dead," she says.
Add energy. "The presence and connection between the spirit and the
body is the essence of the message," says Sinett. "You want to make
your presentation be alive. That is what makes it different from
watching something on a video or reading it in a paper. It should be
memorable and charismatic."
Leaders are heroic, strong, and flawless. On the battlefield, we
envision Alexander; in the board room, it’s giants like Morgan,
Rockefeller, and Gates. The rest of us think we must muddle along as
mere managers. But Stephen Payne, founder of Leadership Strategies
(609-921-3399), which has its offices at Research Park, just doesn’t
Ask any hunter in England. For generations, the Payne family name has
marked the finest in hand made sporting guns. It is from this heritage
of individual craftsmen working with pride on precision instruments
that Payne developed his ideals of what breeds success in business.
"Probably the greatest misconception about leadership comes from a
system that assures us that we are no good at leading and there is
nothing we can do about it," says Payne. A leader is someone, anyone,
who can get the right people behind the right project and inspire them
to do their best. Most of us have done this sporadically already.
Payne merely wants executives to expand it into their major goal.
Hand in glove. "Simply, your business will never grow if you don’t,"
says Payne. To head a bigger company, you yourself must become a
bigger person and a stronger leader. First, you must discover your own
strengths and define them sharply. Then, define with equal clarity the
precise goals of your business. Every meeting you call must be aimed
toward the goal. And your personal strengths must be applied to those
areas of optimum effect. In short, you will be constantly thinking,
and it will become contagious.
Flawed leaders. Every year thousands of consultants pocket millions of
dollars by pointing out some employee’s weaknesses and trying to coach
them into strengths. Payne believes that people were not born to be
crammed into petrified job descriptions, but rather that descriptions
should be flexed to the individual. Each executive should vigorously
define his weaknesses, along with his strengths, and then should note
exactly what he can do best. The rest should be delegated.
You may be a remarkably inventive entrepreneur who cannot crunch
numbers or market to save your fiscal life. You can invest time and
funds and raise yourself to almost adequate in either of these fields.
Or you can seize the leadership opportunity and set some accounting
and marketing experts on the fast track of their own personal
strength, teaming them with yours.
The great fertilizer. An aged university professor once remarked
sagely: "Out there among us right now are better poets than Homer and
better playwrights than Shakespeare. It is our job to find them."
Payne sees this as the goal of every business leader as well. In his
view, a good leader walks the floor of his plant looking at each
employee and saying "what can I do to help you perform, or lead
better?" Much of this entails matching each individual to his greatest
capabilities; then creating the ideal soil in which workers will grow
While Payne believes strongly in leadership meetings and specific
training, he takes a dim view of retreats and team building exercises.
Climbing a wall or going camping is artificial and can prove
distracting. Any group incapable of solving its problems, as he puts
it, "at the kitchen table – in the real world," has something sadly
lacking, and may not be the right team to begin with.
We know how to get there; we just don’t know where to go. Twenty years
ago, the business crisis was inadequately-trained managers. Faced with
global growth, companies pined for executives who could adapt,
negotiate, and compete on a worldwide scale. In answer, MBA schools
rolled up their sleeves, repackaged their curricula, and the corporate
realm quickly got all the properly trained managers it required. They
knew how to guide their firms anywhere.
But today’s business crisis is leaders. There is a need for people
with the vision to point us in the right direction. James Hyman,
president of the Hopewell Community Bank (www.hvcbonline.com), and
Joseph P. Teti, CEO of Triangle Reprocenters (www.triangleart.com),
provide a map for developing leaders.
Teti is always on the lookout for capable new leadership talent. He
admits that he seeks leaders endowed both by nature and nurture – a
mix of learned skills and inherent traits.
Entrepreneurial spirit. While difficult to define, Teti finds this
trait easy to spot. His company includes 11 franchise branches, and he
says that most of the franchise owners have been working class people,
with no family role models of ownership or management. "At the same
time," he says, "their abilities were great and we had not enough
slots in house to hold their ambition."
This is a company owner’s most delicate dilemma. How is it possible to
let the leader forge ahead on his own, yet keep him bound enough to
the firm to bring the others along with him? For Triangle, the
franchise option has proved an excellent solution.
Urge to please. This may not fit the swashbuckling image of America’s
legendary capitalists, but for both Triangle’s Teti and Hopewell
Community Bank’s Hyman it is a top leadership attribute. "Each
individual, whether employee or customer, is unique," says Hyman.
"Each must be motivated in a different way. And a leader has to have
the interpersonal skills to do it."
Accuracy. The larger the business, the more important the details
become. A good business leader constantly absorbs enormous numbers of
facts on which he bases his decisions. The more precise his knowledge,
the better not only his decisions, but those of all the staff. A
passion for accuracy is contagious, Teti says, and it comes from the
Inherent in this striving for accuracy is the ability to carefully
select and delegate to able individuals. If he truly is a leader, the
executive will acknowledge his own weaknesses and surround himself
with experts who can fill in the necessary skills.
Initiative. Annual reviews can bring up the employee mantra: "But I’ve
done everything you’ve asked. What more do you want?" Neither Hyman
nor Teti are seeking the individual who just performs all the tasks or
does his job by rote. "A leader must be able to maneuver within
policy, reason his way through to a solution, and do it on his feet,"
As a final thought, Teti ticks off the obvious, but unfortunately rare
skills that an outstanding leader possesses – an absorbing interest in
the business, ability to meet deadlines, a non-threatening, congenial
persona, and just plain hard work.
"Not everyone has to lead others as an executive," says Teti, "but
everyone can exhibit leadership qualities – being there physically and
mentally, at their best, five days a week."
Add an entrepreneurial spirit to a teacher turned psychologist and you
get Teena Cahill (609-683-0970). In her 50s, having taken time out of
her career to care for her sick husband, she decided she wanted to be
a "top speaker" – nationally. Her first step was to hire a hall in
Florida, invite her friends and neighbors, and give a talk – with all
the action documented by a wedding videographer. She impressed an
agent, and after six months of "begging people to speak" and "trying
to figure out what a hot speaker looks like," she hit the big time.
"Leadership is not about you; it is about the people around you and
what is best for your company," says Cahill. "It is about listening,
developing other people, and setting up a succession so that many can
take over when you are not around." Leadership does not require a
particular personality type, but it does demand self-understanding,
self-care, internal balance, and optimism.
Cahill explains a number of these necessary ingredients for successful
Find your own strengths. The first step is to "find the power to say
no to unrealistic expectations, to distractions, and to things that
suck up time, like the computer," says Cahill. By clearing this
temporal space, "you can say yes to the things you’re really good at"
and that "you love to do." She believes that people can only be
leaders consistent with who they are and what they love to do. "If you
have a passion for something, you will lead about that," she says,
adding that everyone has the capacity to lead, and it’s just a matter
of finding your own strengths.
Understand the need for self care. "If you’re not taking care of
yourself, you can’t be available to anyone else," says Cahill. She
describes an incident in the wake of 9/11 where her own anxieties
prevented her from correctly assessing her granddaughter’s needs.
Picking up her granddaughter at school, Cahill grabbed a globe and
showed her where Afghanistan was, only to be interrupted by "Grandma,
do you want to watch me to do a handstand?" Her granddaughter was
fine, but Cahill’s own fears blinded her to that possibility.
Challenge yourself to look at the world differently. Cahill believes
that although we are hardwired to overcome crisis, this is not true
for the irritations, oppositional people, and communication
difficulties we encounter daily. Through a "cognitive reframe,"
however, we can transform pessimism about these difficulties into
hope, allowing us to move forward despite them.
Learn to be optimistic. "When pessimists make a mistake, they think it
is personal, permanent, and pervasive," says Cahill. Optimists, on the
other hand, look at a mistake and ask: What did I do wrong? What can I
learn from this? "People who are incredibly successful rarely had
success on the first try," she continues, but they learned from their
errors and moved on.
Focus on what you do well. Many people look at themselves and say "50
percent of what I do I’m good at, 50 percent not." Instead of focusing
energy on your weaknesses, Cahill’s advice is to do what you’re good
at 75 percent of the time.
Clump periods of intense work and relax in between. "When you’re in
the middle of a great performance, it’s not time to relax," says
Cahill, except for short breaks every 90 minutes or so. Once the big
job is finished, however, take a serious time to relax, maybe even
going away for a few days. "Those who succeed take breaks," she says.
If you go from intense work straight to more intense work, that leads
to burnout. Downtime used to be built into the system, but now stores,
cell phones, and computers keep us going 24-7, unless we choose to put
on the brakes.
Balance expectations of men and women. Cahill believes that the sexes
are more alike than they are different. "Men and women are both from
Earth," she says. Beyond that, she adds, "in today’s world, when you
start playing the gender game, women lose." Her goal is to maintain a
neutral standard by using neutral language.
And the buzzword for today is "leadership." Bored with "empowerment,"
"managerial skillsets," and a raft of other cliched terms, it seems as
if every business improvement gathering must have "leadership"
somewhere on its flip chart. Several consultants have sheepishly
confessed that having this term in their talk’s title actually allows
them to charge more for their advice. For veteran corporate trainer
Joanne Smikle, owner of Smikle Training Services
(www.smiklespeaks.com) and author of "Calamity Free Collaboration" and
"Value Driven Leadership," such buying into buzzwords indicates that
companies are desperate to keep on the edge.
Smikle sees corporate improvement as a mental process that begins in
the brain of every worker and flows out through the company structure.
If you want to call that leadership, fine. She calls it effectiveness.
Self assessment. Using everything from very honest self-analysis to
standard testing tools, each executive and owner must determine
specifically where his personality strengths and skills lie. Smikle
employs several tools, some proprietary, to determine personality and
leadership style. Do you lead as an innovator, a facilitator, a
motivator, or just a terminator?
Link to mission. Once one’s personal competencies are established, the
individual can begin to examine how they fit within the corporate
mission. This is assuming, of course, that the company has a corporate
mission. A business’ mission, insists Smikle, is not the same thing as
the goal of its president, which he has quietly ascertained and which
is filed only in his own mind.
It is a publicized, examined, and reshaped set of goals that every
employee and client knows. It gets infused into every action of the
company. Because the mission is made by and for individuals, it stands
not as a work of stone, but is a malleable dynamic that radiates from
the firm’s operations.
Play to strength. "Face it, George W. Bush is not the sharpest pencil
in the box," says Smikle, "but he is smart enough to surround himself
with experts in every field and to and consider their advice." Even
the very brilliant Franklin Delano Roosevelt, she points out,
surrounded himself with his fabled "brain trust." Very few
entrepreneurs are naturally wizard accountants or business people. Al
Capone would have been lost without Frank Nitti.
Once an owner has ascertained his best role in the company, the next
task is to bring together that brain trust and determine how each
person’s ability can best fill the mission. Then, working in a ripple
effect, executives and all employees must discover how each action
affects the mission. This collaboration creates its own time-motion
study and leads to effectiveness. People analyze their actions
according to the total picture, and begin to weed out unnecessary
projects based more on tradition than need.
You want the woman who is searching for a cure for cancer to be
passionate about the efficacy of her investigative methods; you want
the computer designer to be convinced that his ideas on incorporating
usability features are sound. "You want technical people to have an
opinion," says Dan Treadwell, "and heaven knows, they have an
Treadwell, principal in Treadwell Consulting and Training
(609-737-9268), has found that this trait is "both a blessing and a
curse." It gives pharmaceutical researchers, computer engineers,
aerospace scientists, architects of mathematical models, and their ilk
the passion to power forward – and to change the world.
It can also make them lousy managers. It is generally excellence at
their work that wins technology workers the promotions that put them
in a position to supervise others, points out Treadwell. But that
expertise all too often fails to translate into leadership.
Whenever possible Treadwell observes the executives he is coaching
leaders while they are working with their teams, always stressing that
the coaching is a positive thing, that it means his skills are so
highly valued that the company wants to retain him. Here is the advice
that he gives:
Listen openly to other people. No one is really great at this key
skill, says Treadwell, but technology experts may be a little worse
than the general population. "They’re trained as problem solvers, as
linear thinkers," he says. They have had success with their methods,
and often try to push them onto others – with the best possible
intentions. "They really want to help," he says.
This attitude can make it difficult for the technology manager to
listen to others’ ideas, and to respect other ways of doing things.
"Technology people really love the work they are doing," says
Treadwell. Sometimes that zeal can backfire, though. "They may think
their way is the best way," he says, "but there are always a variety
of ways to do things."
The good manager needs to be able to step aside as the expert. "That’s
hard for all of us," says Treadwell, "but to motivate tech people, you
have to let the experts be the experts. It’s key."
Demonstrate the value. No one likes to be told to do something
"because I told you to do it." Everyone wants to see the big picture,
and this is especially true with intellectually gifted people in
technology fields. The effective manager takes time to let his people
know why the tasks they are assigned are important, and how they fit
in with a bigger goal.
If a manager has to pull a scientist off a project in which he is
passionately involved to take care of something else, he has to tell
him why it is important. "This is a `show me’ population," says
Treadwell. "You need to be able to answer that `why’?
Create breathing room. Micromanaging is a trap that ensnares a number
of technology managers. Step back, is Treadwell’s advice. Set goals
for your team members, and then let them work toward them without
Provide support. The opposite of micromanaging, creating a supportive
atmosphere involves making sure that workers have the tools and the
environment in which they can flourish.
"Be an advocate for your people," says Treadwell. "Find out what they
need. Clear space for them to succeed. Accomplish this and everyone
He was thrown out of his first job for being too creative. Jeff Tobe
(www.jefftobe.com) looked at his initial paycheck from the Chubb
Insurance company and realized one big problem: it was too small to
pay his rent. Tobe’s solution? He auctioned off his paycheck and the
$1,000 note netted him $1,200 in ticket earnings. He met the rent and
all seemed fine until the state nicked him for running an unlicensed
lottery and the stodgy folks at Chubb decided they didn’t need anyone
publicizing the paucity of their remuneration.
In l992 Tobe’s friends convinced him to take up a career in corporate
training and speaking. He moved to Pittsburgh, set up the training
service "Coloring Outside the Lines," and has recently published a
book of the same name, "Coloring Outside the Lines: Business Thoughts
on Creativity, Marketing and Sales."
Defining the edge. Tobe distilled five pervasive skills and traits
held by all those who simply were unbeatable. Foremost was that they
were all creative – they always had a second answer, perspective, or
solution for the customer. Also, they probed constantly, asking the
right questions to home into the client’s exact need. Third, they all
listened intently, which led to the next trait: they all understood
the potential client totally, beyond just his product need. Finally,
the top performers were experts at marketing themselves. Each one had
developed a selling persona, but he never let it conflict with the
customer’s buying style.
Change quotient. Creativity leads to change and change invariably
leads us out of our comfort zones. To remain in the traditional mode,
Tobe says, businesses commonly erect anti-innovation walls. They may
develop internal myopia, focusing on only the immediate problems.
Executives may be infected with psychosclerosis – a hardening of the
attitude, which greets each new idea with "We’ve been down that road
before." They may reflexively intone the five most petrifying words in
all commerce, "Sir, it’s not our policy."
Each of us has our individual ability to cope with varying amounts of
change. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we look forward to the changing of
the seasons, but we also rest secure in the permanency of each season
being the same as last year. Tobe agrees to this balance, but feels
that most of us strangle our company’s creativity by not working to
expand our change quotients and be more tolerant.
Creativity vs. innovation. "I cringe every time I walk into an ad
agency and see a door marked `Creative Department,’" says Tobe.
"Everyone, including your receptionist, should be working creatively.
And if she is not, fire her." For Tobe, creativity is the mindset that
says if it ain’t broke, break it and build it better. It is that juice
that leads to a constant flow of ideas. Innovation is the next few
steps that gather the ideas together, sift for the best nuggets, and
assemble them into a working plan or prototype. The processes are
different, but should not be relegated to separate teams of
Service vs. experience. One of the innovative marketing trends Tobe
points out is the shift from customer service to enhancing the entire
customer experience. The former asks "What can I do for you?" The
latter works to improve every touch point between customer and
company, making it more to the customer’s liking. You can get your
coffee at McDonalds, where the customer service is excellent. It comes
hot, quick, cheap and if you don’t drop it in your lap, it tastes just
But instead folks increasingly flock to Starbucks, where the act of
settling into a nice cup of Java becomes a whole – very pleasant –
experience. There are comfy chairs inviting you to stay, fun machines
to watch, T-shirts with odd sayings, and a clubby atmosphere.
Everything from the cup design to the website sets an interesting,
Tobe warns that customers today have evolved into a more skeptical
group, armed with more sophisticated tools. Thus the buying experience
companies provide must go beyond net price. Is the website not just
easy to peruse, but does it establish itself as an information
resource? Does the voice mail lead the caller back to another contact?
Is the branding not only distinct, but inviting? If not, it may be
time to get out the crayons and coloring book.
For women, the "door to leadership at the top levels has squeaky
hinges," says Mary S. Hartman, who has worked with issues of women in
leadership in both business and the political arenas for over 30
years. She adds that in recent years women’s progress has stalled in
Hartman is director of the Women’s Leadership Institute
(732-932-1463), based at Rutgers University. She has been active in
women’s issues for many years. She is the author of "Gender,
Household, and Power: A Subversive View of Western History;"
"Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French
and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes;" and "Talking
Leadership: Conversations with Powerful Women," which includes
interviews with Patricia Schroeder, Anna Quindlen, and Christine Todd
The recent controversy over remarks by Harvard University president
Lawrence Summers underscores the broader issues of why so few women
have reached top level positions in business, politics, and education,
says Hartman. Summers suggested that intrinsic differences between
males’ and females’ abilities in science might account for differences
in how few women are found in the highest levels of the hard science
disciplines such as physics and engineering.
The business world has, in fact, "been more welcoming" to women than
have the worlds of higher education and politics, says Hartman. But
she notes an exception at the very top levels of the corporate world,
where the numbers of women in high level positions still lags
There are many reasons for these differences, says Hartman. Lack of
flexibility in the workplace is one of the most obvious and important
reasons. The world of business is structured for the single
breadwinner family, where one person goes out to earn a living while a
support person stays at home to take care of the details of personal
and family life.
"It is difficult to advance to the uppermost levels without having
that single focus," says Hartman. To get to those higher levels, women
have often had to adopt the patterns and lifestyles of men. "They have
a lifestyle that mimics that of the single breadwinner," she says.
"They have fewer children, and often they have a spouse who is already
retired." The fact that so often the single breadwinner in a family is
male reflects the fact that society still assigns different values and
different genders to various types of work, she adds.
Another possible reason for the differences in women’s and men’s
positions in the workplace is differences "in priorities and
attitudes," says Hartman. "Our work style is not healthy and many
women are realizing it sooner (than men)." The "opt-out generation,"
younger women who have chosen to leave work to stay at home with their
children, is one example of this new realization.
Hartman suggests that changes in the workplace to add more balance
between our public and our personal lives could help to end the gender
gap. "There is a need for greater flexibility," she says, to account
for the fact that fewer and fewer women can afford to opt out. While
opting out completely can be career suicide, working up a career
ladder while at the same time raising children and maintaining a home
is a difficult task. Says Hartman: "Handling both a personal and a
professional life is often a delicate balancing act."
According to Jim Barnoski, consultant with Somerset-based Performance
Selling (732-764-0200), "anybody can be a salesperson if they have
four things: desire, commitment, humility, and accountability. But,
really, that’s life, isn’t it?"
"People sell every day," says Barnoski. "Our training methodology is
not just about sales and business. It’s really about ongoing
reinforcement to sharpen your skills and is a never-ending effort,"
says Barnoski. "Without it, you don’t grow. A lot of sales people
believe that once you know sales, and have been selling for one or two
years, you’ve got it. That’s crazy. You have to be able to grow and
face your fears, and move out of your comfort zone to get to a higher
Barnoski says that every piece of training has to include some element
of coaching because every person is dealing with his own demons. Every
salesperson has to overcome his own discomfort. "For instance," he
says, "they may have a problem talking about money, or have a high
need for approval. They might have difficulty making decisions by
themselves, or they may get emotionally involved instead of staying
objective on a sales call. So they don’t think clearly and don’t say
what they need to say, because they heed the voice in their head
saying, `be careful, you almost got it.’"
Sales professionals deal every day with how to get people to make
decisions and how to get people to reveal their real problems. They
need to discover their true level of commitment to fix those problems.
"We speak to `how do you get the truth?’ because, it really doesn’t
matter what the product is, we’re dealing with process and behavior
and overcoming our own fears."
Overcome fear. According to Barnoski, that’s what sales is really
about: overcoming fear and being able to ask certain personal
questions to try to break through. "Selling means you have to be a
little bit of an actor, and a little bit of a psychologist to
understand what drives and motivates people."
Learn to develop strong salespeople. Barnoski says that many times
sales managers, particularly in small businesses, were superstar sales
people at one time, or technically brilliant. But they don’t
necessarily know how to hire people. They don’t know how to develop
them or make them accountable. "Superstars expect that everybody will
perform at the same level they did," he says, "and most people don’t
have that level of desire and commitment."
Qualify your prospects. Who are your ideal prospects? He talks about
how to size up prospects within minutes of a first meeting, and how to
qualify them. "One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is chasing
prospects who are never going to be their customer," he says.
Sell to the customer’s needs. But people buy for their own reasons,
not for the salesperson’s reasons. Unfortunately, says Barnoski, many
inexperienced salespeople sell features and benefits that are of no
interest to the prospect. "We talk about identifying and tracking the
personal behaviors they need to be successful. What behaviors need to
take place for them to get in front of enough qualified leads to make
Explain the benefits of prospecting. Many salespeople may not want to
make cold calls, or go to network meetings, or ask for referrals.
"They don’t understand how their behavior today produces an outcome
two to three months from now," he says. "They think they’re making 20
cold calls because their boss told them to. They resist it and find
reasons not to do it. They haven’t determined that 20 cold calls a day
can result in an extra $5,000 to $10,000 in their pocket a year."
Move out of the comfort zone. That’s one reason why training often
fails. "Most trainers give technique, when the problem may be improper
team culture, or it might be the inability of salespeople to find new
accounts because they’ve spent their entire career working an account
where they knew everybody. They need to be taught prospecting."
Says Barnoski: "You don’t get better until you change. If you keep
doing the same thing, you can’t expect different results. That’s the
definition of crazy."
Be patient with new salespeople. The first three months of a
salesperson’s life with a new company, he should not be left to his
own devices. "Maybe they’re coming from a world that’s different from
the one they’re entering, and they are confused and going in the wrong
direction," says Barnoski. "Typically the manager just gets frustrated
with the salesperson, when actually they’re at fault. We talk to
managers about account planning and how you manage behavior, because
behavior drives everything in sales."
Barnoski says the two most important things required in successful
selling are guts and humor. "You have to have guts to be effective
because people are constantly trying to pull you down. Even more
important, is a sense of humor. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing
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