Brian Williams 2I’ve been thinking over the past couple of weeks about Brian Williams and his recent fall from grace. Many are shocked and disappointed. I can only see a glaring example of why authenticity and consistency are key to credibility.

Credibility is the third leg of the communication stool along with Connection and Clarity. A great message and great rapport mean nothing if the audience does not trust you. Brian Williams has spent over a decade in the anchor chair build trust with his audience, but he lost sight of the first rule of communication – it’s not about you. He began to make the stories about him. He found ways to put himself in the heart of the story or make his point of view more important, this lead to embellishment. Consistency of his story went out the window and with it went any sense of trust we had. His authenticity which had made time an ‘anchor’ both literally and figuratively was in question. What’s the truth? Has he lied before? Was he even who we thought he was?

If you want to build credibility and influence remember to be authentic. Don’t try to be someone else, more important, more connected, more capable. If it’s not authentic, people will sense that something is not right. Eventually, consistency will fail. People will see a side of you that doesn’t fit with the image you want to project and then any good will you have built will go the way of Brian Williams.

Great leaders don’t embellish. They are rooted in the truth of their story, their business and themselves.

Nerves - eyes through blindsSo you have all heard that studies say that more people are moreafraid of public speaking than they are of dying.

How is that possible? If you had the choice this instant of going up on stage and spending one minute telling everyone about yourself or having a fatal coronary – what would you choose? I thought so.

So now that you know public speaking can’t be that bad, take a deep breath. Chances are you have been doing a version of public speaking all day… all week. I believe anything you don’t do in front of your mirror (your worst audience) or your dog (your best audience) is public speaking.

So let’s talk about all of the other times. Whether it is a keynote at an industry conference or a sales pitch or an interview for you dream job there are some simple rules to follow that will help you for when preparing.

1. Prepare: Don’t hope you will know what to say in the moment. Plan your main messages in advance. Write them out. Say them out loud. Edit and re-word as necessary.

2. Focus on what you would want your audience to know. We often walk into these situations thinking about what we want to say. We forget that the audience may not want or need to hear it all. When you are planning your messages, make sure they are relevant and meaningful to your audience.

3. Anxiety is just in your head. Nervous energy is like excited energy. Your heart rate goes up, our breathing is shortened, you don’t think straight. The only difference is with nervous energy your thinking is negative and can focus on what can go wrong. ‘I hope I remember my speech.’ ‘I hope I don’t lose the sale’. I hope I get the job.’ With excited energy your thinking is positive. ‘I can’t wait to tell the team about the new plan.’ ‘I know I will meet one meaningful contact at this event.’ ‘This is going to be great first date.’ Nerves can be good they give your speech and presence some much needed energy. Just make sure you keep it positive. Then you can focus on giving your audience great content instead of worrying about what can go wrong.

4. Be bold. Don’t shy away from opportunities to speak. If you don’t do it someone else will and then they may be taking their career to the next level instead of you.

Write me if you need some tips the next time you are getting ready for a big speech.

ExpectationsBefore any startup gets serious money, the name of the game is being scrappy and bootstrapping. But once investors are added to the mix, a company grows and things change. Now they need to move from entrepreneur to CEO.

3. Delegate with clear expectations.
Because startups have to bootstrap for so long, entrepreneurs are used to doing everything themselves. Now that there’s more staff, it will be a relief to have help, but it can also be a challenge to let go of some control. The key to successful delegating is setting clear expectations. If new team members know exactly what is needed from them — and exactly when it’s needed — they can more easily deliver quality outcomes while the CEO focuses on steering the company to continued success.

It is often hard for founders to move out of the day to day of product development or client service. To some degree they started their business because that part was fun for them. But if the entrepreneur-turned-CEO is not the keeper of the vision, working on the longer-term plan, their team will not see where the company is going and where they will end up. Keep them inspired and engaged by looking more to the horizon and not always at the day to day.

4. Look the part.
The harsh truth is that people judge how successful or trustworthy a person is based on how they look. Why else would lawyers dress up their defendants in fancy clothes or would actors walk into auditions “looking the part”? The shoes, the haircut, the choice of jeans or slacks — it all plays into how a person is perceived. A polished, professional look can go a long way toward building credibility with new hires and important board members.

Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit. Depending on the culture of a business, its industry and the city that it’s based in, it may be more appropriate to dress down than to dress to the nines. But be smart about it. It’s best to leave the flip-flops, raggedy sneakers, and that comfy college T-shirt with the mustard stain at home. Even Mark Zuckerberg leaves his hoodie at home sometimes.

And remember, as the company continues to grow, so must its leaders. A CEO will constantly need to acquire new skills, greater influence and a bigger vision.

Let me know what challenges you have faced when transitioning from founder to CEO.

th[10]Before any startup gets serious money, the name of the game is being scrappy and bootstrapping. Founding entrepreneurs probably didn’t have much of a team to speak of, and they’ve been answerable to no one but themselves, their clients, and maybe a co-founder or two.

But once investors are added to the mix, a company grows and things change. Yes, the investors liked that scrappy nature and demeanor or they wouldn’t have given their money to the startup, but now that scrappy guy or gal has deposited their investors’ checks with all the zeros. Now they have a board and investors to report to, not just co-founders. Now they need to move from entrepreneur to CEO.

Here are some tips to help entrepreneurs successfully move from being the founder to being see and trusted as the leader of a business.

1. Treat investors like the partners they are.
Having a board to answer to will be an adjustment for many entrepreneurs. A board meeting can feel confrontational and stressful, especially because it will be a new experience to make decisions by committee. A board meeting is also a room full of people who have leverage and who may or may not always share a vision for the company.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of keeping things from their investors or avoiding uncomfortable conversations because they worry a particular investor will disagree or challenge them. But remember, this is a symbiotic relationship. The CEO needs the investors’ money, their network, their mentorship, and they need the CEO and the company to be successful and profitable. So in board meetings, don’t get defensive. If a big client fell through, keep them updated. If an investor has a strategy that hasn’t been considered, give it some serious thought. If the investors were chosen wisely, they will have been around the block before. Chances are they know what they’re talking about. But in the off chance that you have a board member who does not play well with others, find different ways to engage them outside of meetings. If they feel they are valued in other ways, they may be more open when you don’t agree.

2. Command the room.
This doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room. In fact, it’s often just the opposite; a strong leader can command a room with complete silence. There is no bluster or arrogance in commanding a room. It is not about looking down on or being ‘above’ anyone else. Commanding a room is about being prepared, connecting with others and being authentically confident.

CEOs have to ‘know their s#*t’ if they want to command a room. The very definition of ‘command’ is to direct with specific authority, so it is important to be an authority on the topic, company, clients. Take the time to prepare, and people will listen.

Eye contact goes a long way toward establishing trust and projecting confidence. People are more likely to avoid eye contact if they don’t feel they have the answers people want. Unfortunately, this just reaffirms to board members and employees alike that a CEO is not ‘in command’ of the facts, the meeting or more. So make sure to acknowledge the other people in the room by looking them in the eye. Don’t shy away from those that may voice challenges. Engage them and begin to win their trust.

Confidence is not something that can just be put on like a suit. It is also something that people feel toward others. If the key players have confidence in a CEO, they are more likely to listen to what he or she has to say. Otherwise, they will find ways to overtake the conversation and leave the leaders of the company talking to themselves.

Check in for the next blog for tips 3 & 4 and let me know what challenges you have faced when transitioning from founder to CEO.

The Holiday: You need gumption.

Kate Winslet’s character, Iris, meets her charming neighbor and script writer from Hollywood’s golden age, Arthur Abbot. He introduces her to strong, smart female characters in classic films. He tells her that he wrote women with gumption. Something Iris seems to have lacked in her life.

Gumption means ‘initiative and courage’. There is no successful woman in business who doesn’t embody some level of gumption. Often it is need simply to take the bold steps needed to get noticed, get promoted, and get ahead.

An Affair to Remember: Avoid avoidance.

Despite it’s happy ending, the conflict in the movie comes from two hurt and angry people avoiding each other and the conversation which is needed for them to remain connected.

As stress at work and challenging co-workers and clients frustrate us, we have a desire to avoid conversation. We email instead of calling. We take a different path to the kitchen or fail to keep clients as up-to-date as necessary. The more challenging the relationship or situation, the more important it is to initiate and maintain constant and open communication.

You’ve Got Mail: It’s not personal, it’s just business.

Tom Hank’s character tells Meg Ryan, ‘It’s not personal. It’s just business.’ But Meg’s character disagrees and says, ‘It’s personal to some people. It should start by being personal.’

I can’t disagree that it should begin by being personal, but the truth is that, in business, taking things personally will slow your career, make it hard to work with some people, and take your focus away from your future, keeping you in the past.

Frozen: Let it go.

Almost everyone has heard the Oscar winning song from the Disney movie, and its message is not lost for women in business. It has always struck me as odd that two men can have a heated and aggressive disagreement at work and still go out to have a beer at the end of the day.  Two women have the same disagreement, and they go home and complain to their friends or husband.

I am not saying this is true of all women, only most.  I have fallen into pit before because I found it hard to ‘Let It Go’.  If the argument happens, if she gets the promotion even though you deserved it more, let it go.  By letting go, you can keep yourself focused on your goals and your eye on the prize.

Try these tips and next time you watch a chick flick look for lessons you can take back to work.  Then let me know in the comments so I can share them.

Send Monique your question for next month’s Q&A column!

I was at an event for entrepreneurs recently when the speaker (male) was giving an introduction for a successful female founder.  When speaking about how they first met, he said, ‘When she walked in my office, she didn’t look like an entrepreneur”.  What does that even mean?  What does a female entrepreneur look like?

I am not one to beat the drum of the hard road women have in the start-up world.  There are absolute realities that some see, some don’t and others experience.  The idea that anyone, particularly investors, have some visual checklist that women need to overcome to get attention, get a meeting, or get funded is crazy.

But I work in realities.  I can’t help my clients change the system, but I try to help them work within it to achieve their goals.  That is why it is so important for female entrepreneurs to clearly define their presence and embody the leadership qualities they need to get ahead, while staying true to their authentic style.

Ultimately, smart investors want to see confidence, strength of conviction, and authenticity.  Forget what a female entrepreneur should look like and focus on what you should look like as a successful leader.

What challenges have you encountered as a female entrepreneur? Share your experiences in the comments.

Send Monique your question for next month’s Q&A column!

No one likes staff meetings – not the person leading it or the people attending it.  It has become a painful part of our work life that more people find useless, boring, and a time waster.

So how do you lead a staff meeting that is valuable, energizing, and leads to a better work environment and growing business?  Here are three things to try.

Ask yourself if you need the meeting.

Do you have a weekly meeting because you feel you should?  If you don’t have a specific outcome you want to achieve in the meeting, don’t have it.
Maybe all you want to do is improve moral, or keep people update on changes in the company.  As long as you have one clear outcome, you can organize, lead, and facilitate a successful meeting, because you know what you are trying to achieve.  If you don’t have clear outcome or call-to-action for the meeting, cancel it.  Your staff will thank you.

Your agenda should lead to your outcome.

Often staff meetings are a hodgepodge of miscellaneous items cobbled together over the course of the week or month.  If you follow rule one and only have meetings with specific outcomes, you can keep you agenda tight and goal oriented.

Just make sure each agenda item gets you to your outcome and leave the rest off the list.  Your meetings will be quicker, and people will feel they aren’t a waste of time.

Mix it up.

Change the style and dynamic of meetings.  They don’t all need to be on Tuesdays at 10am in the conference room.  Maybe you can have it on Friday at 2pm and bring in cake.  You can have a 15 minute meeting instead of an hour.  You can bring in a guest or have one of your team members lead the meeting.

Mix it up and keep it fresh.  You’ll find your employees are more engaged and present.  That always makes for a more successful meeting.

Great staff meetings are just a few tweaks away.  Try these tips and let me know how it goes in the comments!

Send Monique your question for next month’s Q&A column!

 

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One of the staples of working as a professional actor is going out to audition after audition.  It is a tiresome and often humbling way of getting work, but it’s just part of the job.

Over the years of working with entrepreneurs on their investor pitches, I have come to realize that pitching and auditioning have some of the same pitfalls and challenges.

Rejection.

It is never easy to put yourself and your vision out for others to judge.  There is something demoralizing about hearing ‘no’.  We work hard, practice, and hope they will see our value.  But the truth is our pitch or audition is only one of many.  We’re often told no, not now, or come back when you have more.

However, going in knowing that ‘no’ is not an end, but just another step in the process, can be empowering and help us to grow.  Every time you give your pitch, answer questions, and defend your business, you can practice your story, clarify your vision, and take away new ideas.

Remember: It’s okay if some people don’t get it.  It only takes one to make you a star.

Be Ready.

Actors always have at least two audition pieces ready at any time.  They are always ready to audition anywhere at any time because you never know when opportunities will present themselves.  Pitching should be the same.

I often see entrepreneurs who say, ‘I’ll start working on my pitch when we need money’.  But if you are always ready to tell your story, clearly show why what you are doing is valuable and get others excited about what you are doing, the money will find you.

Remember: Have a short and long pitch ready all the time.  Practice and test drive it.  Make sure it’s ready to take out on the road.

Know Your Audience.

Actors auditioning for the same part with different directors will give very different auditions.  It’s not that the script changes, but they tailor the audition to the audience.  An edgy, young director might want a hip and modern Hamlet while a lover of classics might want a brooding, classic Hamlet.  You want the part? You have to give them what they want.

Entrepreneurs need to know their audience as well.  Are they angels or VCs?  What kind of investments do they make?  What type of entrepreneurs do they invest in?  What type of pitch do they want to see?  The more questions you can answer they more likely you will deliver the pitch they want to see.

Remember:  Do your homework and tailor you pitch to your audience.  The pitch is not for you; it’s for them.

What do you find most difficult about pitching again and again? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Send Monique your question for next month’s Q&A column!