Don’t Share Until You Prepare

Don’t Share Until You Prepare

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Preparation is the key to power. One thing you will find when you talk to powerful people is that they are always prepared. They don’t go into conversations blind. They are well versed in current events and know enough about the world to keep a conversation going.

When it comes to business, knowing what you are talking about helps you articulate what you mean and answer questions promptly and appropriately.

Preparation is important in all facets of work. Here are some perfect examples:

  • When presenting a new idea, it’s so important that you’re not just throwing a random thought out there because anyone can do that. It’s important your idea is well thought out, articulated well, vetted through the appropriate people, are logical and good for the business, and have substantial legs to stand on/back up the idea. I like to play a little game with myself before I present. I present to myself then I think through all the questions that might come up. How does this impact me? How does this impact the business as a whole? Is it easy to accomplish? What resources are needed? Where did this idea come from? What’s the timeline? NOW… include all those answers in your presentation in a simple and succinct format. If your idea is presented in a way that all questions are answered before they even get asked it showcases that you know what you are talking about, have put a lot of thought against the idea, and are passionate about the idea.
  • When giving a presentation it’s important to rehearse ahead of time. Even if it’s alone in your room or to your three your old. Use notecards or cue words to outline what you want to talk about. Time it out. Make sure you are prepared to answer questions. Make sure that your topics line up with your presentation. Not do the same speech without your presentation and only the cards or paper in your hands. You have no idea how many times I have gone to give a presentation and there was a technical issue that made it so that I had to present without my slides. It happens. There will be times when you just must go for it.
  • Going into a confrontation. Confrontation might be too harsh but anytime that you need to argue your point and are trying to get something accomplished. It’s crucial to your success that you have proactively thought through all push back and are prepared to defend every point you make.

Practice makes perfect… or it makes you as close to perfect as you can get. Remember that everyone gets nervous before presentations and it’s normal. Here are a few tips to make you a better presenter:

  • Start with something captivating. If you have a quote or statistic that will make people think twice about the topic that’s always a good place to start. You need to get their attention in a big way right off the bat.
  • Slow down when you talk, take a deep breath, and relax.
  • Make eye contact with the audience or if that freaks you out then look directly at the exit sign or the door at the back of the room.
  • Pay attention to your hand gestures. If you talk with your hands find something you can hold in your hand (a clicker for the projector, a microphone, a bottle of water of even a pen). You are less likely to flail your hands around if you are holding something.
  • Watch how you hold yourself when you get nervous. I realized that when I get nervous, I shift my weight back and forth from foot to foot and I look like I’m dancing so I learned to slowly walk as I talk as it eases my nerves and ensures that the audience doesn’t have to sit through a grueling ballet routine.
  • Break up your presentation and give yourself a minute to catch your breath by including the audience. Ask them questions, have them raise their hand if they agree or if you have time to engage with a member of the audience directly. It takes the spotlight off you for just long enough for you to breathe and then comes back strong.
  • Finally, when you are presenting please don’t read the words on the slides. Your slides should be key visuals that represent what you are going to say. What you say should not be on your slides. If everything I need to know is on your slides, then I shouldn’t have to sit through your presentation.

Avoid Phrases That Make You Seem Weak

Avoid Phrases That Make You Seem Weak

I need to tell you that I’m sorry that this book is um, like so long. It’s literally 52 chapters. I just totally wanted to make a really big impact. Is that okay with you?

This book is 52 chapters. It includes relevant tips and tricks to empower you in your career. Please enjoy.

Which of those two sentences sounds better? One of them also took a lot less time to write because I didn’t have to write with emotion and just stated the facts.

Knowing how to avoid phrases that make you seem weak will in turn make you look buttoned up and confident. If you sound like you know what you are doing, people will treat you like you know what you are doing.

  • “I’m sorry” – Never apologize unless you physically hurt someone. Even if you made a mistake, even a big one, you shouldn’t start with I’m sorry. You will mess up throughout your career. I see you rolling your eyes. I won’t mess up. I will repeat myself If you aren’t making mistakes, then you aren’t learning and growing. It’s going to happen. Unless you were screwing around and caused problems, you shouldn’t have to get down on your hands and knees and grovel for forgiveness every time something doesn’t work out as planned.
  • “I think” – Do you? Really? You think? You use your brain? YES, everyone thinks.
  • “Like” or “Um” – Filler words are the worst. Once you catch yourself doing this one it will drive you crazy until you correct it. It’s easy to get stuck or pause and use a filler word but this can make you sound less intelligent. It’s okay to pause and think when you are talking and if you are giving a presentation it’s okay to take a little break to breathe. It gives you and the audience time to absorb the information and re-engage.
  • “Does that make sense?” – I sure hope it makes sense – you said it. Instead of saying this flip it and say something along the lines of “Let me know if you have any questions”. This ensures that it doesn’t sound like you don’t know what you are talking about but want to make sure that the crowd feels like they can reach out if they are unclear. You’re not unclear – but they might be and that’s okay.
  • “I guess”, “I hope”, “I suppose”, “I believe”, “I feel” – these words are emotional, they aren’t concrete, and they remove all the confidence I had in you going into our discussion. If I have a delivery that needs to be there by Friday, you better not only be hoping it gets delivered. You better know it’s going to be delivered. If I need to meet my quarterly sales goal you best be doing more than just feeling like we are going to make numbers. I always like to think of it like this – if my boss came to me and told me that she believes I will have a job next month – it wouldn’t make me feel confident.
  • “I need” or “I want” – If you are going to use these terms be very clear on the definition of need and want. You need water. You need oxygen. You need food. It drives me crazy when people use these terms because there are a lot of other more professional ways to communicate. Instead of saying “I need the report by July 10th” say “based on the timeline, you will be providing the report on July 10th”. You are not dictating your demands but then you are regurgitating what the team aligned on and making sure everyone stays on track. Business isn’t about your wants and needs. It’s about numbers, dates, and teamwork.
  • “Can you provide a status on the project?” – Of course, they can but that’s vague. If you can flip this statement and make it a bit more specific it will ensure you get the feedback on the specific items, you want to know about. Something along the lines of “Can you advise if all items were ordered and shipped out on time to ensure we meet the expected delivery dates” sounds a lot more specific and shows that you know what the project even is. When people ask for a status most of the time the person responding ends up taking a lot of extra time to outline all the “status” details instead of quickly responding with just the information that is needed.
  • “Just” – Girls just wanna have fun. They don’t just feel like checking in on the status of a project. I’m not sure why this word gets added so often into sentences because almost every time you can remove it without changing the context of your communication (other than making your communication more succinct and direct). I promise you that you are JUSTified in cutting it out.
  • “Really” – Tell me what you want what you really really want. I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want. I want you to stop saying really because it’s really driving me crazy. If you’re not a member of the Spice Girls, then there isn’t a reason to include this word. It doesn’t add anything. It’s really not an important word (would you look at that spell check is telling me to remove it in every instance and “consider using concise language”. Looks like I was right after all.
  • “Can I” – Yes, you can. I am officially giving you permission to do what needs to be done to get the job done. Now stop asking if you have permission to ask questions. This one irks me to no end. Can I just ask how the project is going? Is it in your job description to ask? It makes you sound like you aren’t confident in your role and responsibilities. Additionally, it sounds a little like you’re coming from the farm. If you must ask a question, I recommend kicking it off with a polite “May I”.
  • “Totally”- I’m going to show my age on this one but anytime I hear someone say “totally” there are two things that come to mind. The first is Wayne’s World. The next is Mean Girls. Neither of these is appropriate for the office.
  • “Actually” – The minute that this comes out of your mouth it makes it sound like you are rethinking what you are saying. “Actually, I had a great time.” Instead of not having a great time? If you don’t need it just lose it. “I had a great time”.
  • “Very” – This is a filler word, which is fine, but I like to remove it or replace it with something more substantial to make my communication sound more professional. Instead of saying “The conference was very good.” You can say something like “I had a wonderful time at the conference. The people were a delight and I learned a lot”.
  • “Is that okay with you?”, “Will that work for you?” – I don’t always hate when people say this, but it must be used in the right context. This is another one that makes you sound like you are unsure of yourself. Instead of putting it in their court flip it and say something like “Please let me know if you have any questions”. It’s a simple little change that makes it sound like you are in control.
  • “Literally” – If you are going to use the word literally, then you need to open a dictionary and figure out what it means. I will help you out. Per Webster “in a literal manner or sense; exactly.” Want to see me die a little bit inside? Use the phrase “I was literally just thinking the same thing”.
  • My absolute favorite “this might be stupid but…” and…you’re done. No one can hear what you say after that statement. If it’s stupid don’t even say it…but I bet, it’s not stupid and that it’s a relevant and logical idea.

Also, take some time to look up commonly used words to ensure you are properly using the English language. Suposable and irregardless have NO place in the business world.

Last couple of tips for this section. Avoid cursing and make sure that you understand how to speak in a politically correct manner. There are a lot of phrases and slanguage (aka slang language) that people say that are really offensive and can get you in trouble.

Success is Self-Inflicted

Success is Self-Inflicted

Have you ever been driving down the highway and watched the person in front of you clearly miss their exit? That’s what success is like…

You get in your car with an end destination in mind.

As you continue down the highway, each exit (an opportunity) passes you by.

If you’re on autopilot and just listening to your GPS – you continue to pass each exit without even thinking about it.

If the exit won’t lead you where you want to go, you don’t think twice.

When you start to get closer to your destination, you start to pay more attention to each exit. Is this the one? Nope… okay, is this the one?

Never give your career over to the GPS. I can promise you that Siri does not have your best interest in mind. Every exit, every opportunity should at least be given enough consideration to realize that it’s there. Even if it seems like it’s totally out of reach or unrealistic.

Invest in a Therapist

Invest in a Therapist

You wouldn’t be reading this book if you weren’t interested in personal development. Maybe that’s not true. Maybe you are reading it because a teacher or boss is forcing you too. Regardless, I recommend you give therapy a try.

I’m not talking about hypnosis or any weird modern treatments. I’m talking about good old talking. Having a therapist gives you an impartial party that you can run anything by. It allows you to talk through your issues and unravel your thoughts. It gives you a sacred space to feel open, honest, confidential, and vulnerable.

I grew up in a family that didn’t talk. When they got upset, they went to their room, shut the door, and locked it. Being upset meant that you were living in an uncomfortable no-talk zone. Communication skills were not on the list of things I learned when I lived at home.

When I left home and began relationships with other adults, I would have thoughts and feelings and just bottle them up…forever. I didn’t feel confident sharing my viewpoints or speaking up when I wasn’t happy, for me this just wasn’t an option. It wasn’t allowed.

After eight years in the workplace being forced to do tasks I felt weren’t part of my job description and countless arguments at home where I was passive-aggressive and unable to communicate how I felt, I invested in a therapist (to be honest, a nurse at the doctor’s office recommended it and even let me know that my company covered eight free visits).

Going to therapy was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Once every other week, I spend an hour of my timing discussing my problems and issues that I don’t feel comfortable discussing with anyone else. I talk through them and figure out how to improve or address the situation. I understand myself better, I can address my concerns in the workplace, and I communicate better with my family.

Because I don’t hold all my feelings in, I lash out less often and my overall reputation has improved ten-fold.

I am a better person because I go to therapy.

I spend two hours a month working on myself because I deserve it, and you do too.

Find an Honest Mentor

Find an Honest Mentor

If you are looking to grow in any way shape or form, one of the most crucial things that you can do for yourself is to find someone who won’t lie to you. Someone so brutally honest that they might even scare you a little bit. I’ve had a lot of mentors in the past and while they were all great at helping me become my “best self”, they didn’t challenge me. You need to find a mentor who understands you at a deeper level and who knows what you are capable of at your core. Someone who will guide you, love you, show you what you are capable of but isn’t afraid to rip you a new one if you aren’t reaching your full potential.

I have a two-year-old. He thinks he knows what he wants and when he wants it. Most of the time, he is well mannered, kind, and overall a great kid. I give him compliments for being so good all the time. But what if, when he was doing things, he knew he shouldn’t or even when he was doing things that were bad for him that he didn’t realize were bad for him… what if I just let him. Slowly, his good actions would morph into bad ones. His overall good nature would become crazy and out of sorts. It’s important to find someone that will treat you like a child and force you to act in a way that helps you grow. I’m not talking about someone who will micro-manage you (that is very different). But in order to reach your full potential, you need to find someone who will call you out on all your bullshit.