Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Happens If You Get Promoted Too Early? Can It Hurt You?

By now you have probably been watching the debates and watching each of the candidates and their running mates speak. For you, it is a great opportunity to learn as a leader of what works and does not work. As you read my notes here I recommend you go to YouTube and watch the actual video yourself so you can compare and contrast what I am sharing here.

Let's take a moment to look at the interview with Sarah Palin and Katie Couric. Let's put all political party feelings aside as well as what you feel or think about a woman becoming vice president as that can skew how we hear information. Instead let's strictly look at it from a person who has been promoted and now has to demonstrate they have the learning and experience as a leader to hold that position.

Sarah Palin has been thrust in the public eye in a short amount of time. I think any one of us would agree that would be unsettling and tough for any one. She is a strong and confident woman that has handled a lot of tough issues in her life and come out on top. Now she is being asked to take the role of Vice President and possibly President, if any thing were to happen to John McCain. This means that the public is going to be scrutinizing her, not through the job she currently has as the Governor of Alaska, but instead as if she were the Vice President of the United States of America. She is under a magnifying scope that will accent all her words, phrases, and actions to the nth degree.

So step back from the politics and let's look at it from a business prospective. Imagine that your company has promoted someone to the second rank position that formerly was a manager of a large area but had not been involved in the inner workings of the corporate office. For sure you would be looking to see what qualifies her or him to hold this position. Because there is already doubt there you would be looking for if their walk and talk match. You want to see the proof in the pudding.

So how would it come off, if this person made strong statements but couldn't give facts to back them? If this person, said they could do corporate work but had no facts to back it?

See I believe it is not that people won't give her a chance. In a way coddling her and holding her back from interviews has hurt her. People already assumed that meant the McCain party didn't trust she could do the job either. For the public, the assumption then becomes the reality. So we are looking for a bit of humility, a learning curve, a confidence to not try to have all the answers but instead a willingness to explore options.

What is tripping her up are her strong statements that she can then not support. Take Katie asking her about the bailout and Sarah saying, "The interesting thing in the last few days that I have seen is that the American People are waiting to see what John McCain is going to do about this proposal, they are not waiting to see what Barak Obama's gonna do. Is he going to do this (wiggle of her finger) and just see the political wind boy. They are waiting to see if John McCain will be able to see these amendments implemented in Paulson's proposal."

Immediately, Katie jumped on, "Why do you say that people are waiting for McCain and not Obama." She went on to quote the polls, to which Palin said she isn't looking at poll numbers."

Here is the bottom line: If you are promoted as a leader too early, you do need to show your chops. HOWEVER, you also have to show humility in learning along the way. You need to show that you are learning and staying proactive. This is not the time to make charged statements.

Let's go back to the Business example I gave. Would you want someone like that to come in, tell you all you did wrong and realign your department? Or would you want them to talk to you about their vision without bashing your past? Would you want them to show they had strength and resilience and they still expected to learn from those around you?

Go back to the Couric interview and look how if Palin had omitted that entire quote I put above, the interview would have gone on without a blip. Or better yet, what if she had said, "America is waiting for strong leadership and now is the time we need it." You would have felt her strength, her conviction, and her implication, not stated, that she and McCain would be that leadership. Remember reporters are looking for a story. So if you won't give them one, they will create one with what you say. Therefore, as a leader you need to be cognizant and not cocky about what you say and how you say it. You need wisdom and humility when you speak.

Now some people say, these attacks on Palin are not fair because the same media attack has not been done with Joe Bidden. And..your right. It hasn't. However, Joe Bidden since he was elected, has been out front, giving speeches, and fulfilling his duties right up front. There was no feeling that he had to be protected or "learn his role" before he could fulfill it. We saw him accept his role and begin campaigning.

Also, Palin is in a unique spot because she is such an unknown, a leader without broad experience, and a woman. People are fascinated and drawn to her like a moth to fire. With that comes a responsibility to realize that you will be in a bubble.

So here is the lesson as a leader. Yes you will be held to higher standards, as you should be. A leader is suppose to be a person we can learn from and emulate. If you are promoted too early, realize that and instead of trying to defy it, embrace it. Use your uniqueness, your talents, and skills that got you to where you are.

Anne Warfield, http://www.impressionmanagement.com/

Monday, September 22, 2008

Succinct or Eloquence? Which will win over your listener?

Succinct or Eloquent? Which is the better way to speak?

Perhaps the better question is, what impression do each leave you with? In order to know which one you want to use and when, you have to know what impact each way of speaking has on your listener.

If you watched 60 minutes last night, you got to see both succinct and eloquence at work. McCain was succinct while Obama was eloquent. Both show strong leadership but the way of speaking leaves you with a difference about how they will lead.

My blog here is not to enforce one political opinion or another. I use politics because you most likely will be able to see and watch these speeches so you can contrast and compare right along with me. So let's put politics aside and look at them only from how they speak and how they represents their leadership.

If you haven't watched the 60 minute review, click on this link to see it: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4463698n

When you look at the questions put to McCain he is succinct in listing what he believes will be the differences in their styles, what he thinks is wrong in the economy and steps he would take to make changes such as putting Andrew Cuomo in to replace Christopher Cox. There is not too much grey to interpet there. There is an intensity that radiates from him with his blinking and tight lip line that endorses the succinct method. You get the sense that if you ask a tough question you better be prepared for a tough answer becuase he is not going to just soften it so you can swallow it better. In some instances it reminds me of Reagan's no nonsense responses.

On the flip side, when you watch Obama there is an inclusiveness in his speech and an eloquence that comes in the pattern and way he speaks. There tends to be more words used to get to the same response. Watch his video and look for the succinct answers to questions. Does he state definite policies or vague ideas? Does he name specific things he would do or suggest? His body language is not as intense either as he looks down, has a softer look to his eyes and a more introspective pose with his head leaning to one side. You get the sense that if you asked a tough question he would try to put it in a way that would be easiest for you to digest.

Both eloquence and succinct have their place in strong leadership. You need to be able to convey each at different times. Watch the two and compare and contrast their leadership style of speaking. Then ask which one's style you most closely resemble? What is good about that and what is bad? Do you know when to switch from eloquent to succinct?

Anne Warfield, www.impressionmanagement.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What does Sales have to do with the Gibson/Palin Interview?

If you have ever wanted to learn how to be a better sales person, then just watch the Charles Gibson/Sarah Palin interview. It is a classic example of what can happen to make an interview or "sale" go south fast.

First of all, you probably noticed that, for the most part, Charlie Gibson's body language was condescending. The way he slouched in his chair, looked over his eye glasses, brought his finger tips together, blinked his eyes and then asked pointed questions all gave an impression of "come here my little sweetie" like the Wicked Witch of the West. But let's be real, that is often the body language a sales person runs up against when they go on a sales call. You often find the client is uptight, feeling put upon and trying to find fault with what you say or do. That is because they often feel trapped by you.

So what did Sarah Palin do that showed she fell in to the same trap that most sales people do?

1. Each question and challenge that Gibson put up she had an answer for. In sales, this is known as the client throwing up objections and the sales person having pat answers. The more pat answers you have the less the client trusts you and the harder they then try to dig and find more objections or ways to trip you up. Gibson did exactly that with Palin. The more she defended an answer the more he would dig for a controversial root.

Remember in sales that the goal is to connect with the other person, not to "sell" them on your product or service. Just watch the interview and you will see how each side escalated the tension by following the old "sales" format.

2. The tension she was feeling was seen in her body language. As the interview progressed Palin moved to more fists, the "prayer" point with her hands, a lifting of her right lip as in a snarl, a tight narrowing of her eyes (especially her left eye) and a tightening of her mouth. All of these gestures showed her anger, frustration and attempt to maintain control.

Sales people do the same things with clients. As clients ask more intense questions and they don't seem to just accept your pat answers, many sales people move to a combative and angry body language. This happens because your brain is aligned with trying to "sell" the client on your idea or service and you become frustrated that they won't just "get it."

3. Palin interrupted Gibson. The more frustrated she got, the more she would interrupt what he said while he did the exact opposite and slowed his speech down. He repeated what she said almost "parroting" her. I see this often happen in sales as the sales person makes the classical mistake of trying to push their product or service on the customer by literally thinking "what answer will it take to make you buy?" For Palin you could see that her thoughts and body language were focused on "what do I need to say to get you to stop badgering me?"

In our Sales Excavation system we show you how this leads to a doomed sales cycle. You can see in Gibson/Palin interview there was no winner. One didn't end up looking good because they made the other look bad. Instead both walked away having left some of their own credibility and trust in the room when it should have stayed with them. You can't afford to know your product and service but not know how to connect, build rapport and build trust with others. 90% of all training for sales people is on product yet customers buy only 25% on product knowledge. So, what is the other 75% that influences their buying decision and are you trained in those influential areas? To me, you can't afford NOT to be trained in those areas or else you will be left behind much like what happened in this interview.

As a sales person and a leader I recommend you closely watch the debates to see how they align with sales and leadership skills. Does their body language match the message? Do they focus on the issues? Do they know how to connect with whom they are interviewing with? Do they know how to tell effective stories aligned with facts to move you or do they just try to rest on logic?

TAKE ACTION: Set up a camcorder and have someone ask you your toughest "client or prospect" questions. Then watch the tape to see if you made some of the same classic mistakes that Palin did or if you were able to turn it around.

Tune in next week to see how this interview could have been turned around and credibility gained rather than lost.

Anne Warfield, www.impressionmanagement.com