Simple Strategies To Fine-Tune Your Pitch

And Change People’s Minds

Apr 04

Whether you’re pitching your new business idea to the CEO or pitching buying a new car to your spouse, crafting a winning argument, once you’ve passed the feasibility hurdle, is highly dependent on the tactics and strategies you use to sway the decision-maker. We’ve all been on both sides of the equation—delivering and receiving successful and unsuccessful pitches. I’d be willing to bet that when you’ve been the person on the receiving end of an awful pitch, you know exactly why the pitch failed.

Awful pitches are horrible for many different reasons: sometimes the person is unprepared, sometimes they’re condescending, and sometimes the person believes that all it takes to win the day is including all the relevant information in the pitch and letting the collective weight of the data convince the person to decide in his or her favor.

However, I’d also be willing to bet that when you’re on the delivery end of an awful or unsuccessful pitch, you rarely know the exact reason why the pitch didn’t sway or persuade. And the truth is, we’re rarely given the opportunity to query the decision maker once we’ve pitched and failed to zero in on why exactly they weren’t convinced to decide in our favor. Often this leads people to go down a rabbit hole of wrong explanations, wondering if they weren’t specific enough or left out a critical piece of information when in truth, the answer is far more clear-cut. Setting aside being unprepared or condescending as reasons for a pitch not succeeding, most pitches fail simply because the person making the pitch shares everything they know about the matter at hand rather than everything the decision maker needs to know to make their decision.

It’s no wonder the pitch was an epic failure—it was crafted from the perspective of the pitcher and not from the vantage point of the decision-maker. An exceptionally subtle yet influential distinction that spells the difference between winning over a decision-maker and a failing pitch. Avoiding your next disastrous pitch starts with making some smart and meaningful changes in the process that you use to craft your pitch that make a meaningful difference in how the pitch will be perceived by the person you need to make the decision.

These simple yet powerful tweaks will help pare down your pitch, focus it on the decision maker, and therefore substantially increase your ability to successfully win over any decision maker you face.

Be Sure That You’re Presenting To The Ultimate Decision Maker

It might seem a bit simplistic to say this, but be sure that when you’re pitching someone on an idea that you’ve targeted the presentation to the decision maker with the authority to ultimately make the choice. This is critical, especially when pitching to a group where multiple players may hear the pitch but not have the authority to make the decision or be the person you want to work with on a deal. Failing to target the pitch to your audience, even if it is only to one person in the room, can sometimes alienate the true decision-maker you want to sway. Persuasion, no matter how effectively done, directed to a person who has no authority to make the decision is never going to yield the desired effect.

Know Your Decision Maker

Learn as much as you possibly can in advance about the person making the decision. The most important information to understand concerns their patterns around what motivates them to make decisions and draw conclusions. How are they motivated to do something or not do something? Is it to avoid problems or achieve goals? Are they convinced to take action when they know within themselves that something is right? Or do they use facts and figures to help them decide? And lastly, are they proactive or reactive: do they like to initiate change or wait until a situation is right to act?

The best place to get answers to these questions is directly from this person. Observe how this person has made decisions in the past, note how they present information, listen to their words and notice their body language in certain situations. You could even sit in when someone else is pitching them and watch what happens, what they ask, and what works and what doesn’t. Look for little peculiarities that you might want to take advantage of: think “royalty deal” and Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary.

Know The Question And Know The Recommended Action You Want Them To Take

Have you ever tried making a decision when you didn’t really have a clear idea about what you were really being asked to decide and/or the person doing the asking didn’t know a hill of beans about what they were asking you for? You can’t expect someone to give you a decision when they can’t clearly identify the question they’re being asked to decide or the action they’re being asked to take. Your first and foremost responsibility is to know the question that needs to be answered and to define what action you think would best works to solve/answer it. Without this level of clarity, you can’t ever hope to make a successful pitch. At this stage, you’re really working to figure out your best guesstimate of what would work best and why the decision-maker would want to take the action you’re proposing. Write both your question and answer down, keep clarifying it to make sure that there is no ambiguity and that your recommended action is the only action that will bring about the desired resolution to the question, and perhaps most importantly, that you can state why convincingly.

Carefully Lay Out And Select Your Best Points: Concentrate on Your Ideas

Your very next step is to begin laying out the facts, information, and arguments that are central to your pitch and form the basis for your core action/recommendation. Laying out and structuring the information and arguments in a logical manner will help you spot gaps in your knowledge of the facts, understand where challenges to your recommendation might come from, and help you counter potential objections with real counterpoints. Pay careful attention as you go through this process to keep the information tight and concise, making sure only to include only the most compelling and salient points in your outline so that your ideas are concentrated and therefore have the most influence and impact on the decision maker. Select your best and strongest reasons why this action should take place—preferably no more than 3 or 4—and develop them fully. This is not to say that each of the 3 or 4 cannot have a few smaller points within them. However, loading up a pitch with everything but the kitchen sink and taking a scattershot approach is ineffective. It gives the impression that you don’t come from a position of strength and that you don’t have strong points that can stand on your own. Your criteria for including a point should be:

  • That it is essential to the core of your pitch
  • It is scrupulously accurate
  • It is presented from the vantage point of the decision maker

If it doesn’t fit these criteria, it isn’t going to help and will most likely become a straw man that can sidetrack your pitch.

Create A Story

Now that you’ve worked long and hard on your outline and you believe that you’ve created a compelling pitch for the recommended action you want the decision-maker to take, you’re ready to translate your outline into the story that will take the person(s) step by step through your pitch to its conclusion. Make sure that the story proceeds methodically through the information, starting with a statement of the question you want to be answered or solved so that the decision-maker knows from the start the very decision they are being asked to make. Once the decision maker knows what they’ll be deciding, they’ll be more attuned to the evidence needed to support the decision you want them to make as you spotlight the most important merits for your core action or recommendation being adopted.

This step guarantees that they’ll be better able to tie the facts back to the core action or recommendation and understand how the facts either support or disprove the course of action being sought. Make sure that part of your appeal is to the person’s common sense and not only the facts and evidence. Sometimes decision-makers will make decisions on what their gut sense tells them and then look for facts to support it, so it is wise to appeal to both in your story. Avoid hyperbole and phrases that contain absolute negatives like “There will never be another…” or “No one has ever seen…” since these can result in a loss of credibility in your presentation, as negatives are always difficult to prove. Always make sure to begin the story with your strongest points because as they say: first impressions are enduring.

Make sure that the story starts out in a positive vein, and if you have to address or refute something you do it in the middle and not at the beginning or end. Close powerfully and explicitly tell the decision maker what it is you need them to do. Your closing should move the decider to action with a recap of the principal reasons they should take action and why your recommendation is the only response.

Give Your Story A Test Drive

Practice makes perfect, and sharing your story with others before the actual pitch can help you hone your pitch and give you the needed practice so that you’re comfortable with giving the pitch seamlessly. Choose a group of people to practice your pitch with and ask to track your story against your outline and to give you feedback on areas that you might have missed or might be overkill. Then incorporate their suggestions and refine the pitch until you think you have it in its final form. Choose one person whose decision-making style mirrors that of the person you’re pitching and pitch for them as if you were doing it for the intended decision-maker. Debrief them on what worked and what didn’t and if they’d have made the decision in your favor. Hone your presentation again until you’ve got it where you think it needs to be. You might even want to video this session so that you can watch not only your presentation but also their reactions to what you were saying at certain points in the pitch.

Decide What Final Form The Presentation Will Take

At this point, you already know a lot about the person you’re pitching, and you’ve spent a great deal of time honing your pitch to match their style. You’re at the point where all that’s left to do is help them understand what you need them to do, and the key to doing that effectively is selecting the right format the final presentation will take. Deciding what the final form is may not always be under your control, and that could go either way. It might be that the decision maker has preset the format to be what he/she prefers, and so understanding the best way to utilize the features of that format to showcase your pitch means making sure that you know and understand how best to showcase your information in a variety of ways. If you get to select the final form, be sure to choose one that you know makes it easiest for the decision-maker to best understand and be presented with the information. Knowing in advance if they prefer reports, executive summaries, slides, or even an email with key decisions and data points, followed by a face-to-face meeting or an in-person pitch, will go a long way to helping you showcase your idea in the most favorable light. No matter the presentation method—or if you’ve chosen it or not—as long as you’ve structured and crafted the pitch with the strategies above and ensured that you’ve placed what they are being asked to decide on early in the presentation, the presentation is pared down to include only the most salient points, your closing moves them to action, and you’ve told them everything that they need to know to make a decision, then you’ll be better positioned to be successful.

Remember that no matter what, you have to know your stuff, stand your ground, and do so as equals. When you step before the audience next time you pitch, have this clearly in your mind and know that you are there to help the decision maker understand what the circumstances demand of them, what they need to know to make the decision, and in doing this effectively, you’ll show them that you knew what you needed to know about the matter at hand too.

Let me know how your next pitch goes in the comments below.


Is “Why?” Really Just A Crooked Letter?

Feb 14

It was a chilly fall day and a familiar scene was playing at the town soccer fields. A dad and his young son were walking back to the car after the match. The son was peppering his dad with question after question. Every well-crafted answer the dad gave was met with a single question: Why? At one point it was clear that the dad reached the limit of his patience, and in one last attempt to end the series of why questions he said, “Because ‘Y’ is a crooked letter.”

With a puzzled look on his face, his son smiled and replied: “Why?”

The point in sharing this story is to emphasize that as adults we’ve become so jaded, self-focused, and frustrated with those who ask us “Why?”— even when it comes from our children.

When did inquisitiveness, curiosity, and asking Why become defiance, or a challenge to our thinking, ideas, and who we are?

Is it that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Why as extraneous — a waste of time when just doing seems more imperative and expedient? Is it that as adults we don’t believe that why leads to something better and only serves to drag us down a rabbit hole of excuses?

I don’t think our world is not a better place because we don’t ask “Why?”. A life without knowing why keeps us focused in the moment and doing things by rote. It disconnects us from our own sense of purpose and that of those around us. Without knowing why, we fail to see context, solve problems, and fall prey to our natural biases and assumptions. As each day passes, we lose the capacity to dream, to sway others to act without bias and to ask, “Why not?”.

But it isn’t too late for us all to reconnect to our personal Why? — that wonder and curiosity that leads us to better understand the context of the world around us, the potential of what could be and why we are an integral part of all of it. Embodying curiosity in action generates the energy, enthusiasm, and connection to our internal guidance systems that infuses our passion with a purpose, spurs novel thinking, disruption of what is, and sends us in new directions. Isn’t it time to start bringing asking “Why?” back into favor?

Here’s what you need to know to discover your Why and start asking others about theirs:

Embrace A New Paradigm: Knowing Your Why Is A Requisite

We all have a personal brand—that spider’s web of beliefs, principles, values, and knowledge that is the glue that makes us uniquely us. Knowing your Why starts with focusing on a few key things:

Writing A Statement Of Your Why – A phrase that captures the crux of the commitment, principles, values, and set of beliefs that lead you to do what you do.

  • Start by writing the story of how you arrived where you are and how you plan to get where you’re going.
  • Look for the common values, themes, and strengths in the story of your life: why you were empowered to take action, why they influenced your thoughts and behaviors, which experiences did you impact and which experiences impacted you, and how are you different and unique? What created your map of the world? How did your beliefs translate into the action that came to be the way of your life? Ask yourself “Why?” if you didn’t do something you know wanted to.
  • Identify the core values that you want others to connect with you, and write a personal credo that expresses that in a clear and concise way.
  • Be inquisitive and reach out to key stakeholders—those who know you best and are impacted by your actions. Ask them to define what they think your Why is? This is a good check to see if you need to do more alignment.

Focus On Living Your Why – Let your Why infuse everything you do. It should become the source of your purpose and passion—after all, it is the authentic you. Rely on it as a powerbase to spur thinking, cut through extraneous details, and rouse you to action. The Why of your life forms the internal guidance system that supports your decision-making and goal attainment.

Share Your Why, Ask Others Why, Answer Why Questions At Every Opening

Make it your unwritten rule to share your Why, ask others theirs, and ask and answer Why questions at every opening. Here’s how this fosters the transparency that others need to have so they can know you on an authentic level:

Sharing Your Why – Gives others the information that they need to understand and gives witness to your consistent adherence to your core values and principles. This dovetails with their ability to trust and find you to be authentic. Sharing your Why at every opening is at the heart of the loyalty people bestow on you. It is through that loyalty and trust that you can influence, lead, and align varied Whys to impact the larger world.

Ask Others Why – Asking someone else their Why is the first step in knowing the crux of what lies at the heart of their personal brand. Understanding the purpose, principles, values, and set of beliefs that lead them to do what they do helps you tap into what stirs their passions, rouses them to act, and helps you sway them to act with you. Asking someone about their why supports you as you test what you believe about them to be true, discard assumptions, take the emotional temperature of the other person, and build genuine rapport and trust.

Answer Why Questions – A willingness to answer why questions shows your innate sense of curiosity, that you embrace listening, that you don’t respond reflexively, that there is no judgment, and you’re open to testing your thoughts and assumptions. Being open to explaining why means that you are willing to share the Why you believe the way you do, and encourages others to do likewise. Why in action spurs the creative thinking that leads to novel ideas, new directions, and keeps things rooted and connected to more than just what serves the immediate need.

Why is the crux of what guides our lives, and it delineates who we are from each other. It shapes the clarity of our mindset and is the powerbase from which we build the impact and inspiration needed to call others to action and live to the utmost of their potential. Why may just be three letters, but its power to unite people on a common journey or to do the unimaginable for the mutual benefit of all is not to be underestimated.

My Why is to help others (including myself) make a difference, no matter how minor it might seem, and to fill their heart and mind with a sense of gratitude and their life with an enduring purpose.

I’d love to know your Why. Please share it with me in the comments below.


Performance: Getting People To Tell You The Truth

Feb 01

As a leader, each and every day, you’re besieged with irreconcilable demands from those you work with and for. And although you have sway over the direction of your business, you rarely have access to the much-needed objective and ongoing feedback about your ideas, plans, and performance. Perhaps you’re not that worried about it, but here is why you should be.

Failing to seek out and encourage those you lead to share the unvarnished truth and actionable feedback about how best you can boost your performance and lead better can have dire consequences for you and your long-term success.

The longer you delay asking, the less likely it will be that you’ll get the type of candid perspective and opinion you need to keep you from making critical errors in judgment. You can’t become an effective leader by trial and error, but conversely, you certainly can become a terrible one.

So why are so many leaders afraid to ask those they lead to give it to them straight?

The answer is really two‐fold. As a leader, haven’t learned how to or don’t want to open themselves up to being vulnerable in this way with their team. They haven’t invested in building the trust that encourages people around them to tell them the truth without fearing negative repercussions—especially when what is being said will contradict them or be negative about their performance as a leader.  Realizing your success as a leader goes through and depends on those who work for you is the first step in getting those you lead to tell you what you might not want to hear.

Here’s How You Make Give It To Me Straight The Rule Of The Day

Make sure you’re the one who shakes up the status quo and takes an active role in asking for feedback about how you’re doing on a recurring basis. Follow these simple guidelines:

  • Call Out The Fear – Recognize there is a degree of fear and risk when someone is willing to be candid with you. As the leader, it is your obligation to take the first step toward making the situation a relaxed one for the other person. Enable them to speak openly by calling out the fear and acknowledging it. Let them know that you appreciate and understand that it is difficult to share feedback with a boss—especially if it is negative in nature. Tell them you want to know no matter what because if you don’t have a realistic picture of what you’re doing well and not doing well, then you don’t improve as a leader.
  • Make It A No Repercussion Zone – Make it clear there are never any repercussions for sharing feedback that helps learning or growth, even if it is different than what you think or believe. Be consistent and apply this beyond these feedback conversations to meetings and all matters.
  • Have A Go-To Question – Have a go-to question that you can easily call upon to break the ice and start the conversation flowing, like “What is it that I can do to become a more effective leader for our team?”
  • Speak To More Than One Person – Make sure you ask more than one person the same question separately and outside of a formal conversation. Reiterate that you want them to give it to you straight. You don’t have to ask everyone every time—just make sure that you reach out to everyone over the course of a few months.
  • Read Between The Lines – Listen for what is being said and perhaps not being said. Follow up and get clear by asking for specifics and asking for examples and use open ended questions to solicit more input.
  • Get A Concrete Step You Can Take And Implement – Ask them for one future-focused suggestion that, if you implemented today, would improve your performance.
  • Share What You’re Going To Do – Look for areas in which to agree, and say so when you find them. Let them know what you’ve chosen from what they said to implement.
  • Reward The Sharing – With “thank you”—as a leader, remember that any time someone shares his or her insight with you, it is a gift.
  • Make Asking For Feedback Your MO – Ask for their input often and in all things that impact the work and performance of the team. Especially follow up on how you’re doing with the suggestions you implemented from your conversation with them. It doesn’t just have to be in formal ways. Ask for quick feedback on ideas also. The key here is consistency.

The people who work for us shouldn’t be the only ones desperately seeking more frequent and actionable feedback—as their leader; you should shake up the dynamic and be the first one to ask for future-focused suggestions, opinions, and perspectives on everything ranging from business matters to how you can boost your performance as their leader.

Let me know how you’re planning to ask those you lead how you’re doing.

You Need Great People Skills

The Choice Is Yours, And It’s Simple

Jan 17

A take-no-prisoners brashness with respect to people when it comes to leadership doesn’t go as far as it used to—you know this as a leader as well as I do, and if you don’t, then you really need to read this post.

As a leader, you’ve focused on unabashedly pursuing the technical skills that sustain the setting of a vision, creating the strategy, and driving bottom-line results. However, you know that a myopic focus on the technical aspects of leadership and being high maintenance isn’t going to be enough to keep from being replaced, let alone excel, in today’s highly competitive and ever-shifting business world.

As a leader, you must be unswerving in your pursuit of what distinguishes you from the rest of the pack.

Distinguishing yourself from the pack isn’t something you can do on your own as a leader—success goes through the people you’re interdependent with and work for. And the next part is what is really scary for you—you know that working with people can be really difficult and challenging. Sadly, many talented and industrious leaders have learned the hard way that they are expendable when they become high-maintenance and toxic. No longer do high-performing results producing leadership overshadow and excuse a gap in your people skills.

Leaders need to heed the wake-up call and—don’t shoot me for saying this—learn what they resent having to learn. But without learning it, they won’t succeed – the people skills that will make possible their ability to excel as a leader.

As the founder of an executive coaching firm, I’m often asked, “Why is it that some of the most intelligent, creative, and trailblazing leaders never add acquiring mind-blowing people skills to their leadership development itinerary?”

The answer is straightforward: they’re far more adept at leveraging all the tangible aspects of running their businesses and have developed shortsightedness when it comes to doing something they’re less skilled at, the difficult and challenging work of having to learn great people skills. And if you don’t believe me, ask their families.

I’d like to share with you some surefire steps that will help you know if you’re ready to change and then how to go about it.

Go From Thinking You Might To Knowing You Will

Having standout people skills seems like something leaders should have had on their leadership itinerary to develop early on, but unfortunately, many don’t. Being aware of the need to make a change and actually being ready for change are two completely different things. Taking this journey begins when you first start contemplating doing so, and it ends when you discover what you’ll lose if you don’t make the change. If you have any questions about your people skills and where they need to be, start asking yourself some hard questions like these: What’s at risk if you don’t get better? What has not been better already cost you, and what has been standing in your way? Ask the people around you what you can do better with respect to how you interact with them. I’m sure your colleagues, employees, and family will appreciate having the opportunity to share their thoughts with you.

Know What It Will Take To Close The Gap

Now that you’ve gotten some insight into the skills you need to work on, you have to grab the bull by the horns and make a candid appraisal of where your people skills (EQ) stand today. Various self-assessments, tools, and books can support and guide you through the process of taking stock of your EQ skills. As the gaps emerge, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do and how much work it will take to get you where you need to be. Understanding what you value, how you’re wired, and how you apply what you know is vital to figuring out how to integrate your people skills and technical skills into your leadership operating system. When you have all the information you need, it’s time to turn thought into action. You can create checklists with specific behaviors based on the skills you need to acquire and invite trusted friends, mentors, colleagues, and employees into the process first by sharing the skills that you want to acquire and then by asking them for suggestions on how to go about doing it. These people will be able to further support you if you ask them to share in-the-moment feedback about how you’re doing against what you said you wanted to do and offer actionable suggestions for improvements that will make it possible to take a step closer and close the gap.

If You Want To Fast-Track The Process, Hire An Executive Coach

Starting this process on your own isn’t out of the question. However, letting go of and replacing the behaviors that are holding you back, figuring out what works best for you, and getting exceptional results can be challenging to accomplish alone. Having someone in your corner—a strategic partner and sounding board—makes it easier and faster. Choosing to work with an executive coach gives you someone working side by side with you whose sole focus is you and what you need to do to improve your skills. Be mindful, however, that coaching isn’t a magic bullet or a shortcut. It won’t absolve you from doing the difficult stuff that it takes to get better with your people skills. But it will certainly help fast-track the process as you work with someone whose expertise and guidance you can leverage so that you stop spinning your wheels and get really focused on what behaviors you need to target, learn, and stop that will have the most impact and bring about your success.

As you can see, it doesn’t require drastic measures to affect a change—all it takes are readiness, commitment, self-control, and following through on your part. Are you willing to add getting better at your people skills to your leadership development itinerary? I can assure you that making this type of investment in yourself will pay dividends well beyond the office.


My Favorite Books Of 2016

Dec 14

No one person is ever the same, and yet I’ve noticed that the amazing leaders I work with all have one thing in common: they have a relentless passion for learning. Whether it’s reading books, newspapers, blogs, journals, or anything else, they can get their hands on; they’re always seeking out information about how to acquire and enhance the tangible and intangible skills essential to becoming the kind of leader they want to become.

What do these leaders know about the importance of a great book?

They know that reading great books imparts a depth of knowledge, set of behaviors, emotional intelligence skills, and insights that enhance their value to the organizations they lead.

As a passionate reader myself, I can’t wait to get my hands on a new book. In fact, my Kindle wish list is now up to 25 titles, just waiting for me to download them. Making time for reading something great doesn’t mean giving up hours—although I’ve definitely been known to get lost in a great book and finish it in one sitting—it just means setting it as an intention and making reading part of your plan each day. It can be as simple as listening to a chapter of a great book on the commute to work, waiting in line for breakfast, or reading just a chapter a day before bed.

Here are my favorite books of 2016 since my earlier list of books I’d recommend. See if there’s one here that might give you the incentive to start your new reading habit.

  • The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for Your Digital Transformation by Charlene Li
  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Designing Your Life: How to Build A Well-Lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  • Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut
  • Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
  • Together Is Better by Simon Sinek
  • Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
  • The Happiness Track by Emma Seppala
  • The Ideal Team Player: How to Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni
  • Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini

These are only a few books I’ve read since my last list. For more of my favorites and to read my interviews with leading authors, please take a look at Leadership Compound’s Resources by simply clicking here.

My Favorite Books Of 2016 (So Far)

Jun 14

Frenetic days filled with meetings, email, conference calls, and a million other things that demand your attention can leave you feeling wiped at the end of the week. We’re all guilty of trying to cram a few more hours of work into an already jam-packed day, and if you’re an avid reader like me, it means constantly being on the lookout for those rare and precious moments when you can sit down with a great book and let the world fade away. Most of the world’s most successful people are passionate about reading and always will be.

Amazon offers more than twelve million plus books on topics ranging from Art to Zen meditation and everything in between. There are more than 28,000 books on leadership, entrepreneurship, and business. But which ones are actually worth a read?

Well, here’s to making your life a tad easier. Here are a few of my new favorites:

I’m always reading and curating books so if you want to see more of my favorites, and some interesting interviews with leading authors, you can find them on Leadership Compound’s Resources by simply clicking here.

Keep your eyes out next week for Part One of my upcoming interview with Dr. Mark Goulston, author of the #1 Non-Fiction book “Talking to Crazy”.


A Mentor’s Influence Is Everlasting

Jun 07

We’ve all benefited from the great advice, support, and, quite honestly, kick in the pants from the indelible mark on our lives left by a mentor’s influence. We appreciate their uncanny ability to know exactly when we need the most support or the unvarnished truth. These relationships are extremely impactful, and their influence is everlasting. I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with a mentor of mine, as he spoke with such deep gratitude and respect for the man he considered a mentor.

Hearing him speak so humbly about the imprint that this person made in his life reminded me that becoming a great mentor isn’t an accident. It necessitates that we become highly adept at being attuned to others in ways that develop both the influence and respect needed to bond with them on an exceptional level. This connection is reflective of the mentor’s own deeply understood values, beliefs, and revolutionary thinking.

They have become skilled at what Daniel Goleman calls “the components of empathy”: cognitive empathy (awareness of how people feel), emotional empathy (sense of what someone is going through), and lastly, empathic concern (being moved to help others when needed). It is this degree of empathy that provides the basis for assuaging frustrations, calming resistance, and guiding us to explore deeper levels within ourselves.

Here are 3 key ways that you can become more attuned to others and impact their lives in ways you never expected:

1. Do A Deep Dive Into Your Hopes, Thoughts, and Doubts

Connecting with our own deeply held values, beliefs, hopes and doubts in an honest and open way provides the clarity we need to understand what prompts us to act and what drives what we aspire to become. Igniting that spark of self-awareness about our areas of strength and limitation creates the attunement that helps us see ourselves in a non-judgmental and realistic way. The natural sense of hope and optimism that comes from self-acceptance sets us on the path to better understanding the needs, aspirations, and limitations of others. It also connects us deeply with a purpose bigger than ourselves.

2. Think About Who Helped You Along the Way

Spend some time reflecting on the people who have helped you the most in your life—those of whom you would say, “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Make a note of their names and some key moments that you remember. What was it they said, or did that so impact you? Think about how you felt and what you learned in those moments. Look at the list and see which of those you presently embody and what is currently missing or needs enhancing in your skill set. Create a short list of attributes that you’d like to focus more on developing.

3. Become Energized and Test Drive New Behaviors

Leverage the work you’ve already done to connect with your sense of optimism and hope and experiment with a few of the behaviors you want to be better at. Pick the most important one for you and give it a test drive. Remember that this is not the time to engage in a high-stakes strategy or no-pain-no-gain type situation. Choose situations and people that you are currently comfortable with. Clue them in beforehand to what you’re trying to do, and let them know that you want their candid perspective about what went well and what needs to happen in the future for you to really nail this. Their thoughts are a gift given with your well-being and growth in mind, so all that is required is a thank you. Avoid the urge to agree when you like what you hear or debate when you don’t. It isn’t about being perfect every time—it’s about discovering and learning what’s working and what isn’t.

As you embrace this journey and move toward becoming the mentors you admire, you’ll come to appreciate the gift they gave you even more. Make sure that you thank them before they are gone or, as my mentor did, honor them by sharing their impact and influence on you with others.


The Art of Leadership

May 17

Leading is an art, and when you get it right, your influence ripples out just like the waves created when you skip a stone on a lake just perfectly. Artful leaders, just like expert stone skippers, have the right combination of spin, speed, and angle.

Here are some ways you know that you’ve got the right spin, speed, and angle that give others the confidence to be amazing at the art of leadership.

You Know What to Say to Draw Out the Brilliance In Others

You’re able to inspire, motivate, and tease out the drive in others. You quickly identify their strengths and weave them together to create a cohesive team. You’re able to move swiftly and know how to shape varied opinions into a single strategy that inspires and motivates those around you to take action.

You Understand the Velocity at Which Things Need to Happen

You’re able to quickly assess the magnitude of the situation at hand. Your decision-making skills enable you to quickly make adjustments and demonstrate the agility needed to excel in any undertaking. You build and foster trust among your team members so that they can respond to emerging needs and high-stress situations with confidence and trust in each other’s ability to execute flawlessly.

You Leverage All Viewpoints to Accomplish the Objective

You’re able to adeptly explore things from all angles and are open to differing perspectives. You’re able to pinpoint the best position with which to approach an objective and create a plan of attack. You often bring together divergent perspectives and unify your colleagues around a common vision and mission. Accomplishing the objective means applying just the right set of skills at the right time, all the while adjusting for changes in circumstances.

Your ability to continue to develop and enhance these skills ensures that the ripples create an impact beyond just those in your inner circle.


3 Steps To Manage and Lead

Oct 22

It is no secret that our leadership practices are failing to keep up with the reality of how employees in the 21st century want and expect us to manage and lead them. One only has to look at survey after survey on employee engagement to know that today’s workforce continues to tell those in leadership that they want a different style of leadership than the traditional command and control structure of generations past.

Gen X and Gen Y employees are well-educated, more independent and work in a more thought-driven environment than their predecessors. Gen X and Y employees come into the workforce with different expectations for their leaders and expect more from the organizations in which they work. For those in leadership, thriving and success as a leader mean adapting your style of leadership to one that helps your team work smarter and taps into their desire to create value and do things in a smarter way.

Why should leaders care about improving thinking? Improving thinking among those you lead supports their personal development and independence and respects their need for diversity and change. Supporting your team in improving their thinking helps them fulfill their potential, spurs innovation and creates employees who take on the responsibility for becoming engaged and highly productive.

Here are three steps that you can take today to manage the brilliant minds you lead:

1. Create A Space For People To Simplify Their Thinking: As a leader, you must engage in behavior that helps others feel safe in opening up to you. This means that you must always treat people with fairness, allow them to give voice to their concerns, and truly hear and understand what is being said. Lastly, you have to be willing not to win your point so that the other person can draw his or her own conclusions. Creating a safe space allows someone to simplify their thinking and open themselves up to exploring new and different areas without feeling judged, criticized or blamed. As a leader, developing and expressing genuine regard for the other person goes a long way toward building trust and creating a safe space.

2. Encourage People to Think Things Through on A Deeper Level: Help those you lead focus on creating distance between action and reaction. Help them pause and delve deeper into the habits and behaviors that are driving what they do. Together explore their thinking and approach rather than what happened and what didn’t. This type of exploration helps them move away from reacting to a stimulus and more toward responding to it. This is not about improving the process or how they did something but rather focuses on helping them understand the behavior and habits that are impacting their performance. Helping and supporting them as they think through things for themselves, and challenging thinking appropriately and respectfully assists them in making the connection between behavior and outcomes. This is how as leaders, we can help them begin to think and act differently.


Leadership Books

Put These On Your Reading List!

Oct 08

Choosing what to add to your reading list can be challenging. However, a well-built and diverse list, written by thought leaders both past and present, can give you a wealth of insights and strategies to stimulate thinking and reshape your leadership point of view.

Here are some leadership books that my clients and I have enjoyed and learned from. I’d like to expand their reach by asking you to consider adding them to your already well-built reading list.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and LeadLaszlo Bock

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to BeMarshall Goldsmith

Peter Ducker’s Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s LeadersPeter F. Drucker, Joan Snyder Kuhl, Frances Hesselbein

The Emperor’s Handbook Marcus Aurelius

Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It and Why People Demand It James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders turn Difficult Conversations Into BreakthroughsMarcia Reynolds

The Art of Persuasion: Winning Without Intimidation Bob Burg

On Becoming a LeaderWarren Bennis

Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and SuccessSylvia Ann Hewlett

The complete list of books can be found on the Leadership Compound Resources. Let me know if there are others you think should be added.