Do You Take Risks?

Unreasonable Risk-Taking


Unreasonable risk-takers are individuals who tend to over-emphasize the resources they have available or can acquire to accomplish their objectives. Or, they’re people who under-emphasize the barriers that are likely to get in their way.

There’s been a lot of emphasis in the past decade or so on risk-taking as a positive trait of high achieving individuals. Most corporate environments don’t encourage risk-taking. Neither do government bureaucracies. So “unreasonable risk-taking” might not seem like much of a problem, except that we’re talking about increasing power and influence with others. That demands that you take risks, provide leadership, and create visions for others. So risk-taking comes with the territory of adaptability.

This is just a note of caution to take reasonable risks. Psychologist David McClelland and others who have researched high achievers say the most successful individuals take moderate risks which have a 30 percent to 70 percent chance of being accomplished. Taking a risk on something that has less than a 30 percent chance of success is considered reckless behavior rather than reasonable risk taking. This is especially true if you’re risking the resources of other people in the process.

Accomplishing something, which has over 70 percent chance of success, is essentially not taking a risk in the first place. Assessing risk involves both looking at what positive factors are in the plan, as well as the negative factors that stand to get in the way. There’s usually no way to do an ironclad assessment of a plan. Oftentimes the factor that weights the balance in one direction or the other is the person taking the risk. How much follow-through do you have? How much energy are you going to bring to the enterprise? If the going gets tough, can you count on yourself to keep going?

A great majority of businesses begun by individuals in this country fail within the first 5 years. Starting a new business is always a risk, but a good business plan upfront will help assess the chances for success. According to Michael Gerber, who runs a nationwide training company for fledgling entrepreneurs, the number one reason for the failure of startup businesses is under-estimation of the resources it takes to keep a business going. Under-estimate of the capital required, under-estimate of the time it takes, and under-estimate of the expertise it takes to run your own business. Yet every year, hundreds of thousands of people hang out their sign, print their business cards and wait for their first customer or client.

And the good news is that tens of thousands of those businesses do succeed. Because they’ve taken a reasonable risk.


Are You Blunt In Your Communication With Others? Too much?


If you can’t understand this one, you’re pretty stupid… See what I mean? Most of us know better than to call other people names and insult their intelligence. Being assertive about our opinions and beliefs is fine, but at some point, assertiveness crosses over into bluntness. And that means you haven’t taken the other person’s feelings into account.

Find out if bluntness is a problem for you. To do that, simply ask five of the people closest to you at home and at work something like: “Do I come across as too blunt sometimes?” “Do I say things that hurt other people’s feelings without realizing it?” If you get back some “yes” answers, then you need to pay attention to the ways you communicate. Any one of several things can make your communication hurtful when you don’t intend it. One is obviously your choice of words. Another is the tone of your voice. The words can be fine, but the tone conveys hostility. How would you feel if someone said to you: “That’s a great piece of work.” [said flatly with a slight edge of sarcasm — could be taken as positive or negative]

Many people don’t realize that their tone is gruff or negative sounding. One way to tell is to tape record yourself having a phone conversation. Tape your end of it and play it back. Make sure it’s a substantive conversation where you can really hear yourself speaking at length, preferably to someone you’re not trying to impress. Listen to the tape carefully; pretend it’s someone else. How does this person sound to you? Friendly? Matter-of-fact? Or is there an edge in the voice that’s unfriendly?

Hearing what we sound like to other people can sometimes be a revelation. If there’s a hostile edge to your voice, then you’ll need to consciously modify your tone. That’ll take time – weeks, maybe even months. But nationally recognized speech consultant, Carol Fleming, in her audio program, The Sound of Your Voice, says it can be done, if you’re willing to put in the conscious effort. Modifying the sound of your voice may be the single most important thing you can do to improve the first impression you make on people, after your appearance. One woman I know was told by Dr. Fleming that she pushed the pitch of her voice down [Say next part in lower pitch] in order to sound more authoritative. The woman had to consciously work at allowing her voice to find its natural pitch. It took several months of effort, but it made her speaking voice sound more alive and musical.

In general, overcoming bluntness in your communication style means becoming more aware of other people’s feelings. The more you can do that, the more successful you’ll be in developing satisfying relationships. If you have a tendency toward being authoritarian, you can work on recognizing when it’s appropriate to back off. If you listen more to other people’s opinions, ideas and concerns, you’re less apt to express your own in a blunt way.

Help Expand Your Visions and Ideas-But, How?

Expanding Your Vision and Ideas


A kindergarten teacher asked a student what she was drawing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” the child quickly answered.

“But, sweetheart,” said the teacher, “no one knows what God looks like.”

“They will in a minute!” the child replied, according to a story told by Sheila Murray Bethel in her book Making a Difference.


Charismatic people possess a similar, almost childlike faith in their vision and their ability to create change. People will follow leaders whose vision inspires them and makes their lives more meaningful.


What do you feel passionately about? What do you care really deeply about? Whatever your objective-whether it’s ending world hunger or ensuring better care for stray animals-you’ll never influence anyone to change their ideas or take action if you don’t feel strongly about it yourself.


In fact, having a strong, compelling vision will go a long way toward compensating for a lack of some other charismatic attributes. Einstein, for example, or Eleanor Roosevelt, or Bill Gates, whom I mentioned earlier, aren’t people who immediately leap to mind as being as dashing or debonair as stereotypically “charismatic” leaders.


But their strong ideas or vision may have more than made up for other shortcomings. (Have you heard the computer-industry joke? “What do you call a nerd fifteen years from now?” The answer: “Boss.”) Their vision, it can be argued, transformed them into charismatic leaders. The strength of their ideas, and the passion with which they held them, gave them a different brand of personal magnetism. Warren Bennis, author of the best-selling book Leaders, says that being able to articulate your vision in a way that’s easily understood, desirable, and energizing is the spark of leadership genius.


Here are some other ideas Expanding Your Vision and Ideas:


1. Listen to your yearnings. Don’t dismiss your daydreams, or for that matter, your nocturnal dreams either. They may be signals from your mind and body of some unconscious attraction. What’s important is what’s important to you personally.

Sometimes it’s helpful to recall your childhood or youth. What propelled your dreams back then? Where did your imagination take you? What most influenced you?


And it’s not just the fun or fanciful moments you should recall. If you were poor, maybe helping others escape poverty could be your mission as an adult. If you were abused, maybe abuse prevention is an area where, in your heart of hearts, you would like to make a difference.


2. Seek feedback. “Unfortunately,” said Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, “most people would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” But getting others to give you honest, constructive feedback may help put your mission and your goals in perspective. They may uncover a diamond you thought was just a pebble, thus sending you off in a better direction.


3. Focus on your strengths. You may have heard the adage “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing-it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” Too often we try to force ourselves to become detail people when we’re not, or to climb the management ranks when what we enjoy and excel at is the rank-and-file work. Ask yourself: What am I really good at? What do I most enjoy? And think about a mission and goals related to those answers.


4. Deal with distractions. On the route to achieving your dream, you’ll find change, risk, surprise, stress, and perhaps even failure. But if you’re committed, you’ll adapt.


5. Do it! “The best way to predict your future,” says management guru Peter F. Drucker, “is to create it.” Once you know your mission and goals, that’s the time to get down to doing it.


It’s so in every field of endeavor. Writers must sit down and write; salespeople must sell; managers must manage; and painters must paint. Too often, though, people are locked into habits that prevent them from moving ahead. They relive yesterdays, they invent excuses, they procrastinate, and they doodle in the margins of life’s tablet instead of seeking to write their signature boldly. So don’t give up on your dreams but, instead, pursue them with passion.

 Note from Author:  This is the final article in my series on Charisma.  A new series will start right after the holidays. If you have a particular subject you would like me to write about in the future, just comment. My best to all of you for a safe, peaceful holiday and a new year full of the best possible you!

Do You Use Space and Time to Your Advantage?

Using Space and Time to Your Advantage


On the second day of a two-day seminar, and you walk into the conference room with its scores of chairs, and someone has the nerve to be sitting in your seat, the one you had occupied only yesterday! Of course, you know you have no claim on that chair. But still, you feel a slight pang of pain that someone took “your” seat!


Or you show up promptly for your 2:45 P.M. doctor’s appointment. But after flipping through old magazines for fifteen minutes, you start glaring at the clock and thinking how this doctor probably purposely schedules patients too close together just to maximize income. Doesn’t he know you have a job? What, you ask yourself, would happen if you charged him at his rate for the time of yours he wastes?


Use of space and time, indeed, sends important signals. For example, if you violate others’ physical comfort zone by, say, standing too close to them or touching them when you shouldn’t, you may offend them and cause tension. Similarly, if you abuse another person’s sense of time-by being too late or too early, for example, or by leaving too quickly or staying too long-you can negatively affect the relationship. How you honor or violate another person’s personal space and time will affect the amount of tension or trust between you.


Here are some ideas about how you might use space and time to increase your effectiveness:


1. Signal your time shifts. What if you had a friend who for years called you about once a week, and then, suddenly, stopped calling? You’d wonder whether you had said or done something to offend.


The point is, because we tend to read messages into time changes, it’s important to signal others when our time priorities change. This will keep others from making the wrong assumptions about your priorities.


2. Learn to say no. Because of the need to please, the fear of offending, or other emotion-laden reasons, we sometimes undercut our own priorities and undervalue our own time. So we say yes first and regret it later as we let others squander our time.  Above all, keep your own priorities firmly in mind.


3. Start using your office proactively as a tool. Close the door when you invite someone in, even if it’s just for an informal chat. They’ll feel more important, and you ward off most interruptions. Don’t answer your telephone, reply to E-mail, or attend to other such tasks when you have someone with you. It’s rude and sends the message that you don’t care what the other person is saying.


Similarly, how you arrange your office furniture affects your visitor. If you sit in your chair behind your desk, there’s a barrier between you and them, signaling a short superior-subordinate interaction. If you want a more informal, relaxed, one-on-one atmosphere, sit closer to the visitor, without the barrier of a desk.


4. Learn to manage interruptions. The telephone is one of the biggest time wasters. There are several strategies for dealing with interrupting phone calls, such as call screening, voice mail, and the like. But perhaps the simplest solution is to put a three-minute egg timer on your desk. When the sand runs out, you know to call a halt diplomatically to all but the most critical of calls.


An open-door policy is fine, but it can destroy your efficiency if taken too far. So, arrange your office so you aren’t readily visible and thus a target for people passing by with time on their hands.


5. Honor space and time in the “virtual office,” too. With so much work now being done via electronic formats, it’s easy to forget how many of the same tenets of time and space apply. Be sure to start or enter teleconferences promptly, not late. If you E-mail requests to colleagues, tell them how urgently you need the answer, or whether a reply is needed at all.


Because you may just be sending and receiving typed messages on a computer screen, be especially mindful of your “table manners.” So think how others will likely receive your message before you launch it into cyberspace.

What Behavioral Personality Do You Have?

Maximizing Your Adaptability


You remember The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Well, that’s a wonderful axiom, as far as it goes. But not everybody wants to be treated the same way you do!


I think the real intent of the Golden Rule is to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Hence, I’ve come up with what I think is a newer, more sensitive version of The Golden Rule-or what I call The Platinum Rule:




The Platinum Rule, distilled to its essence, equates to respect for others. It’s an attempt to break down the them-versus-us mentality and concentrate on the “us.” It’s a potent tool for helping build rapport by meeting the other person’s needs and your own.


In fact, along with behavioral scientist Dr. Michael J. O’Connor, I wrote a book that examined the personality styles much more deeply. The Platinum Rule (Warner Books, 1996) describes four core behavioral, or personality, types:


Directors are forceful, take-charge people. Their impatience-and sometimes their insensitivity-may make you wince. Driven by an inner need to get results, they’re more concerned with outcomes than egos.


The friendly, enthusiastic Socializers are fast-paced people who thrive on admiration, acknowledgment, and applause. They love to talk, and while strong on fresh concepts, they’re usually weak on execution.


Relaters are the teddy bears of the human zoo. Rather easygoing, people-oriented, and slow-paced, Relaters tend to drag their feet when it comes to change, preferring routine ways of doing things.


Thinkers are results-oriented problem solvers. They seek results in a quiet, low-key way. Thinkers are analytical, persistent, independent, and well organized, but often seen as aloof, picky, and critical.


Here are some added tips to help you practice adaptability


1. Reach out and touch someone. Think of a “difficult” person with whom you’d like to communicate better. What motivates that person? For a Director, it’s control; for a Socializer, recognition; for a Relater, camaraderie; and for a Thinker, analysis. What can you do that will reinforce what this person needs most?


2. Don’t be too quick to judge. Being able to recognize the styles is important, but be careful about judging someone’s style too quickly and making irrevocable decisions based on your perceived compatibility. Your knowledge of the styles should expand your relationships, not limit them. So don’t use The Platinum Rule to stereotype or pigeonhole others.


3. Use self-knowledge as an insight, not an excuse. By knowing your style, you’ll see your strengths and weaknesses as others do. But don’t use this as a crutch to justify unacceptable behavior, thinking thoughts like, “I’m a Director. So I’m naturally impatient and domineering.” Or “It’s okay if I don’t follow up because I’m an Socializer.”


4. Learn to motivate by style. Whenever you face a task-at the office or in the home-it’s likely that a big chunk of your effort involves attempting to motivate others. You can use your knowledge of The Platinum Rule to inspire each style:

Directors: Be straightforward: Here’s what’s wrong, here’s how it came about, here’s how it’s likely to affect us.

Socializers: Explain that while meeting this challenge may be difficult, it’ll also distinguish those who do.

Relaters: Support their reluctance toward change, see if it’s had a negative impact on them, and work with them to remedy that.

Thinkers: They want to know the reasons behind the change. So be organized, thorough, and precise and provide documentation of any new plan.


5. Tailor your criticism by style. Telling someone they need to improve is difficult but often necessary at work and at home. Here are some possible approaches:

Directors: Stress the result wanted and let them come up with ways to achieve it.

Socializers:  Don’t be vague. Have the Socializer repeat the agreed-upon changes back to you so there’s no chance of miscommunication.

Relaters: Focus on performance, not personality. Go out of your way to explain that there’s nothing wrong with them personally.

Thinkers: Be specific. Say precisely what’s being done wrong, outline the steps for correcting it, and set a deadline for completion.


How Persuasive Are You?



Why are so many new ideas a tough sell? Isn’t it true, as the old saying goes, that if you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door? No, that’s baloney! In fact, it’s never been less true. For a variety of reasons.


For starters, people everywhere have become more savvy, skeptical, even cynical. We’ve all become more jaded about advertising, more suspicious of political claims, and less trusting of those who bring us a message, any message-even one that may be in our best interest.


Second, and most important, many people just aren’t skilled at the art of persuading. No matter how brilliant your idea, no matter how technically advanced or economically sound it may be, it’ll go nowhere unless you get others to go along with it. And the only way you do that is by persuading them, by communicating clearly why they really should want to do what you really need done.


Learning to improve our persuasiveness is both easier and harder than it used to be. Easier because we’ve now got E-mail and voice mail, CD-ROMs and cellular phones, satellites and skywriting, and a vast array of other tools for communicating. But it’s also more difficult in that the deluge of messages and ill-equipped messengers cheapens them all. So nowadays, it’s more crucial than ever to hone the skills that heighten our power of persuasion.


Here are some ideas, big and small, for making yourself more persuasive:


1. Ask yourself: What do I really want? Sure, we all want security, happiness, health, love, and fulfilling work. Digging a little deeper, we might find further shared values, such as recognition, power, freedom, and serving others.


But what’s unique to you? What do you think about alone at three in the morning? What really resonates within your soul? What would you, in a perfect world and freed of family, fiscal, or geographic constraints, most like to be doing?


Think about these questions as a means of searching for your great “because– the difference between your current situation and your desired situation.”


2. Shift your focus to others. There’s an old story of a young lady who was taken to dinner one evening by William Gladstone and then the following evening by Benjamin Disraeli, both eminent British statesmen in the late nineteenth century. “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England,” she said. “But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”


If you practice attentiveness to others, you’ll find it does wonders for both of you. They’ll enjoy it; so will you. And together you’ll accomplish much more.


3. Train yourself to remember other people’s names. The sweetest sound, it’s said, is that of your own name being spoken. And calling others by name is an important first step toward building rapport and, thus, persuasion.


Roger Dawson, in his book 13 Secrets of Power Persuasion, gives numerous techniques for overcoming this problem. One of the best: When you shake hands with a new person, note the color of his or her eyes. That forces you to make eye contact and, after a while, will also send a signal to your brain to store that person’s name in your short-term memory. Use the name soon afterwards, and you’ll have a lock on it. Try it!


4. Empower others. Skillful persuaders send out the message, spoken or unspoken, that they appreciate others’ abilities. For example, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing (3M), the $15-billion-a-year firm famed for its innovation, leaders still utter-and follow-the maxims of William McKnight, its legendary leader for half a century: “Listen to anybody with an idea.”…”Encourage experimental doodling.”…and “If you put fences around people, you get sheep; give people the room they need.”


5. Hone your sense of humor. While being wheeled into the operating room after being shot by a would-be assassin, the ever-persuasive President Ronald Reagan got a chuckle when he wisecracked, “I hope the doctor is a Republican.” We may not all be so cool in a crisis, but we can all profit by not taking ourselves too seriously.

From the author: Do you have a tip to add to the list? Please reply to this post and share what you do to be more persuasive! And, Thanks!!


Do You Know How Much The Art Of Listening Can Help You?

Listening Attentively


Have you ever been to a dinner party where you sensed the talk wasn’t really a conversation as much as a series of monologues? First, somebody tells about their vacation, and maybe a dutiful but shallow question or two is asked. Then somebody else brags about his kid getting into medical school, which leads another guest to talk about her own college days. On and on it goes, while eyes wander and heads occasionally nod between bites of quiche and sips of French Colombard.

You get the impression no one is really listening. Rather, they’re just rehearsing what they might say. Maybe they’re thinking about how to sound good, how strongly to make their points, or how to outshine the others. As a result, by evening’s end, everyone will have talked-but people really won’t have communicated much or gotten to know each other very well.

Unfortunately, many of our everyday conversations are like that, too. While we hear, we only pretend to listen. Listening doesn’t just mean shutting up while someone else speaks-though that’s a start. (“A good listener is a good talker with a sore throat,” one English wit said.)

But listening-real listening-takes more work than that. It’s more than the physical process of hearing. It also takes intellectual and emotional effort. To get a full appreciation of the other person and what’s being said, you need to ask questions, give feedback, remain objective, figure out what’s really being said and what’s not being said, and observe and interpret body language.

As Matthew McKay and Martha Davis say in their book, How to Communicate, “Listening is a commitment and a compliment. It’s a commitment to understanding how other people feel, how they see their world” and it’s “a compliment because it says to the other person: ‘I care about what’s happening to you, your life and your experience are important.'”

When you want to win someone’s attention and gain his or her confidence, listening is just as important as speaking. Good listening draws people to you; poor listening causes them to drift away.

Here are some ideas on ways to make active listening easier for you:

1. Listen–really listen–to one person for one day. Choose one person you could relate to better. Commit to listening to them-not just hearing them-for one day.

Once you’ve gotten into this habit of nudging yourself to listen better, extend this exercise to successive days, then to other acquaintances as well.

2. Create a receptive listening environment. Turn off the TV. Hold your calls. Put away your spread sheets and silence your computer. When listening, forget about clipping your nails, crocheting, solving crossword puzzles, or snapping your chewing gum. Instead, try to provide a private, quiet, comfortable setting where you sit side by side with others without distractions. If that’s not possible, perhaps suggest a later meeting in a more neutral, quieter environment.

3. Be alert to your body language. What you do with your eyes, face, hands, arms, legs, and posture sends out signals as to whether you are, or aren’t, listening to and understanding what the other person is saying.

When you acknowledge the other person both verbally and nonverbally, you build trust and increase rapport. And you’ll probably learn something, too!

4. Abstain from judging. As someone once advised, “Grow antennae, not horns.” If you prejudge someone as shallow or crazy or ill informed, you automatically cease paying attention to what they say. So a basic rule of listening is to judge only after you’ve heard and evaluated what they say. Don’t jump to conclusions based on how they look, or what you’ve heard about them, or whether they’re nervous.

5. Create and use an active-listening attitude. Learning to be an active listener is like learning to be an active jogger. It takes effort. You start little by little and work upward. It’s as much a state of mind as a physical activity. Besides, as you work longer and get better, it pays ever-increasing benefits.

I would like to hear from you-Have you tried one of these ideas for active listening yourself? Have they worked? Do you have another idea to add to the list? Special gift to those who take a moment to give an answer that will help others!