The Holiday: You need gumption.

Kate Winslet’s character, Iris, meets her charming neighbor and script writer from the 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 which 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 bitch 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 do 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!

If you want things to be different, do things differently. Is 2015 the year you….

1. Stop talking and start doing.

We spend time reading books, complaining to friends, and sitting at home frustrated that we are not reaching the next level. Get off your backside, and start doing something differently. Join a new group. Network at a different coffee shop. Walk to the water cooler a new way. Call instead of emailing. Whatever else happens, others will notice a difference. You will meet new people, and you will likely find that you’re moving forward.

2. Make an investment.

These new groups and new people may require an investment of both time and money. Do it. If there is something you need to give up to afford it, do it! Just get a coffee at Starbucks. Pare down your entertaining budget for a few months. Instead, invest in active ways. An industry conference can open your eyes to new ways of working and help grow your network. Finding a business coach can provide perspective and tools to get you to the next level.

3. Stick with it.

Everyone joins a gym in January and stops going in February.  Don’t give up!  You will be too busy, too tired, and too whiny to keep up the change, but don’t give up. Anything new takes time to have an effect and create new ways of thinking and behaving. It’s worth the extra work.

4. Measure the difference.

Make a note in January of some realistic goals for the first 6 months of the year.  You may not be able to get a promotion by then, but have you created a better rapport with the decision makers?  You may not be ready to get funded, but have you started working on your pitch, so your story is tight and compelling when you are ready? Review your goals every month and jot down any successes.  By the 6th month, you will see the changes.

5. Celebrate success.

No matter how small every bit of good news is good news. If you get a compliment from your boss, celebrate it. If you ran a successful and productive meeting, celebrate it. If you felt more confident on a client call, celebrate it. Success comes in stages, not all at once.

I hope your 2015 is full of wonderful opportunities! Share your plans and goals in the comments.

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

Corporate messaging and branding is big business. Corporations spend millions developing the strongest messages to reflect their brand, highlight differentiators, and attract clients.

Why Don’t Individuals Do the Same?

Clients, bosses, and investors need to know what YOU do. They need to know what makes YOU different from your competition. They need to understand your value to THEM. So why do individuals go into the world hoping they say the right thing at the right time for the right audience?

Some people call it an elevator pitch; others call it a personal tag line. Either way, the exercise of crafting a strong elevator pitch can be incredibly valuable even if you never use it, which you should.

Here are 3 reasons you should put some effort into preparing a strong elevator pitch.

 1. Opportunities present themselves every day. 

You may find yourself sitting next to a potential client or influencer at the airport or your local Starbucks. If you do, are you ready to make yourself memorable (in a good way)? Are people who ask “What do you do?” wanting more info and asking to meet up again? Most of us are not great off the cuff, so having your message, keywords, and phrases that articulate your value at the ready means you are more likely to create traction from those opportunities.

2. Preparation allows you to edit.

When we want to sound valuable to someone, we tend to go on and on. We want to make sure we mention all the great things we do, where we have worked, and who we know. There is never a situation where doing the majority of the talking attracts clients or even get you a next meeting. By taking the time to decide in advance what is most important to your audience and how to stand out from your competitors, you can edit out all the added jibber-jabber that makes people’s eye glaze over.

3. It works.

If you take the time to craft, edit, and tweak your pitch, you will pique their curiosity, make yourself memorable, and begin to create rapport. The added bonus is that you will feel more comfortable talking not about yourself, but your value. That’s where the money is.

So what does your personal messaging say about you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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

I was recently asked why I think communication is so critical to leadership.  I was surprised by the question.  It seems like common sense to me, but then I have always been an active communicator. (Yes, that means that sometimes I’m too chatty – we all have something to work on!)

But when I sit back and think about my clients who aren’t comfortable with communication, I remember this doesn’t come easy to everyone.  We all know professionals with leadership titles, but no one truly follows them.  Why is that?  It breaks down into one of three reasons.

These are the 3 keys to effective communication and powerful tools to use as a leader.

 1. Connection

Some people don’t know, and others don’t care, how to establish and build rapport.  Creating a solid connection with your team, your board, or your clients is the first step to success.  It all stems from their needs, their pain points, and how they need to be reached.  Strong rapport builds a firm foundation on which all communication can travel.  Without it, you might as well be talking to yourself.

2. Clarity

Once you’ve established connection, you can convey your message.  But for it to be heard, understood, and absorbed, it needs to be clear and compelling. Some senior professionals don’t take the time to create clear messaging or paint a picture of their vision.  If people don’t know what you stand for and where you are going as a leader, they aren’t likely to follow.

3. Credibility

A great rapport and compelling message can quickly get washed away when credibility is lost or maybe wasn’t established in the first place.  A leader’s credibility is their calling card.  It is a sign that they can be trusted.  This comes down to a magical mix of confidence, humility, intention, and most importantly authenticity.  All it takes is one thing to undermine credibility.  It could be as simple as a weak or inconsistent presence.

Becoming a great leader is also about becoming a great communicator.  If you aim to achieve the former without working on the latter, you may find yourself no followers.  Everyone can improve their communication skills, even a communication coach, so don’t think you can’t or that you don’t need it.  Make the effort, put in the time, and you will be richly rewarded.

What are your communication challenges or successes as a leader? Share with me in the comments.

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

Office Phone Call

Photo Credit: Donovan Graen

“Most of my meetings are by phone. How do I build rapport with clients I have never met? - Sales Manager, IT Company

This a big challenge for many professionals and it’s growing. Here is one thing you can do to make it easier: close your eyes.

It is hard to remain present on a long call. Our eyes tend to wander, and we check email or look out the window. So shut it down by closing your eyes. This will feel very strange and probably look stranger, but it will make a huge difference. Once your eyes are closed, you will be more present for whoever is on the call. The listener will sense the difference, you will be more engaged and have more to take away for next time.


“As part of a recent promotion, I now have to lead staff meetings. I know how much everyone hates them since I felt the same. How do I make my staff meetings something my team doesn’t hate?” VP of Operations, Marketing Company

Hating regular staff meeting is nothing new, and we have all experienced it. You need to begin with asking yourself why everyone hates them.

  • Some staff meetings go on too long. So set a time and stick to it, even if that means cutting off your own agenda. It’s your job to keep it on time.
  • Some  staff meetings seem pointless. Make sure there are action items, however small, attached to each agenda item. It will make attendees feel as if something was accomplished.
  • Some  staff meetings are just boring. So mix it up. One month might be a breakfast meeting. Another could be a good news/awards only meeting. Another might include a guest. Keep them guessing.

We all know the saying, ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’.  And well, it’s true.  So do you think about the first impression your business is making on your customers or that you are making on clients or co-workers?

I recently walked into a new restaurant for a quick lunch.  I was having a bit of a bad day and needed a quick break.  As I walked into the restaurant I was met by two smiling faces.  They greeted me with a warm welcome before taking me to my table.  As I sat waiting for my meal making some notes for an upcoming presentation, I realized that the friendly welcome had perked up my day.

Why Had Something So Simple Made Such a Difference?

The truth is I was lost in my own thoughts. Considering the day I was having, those thoughts were less than positive.  The greeting took me out of my head and opened me to the generosity and positivity of someone else – all with a smile.

This sort of thing happens to us every day, only the greeting is not always happy and welcoming.  Sometimes we walk in to the restaurant, a store, or even a meeting and are greeted by less than happy faces, and that affects us.

So how are you showing up?  Is your bad day affecting the first impression you make? Is your staff making your customer’s day?

The Answer Is Simple: Smile.

Train your staff to smile.  Creating the right energy with a good first impression can make your day.