Tag Archives: Networking

Personal Leadership Should Focus On Team Success First

Everyone has the responsibility to demonstrate personal leadership. When interacting with others, every communication tells a story of what you value, and it’s critical to model the right behaviors

Here are a few characteristics of an engaging team environment. Ask yourself how you can personally role model these characteristics with your colleagues:

1. Clear goals and commitment to team goals. How will I demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to solving challenges as a team?

2. Accountability to the team. How will I demonstrate that I am personally invested and responsible to the team?

3. Supportive climate and behaviors. How will I acknowledge and complement other team members for their creativity and achievements?

4. Mutual trust and respect. How will I openly share my own strengths, opportunities, and best practices?  Volunteer for more peer to peer sessions.

5. Results focus. How will I reward and celebrate the achievement of specific personal and team goals?

6. Good communication and constructive conflict. How will I engage in open and passionate debate of ideas and opinions, respecting others POV and embracing diversity of viewpoints?

I am privileged to work on the Macmillan Higher Education Inside Sales team where all of these behaviors are already evident.  It’s incumbent on me to increase and enhance my level of contribution as I gain competency and trust with the team.


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A Persuasion Technique that is Simple and Successful

PersausionThe most important value I bring to every interaction is respect for the individual. With that as a guide, I suggest this technique, supported by multiple studies on thousands of people, and it’s the easiest, most practical persuasion technique available. Try the ‘But You Are Free’ (BYAF) technique. This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose. By reaffirming their freedom you are indirectly saying to them that they have an easy out to say no. They have free choice.

A recent review of the 42 psychology studies carried out on this technique has shown that it is highly effective. (Carpenter, 2013). Over 22,000 people have been tested by researchers and the studies found it doubled the chances that someone would say ‘yes’ to the request. People have been shown to donate more too good causes, agree more readily to a survey and give more to someone asking for a bus fare home.
The exact words used are not especially important. What is important is that the request is made face-to-face: the power of the technique drops off otherwise. Even over email, though, it does still have an effect, although it is somewhat reduced.

The BYAF technique is so simple and amenable that it can easily be used in conjunction with other approaches. It also underlines the fact that people hate to be hemmed in or have their choices reduced. We seem to react against this attempt to limit us by becoming more closed-minded. The BYAF technique, as with any good method of persuasion, is about helping other people come to the decision you want through their own free will. If they have other options, like simply walking away, and start to feel corralled, then you can wave them goodbye.
On the other hand, respecting people’s autonomy has the happy side-effect of making them more open to persuasion. You can look good and be more likely to get what you want. It’s all about respect for the individual with the intent of team centric collaboration.


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Virtual Work Place of the Now

Virtual Work Place of the Now

Social media provides instant feedback.  If you struggle with that thought, toss something controversial on Twitter and see how quickly it gets re-tweeted.  The virtual workforce is more aligned with Social Media behaviors and requires and demands immediate feedback to advance the goals of the organization.  Performance appraisals that are now performed on a semi-annual or annual cycle are outdated.  You should be getting performance feedback every day in our ultra-connected virtual world.

When working virtually, most communication is work centric transactional without the emotional investment of social and non-verbal feedback.  The imperative of feedback is critical to keep progress towards objectives aligned.  It is equally critical to allow more prudent risk taking.  Consider the role of the waiter in a restaurant.  The server receives instantaneous feedback on their “performance” through customer interactions and the compensation feedback through the tip at the end of the meal.  Presentation style, fluency of the menu, and checking for feedback during the meal together provide a table by table appraisal for the server.  How does this fit into our virtual meeting and conference call process of today? Do you get regular and immediate feedback from virtual meetings or conference calls?  If not, what might not happen that can propel the team forward to meeting and exceeding their goals?

Virtual work can attenuate risk since the physical feedback of facial expression and body language can’t be assessed to determine whether the risk is additive or aggravating to the process.  For the majority of the less courageous and politically insecure workforce, risk will be averted in the virtual workplace.  Consider how much quicker and more creative a result can be achieved when risk inviting processes are part of the decision process.

There are ways to mitigate this challenge. One advantage of the virtual workplace is less time spent commuting.  In my case, my commute consists of descending a flight of stairs and crisscrossing a busy kitchen to get to my home office.  How best to spend this found time?  Set aside time each day to invest in the relationships with those you need to collaborate with.  Schedule time with someone you don’t know well or is new to the team and spend 10-15 minutes to get to know them as a person, not just a work colleague.  Learn about their backgrounds and experiences.  Ask them what they enjoy most about the work problem and what they find the most challenging or frustrating.  Share the same with them such that each of you understands better how to partner in the virtual work place.

Special attention should be directed to those that participate at a minimum level.  Are they not challenged in their role?  Are they bored?  Do they feel they are an outsider to the team?  Not knowing the answers puts their contribution at risk.  Spending 10-15 minutes understanding their concerns could provide many hours of positive ROI for that small time investment.

By now I hope you see my theme.  Virtual work places will become the norm.  If we do not invest in building the emotional cultural fabric that exists by default in the physical work place, the results will be pedestrian and the euphoria of celebrating as a team will be non-existent or disingenuous at best.  Virtual work is harder and challenging as it demands purposeful reaching out to build the pathways to relationships necessary for organizational success.

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42nd Street – Tap Dancing Into Your New Career

A Podcast of this blog post is available at

What does the musical 42nd Street have to do with a business blog about career moves?  Everything!  As a quick primer, 42nd Street the Musical is based on a movie of the same name from 1933.  It’s a play within a play in that all the casting and rehearsals are the scenes of a fictional 1932 Broadway play called Pretty Girl.  Recall that 1932 was the beginning of the depression and here we are in 2011 still oscillating with our current recession.

Though the economic times are similar, that is merely the backdrop of why I am blending the musical with business.  I recently attended a local community theatre opening night performance of 42nd Street.  I was utterly amassed that they could find 29 local actors that could tap dance, since almost all of the numbers involve serious tap dancing.  I leaned over and whispered this to my wife and she said that most of them likely learned to tap for the show.  This is at least true of one of the male leads who credits the choreographer with teaching him to tap. The frequent cheers and applause during the show, and the standing ovation at the end, was well-earned by the energy, passion, and outstanding singing, acting, and dancing.

So how did the producer and casting director pick the actors during the auditions?  Was it because they could tap dance?  Not likely.  It must have been their theatrical accomplishments, competencies, and passion for the role.  The choreographer/producer made the assumption she could teach them to tap if they brought forth the core talent to perform. Because of the casting choices and excellent directing and training, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the singing, acting, and tap dancing of every cast member and their collective ensemble stage presence. 

Now contrast this with the current methodology many companies are using today as they seek to audition a candidate for employment.  The job requirement often lists 10 things the candidate must have and if a candidate doesn’t possess all of the requirements, they are often excluded from moving forward in the hiring process.  In the pre-recession days of scarce resources, those 10 requirements would have been divided into Must-Have’s and Nice-to-Have’s with about a 50/50 split.  With an abundance of people in the job market, some recruiters and hiring managers are insisting on all 10 without applying weighting factors.  Are they seeking to hire the best overall employee for the company or one that can identify with the current needed skill?

Imagine if the choreographer chose only those that could tap dance.  Would that have produced the excitement and passion that thrilled me the other night?  Is tap that popular these days?  Or did she pick the best actors that had proven they could sing and had dance talent and then assume that a few weeks of intense tap dance training would create an outstanding cast?  Would I have enjoyed great tap dancing at the expense of stage presence, singing strength, or acting ability?

How many candidates possess that stage presence, functional strengths, a progressive record of outstanding accomplishments, and core professional competencies, but are minus one learnable skill?  If the one learnable skill was absent from the requirement, would these same candidates be much better employees in the long run and bring sustained success to the company. Are these companies hiring for that one next assignment or hiring people for a career that will provide year over year value to customers and increase shareholder value?

I have been spending more time networking recently and have met many intelligent and motivated people who are seeking a new career opportunity.  They often talk about the one thing that excluded them from becoming an employee of their targeted company.  I can’t help but wonder if the person chosen over them was really a better addition to the people equity of that firm. Over a cup of coffee, I had the privilege to experience tremendous strengths and passion they could have used to make a difference in value creation for that company.  Would the company acquire a more loyal employee by taking the risk and investing a small amount of time for that person to “hit the ground running” a few weeks out?  Or have they hired the sub-optimal candidate that can “hit the ground running”, but then head in the wrong direction really quick?

The challenge to acquire that next employee in this recession recovery period is the responsibility of both candidates and employers.  The candidates need to prove they are active learners and can demonstrate this with recent skill acquisition and demonstrated active learner behaviors.  The employers need to evaluate the accomplishments and competencies of the candidates and assume that a missing skill is one training event away.  Given these assumptions, every employer has a golden opportunity to hire proven, accomplished, and talented people who will leverage new skill training into success for their customers and shareholders.

Candidates – step up to the challenge to prove you are an agile and active learner.  Employers – step up to the challenge to hire your best next employee.  After all, you will end up spending more time with them during the work week than you will with your family or friends! 

“Come and meet those dancing feet on the avenue I’m taking you to… 42nd Street.”

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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in Talent Acquisition


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Oversimplifying and Under Thinking – Is Social Media the Cause or the Cure?

(This blog is available as a podcast –

When exactly did it become fashionable to Oversimplify and Under-Think important political, industry, financial, or education decisions?  More importantly, when did we as consumers of these poorly constructed solutions accept this as the new norm from what are alleged to be leaders in their respective fields? Whether your interests are the current political climate, corporate decisions on products and social responsibility, Wall Street’s influence on our economic health, or government policies on education, there are ample examples of decisions that don’t meet the standards of being well thought through or deal with the complexity of the problem.

As I’ve started to explore Social Media in greater depth the past few months, I’m trying to discern whether these new communication forums are adding to our collective knowledge base or eroding the discipline necessary for focused research and critical thinking.  Traditional academic or vocational training requires a laser focus and a lengthy time commitment to instill and remember the key points and lessons.  Social media can be as simple as a Retweet or a Like button. 

Social Media has enormous potential to bring many people together for group think on an important topic, but all too often it seems to have been to Oversimplify the topic and Under-Think the communication.  If you are active on Twitter, count the number of non-annotated Retweets you receive from someone you follow versus how many are original thoughts or media references.  The ones I value most are those that are original thought or make an introductory remark about a referenced URL they include.  This implies they have read and understand the material and believe their followers would find it valuable.  Blindly retweeting something tends to Oversimplify the communication. 

I know that some of you reading this blog are thinking that I have Over-Thought this Social Media issue. The prevailing belief is that Social Media is meant to be a stream of thoughts, and let the reader triage through all the Smart Phone hits or TweetDeck updates.  We have a real opportunity with Social Media that may not be realized if we don’t think through how we push information out to our followers.  

With Social Media, we can transform the traditional push model of learning into a pull model. Pull models treat people as networked innovators who are uniquely positioned to transform a problem into an opportunity. Pull models can be designed to accelerate knowledge building by participants, helping them to learn as well as innovate.  But that success is directly proportional to how much effort and thoughtfulness we put into the content that becomes pull available.  I’ve found this to be a delicate balancing act, since the instant gratification part of me wants to respond to each tweet or Facebook update, the structured part of me wants undivided time to itself to Think through the topic before pushing this content. 

Writing this blog is my self-imposed method of taking the Think approach, creating content that can be pulled by my followers.  They can then aggregate my thinking with others and produce a higher value content from which we can all learn and benefit.  As for my tweets, every so often I allow an Oversimplified and Under-Thought retweet loose on my followers.  Sorry about that. 

Try this approach yourself if you dare. You have the capacity to produce valuable content that can be pulled and leveraged to advance our collective learning. Then the promise of Social Media will be realized and we can all innovate the next frontier of communication and learning. 

Comments are welcome on this topic, as long as they are Thoughtful.

To learn more about Ed Becker, visit


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Smiles and the Virtual Office – Are Your Smile Muscles Atrophying?

I’ve discovered recently that I smile less now that I work virtually more of the time.  I was never a person that awoke each day determined to smile all day, but my smile frequency has clearly attenuated over the past few months.  Social media, email, blogging, and networking have been a wondrous communication spectrum with tons of information banging at my LCD screen throughout the day and night, but it doesn’t often cause a smile.  I’m concerned that my smile muscles may be atrophying. 

We have been visiting with a friend who has a 4 month old son and hang out with him when she needs time to be an adult.  This kid is a Human Smile Meter.  If I look at him or call his name, the sound causes him to peer in my direction.  But if I smile while doing this, he instantly gives me an ear to ear smile in return.  I now have access to a smile meter to help me exercise those lazy smile muscles back to full strength.

This has started me thinking of how many others may be suffering from this virtual-work smile apathy syndrome.  We often smile in our on-line communications by including a smiley emoticon.  Can you think of a time when you entered that emoticon and really weren’t exhibiting the accompanying smile?  I just read an article in the Washington Post that I find incredible but makes the point that we must not smile as much these days.  When getting a driver’s license in Virginia, you are not allowed to smile for the picture.  Apparently the agency is developing facial recognition software that compares your face over time to prevent fraud or other illegal practices.  This implies that you will be caught not smiling sometime in the future and that would mess up the recognition software.  So there you have it, a government agency banning smiles since we smile so little.  If you think I’m kidding, here’s the story, it actually generated a real smile for me when reading it.  I’m now searching for a webcam application for my laptop that would forbid me from tying a smiley face if it detects that I am not smiling.  If one doesn’t exist, anyone reading this with any technical ability might have a new product launch in their future.

I have adopted a new smile posture when out in public, smiling at more and more people.  The results are almost 100% that a smile is returned.  It can’t be that my face is so amusing or attractive to generate that return smile.  It must be the surprise that someone would smile at them for no good reason other than to create a happy thought.  Imagine the good feelings I could unleash in a short 30 minute walk around town.  I must try this once I can get my smile muscles back in shape for that challenge!

Take a few minutes the next time you are in work or out in public and try smiling at people.  If working remote or virtual office, exercise those smile muscles during the day.  The days are too long already and the lack of a smile quota will make them seem that much longer. This cute little innocent 4-month old boy has taught me what I seem to have forgotten, that smiles are always welcome and usually returned.  

Mother Theresa stated this best: “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing”.  Plus it’s the most inexpensive way to change your looks.

This 🙂 is Real – Trust Me 

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in LinkedIn, Networking


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Social Capital – Affluence and Influence through Social Networking

My concept of Social Capital has evolved significantly over the past few months.  I have an extensive and far-reaching network at CSC, with many trusted colleagues and many of them have become lifelong friends.  It was an environment that was resilient to organizational changes.  It was nurturing and full of reciprocal behaviors that drove active learning and a powerful set of virtual teams. 

In the past few months, I have been exposed to a number of social networks that have provided significant social capital. A few months ago, I had a mere skeleton of a profile on LinkedIn and had not made any effort to establish or expand my network.  From a few baby steps a few months ago, the social capital of my networks has exploded.  I am experiencing the wealth and influence of being a contributing member of an expanding set of networks that includes my dear friends at CSC at the core, and now includes many others that I have not met before, and may never actually met in person. 

Farming and harvesting these social connections has increased the social capital of my network, and I believe that those that are new connections to me have gained added social wealth and influence as well.  This is an abundance, not a scarcity wealth system.  As I gain social wealth, it doesn’t come at the expense of someone else; in fact both of us gain wealth in the expansion of our collective networks.  And that wealth grows at a non-linear positive rate.  Early on, I was inviting people to join my network.  Now that I have established a fairly “rich” network, I am receiving invitations from others that may be from a distant past relationship or someone completely new.  Imagine how fulfilling it is to be a part of a social fabric that continues to gain wealth and influence as we collectively grow together.

In a previous blog, I spoke of Trust and its value in driving Results, Profits, and Values.   I now believe I can expand on that discussion since the core of social capital is trust.  My CSC friends exhibit “thick trust”, and using my “invest in trust approach”; I have a “thin trust” with many more connections.  The challenge will be to continually move those with thin trust to thick trust and replenish the thin trust pool with more new connections.   Those with thin trust are expected to engage in reciprocity, doing for others not with any immediate expectation of repayment. This kind of thin trust is especially valuable, since it lubricates social interactions and moves the total social network to a more trusted and therefore wealthier state. 

I challenge you to invest in your current social network, and further challenge you to stretch into the unknown and seek to expand that network.  My experiences to date have shown that you and I will gain social wealth and influence from the commitment.

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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in LinkedIn, Networking


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