Monday, October 31, 2016

3 Top Body Language Tips for Interviews

When it comes to interviews most prospective candidates invest their time in identifying the success stories to share and in committing them to memory.  A clean suit, a few small talk topics and they are ready to go.

Those who are more savvy to how decisions actually get made though know to also pay attention to what their body language is telling others. They know that it is not just what they are saying but how they are saying it that influences how the interviewer will view their responses. Although there are certainly numerous behaviours you could engage in that could help to support the stories you share, here are my top 3 'must do' body language tips to help you appear confident, capable and infinitely hire-able'.

1.  Posture.  Ever since Amy Cuddy's infamous TED talk on power poses, there has been an increased focus on the positive effects of adopting a more powerful pose.  However, here I want to focus on the more common and practical elements of posture.  I find that most people are conscious of trying to maintain better posture by keeping their shoulders back and their chin up.  However, they do so while rounding out their lower back.  They sit and stand in this softened posture, effectively reducing their height, projected energy and perceived confidence.

In your interviews it is important that you come across as someone that will get things done. This requires you to project energy, which is difficult to do from a compressed or slumped position. Extending upward through the lower back is all that it takes to affect a more positive pose, strengthening the message that you are someone that will hit deadlines, push projects through and make things happen.

2.  Eye Contact.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about eye contact.  I find my audiences are often under the impression that strong and direct eye contact means constant and unbroken eye contact.  It doesn't.  Constant eye contact can, and will, prove intimidating.  Although different cultures and countries will have their own acceptable levels of eye contact, in North America we typically fall into maintaining eye contact about 70% of the time during conversations.

This means that it is perfectly acceptable to look away while you gather your thoughts.  What does become important about eye contact is the need to maintain it comfortably.  If your eyes dart about or you are only maintaining eye contact for a second or two at a time you will appear nervous, insincere or uncomfortable. The believability of your stories will likely suffer as well.  Instead, maintain eye contact for 4-6 seconds before smoothly breaking away, looking to the side to gather your thoughts, rather than up or down, and then confidently re-engaging.

Most people will find it easier to maintain eye contact when they are in listening mode than when speaking.  This is fine and helps to show interest.  When speaking though, it is important that you at least appear confident about the content you are sharing.  Keeping the chin up heightens the perception of confidence and looking away laterally when you need to break eye contact will help you to do this.  Note that glancing away to take notes or taking advantage of when they do also helps give you a bit of an 'eye contact break'.

3.  Hand Gestures.  The main things to consider about your gestures is that they should be smooth, controlled and purposeful.  For most discussions your gestures should take place within your own personal space, which keeps them size-appropriate.  Ensure that you keep the hands visible to your audience, which helps to engender trust.  Perhaps the most important aspect of your hand gestures, and one worth practicing prior to an interview, is that most of your gestures should be made with the palms up.

Palms down gestures are directive. They are absolute and therefore are perfect when you are saying 'no'.  They indicate that you are decided on your point and are not open to engaging the input of others.  In contrast, palms up gestures are collaborative.  They are more open, highlighting more of a willingness to work with the other party.  This makes them perfect for interview situations where you would like your interviewer to see you as a good fit for the existing team.  Palms up gestures will help you be viewed more favourably and should therefore be the more frequent gesture.  You may have stories highlighting your decisiveness where a palms down gesture will help to highlight that ability, but most stories will serve you better accompanied by gestures where the palms are visible.

These three tips will serve you well in your next interview should you practice adopting them.  As you review your stories, don't just practice the words you plan to use, but practice also the body language that will accompany them.  The more aligned your body language is to your verbal message, the more believable and credible that message will be.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tip Thursday - Marketing

Pitching an idea is infinitely more successful if we come up with something that is memorable.

Daniel Pink, in his book To Sell is Human, outlines six different pitches you can use to sell an idea.

The One-Word Pitch - distill your idea down to one key word that embodies what you are representing.
The Question Pitch - use this to help your audience identify a pain point (that your product addresses - of course!)
The Rhyming Pitch - rhymes are infinitely repeatable. Use sites like to help you come up with yours.
The Subject Line Pitch - Use the subject line of your emails to draw your audience in, to become 'clickable'.
The Twitter Pitch - Make your pitches 120 characters or less to allow others to 'pass it on' more easily.
The Pixar Pitch - Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar has 22 story rules. Use her tips and write your pitch by filling in the blanks of her rules.

Use any of the above to help your ideas and messages to stand out, be remembered and acted upon!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Effects of Emotional State on Influence Success

Research studies have shown a clear connection between the emotional state of the individual and the success of an influence strategy. In these studies, people were either exposed to messages that were designed to induce fear-based emotions or romantic-based emotions.  These emotions were created through short stories and film clips.

Each group was then exposed to advertisements using either social-proof* or scarcity** type messages as their influence strategies. The results? Those people exposed previously to fear-based emotions were more persuaded by the social proof appeals, while those people exposed to romantic-based emotions were more persuaded by influence messages utilizing scarcity and uniqueness.

Interestingly, studies have also shown that not only our buying behaviour but our selling behaviour can be affected by our emotional state.  Jennifer Lerner and her associates set out to determine just this. What they did find was that those individuals in which they induced a feeling of sadness (again, through film clips and essays) were likely to pay more for an item if buying, or to sell it for less.

In fact, compared to the emotionally neutral buyers, sad buyers were willing to pay as much as 30% more for an item, while sad sellers were willing to price items at up to 33% less than emotionally neutral sellers. 

Other studies have been conducted that demonstrate that ANY emotionally charged issue or situation, regardless of whether it is positively or negatively charged, will have a direct ipact and influence on the type and quality of decisions made.

The implications?
  • Consider carefully the placement of advertisements, within magazines etc.  The effectiveness of your ad will be heavily influenced by the article(s) preceding it.  The content of your advertisement would need to shift depending upon whether the articles preceding it were happy or sad, positive or negative in nature.  The emotions that those articles evoke in your audience will have a significant impact on the way in which your advertisement is viewed and, ultimately, how much of your product gets sold.
  • This same consideration should be given to the likely emotional state of your audience, before crafting and framing your communications or requests.  If employees are fearful of the economic situation and stability of the marketplace, then they are more likely to be influenced by messages utilizing the social proof heuristic and will be less responsive to messages that utilize other influence attempts. 
  • You should also give some consideration to how you are feeling - emotionally - before entering into any negotiation process or buying situation.  You are most likely to make the best buying decisions when in a fairly emotionally neutral state. 
  • Recognise that these same elements may influence any decision that we need to make. Our emotional state will serve to make us more or less cautious in our decisions or even influence the length of time it takes us to decide. 
If you have ever found yourself buying something that you didn't want or need, or paying a much higher price for something than you should have - you know you have been influenced through an emotional state.  Just as we have been told repeatedly not to go grocery shopping when hungry, so too must we now consider not going shopping when we're too emotionally charged.  Unless, of course, we won't mind the impact on our pocket-book!!

*social proof - evidence that others are 'doing' it, celebrity endorsements fall into this category.  In general, we look to others behaviour to guide our own.

**Scarcity - the 'only 50 left' strategy.  If something is in limited supply or going quickly we may be more inclined to purchase it for ourselves.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

An interesting body language 'tell' to watch for is what is called 'Eye Blocking Behaviour'. When
someone rubs their eye or places their hand in front of their eyes, this is often a sign of discomfort, disbelief or disagreement. They are distancing themselves from you or the conversation in general by creating a barrier between you and them.

This behaviour is so hard wired into us that people born blind will cover their eyes when they hear things they don't like. This is a behaviour coming from our unconscious, driven by our limbic brain, so it is a good 'tell' to take note of. Know that if someone is agreeing to help you with something, but are engaging in this behaviour, that they are not very happy about doing it. Either respond to their discomfort by letting them off the hook or ensure that you reward and thank them appropriately for helping you out!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dream Less, but Expect More!

We have all been told, on numerous occasions I'm sure, to dream big, that if we can't dream it we can't achieve it.  The cold hard truth is though... Dreaming doesn't make it so.  It turns out that thinking about what we want in life doesn't get us closer to achieving more. However, becoming clear about we 'expect'... will.

The Placebo Effect in medicating and treating individuals is well documented. A patient administered a sugar pill, if they expect it to reduce their pain, will typically experience pain relief. The patient expected the 'drug' they were receiving to be effective, to a certain degree, in reducing their pain and therefore they experienced that degree of pain relief.

In a well-known study students were divided into two groups; high and low IQ. Only teachers were informed which group each student was in. The students knew nothing of the division. After eight months, the High IQ group was performing significantly better than the Low IQ group. However, unbeknownst to the teachers, the students had been randomly assigned to the two groups. The groups actually had no bearing on the actual IQ of the students. Remember also, the students knew nothing about the assigned groups and yet their performance suffered due to the arbitrary classification. The determining factor? The expectations of the teachers themselves. The teachers 'knew' which group each student belonged to and therefore had different expectations for each that unconsciously influenced the results and achievements of each. 

This is big. Think about it for a minute. What you expect of/from others influences what you will likely receive from them. Pretty powerful stuff!

Take this concept and apply it back to the concept of your dreams. We all know that our dreams aren't true. We don't really expect them to occur, we don't hold them as a certainty. Is it little wonder that we don't achieve them? Instead, we have to reframe our dreams as certainties. We have to 'expect' them to occur if we want to truly experience and achieve them. It is through these unshakeable expectations that we continue to persevere, that we continue to move forward. It is this certainty of expectation that helps us to cope with frustration and disappointment along the way. We may experience setbacks but we are better poised to keep going and pushing through when we expect that things will turn around. 

I see this phenomena play out often with coaching clients. It is not unusual for people to express a desire for more, better or different in their lives. However, when questioned about their expectations I find that, although they would like or hope for better, they don't truly 'expect' things to change. As a result, they don't tend to engage in the behaviours necessary to drive the change they want. If you don't expect that your efforts will make a difference, you'll be hard pressed to expense the time and energy into those efforts.

Our expectations are critical to our experienced outcomes. Note that expectancy is a non-conscious process. It is an unconscious prediction that manifests in the conscious mind as a certainty. Hoping for something does not convey that same sense of certainty that expectancy does, therefore you do not feel the same compulsion to invest in making it happen. Expectations drive attitudes and behaviours which, in turn, lead you to engage in actions that drive your desired (expected) results. Hoping or wishing for something does not generate a call to action and therefore you tend to remain safely ensconced in your armchair, surrounding by those unfulfilled hopes.

How does this look?

  • You hope to win a lottery some day but you expect to spend the rest of your life earning $50,000.00 per year. Your current salary? $50,000.00. Typically, research shows us that we each tend to earn the salary that we truly expect that we are worth, that we expect is possible for us.

  • You want that new promotion, but you expect the boss to say no. You're not surprised when that is what they say.

  • You want to lose weight and keep it off but you expect that you will always have to struggle with your weight and yo-yo dieting. Sure enough, you somehow manage to regain those 10 pounds you just lost
Sound familiar?

The difference between wanting or hoping for something and what our true expectations are is the key differential in what we truly experience and receive in our lives. If you truly want something different then you need to build the expectations that will support that desire. Challenge your limiting beliefs and existing expectations, replacing them with those that support those desires and dreams. Otherwise... they will continue to remain simply hopes and dreams, as ethereal and unreachable as the clouds drifting by outside of my window.

In a nutshell...we GET what we EXPECT.  

Was this blog post insightful, interesting and helpful for you?  I expect so!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tip Thursday - Communication

Take care with the way in which you program thoughts into your brain. We often make statements creating a belief that two statements are mutually exclusive - when they needn't be.

For instance, telling yourself that you'd "Rather be happy than wealthy" establishes the belief that you can be one or the other and not both. Your brain then will help you make one true while denying the possibility of the second.

Any time you catch yourself stating that you'd rather be 'X' than 'Y' stop and examine the statement. If you'd actually like to have or be both then say that. Don't create limitations by creating untrue either/or statements. Instead, ensure you program yourself with the best possibilities not just half of 'em!

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Law of Attraction vs. the Law of Action

Ever since the movie and book "The Secret", there has been a surge in books, courses, programs and articles focused on helping you to attract MORE into your life.  More of whatever it is that you desire and want.  The basic premise of the Law of Attraction is, in short, distilled down to two basic statements.
  1. like attracts like
  2. you get what you focus on
Like Attracts Like.  If you want to attract more upbeat, energetic and positive people into your life then you need to start being more upbeat, energetic and positive.  You want more joy, start by being more joyful.  Intuitively, this makes sense.  Surround yourself with more of what you want.

You Get What you Focus on.  Again, this makes a logistical kind of sense.  If I focus my energies and activities around the achievement of something, then it increases the liklihood of my bringing it into my life.  However, many have taken the word 'focus' to imply mental energy only.  They create story boards of their wants, post pictures, and send statements of their wants out to the universe...and then sit back and wait for 'things' to start happening.

Many practitioners and gurus of the the Law of Attraction ebooks and programs would have you believe that these actions alone are sufficient to attract to you what you want.  Yep... spend your money on their programs, sit back on the couch, visualize what you want and...  Nothing!  Why not?  Others have seemingly become wealthy using these techniques.  Their storyboards worked.  Posting a picture of a million dollar bill worked to attract more money into their life.  Why isn't it working for you?

Because... you're missing half of the equation!  Certainly positive change starts with creating a positive mindset and vision.  I'm a strong advocate in the need to create a clear vision of what you want to attract and achieve in your life.  The clearer and stronger the piciture, the better motivator it is.  Therefore the Law of Attraction used properly, becomes a motivational force.

However, to truly realize those visions and fulfill those dreams, you need to couple the Law of Attraction with the Law of Action!  You cannnot affect change, bring something different into your life, if you do not DO different.  What are you willing to do in order to bring more of what you envision to you?

Examine any of the stories behind those that have 'attracted' great wealth, happiness and positive outcomes to themselves and you will discover that each person worked at making it happen.  However, the Law of Action doesn't sell.  We're already working hard.  Working 'more' is not what we're looking for.  We're interesting in getting more, not doing more.  The appeal of the Law of Attraction is the belief that 'thinking' alone will make it so.  That we can make time for... but... Attraction without Action will fail every time.

The true secret behind The Secret though is that once you being to create your vision and storyboards, once you begin to clarify what you want to attract and manifest into your life, you are already implementing the Law of Action.  You are beginning to work your plan, by creating one.  As the vision takes hold and excites you, you will find yourself taking more actions leading you in the direction of your vision.  As you do, you begin achieving more of what you desire, motivating you to continue engaging in the behaviours needed to take you further along the path. 

It doesn't 'feel' like work?  Of course not!  Doing something we love and enjoy never does and perhaps that's the truly magical component, the true 'key' to wealth and happiness...building our lives around what gives us real joy and pride... the rest seems to follow on its own

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

Scientists have identified what they are referring to as the 'Not Face'. This is the expression that
everyone exhibits (across genders, cultures and even with speakers of American Sign Language) when they are communicating 'Not' interested, do 'Not' agree, do 'Not' support this.

Not only is this an expression you will make unconsciously to puncture your 'not' statement, but it is also the expression you make when you are merely thinking 'not'. Watch for this cue at your next business meeting to help you determine whether your colleagues are on board with your idea... or not!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Staying Relevant, a Personal Imperative

Businesses face the continuous challenge of having to remain relevant in the marketplace.  They must
continue to provide products and services that the market wants and needs which means they must be constantly investing time and focus to assessing the future. It is only by reviewing possible future needs that they can prepare today to meet those potential needs The better equipped they are to satisfy those needs, the more successful they will be.

You and I are not so different. We must also look ahead to the future and gauge what skills and abilities the business marketplace will need and prepare ourselves to deliver them. We must assure our relevancy to ensure our employability. Staying relevant is an imperative for each of us if we are to future-proof ourselves for tomorrow's workplace.
We must all Learn for a living if we hope to continue to Earn a living
The continual challenge we all face is to find ways to keep pushing our sell-by-date so that it exceeds our 'need' to work. We must therefore be constantly refreshing our skills but, not just any skills.  We must become more strategic in the skills we grow.

Organizations will typically invest willingly in developing our skills to fill gaps they have today. However, this may not serve us in the future if those skills will one day be redundant. Our time, energy and focus will better serve us by developing skills that will also be relevant in the marketplace of the future.

In ensuring we remain relevant, we must rely on ourselves. We must become ruthlessly selfish in our pursuit of development that will serve us not just in the short-term, but in the long-term also.  We can't make the mistake of solely focusing on increasing our marketability today, if it doesn't serve us tomorrow also. Focusing on building and strengthening our Career Path will not serve us in the long-term if that career is housed within an unsustainable industry. It doesn't matter how far or fast we climb if we are part of a dying industry.

Though there are many tips and hints out there to help you to future-proof yourself, here are a few to get you started...

  1. Develop and maintain a diverse network of contacts.  You want to have connections that span across industries and roles, people that will help you to keep on top of trends and changes in the workplace. You want a variety of opinions and insights to better gauge your best options.
  2. Remain open to new experiences. Though trying anything new expands and stretches us in some way, be more selective. Use your limited time wisely. Not all new experiences will stretch you in a way that prepares you for the future. You may have to actively search out those opportunities that not just allow you to experience new things relative to today's marketplace, but for those that also prepare you for tomorrow's.
  3. Constantly explore what lies ahead. Don't get caught up in putting your head down. You need to continuously explore what's happening in your industry, what's happening in your role. What are the trends, what are the issues, what are the future needs, what are the gaps? Knowing the answers to some of these questions allows you to build capabilities today that will serve you (and others) tomorrow.
  4. Be a digital native. Digital technologies are only going to continue to become more and more integrated into the work that we do. It is important to stay up to date on the latest digital strategies, tools and technologies. 
  5. Personal Brand. Having a recognisable and defined brand helps to draw others to you. Knowing who you are, what you can do and what you stand for creates a trust in your deliverables and helps separate you from the masses.
  6. Leadership skills. Even the marketplace of tomorrow will require leaders, however technology will be changing how we must lead and communicate with others. Leaders will need to possess a dexterity in working with diversity (different countries, cultures, genders, ages) as technology breaks down physical borders. Leaders will need to be more open and transparent in their styles as they create networked teams that collaborate virtually.
It is far too easy for us to get caught up in the work of today that we fail to look forward to what 'work' will be available for us down the road. However, it is those that take the time to look forward that are best situated to ensure their employability. Staying relevant is not a task left to later or to someone else. It is, and should be, a personal imperative and priority. Look forward to what is coming and prepare for it today. Your future self will thank you.