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You Invited Me to Connect. Now What?

So…you sent me the generic invite from LinkedIn to join you. You did not take the time to send a note explaining why you thought it would be beneficial for us to connect. Nor did you care enough about me to do research, to figure out how you could help me. Nor did you bother to approach the act of inviting me to connect with you from a perspective of what I might gain from your invitation.
Nonetheless, I checked out your profile and it looked like we could help one another. So I accepted. Now what? What’s your plan? How are you going to build a mutually beneficial relationship where we can get to know one another, make appropriate referrals, and help each other out.
Oh…you didn’t think it through that far? Truth be told of 100 invites that I receive, perhaps 95 never follow up beyond the invitation. At first, I just chalked that up to the selfish “Hunter” behavior (Wanna buy some software?) and ignored it. Now, if someone does that, I disconnect from them.
After all, how do you think your behavior makes others feel? When I identify someone that I can help or that might be able to assist me, I spend time doing research by looking through their profile and learning about them by doing some research. I suggest you do the same.
Start with their current employer and what they do for a living. What seem like the challenges that keep them up at night. What projects are they working on. Are they taking continuing education courses. Are they giving a talk. Maybe they will be serving on a panel. Perhaps they posted that they are looking for suggestions on a vendor, or posed a question in group that you are qualified to answer. how d o you add value to others?
The best piece of advice I ever received when I began my career from a mentor was…nearly everyone approaches life and the relationships they form from a “What’s in it for me?” perspective. So, be the Purple Cow Seth Godin often refers to. Separate yourself from the herd. Make a concerted effort to deliver value to your relationships by helping others. Be a ‘Servant-Master.’ Try facilitating connections, to achieve Win-Win-Win relationships.
Or, keep sending out generic invites to pad your network. All you’ll be left with is meaningless connections that don’t serve you or anyone else. And what’s the point of that?
Here’s to your continued success in 2017
Check out my cool stuff at my website.

Forge Lasting Relationships

Develop a strategic relationship-building plan of attack.
Or…death to networking, once and for all!
For those folks that run their own business, sell products and services, or are looking to expand their professional network by finding individuals with whom they can cultivate meaningful business relationships, it can be hard to approach networking in a strategic fashion.
Why? There are so many business groups to contemplate joining and “networking” events to choose from, that simply focusing in on the best approach to take can be overwhelming. We all have limited time and resources to allocate. There IS a much more strategic approach to take than “networking.”
One strategy to implement is to develop a formal relationship-building strategic plan.
Here’s how you can successfully develop and implement your very own strategic relationship-building plan.
Start with YOU! By knowing yourself, your (short & long-term) business, career, and professional goals, you can better understand how/why you connect with certain types of people, and don’t with others. What’s your personality? Take an assessment. If you’re in a sales role, DISC is a useful starting point. More general personality type assessments include: Myers-Briggs, Keirsey, and Birkman. You can’t forge strong relationships until you know what makes YOU tick.
Next, develop a customer profile (written document) containing as much information as you can on a specific type of customer you have. Do they come from certain industries, possess key attributes you look for.
Most individuals actually target a few types of ideal customer, so having several customer profiles (“AVATARS”) will enable you to be extremely specific in how you identify them for purposes of using them as a template “cookie cutter approach” to find even MORE folks with backgrounds that match your ideal customers.
Start with your existing customer base and pick a few of your best customers. By “best” we are referring to very STRONG relationships. For example, how much business have they contributed to you. Be sure to factor into the equation not only their own relationships with you but also the people they referred to you.
Write down their background, education, prior work experience, position in the organization, training, education, certifications/accreditations, the industry Associations they belong to, and the industry events, trade shows, and conferences they attend.
Use the events they attend and organizations they belong to in order to develop a 30, 60, and 90-day calendar of highly lead generating events to attend.
Next, write down everything it took to find them, cultivate the relationship with them, and nurture that relationship. Why do this? Once you do this you have a blueprint for how to find OTHER people who fit into this profile. Consider joining the organizations they belong to, and/or attend the events they go to. You’ll find more people JUST LIKE THEM at the local/state chapters of the organizations they belong to.
Be a facilitator. Make introductions for people, try to connect people based on their interests, backgrounds, experience and needs. Find out what people’s top pain points are, what are their key challenges to achieving their goals, and be a servant-master to solve their problems. It’s tough to do if you don’t possess empathy, don’t care about others, and are so focused on making the sale that you don’t strive to help them.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the field of networking about the type of personality needed to successfully build professional relationships. Often, the approach used is a comparison of the HUNTER who is always on the hunt to capture new clients, versus the FARMER. The farmer plants (nurturing relationship) seeds that grow over time into productive, mutually beneficial relationships.
Clearly, both behavioral approaches are at opposite ends of the relationship approach spectrum and many people fall somewhere in-between. The point is, you want to be known as someone who does for others, not takes from others.
It helps to get out of the mindset of “networking” altogether. Networking isn’t even a term used for human beings! It is a term coined for connecting computers into networks and evolved out of a Cold War mentality of connecting computers so if a missile took out a computer in say New York City the entire network would not go down.
As an alternative mind set to networking, I suggest you consider relationship-building as akin to selling with 3 types of client as your relationship counterpart. The “Mercenary” client/connection doesn’t care about you, your challenges, the problems your organization faces, and is not loyal to you.
They are driven by price and WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and will leave you in a heart beat. Guess what? They represent 80% of your customer base and thus the people you will encounter. They go to networking events.
Then, there are “Loyalists.” They are basically happy with you, somewhat loyal, will give you the chance to service them and conduct repeat purchases with you. But, they can also be swayed to leave you if a competitive offering comes along that delivers on the ‘WIIFM.’ They represent @ 17-18% of your client roster and connections rolodex. Work hard to keep them satisfied and they will reciprocate in kind.
Lastly, come the most valued type of relationship, the “Brand Apostles” or “Raving Fans.” They see the value in their relationship with you, and all you do for them. They appreciate you making introductions, sharing useful information, and going out of your way to help them.
Apostle clients buy from you often, give you advice/ideas to improve your offerings, and go out of their way to refer others to you. These amazing people are a paltry 2-3% of all your customers. Same came be said of your relationship rolodex. These folks love how engaged you are, appreciate your continual efforts to nurture a stronger, more lasting relationship and reciprocate in kind
The approach to relationship-building using this 3 type of customer sales approach is to constantly strive to convert those Loyalists into Apostles. Start by developing a list of twelve (12) Loyalist folks you already know as your plan to convert into Apostles/Raving Fans in 2017.
Next, write down the names of 3-4 existing Apostles. Write down everything it took to find them, engage them, and nurture that relationship to the point it’s at now. Now go to your list of Loyalists. You have your plan to convert them into Apostles. Note that research shows you’ll be successful about 50% of the time in your conversion efforts. So you’ll need to constantly be on the lookout for new Loyalists.
There you have it. Do away with that outdated 20th century concept of networking, by approaching your future relationships with a more strategic, thoughtful and value-driven mindset.
For more useful business-building tips and advice, check out my website. Here’s to your continued success in 2017!
– Ethan

Build a World Class Culture


Why World-Class Cultures Are Critical for Lasting Competitive Advantage.
Seems like “culture-building” is all the rave in organizations these days.
Not sure why it’s taken so long for organizations to re-consider the cultures they created. This is something anyone tasked with running a business, leading a team, or recruiting and retaining top talent deals with on a nearly constant basis…or SHOULD.
In my prior life in Corporate America I led many teams through significant transformation, and in my work as an organizational coach I have talked to thousands of business owners, partners, executives, leaders, and HR folks about their challenges building a place that rising stars would want to work at.
They are looking for a new breed of worker. They want (NEED, in fact) people who WANT to commit to them unconditionally, but won’t because of their flawed cultures.
They’re looking to recruit (and keep) people who exhibit exceptional characteristics including: strive to perform at the height of their abilities, share their employer’s ethics and values, are willing to take risks and embrace challenges, want to contribute to their organization’s risk, perform meaningful work, and care enough about that organization to do everything in their power for the organization to succeed.
But a major challenge organizations face that often prevents them from being able to recruit Superhero employees is an abject lack of empathy and caring. These organizations don’t respect their employees, they don’t invest in them with training and development, don’t offer coaching/mentoring programs, don’t believe in job rotations, offer little in the way of meaningful benefits, don’t believe in self-directed/managed teams, don’t strive to build trust, don’t subscribe to ethical behavior, nor do they have a moral compass (other than maximizing profits and reducing costs.)
Making matters even more complicated when it pertains to building a strong culture is, there are actually two types of culture. An organization’s FORMAL culture is entirely aspirational. It’s what the organization WANTS to be/become, or believes it is. That may have little or no basis in reality, when factoring considering its INFORMAL culture. The informal culture is how the organization feel like, and how it behaves when it thinks no one is watching.
Is it any wonder therefore that talented employees would not be caught dead committing to employers that only have to offer stifling, toxic, dead end cultures with no motivation, challenging work, shared sense of mission, teamwork and collaboration, advancement, causes they care passionately about?
Does this describe YOU…your employees…where you work?
If so, here’s why…according to a 2015 survey by the Human Capital Media Advisory Group:

  • Only 44% of HR practitioners admitted their organizations hire people who “fit” their culture.
  • Even though 70% of the survey’s respondents said their organizations wanted to build culture, missions and values only about a third said that culture was built into the work their employees perform.
  • Many companies (68%) said they seek to change their culture, in order to improve their employee engagement.
    THAT is why I created a webinar: “Build Your World-Class Culture…NOW!”
    To help you (and your organization) change your culture. Create a workplace where your people are engaged, collaborate willingly, don’t harbor resentment or have political agendas, and are striving constantly to achieve maximum productivity.
    Want to maximize your profits by driving revenue sky high while finding new creative ways to reduce costs?
    Then join me on Tuesday, February 14th from 12-1pm EST! During the webinar I’ll tell you how to:

  • Re-position your organization in the hearts and minds of others by revisiting your vision, mission, values.
  • Define the type of people you want to work with, including suppliers, contractors, vendors, the media…everyone!
  • Master your storytelling -tell what sets your organization apart. Engage others with your history, key achievements and most importantly…WHY you do what you do…your purpose!
  • Ethical organizations outperform their competitors!
  • Treat your employees like valued partners for optimal engagement and retention.
  • Implement Reward & Recognition, Coaching/Mentoring, Employee Idea, and Town Hall programs.
  • Intrinsic v.s Extrinsic motivation.
  • Define and RECRUIT the attributes of STAR performers.
    Not only is it FREE but as an extra incentive I’ll email you my e-book “Apply Innovation & Creativity in Your Organization” when you register.
    Sound like something you’d be interested in attending?
    If so, register here. Here’s to your success in 2017!
    Here’s to your continued success in 2017!

    – Ethan

  • Become the Transformational Leader You Always Aspired to.

    Why managing is damaging, and leadership is empowering.
    In response to the age old question: “Are great leaders born or made?”…the answer is an emphatic… “YES” to BOTH!
    While there are certain characteristics that all great leaders naturally possess (social engagement, extroversion, and one’s ability to communicate all come to mind) it IS possible to learn HOW to become a leader that others will willingly follow through times of chaos, hardship and danger.
    AND….they will follow a transformational leader WILLINGLY. Why? Because they trust you have their best interest at heart. They share their leader’s vision, values, and a strong driving commitment to change the order of things, and make the world a better place for future generations.
    Leaders are individuals that truly believe that a rising tide lifts all ships. They understand the value in, and desire to excel at, emotional intelligence and possess a strong moral compass and emotional quotient (EQ).
    EQ is a person’s ability to:
    Perceive emotions in themselves (emotional awareness)
    Regulate their own emotions (emotional management)
    Identify the emotions of others (social awareness)
    Nurture powerful relationships with others (social management)
    People often mistake effective leadership with management. Management as an organizational behavior is DETRIMENTAL to long term success. LEADERSHIP is critically important. Here’s a cheat sheet of the significant differences:
    Want to learn how you can become a leader that transforms the lives, careers, and performance of others?
    I invite you to attend my FREE webinar: “Become the transformational leader you always aspired to be.”
    As a result of attending this engaging, entertaining and informative talk you will learn how to:
    * Understand the key difference between leading and managing;
    * Identify your personal leadership “style” and how to play to your strengths;
    * Become Emotionally Intelligent in all your social and professional relationships for more meaningful connections;
    * Realize why trust, empathy and loyalty REALLY matter;
    * Discover what makes great leaders…well…GREAT!;
    * Apply immediately actionable strategies to become a leader by developing your very own leadership action plan.
    * And as my added THANKS, I will send you my presentation: “Build a world-class culture in your organization” when you register.
    The webinar is Tuesday, Jan. 24 1:00-1:45 pm EST.
    Register Here.
    “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” – St. Augustine
    Here’s to your success in 2017!

    – Ethan

    The Gig Economy and the Workers That Love/Hate It.

    PART 1 of 2.
    When I was in High School and College, I worked many temporary jobs through staffing agencies. Then early in my professional career, I worked as a recruiter for a national employment agency in Washington, DC.
    Throughout my career in Corporate America I worked with placement agencies and recruiters. Now as a career coach, I have spent the past 6 years working with thousands of job seekers.
    So I am extremely familiar with our 21st Century “Gig” economy, which is also referred to as the sharing, collaborative, peer-to-peer, on-demand, or gift economy. But what is the “gig” economy?
    Independent workers/freelancers select temporary jobs (projects) to work from anywhere, and employers get to select best workers for specific projects. To understand the transforming role of work in America, it will help to understand why our American workforce is becoming a truly alternative workforce and gig employment is growing exponentially?
    Financial pressure is being constantly exerted on organization to reduce costs (staff) and the entrance of the Millennial generation, will represent 4 of 5 workers by 2020. Companies realize significant headcount reductions by using freelancers by saving on office space, benefits, and employee training.
    Temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short term engagement projects. Our economy is becoming project work driven to meet peak production periods. Workers must become mini-businesses to find work (clients.)
    The attraction of flexible work arrangements.
    The argument most often made for workers benefiting from the option of working gigs is as follows: you are afforded greater work-life balance as people can choose what they want to do, how long they choose to do it, and when/where they choose to work.
    But there are many drawbacks of committing to work on gigs in lieu of full-time employment. For starters, there is absolutely no economic security, no predictability to work or guarantee of employment, and no power of workers to receive a fair share of profit. A workforce with no safety net, assurances, or power when taken to the extreme.
    Key drivers fueling the gig economy growth.
    There are a number of factors that have driven the rise of the gig economy, namely:
    Post World War II Japanese kaizen, 6-Sigma, lean manufacturing driven by constant process improvement, automation, and…
    A commensurate American (car) manufacturing reaction to Japanese and German import threats leading to significant worker cost containment/reduction in the 1980s by leveraging employee outsourcing, off-shoring by sourcing cheaper labor from third world markets.
    The digital age has facilitated a mobile workforce. Smartphone and mobile technology, that enables workers to work from anywhere any time.
    A shifting cultural and business climate.
    Automation of work flow processes including robotics have led to a significant reduction in the requirement for actual employees.
    There’s an app for that: constant increases in technology solutions automate workflows, leading to a reduction in the need for workers.
    A proliferating independent workforce:
    From a JobVite annual survey, 19% of American adults who responded said they held gig-type jobs.
    Approximately 54 million Americans claimed to have participated in some type of independent work in 2015.
    1 in 3 Americans can be classified as a freelancer. Further, approximately 1 in 12 US households – 10 million people rely on independent work for more than half of their income.
    The proliferation in alternative work is not a strictly American phenomenon. Half of the UK’s working population will be self-employed in the next 5 years, and the European Union saw a 45% increase in the number of independent workers from 2012-2013.
    A study conducted by Intuit found that by 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors.
    A poll by Time, Burston Marsteller, and the Aspen Institute found that 45 million Americans have offered goods and services in this new work model. More than 1/3 made 40% of their income in this new contract economy.
    To wit…sharing/gig economy firms are popping up everywhere. AirBNB, Uber, Lfyte, Fiverr, TaskRabbitt, Upwork, Zirtual, Parcel, Hello Alfred, Love Home Swap, Etsy, One Fine Stay, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk…gig economy players are everywhere.
    Part 2 to follow…

    – Ethan

    To Maximize Your Productivity STOP Multitasking.

    In these harrowing times with so many demands placed on us it can be near impossible to focus on the thing in front of you.  Achieving maximum performance seems so elusive.
    We all have so many demands placed on us between navigating work-life challenges, to doing the work of multiple people on the job, it’s a wonder we can ever accomplish anything.
    What often happens is we attempt to juggle multiple projects simultaneously as we attempt to become MULTITASKING experts as we fight a never-ending tide of distractions.
    Here’s a tip to increase your efficiency and maximize your performance and productivity.
    STOP TRYING TO MULTITASK!  It simply isn’t feasible despite our best intentions.
    Our brains are not hardwired to tackle multiple tasks simultaneously.

    The area of our brains that helps us to get work done and perform the act of multitasking is called the frontal lobe.  It enables us to perform “mental executive functions” or MEFs, for short.
    There are TWO key aspects of MEFs to understand:

    1. Goal Shifting – when we decide to perform one task instead of another; and
    2. Role Activation – every time we switch tasks, we have to change the rules required to perform the task as we move between tasks. When we bounce back and forth between work we have to also change back and forth the rules required to perform each task.

    When we focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task.

    From productivity research conducted into the act of switching between tasks, we know that multitasking can lead to a reduction in productivity by as much as 40%.
    In summary…the human brain simply isn’t built to multi-task.
    But in this day in age where we have so many simultaneous requirements placed on us, we simply may be forced to multi-task as a standard mandatory behavior in order to complete everything we need to get done.  If that is the situation you find yourself in, following are a few guidelines that you might be able to implement, in order to maximize your performance.

    1. Know your daily optimal performance peak times and minimize distractions and/or interruptions by establishing block out periods.

    Set out of office email messages even while you’re IN THE OFFICE.
    Use out of office messages that say you are IN THE OFFICE BUT UNDER DEADLINE and indicate when you will be available. To maximize your peak performance times, you can do so with out of office phone messages, as well.

    1. Discover the invaluable art and skill of DELEGATING. Some guidelines for delegating:
    • Ask yourself: “What’s the BEST use of my time?” Whatever you do that is not in your productivity wheelhouse MUST be delegated.
    • Stop refusing to delegate because it takes more time to explain the work involved then to do it yourself. This creates a vicious cycle of you not being able to get those recurring low value tasks off your plate.
    •  Can someone else do it better? You are not a TEN in everything. Choose who is best to delegate to.  That goes for the home as well as work.
    •  Do you have enough time to delegate? Remember, there are 168 hours of the week, when you start subtracting the sleep, cooking, shores, etc. that number dwindles quickly.
    •  Will this task recur again? If there is any way to plan for someone else taking ownership by all means delegate away.
    •  Is this a task that I should delegate?
    •  Avoid the boomerang (No “backsies”) Do not let people come back to you for excessive help in completing tasks.

    Check out this nice list of delegation tips.

    1. Become diligent in planning by using the PLAN – DO – REVIEW process. Set daily, weekly, quarterly and annual goals. At the end of every time period (day, week, month…etc.) revisit those goals and assess how you performed.  Following is a really useful daily workflow process. (Sourced from Martin Yate.)

    At the end of each and every day, review what you’ve accomplished:

    • What happened: a.m. and p.m.?
    • What went well? Do more of it.
    • What went wrong? How do I fix it?
    • What projects do I need to move forward tomorrow?
    • List all tomorrow’s activities and rank the importance of each one:

    – Must be completed by end of day;
    – Good to be completed by end of day; and
    – To be completed if there is spare time from A and B priorities.

    • Make a prioritized To Do list, with every activity rated A, B, or C.
    • Stick to your prioritized list as much as possible.


    1. Stay organized.  Fight the natural tendency of all things to gravitate towards DIS-order (it’s called ENTROPY.) Plan processes, automate workflows to in effect only touch a piece of paper once. Create files to “dump” papers, articles, forms into so you can go back and re-organize/sort later.  Once a month have a file purge party and throw away all files, papers, forms, not touched in the past 30 days.

    Here’s to your continued success in 2016!
    – Ethan