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A colleague recently shared her young assistant’s admiration. “You have it so together,” the 20-something cooed. If only she knew, my friend thought to herself. Her second thought was, I’m glad I’m projecting that image.
As a coach and active networker, I’m privy to what goes on behind closed doors. I can say without hesitation, nor fear of revealing anyone’s dark secrets, that every professional I know harbors thoughts of being an impostor at times. The key here is when and where you choose to reveal the shadow side of being a pro.
I attended a networking event in NYC last summer. One of the women there was holding an infant on her shoulder. This is unusual in terms of business networking. But it was also a magnet as I love babies. I went up and introduced myself to the woman and asked her about her baby. The mother was a successful attorney, and this was child #3. “Yeah, my jerk of an almost ex-husband disappointed me AGAIN tonight, and I had to bring her with me.”
This is an example of how to blow the myth in front of the wrong audience. While I was sympathetic to her situation, I had only just met her and was hearing deeply intimate information. It was repellant because we had not established any sense of relationship. Put simply, it was weird. Why was she dumping this information on a stranger at a business event?
Here’s an insider tip for all pros. Be sure you have safe harbors to go to for the internal feelings that may compromise the external appearance. I do believe in “act as if”, and the best recommendation I have is to tell your truths, superficial or deeply felt, regularly to a trusted friend or ally, as my colleague had done with me, rather than blowing the image inappropriately.
Leigh Scott attended my Create Your Own Future retreat three year ago this month. During that event, we had a Come As You’ll Be activity projecting forward five years from the present. That night Leigh presented herself as the successful author of a book on parenting. She’s right on schedule.
This morning Leigh showed me a copy of her proposal–the document an author prepares for a literary agent who then sells it to a publisher. I got goosebumps when I saw what Leigh had put together. It was a spiral bound book with dividers for each of the areas required in a proposal including:
- About the book
- About the author
- Table of Contents
- Sample Chapter
- The Competition
And more. It took Leigh nearly a year of dedicated work to prepare this draft. She made the book her priority during this time. She made other changes as well. Knowing how much time she wanted to devote to writing, Leigh looked at her whole life and chose to make changes. She downsized her living situation to reduce her cost of living, which in turn reduced how much money she needed to earn.
These were all well-considered decisions with the vision of the book serving as the achievement that would make this worthwhile. She knew that in order to accomplish this life goal, certain activities would fall by the wayside. Making writing her priority, Leigh intentionally went without watching TV for a year. She chose to make time only for what was most important–earning enough to live while writing this book. Leigh was sure to include and pay for an accountability structure to keep her on track with her writing during the process.
In describing her feeling of satisfaction and delayed gratification, Leigh told an analogous story, perfectly related to her subject matter: parenting. A young boy had poured water on his father’s laptop computer. The father, modeling the behavior of a loving authority, explained to the child that his toy tractor was going to be taken away until the little boy carried out enough chores (suited to his level of ability–like licking envelopes and putting away toys) to make up for his dad’s loss. After four months of enforcing this ‘punishment’ the debt was repaid. The father took out the toy tractor which the little boy thought was brand new. “This is even better than the one I used to have!” he proclaimed. “It goes faster and I like it better.”
When you process something step-by-step (no shortcuts), suffer the slings and arrows of the journey, the ultimate reward is sweeter. Even if you weren’t in Westport, CT this morning, you may have felt the joy radiating out from Leigh’s pleasure in accomplishment.
Watch for Leigh’s book Becoming a Loving Authority: How to Get Out of Your Own Way as a Parent. I’ll see you at the book party!
Many clients approach me with the decision to write a book. Kristin is the only one in my memory who got the job done within the exact targeted time she had scheduled–copy in hand! This is a remarkable, and I have to add fearless, achievement. There are so many obstacles along the way. I watched Kristin skip, hop and pole vault over each one.
Here it is in Kristin’s words:
I have happily enrolled in a course offered by the WBDC which began this past Saturday. It’s an opportunity for me to focus on my business and grow myself, a service I continually offer others without always giving myself the time and focus to stay current with my own company’s needs.
The instructor is a knowledgable and generous executive from Citibank who donates her time to give back to entrepreneurs in the community. Because she’s in the business of loaning money to the biggest companies in the world, she’s intimately familiar with the reasons for success and failure in businesses large and small. There’s not an ounce of emotion involved. It’s all about the numbers. This is a refreshing vantage point as I am intimately connected to the feelings and lessons involved in entrepreneurship.
Our teacher’s vocabulary included terms that were new to me: spectrum analysis, operating leverage, throughput, end-user benefits, etc. But as they were defined, I realized they were all things I knew. They just sound so much more professional when uttered in this context.
If you didn’t come from a corporate background, or were absent the day they taught this, let me share one of these terms to you.
Operating leverage – One of our members owns a space that is used about 20 hours per week in service of his company. Figuring out the operating leverage, he can look at what the advantages (and disadvantages) would be to using the space 40 or more hours per week. The concept is simple. The wording gives it a bit more heft.
This reminded me of when my friend Murray Aitken, an ex-McKinsey consultant, came and spoke to the Jane Pollak Arts Forum I founded several years ago. Murray talked about having a ‘forcing mechanism’ in your business–the equivalent of a boss or a paycheck for which (or to whom) you are accountable on a regular basis. Sounds much classier than a ‘goal buddy’ or ‘accountability partner’ which I have always recommended.
Anyway, it feels good to be learning the terminology the Big Guys use. Feels better that I already know this stuff under a different label.
Little did I know when I told Erica Tannen that I’d like to meet her for lunch in New Haven that I was dealing with royalty. Erica, of the-e-list.com, is the doyenne of all good things along the shoreline in CT.
She recommended that we meet at Heirloom, an exquisite restaurant in the charming boutique hotel Study in the Yale environs. Shortly after we were seated, the waitress brought a delicious appetizer “compliments of the chef.” I thought, How nice! but made no association regarding the treat–like an amuse bouche that comes with, you know.
After we ordered and were enjoying the locavore salads on the menu, again the waitress came over and said, “Chef wants you to have these sides on the house.” Erica looked amused, but I was wide-eyed. “It happens to me a lot,” she confessed. As the go-to reviewer for shops, restaurants and anything of interest in this region, her name and face are famous. Retailers and chefs fall over themselves to get into her good graces. I was the fortunate beneficiary of the attention being paid Erica at yesterday’s lunch.
So, the food and generosity were amazing, but spending time with this dynamic woman surpassed even that. Erica had heard me speak a year or so ago at the Reinvention Convention at the Water’s Edge. We’ve had a correspondence since then, and this was our first sit-down. Sparks flew. We’re looking to co-create an event in the Guilford/Lyme region. Any thoughts?
In the meantime, sign up to be on Erica’s e-list so you’ll be the first to know about everything worth doing along I-95 northeast of New Haven (until Erica broadens her reach, that is!).
I got great comments on my last post when I asked readers to guess what the mission was of the company whose logo I featured. For one thing, no one got it right based on the graphics. Second, the response was that even after readers went to the website, they still didn’t understand what the business was about. Now that’s a problem.
Your logo needs to communicate what you do and what your brand experience will be. In addition, it should also attract attention and the desire to go deeper for exploration, explanation and relationship building. A good logo will create that for the viewer.
Here are a few logos I think are exceptional. You immediately get a feeling or a knowing about the business simply by the visual/emotional response you have to the graphic design.
A friend of mine pointed out this website (left) to me a few years ago. Before you click on this link, take a moment to consider what feeling you have as you look at the image. What do you think this logo is in support of?
And if you came across this beautifully designed packaging (below) by Louise Fili, what experience do you think you’d have with the product?
These are two examples of brilliantly executed graphic design. One is for a small business (lynda.com), the other for a national brand.
Sometimes, even in spite of budget, the big guys get it laughably wrong. When UPS came out with their makeover a few years ago, I groaned. Until I read a snarky review of it that underscored my negative impression. Then I laughed conspiratorially. Below are the old logo – which I loved – and the new one which feels so generic. In a review of several companies makeovers, they referred to the UPS one as “the golden combover.” Says it all, eh?
This new business opened up near me recently. Since it’s in the same complex as the gym where I go for yoga, I’d seen the signage going up and even peeked in to try to figure out what they were about.
Here’s an example of a logo that doesn’t communicate. My daughter saw it and wondered if it was one of those 24-hour emergency health care facilities. I asked my assistant what the signage suggested to her. She looked at it quizzically and said, “Is it some kind of a salon?”
I walk at Compo Beach regularly, especially in the summertime. Every Sunday there’s a standing meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, the granddaddy of recovery programs. I made up that some members of that fellowship got together to sell coffee and chat about recovery issues.
We’re all wrong. Without going to their website, what’s your guess?
The point of this posting is what a missed opportunity this fledgling business has created with its vague signage. My best suggestion (if they were to ask) is to get feedback before you decide on your logo.
I experienced this in my egg decorating days. My graphic designer had come up with 4 choices for me to select from. I asked my Mastermind Group for feedback, knowing full well that I was in love with the design on the right.
I loved that the suggestion of the egg was subliminal. I loved the elegance of the design. I loved the use of negative space in the graphic. Unfortunately, I was alone in my love of this image. Sandy said, “I hate to tell you this, Jane, but when I see this, I think it looks like a boob.”
“But it’s an egg!” I protested. I was picturing myself distributing my business cards at networking events running after prospects and yelling, “It’s an egg! It’s an egg!”
Marcie, in our group, giggled after Sandy gave her feedback. “I thought it was a pregnant belly.”
I ultimately went to my mother for her thoughts. She dismissed the idea that it looked like a boob or a pregnant belly. Her definitive appraisal moved me into further action. “It looks like a tush.”
Although I’d never heard the expression, “open the kimono” before, I got its meaning the second my coaching buddy spoke those words during our conversation a few years ago. He was about to reveal a bit of closely-guarded information, and I was being alerted to that fact.
There was a lot of kimono opening at the NSA-CT event on Monday night where I served on a panel of four speakers who were sharing business models as well as career triumphs and tribulations.
I was in good company. My fellow panelists are my esteemed colleagues, and the audience was filled with other speakers for whom I have the highest regard. Jeffrey Scott, the current president of NSA-CT did an exceptional job as moderator.
Each of us had four minutes to introduce ourselves and speak briefly about how our businesses operated. I was completely candid sharing my income stream opportunities and where most of my income originates (coaching, not speaking, btw).
The evening was then turned over to the audience for Q + A. Jeffrey ably kept the pace upbeat and brisk and inserted provocative questions if there was a lull. For instance, he asked us each to share a memorable failure in the speaking business. One panelist described in excruciating detail (excruciating for him; enlightening for us) a situation he went into where he wasn’t 100% prepared and the discomfort that ensued. My memorable disaster was marketing my services to college art department chairs. Besides the fact that they most likely had no hiring power, my message at the time: You can make money selling your art! was probably not in alignment with their mission. I never found out because only one of the 30 I marketed to even responded…negatively.
The upside of that failure was that the head of the mentor program, where I was doing all of this preparatory work to reach my market, got to know me very well and witness my dedication and skills in marketing. She was impressed enough with these qualities that when an opportunity arose for her to recommend a speaker with those skills, I was her first choice. It resulted in my speaking for Staples stores all across the country for the next two years.
Another panelist spoke of her relationship with speakers bureaus and the less than positive taste it left after her experience with someone other than herself serving as go-between with the client. You could be years in the industry and have to suffer many hardships and learning curves to gain that one nugget of truthful experience.
The tenor of the evening was congenial and open. There was invigorating networking at the break and afterward, a telltale sign of a successful program. When the speaker and/or content aren’t filling the bill, crowds disperse post-haste. I highly recommend this format to every association that is open enough to offer its seasoned practitioners the platform to share best and worst practices with their peers. With a competent facilitator like Jeffrey, it’s a win-win event.