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Book review: Convince them in 90 seconds

Convince Them in 90 Seconds: Make Instant Connections That Pay Off in Business and in Life

By Nicholas Boothman

Workman Publishing

$15.95

It doesn’t happen often but it happened a few weeks ago.

I sat in on a really good presentation. A mercifully brief and tightly focused talk that got straight to the point.

The senior management team was on the receiving end of pitch from a business executive who’s winding down his career and ramping up his volunteer work here at home. 

He got 10 minutes on the agenda to talk with us about a local non-profit that could use a helping hand. 

In making his pitch, he told us some great stories about the organization. Talked about the past, the present and highlighted what we could accomplish together in the future.  He also shared his personal story.

He walked us through a few stripped down PowerPoint slides. Pointed out that we’re both in the business of building leaders. And then he  asked for the order. We were willing and able to get involved and help out?

All in all, he delivered a great presentation and made a strong first impression with the folks around the table.

What’s more, he would of made author Nicholas Boothman proud. Boothman is a licensed master practicioner of neuro-lingusitic programming. To put it another way, Boothman is really good at making instant connections and he knows how to harness the power of persuasion.

Having spent a quarter century as a photographer in high-end fashion and advertising, Boothman became very good at spotting who had the innate ability to connect with anyone in a warm and spontaneous way. Those connections were usually made within the first minute and a half of people getting together for a photo shoot.

“The first 90 seconds of any encounter isn’t just a time for making a good first impression,” says Boothman. “In the first few moments of any meeting, you connect with a person’s instincts and their human nature – their hardwired responses.”

Boothman says in those opening seconds, our subconscious survival instincts kick in and our mind and body make some snap judgements and lightning quick decisions. Do we run, fight or interact? Break out or put away the Crackberry and give you our undivided attention and an open mind? Is the person in front of us an opportunity or a threat? Friend or foe?

In those first 90 seconds, we’re sizing you up and deciding whether you’re okay or if you should go away. Do we trust and feel safe with you? Are we going to play ball together?

To improve the odds of making an immediate connection, Boothman encourages us to adopt the KFC formula for success communications. Know what you want. Find out what you’re getting. And change what you do until you get what you want.

Define what you want in positive terms and in the present tense.  If you don’t know what you want, chances are we’re not going to give it to you. So always remember the golden rule. If you don’t have a point, don’t make a presentation.

Pay attention to the feedback you’re getting and learn from it. What messages are hitting and missing the mark? Figure out what’s moving you to your goal and what’s distracting you. And if you don’t get what you want, try different approaches.

Keep close tabs on your attitude. It’s a mash-up of your body language, your tone of voice and your choice of words. Attitude is the first thing people pick up in face-to-face communication, says Boothman. Do you come across as warm or cold? Happy or miserable? The good thing about your attitude is that you can control it and adjust it.

 Successful leaders share three really useful attitudes. They’re enthusiastic. They’re curious. And they embrace humility, with a public persona rooted in modesty and service to others. “When a large ego is generously wrapped in humility, it is a handsome package,” says Boothman.

There’s a lot more practical advice from Bootham. It’s advice that can help you do a better job of connecting with other people and pitching your next big idea, project or partnership.

“No matter your line of work, you are first and foremost in the business of connecting with other people – and those people are deciding whether that’s going to happen or not, in about the same time it takes to glance at a photograph.” And, like posing for a photo, always remember to smile when making a connection.

Jay Robb lives and works in Hamilton and blogs at jayrobb.typepad.com.

Book review: The Intangibles of Leadership

The Intangibles of Leadership: The 10 Qualities of Superior Executive Performance

By Richard Davis

Jossey-Bass  

$36.95

So I’m thinking the Pan Am Games are already the best thing that’s ever happened to Hamilton.

The Great Stadium Debate has served up a real-time and real-world test of leadership and integrity, vision and values.

It's a test that some of our political, business and community leaders have aced. Others have earned a passing grade. A few folks have flunked and should, to borrow my all-time favourite HR turn of phrase, be encouraged to pursue other opportunities. Of course, we'll be sure to them all the best in their future endeavours.

Thanks to the Great Stadium Debate, we can see how Hamilton’s leaders measure up or fall short against the traits that define and distinguish superior leadership. Richard Davis, an industrial / organizational psychologist and partner at the Toronto office of RHR International, earns a living assessing top candidates for senior executive positions. Over time, he’s noticed a recurring set of traits common in exceptional leaders.

“Extraordinary leaders possess certain interstitial characteristics – traits that fall between the lines of existing leadership models,” says Davis. “Adjust your lens finely enough, and you will see, at the upper end of the leadership spectrum, certain subtle characteristics that emerge as fundamental to executive success.”

According to Davis, here are the 10 defining characteristics that make for extraordinary leaders.

1. Wisdom based on experience, reflection and perspective. You’re advice-worthy. You exercise good judgment. You think independently and don’t speak in banalities.

2. The will to stand firm. You never give up and you make your own luck. “Successful leaders I’ve encountered over the years enable things to happen, rather than wait for them to happen,” says Davis.

3. Executive maturity to not only read and understand how others are feeling but to control your own emotions.  You stay cool under pressure and know how to navigate your way through a crisis.

4. Integrity built on trust, consistency and a moral compass. You don’t lie. Don’t cheat. And you always keep your promises.

5. Social judgment, or the ability to analyze people and situations and then make smart decisions. “The best leaders have an indefinable ability to connect with people.”

6. A presidential presence, drawing on reputation, identity, charisma and superior communication skills.

7. Self-insight, a key trait that often decides whether Davis recommends a candidate for the executive suite. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, understanding your hot buttons and blind spots and recognizing your impact on others. “Figure out what makes you tick. It’s the only way you’ll get better at what you do.”

8. Self-efficacy, with a deep faith and fundamental belief in your ability to get a specific job done. Not only do you want the ball. You know you’re going to run it into the end zone.  

9. Fortitude, courage and resilience. “People with fortitude have rhino skin; they’ll say they just let things bounce off them as they forge indomitably ahead. They’re tough nuts, tough cookies, tough customers.”

10. Fallibility, with a willingness to show rather than hide your flaws. Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections. Fess up that you don’t have all the answers. “Our most extraordinary leaders became successful because they were fallible, not in spite of it.”

Like the Great Stadium Debate, there’s seemingly no end to leadership books. The Intangibles of Leadership is a stand out and worth a careful read.  Davis takes each of the 10 traits and tells you what it is, how to know it when you see it and how to get it for yourself.

So along with investing in a stadium and high performance sport, let’s spend some Future Fund money on a high performance leadership academy and bring Davis in as head coach. Hamilton’s due for a championship season.

Book review: Good boss, bad boss

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to be the best and learn from the worst

By Robert Sutton

Business Plus

$28.99

So it turns out it really is all about you.

If you want to be a great boss, you need to be fixated on yourself, hypersensitive to what others think about you and a little paranoid.

It’s self-awareness that separates contenders from pretenders in the leadership ranks, says author Robert Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University. 

Good bosses are acutely aware that we’re watching everything you do and say, how you say it, who you say it to and when you say it.  No move or mood, no deed or decision goes unnoticed.  We watch everything you do. And we don’t forget.

 “If you are a boss, your success depends on staying in tune with how others think, feel and react to you,” says Sutton. “Bosses who persistently promote performance and humanity devote considerable energy to reading and responding to followers’ feelings and actions, and those of other key players like superiors, peers and customers.”

Sutton cites work by David Dunning of Cornell University that shows a lack of self-awareness is the hallmark of poor performers and clueless bosses. “They consistently overestimate their skills in just about any task that requires intellectual and social skills.”

In contrast, self-awareness is the hallmark of the best performers. “They are especially cognizant of their strengths and weaknesses and fret about overcoming pitfalls that can undermine their performance. They focus on controlling their moods and moves, accurately  interpreting their impact on others and making adjustments on the fly because they want their people to produce work that others will admire – and to feel respect and dignity along the way.”

According to Sutton, you’re a good boss if you can pass two acid tests.

Do people want to work for you and would they enthusiastically sign up for a second tour of duty with you at the helm?

And are you in tune with what it feels like to work for you?

Do the people working for you believe that you’re in charge and in control?  “If you want to be a successful boss, you have to convince people that your words and deeds pack a punch,” says Sutton.

Do you strive to be wise, dancing on the edge of overconfidence with a healthy dose of self-doubt and humility to save you from becoming arrogant and pigheaded?

Do you know how to manage your stars and deal with your rotten apples?

Can you link talk and action and steer clear of the smart-talk trap?

Do you serve as a human shield, letting your people do their jobs free of red tape, meddlesome executives and unnecessary meetings?  And when your people screw up, do you take the heat?

And are you willing to take on the dirty work?

“Every boss must do things that upset and hurt people,” says Sutton. “If you are the boss, it is your job to issue reprimands, fire people, deny budget requests, transfer employees to jobs they don’t want, and implement mergers, layoffs and shutdowns. If you can’t or won’t perform such unpleasant chores, perhaps you shouldn’t be the boss. Or, if you still want the job, you better recruit someone else to do your dirty work.”

Bosses matter and good bosses make a big difference. After surveying more than 100,000 employees over the past 30 years, Gallup’s army of researchers have found that managers trump companies. Immediate supervisors have the single greatest impact on engagement and performance. Good bosses can compensate for lousy work conditions.

Bad bosses will bring you a whole host of problems and cost you your best and brightest workers. After all, we don’t quit companies. We quit lousy bosses.

“Bosses pack a wallop, especially on their direct reports,” says Sutton. “Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, there are hoards of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out there, and big gaps between the best and worst.”

So if you want to be on the side of the angels and be a good boss, give Sutton’s book a careful read. And know that we’ll know you’re reading this book.