Conversation Posts

When your team grows, check your attitude – Part 2

In Part 1, we shadowed Bill as he struggled with the expansion of his marketing team. Two new hires joined the team and added value right from Day One. Bill’s behavior, however, was selfish and harmful to him and his team.

Are you Bill? Or are you a teammate who welcomes new mates with a smile and helping hand?

With the economy improving, your company might be expanding. If so, here are a few tips to help new teammates get up to speed faster.

See new teammates as a welcomed opportunity to shine and grow.

See new teammates as a welcomed opportunity to shine and grow.

  1. See the addition of teammates as an opportunity:

New people aren’t out to steal your job. They were hired to help the company grow. Ask how you can help them. Remember how nervous and unsure you felt during your 1st few weeks at a new job. The new teammates will appreciate that you’ll help them through the new job transition.

2.   Leverage the fresh eyes and perspectives:

If you’ve been with a company for a few years, you may know ‘too much’. This isn’t a bad thing to have deep domain expertise and a solid understanding of the company’s processes and paths to success, but you lose the ability to see things with fresh eyes and open minds.

When new employees join the team, ask them for their views on your market segment, messaging, promotional strategies – whatever initiatives where you feel stuck. Most likely, they’ll have some unique perspectives that will unlock higher levels of efficiency for the entire team.

Don’t be a ‘Bill’ who is short-sighted, selfish about new team members. Stretch for a ‘Bill’ who is eager for the new perspectives and experiences brought by new colleagues.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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Make your business card a connection point

If you are like me, you’ve collected hundreds of business cards over the years.

Some of the data from these cards gets entered into Outlook, Salesforce.com or another contact management system.

Most of these cards get discarded. A few get saved for a long time because they find a way to set themselves apart from the others.

business card

Can a small change make your business card noteworthy?

I saved a recent card because of the fact that it lists not just the standard name, title, address, phone number, e-mail address, Website address, but also hobbies, interests, passions of the card bearer.

A big cheer to the company that is trying this innovative approach to their ‘calling card’; it’s not easy to take chances when every other company goes the standard way.

What’s more interesting to you?

A card that says:

John Doe
Business Analyst
Tecmo Bowl Corporation
123-234-4567
john.doe@tecmo.com

Or:

John Doe
Business Analyst
Tecmo Bowl Corporation
123-234-4567
john.doe@tecmo.com

  • Bowling
  • Poker
  • Day Trading
  • Soap Operas
  • Long Walks in the Park
  • Cats
  • Licorice
  • Heavy Metal

The interests listed above are conversation starters.

If your company desires to connect with John Doe as a potential customer, partner, employee, wouldn’t it improve your chances to find places of passion?

Maybe you and John are huge fans of Iron Maiden or both aspire to bowl that elusive bowling game of 300.

There’s nothing wrong with finding a connection point via a title (business analyst), but it might be extremely freeing to find a different commonality based on an area of excitement, stimulation, energy (outside of work).

Your company might not be ‘ready’ to build a business card in this way, but how about encouraging your employees to find alignment beyond the company name and position?

Try it; you might find a new way to build connection points that last a lifetime.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world.

On a typical day, you’ll encounter a wide variety of people, performing many different roles.

  • Susan, the perky red-haired Starbucks barista prepares your mocha latte just the way you like it.
  • Joe, a distracted Jiffy Lube ‘mechanic’ changes your oil in the amount of time it takes to check your e-mail.
  • Grassy Greens, your lawn care company, trims your lawn to a point where it just might be the envy of the neighborhood.

These services are too often ignored or taken for granted.

I need to reflect more and be gracious to the people who serve me on a daily basis. We could consider that these services are not ‘our right’, but more of a privilege worthy of sincere appreciation.

Some of these jobs may not be glamorous, yet this does not diminish their importance.

During a recent busy travel stretch, where airports blended together like one big revolving door, I overheard an older gentleman direct the following impulsive comment to an airport shuttle bus worker:

Everyone's role has value. What can you do to show appreciation?

Everyone’s role has value. What can you do to show appreciation?

“I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world.”

If you were on the receiving end of this comment, how would this make you feel? Diminished? Disenfranchised? Irrelevant? Is all of the above a choice?

Perhaps this gentleman wanted to share a genuine comment about this person’s selfless job. Nothing embodies servant leadership more than lifting and pulling bags off and on a shuttle bus while cranked, harried travelers wonder: “Why is this taking so long?” and “I am going to miss my flight if this guy doesn’t hurry.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t come across this way. When the shuttle bus driver digested this insensitive comment, he froze, unable to muster a response. No doubt his day felt a little less meaningful after this episode. How much better would both of you feel if you added a genuine, friendly comment?

Words mean things. Let’s be careful about how we communicate with strangers. Not knowing people doesn’t give us the right to step all over them with malicious words.

Yours in civility….

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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Don’t Over Engineer Your Elevator Pitch

You walk into a crowded conference hall. The air in the exhibit hall seems to stand still. If you wanted a breath of fresh air, you came to the wrong place.

People are bustling energetically amongst booths, tables, demo stations, attempting to learn the latest technology, find a new job, or pass the time until the next presentation begins.

You are on a mission to meet new folks, to network, to forge connections.

You show a smile as a young woman approaches. You give yourself an internal pep talk. Good posture. Check. Eye contact. Check.

When it's time to shake hands, what do you say?

When it’s time to shake hands, what do you say?

You outstretch your hand as the woman approaches.

She smiles and says hello as her hand meet yours in a firm, strong handshake.

You exchange names, comment on the conference, and she asks you:

“So what do you do?”

“I work to grow the Agile community through positive online and offline interactions.”

She responds with a half-interested, “Oh, that’s cool.”

“What do you do?” I ask, with hope to keep the conversation going.

“I work as a Business Analyst over the DSM and CSL divisions with dotted line responsibility to the Core Group,” she responds as she glances towards the conference floor.

“OK,” I say, and quickly realize that I have no idea what she just said. She lost me after Business Analyst. Everything else was a jumbled mess of acronyms and confusion.

The two of us strained to keep the conversation going for a few additional minutes, but this was a brutal task. She kept looking towards the door; I must have looked drunk on acronyms.

With the past as my guide, I now realize that this conversation could have gone smoother for the young woman and for me.

So what 3 things could each of us have done differently?

Elevator Pitch Tips:

  1. She set the conversation off in the wrong direction by asked the predictable, banal question: “So what do you do?” We all lean forward into a conversation when livelier questions are asked.

    Examples:

        • What brings you to the conference?
        • What has surprised you about the conference thus far?
        • What’s your biggest learning so far?

2. I bumbled and stumbled by replying to her question with the exact same question. How dull and unoriginal can I get? We were both guaranteed to remember nothing from a conversation when it stayed superficial and impersonal.

3. Despite your best intentions, some conversations will inevitably steer towards the basic question: “What do you do?” Give the follow up conversation some sparkle by replying with color, excitement, passion. Make it impossible for this conversation to stop with these elevator pitches:

  • “I build bridges between the development team and management. “
  • “I create atmospheres of innovation and collaboration for my team.”
  • “I turn first-time Web site visitors into life-time subscribers.”

Use these tips to your advantage and make your next conference experience full of exciting, memorable conversations. You’ll be well on your way to turning attendees into lifelong business connections.

Until next time, 

Dan Naden

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Get personal and watch a person light up

The scene: Two workers decompress over a beer at a local conference’s happy hour.

When this conversation ends, what will anyone remember?

“So, what do you do?” says the bespectacled middle manager #1. The grey in his hair is slight, yet his face’s wrinkles signify many years of hard work.

“Oh, I am an engineer,” responds middle manager #2. His hip backpack with electronic gadgets and artsy glasses hint that he’s new to the working world.

“Where do you work?” says manager #1, sipping slowly from his ice cold green bottle of Heineken.

“ICE Wonder Corporation,” responds the engineer. “I just started there after I finished school last fall.”

The conversation drags slowly along, finally crashing to a halt with the inevitable exchange of business cards; two people with so much potential and opportunity never to cross paths again. There’s a ‘chance’ that new business was generated, a referral was brokered, career advice was shared. More than likely, however, there’s very little that managers #1 and #2 will remember about one another when the happy hour ends.

Ask these types of questions and watch a person grow:

  • What do you like to do on the weekends?
  • What’s been your favorite vacation spot?
  • When have you felt most alive?

It’s fine to talk ‘work’. After all, it’s what’s pays the bills. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll meet a person and you ’just click’. You laugh, swap stories, enjoying the company the entire time.

If not, crack into authenticity by using the above questions to find out if that engineer is:

–the world’s greatest Nascar fan
–a season ticket holder for your favorite football team, Chicago Bears
–a die hard 30 Rock viewer (he’s never missed an episode!)

Not everyone will feel comfortable getting personal. That’s ok; it’s their choice. Keep at it. Find connection points even if they are far away from the 9-to-5. If it works, you’ll forge a strong professional connection while uncovering the uniqueness that lives inside each of us.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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