Category Archives: Personal Improvement

Stories

Anyone who has ever seen and heard me speak (or perhaps even merely conversed with me) knows that I use stories to illustrate my points. In a typical keynote, I’ll use about 10. The “story index” I maintain on my computer (so that I don’t repeat any for the same client or group) is now at 126.

Stories help people to identify with you and with your point. They enable the listener to think, “I’ve been there and done that, I know exactly what he means.” They may add humor, or pathos, or texture—but primarily they add understanding. They are the short cut to comprehension, avoiding dreary narrative and explication.

However, they also create something more subtle and surprising, in that they slightly “rewire” the listener’s brain.

At Princeton, neuroscientist Uri Hasson posits that the patterns in one brain are often matched by another. Think speaker and listener. After the speaker tells a particularly engrossing and relevant story, the brain patterns in the listener tend to match those of the speaker. His research validates his point.

I’m not quite talking about Spock and Vulcan mind melds, but I am suggesting that effective stories create an empathy and even synergy between listener and speaker. We’ve all seen fascinating works about influence and persuasion, and the techniques and tactics to create them. Perhaps, however, the real secret of influence is a carefully crafted story.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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How Do You Begin Your Day?

If you begin your day worried about paying bills, finding business, and meeting “quotas” you’re going to behave as if you’re trying to get money from people and be hesitant about calling them because they don’t want their money taken.

If you begin your day confident that you have tremendous value that can help others you’re going to behave as if you’re obligated to contact others in order to help them and they’ll be happy to hear from you because they appreciate value and help.

The way you begin your day is your choice. It’s not about competition, the economy, technology, demographics or any other factor. It’s about how you see yourself and what you believe about yourself.

Your success is dependent on how you view your worth, and whether you see yourself as a “taker” or a contributor.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Thou Shalt

Most corporate rules tell you what you cannot do, are prohibited from doing, and shall refrain from doing. That extends right down to small business, where the door is often plastered with “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” or “no dogs,” or “no whatever.” In the new football stadium built to lure the San Francisco 49ers to San Jose (no, even the City Fathers didn’t have the chutzpah to suggest San Jose 49ers) fans are prohibited from playing football in the parking lot, profanity, and spilling. SPILLING!

Good luck enforcing all that.

Even the Ten Commandments specify what you shouldn’t do (covet your neighbor’s wife) but not what you SHOULD do. Yet the very basis of Christianity is what you should do: be tolerant, forgive.

Perhaps we should start thinking more of what we want to encourage and less of what we feel we need to discourage. Instead of “No refunds if you don’t use the internet,” what about, “We’re happy to offer you complimentary internet service”?

In most cities, the negative, conflicting, and prohibitive street signs take you an hour to read and comprehend, yet that’s impossible because another sign says, “No standing.”

We’re telling too many people too often what they aren’t allowed to do, rather than explaining what we’d love to see them do, especially our kids.

I understand “thou shalt not kill,” but I can always use a reinforcing, “Thou shalt treat others as you would be treated.”

© Alan Weiss 2014. (I don’t mean “do not copy” this, I just mean “please give me credit if you do!)

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Regrets, I’ve Had A Few….

The title comes from a line in Sinatra’s signature, canonical version of the song, My Way, written by Paul Anka. The line finishes: “…but then again, too few to mention.”

Regrets are ubiquitous. We all tend to say, “What I should have said….,” or “What I should have done….,” or “I wish I had never….,” and so on. That’s human nature. But to carry them around like accretions through our lives is human torment.

A regret is very much like a grudge, in that someone else who has no idea of his or her involvement in your stress is the only one who can release you if you don’t release yourself. So here’s the key to get out of this jail.

Either make it right or forget it. Fix, correct, or renew the relationship or deed. Or simply learn from it, don’t do it again, and move on. A regret can be a wonderful learning experience or a lifelong agony.

Not much of a choice there.

You may have a few lingering, deep-seated regrets, like not betting on number 25 just before it came up or not asking that special person for a date when you had the chance, but let’s hope that they’re rally “too few to mention.”

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Obliviousness

Have you ever tried to leave a theater and found that a small group of people have paused in the doorway to chat about the play, blocking everyone behind them? Have you experienced people getting off an escalator and stopping dead to try to get their bearings on the new floor, creating a potential human pileup? Have you experienced the terribly clever person who usurps all of the server’s attention, while others are waiting for their meals?

These are the terminally self-absorbed, those who are oblivious to the world around them.

And so it is in business, with too many people paying no attention to the customer, or the quality, or the opportunities, but merely focusing on their particular task and needs at any given time.

That’s no way be admired by others, and it’s no way to run a business.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Hold the Backup

Stop thinking you need validation and, worse, taking the time to provide it whenever you speak.

• You don’t demand to see the collegiate records of your dentist, nor the last inspection reports from the board of health.

• You don’t demand a personal conversation with the invited speaker before you attend the  event.

• You don’t read an author’s book before deciding whether or not to pay for it.

• You don’t demand to see your money each day on deposit at the bank, nor test the night alarm system.

• You don’t ask for a résumé of all the top managers in a company in which you invest.

Why not? Because you use your judgment, have faith, trust in others’ judgment, believe that people are competent or wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and that others–at appropriate junctures–ARE checking for quality and safety.

So just give us your opinion without citing ancient Greek philosophers, a book by Peter Drucker, or a survey from the New England Journal of Canine Psychology. If you’re an expert, I’ll trust your opinion and decide whether to use it or not. If you’re not an expert, then maybe you should go lightly on having opinions.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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How to Impress A Buyer

If you want to impress a buyer at your first meeting in the buyer’s office, think about these techniques:

• Google the firm and find out something about it’s recent history worth discussing.

• Google the person and find something in his or her recent history worth discussing.

• Find out who the top competitors are.

• Arrive early—never risk being late.

• Shake hands firmly when you introduce yourself.

• Wait to sit down until the buyer indicates you should do so and where.

• Never be trapped by “loaded” questions, such as, “What can you do for us?” (I don’t know, that’s what I’m here to determine with you.)

• Start with a questions requiring disclosure: “I’m always curious about motivations—what were your reasons for wanting to meet with me today?”

• Offer insights such as “there are three critical elements to achieve that” or “those concerns people express are largely based on two myths.”

• Make sure you have prepared a metaphor to use in your discussion. You don’t know the buyer’s business as well as the buyer, but the buyer doesn’t know your metaphor as well as you do. “This is what I call the lobster principal, and the need for periodic vulnerability.”

• Reframe the conversation consistent with your competencies and passions: “You’ve mentioned talent three times now, so I infer that attraction and retention of top talent is your priority.”

• Never stay longer than the time limit unless the buyer invites you to.

• Never leave without a definitive next step (action), time, and date.

• Always keep in mind that you’re a contributor trying to help, not a sales person trying to get business or make money.

• Don’t thank the buyer for the time or otherwise be obsequious. You are peers evaluating each other for a possible partnership.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Respect and Affection

Too many consultants want to be liked. They are desperate for affiliation or even deeper regard. However, what we need from buyers is respect. You can respect someone without necessarily liking them. (Speakers who use the stage for their own validation and to gain applause aren’t helping the audience, but merely trying to gain affection.)

Here are the combinations with my personal examples:

Like and respect: James Carville (I love his demeanor and attitude, and greatly respect his political acumen.)

Don’t like but respect: Michael Bloomberg (He’s done a great job with New York as mayor, is incorruptible, and has spent his own money on the city. But he has the hubris of the ultra-rich, changed the charter so he could run for a third term, and thinks he can dictate dietary advice through legislation.)

Don’t respect but like: Jon Stewart (He’s funny and clever, and makes me laugh. But his pseudo-news show picks on easy targets who can’t defend themselves, and he sometimes tries to give serious news commentary. You can’t have it both ways.)

Neither like nor respect: Donald Trump (He used his daddy’s money to fund himself, and used other people’s money in high risk ventures, often declaring bankruptcy to save himself. I find him arrogant, pompous,a huge blowhard, and demeaning toward women.)

Definitions:

Like: Feel an affinity toward and would enjoy spending time with. Provides good feelings, sense of well being.

Respect: Admiration for accomplishments, views, and values. Impressive track record of success and high levels of trust.

Here’s my process visual diagnostic:

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 5.25.00 PM

 

The ideal position is to be at or near maximum respect and enough affection to be liked but not to crave more.

If you want to be wealthy, get respect. If you want to be loved, get a dog.

© Alan Weiss 2014

 

 

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Fees Are Never Too High

Everyone reading this who is trying to be successful in professional (and personal) services has heard the buyer’s rejection: “This is more than we anticipated spending.” “This is not something we’ve budgeted for.” “This is an amount which we never spend on such projects.”

All of these are lies. Here is what these and similar protests actually mean:

1. They don’t see the value. The return on investment is either too low OR they don’t believe it can be achieved.

2. They don’t believe YOU are the person to achieve the ROI.

These actual, underlying resistance factors are in turn caused by the following:

You didn’t establish your credibility. You didn’t establish a trusting relationship (rapport).

It’s easy to use money as an excuse for not proceeding. But money is a priority, NOT a resource and, assuming you’re talking to a real economic buyer (or else all bets are off), that person can find and move money. But he or she is not going to take that kind of action if it isn’t believed that you have the ability to assist in generating a substantial return on that investment (and that personal risk for the buyer).

People often try to reduce price, but they hate to reduce value. It’s up to you to demonstrate the scope of the value and the huge ROI involved, NOT to reduce prices or “come back in six months when the timing is better.”

You need to walk in the door with credibility and to immediately begin to create a trusting relationship. If you can’t do that now, then get the help you need to build your abilities because without those two elements, 2014 will be a slow crawl through enemy territory instead of a sprint among eager prospects.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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THE BENTLEY CARD

The Bentley Card, providing credits to all of my work, is no officially cross-species.

 

Photo courtesy Constance Ferrari Dierckx

Photo courtesy Constance Ferrari Dierckx

 

© Alan Weiss 2013

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