Are you the “I” in influencer?

Influencer is one of those words that we often hear bandied about these days. “She’s a Huff Post influencer.” Or “In fashion circles, he’s THE influencer.” These are the people who capture attention and move ideas across broader audiences.

But there’s another type of influencer: one that requires critical skills for anyone aiming to provide executive level value or get ahead in the workplace.  This influencer has a keen sense of business acumen, excellent communication skills and is known as “the go-to person” for pushing innovation.

When I was a senior leader in a large organization, the HR Director told me I had a lot of power in the organization. I didn’t understand what she meant at first. I watched myself over the next few weeks and realized I have the gift of influence.

In my coaching practice, the idea of being able to sway or inspire others is a recurring theme. With flatter organizations and dotted-line authority for other employees, having the ability to engage and lead others with influence may be the only way to get the project or work done effectively.

I have an idea of what being an influencer means, but I wanted to find out what the “experts” say makes an effective influencer. For me it’s intuitive; so how can I coach others in developing this skill?

Naturally I started with Dale Carnegie’s seminal How to Win Friends and Influence People, arguably the most popular self-help book ever published! Along with common communication behaviors such as listening and engaging with honey rather than sour lemons, here’s a couple of Carnegie’s gems:

  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
  • Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

Suzanne Bates, author of numerous books on leadership, believes that to influence, a leader must have “executive presence” or gravitas. She defines executive presence as having three distinct dimensions – Style, Substance, and Character. She further explains that influence is who you are and how others perceive you.

Let’s take that one step further. The art of influence is about the interplay between two concepts:

1. There’s an “I” in influencer. And, of course the degree to which you step up to your “I” depends on how self aware you are and your ability to see how others see you.

2. An idea or solution is just that. Nothing more. Unless you embed and describe it within a context. It’s conveying the “WHY” behind the idea. That ‘s when people pay attention.

Let’s break these two concepts down even more.

The first concept is about you’re internal self and how it manifests in your style and behavior. Your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. For example, if you’re someone who needs to be right, chances are your ability to influence is low. If your motivation is to support others in their success, your influence quotient will be higher. It’s about engaging in active listening, sharing information openly and being curious. Not to mention understanding your potential impacts on others from their point of view. Think of this concept as the “HOW” you persuade or influence.

Understanding the core of the issue and why it’s important to the business is the second concept. This is conveying why a + b will = c. It’s having business acumen to understand the bigger picture, its inherent complexities and, in turn, helping others get on board. Say your company decides to make a shift in policy affecting staff. There’s a better chance change will happen if you openly discuss WHY it’s in the best interest of the company and what’s behind the decision.

If these two concepts blend together, they become a powerful way to influence others. With innovation and the lightening speed of change, being an influencer can be the growing edge in your career or business.

Want to be a great influencer? Start with developing your self-awareness and communicate exactly the reason why you or (your business) do what you do.

Are you ready to put the “I” in INFLUENCER?

Why Personal Branding isn’t a Soup Can

Chances are you work for an organization that spends a lot of effort coalescing employees around their brand. After all, employees are perfectly positioned to be great brand ambassadors for a company.

Company brands are big business – the clearer and more memorable the brand the better the revenue. Even public serving organizations have jumped on the bandwagon. Just think of the Big Apple and you immediately think of New York.

If branding is so successful for companies, it makes sense it could do the same for people. Just google “personal branding” and you’ll find a plethora of articles and guides to turn you into Andy Warhol’s next soup can!

While recently working with new leaders in a global IT firm, I was taken aback the first time I heard one of them describe their personal brand. I was told the company encourages employees to develop their own brand.

This got me really curious to think about what would go into an employee’s brand and how they could use it to further their career.

Basically, your personal brand is how you tell people what you do and what you stand for; personal branding’s your reputation, expertise and values rolled into one professional identity or descriptor.

In his recent INC. article, Jayson Demers of AudienceBloom says personal branding requires you to find a signature image, a unique voice, and a recognizable standard that your readers, fans, and customers can grow to recognize. This includes your stakeholders, managers, and prospective employers – anyone who’s interested in working with you.

Before you jump to the notion we all have to have personal avatars, I want to make clear that isn’t the case. Sure, if you’re in an industry where your audience and stakeholders work in visuals, then you may want to use colours, images and cool fonts or even a website to represent you.

What personal branding really boils down to is a crystal clear synthesis of your own self-awareness, how others see you and what you bring to the table.

If you’ve read this far, you may be asking yourself why you would even have a personal brand for your professional life. Great question. Your brand is:

  • Your elevator pitch – the consistent story of who exactly you are
  • Ground zero when you need a little confidence (a reminder of how great you are)
  • A check in valve as to how others are experiencing you
  • A way to convey your beliefs and values – what you stand for
  • A differentiator of your unique talents – what sets you apart
  • A way to position your unique offering to potential employers
  • The way you stand out within your current job
  • A way to compare yourself to the brand of a potential hiring company or position to assess the “right fit”
  • The statement and/or physical representation you can insert at the top of your resume or LinkedIn page

There are lots of articles to help you figure out what your brand is. You’re the best ambassador for you, so why not write your story? I’ve put together are a few key steps to get you on your way:

  1. What do you stand for? Write an honest list of the most important things you value and believe.
  2. What are the key skills you want others to know you have? Add those to the list.
  3. Ask 20 people you know for 3 words that describe you. Add their responses to your growing list.
  4. Distill the list into 4 themes that accurately describe you (if you find this hard, ask a trusted friend to help).
  5. Turn the 4 words/themes into your brand statement and write an elevator pitch to use at your next networking event.
  6. Be creative – design an avatar, have a one-page website full of carefully chosen visuals or whatever makes sense to convey you (while not necessary, it can set you apart to have visual representations).
  7. Choose one or two social media sites that best suit you and put your brand front and centre. This is your chance to be memorable. (I use LinkedIn and Twitter because it’s where my clients are. Check out Xing if you’re looking for new opportunities)
  8. Align all future tweets and content with your brand.
  9. Practice conveying your brand at networking events and opportunities. (Don’t dilute yourself – focus on who you meet with without spending precious energy on gatherings that aren’t in alignment with your brand and where you’re headed).
  10. Be who you say you are. (Because this is always the most important part of your brand and career).

Finally, the biggest benefit to going through the process of brand creation (if you haven’t figured it out already) is this: greater self-awareness, which is a combination of what you know of yourself and of how others see you. The truth is, people want to hire people who have the right talent and are authentic.

Like what you read? Check out more at eveofchange executive coaching inc.

Why we need to Shine light on the Shadow

My general rule when writing my posts is to not dip into political waters. And this post is no exception. But every time I read the news or open social media I’m bombarded with political updates that test my belief in political culture – or at least the culture behind it in many countries.

The current election season in America is a case in point. Although I don’t live in the US, my proximity means I’m not immune to the influence it assumes on North America. We share many, but not all values and viewpoints.

My nature is to look beyond rhetoric and mudslinging to what lies underneath as a way of understanding the values and behaviors of society, where we’re lacking and where there’s possibility. When there’s an earthquake of fear and distrust pushing then it is time to pay serious attention.

If there’s one potentially good thing that could come out of the American election, it is this: to shine a light on the shadow women continue to experience despite great gains towards equality.
out of the shadow

It’s a shadow of haziness where subtle sexual aggression that is often passed of as “it’s just him”, “he doesn’t mean it” or “it’s nothing” slam up against “it’s because you’re pretty”, “you encourage it” or “keep quiet”. And so we learn early on in our lives to keep such behaviors in the shadows out of fear, confusion and safety.

I’m talking about unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women who still believe such behavior is perfectly okay. These are the behaviors that don’t leave a physical mark or make it into the courtroom. These are the everyday actions that women endure, put up with and perhaps pretend didn’t happen. And it still goes on.

I could write a page of examples I’ve experienced in school or workplace during my lifetime, not to mention times I’ve been heckled, groped or harassed socially. I could tell you how dis-empowering it feels being chased around a desk by a boss or be cornered at a family event by a male in-law relative with an unexpected and unwanted tongue kiss.

What I’d rather do is have an open conversation about how this kind of behavior still exists and what we can do about it going forward. The events and behaviors around the US election have given us a huge opportunity to take this can of worms and really examine it for what it truly is.

The truth is the oppression and objectification of women is alive and well and not relegated to a few men in a locker room. It exists in the boardroom, the lunchroom and down the hall by the water cooler.

So what if we all started by suspending judgment on whether or not it exists and start asking each other and ourselves simple questions to help create awareness and understanding of this critical issue:

1. What exists within the shadow of subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women? What does it look like?

2. What do women feel when they experience the shadow?

3. Why do women not call out the perpetrator as an aggression occurs?

4. How have experiences of the shadow gone on to influence women’s lives?

5. What do men feel when they engage in subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments?

6. What do men feel and do when they witness another man engaging in this behavior?

7. How does the current culture of your workplace support, deny, ignore or disallow shadow behavior?

8. In what ways are we culturally enabling this behavior to perpetuate?

9. In what ways can we let go of blame and collaborate to educate each other of the danger and damage of shadow behavior?

10. What will it take for you to become part of the solution of shedding light on the shadow?

You may be thinking this is a simplistic way of addressing a complex issue of long-held beliefs and behaviors. And that is exactly the point.

Yes it’s shameful treatment of girls and women. Yes it’s unacceptable. And yes it has to end. But until we talk about it and try to understand all the perspectives involved, it will continue unchecked.

Whether it’s at the dinner table or at work, let’s use the opportunity of shedding light on the shadow of sometimes subtle and often upfront sexually intimidating or unwanted behavior that has too long been pervasive in our society.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

My Business My Way – Your Career Your Way

There are very few of us who can create and build a thriving business completely on our own. I admire those who can.

I don’t know about you, but I have a small list of go-to women (okay, plus one man) whose expertise and encouragement enables me to grow and prosper in my business.

Each person has some piece of the “must have” information, perspective or expertise that I don’t have. For example, my pal in Toronto is a marketing whiz. I have my content strategist who always steps in and grabs the details out from under me at just the right moment (in case you didn’t know I’m a big picture kind of girl). There’s my techie guru across the continent and my mastermind American coach/entrepreneur buddies who help me wrestle down my next big idea. And not to forget my own executive coach – she’s always got my back.

Grateful is an understatement.

Naturally, we all come with unique skills, experiences, and viewpoints so no two businesses will ever look alike. I’ve taken courses and bought the books; learned the winning formulas for this and that; tested and failed; adapted and flourished. And my truth from these experiences is that, yes, I can learn the logistics but I will never succeed to my own standard of achievement if I don’t bring ME to the business equation.

Let me explain.

I’m driven by my values of uniqueness and professionalism. Therefore, I believe that for me to be successful, I must bring my distinctive thinking and way of being to my business. And I must do that by using my expertise to provide my clients with a respectful, encouraging and authentic experience.

My differentiator in business is me.

I’m super clear on what strengths I bring to the equation. I’m also well aware of where I fall short.

I’ve always placed a high value on self-development and I’ve done tons to understand who I am and what makes me – well, me.

When I started my business I relied heavily on my strengths, and I still do. Unlike many people, I didn’t have fear or doubts. I didn’t have sleepless nights of worry and panic.

What I did have is a deep belief in myself.

And that, my friends, has come from being really committed to working on my personal and professional development.

Doing the work includes time, curiosity, coaching and a deep-seeded focus on the process. And now I bring a similar process to my business.

The best part is that I’ve created flow in how I run my business. I know what I’m good at and what causes me sheer havoc. I know how to shift things around to draw on natural strengths that minimize my stress when my computer crashes!

Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe we all have the capacity to succeed. And the truth is, we just need to understand our uniqueness and our qualities and capitalize on them to create our own flow.

I quickly became tired of the “formulas to success” – other people’s methods. I’m sure they work wonders for them, but not for me. Having my business isn’t about cutting corners. It’s hard work. And when I use my strengths and fill the gaps by hiring others who have those talents, I can move mountains and I am happy!

I tell my husband that my quality-of-life-meter when up 50% the day I hired a graphic designer, brand strategist and technologist. And it zoomed higher when I added my content strategist to the mix. You see I’m a knucklehead when it comes to labouring over details. Ask me to create the vision and I’m good.

By now you may be wondering why I’m focused on my business and what it takes to run it. Here’s the thing, this same approach, no matter what you do or where you do it is key to your career. Know yourself, understand your own process that works for you and surround yourself with top-notch people who are better than you at what they do!

My team gets me and I give them space to do what they’re great at. With them, I’ve created my own specific, unique and successful process for my business.

You get to where you want to be by knowing exactly who you are. (Tweet It!)

How Well Do You REALLY Know Yourself?

The truth can hurt sometimes and we often find out our hard truths indirectly.

Maybe you’re left out of a gathering of friends.

Or a job you thought you were perfect for, didn’t pan out.

Of course, one-off situations like this are not cause for alarm but paying attention to patterns in the way people respond to you can give some clues as to where your blind spots lie.

Your friends tell you that you weren’t included because you aren’t flexible and it was a last minute event.

And the hiring panel provides feedback and tells you they need a candidate who is conceptual.

Hmmm.

Do any of these stories resonate with you? If you’re like many clients I’ve worked with, when faced with a truth about yourself (from someone else) – you might feel gob-smacked.

The good news is that you’re in great company. Almost all of us have qualities we don’t have full awareness about. Or we believe we have certain shortfalls or characteristics and they’re not at all how we’re perceived.

How does this happen?

Let’s break this down by starting with how others perceive us versus how we see ourselves. These two perspectives could be miles apart like in the examples above. But before you jump to the conclusion that others’ perspectives of you must be the truth, it’s important to understand that self-awareness does in fact have two sides:

Internal awareness – your own perceptions of yourself
External awareness – how others perceive you

Now here’s the key – it’s as important to know who we are as to know how we show up in the world.

Let me give you an example.

I’m highly resilient but I hate conflict. I tend to avoid difficult situations and challenging conversations with others. In the way I see myself, I run to the hills when the going gets tough but I’m known to others as being able to handle high-pressure situations. Funny that.

So what does this mean? What I think of myself and how others see me in the frame of conflict is miles apart. There must be something here I’m just not getting. Shouldn’t the two perceptions – internal and external – be congruent?

Let’s dig a little deeper.

We all have a persona from which we think and behave. But did you know your persona could actually be broken down into three distinct personas?

You have your:

underlying persona – you at your most natural (this is where you get your motivation from)
everyday persona – how you tend to behave and how others might see you
overextended persona – who you are and how you react under stress

Lumina Learning, a tool that I use to help my clients build self-awareness, makes use of years of research and psychometric testing to figure out exactly how we show up in different situations and how to leverage the strengths in each area. Lumina testing measures 24 different qualities that make up you and figure out the amount of each quality for your three personas.

So when I was thinking about writing this blog, I became really curious about my tough quality. So I pulled out my Lumina Spark portrait and guess what I discovered? My peeps are right!

My tough quality measures at 3% when I show up in the world (everyday) but I have 64% toughness in my underlying persona. Hmmm. For years I’ve bought into the idea that I just didn’t have the ability to face conflict despite the fact that underneath it all I’ve got a fair amount of capacity for facing conflict.

So why is this?

Well it could be many reasons. But, I do know that even though I naturally have toughness, somewhere along the way I must have believed it wasn’t a “good” quality to have or didn’t value it enough to develop aligning behaviours. It really is just undeveloped.

Whatever the reason, the point how others see me is spot on. I know that people see me as being able to be tough when it’s called for. But my take on my own ability is off. So, now that I have that bit of information, I can focus on how I can show up comfortably (to me) and appropriately when conflict does arise. I actually have it in me to do it.

The same goes for when people perceive you one way and we know differently. When this happens, it’s time to sleuth out which is closer to the truth. And then put that strong quality to work or stop using up energy when it isn’t in you.

That my friends, is self-awareness!

It’s understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging that understanding to create a life and business that aligns with our natural inclinations, not challenges them.

Curious and want more? I’ve got a FREE webinar May 12th that takes a deep dive into why getting to know yourself is critical for your business – Build your Biz by Being YOU!

Picky is Actually Strategic when it comes to social media

How many of us find ourselves being picky about who we date or spend a weekend with? I bet most of us. So why is it we aren’t picky about who we connect with via email and social media – especially when it comes to business?

I recently posted a tweet about Twitter being the airport lounge of B2B. Got tons of hearts on that one. I also wrote a blog about the new noise causing stress – social media and the barrage of emails from people selling us things. I get it. Social media has become the grand master for small business marketing. It’s super cheap, highly accessible and can be done in 10 words or less. Sounds great!

The problem is that entrepreneurs cast their nets so widely I feel like I have to duck and dive with all the free offers and promotions. The other problem is the majority of entrepreneurs/on-line businesses all sound the same. (Believe me – I’m not saying I’m an exception.)

How is it possible to figure out who’s who in the zoo? Let alone if what they offer is of any real value. It’s the Wild West out there and anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a coach or strategist. Suddenly everyone’s an expert. And maybe social proof isn’t – well just isn’t credible anymore?

For me, the amount of time I’ve used up trying to keep up with everyone online is taking a huge toll on my business and stress level.

So I’ve decided I don’t have to follow the lemmings. I can be picky. In fact, I’ve decided that being picky is actually strategic when it comes to social media.

Let me explain.

I’m shaking up my approach to inviting people into my world.

Before I subscribe to your site I check out who you are, including credentials. Do you give any deets on your FB page about your biz, education or past employment? Is your LinkedIn bio up to date and factual or is it stuffed full of filler? And how and what do you say in your tweets? I’m not a fan of constant profanity or meanness so if that’s your game, chances are you aren’t making it in my door.

Over the next few months I’ll weigh out if the value you offer me is worth the follow. A big name doesn’t always equate to a follow. I’ve unsubscribed to even the biggest names in the biz. They may be amazing but they aren’t for me.

And speaking of value, I’m looking for sites and people who challenge the status quo to help me stretch my thinking or who offer up well thought out systems for my business. Most of all, I want to surround myself with people who authentically want to make the world a better place.

By now you may be saying to yourself, “she doesn’t get it”. Social media is ALL about connecting, sharing information and staying on the pulse of culture. Here’s where I diverge. I’m in business and I admittedly use social media for the cheap marketing. BUT, here’s the difference, like any shop or service business owner, I want to work with a specific clientele and there are people who want to work with someone like me. So, like my clients, I want to be picky in whom I serve.

And guess what? Given this is business, being picky is strategic. If I’m not strategic on where and with whom I spend my scarce time, I won’t be giving my clients what they deserve.

I’m all about quality. If I follow you, I’ll spread your love. If I work with you, I’ll spread your love. Which may be odd considering that on-line business seems to be all about quantity (or am I missing something?).

It makes me wonder if we’ll hit a saturation point in this Wild West? In the meantime, I’m more than happy if you use a similar strategy when adding me to your community.

Are you being strategic in your business?

Why Re-ignite is better than Resolution

Ah, the pressure of creating a New Year’s resolution. If I hear one more person ask me “What’s your resolution for next year?” I’ll scream. And I bet you would too.

That’s because a resolution actually means a firm decision to do or not do something or, the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. I don’t know about you, but I see both meanings as rather negative. Who wants to do or not do something and then end up feeling failure for not following through? And seeking a solution to a problem brings up the idea that we aren’t good enough as we are.

I have another idea that blows resolutions out the window – re-ignite.

Transformational Leadership and Lumina

How often in your career have you been part of a team that isn’t clear on its vision? How often have you been part of a team that embodied all the strengths needed to be high performing?

In his seminal book, Leadership, published back in 1978, James MacGregor Burns introduced Transformational Leadership; the basic concept in which leaders focus on the beliefs, needs, and values of their followers. For its time, this was breakout thinking.

Can questions build trust?

too many question marks

too many question marks

In a recent article by Maynard Webb #ProductivityHacks, Chairman of Yahoo, he talks about how he builds trust with his team to leverage more time to spend on things he cares about. One of the actions he suggests builds trust stood out for me: ask questions.

In coaching lingo this is known as taking a “coach approach”. But will it actually help you build trust with your team?

I believe it will and here is why.

Your Career – Your Responsibility?

Recently I was having coffee with a young man (well, young to me) who I met a few years ago on a project. He sought me out to chat about my career and navigating the corporate ladder. Flattered though I was, I quickly turned the tables on him and, like any good coach, made the conversation about him and his aspirations.

I knew I’d hit a few nerves when we got up to leave, as he was a bit tongue-tied with swirling thoughts and ideas. I was happy to hit those nerves. That is what I do. That is part of the process in helping people become unstuck.

The details of our conversation shall stay between he and I. What I was reminded of as we talked are two concepts that are critical if you have aspirations to move ahead, manage and lead.