6 ways to become more coachable in your career

I read a lot of articles about emotional intelligence… and I must say, I’ve very much bought into it.

I think it’s important in all facets of life to understand yourself and others … and have them understand you so that all parties can move forward.

At the moment, I am a Marketing Director at a Digital Technology company. I firmly believe I have achieved the level of Director (and perhaps have too much confidence regarding it). I can close deals, I manage a team of Digital Marketing professionals and I know how to execute what we sell. Although, my goal is to become a top level Marketing Executive… and I’m not there yet.

… and how does one achieve that, anyway? One way is through coaching and feedback from other Executives. I find it’s a nice thought, but they usually aren’t easy conversations to have.

I’ll share some takeaways from a recent example involving myself.

Takeaway 1: Hear the person out.
I was called into my bosses office where he gave me feedback on a recent client interaction and sales call. I’ve been here before and knew it wasn’t an easy conversation for him, either. It was important to me to let him share the feedback. Basic listening 101. The fact that I was getting feedback was important. You’re in trouble when those conversations cease to exist altogether…

Takeaway 2: Don’t rationalize.
Although, I admit that as I sat listening to him, immediately my mind started racing to justify my actions. I thought to myself, “Is this happening again?”  I’m managing more than a handful of clients, helping close deals, mentoring the team and working almost 60 hours a week. 18 out of 20 things are going great, why aren’t we talking about those instead of the 2 that aren’t? Then I realized I was just rationalizing. No one was saying things weren’t going good, they were just saying a few things needed improvement.

Takeaway 3: Get mad… and then get over it.
For the rest of the day I was annoyed, mostly with myself. I wrote out all of the justifications and stewed over it all night. Then I also realized that if I was this upset about it, they must have a point, which I began to feel great about. If I wasn’t upset, it really wouldn’t have meant anything, nor would I be moving forward… and then I fell asleep.

Takeaway 4: Perfection doesn’t exist, but you can strive for excellence
I tell clients on a regular basis. You don’t have to be perfect to get started, we just have to start. You can polish process later. I feel the same way about people in their careers. No one was attempting to take away from me my past experiences or level (that was my own insecurities speaking). I had gotten myself this far before the age of 30. I effectively got started on the path. They were helping me polish myself.

There is a story about Brett Favre in his early tenure with the Green Bay Packers. No one doubted his ability to win games or athleticism and he captured the hearts of an entire fanbase. Although, people did question his ability to win a Super Bowl … and his disastrous, prior stint in Atlanta was well known. I was at his retirement ceremony where Mike Holmgren talked about the challenges of coaching him. He recounted the moment he knew the Packers were on the cusp of greatness. He said Brett came over to him on a plane ride home and said he understood the value of being coached and placing his trust in him. He had a role to play and if he wanted to go to the next level, he needed help. Favre went on to win three MVPs and the Packers won the Super Bowl during the 1996 season.


Takeaway 5: We are the masters of our domains
I also thought about what I was going to do with the feedback… and realized yet another thing. No one was necessarily right or wrong regarding the scenarios. I wasn’t being forced to do anything, I was being given suggestions. I think about US Presidents and all of the responsibility they have. There are tons of stories about how much feedback and advice they request regarding various decisions, but ultimately, they have to make a call on what they will and won’t do. The same applied here. I’ll likely take the majority of the feedback that was given to me and some of it I probably won’t based on what is and isn’t important to me… and I think that’s okay.

Takeaway 6: Know that what comes around, goes around
I’ve written in the past how we are all just in a race with ourselves to get where we want to go. Some of us are farther along, some farther behind, but we’ll all get to our destinations.

Interestingly enough, on the same week I had to give feedback of my own to a colleague… and I wanted to take some of my frustrations into account while giving it. In this example, this person was giving a demo for the first time to a client. I had to imagine this particular individual was nervous and I knew for a fact how much prep time went into it. Just the fact that this person was so willing to grow was very much appreciated by me…so I said so. I said how good I thought the presentation skills were (and meant it) and that this person had an ability to establish rapport with the client. Only after I led with the positive did I suggest some improvements to the actual pitch. I suppose I’ll never know for certain, but it wasn’t uncomfortable and I believe this person will continue to grow with some of my recommendations.

At the very least, hopefully they didn’t go home and over analyze the situation, but if they did they can at least read this blog ;-).

Until next time…


4 ways to create and manage relationships in business

It doesn’t matter what type of business or industry you are in. In order to be successful, you will need to be able to create and manage relationships with all of your various partners.

Here are some ways to make the most of that effort:

1 – Take a chance … and show up
You’ve heard it before and it’s worth me saying. Half of everything is simply showing up. We all get nervous, excited, bored, comfortable (the list goes on) and it’s easy to sit idle because of any one of those. Those who are successful in meeting new people understand that in order to do so, you have to attend the party, go to the networking event, wander into the bar at the hotel, etc. Nothing ever comes from doing…well nothing.

There’s a line in the movie, “The American President,” where the President is dancing with his date at a State Dinner. His date comments that people are going to wonder who this lady is and why she was there. The President responds by saying her name and that she is there simply because she said yes. I always liked that.


Said scene from the movie, “The American President.”

2 – Break the ice … and establish even ground
… so now that you’ve met a potential partner, it’s imperative you break the ice. Introverts have a high disdain for small talk and extroverts thrive on it, so strike a balance, because it serves a purpose. Meeting people or entering into a relationship of any kind is naturally a little uncomfortable at first. Small talk calms those nerves and gives people a chance to relax before diving headfirst into business… and for the introvert in all of us, it doesn’t have to be endless. Just enough to get the conversation flowing.

Furthermore, at times, an inability to do this can create a perception either by yourself or from the other person that you’re above the other in some way. Most of us aren’t celebrities, executives or politicians (yet) and if people are viewing you this way, whether it’s awe, disdain or something in between it’s going to prevent you from being able to connect… and one of you is bound to end up very uncomfortable. No one wants to be studied or stared at from across the room with no chance for a connection.

I found honesty works best. Stating your intentions or that you are indeed a little nervous or dealing with some travel fatigue or bringing up a past failure (and how you want to overcome it), etc. is usually enough to get started. Anything that will make you relatable in some way. It also establishes how the two entities can work together, as either person is going to be able to identify how they can help and what role they will play.

3 – Do the things you say you will do
Once the relationship begins, it’s time to maintain and enhance it. A big part of that (like any relationship) is built on trust. You don’t have to be perfect and you can make mistakes… as long as you keep your commitments. If you said you will do something for someone or a business, you must do that and eventually arrive at an end goal. That comes in the form of regular check ins, status updates, honest assessments of the status of the relationship/project/business. I’ve heard lots of stories about successful sales people being more than just a partner … they become trusted confidants. People who are called in the middle of the night for emergencies, who are invited to celebrate milestones, to vent, etc. That doesn’t happen by accident. It’s earned and treated with the highest regard… and if’s it not present, the relationship will likely not last.

I’m partly stealing this from the current CEO of the company I work for, but I’m amazed at the level of people who just don’t respond to partners and potential partners. In many cases, the company that wins the work is simply the one who responded and gave said company what they actually asked for. I know it sounds so obvious, but take a deeper look at how much this truly happens at your company.

4 – Don’t agonize over the rejection … and leave those people/companies alone.
Easier said than done. In all aspects of my life, I’ve dealt with rejection… and I truly hate it. I’ve been ignored, yelled at, whispered about and flat out told I’ve made people uncomfortable. I’ve talked about in the past that to put so much thought and effort into something and then not have it pan out, well, hurts.

I’m not telling you this in order to throw a pity party, but rather to overcome it. The only reason I’ve been successful in certain endeavors is because I’ve failed at them at one time… and it’s great fuel. If you spend your time agonizing over what didn’t happen, you’ll miss new opportunities to hone the first 3 skills in this blog. Sticking with the Politics theme, President Bill Clinton once spoke about how people have as many chances as they are willing to take. It’s not a one and done thing.

It’s also important to know when someone just flat out isn’t interested. It can be hard to know the mix between being persistent and just annoying. My general rule of thumb is to cease communication after reaching out 3 times with no response. We’ve all been on both sides of this… and it doesn’t make either party bad or evil … so stop wasting your time and energy.

So there you have it. As Digital Technology continues to change the way we interact, I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t replace humans…it should enhance our ability to connect with others. Try some of the above. I think you’ll find it rewarding.

Until next time.


…Cheerio, Mate. 10 things I realized over the past 10 days in London

I had the good fortune to be sent to London for 10 days by my place of employment… and I must say. I had a wonderful time.

Between all the travel and mix of client pitches and onsite work, I had some time to ponder & appreciate what I was experiencing. I may or may not be exaggerating pieces of it..you’ll have to decide for yourself 😉

The soundtrack this time around? “Everything Now,” by Arcade Fire…

1 – Yep. The actual travel part still sucks.

I left on a Wednesday morning. It took 1.5 hours to get to Chicago O’Hare. I wanted to ensure I had ample time to get through security, so I got there three hours early. After making it through, I had 2.5 hours before my flight to walk around the terminal. By the time my plane took off, it was approximately 4:00 pm with a 7 hour journey ahead of me towards Dublin. Did I sleep? Of course not. Landed in Dublin at 5 am local time. A 2 hour layover before hopping another plane to London Heathrow, this time 1 hour.

Finally arrived in London a little past 8 am local time, but I wasn’t done yet. I hopped a train (It was only 15 minutes) to the nearest underground, and then took that for 30 minutes into the city of London and headed to the office. By now it was almost 10:30 am and I felt like a zombie. Good thing I had a full day ahead of me. Speaking of which…

2 – The Human Body really is amazing.
I made sure to eat regular meals and drink lots of fluids during what I described above, but one thing just wasn’t available. Sleep for 24 hours. I was warned by my colleagues (and mentally prepared myself as best I could) that the first day would be rough and just something I’d have to get through. I suppose on one hand, it’s scary how fragile we actually are. One night without sleep and I felt sluggish, foggy and may have been battling some slight vertigo. Nevertheless I made it through the day, which I found funny and fascinating. When I was around my colleagues, I wondered if they could tell how tired I was. Then I’d get pulled into a quick demo or client pitch and I’d get a burst of energy. I did this pretty much all day.


One of the offices I worked in..

Before I left my workplace that evening, I said goodbye to my London colleagues and headed down the elevator to head to the hotel. I didn’t realize it until I walked out of the building that I left my backpack and the rest of my luggage in their office. Yeah, it was time to shut the engines down… I think the total log time was 35 hours. My head hit the pillow around 8 pm and I think it only took about 35 seconds before I was out cold…

3 – London isn’t really known for it’s food
I chatted off and on with friends and family when I was over…and they all wanted to know what kinds of foods I was eating. I never had a good answer, but when I asked one of my work colleagues, they replied that the city wasn’t known specifically for any one food, it was more of an international city. On one hand, I could have anything I wanted. On the other hand, there wasn’t anything special that I could ONLY get in London. I did enjoy the English breakfasts every morning, though (poached eggs, white toast, blood sausage, bacon and baked beans).

4 – Rain isn’t really a big deal
It rained almost every day I was there. On a few of those days, I was accompanied by colleagues … and at first I was like, “We’re walking over there in this weather?” I would get the same emotionless look and a reply of, “Yeah, Mate. It rains a lot. What can you do?” and then they’d be off.. They were right. I got used to being a little wet right before meetings.

5 – Apparently I’m from the moon…
I had an opportunity to spend three days onsite with a client and they were nice enough to bring in food for lunch each day. I picked at the sandwiches and fruit, but admittedly so, I was more focused on presenting and delivering value than I was with eating. At one point, one of the ladies asked me if I’d ever had pie before? Another one of the ladies shot back quickly, “Of course he has! He’s not from the moon!..” The look I gave very much affirmed that…or so we thought. I said, “Yes. Yes I’ve had pie before….” and put one on my plate. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when I bit into it and came up with a mouth full of meat. I was expecting dessert. We all got quite a laugh out of it.

Just afterwards, I was offered tea with milk (which isn’t that weird) but I was a little cautious about it. I had some, of course and everyday after one of the ladies would bring me a cup at approximately the same time… It was very enjoyable. Although…

6 – I take black coffee for granted
So the Brits love their tea…and we Americans love our coffee. I wish you luck over there… it was all expresso’s, flat whites, americano’s, cappuccinos, etc. I’m used to slowly sipping on my black coffee through the mid morning, not a shot of 150 mgs of caffeine all at once.

7 – Politics…was still just politics
Per usual, I’ll leave out my own personal beliefs, but I found it interesting how much the landscape was the same. Instead of reading a bunch of negative daily yahoo articles or newspapers about US leaders, I got used to reading a bunch of negative daily yahoo or newspaper articles about UK leaders. I found it slightly comforting and discouraging all at the same time… I guess you don’t get into politics if you want to be loved …

8 – Speaking English didn’t guarantee people understood me…nor I them.
So the Queen’s English is really a thing. I found it fascinating that multiple times a day, I would have to ask someone to repeat what they said to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t hear them, or understand the words…I just had no idea what they were asking. For any of my colleagues or clients that are reading this, you were all great, but I’d order food, or ask someone a question on the underground, or be in a cab, etc… and yeah. A few times we both just finally nodded our heads, smiled or gave a thumbs up and then stopped talking…

9 – The public transportation is amazing.
I’m sure New York City rivals it (and Chicago is pretty good, too) but I was heavily impressed by London’s public transportation. While I was a bit nervous taking the underground at first and figuring out the directions and changeovers, once I did I was unstoppable. I would take it multiple times a day to all different parts of the city without much concern of getting home. I felt pretty good about that.


My final underground ride (this time anyway) to the airport..

10 – Apparently I look suspicious.
On my way home, I did more of the same travel routine. Hotel > Underground > Train > Train was out so I had to take a cab to Heathrow > Dublin > Chicago > Milwaukee. Needless to say, it was just something I was trying to get through. I knew it wasn’t going to be enjoyable. To add to that, though, right before I got on my flight to Chicago, I was asked by the gate to get out of line, where I was escorted back to security (where I’d just came from) for a full pat down and inspection of my luggage. I likely didn’t help matters because I was less than enthused and had been up since 4:30 am. I cooperated but continued to have a scowl on my face while they looked through my dirty laundry and patted me down. They brought me back to the plane and told me to have a nice flight. I forced a smile their way and walked to my seat… I couldn’t wait to get home. Either that or I was just randomly selected 😉

So there you have it. I’ve written in the past about the Euphoria associated with doing things that make you uncomfortable (and succeeding anyway) or just shaking up your normal routine. Walking back into my home in Milwaukee yesterday, that feeling was all mine.

Until next time…


First impressions mean everything… but they should mean nothing

You’ve heard the phrase before. First impressions mean everything. That’s a shame, because as human beings, the only thing that mode of operation can do is halt opportunity and prevent people from getting to know each other.

The best business Executives know that consistency is what determines one’s worth. Whether that be a product, a service, an organization..or a person. Doing something repeatedly a certain way, for better or worse, is what creates a reputation.

…and I really like the idea of this and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. We’ve heard about someone. We’re intrigued by someone. Impressed by their accomplishments or certain abilities or like the way they look, etc… and then we meet these people and they are nothing like what we imagined. The book is closed before making it through the first chapter.

There is something to be said about expectations, too.  As humans, if someone thinks you’re at the top of the mountain, they are going to easily be let down when they see you’re just a regular person.  Alternatively, if expectations are low, it will be easier to impress upon someone.

…and I’m not suggesting not to have a first impression (and it’s inevitable I suppose), I’m suggesting to collect a series of impressions. As someone who loves the MB Type Indicator, I understand that many people make decisions based on gut feels (I’m one of them), but I don’t care how many other blogs I’ve read about the different types. None of us are true mystics or wizards, we just make decisions based on how something made us feel or what made sense to us at the time.

Point being, gut feels can be wrong and people’s feelings/thoughts change upon each interaction. I tell many of my clients that the secret to successful project implementations is a willingness to take chances on a strategy. We need to be able to get started, and that is often by wondering what’s possible and committing to giving something a firm try for a certain time frame. We’re going to see initial success, initial failure, periods that are stagnant, etc. We’re going to question everything we do and at times feel like we’re hanging in Limbo. We’re not going to know if we’re successful, though, until we learn more about ourselves and the project…and that takes time and consistency. I’m amazed at the amount of companies I come across who try one thing, have a quick, single failure…and then BOOM. Never again!  Get back on the horse!

The same thing happens with people. Someone doesn’t say hi the right way, or talks too much at first, or not enough, is having a bad day, etc and right away a negative perception is formed. I’m amazed at how many people don’t give things a chance based on that or just one interaction. Jobs, friendships, relationships, project teams, etc all don’t move forward because of a person’s hunch based on a single interaction.

I also find it interesting all of the chatter about people and projects. Adding some complexity to this topic, I’ve come across people with negative reputations among certain groups, only to spend time with them and then come away with a really great experience. In other cases, I’ve walked away saying, “Well I guess I was warned..” The flip side applies here, too.

…which leads me to manipulation. Sometimes when someone says hi the right way, talks the perfect amount, or just makes everything seem too good to be true, it can be cause for concern (still other times that person could just be really, really polished and able to back up their talk.) You could find yourself in a miserable situation later down the line, but hey, it sounded good at the (one) time, right?

In all of these cases, though, how will you truly know based on ONE impression?

You won’t. A willingness to take chances on all of these opportunities and hanging on for the long haul is where the true magic lies. In my experience, the majority of my best friendships came from either college or being colleagues (and the projects we were on). We were more or less forced to get to know each other over a series of time. In different scenarios our true colors surfaced whether we wanted them to or not. If I were to go back on all of the people I consider friends or projects that were a success, I know a lot of my first impressions were flat wrong (and some of the ones with good first impressions were cut loose).

I’m also not suggesting people’s first impressions are always wrong. I know that some people exist who are just really great judges of character (but would anyone actually ever say that about them-self?). In conclusion, my main point is that you should confirm based on calculated risks, a time frame and taking the chance!

Coming full circle, that person you’re intrigued about from my above example? Forget their first impression and spend time working with them (or just with them). After awhile, I bet you’ll begin to see why they have the reputation you’ve heard about…could turn into a great story!


5 Tips to help you pick a Career Mentor

The best part about your career is the fact that it can be a journey.

It can include multiple chapters in the book of you. Some good, some bad, some in between. I’ve written in the past about the idea that this journey is just a race with yourself. Figure out where you are, decide where you want to be and then chart out your course.

… but wherever you are, someone has been there before and can be a great help to you as you climb your way forward. Here’s a few tips to consider when picking a mentor:

What job do you want? What kind of company do you want to work for? Do you want to be a leader of people/process or a role player? There’s no wrong answer and people of all types are needed.

In the early 2000s, during the Los Angeles Lakers three-peat championship streak, Robert Horry was the perennial role player. Barely averaging 8 points per game, he regular came in and sank three pointers to tie up or win games. While he wasn’t Shaq or Kobe, he was essential to the Laker’s ability to win games… he has a total of seven championship rings, more than both of those other players mentioned…

Knowing what kind of role you want to play will help you identify the person that can help you. If you want to be a CEO, you probably won’t pick a Sales Account Manager to emulate or show you the ropes. Likewise, if your goal is to have a long career in sales, you’re not going to pick someone from top leadership or an accounting function…

HA Horry Buzzer Beater

I also write a lot about personality types (I’m particularly interested in feeling versus thinking functions). Are you a people person? I’m not talking extrovert or introvert, I’m talking emotion. Do you want to understand people? Do you want to lead a department? Do you want to be inspiring and the one that takes care of everyone? Are you a subjective person?

Take the test: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

Or do you want to focus on process? Do you want to help a company be lean and help plan out all of the operations? Do you want to be involved in numbers and making sure the balance sheet..well, balances? Are you an objective person?

Point being people often sway one way or the other. They either make decisions based on how they think it will make someone feel (the immediate needs of one is the most important thing)… or what makes logical sense (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few). Using extreme cases, if you are more an emotional person but pick someone who is all about process, that person probably isn’t going to give you relevant feedback, nor understand exactly what it is you’re after. Vice versa, if you’re looking to implement a new process and pick someone who wants to just make people feel good all the time, you’re also going to be frustrated as that person is going to have a completely different point of view on your situation.

In a world that is increasingly louder by the minute, talk truly is cheap. Be weary of people who boast about their accomplishments. Many people align themselves with successful people and ride their coat tails. Personally, I think it’s fine to talk about accomplishments…but in the right situation, so just know what to look for.

For example, avoid the people who are around the water cooler talking about how they implemented this & that, how important they are, how great of a sales person they are, etc etc. That and the ones who go cubicle to cubicle talking about how busy they are rather than just doing their work. If you start to follow a person like this, it will often be too late by the time you’ve figured it out. You’ll have created a perception (and gained a new reputation) that you’re cut from a similar cloth.

Alternatively, if someone is in a 1-1 situation where they either have to give a presentation, sales pitch or talk about their qualifications, look for the detail. The people from above likely won’t have much to say, but the people who are tried and true will shine with detail.

Look for the person that is a little more on the humble side whose name seems to come up time and time again when certain projects/initiatives/work is mentioned. I’ve found the people who are the most successful are less likely to talk about their accomplishments because they know that 1) current success doesn’t guarantee continued success and 2) they are too busy working on their next goal to brag about their past.

Just like the dating world, just because you’ve decided you like someone, doesn’t mean they will like you, nor does it mean they want you after them… and that’s okay. Sticking with the dating theme, there are plenty of other fish in the mentor sea..

It doesn’t have to be a formal request, either, but take the soft approach. Next time you see them (e-mails work great, too), compliment them on something they’ve done or are working on. Let them know you’d like to do similar things in your career and would love to work with them or get their thoughts/feedback sometime. Leave it that and see what happens. In many cases, I think you’ll find you’ve been recommended to be on a project team, asked to tag along on a sales call, invited to a meeting, etc.

When I was starting out, I selected someone I admired and just assumed he would teach me everything because I was so interested in him. He had someone else in mind he wanted to bring up through the ropes. I became more of an annoyance than anything and I caused a lot of frustration on both ends (This is not a knock on this person, either.  He’s an incredibly polished Executive who I still learned a lot from). At the same time, there were other individuals that were willing to help (and in many cases did), but I focused instead on what I couldn’t have. I was the one in the wrong, but infatuation exists on all sorts of levels. Make sure to check yours at the door.

5 – KNOW THAT YOUR MENTOR CAN (and likely will) CHANGE
You will likely find yourself in different functions, industries and levels as your career progresses… and you’ll come across different people & experiences in all of those scenarios.

Chances are the person who helped grow you early in your career won’t be the person that helps you finish your career, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still work together or stay in touch. As you climb the ranks, you may find you’ve moved ahead of your current mentor or decide you will go a different route…and in some cases, you might just disagree with them. Still further, you might not have access to certain mentors until you reach certain levels, which will require some shifts. All of those are good things in the long run and the more open you can be with yourself and others, the more friends you’ll find you have. I think that makes being in business and having a career all the more worthwhile…

In conclusion, George Clooney said, “Where I come from, you figure out what you want to do in your 20’s, get good at it in your 30’s, make your mark in your 40’s and 50’s and give back whatever you can in your 60’s.” Don’t forget to be a mentor yourself when the time comes..

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