Maximize the One-on-One Meeting

thinkingIf you want to get the most out of a one-on-one meeting, be prepared with a “mental” agenda that keeps you focused. Here are some ground rules for getting the most out of your time with others:

Confirm how much time the other person has.

Understand their flexibility; learn if they have a meeting before or after yours.

Tell the person up front what information you need or would like to share.

Come prepared to either ask specific questions or share specific information.

Chat for only a few minutes at the beginning to get acquainted on a more personal level.

Discuss important items first, and leave any spare time at the end of your meeting to talk about any less important items.

I learned the hard way about maximizing the one-on-one meeting. I had invited a colleague to meet me for morning coffee to get “caught up” and also to talk about a specific area of her expertise. We spent the first 45 minutes of our conversation talking about our personal lives, issues, dilemmas, etc. She looked at her watch with a surprised look and said that she had just 10 minutes left before she had to leave and be back at her office for a conference call with a client. Now I found myself in the awkward position of cramming all of my questions into the last 10 minutes. I walked away from the get-together promising myself that I would never again let that happen. I learned an important lesson that day: Better preparation delivers better results.

When meeting with someone one-on-one, remind yourself that you have a limited amount of time to spend with that person, whether your intent is to collect or to share important information. Set up your meeting with clear objectives. If you don’t, the other person may be suspicious, because you are waiting until the last minute to discuss something important, or s/he may think that you have no reason for getting together, other than chatting and catching up on things. The last thing you want people thinking as they leave a meeting with you is “That was a waste of my time.” Professionals today are extremely busy people who work even harder at efficiency. Casual get-togethers with no agenda are fine too if it’s clear up front that’s how you intend to use the time.

As you prepare for important meetings, ask yourself a few questions:

What is the purpose of the meeting?

What is the main topic of conversation?

What information do I need to share or obtain from the other person?

How much time will I need?

What specific questions do I need to ask?

What are the next steps? Any follow-up needed?

When you invest the time in preparing for the one-on-one meeting, you will remain focused on your purpose and efficiency. People will appreciate your consideration.

Lead Like a Rock Star

Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Leaders can learn a lot from rock stars.

After enjoying the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last Saturday night here in Cleveland (yes, Cleveland Rocks!), I realized that there are many lessons that leaders can learn from rock legends. Here are a few illuminations:

Play to your strengths. To be a true rock star, you must find your sweet spot, that place where your talent soars. For inductee Stevie Ray Vaughan (who died way too young in 1990) and Double Trouble, his sweet spot was the unique raw, bluesy sound that he could squeeze out of his guitar. That sound – which bears his name – is unique to him. Be known for something, that one thing, that sets you apart from everyone else.

Inspire others. As Hall of Famer Stevie Wonder introduced inductee Bill Withers, he praised Withers’ soulful compilations like Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine, Grandma’s Hands, and Lovely Day (one of my favorite songs). Wonder, one of the most prolific songwriters of all time, jokingly said he wished he had written them. People are inspired by not just what you do but how you do it. Let your genius shine.

Surround yourself with brilliant minds. Inductee Ringo Starr, accompanied by Hall of Famer and former fellow Beatles member Paul McCartney along with all inductees and presenters onstage, brought down the house when performing I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends. Leaders can’t succeed on their own. If they try to, they fail as lonely, pathetic micromanagers that nobody likes. Collaboration wins every time. Although every member of the inductee group The Five Royales has passed, their family members spoke about how each member brought a unique talent to the group’s sound.

Acknowledge the help of others. Green Day band members Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt thanked everyone who ever helped them along the way, including people whose floors they slept on as struggling young artists. Every person needs acknowledgment and recognition. It begins with simply saying those two powerful words, “Thank you.” It is no surprise why Green Day’s fans are so devoted to the group. Their level of energy (especially when performing American Idiot) was electrifying.

Be authentic. The most tender memories of inductee Lou Reed, known for his bodacious lifestyle and lyrics, were eloquently captured by longtime companion Laurie Anderson and punk queen and friend Patti Smith who both celebrated the life of a man who lived, truly lived, every moment. Inductee Joan Jett still dons her signature black leather studded jacket and jet-black hair. She and band members, the Blackhearts, are true to the brand. With some leaders, the higher up the ladder they climb, the more of their authentic selves they leave behind. Be true to yourself, your values and vision.

Show your passion and energy. Some people think rock and roll is just for the young. Remember, rock and roll began in the 1950s, so rock legends from that era are still among us and going strong. At the induction ceremony, 80-year old Sam Lay not only played the drums with great vigor, he also sang lead vocals, as a longtime member of inductee group, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Let your energy transcend your age. People will want you to stick around longer!

As a leader, it can be lonely at the top. When you embrace the mindset of a rock star, you will develop loyal fans along the way.

Don’t Be a Networking Nemesis

selfish-578x295You have done your fair share of networking over the years. You have no doubt encountered someone who is loud, obnoxious, self-centered and dominates the conversation. I call her my networking nemesis, Natalie Networker. Have you met someone like this?

People like Natalie give networking a bad name because they only talk about themselves, don’t listen and don’t care who you are or what you have to say. Natalie only cares about one thing: the card, specifically, giving you her business card and collecting yours so she can enter it into her precious database when she returns to the office. She possesses no emotional intelligence or any form of self-awareness. She only wants to tell you how great and wonderful she is and remind you that you need to buy her product or service starting today. She doesn’t care about developing a relationship with you. She only cares about your data. She breaks all the networking rules.

Time for a reality check. You may find, if you’re not careful, that you have a little bit of Natalie Networker in you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of quantity (Have a goal of collecting 10 business cards at an event) rather than taking the preferred route of quality (Begin building one new relationship today). Here are a few tips to help you avoid being like Natalie Networker:

  • Invite the person into your space with engaging eye contact and a smile.
  • Treat people like they are more important than you are. Remember, it’s not just about you.
  • Look at the person’s business card. Read it. Too often this simple courtesy is ignored.
  • When you shake hands, shake like you are genuinely interested in meeting this person. No limp wrist or passive shakes, please. No bone crushing either. Find a comfortable medium.
  • Discover common ground (common interest, profession, background). You have a better chance of establishing rapport when you can find something in common to discuss.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome. Move easily throughout the room, from conversation to conversation. Having a half-full beverage in your hand that needs refreshing provides the perfect breakaway if and when you need it.

When you make connections with grace, people will run toward you rather than away from you when they see you at the next event.

Think about how you interact with people when you are networking. Is the conversation only about you, or are you genuinely interested in learning about the other person? Do you invade the other person’s space, or are you respectful and keep a comfortable distance?

Once you become more aware of your personal networking style, you will connect with greater confidence, make lasting impressions and build a solid network.

Stand Out or Blend In

imagesDonning a vintage 1960s wide-brimmed black straw hat, I escorted my 94-year-old Mother to Easter Sunday mass. On the way into the church, a woman grabbed my arm and said, “I just have to tell you that I love your hat!” I thanked her and told her how I wished more women wore hats. As I walked further into the church and sat down, my husband noticed that no other women were wearing hats. Shortly after that, my older sister (who also was wearing a hat) and her husband arrived.

One of the fondest memories I hold dear about my Dad was a simple tradition that he started on the highway. As he would approach a state line, he would tip his hat as he drove past the “Welcome to…” sign. To this day, whenever I pass a state line sign, I think of him and smile. To me, my Dad’s small act symbolized his gratitude for everything that allowed him to get that far on the journey…a well-running car, a full tank of gas, good weather conditions and of course cooperative children in the back seat!

As I turned to shake the hands of the people around me during the “sign of peace” at church, I smiled at the woman directly behind me who was also wearing a hat. Something amazing happened. For a moment, we exuberantly embraced our tiny “community” of hats in the congregation. Now it was three of us who were the only women wearing hats in the entire church.

It got me thinking. One simple act – wearing a hat – got people’s attention, turned heads and created a buzz. What are you doing to stand out? To position yourself differently from others? Sometimes it takes just one thing to set you apart from everyone else.

If you are feeling bold and daring and want to learn more about the fine art of hat wearing, read the online British magazine, The Hat Magazine. If you want to see some spectacular hats, visit the Hat Center, a group of hat manufacturers in Florence, Italy. Bellissima!

LinkedIn Contacts Require a Closer Look

imagesThere I was, minding my own business on LinkedIn last week, and I got distracted by a pop-up window asking me if I wanted to connect with several people who I knew. One of them, a woman I have known for decades yet haven’t seen for years, was included in the list. I thought how nice it would be to reconnect, so I sent the LinkedIn request. She accepted my invitation within a day. What happened next caught me by surprise.

You see, I sent her a follow-up LinkedIn private message, telling her how glad I was that we were reconnected through LinkedIn and how “easy” it would be for us to get together for coffee or lunch. (I remembered that she and I lived on the same side of town.) Now comes the kicker. Her response was simply how she would love to get together but I may have to wait a while…a few years…because she and her husband were living on their sailboat in Belize. Wow.

I learned a very important lesson: Sometimes we may think we know the people in our LinkedIn network and then we discover we don’t know them at all. It got me thinking. How often do you review your LinkedIn network of contacts? I mean really review who is in your network, where they are, what they are doing, their background, their interests?

When I began my career several decades ago, people often measured your level of influence based on the size of your Rolodex*. Power came with volume. The more contacts, the bigger the Rolodex. The bigger the Rolodex, the greater the influence. Today, that level of influence is measured by the number of LinkedIn contacts, Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. The landscape has changed.

So when I received this message from my colleague in Belize, I smiled and said to myself, “How cool is this? Here I am, sitting in my home office in Ohio and she’s sitting on her boat halfway around the world and we are connecting through technology.” It just goes to show you, you can connect and reconnect with people in your network at any time, anywhere in the world.

How often do you review your LinkedIn network? Who needs to be included? Who can you reconnect with through a simple email, phone call or text? What’s your plan? Your network awaits you.

*Rolodex (definition): For those of you who are too young to remember, the Rolodex system is a unique way of alphabetically “filing” business contact information (name, title, company, etc.) on individual physical cards placed within a metal holder for easy retrieval. Created in 1956, the word Rolodex comes from combining the words “rolling” and “index.” I’m sure you can still find them in some people’s offices today.