Advanced Communication Skills: Bring People to the Table and Keep Them There

The person who can bring people to the table and facilitate a consensus has influence and power because the pool of people who already agree with and want what you have to offer is relatively shallow. But, if you’re skilled at persuading those who are undecided or even hostile to your point of view, the pool of people you can work with is deep and wide.

If you’re in business – no matter the business – you’re in the business of communication.

In this context, all communication is about persuasion.

Persuasion vs. Manipulation

Everything you say, write, and do should persuade the other party to engage with and eventually work with you in some way, but it’s critical to understand that persuasion is a process that results in them changing their mind from one way of thinking to your way of thinking and that action must be taken in line with that shift.

You can get people to act the way you want without persuading them. People will act against their goals and values when forced or manipulated to do so. We’ve all seen how people who yell, threaten, and subvert can get their way. Force and manipulation are ways to get results and gain power quickly, but that way is never acceptable or a good long-term strategy because as soon as the victim can get away, they’ll revert to their former way of thinking and doing. We all know that once the pressure is off or more information comes to light, the victim of that behavior goes right back to the way they thought about and did things before.

I define persuasion as respectful communication based on pure motives the result of which is an action that benefits all parties.

What’s your move?

Why Persuasion Matters

If you’re self-employed or a salesperson, you must be able to articulate the value of your product or service and make sales.

If you’re a leader in a company or the chair of a committee, you must inspire confidence in those who follow you and empower them to act quickly and enthusiastically to get things done.

Unless you’re selling on price alone, this is not a one-time thing. You must continually be engaged in conversations that demonstrate the value of your proposition and partnership to everyone around you.

Persuasion requires mindful interaction.

People, not Facts, Persuade

Persuasive people understand that facts alone do not persuade. It is how the facts are presented and how well they fit with the other person’s perspective that matters because if the other party views the facts as irrelevant to their situation or the solution presented as too onerous, they’ll look elsewhere for a better solution to their problem.

Worse, if they agree on the facts and solution proposed and are willing to take the action required to solve their problem but do not like the presenter or the idea of entering a strategic partnership with that person, they will go elsewhere. The result of that is frustration and lack of results and possibly income for the presenter/would-be persuader.

Therefore, your communication must be strategic, based on shared values, and solution-oriented. It cannot be those things if you don’t identify the most pressing problem the person you want to work with is facing, what motivates them (personally and morally), and exactly where and how you who you are and what you do overlaps those things.

To identify the needs and wants of the other party, you must gather around the table.

Bring People to the Table

The table can be conversations on social media, email exchanges, phone calls, or in-person meetings. The platform doesn’t matter as much as the interaction that happens when you meet there. To attract people to and keep them at your table, you must demonstrate your professionalism and that you have the social skills to be good to work with.

Here are some tips:

• Find common ground.
• Use language that appeals to the person you’re trying to persuade. For example, when I talk to athletes, I use sports metaphors and language that includes “finish line,” “competition,” “win,” etc. When I talk to a new father or mother, I use words and phrases that connect to their concerns and our shared experience as parents.
• View yourself and your offering from the perspective of the person you’re talking to.
• Anticipate challenges and offer options that address the real obstacles the other party may have implementing your solution.

It is during these conversations that you will come to understand the needs and wants of the other party and how what you have to offer can satisfy both. You will also be building a connection and trust with the other party and offering a solution to their problems. The goal of this stage is agreement. However, verbal agreement alone doesn’t get the job done, nor does it mean you’ve persuaded.

The True Test of Your Powers

A call to action is the true test of your persuasive powers because many humans are agreeable by nature, finding it difficult to challenge others in conversation. However, when it comes to a buying or buy-in decision, something that requires them to act in a way that costs them something, people are more likely to say “no” or put the decision off. This may seem like a failure, but it’s not the end of the discussion. This is an opportunity to ask more questions and to verify that you’ve understood the problem as the other party sees it. It’s an opportunity to creatively solve a problem together using the skills and resources at your mutual disposal.

However, this may also be an indication that you’ve given all you can and should, and now the other person needs time to digest and answer your call to action after they’ve tested your ideas and verified your credibility.

Give People Space to Digest and Reflect

Persuasive people understand that time can be their friend and that high-pressure tactics are the tools of forcers and manipulators. Few people have the stomach to stay at the table with manipulators. Keeping people at the table requires respect and patience.

Always leave a seat at and keep inviting people back to the table because those who return are often the ones who become the most loyal clients and vocal supporters.

Remember, negotiation is a process of communication. Persuasion is a series of small yeses, the result of which is action and long-term, meaningful change.

Whether you’re a board member, executive, committee chair, salesperson, or freelancer, the better communicator you are and the longer you can keep people at the table, the better your chance of creating long-term success for all parties and being recognized by others as a true leader and someone worth working with or buying from.

It’s OK to not be OK: How to work through tough times

tough times

I’ve never been a fan of the ‘How are you doing?’ conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I know that people mean well when they ask this question! But, it’s usually a pleasant way to start speaking to someone, when they are in a good place. This conversation doesn’t really set people up for dealing with ‘you know what… I’m not so great at the moment’. 

Most people have juggled the idea of saying ‘I’m fine’ to just get the conversation over and done with OR telling the truth and admitting that they aren’t in a great place. A lot of the time there’s an internal conflict because we struggle to ask for help, or want to keep up appearances. But ultimately, that’s not sustainable. We all need to rely on our friends and loved ones when things are tough, that’s what they’re there for after all. The one constant in life is that there will be highs and lows that we all have to go through. However, you do not have to do that alone.

So, if you’re fighting your own battles, here are some tips about dealing with tough times and, hopefully, they will help you to accept that it’s OK to not be OK. 

Don’t feel guilty about sharing

Guilt is a strong emotion and when you’re going through a tough time, you become more aware that others are also experiencing difficulties that you know nothing about. This can be one of many reasons that stops us from opening up and sharing with the people who truly care. You have no reason to feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings. There are people in your life who care and want to know when you aren’t at your best so they can step in and be there for you. Remember, you deserve to be looked after too. 

Find someone you trust and start talking

When you’ve managed to get past the feeling of guilt, think about the people who you really trust and lighten the load by talking to them about what you’re going through. The closer you are to that person, and the more you feel you can trust them, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel. 

 Learn to say no

Having time to yourself is equally important as helping others. A bit of time out can do you a world of good, so again, don’t feel guilty about saying no. Taking time out to clear your mind and channel your energy into the things that you care about gives you the opportunity to focus on the things that make you happy. 

 Pay attention to your self talk

During periods of high stress, you need to be kind to yourself. That means positive self-talk and accepting that you need time to bounce back. Challenge any negative self-talk that you catch yourself saying and offer more supportive ones. 

There are many more things you can do to take care of yourself during tough times, but starting with these can put you in the right direction. Stay strong!

Celebrating Each Other’s Success

We have got to get out of the “win-lose” mindset and start celebrating each other’s success. Some of us are there, but I still see it as being so incredibly prevalent, particularly in the workplace. If someone you work with succeeds, that’s (not necessarily) a direct correlation to you losing (your job, a promotion, etc.). I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’m saying the chances of it happening must be smaller if we work together instead of competing against each other all the time.

I know, “collaboration” has become such a (barf!) buzzword. What I’m really talking about is about making space for others to come up around you. We have got to stop stepping on each other and being afraid of others’ success. Getting even more specific, I’m talking about white women not being afraid of the success of anyone who doesn’t look like them – and speaking of women of color and minority backgrounds, in particular. Seriously. If you’re guilty of this, it needs to stop. As a white woman, I am telling you – other white women – that you will be amazing if you allow women who are not like you and don’t look like you to enter your spaces, take your place on panels, speak at conferences, and be part of your mastermind groups.

Next time someone is looking for a speaker, recommend a woman of color (and not only to speak on diversity topics!). Are you not sure where to start?

I’ve got some suggestions for you.

(Click through to find each woman on Twitter!)

Amber Lee – Lifestyle, Blogging, Millennial women, Health & wellness, Entrepreneurship

Angela Hemans – Twitter marketing, Marketing, Building your brand online

Antoinette Minor – Podcasting, Entrepreneurship

Contrecia Tharpe – Branding, Communications, Marketing, PR

Eulanda Shead Osagiede – Travel, Entrepreneurship, Living your best life

Faiza Yousuf – Building communities for women, Technology, Coding

Gennette Cordova – Philanthropy, Activism, Nonprofits, Empowerment

Jade Phillips – Entrepreneurship, Branding

Jasmine Powers – Digital Strategy, Marketing

Joy Donnell – Writing, Branding, Public Speaking

Kali Wilder, Sirita Wright, and Safon Floyd of EstroHaze – The cannabis industry, Entrepreneurship

Kavita Chintapalli – Social media strategy, Ending violence against women

Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD – Healthcare, Public health, Health literacy, Health tech

Melissa Kimble – Relationship building, The creative movement, Branding, Writing

Nora Rahimian – The music biz (production, best practices, etc.), Women’s rights, Activism, Art as a vehicle for social change

Sabrina Medora – The culinary world, Entrepreneurship, Branding, Marketing

Sherese Maynard – Healthcare, Healthcare IT, #WomenInHIT

This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible, talented, powerful women of color doing amazing work in the world. Let’s keep it growing! Tweet me at @AnOrchidInBloom and let me know who you’d like to add.

Personal Branding: 5 Steps to Success

Branding is more than just a concept that large organisations should be aware of. We live in a world where at the click of a button, you can find out what people do for a living, for who and (if they’ve thought about this enough) why they do what they do. Now the real question is, what do you want people to say and think of you? Or even better, what is already out there?

Anyone can now develop a finely tuned personal brand and become established in their field of work. This takes time, effort and thought. You have a voice of your own and have an opportunity to contribute as a leader in your field. Your brand is the recipe for your success as it can be the difference between people genuinely remembering who you are. And it is always worth investing the time in developing your brand so that you’re in control of the narrative. So with that in mind, here are a few tips for shaping your personal brand.

Find the right platform

First things first. If you’re going to start working on your personal brand, you need to understand where your ideal audience is to start working on your online presence. Whether that is through a personal website, Twitter, LinkedIn or events, you need to know where these people come together to speak about the things that matter to them. That way, you can be present and start to build relationships with the people who are sharing their opinions and could potentially hold some influence.

Be a valuable source of information

Every piece of content that you share or create serves a purpose. From the articles that you write to the quotes that you post, they should be adding value to the conversation that you are taking part in. Search engines and social media platforms are already full of a never-ending stream of content. The last thing you want to do is just add to the noise!

Practice what you preach

Consistency and authenticity are key with all brands, whether they be people or large organisations. But before you ask anyone else to follow a particular path or take an action, you should be doing so yourself. The purpose of a personal brand is to amplify the values that you stand for and that can only happen when you are matching the expectations that you have set.

Use your voice

Trying to be something that you’re not, or who you think other people want you to be, is a recipe for disaster. But, more often than not, people do this without realizing. You have to uncover what it is that you stand for and that means taking the time to really think it through and asking yourself thought provoking questions. Ask people around you what they hear when you speak – often they can see elements that you may miss.

Accept and embrace imperfections

Perfect doesn’t exist for a reason. It’s unattainable, unreal and most importantly unrelatable. People are influenced and inspired by the people that they can relate to; the people who they see a piece of themselves in. And that’s why it’s important to show the unpolished side of yourself. The side that makes mistakes, hits road blocks and occasionally feels demotivated. Because that way, you can show that you overcame all of those challenges to get to where you are right now. People like fighters, and your imperfections can prove that you are just that.

Why I Split My Website in Order to Streamline My Business

A box of office supplies

When confronted…Well…confronted is too strong a term…Let me begin again….

When some boss friends confided that the religious undertones in my website were a turn-off, it became a concern for me. They admitted that if they didn’t know me already, they would worry about being judged, preached to, or that I would try to convert them into nuns standing on street corners, in a sandwich board, screaming lines from Exodus. (Can you picture it?)

I am a United Methodist through and through BUT I don’t preach and don’t judge when talking to my clients (although, I have cussed out my computer and bad drivers from time to time). A while after I met my boss friends, they learned that I have a strong faith and want to help churches and faith-based organizations spread their word, their work, and their good. I also want the local bread shop, barber, tattoo artist, or any other small business to succeed. I don’t believe that a church has to work strictly with a faith-focused business and also that a secular business can’t work with a Christian business owner. We should all be able to work together to make the client’s goal a success no matter if we are Bible thumpers or Marilyn Manson concert goers (great concert by the way.  A bit too long between costume changes, but great show!). We should be able to see the business’s or organization’s vision and help it come to virtual reality.

Everybody get together try to love one another right now.

As a digital marketing specialist, I thought it would be smart to create a second website called Covered-Dish.com. Covered-Dish.Com focuses on digital marketing and web design for faith-based organizations. On my original website, PetreyDish.com, I removed all mentions of faith. Well, almost all. I kept some details in my bio.

Here’s why I split my business (web-wise) in two

Major reasons:

• Clarify target market
• Remove possible confusion
•Remove religious undertones
• Strengthen religious tones

Minor reasons:

• Better SEO
• Better targeting for faith based groups
•Prevent secular businesses from being biased (no preaching or quoting
scripture here!)

Katey at work
(Photo credit: Sarah Kane Photography)

Does it take twice as much time to market?

Surprisingly… No! Yes, I did create a separate Facebook Page and Instagram account. I’m not really focused on those at this time, but they are there and I post sporadically. When I do spend time on social media marketing, it takes about ten extra minutes. Hootsuite has been a great help with that. Hootsuite allows me to schedule out posts in advance so when the ideas are flying and get knock them out and get them scheduled. I also make sure to spread them out so it’s not ten posts one week and then nothing for the next two weeks. Some consistency is important.

I am focusing more on the websites for now. Using the same article, I can change “business” to “church” or “faith based organization” and change “clients” to “community” to create two different pieces. One for each site. I also reword the content a little so it’s not exact because Google is a smart bot and doesn’t like it when posts are too similar.

No, I didn’t get a second business license. I did not set up a second billing system. I do not have a separate location or a different pet to have in the office for my Covered-Dish.Com clients. For clarity and to appease the Biblically sensitive, I made a simple change in marketing strategy and use the same email on both websites. Have my main site and marketing more secular and have a second site be more Peace, Love, and Joy. Now go and be blessed.

Can’t we all just get along?
For crying out loud!
Come on!

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

The Difference Between Being Busy And Productive

There is a difference between having a lot of things to do and getting a lot done. But, we’re often told that being busy must mean that you’re productive.

Wrong.

Productive by definition means “achieving a significant amount or result,”while busy is “having a great deal to do or keeping oneself occupied”. The very difference between the two is that productivity produces results. Being busy just means using (or in some cases wasting) a lot of time and probably not getting the end result that you’re looking for. So how do you know if you’re really being productive? Here are 7 ways to determine whether you’re good at keeping yourself busy, or super productive.

1. Busy people find it hard to prioritize. Productive people have (only a few) priorities.

We’ve all heard someone say ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’, I’m sure you’ve even caught yourself saying it a few times (I know I’m guilty🙋🏾‍♀️). How would you feel if I said there is no such thing as being too busy?

If a task, project or objective is important to you, you will find a way to incorporate it into your timeline. Having three or four priorities allows you to stay focused and work towards achieving the desired result. Having 20 priorities creates a headache and doesn’t give you time to complete anything. So when you find yourself running out of time, ask yourself if you have prioritised too much.

2. Busy people have “things to do”. Productive people have a mission to complete.

Busy people hide their lack of focus by creating a longer list of things that should be done. There isn’t a sense of direction in their actions, just a multitude of things that consume their time.

Productive people are on a mission. Their actions are driven by the conscious decision to achieve a particular result and everything that they do is geared towards it.

3. Busy people always say yes. Productive people know the power of saying  no.

Busy people often over promise and under deliver. In their attempt to fit more into their never-ending to-do list, they take on projects and make promises that simply can’t be kept. They often do this with the best of intentions(after all we can’t complain about the person who wants to help everyone). But you also have to know when it’s time to help yourself, and that comes with knowing when to say no.

Productive people understand that time is of the essence and that, to produce quality work, they need to have time and space. They say no, not to upset people, but because they’re aware of their limits. Because sometimes you have to be a bit selfish to get things done.

4. Busy people focus on “doing”. Productive people gain clarity before taking action.

Documenting your decisions can be one of the best things that you can do. It allows you to clearly understand how your actions are having an impact on your life and what you need to do in order to progress. Taking mindless action doesn’t produce a lot of results. We live in a world where people are more interested in updating Instagram than they are proactively monitoring their personal growth. Don’t fall into the trap. Make sure that everything you do is inspired by your personal mission.

5. Busy people have too many options. Productive people focus on a few.

Everyone goes through a stage of wanting to do it all: to travel, save money, move out of home, get a degree, learn a language or get promoted at work. However, you do get to a point where focus becomes a necessity. You may want to do all of those things, but it is impossible to do them all at once. If this year, I want to start saving for a deposit on a flat, it’s probably not the best time to book flights to travel the world. So make sure that you know what you have to trade off in order to get what you’re aiming for. Remember there has to be some short term sacrifice for long term gains.

6. Busy people talk about time flying past. Productive people talk about what they’ve achieved.

As they say: work hard in silence and let success make the noise. Busy people might have a lot to do and not too much to show for it. Not because they aren’t capable of doing better, but because they are channelling their energy into for too many things.

Productive people can tell you exactly what they have achieved in the past few days, weeks or months because progress is their aim.

7. Busy people multitask. Productive people find their focus.

Focus can do so much for you.

In theory, multitasking seems like a great idea. Why not kill two (or more) birds with one stone? It sounds like you’re getting double the amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. But, what it really means is that you don’t finish many tasks because your time has been divided. Productivity is completing a task to a high standard and doing that requires focus.

There are plenty of great ways to do this. If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique – check it out! You set a timer to 20 minutes and the aim is to focus on one thing and should you get distracted (by checking your phone, running off to get water, surfing the net), you have to reset the clock. Brutal? Maybe. Effective? Most definitely.

Think about how much you could achieve when you’re being productive. Don’t allow your potential to go to waste by consuming your time with ‘busy’. Instead of focussing on how much you have to do, focus on how completing each task will bring you one step closer to achieving your goal.

Entrepreneurship Rising: Embrace Your Corporate Job While You Wait

Business Woman

So many people are fed up with their corporate jobs and seek to start their own business. You want to get out on your own for your passion project or the thing you know will bring in more money than working in the corporate world. Entrepreneurship is calling. I get it! Been there and done that. What most people don’t realize is that you can learn a lot about starting a business from your corporate job. Embrace what you have while you wait because there are so many lessons to be learned and used from your current position on your entrepreneurial journey. 

When I started my own business I didn’t necessarily see myself leaving the corporate world. I always thought that I would be a professional and a professional side hustler at the same time. Well, the funny thing is that I’ve changed my mind. Throughout my corporate life, I have been receiving all of these opportunities to learn about business without always knowing they’re setting me up for my future goals.

Let me explain!

Many of the concepts I’ve learned in the corporate world are transferable to running my own business when it comes to the overall idea of entrepreneurship. For example, if you are in customer service, you should be soaking up all of the training you’re receiving from your current job in order to best serve your customers at your own company in the future. If you’re responsible for training at your corporate job, learn to be the best at it because you will eventually be training your own staff.

Here are some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my corporate career that have played a hand in starting my own business.

 

Sales

During my time in business development, I was fortunate enough to take a Dale Carnegie sales class. If you know anything about Dale Carnegie, then you know the classes are informative, powerful and…expensive. This 8 week, $1,800 series was not something my little pockets could pay for at the time. Let’s be honest, I would struggle to pay that now!

The workshops in this series taught me public speaking skills, how to close a sale, how to network, and even the proper guidelines for following up with a lead. Of course, all these skills were necessary for the role I held with my previous employer. But it as paid off – A LOT. These skills translated very well into my current role. In my own business, I have the know-how and the confidence to pitch clients and land successful deals. Everything I learned was worth its weight in gold.

Even if it’s not a Dale Carnegie class, I encourage everyone to take a sales course in order to learn how to present yourself and close any deal!

 

Analyzing Data

What’s that Jay-Z lyric? Oh yeah. “Numbers don’t lie.” As a business owner, it is imperative to know how to analyze data. You have to know your past, current, and future standings. Whether you’re looking at your business revenue or the results of your services, you have to know!

The proof is in the pudding. When you can show the results in numbers, it helps close the pitch and also demonstrates the success of your efforts. For example, if I can show my clients that I’ve been able to successfully grow their social media accounts by a certain percentage within a specific time frame and that I’m meeting the goals we’ve set, that gives the client an idea of my importance and value to their business. This is why they NEED me and need to keep PAYING me. Understand what I’m saying?

 

Networking

Networking is like going to the gym. You hate it, you don’t want to do it, but you push through and make it there anyway. Go you! Sometimes you complain through the workout but, when you leave, there is a feeling of accomplishment. If you network and make a good connection – even just one – it feels even better.

I had the opportunity to go to as many networking events as I wanted in a previous position. This opportunity taught me the art of climbing social ladders and developing genuine business relationships.If you have the opportunity to network or even take meetings with those you typically wouldn’t have a chance to interact with at your company, do it! That person or group of people may be a huge benefit to the business you will run in the future.

Knowing how to network is also a great idea because it gives you a chance to expand your knowledge from those outside of your lane. As an entrepreneur, your favorite kind of person needs to people who help people. And you need to be one. What connections are you making? What opportunities are you taking? How are you constantly learning?

 

Now, put these things to task

These three areas of opportunity are just topics I stumbled upon. I wasn’t focused on entrepreneurship at the time. Now, I specifically ask to see what I need to know. For example, I now have a pretty good relationship with someone in the marketing department at work. I plan to ask this person to take the time to go over Facebook ads with me. I need to dive into this particular world and the information is sitting right there for FREE! You know I’m not going to pass up that opportunity.

Don’t be scared to ask. If something you want or are interested in is outside of your current role, volunteer and give a helping hand in the area you wish to discover. Everybody needs help and by helping you’ll learn more. In this case, you’d be doing someone a favor in rturn by helping with their workload (and doing yourself a favor in the learning department, too).

I say all this to say that the business or businesses you currently work for had to start somewhere, just like you. They are most likely using tried and true tactics when it comes to hitting business goals (and if they’re not, it may be time for you to seek a new opportunity!). Your journey is your journey for a reason. Don’t miss the gems in front of you by being an antsy pants and only negative about your corporate job. Think big picture and beyond the desk you’re sitting at. Take it all in and focus on learning the things that will ultimately make you the greatest success at your business.