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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Value of Just Hiding Out

Last night I went to a networking event that I almost talked myself out of. I had a full day of work without appointments, so it was a temptation not to follow through with the evening event.

After a full day of focused work from home, why get showered and dressed for an hour or so?

Fortunately, after I received the invitation to attend the networking event, I invited about 6 others to join me there. That got me going. And like in most cases, once I was there, I was glad to have made connection with several new contacts.

But this morning I am once again glad to be appointment-less until noon. That's when it hits heavy - 4 appts in a row, including another evening event.

Here is why I am glad to have nothing in my schedule.

There is value in hiding out.

Especially for the introvert, but even for the extrovert who values thinking and focus.

Like this morning, I need blocks of time to review an upcoming presentation, follow up on calls and emails and get my energy engaged for an afternoon of appointments. Planning time is the core of my foundation. Without it, I get out of sorts, lose track of my focus and feel purposeless.

Another reason for hiding out may sound strange to the extrovert - we introverts lose energy with each personal contact we make. Time alone gives us the opportunity to recharge while we prepare for what lies ahead with future contacts. In service-related industries we are at our best when we are fully recharged.

Do you have stacks of appointments scattered throughout your schedule? Schedule chunks of time to hide out. It will give you planning, preparation and even the energy you need to handle and enjoy them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The More Difficult the Conversation, the Greater Use of Your Gifts

Lately I have been talking with law firm managing partners, business developers, recruiters/career coaches and others in professional service industries - all around the common denominator of handling/not handling difficult conversations.

These conversations include but are not limited to
  • interviewing/firing
  • sales/purchasing
  • conflict resolution
  • negotiation/argument strategy
  • admitting error/holding others to account

It seems the tougher the conversation, the more practiced we must be in using our gifts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Value of Understanding Yourself

This morning I had difficulty getting out of bed, and even more difficulty keeping up with my workout partner while we were out walking.

Several years ago I was monitoring my tennis playing technique and realized it takes me forever to leave the service line after I serve to my opponent. I spend so much time in analysis that I have analysis paralysis.

Move! I finally told myself.

So this morning, once we were on the return from our workout, I felt better and was moving faster. Although I will never be someone to jump out of bed consistently or to speed into an activity, I will get up and get out. It just takes me awhile to get going.

Knowing this, I can coach myself into setting boundaries that allow for a slow start. For instance, I like attending networking events early on. There is less activity, so it's easier to engage than later when activity is high - especially for us introverts who get turned off by high energy in these unstructured events.

Similar to lying in bed awhile after my alarm goes off, I don't immediately jump into the networking game but take my time.

I also allow myself to get used to things before I expect too much out of myself. I am usually slow to win at sports or cards until I have played several hands or spent some time warming up. This tells me I must also warm up prior to a presentation. I don't wish to waste the introduction warming up.

But if I'm playing tennis, I must tell myself to focus on moving. Similarly, movement out of my seat where I work on my computer, into public places for meetings, and to the telephone to return calls is best handled with little delay. Otherwise, I lose the ability to position myself to receive from others.

What do you know about your own patterns? How can you make use of this knowledge? You may find it's not easy analyzing yourself, so ask someone else what they observe about you. Don't be surprised by how right they are.

Understanding yourself allows you to value who you are, how you are and then to make good use of this knowledge. What you learn about yourself is key to how well  you communicate with others.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tips for Handling Toxic Environments

It seems I keep running into environments where stress is a killer for the employee. Not as in coffin or cremate, but at least regarding sense of isolation and anxiety and lack of recognition or support. In some of these cases, it does translate into loss of life, because it becomes loss of self. What this does to the individual is strip them of pride, distract them from their skills and repeatedly miscommunicate their lack of ability.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Introverts and Extroverts Value Their Contacts

Who are you connecting with this week?

My Master Mind groups this month have been focusing on their key contacts for business and relationship development.

It is common strategy for pipeline development to make a certain number of calls weekly, seeking
face time with those in the position to make decisions on the services we offer.

Although it isn't a particularly favorite task of many introverts, picking up the phone to stay in touch is beneficial. Not only does it give us practical skills in conversation development and getting to the point, it helps us exercise our rapport-building strategies while leading to appointment development.

Valoria Hoover, past Ohio Women's Bar Association president and co-founder of the OWBA Foundation, says "An attorney does nothing for themselves. You represent others, so you must know others." Getting outside of our selves and reaching out to others for support, feedback and assistance are key to practice development, no matter your introvert/extrovert temperament.

Staying connected is key. Whether through email or phone calls, we must schedule time with others. While it shows how much we value those we spend time with, it also helps us fine-tune our understanding of their circumstances and needs.

Who are you reaching out to, today?

Friday, May 18, 2012

With a Little Help from my Friends

As we consider the relationships around us, key relationships and those who are dear to us, we rightly value our impact on them. Do we also value their impact on us?

Just this week, several individuals have shared both concerns and successes regarding friends and doing business.

One had taken the difficult step (in his mind) of reaching out to individuals of long-standing relationship to seek advice/assistance while prospecting. On telling his success he shared the observation that the situation wasn't nearly as difficult or cumbersome as he expected.

"But of course," were the responses of several of his friends. "I would be glad to help." What a relief after he had anticipated hesitation and possible loss of friendship.

Another individual shared a need to take care in handling a possible opportunity for purchasing a friend's business. "This is new to me," he offered. "Not only have I never bought a business before. I want to do right by my friend. This is one of my biggest challenges right now."

How do you feel when asking friends to help with business or business connections?

I was at a women's leadership luncheon yesterday which focused on the theme of Asking. One of the presenters suggested, "When we ask, we allow giving to happen". The same is when we ask friends for advice, support, assistance whether in business or personal matters.

Take care with these relationships, yet while taking care, trust that you have the relationship to ask for help. The Beatles, your mother, your boss and your friends will appreciate it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are You Practiced or Engaging?

How is your delivery with the routine things you say? Practiced or engaging?

I used to be a BNI member when I was in business in Toledo.

The idea was each week we would have something different to say about ourselves and our work, opening the minds of those in the room to how they could remember us between meetings for referring business our way.

To get this result, we needed to work at our 60-second introduction.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Your Audiences Fear #2

Yesterday's post addressed the number one fear of audiences - speakers wasting their time. Today's fear is a very close second.

Audiences fear when we speakers focus on things they don't understand.

As a past high school teacher, I remember the number of times I did this in my own classroom. It's painful for students to sit through a class feeling unaware. Emotionally they are left with a complex of not feeling smart enough.

Can you relate to my high school students, listening to a presenter who speaks over your head? Who uses jargon or language you don't understand? Who gets carried away with information or stories you cannot relate to? Then you know first-hand the problem associated with audience fear #2 - feeling left out.

What this leads to is frustration, anger, exasperation and sometimes even hostility. It comes from feeling trapped listening to something that makes us feel inadequate. We presenters don't want audiences responding this way. It's stressful enough just getting in front of audiences.

We want to make the most out of our time with audiences, getting signs of reflection or approval, even participation.

So if we introverts are the presenters, consider how often we get emotionally overwhelmed when presenting that we only focus on what we know, forgetting the audience. That's when the spigot is turned on and our presentation flows on and on from an endless supply of information that often makes our listeners feel they are facing a fire hose. We have blasted them with information. Now they must defend themselves by throwing questions our way or escaping.

We presenters must make ourselves clear.

We presenters not only must relate to our audiences, we must remember that any time we are addressing them, we must connect what they know to what we know and from there move forward to inform or motivate.

Notice the order here: connect what they know to what we know. This order defers to our listeners first and then respectfully connects their world to ours. Not the other way around.

The first order of business for us presenters to defer focus to an audience is to discover their world, relevant to the presentation topic. Discovering the world of others may not be usual for an introvert, yet using our research and analytical abilities, it is in our skill set. While it puts our value on hold temporarily, deferring to our audience creates a relationship that leads us to be highly valued.

Therefore, we presenters must connect our audience circumstances to our topic. From there we presenters have a connection with our audiences that keeps them from escaping, instead, focused on familiar territory and following your lead.

Remove this second most common audience fear and make yourselves clear!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Your Audiences Fear

When I first started speaking in front of attorneys, I feared they would not value topics in communication.

Why? I didn't relate to their world. Their training, their intelligence, their experiences all seemed a world apart from mine. Could I position the value I experience in such a way as to relate to them? If not, I would be wasting their time.

Fortunately I quickly learned several ways to relate to attorneys, and therefore, I learned how to NOT waste their time.

The number one fear of our very important listeners is we will waste their time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stand Up for Confidence

My mentor has me reading the book, Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer by Anthony Parinello. Full of perspective on how to think, behave and speak like a top officer, Parinello echoes what I have heard others say about boosting your confidence level - stand up.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When it's Time to Uproot

One of the things that shakes my values is the Bible.

This isn't going to be a rant on religion or Christianity - simply a focus on everything being acceptable. I hope you get my point in a few minutes.

 If you are a regular reader, you know that about 5 days ago we moved, because I focused a post on the impact of clutter.

But today I am recalling what it takes to shift from being settled to unsettled and then finding our way back to becoming settled again - until next time.

Getting uprooted is a true test of my values.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What's the Plan?

Today is Friday, typically a planning day for me. It's the day I catch up with my communication,  account for my recent appts, look ahead at my next week so I can create a strategy for being prepared for it, and gather information tied to presentation requests. It's a big day full of focused, proactive tasks.

I love Fridays.

I don't mix appointments into my Fridays, for that disrupts the discipline and follow-through of too many pieces of my work. On Fridays I see where my impact has been, I discover what lies ahead and get motivated for future activity.

Yesterday I talked about purpose (Bold or Purposeful?), recalling our talents and desire to use them. If you ask yourself, "What am I good at? What are my gifts/talents?" you get affirmation of value.

But don't stop there. Purpose is strengthened when tied to planning.

Create a system of follow-through so you continue to see your work in action. This leads to a routine that, although inflexible, creates integrity. Decide how often you need to step back for reflection and which questions you will ask yourself.

After I ask myself about my talents and how I have used them, I ask
"What do I need to do to exceed the expectations of others?"

For business' sake, this drives my ability to follow-through with my systems. For relationship sake, this creates interest, respect and leads to trust. For humility's sake, this affirms my purpose.

When do you track your progress and focus on your goals? What's your system? What's the plan?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bold or Purposeful?

There was a time when my eyes were opened to my own selfishness.

Now a member of a Presbyterian church, I have contributed in church services with my artistic talents, namely my acting/singing skills. But growing up in a strict Lutheran church, I learned to keep my talents hidden so as to not brag on them.

Although I was encouraged to join choir, a group activity, I was led to believe doing any solo or individual work was bragging. This belief gripped my activity for a great number of years - is actually still a hard one to shake lose from my psyche.

Hoping to be able to use my gifts in my Presbyterian setting when others appreciate their value, I first want to be recognized, invited to do something with them, and then I willingly share.

Then came the day someone mentioned I should offer these gifts on my own - not await being asked.

"But isn't that being too bold?" I responded.

"Bold?" they questioned. "Quite the opposite. Without your offering them, you are holding back. Consider your gifts as part of your tithing, part of your purpose here in the church. If you await being asked to share, you aren't willingly contributing."

Wow. This opened my eyes to purpose with my God-given talents.

It's not about me - being asked. It's about motivation to give and to serve.

What are your gifts and talents? Do you wish you would be asked to speak or to lead a group? Are you quick with design, with organization, with host or hostessing? Consider your gifts, and then consider how often you use them.

Do you share them willingly, or do you await being asked? You may have thought it too bold to offer your skills or creativity without being asked to, yet in many cases, folks don't know better. They may not know to ask for your service. But you do. Not using them is squandering them. This is selfish.

Without sharing our gifts, we demonstrate our selfishness. Share your gifts. You will enjoy doing so and so will countless others.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why We Introverts Must Learn to Ask

One of my hardest lessons in life has been asking for help.

I recall times during my high school years I would attend county fairs with friends with a limited amount of money in my pocket. So much to do with a little bit of money - eat great foods, ride thrilling rides or play games of skill.

I would walk my frugal self around, trying to decide where to give up my funds. Usually my parents where also on the fair grounds, so if I ran out of money, I could always ask for more. But I knew I wouldn't. Instead of deciding to buy all that I wanted, I would have to decide which were my priorities.

Being frugal with money is one thing. Being frugal with time is something different. This has been a relatively recent discovery.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2 Tips after a Job Well Done

We are constantly growing or falling backwards.

So  it stands to reason that any time we speakers/performers feel we have done well in front of an audience, whether accomplishing our intent (entertain, persuade, inform, call to action, etc.) or surviving the event unscathed, we are most ready for constructive feedback.

I used to hear from a basketball coach, Don't spend time dwelling on your accolades. That's the time you are most susceptible and vulnerable.

You can imagine the humiliation, when on a basketball court, just after an exciting slam dunk to capture the lead - the momentum in the air is contagious - the scoring team is answered by a slick offense that captures a three-pointer within seconds. Bummer. They just fell backward.

No time for dwelling on the past - stay present to the moment.

Speakers take note: Look around at what else is needed.

The audience will have questions or they will want advice. They have already moved on and want to take next steps based on your topic. Don't dwell on accolades - stay in the present.

Whether a presentation goes well or not, it's time to get constructive feedback.

But we are all most open to it when we believe we are worthy of it. So when things go well, look for ways to improve.
  • Where were the areas of relevance
  • where were the areas of confusion
  • what else did individuals want to know about
After a job well done, there is more work to do. Move forward and grow.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Introverts, Get Up and At'em!

Back when I was teaching and directing HS theatre, I had to emphasize to students during show weeks the need to get up early on Saturdays. 

Often Friday night shows would go well. Students had been up early enough to get to school on time, had their metabolisms engaged and by showtime they were fully alert and ready to go.

But if they slept in on Saturday morning, especially into the afternoon, they were sluggish.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Impact of Clutter

In 6 days I am moving.

Imagine, if you will, what my current home looks like, if in 6 days I am moving. Do you see disaray, boxes, footpaths through one room and into another?

I do.

There are grocery store boxes we are repurposing, piles for Goodwill, box tape, packed and stashed containers and furniture up-ended.

Although the walls are bare now, the floor is full.

And the cats are in a tizzy. Or at least tuckered out from skeedaddling in and around the chaos.

It's not only affected the cats.

I have been ineffective when trying to get up in the mornings and now I know why. This disaray has drained our energy.

Although we have been working on this move for a few months now, with the organizing, scheduling, patching, painting and pitching, the majority of the work is still ahead.

Physically and mentally our energy has shifted from the usual day-to-day to the unusual. How many times does a person move in a lifetime? (Well in my case, more than a dozen.) This unusual energy expense is draining, but chiefly due to the clutter.

Clutter saps us. If there is one thing we can do about refueling energy, it is to get rid of clutter.
6 days and counting...