Celebrating the Gentleman, John Glenn

johnglennlifemagcoverThe word “gentleman” evokes a bygone era, yet, treasured American hero John Glenn reminded us through his actions exactly what the word meant. He was a gentleman and a gentle man.

As a native Ohioan, I was saddened to hear the news of John Glenn’s passing. He has been part of my collective memory since I was a child. He was – and always will be – one of Ohio’s greatest leaders, a dedicated public servant, and positive role model.

In his 95 years, he excelled in several careers: World War II and Korean War Marine pilot and decorated war hero, astronaut and space pioneer, NASA advisor, businessman, and U.S. Senator.

In 1962, he became the first American to orbit the earth. Thirty-six years later, in 1998, he returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery at the “youthful” age of 77 and became the oldest man to travel in space, another first. After retiring from the Senate the following year, he and his wife, Annie, founded the John Glenn School for Public Service at The Ohio State University. Glenn inspired us with a can-do attitude, built on traditional values of hard work, discipline, trust, honesty, and family.

“We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.” John Glenn

And so it was with John Glenn’s life and career. He became a pathfinder and risk taker who explored the ultimate unknown frontier, space. The lessons he learned from space exploration served him well in his long career as a public servant.

There are certain qualities that come with the moniker of gentleman: Mannered. Polite. Diplomatic. Honorable. Courteous. The world could use a few more gentlemen (and gentlewomen too!) who possess the right stuff.

Glenn’s death came during this holiday season, a time of year when we are closing out one year (a time for reflection) and beginning a new year (a time for planning). Take a moment to remember those individuals, like John Glenn, who were gentlemen and gentle men, who inspire and motivate us to reach for the stars and see what is possible.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

The Grace and Integrity of Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill, pbs.org

Gwen Ifill, pbs.org

America lost a media trailblazer this week with the passing of Gwen Ifill, co-anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour. She was a woman of unparalleled integrity, unstoppable spirit and character. There will never be another.

This past summer when the Republican National Convention visited Cleveland, where I live, my husband and I decided to drive downtown and enjoy the excitement of a major political convention in our city. We walked along the trendy East Fourth Street area, which served as home to all of the national media posts. Well-known reporters, news anchors, and commentators were everywhere, mixing and mingling with visitors and conducting interviews in the street. My eye scanned the crowd, and there she was – Gwen Ifill – eating a light lunch at a sidewalk cafe. She smiled that stunning smile and was gracious as people approached her.

When you read about her journey as an award-winning journalist, and hear her personal story of humble beginnings, you are reminded that any person who has a dream can pursue and achieve it.

“Journalists are accused of being lapdogs when they don’t ask the hard questions, but then accused of being rude when they do. Good thing we have tough hides.” Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill knew how to ask the tough questions, and she never backed down. Her professionalism and level of intelligence were at their finest in her role as a political debate moderator. The questions she asked were thought provoking, and she brought a certain level of authority, responsibility, and respect to the role.

She encountered discrimination, racism and bigotry in her life, yet she remained undaunted and focused on her dream, her future. The integrity of her work demonstrated that she was not only capable; she was the best in the business. She led by example, was a trusted friend and advisor to many, and served as a mentor to many young women coming up through the ranks. That example continues to provide hope to young women, especially women of color.

I can only imagine the conversation she is enjoying now – on that other plane – with longtime friend and fellow journalist Tim Russert, who also left this earth too early. Oh, what a great reunion.

Reflecting on all that Gwen Ifill accomplished in her lifetime encourages me to be a better person. May we all as professionals look to her example for inspiration as we strive to succeed in our careers and in life.

Professionalism and the Presidency

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton meet at the first Presidential Debate, nbcnews.com

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton meet at the first Presidential Debate, nbcnews.com

For those of you who follow my posts, you know that I am a thought leader on professionalism in the workplace. I even wrote a book about it.

This week, I am using that thought leadership lens to look at the first U.S. presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. After all, the position of President of the United States is the highest and most professional role that any American can hold.

I have shared some of the qualities that the President must possess to represent our country here and abroad, and I have provided a score in each of these categories. You may agree or disagree with my thoughts, and that’s okay.

Leadership. Hillary Clinton was the first to extend her hand to Donald Trump for an historical handshake as they both entered the stage. Clinton then walked to NBC-TV news anchor Lester Holt, moderator, and extended her hand. A leader takes the initiative. She set the tone. Score 1 for Hillary.

Clarity. For each question that was asked of Hillary Clinton, she answered the question clearly, offering factual information. The majority of Donald Trump’s responses were off topic, vague, or not connected with the question in any way. Quite frankly, he side-stepped most questions. Score 1 for Hillary.

Respect. When I think of the leader of the free world, I think of someone who is diplomatic, thoughtful, calm, and clear. Donald Trump showed disrespect for Hillary Clinton by interrupting (or manterrupting) her 51 times during the 90-minute debate, according to Vox. Debates are carefully structured, allowing each candidate two minutes to answer the same question provided by the moderator, then followed up with a more open banter. Despite persistent interrupting by Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton remained calm and positive. She didn’t roll her eyes or huff and puff or make faces. She remained consistently calm. Trump, on the other hand, made faces throughout the debate. I shuddered to think how such behavior on his part would be interpreted by another world leader. Score 1 for Hillary.

Preparation. Sorry, Trump supporters. Donald Trump flunked this test big time. As a communication expert, I teach people how to deliver powerful presentations. The first step in any solid performance is preparation. Answering his first question, Trump revealed his lack of preparation. His rhetoric and ramblings were anything but presidential. Despite what Trump has suggested, Clinton not only looked presidential, she responded as a President would. Why? Because she had prepared for the debate. She has the experience. Some political pundits felt Clinton was over-prepared or too scripted. I don’t share their perspective. She was speaking from her extensive knowledge base. Score 1 for Hillary.

Insight. A professional transcends hyperbole and sound bytes to offer deeper understanding, insights, ideas, and solutions. Trump didn’t back up his comments with any solid solutions. Clinton added additional thoughts, insights, and references to specific plans. Score 1 for Hillary.

Trust. Trust and trustworthiness has been a huge issue in this presidential campaign. After seeing each candidate perform at this first debate, I had to ask myself the most important question of all: “Who do I trust the most to lead our country as President?” Score 1 for Hillary.

There you have it. This is my opinion of who I believe presented a more professional image for our country, based on what I saw, heard and felt during this first debate. Of the two candidates, Hillary Clinton was more professional, better prepared, more thoughtful in her responses, and frankly, more presidential. Donald Trump fell short in all categories. He was ill prepared, non-substantive, vague, and disrespectful. In this first debate, substance trumped shallowness. Let’s see what happens in the second and third debates.

All In, Against All Odds, the Cleveland Cavaliers is a Team Built on Trust


National Basketball Association

Anyone who has read Patrick Lencioni’s seminal book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, knows that when lack of trust exists in a team, the team will implode. Real trust, on the other hand, builds a solid foundation for any team’s success. Trust is what we have witnessed in the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. Trust provided an iron-clad bond that allowed the team to rise above adversity and win the 2016 NBA championship.

Trust perseverance. At the beginning of this NBA season, no one predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers would make it into the finals, let alone win the national championship. Yet, that’s exactly what happened on June 19. Against all odds, the Cavaliers made NBA history, coming back from trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1 at the end of Game 4. The Cavaliers is the first team in NBA history to win a championship from such a significant deficit stance, especially facing a team with the “most games won” record in the NBA this year.

Trust ability. The synergy between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was palpable. In Game 5, the dynamic duo each scored 41 points in the game, breaking an NBA record. In Game 7, LeBron James stormed down the court at record speed to powerfully block Warriors player Iguodala’s layup, now known as The Block. Moments later, Kyrie Irving outmaneuvered Steph Curry’s defensive block and shot a three-pointer, another game changing move.

Trust risks. There were absolutely some nail-biting moments, especially in Games 5, 6, and 7. There were some risky moves, switched-up strategies, and fresh approaches. The Cavs coaching staff and team took risks, and they paid off.

Trust the plan. When LeBron James returned to Cleveland in 2014, he publicly committed to bringing an NBA championship to the city. The Cavs came close in 2015, yet the championship went to the Golden State Warriors. LeBron let the fans know that this 2016 championship was for them.

Trust the leadership. Coach Tyronn Lue (I call him Cool Hand Lue), who was elevated into the head coach position mid-season this year, possesses a consistently cool persona, especially in tough times. He never wavers. He never loses his temper. If he questions a referee’s call, he does it in a respectful way. Just five months into his new position, he led the Cavs to a national championship victory. In my opinion, the Coach of the Year Award should go to Lue, because he earned it. MVP LeBron James leads, motivates and inspires his fellow team players to push the limits. In interviews, every player spoke of LeBron’s tremendous leadership, generous spirit and commitment to the team. At the victory rally, LeBron gave accolades to every player for his individual contribution to the team’s success: “I’m nothing without this group behind me. I’m nothing without this coaching staff. I’m nothing without this city.” And let’s remember Cavaliers owner and businessman Dan Gilbert, who has invested millions in downtown Cleveland and in the Cavaliers team. His vision of a championship team began years ago.

Trust the vision. Cavs fans were in shock when longtime Cavs player Andy Varejao was traded mid-season, in exchange for three players: J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. The irony? Varejao joined the Golden State Warriors. Think about how differently this season could have ended without the critical plays of Smith, Jefferson and Frye.

Trust advocates. The city’s celebration began the moment Game 7 ended, with fans crowding downtown Cleveland, welcoming the team home the following day at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and a record estimated 1.3 million people to celebrate at a homecoming parade and rally on June 22. I was part of that 1.3 million crowd and have the sunburn to prove it. Standing for more than four hours and sandwiched in with a sea of other Cavs fans, it was worth every minute. My husband and I were proud to be part of this historic moment in our city. Yes, we have the souvenir T-shirts, caps, pennant, license plate frame, poster, and commemorative newspapers that will never be sold on eBay!

What does this championship mean to the people of Cleveland and to the State of Ohio? Everything. Cleveland is a great city. I love living here. The city has carried many titles – and promotional slogans – over the years: Best Location in the Nation. Comeback City. All-American City. More recent additions: Believeland and a favorite, LeBronland. Whatever you call it, it’s home to the 2016 NBA Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and to MVP LeBron James. And we know, there’s no place like home.

Thank you, Cleveland Cavaliers, for the best 2015-16 season, and for demonstrating trust in action.

Finding Common Ground: The Ali-Cosell Story

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 9.46.54 AM

Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali

There are many lessons that we can learn from boxing legend Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay). Yet the one that stands out most in my mind is the special relationship and bond that he shared with sports commentator Howard Cosell.

The two men couldn’t have been any different, yet, they found common ground in sports, a place where they could meet and simply be their best. They were both performers, top in their fields, and eloquent orators. They first met in 1962 and remained colleagues and friends for more than three decades.

Cosell was a brash, highly intelligent sports journalist from Brooklyn. He had a distinctive reporting style and vocal quality, with a heavily nasal delivery, and careful enunciation of every word, stretching them out towards infinity. He asked tough questions and made bold statements. Ali took them all in stride and was an equal match – and partner – for Cosell. When the two got together, it was magical.

Ali carried the title “The Greatest Fighter of All Time” with grace, style and of course showmanship. He threw barbs as strategically as he did jabs and punches. He used words to taunt his opponents, fire up the media and set the stage for a memorable fight. To watch him in the ring at the height of his career was like nothing else we had ever seen. Fast hands, fast feet and fast language. It was a killer combination.

The Ali-Cosell relationship was based on mutual respect. They may not have agreed with each other on everything inside and outside the ring, yet, they were able to come together around the love of the sport and give us a spectacular show. It was evident the two men cared deeply about and respected each other.

As professionals, we can learn a lot from Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell’s relationship. When you are working with someone whose background, core values, age, ethnicity or personality differs from yours, assume a champion stance. Treat that person with respect and as an equal, and you just may develop a relationship that will stand the test of time.

Strategically Connect on LinkedIn

Part Two in a series on LinkedIn.

linkedin_1940x900_34055You are one click away from expanding your network.

There’s an old adage, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” That morphed into “It’s not just who you know. It’s who knows you.” With social media, it’s morphed into “It’s not just who knows you. It’s who you know and who they know and who they know.” And so it goes.

When you meet someone for the first time, you are not just meeting that person; you are potentially gaining access to their entire network. Through social media, like LinkedIn, the possibilities for connection are infinite. Here are four considerations in expanding your base of contacts:

Who are your contacts connected to? Through LinkedIn, you can quickly assess the composition and reach of your contacts’ networks. Invest some time to see how people are connected to each other. It will surprise you to see how many connections you share, and how many you don’t.

Who would you like to meet? Be strategic in identifying who you would like to meet. See if there are people in other people’s networks that you would like to meet.

Ask for introductions. LinkedIn makes it easy to ask your contacts for introductions to specific people in their networks. Let’s say that as an independent contractor, you have decided to look for business prospects in your geographic area. You notice that one of your contacts has several excellent industry contacts within a five-mile radius of your home. Request an introduction from one of your contacts by directly using LinkedIn. You can also introduce connections to each other.

View LinkedIn profiles before meeting people. I know this seems elementary yet so many people still don’t do this. It’s so simple. It takes just a few minutes to search for a person through LinkedIn. Be sure to include the person’s city or company if you know it, especially if the name is a common one. Guaranteed, there are hundreds of people named Bill Smith. Before I meet people for the first time, especially potential clients, I will view their LinkedIn profiles.

Here’s a quick task for you: Ask one contact to introduce you to one person in their network. When you feel more comfortable doing this, ask for more introductions from more of your contacts, and watch your base of contacts grow.

Prince: The Consummate Professional

Prince at the Metropolis, 2011, cbc.ca

The world is still reeling from the shocking news of the death of music icon Prince. Friends, family and fans continue to honor and pay tribute to his accomplished life.

In the summer of 1984, my husband and I saw the movie Purple Rain, starring Prince as the lead character, and showcasing his music. The moment his image and sound hit the screen, I was hooked. I became a bona fide fan of his music and unique style.

We testify when a legend like Prince passes this earth. Here’s what Prince taught me about professionalism:

Authenticity. Prince was a one-of-a-kind performer and human being. Despite his small stature, his on-stage persona loomed larger than life. He combined a unique look – with a touch of flamboyance and androgyny – and sound – crossing over genres of pop, rock and roll, funk, R&B and new wave – to create a memorable presence and brand. He was an original. Professionals who know who they are and who don’t imitate others are those who capture our attention, admiration, and loyalty.

Best self. In his journey of self-expression, the Grammy-winning artist took many risks. He was unpredictable, pushing the limits. Whether it was a new release or a live performance, he held himself to high standards. Billboard Magazine claimed Prince’s performance at the 2007 Superbowl as the greatest Superbowl performance ever. Does your “best self” show up every day?

Inclusive. Prince’s band composition reflected inclusion, crossing racial, gender and sexual preference boundaries. He often highlighted the talents of female band members. This happened at a time when America needed unification. How often do you support, mentor or coach others, or even include others, and showcase their talents?

Give unconditionally. Prince gave his music to other artists to perform. In 2007, he shocked music moguls when he shared his album, Planet Earth, first with the United Kingdom public for free. How much do you give of yourself, unconditionally, expecting little or nothing in return?

Invention/reinvention. One of the music industry’s most prolific writers, Prince pushed the boundaries throughout his career, producing about 40 albums, and selling more than 100 million records. Fans remember the years 1993-2000 when he proclaimed himself to be “the artist formerly known as Prince,” using a symbol rather than his name. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we too can be more creative, that we can reinvent ourselves.

Generosity. While he didn’t discuss it publicly, Prince was known for his kindness and generosity, supporting issues he deeply cared about, like the environment, peace, human rights, and equality. As professionals, we have the opportunity to pay it forward and share the wealth in our communities and around the world. How generous are you?

Inspirational. As professionals, we sometimes have to look outside ourselves for inspiration or motivation to become the people we want to be. Prince inspired us to break out of our complacency and try something new or different, whether in our professional or personal lives. How are your actions inspiring others?

Many tributes have been written, spoken, created, or posted. Here are two of my favorites:

CBS Sunday Morning commentator Bill Flanagan delivered an eloquent salute, Prince: An Appreciation, referring to the artist as a “one-man Rainbow Coalition.”

Canadian DJ Skratch Bastid (Paul Murphy) spins a short tribute to Prince.

Prince’s music will live on in our hearts. He will remain forever young. He will remind us every day to push our own boundaries as professionals.

How to Work Your LinkedIn Network

linkedin-logoPart One in a series.

LinkedIn remains the preferred social network of business professionals around the globe, with more than 400 million users worldwide, and more than 110 million users in the U.S. To get the most out of LinkedIn as a professional, you have to work it.

I remember when I received my first LinkedIn invitation from a longtime friend and colleague more than a decade ago. I was skeptical. I asked, “What is this?” “How does it work?” What I didn’t know or understand at the time when I joined LinkedIn was that it would become the power source for networking with other professionals. Once I got started, I set my goal to connect with 500+ professionals. It was easier than I thought. With focus, the goal became a reality.

The first way to work your LinkedIn network is to: Invest time in reviewing “Who’s Who” in your network by asking four important questions:

  1. What skills do your contacts possess? One of the greatest advantages of LinkedIn is that it allows you to examine the people you are connected to and the types of skills they possess. It helps you to understand if your network is well rounded (diverse skills represented) or lopsided (too many connections in one skill area only).
  2. How well do you know your contacts? It helps to know the people you are connected to. This may sound trite. It’s important to know your LinkedIn connections because they occupy a valuable spot within your network. Occasionally invitations will come from people who you don’t know. Qualify the connection if you need to by sending an email. It’s perfectly fine to vet a request from someone you don’t know. Look to see if you have any connections in common. That will help you to decide whether or not to connect with them.
  3. What’s new with your contacts? Because LinkedIn messaging arrives in your email inbox, it’s easy to track when contacts have changed jobs, added new skills or made an announcement. Visit people’s profiles occasionally to see what’s new.
  4. How are you keeping in touch? Every time you open your LinkedIn account, you will see a series of “congratulations” boxes appear, announcing contacts who are celebrating work anniversaries. You have the option to send a message. It’s a great way to keep in touch. When you review your LinkedIn contacts list, ask yourself how you can keep in touch outside of LinkedIn communication. How often do you see that person face-to-face? Are you sending them your articles or blog posts? Is it time to chat by phone or grab a cup of coffee?

What’s the point of being connected with fellow professionals if you are not truly connected?

Announced this week, LinkedIn now offers a LinkedIn Students app that is compatible with iOS and Android. The app helps new graduates find job matches based on their major, locate companies that usually hire from their college, and learn about career choices of recent graduates with similar degrees. If you have college students in your family, suggest the LinkedIn Students app to them. It could help their job search.

Here’s a quick task for you to complete in the next week: Take just 20 minutes this week to visit two LinkedIn profiles within your network. Continue doing this for the next four weeks. At the end of this brief exercise, ask yourself what you have learned about those contacts in your network. It may provide you with some fresh insights on how you are working your LinkedIn network.

Next week: Part Two.

Coaching is a Desired Management Skill

Businessman Winning RaceIt wasn’t that long ago that the word “coach” was associated with just one thing: sports. Today, coaching is a fast-growing field, with coaches helping individuals on leadership, management, communication, life goals, health and wellness, sales…the list goes on. More and more professionals are being asked to coach their work teams, in order to get the most out of their people. Like any relationship, coaching must be built on trust and mutual respect. People you are coaching must trust you to guide them through a strategic thinking process. When information is shared openly, the process will be much more beneficial. As a coach myself, I recognize what skills are needed to be a successful coach. Here is my list:

  1. Focus: The coach remains focused on the coaching client’s goals and in turn keeps the client focused on those goals. Within coaching sessions, the coach focuses on the work to be done in that session and keeps the client on track through a solid process and effective clarifying questions.
  2. Mindfulness/presence: The coach is fully present and eliminates any distractions. For on-site coaching sessions, be sure to find a quiet, private place to meet.
  3. Rapport/trust: As the coaching relationship deepens, so does the level of trust between coach and client. Create a safe environment for the exchange of open dialogue and trust will develop over time.
  4. Confidentiality: The coach clearly states, and upholds, the commitment to retain all conversations and information in confidence.
  5. Active listening: The role of the coach is to talk less and listen more. Let the client do the talking.
  6. Intuition: The compassionate coach uses all senses to assess the client’s mood or the environment. Sometimes the coach must rely on the “gut” feeling of intuition rather than a more logical, rational explanation.
  7. Curiosity: The curious crave a deeper way of knowing and driver a deeper level of inquiry. The result: thorough and sensitive questioning to reveal breakthroughs in thinking or behavior.
  8. Sound judgment but not judging: The coach remains non-judgmental and open-minded and is prepared to use sound judgment when helping clients work through challenges.
  9. Patience: Behavioral change requires patience. Understand that each client works in his/her own time frame. Some clients require greater time to sort out issues and develop solutions and strategies.
  10. Synthesis: After listening to the client, the coach weaves together strands of information, sometimes disparate, and creates a seamless, condensed summary. Some would call it the 30,000 foot perspective. Often the client cannot see what is most obvious. It takes a skilled coach to point it out. When a client says, “I never thought of it this way” or “I can’t believe I never saw that before,” the coach knows the client is viewing things differently and can now take action.

If you are asked to accept greater responsibilities and coach others, know the skills that are required to be an effective coach. These ten tips will keep you focused. Professional organizations, like the International Coach Federation, and others, can also provide you with additional information for the professional coach.

(Excerpt from Everything I Do Positions Me: The Simple Path to Professional Success by Christine Zust, available from the author’s website at www.zustco.com.)

Resolve to Share Your Knowledge

knowledge0This year, rise above the standard resolutions that make you feel better about yourself (lose weight, drink more water, exercise) and do something that will make others feel good about you: Resolve to share your knowledge with co-workers, colleagues, family and friends.

It begins with a simple statement: “I resolve…to share more of my knowledge…with others.” The end result: When you give more, you get more in return.

You have been living in the Information Age for more than two decades now, and yes, people can find information on the Internet with a quick click of the mouse. However, the most meaningful information that you can give (and receive) comes through human contact, old-fashioned face-to-face interpersonal communication.

In your profession, you glean valuable information through your lived experience. That’s something that you cannot find on a spreadsheet or in a PowerPoint presentation. You share that information by telling your story. “When I started at this company ten years ago, we didn’t have a marketing director. Now we are shipping our products to 39 countries worldwide.” It’s that personal information that puts things into perspective for the listener.

Today, there are still some people who choose not to share their knowledge with others because they fear that someone else may assume their position. It sounds something like this: “It took me 25 years to get to where I am in this company. If anyone thinks I’m going to simply share all of my knowledge, well, they’re wrong!” This type of scarcity thinking holds those people back from greater achievement in their career and in life. Imagine the kind of work environment they could create if they became more inclusive and collaborative in their thinking and sharing of information. It positions them as true leaders who want others to succeed. They invest their time sharing their knowledge so that others can perform better on the job. What a concept.

Sharing your knowledge with others positions you as:

*Caring about the success of others

As you think about the tremendous knowledge that you possess, think specifically about the kind of knowledge that you can (and will) share with the people around you. They will appreciate it for two reasons: 1) You have shortened their learning curve or 2) You have given them a critical piece of information that allows them to do their job.

Deliberately holding back information out of fear is so outdated. Share your knowledge with others and see how positively people will respond to you. Your giving will come back to you ten-fold.

Begin with the question: What knowledge can I share with others?