I just came back from the National Speakers Association annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Bringing one of my kids to NSA’s fantastic concurrent youth conference adds a whole new dimension to my experience.For instance, one of the highlights of my trip was attending an Arizona Diamondbacks game with my son. I’m not a Diamondbacks fan, but I enjoyed watching several outstanding players. When Luis Gonzalez came up to bat, my son said, “Watch his stance, Mom. It’s unusual, but it works for him!” Four seconds later, Gonzalez hit a homerun.
“How many little league coaches do you think told Luis to change his stance?” I asked.
“That’s the trick, Mom,” he answered. “Knowing when to listen to your coaches, and when to do what feels right for you.”
Another high point was the NSA awards program. I sat enthralled as the coveted annual CPAE awards were presented to five outstanding NSA members for their material, style, experience, delivery, image, professionalism, and communication. For a speaker, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime recognition of excellence.
One winner is an accomplished photographer. He uses his amazing images to transform audiences. I wonder how many times he was told he could never make a living taking pictures. I also wonder how many people would have been able to envision a business that combined photography and speaking.
Another recipient was one of my mentors, who reaches out to others by telling stories about her life. Her real life. One time she made a presentation wearing a bathrobe and slippers because she wanted to begin on a humorous note. In her acceptance speech, she talked about balancing her profession with her family. I wonder how many times she heard people say she wouldn’t be viewed as a professional if she revealed so much of her self.
No matter what their fields, outstanding professionals often seem to follow similar recipes for success: They learn from others, they graciously accept training and feedback, and they hold tightly to their uniqueness.
How does your uniqueness fit with your profession and expertise? Whether it’s your stance, your bedroom slippers, or your photographs, what do you offer that is yours and yours alone? What’s your recipe?
Have you learned the “trick”?
Driving on a long car trip with my adult son Josh is always a pleasure. Josh’s myriad of interests coupled with his loquaciousness makes for a pleasant journey. Travelling on Interstate 81, we were discussing pollution, global warming, poverty and the gravitational pull of the universe, to name just a few of the light topics.
Our discussion of poverty moved to income disparity, which led to salary inequality. Josh said that researchers have proven that employees who ask politely and professionally are granted more raises. Assuming that an employee asks once or twice a year, over a 40 year employment history, those increases of 1 to 2% can and do make a substantial difference.
Only half of the employed population has ever asked for a raise, according to PayScale.com.
We started discussing “If employees have this information, and they supposedly want more money, why don’t they ask?”
At this point, my daughter Katie, who we thought was sleeping, piped up, “Because their parents don’t teach them to ask for the ketchup.”
“Yeah, when I go out to dinner with friends, they don’t ask for the ketchup. They won’t even ask for a fork if they don’t have one.”
Katie continued, “They’re so afraid that they won’t be viewed as ‘nice’ that they won’t even ask.”
So, is asking for the ketchup a transferable skill? Are teenagers who can politely ask for the ketchup in a restaurant better equipped as young adults to ask for a raise? I think so and I am proud of Katie for seeing the correlation.
One of the questions I have for all of us is, do we consistently and appropriately ask for what we need and want in our work? If not, why not? If you don’t feel comfortable in these situations, practice helps. If you’re not teaching your children or your employees these skills, it’s time to start.
And if you are one of those people who ask for the ketchup, the mustard, the mayonnaise, the relish, the steak sauce and can you bring them all in fresh unopened bottles, there will be a different newsletter for you in the future.
Are you asking politely for what you professionally deserve?
A few days ago, my friend posted a picture of the most beautifully decorated dorm room I have ever seen. It looked like a catalog ad. Knowing my friend, she placed as much effort and thought into preparing her daughter emotionally for college as she did in helping her decorate her room. She has always been a devoted and thoughtful parent.
Since I’m not busy this year buying comforters and setting up bank accounts, I decided I would compile advice for parents of college students. Having made the transition twice, I consider myself a quasi expert. Below are my musings…
Whether you are looking forward to your child being out of the house, or dreading it, or a combination of the two, there’s a lot of change going on in your world. Be gentle and accepting of yourself.
If you are old enough to be the parent of college student, you are old enough to remember life without cell phones. It was cumbersome to call home when we went to college. We may have used one central phone. We may have paid a fee for every minute we spoke; we may not have had privacy. Unless your child is studying in a remote and foreign land, it will be easy for him or her to call home.
Then again – just because it is easy to call, doesn’t mean it will happen. If you want to be called often, be a friend worthy of calling. That’s right, a friend. If you are supporting your son or daughter, you can choose the level of responsiveness that you expect with that compensation, but it’s a choice and it should be considered, not assumed.
If you are feeling an incredibly strong urge to give advice, call a different friend. Call someone who’s known you as a friend for say, 20-30 years and will feel comfortable ignoring you. Don’t give this new friend/your son/daughter advice. Remember that this is a new friendship and it is fragile.
If your daughter actually solicits your advice, even then consider stifling yourself. I remember asking my mother for advice once in college and she said, “You have always made wonderful decisions and I know you will continue to make good decisions. I believe in you and I will support whatever you decide.” While I admit that I was frustrated not to have an “easy” answer from Mom, I have remembered her answer for decades; 3 plus decades in fact.
What advice have you been given that has lasted 3 or more decades?