No. 40 - How to Dress for More Effective Leadership

As they say, clothes don’t make the man but they do make a difference. Of course, there is the argument that clothes do make the man because naked people have little influence in our society. Quite frankly, clothes are the least important part of your physical presence, but they are part of it. Fortunately, they are the easiest to do something about.A basic objective when you view clothes is to “wear your performance.” That’s why people dress extra spiffy for job interviews. If you do well, you should look like you do. Business, as all of life, is based on perception. If you look like a leader in your dress and demeanor even before you are, people will perceive you as such sooner.The acceptance of business casual dress does not mean it’s acceptable to be casual in comportment."Leaders reflect a confidence and it shows in their faces, the way they walk and the way they dress," says Ted Wright, CEO, The Aslan Group. "They usually understand the ‘costume thing.’ To say all leaders are great dressers would be incorrect, but they do look like they are naturally fitted into the gear they are wearing for whatever and wherever the event or forum. They can be tall or short, slim or round, yet they are 95 percent of the time in tune with the ‘what’ that they are communicating by what they wear and how they wear it. Leaders look like they are in charge, as a rule. If you care about the little things such as what you wear, you probably care about a lot of other little and big things as well. A leader usually looks imposing. Even Gandhi in his special way commanded the attention by the way he dressed."To make the clothes issue simpler:Select a dominant color: black, navy, tan, gray, brown, and buy the best quality and style that you can in that color in every piece of clothing and accessory. You get your wardrobe pulled together quicker and can travel easier with one color. Consistency in dress implies consistency in behavior. You can keep one color from being boring with your selection of ties, shirts, jewelry, scarves, and so on.Rotate the old out. Just as you adopt new business trends, adopt (within reason) fashion changes. For example, if ties/lapels are narrow, go with narrow; don’t stay with wide. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but you don’t want to look dated either. One CEO I know buys a new pair of shoes and immediately gives away an old pair. He does the same with shirts, jackets, slacks, and so on. Nothing new goes into his closet without something old coming out.Unless everything fits perfectly, regularly have your clothes tailored to fit you. If you gain or lose weight, it’s cheaper than a new wardrobe – and it’s a necessity for your appearance.You should dress the way you want those around you to dress, since subordinates will tend to emulate the leader’s attire. Then turn it up a notch, making your dress just a hair better to meet the image people have of a leader.When attending a special event, research the expected dress in advance. Find out what’s typical, and choose your attire accordingly. Dressy clothes aren’t just for special occasions but to make an occasion special. Even if you are simply presenting a plaque at lunch with three colleagues, your attire should still befit the accomplishment.If casual is the norm at your office, keep a “dress up” outfit stored there for emergency situations. Have a complete “might need” outfit set aside and marked for your administrative assistant or significant other to ship overnight to any location when needed.A final word on clothes: It’s more important how you wear them than what you wear. Standing tall and straight makes any type of clothes look better because they hang better on your body.Despite my emphasis on being aware of your own attire, don’t be judgmental toward others. Don’t give the suited person preference, respect, or attention over the casually dressed person. Both get the same treatment as in everything in this book. Besides, you never know who has the most influence in what you’re trying to do.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo: Simon Fraser University

No. 39 - How to Answer Even the Toughest Questions with Confidence

Be as willing to respond to questions as you are willing to ask them. If you hesitate to answer, people think you aren’t cooperative, don’t know the answer, don’t know what you’re doing, or that you lack confidence. You might even be viewed as acting arrogant and superior in your non-response. Choose your words and tone carefully to hit the right degree of clarity. Listen to what the question is. Keep a “pass the salt” tone of voice with no hidden agenda emotion. Maintain a relaxed facial expression. Attentively lean forward to answer the questions simply, concisely, truthfully, and targeted to the audience. Follow USA Today’s slogan: “Not the most words, just the right ones.” Keep the answers organized. Use complete sentences. End sentences. Provide one thought at a time. Practice important or complicated answers when you’re not on the hot seat so that the answers come to you more readily when you are. Think about what you should, could, or want to answer to a question. Rehearse it in your head, and depending on the importance, record your answer on your smart phone then play it back to hear how you sound. Listen and think how it will sound to others and how they’ll likely react. Change your wording if necessary to get the reaction you want. Try out different words to test the different effects. Follow the instructions given to airline pilots who are taught to select words that minimize travelers’ anxiety. The phrasing “The new departure or arrival time is…,” is better than the word “late.” The word “gate” is preferable to “terminal.” And “destination” sure beats “final destination.” Choose descriptive words since they have their own body language: For example, “We get a lot of referrals” is bland compared to, “We get a beautiful number of referrals.” “We work well together,” is less convincing than “We work in harmony.”If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t and then go find it out. Don’t fake or try to fool with the hope that “if you throw things against the wall some will stick.” Don’t attempt to show how much you know when in truth you’re disorganized and nervous and don’t know. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” works. “Yes” and “no” are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question. They avoid the groan, “How short the question; how long the answer.”“That’s something I choose not to answer,” can be your response if they are just being nosy. You don’t have to answer every question (just as they don’t have to answer yours), but it does tend to stop the conversation flow.“I’m just going to skip that question” is an answer that works sometimes. It’s more straightforward than what politicians are taught in the art of “nonanswer.” As former White House insider George Stephanopoulos explains it, “The fundamental rule is to shoehorn what you want to say into the answer no matter what the question is.”If you keep getting the same questions, you’re not answering well. Answer, and then ask, “Is that what you were asking?” or “Does that answer the question?” to make sure you did. Keep it a conversation, not an interview. Pay attention to micro-questions the person is asking. Pay attention to peoples' answers to your questions. You need to hear and know their interests and priorities to determine the answers you need to give and questions you need to continue to ask.Return to questions that were unanswered by you because they got skipped over with “Something I may not have explained well….” It shows you listen, remember, and take responsibility to answer as asked.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo: West Midland Police

No. 38 - Stand Out by Acting the Role of a Leader

When things are not going well, you can: (1) show it, or (2) not show it. There is play pretend needed as an adult, just as you did as a child. When you were a kid, you acted out your dreams. You dressed and spoke like a cowboy, an actress, or a fireman. Similarly, as a leader, you need to act out being a leader.Talk yourself into it. Remind yourself. Say, “I’m going into this, and this is how I have to behave.”A company video conference showed one manager who sloppily slouched throughout. A short time after the conference, he was demoted a pay grade and ultimately let go because people couldn’t forget and get past the mental picture of him. He should have acted more interested.People believe what you show them, not tell them. You need to “look” like what people have come to expect in a leader. It’s not in the clothes you wear (that’s only a small part of it) or an accoutrement of power around you, but it’s your bearing, manner, and comportment that cause people to have confidence in you and your decisions. The theatrics required (after you’ve talked yourself into it):-Slow down.-Stand tall.-Keep an open expression on your face (e.g. a slight smile) whether you are mad, sad, scared, tired, or happy.CEOs are not thrilled every morning when they come to work. Sometimes, they’ve had a fight with the wife or the kid didn’t come home the night before, but they can’t be grumpy. One CEO told me, “The day I gave the best speech of my life, according to my staff, was the day after my life had started to fall apart, having been told I might have to file for bankruptcy. Regardless of how I felt, I couldn’t show it.”Everyone is insecure in some area. The difference in their effectiveness is in their acting ability to camouflage it.We’re all scared some of the time, but you have to hide it. It’s the price you pay to play the game.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo: Bureau of IIP

No. 37 - Take 5 Minutes to Assess Your Current Career Relevance

Smart people do stupid things all the time when they forget that, at this moment, the next new/big thing is coming around the corner, chasing them. In that situation, frankly, the less talented individual will win out if she or he has more fight. If you think your personal brilliance will keep you above the fray, you’re wrong. If you think none of this affects you yet, you’re wrong again.How you decide to act in the next few minutes will decide the person you’re going to be from now on. So shut the door, ignore unsolicited emails, and let the phone calls go to voicemail.Take a moment for a personal relevance-reality-check, because at any age these painful things can start happening to you. If they do, you’ll want to change your course of behavior: You increasingly feel that your smarts are getting you nowhere; your skills aren’t being used. You aren’t sought out. You aren’t taken seriously. You sense disregard for your authority by those above, below, or around you. You can’t seem to gain new responsibilities; your current ones are chipped away. Your honest self-assessment tells you that your expertise doesn’t always fit present day needs; you aren’t ‘with it.’ Your ideas to improve work aren’t welcome. You experience notable indignities, such as being ignored in meetings, being left out of the loop on key decisions, or being omitted from the circulation lists from important e-mails, meetings, and social gatherings. You get heavy and steady criticism of your work. You are frequently passed over for the most interesting, important, or prestigious assignments.All of these things can happen if you allow them to happen. But you, my dear reader, will not let this happen. You’ve got the fight in you, or you are ready to get it back if you’ve let it slip. To turn your situation around: 1) be aware of the need to change, 2) get feedback from appropriate people as to what you can do to change, and 3) do it.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 36 - Project Confidence and Build Influence by Learning to Remember Names

You probably like to hear your name favorably called out. Well, so do others. People never forget that you remembered.It’s funny; the same guy who says he can’t remember names remembers the Tennessee/Florida football game score in 1991 or the wine he drank in Tuscany two summers ago. Why does he remember the score? He watched the game so he heard the score (over and over). He talked about it with his buddies after the game, repeating the score. He read the newspaper articles about the game the next day, seeing the score again.Why did he remember the name of the wine? He read the label when it was placed on the table, sniffed the cork, maybe even saved the cork and soaked the label off for his scrapbook. Later he shopped for that specific wine at the market, repeating the name to the clerk. The steps required to remember anything are hear it, repeat it, read it, use it.To remember names, it is first of all important to make sure you hear it. As one person said, “As soon as he told me his name it went in one ear and the other.” Despite the fact you have a million different things going on in your head, have the person’s name go in one ear and stay there.When you introduce yourself to others, you generally hear only your own name. No wonder you don’t remember theirs. When they say it, right then clarify the pronunciation if it’s unusual and verify it. “What is your name, again, slowly?” Or if you heard it clearly the first time, “It’s Seth, right?” To further associate the person and the name you can ask a question such as “How do you spell that?” “Is that a family name?” or “What inspired that name?” If there is a story, people like to tell it.Some people are particularly sensitive about the pronunciation of their names. People named Susan don’t like to be called Suzanne. Elaines don’t want to be called Eileen. Kathays don’t want to be called Kathy. Michaels may not like Mike, just as Roberts may not like Bob, and so on. It takes a little effort to get it right, so do.If you get the person’s business card, look at it and read the name. Tying the visual with the audible doubles your chance of remembering. Add a note on the back about something you learned about the person in the conversation, the “do list” item you want to follow-up with for the person, or some distinguishing characteristic.Use the person’s name to introduce him or her to another person. State the second person’s name clearly, so it increases the chance of the first person hearing and remembering it also.When I’m walking my dog on the bike path and people stop, chat, and bend down to pet him, I’ll volunteer, “His name is Scooter,” and inevitably the person will say, “Scooter, you’re a good dog… or Scooter you’re a cute dog.” And when we depart, they’ll usually say “Good-bye Scooter.” Then weeks later I’ll run into the same people and they’ll say, “Hi Scooter.” They remembered the dog’s name because they repeated it so many times.If you’re with someone who can’t remember the name of someone you are both meeting, you can be the one to initiate an introduction with, “I’m Debra Benton, this is my friend Kristie.” Then pause and let the person say his name. You end up making it easier and smoother for both of them (a two-for-one maintaining of esteem!).By the way, at a meet and greet when you wear a nametag, place it on your right shoulder, not your left. It’s easier to read when people shake hands with you because they can see it and therefore remember. I saw a man in a wheelchair put his nametag on his hat to make it easier to read. The worst are name tags on neck chains that hang around your chest or drop below; if you are a well-endowed female this causes men and women to study your bust area to see your name.When you meet a person again, volunteer your name to make it easy on them whether you do or don’t remember theirs. Preferably you can say, “Roger, nice to see you, Debra Benton,” as you extend your hand to shake with a smile on your face. If you can’t remember his name, you can say, “Hello, I’m Debra Benton,” pause and shake. He’ll likely volunteer his name. This time, make sure you register his name in your memory so you do remember next time.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo: Parker Knight

No. 35 - How to Create and Cultivate Career-Long Connections

Earlier this month in blog post #33 I wrote about the importance of physical touch. To follow that, you should stay in touch figuratively as well.Whatever your connections are with people, it’s important to periodically touch base with them. It takes less than four minutes to reach out in the following ways:• Send an email and comment on an article or a new book you found that would be of interest.• Send a link to some pertinent research.• Write a short handwritten note to compliment on a business success.• Forward a post you wrote that relates.• Phone or e-mail to ask for an opinion on something you’re working on.• Email an inquiry as to whether the person was affected by the flood or snowstorm that hit his/her area.• Contact the person’s administrative assistant and thank him/her for some efficiencies they provided.You get the idea. The list is endless.About once a month, I receive a link to an article of interest from Paul Schlossberg. He’s the CEO of D/FW Consulting and when he travels he constantly clips articles to send to people in his community of contacts. One of his secrets is that he has envelopes pre-addressed and stamped in his briefcase, so when he sees an article, it takes about three seconds to send it out.Another person who knows how to make himself a valuable source is Eric Weissmann. When I finished interviewing him for a book I was writing, he asked this simple but great question: “Is there anyone you still need to interview for the book? Is there someone I could introduce you to?” Offering your assistance is a sure way to win someone over.Mary Mandell says that every time someone asks for her help or advice, she goes out of her way to give it to them. Every time a headhunter calls, she “always, always” returns the call and gives a referral. “I’ll even refer people I don’t know if I think it will help them.” She adds, “I always ask how the recruiter found me, too.” That way she can follow up with the person who passed along her name.People like Schlossberg, Weissmann, and Mandell really get it.As you can see, there are plenty of ways to create connections on your own daily and weekly – to reach out and touch someone.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 34 - Learn to Stand Out as Well as Fit In to Get Ahead

When you are visible, good things happen for you. People seek you out because they’ve heard about you and your capabilities. They invite you into business meetings and conversations when they don’t have to. Your name pops up when people talk and gets passed upward and outward. You are top of the mind and tip of the tongue. You receive calls from people you’ve never heard of inside and outside the company. You get endorsements from people because they know you. “Yeah, I know him. He’s a good guy” is all it takes, versus “Hmm, no, never heard of him.” And you cause people to remark, “Let’s get him before somebody else does.”It’s very easy to become invisible. When that happens, headhunters don’t call, bosses don’t promote, and mentors don’t respond.Being visible does not mean that you embellish your work, are pretentious, show off, seek the limelight, have a popularity contest, or over self-promote. It means you: Go the extra mile. Go out on a limb. Distinguish yourself. Care about what you’re doing (more than you care about being photographed doing it). Stand out, but not grandstand.Being visible can be as simple as this story told to me by a client: “I remember joining this several-billion-dollar company years ago right out of college, and I happened to see the CEO unexpectedly walk by my cubicle one day. I stood up, went out to him, and introduced myself. He asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and explained that I had just joined the company, and he said, ‘Well, keep up the good work.’ And then he made a point to stop at my cubicle months later when he happened by again.”In talking with CEO and C-level executives, they tell me:“Get noticed early in your career and preferably by the top people; that’s how you get anointed.”“Unless you fight against it, in business you can become like a rock in the river, tossed, turned, and ending up pretty much like every other one.”“Being visible is not going to every Starbucks and introducing yourself to everyone.”“It’s not who you know, but who knows about you.”“The best way to be visible is to tell others how great your team is. You must toot everyone else’s horn. And if you don’t have a good team, lie that you do, and then go change your team. The ones who tell me they are wonderful themselves always make me wonder if they are.”- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.Photo: Brussels Airport Company employees

No. 33 - Physical Touch: A Little-Used But Powerful Tool for More Effective Communication

Physical touch is a communication tool few people take advantage of. It can help you bond and connect with people way beyond just communicating by dispensing data. Who doesn’t appreciate the positive recognition of a “pat on the back,” literally or figuratively?And, yes, you can touch strangers as well as colleagues at a business event if you do it with the right attitude and technique.One CEO told me, “Every time I meet someone new I give the person a bear hug. They relax and enjoy it or go catatonic, but they never forget it.” He went on to explain, “It lets them know right away that I’m an energetic partner in the conversation, I want to get to the heart of the matter right away, and I don’t want to waste time with useless formalities."Here are some tips on effective use of touch in a business context: Reach out and touch the person you’re talking to on an acceptable part of the body: hand, forearm, elbow, shoulder, high back (nothing below the waist). Maintain physical contact for a split second as you speak directly to the person. Place your hand and remove it in an equally purposeful and definite manner. Don’t be skittish; you look nervous and lacking confidence. Relax, smile, and look as if you expect the other person to accept the touch with the intent that you gave it: supportive, encouraging, caring, and respectful. Do not use touch with any intimate overtones. (This leaves out twerking.) Be sensitive to the person’s reactions. Ask about the exchange if you sense discomfort, and immediately remedy any misunderstanding so they clearly understand your respectful intent. Always put yourself in the other persons’ shoes and consider their reaction so you choose the right approach to begin with. Be consistent. Use touch with men and women, young and old, the likeable and the not-so-likeable. You cannot just do it with the ones you know and like; that’s what gets you in trouble. Above all, try it. You’ll never experience the positive impact unless you try it. Even if you’re skeptical about this, you may be amazed by the outcome.If you refrain from reaching out and touching someone (appropriately) you’ll lose a valuable opportunity to connect and bond. Yes, I know that “touchy” and corporate policies instruct not to do it. Fact is, the most powerful leaders do it; they just do it well. And that’s what I want you to do: Do it well so as to be memorable, genuine, trusted, and appreciated.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 32 - Are You Ready to Earn More Money?

I suspect most people feel they need more money—not just to support their current lifestyle, but to provide for the one they aspire to.Despite the risk of sounding politically incorrect or money grubbing: You want to make the big bucks. You don’t have to aspire to being a 1%’er, but you should be okay with making lots of money.There is a spiritual snobbery some people take on about money. But really, to say you don’t like money would be to not like nearly anything—because money supplies nearly everything.Think back to your own first awareness of money.  One executive told me, “As a kid I lived in California, and my dad and I would drive around Beverly Hills. He would point out wealthy peoples’ homes and tell me, ‘Thieves live there.’  That’s how I viewed people with money.”We all have attitudes formed in our childhood about relationships about almost everything in life: the opposite sex, food, beauty, religion, money. Regardless of the subject,  it’s an outlook you can change with your own free will.So let’s debunk some myths and mistruths we were taught while growing up that need to be corrected now that we’re adults:…money is an acceptable topic of conversation…money can buy some forms of happiness…money does make the world go around…money is not the root of all evil…do what you love and money will follow only if others love it too…if you do have health, kindness, balance, and money, you do have everything…both smart and dumb people can make money…rich people are not bad people…people who say they don’t care about money either don’t have enough or have too muchI believe man was born to grow rich by using God-given abilities: intelligence, thoroughness, right-reasoning, promptness, tenacity, patience, labor. (When Moses came down from the mountain he did not bring a commandment, “Thou shalt not make money.”)By using your abilities and making money, you give yourself power, leisure, solitude, and liberty.It is true that money carries an assortment of distinct and powerful emotions for people, both good and bad. But that does not negate its role as a basic, important, and understandable system. For better or worse, money is the resource—now and in the future—that ties society together.You can choose to spend it, save it, or share it—but first you have to make it.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 31 - Networking: No Matter What You Call It, You're Always Building Your Reputation

In college, it’s called socializing; in business it’s called networking.  You do the same thing; it’s just that your clothes aren’t as sexy.One CEO told me, “My wife encourages sleepovers for the kids and sports, so that they learn to network from the start.”So a few tips to do daily: Have the goal be to get to know and to get visible to a wider range of people, that’s all. Anticipate discomfort — they feel it, too — so push those silly feelings aside, and be the one that makes them feel comfortable. Take four minutes out of your day to initiate a call, write a note, forward a link, pick up the phone to follow-up, congratulate, inquire, or whatever.That’s it. One a day. In a year (giving yourself time off for holidays), you’ll have over 300 incidences that you initiated. That’s like 265 more than you did last year.CEOs have told me this about the activity: “One of my biggest regrets is the contact I’ve let drop over time.” (Mine too!) “My rule is to follow-up four times with one individual. Nothing ever happens with just one contact.” “Maybe some one accuses me of schmoozing, I just view it as being accessible, professional, and confident.” And my favorite, “You’re only one phone call away from changing your life.”Whether you like it or not, you’re building a reputation the day you start your career. Everything you do stays with you forever in some person’s mind.- Debra

No. 30 - Practical Advice that I Received as a Starry-Eyed Teen

At thirteen my mother found me secretly reading a movie star magazine.  She kindly explained, "You aren't pretty enough to be a movie star so you should develop your personality." Now, do not take her words as insulting. I didn't and I don't.  Until her dying moment she was my biggest fan. She did not say those words disparagingly at all, but rather to do me a favor and get me to focus on more than wanting to be pretty.I took her words to heart and decided to develop my personality -- that became my goal. The local library had a self-improvement section, and that summer I read every single book in it.  I went down the row reading anything related to personal development: manners, etiquette, confidence, character, public speaking, comportment, appearance, psychology, humor, even selling.  Some of you may remember the book Psycho-Cybernetics and of, course, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which were two titles that got read more than once.So what happened after the summer when I headed back to school with all that new found knowledge? Nothing.  I was still a gangly, tall, skinny, eye glass wearing, self-conscious teenage girl.  Just because I read the books didn't mean I'd understood or captured all the good advice, but it was a start.Recently I had the occasion to reminisce with an old classmate and over lunch she commented, "You know, in high school you were pretty nice to everyone, pretty funny, pretty interesting, pretty smart, pretty confident acting, and I was pretty jealous of you." That was not my self image at all, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that's how this friend remembered me.  And I got to thinking that maybe I was pretty enough after all.The beauty of maturing is that you have eye-opening moments and they help you put your life in perspective. I'm glad my mother told me the good advice. Unbeknownst to her, she gave me a head start for my ultimate profession as an executive coach and speaker on leadership and communication.I'd like to hear your own early life-shaping experiences. Write your story to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..- Debra

No. 29 - Considering Joining a Start-Up….Or Starting Your Own?

Exciting small start-ups seem promising and progressive, but on the other hand a legacy company offers proven systems, procedures and security. To compare and decide what is right for you, consider the differences:The Small Start-Up FirmThis type of company is likely to have:• A sense that no one is really in charge• A sense of chaotic growth (say, from a staff of 14 to a staff of 400 within 12 months)• Lots of wasted money (usually the investors’ money)• No time to train you• Little stability• Limited support resources• Fourteen-hour days, seven days a week• Zero vacation or free time• No clear payroll or human resource policies• No clear practices• No one to complain to• No experienced managers as mentors• More openness between management and rank file• Increased speed of project execution• Shorter time for advancement• Increased risk of failureThe Blue-Chip Legacy CompanyThis type of company is likely to have:• Opportunity at almost every level• Resources• Profitability (more likely, but not guaranteed)• A proven reputation• Security• Stability• A large peer group of colleagues• Experienced managers as mentors• Assistants• Vacations• Longer wait for advancementBoth types of organizations have a time and a place in a career. Both have a chance of ultimate success. The trick is to pick the right time and place for yours.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.
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No. 28 - Be Prepared for Company Changes (But Not Worried)

Change is the only constant—especially in business—so it pays to keep your ears and eyes open for these six warning signs that may signal trouble for your company: Partnerships and co-marketing deals with other companies are canceled. Two or more leading company executives resign or are fired. One or more well-known figures resign from the board of directors. Anticipated rounds of capital funding are reduced or canceled. The stock price takes repeated hits. There are spending and investment cutbacks.One survivor of the corporate wars summarizes the downward slope of bad news like this: “First the bigwigs say, ‘We’re in transition.’ Then they say, ‘We’re downsizing.’ Finally, they say, ‘We’re closing.’”Don’t work from a negative perspective but a realistic one, as things change constantly. Continue to expand your network of contacts, build your skills, and keep your resume updatedYou can’t control change, but you can prepare for it.-DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 27 - Why I like Cowboys

In business (and in Washington D.C.), too often a courageous-think-and-act-outside-of-the-box individual is pejoratively labeled a cowboy. As if being a cowboy is a bad thing! Whoa! That’s exactly what I want on my team.Why? Because I know cowboys — real cowboys. They are about inspiration, not regulation. They don’t worry about rules but rather principles, values, and character.Cowards are not tolerated among them. Courage isn’t about bull-riding, it’s about speaking up and saying what needs to be said when others are afraid to; taking action when others won’t.They “cowboy-up” when things get tough, and they don’t quit on you. They keep their promises and don’t dodge and spin or whine. With a happy soul and maybe a grin, they speak directly and purposefully — and they mean what little they say. They don’t much go for windbags.James Owen wrote the book “Cowboy Ethics” (Stoecklein Publishing). It’s what he, a Wall Streeter, felt his peers could learn from the Code of the West: “The West is a place where the fence is always tight but the gate is always open to friends and neighbors. It is a place where a man can make tough decisions without looking over his shoulder or worrying what someone else will think. A cowboy gets his strength from knowing what is right and what is wrong and being true to his beliefs. That is the essence of the Code of the West and the true cowboy way.”And then there’s the line from “The Shootist,” John Wayne’s last film: “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.”That’s why I like cowboys (and married one).- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 26 - Considering Leaving Your Current Job and Company? Take a Look Internally First

Sometimes, changing companies isn’t the best alternative, even for people who truly need a job change. If you think you fit with your current company but aren’t being adequately challenged or rewarded in your present job, it may make sense to consider moving within the company. Don’t assume this is impossible. If you seriously investigate the opportunities within your current company, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover. Dale Telford, former IT director at StarChoice, and the founder of the bITssol, puts it well.Telford suggests, "If there comes a time where you feel you can’t go any further at your current company, talk with your superiors and let them know what you feel you’re capable of doing. Ask them for suggestions or if they know of a position open in another organization. That way, if you do find something outside of your current company, you will not be surprising anyone. You may also find that even though you did not think there was something else you could grow into, the company you currently work for may know your real value and create the position you want.”Because keeping good employees has become a high priority at most smart companies today, your employer may be willing to facilitate your job change within the organization. Avoiding losing you to an outside competitor will help the company avoid the costs of recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement. There are benefits for you as well. You and your family will undergo less of a disruption, and the knowledge you’ve developed about your company, the people who work there, its systems and processes, and its customers and competitors will all continue to be useful to you. A lateral or upward shift within the same company may be the ideal move for you. Even if the new department or division doesn’t turn out to be a perfect long-term career match, the new assignment could turn into a useful “bridge” job that keeps you sane and teaches you some new skills as you consider other options.If you’re interested in pursuing an internal change, start by talking to your boss. Think carefully about how to approach the subject. Use tact and diplomacy to explain why you’re interested in a change without expressing bitterness, anger, or boredom with your current job. The last thing you want to do is to provoke defensiveness or hostility – after all, you want your boss’s help in making the shift. Talk in terms of your aspirations for the future rather than emphasizing your disappointment with the past and present. Don’t say, “I want a new job because the work here is depressing, dull, and pointless.” Instead, you can say, “I think I’m ready to tackle some new challenges and a little higher level of responsibility that will benefit the company.”It’s unlikely that your boss will be in a position to directly link you with job opportunities in other departments; your company’s human resource or personnel department will have to play that role. However, company policy usually requires your boss’s approval for an internal job search. Further, it would scarcely be comfortable to proceed against your boss’s wishes, which is why it’s a good idea to start with him or her. And who knows? Your boss may surprise you by responding, “I had no idea you felt that way. Would you like to be considered for the new job that’s just about to open up in our department?”- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 25 - Your Go-To Approach — and Fall-Back Approach — Should Always be the Golden Rule

Consistently Follow the Golden Rule: What you want for yourself, you give to others. Do right and do it consistently in how you think, act, and interact with people.Over the years there are versions of the “rule” that I’ve heard from colleagues. Pick one that rings true for you: Do what’s right for the other person, and you’ll end up doing what’s right for you. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Be good to people, and they will be good to you. Treat all people as you would like to be treated. Good works on Earth align you in the right way with the universe. You never want to do unto others what you would not want done unto you. What is hateful to you, do not do to others. As a leader, always be more than is expected of the people you’re working for and who are working for you. You can’t ask others to do what you aren’t willing to do yourself. Treat people like you want to be treated. Do unto others before they split. How would you want to be treated (or how would you want your mother, your son, to be treated)? Treat others as they would like to be treated. Don’t repeat what you didn’t like done to you. Expect from others what you expect from yourself.Any version works for giving the respect due to others – as good leaders do.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 24 - Guidelines That Will Serve Your Children Well (and Us, Too )

Many years ago I found a book by Richard R. Conarroe, published by the American Management Association titled, BRAVELY, BRAVELY IN BUSINESS.Getting out of college and anxious for a career I typed these notes on a sheet of paper, folded it and kept it in my wallet for over ten years to unfold and read periodically. Recently, I found that folded piece of paper and discovered the things that made for a successful career that many years ago still holds true. And they will for your children too. See for yourself: Pick the people who can most strongly determine your success and stay in direct, personal, continuous touch with them. Never assume that the way things are today is the way they will be tomorrow – or even after lunch. Never fail to consider the future significance of what you say and do. Know what it is you can do better than anyone else and do that. Never say anything about anyone you wouldn’t say in exactly the same way to his face. Search for the seeds of victory in every disaster – and seeds of disaster in every victory. Don’t lie. If you can’t tell the truth, keep quiet. When you start lying, you are dead. Never expect someone to keep a secret. There are no secrets. Bet on people – but be prepared to lose. Unsolvable problems don’t disrupt the routine; they are the routine. Everybody’s motives are different. Make certain you know what motivates each person you deal with. Know exactly what your goals are. Follow your own instincts. They are probably no more wrong than everyone else’s carefully reasoned logic. Build a reputation as a winner by smiling when you win – and when you lose. Keep every promise you have made – or that others think you have made. Never assume that others are operating under the same rules you are. Success has many ingredients, but the greatest of these is confidence. Don’t win too soon. You’ll miss half the fun of playing the business game.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 23 - Go for the CEO Job! (Someone’s going to get it, might as well be you)

Every organization needs a leader. Motorcycle gangs have (official and unofficial) designated leaders, as do Red Cross workers. Children on school playgrounds follow the leader, just as dogs do in a pack. Regardless of your calling, someone is going to lead the charge; no group can do without a conductor. It might as well be you.In business, they’re formally called chief (fill in the blank with chief operating, technical, legal, personnel, administrative, technology, information, continuity, risk, nuclear, marketing, manufacturing, financial, purchasing, quality, country, security, learning, or strategic) officer—which can lead to the CEO job.Being the person in charge — the leader — is a lot bigger rush than base-jumping. It’s rad. It’s cool. And it’s awesome.One psychologist told me, "Everyone wants to be a chief, but most feel it’s unrealistic, so they turn it around and act like they don’t want it anyway. But they wouldn’t turn it down if offered."Over many conversations with hundreds of CEOs, I asked why being the leader in the enterprise is a good gig. They told me that you have the best chance of any job in the organization to: Turn things around; make things happen. Be the coach, the mentor. Make a difference. Get to select the people you’re around. Be able to do something about the problems you complain about. Make your own decisions. Minimize doing things that you think are stupid. Choose the chances you’re going to take. Make decisions that can change the world. Be able to help more people. Do what you think is right. Be the boss you always wanted to have. And control your own destiny.As one CEO put it, "I figured I’m as smart as others running the show. I decided to be the boss that I always wanted to have."– DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 22 - Three Big Steps That Help You Learn How to Improve from What You’re Learning

"You don’t have to come into a situation knowing it all. But you do have to come in wanting to learn,” said my favorite CEO mentor, Curt Carter.Without lots of information, you don’t have a chance of being a leader. You can’t argue your point or even discuss it unless you have tons of facts and material. You can’t be a change agent, be globally aware, be innovative and creative, be really good at your job, be decisive, manage your career well, or develop people.Gathering useful knowledge from many sources is one of the most underrated qualities of a leader. Good leaders constantly seek information, collect it, and store it into their brains, computers, or with trusted administrative assistants.Curt has told me many times, “I am always in the mode to learn something every day. I ask myself, ‘What’s here that would be beneficial to understand?’ I read everything I can and tap into everything I can.” He told me, “I’ll learn something new every day until I die. I may not use it but I’ll have learned it!"Learning is one thing; getting better from it is another. Conscious, incrementally improved repetition is the key to improved performance.3 Steps to repeat over and over: Pick something you want to get better at and set a goal around it. Pick apart what’s necessary to reach the goal. Part by part, piece by piece, deliberately drill the parts. ?(Well-done parts make for a well-done whole.) On each part, get feedback and seek causes and remedies to problem areas. Take that feedback, make changes accordingly, and concentrate ?on improving at least a little. Take the slightly improved, and repeat the effort, feedback, and ?slight improvement. ?Social scientists find that you have to repeat an action 28 times before it becomes a habit. I don’t care whether you do it 8, 28, or 228 times, just be sure that each time you are practicing a little bit better execution than the last.Every task you do, from the most menial to the most significant, can be improved with this conscious preparation: leaving voice-mail messages, writing reports, making cocktail-party small talk, public speaking, selling, negotiating, and so forth.The best in their field have an attitude of lifelong learning. Warren Buffett says that if you end your day without knowing more than you started, you’re not doing something right. Tiger Woods says that he wakes up every day knowing that he can be a better golfer. The artist Goya at age 82 wrote in a corner of one of his paintings, “I am still learning.” At age 77, actress Jane Fonda hired an acting coach to hone her skills.When you see yourself improving, it becomes interesting. Big changes don’t happen overnight, but change can happen from this minute of practice to the next minute, from this day to the next.No investment is guaranteed in life except the investment you make in yourself. Continuously learning is to invest in you.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.

No. 21 - Be Your Own PowerPoint Instead of Using It

When I start a speech, generally after every other speaker has used a number of slides, I explain to the audience, "You'll find that I don't use PowerPoint. There is a reason for that. I believe you have to be your own PowerPoint in life. You can't walk around with a group of slides over your shoulder explaining what you want people to remember. You have to live, breathe, show, and emote the effect you want to have on people."That's taking nothing away from those who effectively use the technology. I just chose another approach in presentations so that I:

1) differentiate myself from others2) rely on my physicality, choice of words, and mindset to communicate3) practice what I preach (i.e. professional presence and executive effectiveness)

Next time you present, try it without any props except your own preparation and brilliance. You might find out that you explain yourself better than any technology can add to your speech.- DebraP.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.