Success and The Network Effect

Oct 04

Like most people, you’ve gotten adept at figuring out who the poisonous and exhausting people are in your life. And if you’re successful, you’ve become adept at quickly jettisoning them before they wreak the inevitable havoc that always comes. Figuring out whom to jettison is easy—what’s tough is acquiring a keen eye for spotting those people who will unquestionably give you a strategic leg up on the ladder of success. What’s so important about having a keen eye and being able to spot the people who can help you ascend the ladder of success more quickly?

The unvarnished truth is you can’t succeed alone, despite what you read and see about highly accomplished and brilliant people.

A lone person struggling against all odds and surmounting all obstacles to become an overnight success might make a great movie script, yet in the real world, it rarely, if ever, happens that way. The most talented people don’t take anything for granted or leave anything to chance when it comes to building a strategic network of connections, advisors, mentors, and influencers who will play an integral role in opening doors and paving the way for them as they ascend the ladder of success. The work of building a highly dedicated and specialized network begins long before the people you want to seek out are chosen, and the relationships begin.

Here’s what it takes to become adept a spotting the people who will most assuredly quicken your rise on the ladder of success:

Focus On What You Need, Not What You Have

If you want the most influential advisors, mentors, and people in your corner, you need to focus on what you need, not what you have. This starts when you create your own personal balance sheet. Just like the balance sheet of any company tells the world about the general health of the company, so will your balance sheet reflect your general health and well-being as well as your strengths and gaps. It starts with you being able to objectively assess your assets and liabilities, your emotional intelligence, and your mindset and worldview. Here are a few quick ideas to get you started:

  • Create a personal avatar that includes how you like to learn new things, communicate with others, and overcome challenges. This will shine a spotlight on and enable you to prioritize your assets and identify your liabilities and what you want to accomplish.
  • Trace the milestones and markers: those moments in your life that include your victories, failures, and times when you had to take a step back and start again. When you have the list, ask yourself:* What would I tell myself today about something I should have done but didn’t do? What would I have needed then to be able to do this?* What do I believe about myself? Which of these are true, and which are false? Which might have been true but are no longer true and why?

Getting comfortable with and knowing precisely what you need lays the groundwork for building the rapport and trust that will drive your successful connection with the influencers who can help you succeed.

Get Specific

Now that you’ve spelled out who you are, it’s time to get serious about seeking out that core group of undeniably essential people upon whom you’ll rely as you march toward success. The cadre of resources upon whose counsel and wisdom you rely demands that you connect with others in a strategic and deliberate way. But it isn’t about collecting names and counting numbers. It starts with getting specific about and then reaching out to the people who can fill in your skill gaps, shine the light on your blind spots, and help you use your strengths in ways that you’ve not thought about before. Look for people who will thrust you into your discomfort zone and support you in tackling the things you dream of for yourself. Getting specific means thinking about who you’d like to have in your posse. Begin by thinking about the traits, skills, and viewpoints you need to introduce into your life and figure out where those people are. Here are a few archetypes you might want to include in your circle:

  • The Sounding Board – Someone who listens to you and, more significantly, hears what is being said and what isn’t. Given what they hear, they willingly respond by being of service to you in the way you need their help—even if only to acknowledge what has been shared. These people are among the principal resources in your circle. They share in your biggest fears and grandest dreams. They give you unconditional support and enable you to talk through your biggest fears and move forward.
  • The Questioner – Someone who has a perspective 180 degrees from your own. They are willing to take you to the edge of your comfort zone and probably a good deal beyond it. They challenge your thinking, viewpoints, and entrenched ways of being. They help you explore new viewpoints and break through static thought patterns. It might not always be comfortable to be in their presence, yet they can help you in ways that accelerate your growth as no other person can.
  • The Elder / Mentor – Someone who has been there and done what you are trying to do. Someone who can become a strategic partner and show you all the potholes and shortcuts that will help you have a smoother and more successful journey. They also help you connect with others and make introductions that help build your influence and credibility. Their wisdom inspires and ignites your passion and desire to succeed.
  • The Up and Comer – Someone whose star is ascending. They are highly innovative and in touch with where the world is headed. They may be in your industry, or perhaps they are not, but they are the trendsetters and the ones at the head of the spear. They can help you with trends, technologies, and ideas that you’re not acquainted with or even at ease with.
  • The Peer – Someone who gets you where you are right now. They understand what you face because they are right there alongside you, going through the same things. Together you help each other see the constructive aspects of what you are experiencing. They are trusted confidants and sympathetic friends.

This certainly isn’t a complete list—you don’t need to have all the answers as to who should be on your list at the start. You can learn and add more along the way.

Don’t Tempt Fate—Give As Much As You Get

Relationships are not one-way streets—they are reciprocal. Don’t tempt fate by being known as someone who only takes from the people around them—giving as much as you get from others is a key way to build your own influence. Find opportunities to reciprocate: join forces on mutually-defined goals and share thoughts and resources freely. This level of engagement builds rapport, solidifies connections, and heightens your presence. What you do communicates volumes to those who observe your deeds and endears you to others. Giving as much as you get creates influential relationships that will help you catapult your success and leapfrog over your competition.

We know that bona fide success isn’t an overnight proposition; without a doubt, success isn’t achieved in isolation. With a keen eye, persistence, and a bit of flexibility, you’ll be able to form the type of relationships that will amplify your strengths and support you in ways that will drive your success exponentially.

How will you spot the people who can help you ascend the ladder of success more quickly? Please share your ideas with me.


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.


How To Tell Your Story

Get Others To Invest In Your Success

Apr 07

We all have certain things we want to achieve in our lives: a career in the c-suite, a promotion, or finding work that feeds our passion and leads us to a success-filled life. For many of us, our strategy focuses on building the experience, technical skills, and pedigree that we think will guarantee our success.

Achieving our dreams and being successful requires a strategy beyond just building the requisite profile and expertise. Success in whatever we choose to do comes down to having others invest in seeing us succeed, so much so that they find ways to help us do just that. The success you can achieve when others believe, promote, and support you on your journey is extraordinary. This type of support extends your reach and gives you a competitive advantage—others will know and trust you even before they speak to you based on what people they know have to say and believe about you.

How can you do everything in your power to tell your story in a way that garners the level of support that results in others advocating on your behalf? The answer is simple: you need to get your story right.

Achieving this goes beyond creating a great first impression and is more complex than you might think at first glance. Telling the right story about yourself means delivering the message in a powerful way, which guarantees others will clearly understand what makes you uniquely qualified, how you can best serve their needs, and keeps them wanting to know more about you and how you can help them succeed. Getting the story right, however, means more than just sharing your resume. It means sharing who you are in a way that enables others to understand you intrinsically and in a uniquely personal way long after the initial conversation has faded. Telling your story in this way forms the framework so that others can begin promoting and advocating on your behalf. Getting your story right means taking the focus off what you need and shifting it to what they need to choose you.

In order to be able to make this shift from what you need to what they need, here are a few things you need to do:

  • Begin by getting crystal clear in your own mind about what you bring to the table. This involves more than just your successes—it also includes lessons learned from your failures. Determine which of these have the most relevance in the current situation, provide the most benefit to the other person, and be able to share them in a concise and convincing way.
  • Spend more time in the conversation listening than talking, even though this seems counterintuitive. Ask questions so that you learn more about what the other person values and needs. Once you know this, you can reflect to the areas where you are in sync by sharing real experiences that embody the skill or result that meets their needs. Listening helps you identify areas that need clarification. It also enables you to address concerns at the moment and creates the resonance needed to make it easy for them to see you in that role.
  • Make sure you talk about how you are different from your competition. Ensure that you do so in a way that does not diminish others and also demonstrates your sense of integrity and fair-mindedness. Demonstrate your sincerity, confidence, and commitment to the success of others as well as yourself. Be honest and position yourself as someone they can rely on.
  • Be on the alert for opportunities where you can deliver value to them immediately and be of service to them by stating what you would do. This doesn’t mean giving away the store, but selectively giving them something that shows you are the solution to the need they have and demonstrates your ability and desire to contribute.
  • Be brief, descriptive, and focus on how what you do/did benefits them and will lead to their success. The first sentence you speak should explain how your actions and skill set met the strategic objectives of the person or organization you did this for in the past. The second sentence should focus on and frame the most significant results of the action taken and be tailored to the context most closely related to the person you are presently speaking with. Make sure that what you say generates more questions like: “Tell me more about how you did that?” or “How could you do that here?”
  • Show up and approach the conversation with the long view in mind. Understand that you have to actively campaign and share information about yourself before, during, and after the conversation. Look for opportunities to follow up and reinforce your story and the seriousness of your intentions. Know that this level of engagement brings about the person’s investment in your success and makes it more likely they will remember you if another opportunity arises and talk about you with others.
  • Let them know you realize they have the power to help you achieve your goal. Be sure to ask them for their insight into how best to succeed in their eyes. Talk with them about what you can do to make them feel good about making a choice and choosing you, and show your willingness to be mentored and coached.

Getting your story right isn’t as much about telling the story you want to tell but telling your story the way they need to hear it. If done well, getting your story right means painting a vivid picture that others can easily share about what you have to offer, who you are, and why they support you so strongly. The right story builds the connection needed to have others become invested in seeing you succeed, so much so that they take action on your behalf.

How do you plan to tell your story?  I love to hear from you.


The Art of Persuading People

May 09

When did you last have to persuade someone to decide in your favor?  Were you successful?

Persuading people is all about shaping judgment rather than creating certainty.  The key to successful persuasion is to be able to discern what motivates someone to decide and to artfully influence them in your favor.  

Someone is persuaded when the following three criteria are met:

  • The person has a clear idea of what you’re asking them to do
  • They are assured that it is within their power and best interest to do it
  • After hearing, the rationale for doing what you want, and the rationale for either doing something else or nothing at all, they decide that what you’re doing is best

Are you ready to give it a try?  Here are some tips:

  1. Learn as much as you can about the person you are trying to persuade; what motivates them to decide?
  2. Educate yourself about the facts that favor your position and emphasize the ones that are the most defensible.
  3. Have a clear idea of facts that do not favor your position, counter them on the merits or dismiss them as irrelevant.
  4. Never overstate the merits of your side; you’ll harm your credibility, err on the side of caution, and don’t use phrases like always or never.
  5. Give your best facts first, and then refute those that work against you.  You’ll appear evenhanded and trustworthy.
  6. Don’t defend the indefensible. Openly acknowledging those positions demonstrates you are reasonable and avoids the appearance of trying to sweep things under the rug.
  7. Appeal to other people’s common sense and fairness; not only is your choice factually right, but it is within the bounds of reasonableness.
  8. Close powerfully by creating a vivid image of the benefits to the listener for acting on what you have so carefully and logically presented.

What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

The Wrong Question to Ask

Apr 25

Language is the principal way we convey and communicate our frames of reference. We all communicate through a set of filters that have been shaped by our history, beliefs, values, and perceptions. Likewise, those who hear our words process them through their own personal filtering system as they try to understand us. I’d offer the following alternative to the strengths or weaknesses question for predicting someone’s behavior in a specific role.

Being able to ask questions that tap into a candidate’s unconscious thought and behavior patterns in given contexts and circumstances is a far more effective strategy for selecting the right candidate for a job. If you are looking
 for a candidate who won’t get caught up in groupthink, it would be
 better to learn the source of the person’s motivation and judgment.

A great question for eliciting this information is: How do you know that you’ve done a good job at work? If the candidate’s answer focuses on their deciding that they did a good job, or they indicate resistance to someone else making a decision that they did a good job, the source of their motivation and judgment is internal. Since they are internally motivated and their judgment comes from internal standards, they would not get caught up in groupthink.

On the other hand, if their answer revolved around comparing what they did to an external standard or others’ opinions, the source of their motivation is external, and they would be more likely to engage in groupthink. Neither approach is good or bad in and of itself. What matters most is that the person’s pattern and what is needed for success in that role is compatible. This is just one of the many patterns that interviewers can test for with candidates during the course of an interview.

An organization that is capable of accurately identifying the patterns for specific positions, and interviewing to test for those patterns in the candidates, will be well served and end up hiring and managing people’s strengths instead of suffering from their weaknesses.