What’s on My Reading List; Executive Presence

The concept of “executive presence” is a fantastic one. When providing feedback to others the term can be used as a reference to remove any personal context and ease the conversation.  Leaders can work towards creating a vision of executive presence for their organization to provide guidance for those growing within the organization.

This book provided many examples of do’s and don’ts and I will use the term to coach employees who are missing the mark and holding themselves back; however I cannot recommend reading it.

Executive Presence: What Nobody Ever Tells You about Getting AheadExecutive Presence: What Nobody Ever Tells You about Getting Ahead by Sylvia Ann Hewlett
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Perhaps this would make a good article, but it is very drawn out and boring as a book.

There isn’t new information here – look your best, be your best, and speak your best.

This book agitated me for these 4 reasons:
1) Using Angelina Jolie as a positive example for anything
2) Endorsing plastic surgery
3) Recommending heavy make-up
4) Overuse of the word gravitas and the phrase “show your teeth”

View all my reviews

Raving Fans for Freeeeeee

“Raving fans are created by companies whose service far exceeds that of the competition and even exceeds customer expectations,” describes Ken Blanchard in his book Raving Fans. The best raving fan experiences are executed so casually that they seem to be directed subconsciously.  They are just so natural.  I have an amazing “raving fan” story to share with you about the service I received this week while traveling for business.

A coworker and I were asked to travel and it just so happened to be the week of the “snowstorm of the century”.  We waited out through the worst of it then made our break when we had word that most major roads were cleared (funny what was called “clear”). Taking separate vehicles we convoyed through snow, slush, and ice to our destination.  I was in the lead car and she followed carefully, both of us with a deliberate eye on the road and iron grip on the wheel.  Stopping for anything was not a consideration as the off ramps looked more like ski hills.

I can’t imagine what we looked like when we collapsed on the
chairs in the lobby of the hotel.  Exhausted, mentally drained, and starving we sat there in exasperated silence.  A hotel employee appeared from the dining room and asked if we would be dining in this evening.  Relief!  The last thing either one of us wanted to do was drive anywhere. She then went on to say, “you don’t even need to move.  We will bring a dining table to you right here in front of the fireplace”. In seconds a bistro table appeared in front of us.  Our entire demeanor changed.  The 5 hours of horror was erased from our minds with this simple delightful act of amazing customer service.

What is even more amazing is that the entire 4 day stay was like this.  Every touch point built our fandom. The front desk clerk was extremely delightful, the breakfast staff remembered our favorites from day to day, and when I tried to purchase a bottle of water to take into the fitness center I was instead offered a complimentary bottle.  Small delightful surprises happened continuously. 

There are places where you expect amazing service.  Last spring break I stayed at a Ritz Carlton whose service is legendary.  They had nothing on this Hilton Garden Inn.  Customer service at this hotel is just what they do.  I had not seen the receptionist that greeted us since check in and yet when I checked out 4 days later she remembered my name and room number without being prompted.  As I walked to the front doors for the last time she called out “now you have a safe return home Ms. Laura.”  My response, “I can’t wait to return”, and I meant it.

Now I’d like to emphasize something here:  you can creating raving fans without adding cost.

When you review my experience it is clear.  The cost breakdown is as follows:

Customer Experience                    Cost
friendly service                                  $0
fireside dinner                                   $0
instant breakfast                              $0
free water                                        $0.10

There are hundreds of hotels I could select from the next time I stay in the Chicago area, but only one will get my consideration.  What can you do to create raving fans?


Clear Communication?

Parents, leaders, spouses, friends, coworkers; any relationship is made stronger or weaker by how clearly we communicate.  Our word choice, tone, punctuation, and even the timing of our message can affect how it is perceived.

We all know that there are words that we just simply shouldn’t use.  Their meaning is just, well, mean.  “Don’t call your sister stupid”. “Don’t say I hate you”.  Suck.  This sucks, that sucks, you suck.  I was just at a classroom Christmas party and suck seems to be the current 4th grade favorite for boys and girls.

Then, there’s the way we say things.  Tone, inflection, and body language all express
the meaning behind our words. “What’s going on?” vs. (arms crossed) “WHAT’S GOING ON”!  The same words are used, but our intent is different.

The written word is much more prevalent today.  We text, email, instant message as our most common use of communication.  Besides the ability to read the wrong intent into some one’s words by reading in emotion that isn’t there, punctuation misplaced also changes the message.  We have all seen these and laughed.

“Woman, without her man, is nothing” vs. “Woman: without her, man is nothing”


“Eats shoots and leaves” vs. “Eats, shoots and leaves”


“King Charles walked and talked; half an hour after, his head was cut off” vs.”King Charles walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off”

And, how about those spellcheck mishaps?  I once received an email from an executive that was supposed to say “customer inconvenience”.  Instead it read “customer incontinence”.  That was a great LOL moment.

Also confusing the meaning behind our message is the fact that there is more than one party involved.  There is the delivery person and the receiver.  Sometimes we do everything right in the delivery of the message, but the breakdown occurs in how it is received.  Seth Godin wrote earlier this week, that there’s the hard work of understanding.  He posted in his blog :

“Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe?
We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant.”

If you are looking to build better relationships in 2014, clear communication is a good place to start.

Enjoy this video and a couple of fun links about language

Absurdities in spelling
Why English is hard to learn

To Do or Not To Do That is the Question

How is it that some people get so much farther ahead than others?  Some executives complete endless projects while some make projects endless. Some moms and dads get breakfast made, kids clothed, school bags packed, 2 loads of laundry done, kitchen cleaned up, grocery shopping complete and all of the errands run, all before 1:00 when others are just getting started at 1:00.

It would be easy to say, they have more help, they have better genes, magic worker fairies secretly appear
and get stuff done for them.  Here’s their real secret.  Are you ready?  They make To-Do lists.  Successful people set goals and put them in writing and the majority of them make daily To-Do lists.

Why create daily To-Do lists?

  1. To prioritize what you focus your time on.
  2. To eliminate procrastination.
  3. To be the driver of your own bus
  4. To achieve more of your goals.

Knowing this, but not diligent about doing it EVERY day myself I went searching for a To-Do app for my iPad.  I read a review from Lifehack and went with their top pick.  Instantly I was in love with their pick Any.do.  It has everything you could want

  1. It’s free
  2. It’s simple
  3. It’s visual
  4. It sends you rewards for using the app
  5. And ….it does this (I don’t even know what to call it, but I love it)
Happiness is an app calling you gorgeous every day.  The message changes throughout the day:  “Good morning Gorgeous”, “Good day Princess”.  A girl could get used to getting spoiled by her app.  It just makes me smile and  makes me want to use the To-Do list.
Is one of your resolutions to get more stuff done? 

Do Not Brand Me

well dressed
having integrity
….and many more

These are all characteristics that can describe one’s persona. Who you are, or at least how you are perceived. They describe what you stand for and what people can expect from you. As a sales leader I believe in representing yourself at your personal best all of the time; however, a term that is over-used and abused is “personal brand”.  Why this term came about to describe one’s personal image is beyond me.  It almost seems like an oxymoron. 

Personal – human, intimate, living
Brand – product, thing, inanimate 

Do Not Brand Me

Here are a few definitions for brand.  When you read through them it’s hard to believe that any person would desire to have a “personal brand”.

  1. particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product
  2. kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark
  3. a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, or ownership
  4. a mark put upon criminals with a hot iron
  5. any mark of disgrace; stigma.
Here’s another undesirable definition for the word brand
     6.  a  fungal disease of garden plants characterized by brown spots on the leaves
There are only 57 days left to 2013.  Take a personal inventory. 
-How do you want people to see you? 
-What do you want them to say about you when you leave the room? 
-How do you think that this differs from reality? 
-What can you do about it to make their perception of you match the image you want them to see?

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