Author, author!

Author, author!

Last month we launched Circles of Gold: Honoring Your Network for Business and Career Success, a book I’ve been working on for, oh, about 10 years in one form or another. I wrote this version of the manuscript nearly two-and-a-half years ago while a guest at a fabulous brownstone in Brooklyn, NY. I tied myself to a chair with a daily word count quota for a week while my hosts, Colleen & Dwight, were in California. I admit I took some strolls down those beautiful Brooklyn streets to clear my head and enjoy the energy of that chic New York borough. I felt like I was in an episode of “Sex and the City” (sans the sex), working at my laptop and peering out the window just like Carrie Bradshaw, enjoying the comings and goings of the neighborhood. That idyllic week was followed by months of editing (thank you, Jennifer Grant), design (thank you, Becky Lemna of Lloyd Lemna Design) and proofreading until my eyes fell out. There are many more people to acknowledge–you’ll have to read the book!

Circles of Gold is a culmination of my nearly twenty years of coaching, laying out a blueprint I designed for networking with joy and ease. The bottom line: start with the network you already have. That was probably the most surprising thing I’ve learned as a career coach: most people hate networking because they misunderstand the process. They ignore their real network and go straight to the Internet. Ugh. Keith Ferrazzi said it best in his best-seller, Never Eat Alone: “Cold calls are for suckers.”

Start with who you know, I urge my clients. Create a database of all the people you know, without making assumptions about whether or not they are “worthy” or qualified to help you with your campaign (and yes, it is a campaign). We often stay within the silo of our professional networks, the people we’ve worked with or who share our industry interests. What about all those other people you know, the people at your gym, the folks you worship with, your nail tech or barber? Those people have their own networks, and can make introductions once you’ve honored them with your interest and appreciation. They have their own “Circles of Gold(R).” And so do you.

So what are you up to, and how can we help? Start with your mission to make a difference in the world and I promise you, doors will fly open. Share about your interests and passions and your vision for how you could contribute, and then ask people for their IOR: Ideas, Opinions and Recommendations. You’d be surprised at how eager people are to be of service to you, if only they knew how to help. Let them know and then… ask questions, shut up and listen. Don’t forget to take notes.

For those of you who would like to order the book, I offer you this website link. And please, use my “Friends and Family Discount” (7746JSGG) which will be available through Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day. That’s my way of saying thank you to all of you who have supported me through the years as I worked on this book. For those of you who already bought the book at full price, I can only say, “Thank you!” I owe you a lot–and a latte.

 

Photo credit: Joy Meredith

Pictured, my “Church Ladies,” L to R: Cathy Mousseau, Cindi Copeland, the author, Pam Keller, Shelley Kenyon and Renee Cogdell-Lewis

 

Selling Synchronized Service

Selling Synchronized Service

Last week while speaking to an association chapter of healthcare finance professionals, I had the pleasure of staying at a Ritz-Carlton. While I like to think of myself as a seasoned business traveler, the level of service I received at the Ritz reduced me to a country bumpkin. From the courtesy of each staff person to the chocolate on the pillow that I found when I returned to my room in the evening, every gesture seemed designed to please.

Ritz-CarltonPerhaps the moment of truth was something I observed at the last luncheon I attended during the conference. As a business woman, I’m used to the usual hotel banquet service: you try to focus on the speaker while the staff scurries to feed the multitudes, banging silver warming trays and exchanging salad dishes for the entrée dishes, all to the background music of clattering silverware. At this Ritz-Carlton, however, things were quite different.

First, the staff were barely noticeable and the noise level was whisper-soft. Then, when it came time to deliver our meals, something happened. Expecting the usual “dip-and-dump” of my plate on the table, I leaned a little to my left to accommodate my server. But no, wait: there was a pause. I straightened up, surprised.   We were suddenly surrounded by a ring of white-gloved staff people, all of whom stood at attention for a full count of three, then elegantly delivered our meals in one sweeping gesture, first to one-half of the table, then to the other. We were the grateful recipients of something they call “synchronized service.”

Of course I had to ask the waiter David about it. I’d never seen anything like that before. Their commitment to synchronized service is not a Ritz-Carlton standard, he told me, but rather is a standard of that particular property. The courtesy of the staff–from those who performed that balletic delivery of our banquet food to the maids pushing carts in the hall–seemed authentic, professional and anything but cloying. They seemed genuinely glad to see us, to serve us and to ensure that our stay with them was exquisite. And it was.

So that got me thinking: What kind of “synchronized service” can I provide in my own business? How can I not just meet my clients’ needs but rather, as my marketing professor Dr. John Zerio at Thunderbird used to say with his charming Brazilian accent, “Deeee-light the customer!”? What kinds of touches could I add to my own delivery of coaching and speaking services that would cause my clients to stop in their tracks just as I did when those dishes were placed in front of us in one elegant move?

And I’ll ask you the same thing–how can you provide service to your customers, clients or employees in a way that demonstrates your commitment to their complete well-being and is delivered with the same synchronicity and grace of the wait staff at the Ritz? What can we do that is the equivalent of that chocolate on the pillow?

I welcome your comments.

Paying Your Dues

Paying Your Dues

Whether you’re building a business or moving up the ladder (or, for some, the “lattice”) of your career, you’ve probably heard that term: “You’ve gotta pay your dues.”

Literally, it means allocating the money to be part of your professional association, trade union or any other organization that supports you in your endeavors. Maybe it’s your annual dues to belong to your local chamber of commerce. Or perhaps it’s the cost of being a member of your association so you have access to certification, training and a network of other professionals from whom to learn. Your dues are a line item in your budget, and you can expect to pay that as an annual fee as long as you want to stay in that organization.

But “paying your dues” has another definition. The phrase implies a long-term investment in order to someday reap the rewards. And it has a kind of ominous tone to it, doesn’t it?

Anyone who is successful has a story to tell about “paying their dues.” It may mean taking on an unpaid internship in order to learn the business you’re interested in. You may have started out in the copy room or the mail room. You may have schlepped to get coffee for the higher-ups in order to be in the sphere of those you admire and whose careers you want to emulate. For you, paying your dues may have been working in a low-level and low-paying job in order to get your foot in the door, to learn the fundamentals. Paying your dues implies you are willing to forego ego, prestige and pay because you have your eyes set on a bigger prize, and you know experience is the only thing missing between you and that prize.

Brett and Kate McKay are Generation Y bloggers who wrote a blogpost about “The Importance of Paying Your Dues.”  In their collaborative blog “The Art of Manliness,” they admit their generation and the Millennials who follow have a certain sense of entitlement, perhaps inspired by growing up in a time when everyone on the soccer team got a trophy just for showing up. They’ve studied success through their “So You Want My Job” interviews and their advice to their readers is sound: “Be willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term goals.”

I think about the jobs I’ve had that contributed to what I’m doing today: my first service jobs as babysitter and counter girl at McDonald’s; being a clerk-typist at the university as I worked my way through school; my first job as a librarian, a job that gave me access to books and the time to write; and my days as a “swamper” in the newsroom, writing obituaries as the lowliest reporter working for a daily newspaper. Each and every job was an exercise in paying my dues. The twenty years of writing copy for hospital newsletters, ghost-writing the CEO’s column, cranking out press releases and poring over media lists, making presentations in front of the board of directors–every duty I ever performed was like practicing scales in the rehearsal room. All designed to refine and hone my skills so that today, I may serve my clients with purpose and passion.

So as I write a check for my own professional association this month, the National Speakers Association, I remind myself that membership has its privileges. The commercial transaction gives me support, context, access to all the things I need to be a successful speaker and coach. What I do with that access going forward, and my willingness to continue to pay my dues, is totally up to me.

[Photo credit: www.steadusers.org]

My Heart Overfloweth

My Heart Overfloweth

Today is Valentine’s Day, and I’m thinking of all the people I love. I start with my family–my husband Bill, my adult children Kitty and Will, and all the parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins and extended family who have surrounded us. While today is spun as a romantic holiday, I prefer to think of Valentine’s Day as a time to contemplate, celebrate and communicate about love with all the people in our lives.

Last night my heart overfloweth as I watched my friend and fellow speaker Steve Beck volunteer his time as one of our guest faculty at the National Speakers Association of Illinois (NSA-IL)’s Speakers Academy. Steve is one of many NSA-IL members who have so generously donated their time and talent to share about the experience of being a professional speaker with students in our Speakers Academy, a training program for aspiring speakers. But perhaps because Steve was my Co-Dean in the program for several years, or because he now serves as our chapter president, or maybe just because Steve is Steve, I was moved to tears by his contribution.

Steve shared about losing his brother in Vietnam when Steve was 15. He said that before his brother left for Vietnam, his mother promised to pray for his brother every day–a ridiculous promise, he thought. Steve remembered coming home as a young teenager to see his mother praying the rosary and asking him to join her. Reluctantly, he did. Now as an adult, and as a successful business man and professional speaker, Steve uses prayer to jump start his day. Prayer, meditation and affirmations are part of his morning ritual, as much a requirement as his first cup of coffee. He shared his own “12-step program” with us, a list of daily affirmations, and he encouraged us to write some of our own in the handout he shared. Oh, and another thing–he makes his bed every day. Every. Day.

Steve Beck Leave Your Funk at the DoorIt’s no surprise that Steve has written a series of books, the first of which was entitled How to Have a Great Day Every Day, followed by Leave Your Funk at the Door. These irrepressible titles reflect the message Steve had for our Speakers Academy participants, a message that aligns so perfectly with Valentine’s Day: it’s up to us to discover every day the miracles we have in our lives. And most of those miracles have something to do with the people we love. No, let me rephrase that: those miracles have EVERYTHING to do with the people we love.

Steve, I love you, man. You bring a new energy to our NSA-IL chapter that nurtures and sustains us, an enthusiasm that’s helping our speaker community grow, attracted by love. The many lives you’ve touched as President, Co-Dean and now as guest faculty for our Speakers Academy program, are too numerous to mention. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend.

 

[Masthead photo: “Arizona Valentine, A Heart of Ten Roses,” 2011, oil on canvas by artist Dyana Hesson, Mesa, AZ; taken at Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, AZ]

Why Volunteer?

Why Volunteer?

This morning I’m rubbing the sleep from my eyes, trying to wake up after spending the afternoon and a late evening in the city of Chicago. Last night we kicked off the first of six sessions for NSA-IL Speakers Academy (see photo, above, of our March 2013 graduating class with Mikki Williams, CSP, CPAE, center).

This is the third year I’ve participated as a “Dean” of the program, along with my “Co-Dean” Steve Beck, an irrepressible speaker, trainer and leader. Steve is also this year’s president of our state chapter, National Speakers Association of Illinois. For both of us, leading NSA-IL Speakers Academy (formerly known as Speaker University) is a labor of love. Thinking about all the work that’s required to organize and administer this program, along with a recent conversation I had with a friend who is considering joining the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, has me thinking. Why volunteer?

First, let’s look at the incongruity of volunteering. When you volunteer, you aren’t getting paid. And for those of us who are entrepreneurs and who don’t get a regular paycheck, that’s a pretty big trade-off of billable hours. For those who are employed, it’s time away from the office which brings its own risk. You may or may not get accolades or visibility; you may or may not get “credit.”

Yet according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 64.5 million people in the United States volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012. The Corporation for National and Community Service has a boatload of statistics, research and reports on the benefits of volunteering, including data that demonstrates people who volunteer are healthier and live longer. And if you look around you, you’ll see that really successful people always have some aspect of their lives dedicated to volunteering, whether it’s through their professional associations, their organizations of faith or their communities. As a business and career coach, I believe that volunteering is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Here are just a few reasons to volunteer:

  • Being a volunteer puts you immediately in community with others. Our business and career success is dependent on being part of a larger community. Whether you’re a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or your professional association, you have a chance to build relationships with others. And we know that people like to work with and do business with people they know and trust. Volunteering gives you a chance to earn that trust.
  • Volunteering is like an audition. When you’re leading a committee, you get to flex your leadership muscles. As you work together with others on a project, you demonstrate teamwork. You have a stage on which to hone your presentation skills. People are observing you and believe me, they notice. Are you kind to others? Do you show respect? Do you have a sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously? Do you show up on time? Do you do what you said you’d do? In essence, are you “count-on-able?”
  • You get to practice. Volunteering is a great way to build a new skill set. If you’re in marketing, try working on the finance committee. If you’re in finance, join the strategic planning committee. Experiment and volunteer for things outside your “wheelhouse.”
  • Without getting too corny (although I think all good things in life are corny), being a volunteer allows you to leave a legacy. I am amazed at the depth and breadth of people’s commitment to their professional associations, their alumni associations, their churches or their service clubs. People devote countless hours to ensure that the missions of the organizations they support continue to thrive long after they’re gone.

I love being part of NSA-IL Speakers Academy because we’re helping other aspiring speakers reach their goals. I have a chance to share what I know, to lead from a curriculum developed by a dedicated task force of NSA members across the country, and to contribute to a profession that changes the world. One of our core values is continuous learning, and my commitment as a “Dean” allows me to learn as well. And I don’t mind admitting that I relish receiving “love letters” and acknowledgement from our participants and graduates who appreciate our devotion to them.

Over the course of my 16 years as a coach, I’ve heard one consistent theme from the folks who seek my services: they want to make a difference. Being a volunteer for an organization that resonates with you, your heart and your mission allows you to make a difference. Do it because you don’t need the money and you don’t care who gets the credit. But don’t be surprised when you get an amazing return on that investment–a job offer, a contract, a client. That’s the paradox of giving first.

Barn-Raising 101

Barn-Raising 101

Many years ago I read the book Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb. The book had a profound effect on me and I’ll never forget one of the analogies the author used to encourage her readers to ask for help from others to accomplish their goals. Ms. Sher referenced a barn-raising to reinforce the power of community, enrolling others in your mission to move there faster and more efficiently.

You’ve seen pictures of a barn-raising, right? Think of an Amish community in the rolling hills of Ohio or Pennsylvania. A young couple is about to be married, and they’re moving into their own home after the wedding. They need a barn, so the community comes together. In one day, they “raise a barn,” accomplishing something it would take the individual months, maybe even years to do. (If you want to see an example of a barn-raising, watch “Witness” with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis–it’s a great thriller with some steamy romance thrown in.)

Barbara Sher blames our culture of rugged individualism on the tendency for folks to insist on going it alone. But it really does take a village… to get our goals and dreams accomplished. That’s one of the most powerful reasons to seek and participate in a professional (or trade) association.

I recently joined the Association Forum of Chicagoland and people laugh when I tell them it’s “the association for associations.” Associations are big business-VERY big business. In 2012 the Association Forum did an economic impact study of Chicagoland associations conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen, one of the nation’s top 10 CPA and consulting firms. The study reports there are more than 1,600 associations based in the Chicago area, and these associations pump more than $10.3 billion directly into the local economy each year. Together, membership exceeds more than 27 million individual members and 250,000 corporate members. These Chicago area associations provide nearly 44,000 full- and part-time jobs with a total employee compensation of more than $4.2 billion.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with you? Essentially, this means there’s an association for everyone. If you’re in the healthcare field, an accountant, an attorney or in any one of the many occupations listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook which includes approximately a bazillion titles, there is a group of people in the same industry or occupation who share your interests, skills and, most importantly, educational needs. Most associations exist to serve the professional development needs of their membership, along with often representing them as a powerful lobby. Associations are fascinating entities and if you’re not part of yours, find one. There may be more than one–try them out and if it’s the right fit, join. Get involved. Become a member of a committee and, if you’re engaged in their mission, you’ll find yourself on the board before you know it.

Then, when you’re in the process of building your own barn (read: career, mission, goal, company, project), you have a community to help you. Oh, sure, you can build a barn by yourself, one nail and one plank at a time. But there’s urgency to get your barn built! And it’s a lot more fun when you accomplish your goals surrounded by people who know and care about you. It’s called “networking.”