RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles— The Secret of Our Success

I believe that everyone has something to teach and something to learn at the same time.  At this one-of-a-kind event (no speakers or panelists) our RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles speak for themselves!

Nobody knows everything and everyone knows something. Understanding that we learn from each other in a reciprocal fashion at all times is the first step to growing together. And a powerful incentive to engage with your colleagues for mutual career support.

The power and effectiveness of mutual mentoring surpasses anything you could get from a one-directional mentoring relationship. When both people clearly benefit they both invest in the relationship equally. In other words, leveling the playing field does wonders for everyone involved. Today I share why our mutual mentoring methodology, which infuses our RSM Signature Event, is so successful.

Here's a post on coaching and mentoring to clarify some of the different relationship options.

 

 

At our latest RSM Signature Event, MetLife Conference Center. A partial group of attendees.

At our latest RSM Signature Event, MetLife Conference Center. A partial group of attendees.

Our Mutual Mentoring Methodology

The belief that in life we are all learners and teachers is at the core of our methodology and permeates everything we do. That’s what makes our programs and our events so different and so effective. This methodology is behind our annual Step Up Plus leadership development program during which participants set up RSM Circles in their organizations.  And it’s the centerpiece of our Onsite and Signature events. It helps to make our training self-sustaining.

At the core of our methodology: we are constantly learning from each other. Mutual Mentoring is where it's at.

At the core of our methodology: we are constantly learning from each other. Mutual Mentoring is where it’s at.

Experiential leadership: RSM Signature Event

After months of preparation, the Red Shoe Movement Signature Event 2016 at MetLife Conference Center in Bryant Park, NYC, was gone in a flash. It is an unusual kind of event. No speakers or panelists. No “topic experts.” Our RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles speak for themselves. Literally.

Like many professionals, I’ve attended my fair share of conferences and leadership events throughout my career. Maybe a bit more often than doctors would recommend given that, as a speaker, this is what I do for a living.

There are many outstanding events out there where you are exposed to great, new ideas and make powerful connections. Conferences where you listen to industry leaders and get inspired by amazing role models. Yet, after years of participating both as an attendee and as a speaker, I felt that there was room for a more experiential conference. A professional event the nature of which would elicit curiosity, self-discovery, and empowerment. An exciting experience that would shed light on individuals’ interests and passions, and that would reveal areas of knowledge they weren’t aware of.

So when I founded the Red Shoe Movement, I set out to design a completely different type of leadership event. I wanted to create a situation where people could actually learn from each other. I particularly wanted women to realize how much more they know than they give themselves credit for. I craved an event where the attendees would be the real protagonists. Where there wouldn’t be a division between “the experts” and “the participants.”

We achieved our goal of leveling the playing field at our conference by putting into practice our mutual mentoring philosophy.

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: How to Have a Difficult Conversation led by Lily Benjamin

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: How to Have a Difficult Conversation led by Lily Benjamin

How does the mutual mentoring methodology achieve positive results?

Our event features two rounds of Mutual Mentoring Circles (RSM Circles) where people alternate between playing the role of the expert and the explorer. The facilitator’s role is to keep the conversation going.

This methodology demands that people participate actively, invest plenty of skin in the game, reveal their curiosity about different career concerns, and ask the relevant questions for their own careers that nobody else could ask. The methodology also requires that people share their knowledge and experiences with others, even when they failed. This openness creates a level of trust that fosters a candid exchange. The payoff is huge.

Practically all participants say they walk away with insights that they can immediately apply to their jobs. These are not a list of tips they could get off the Internet. They are insights people discover about themselves that generate behavioral and attitudinal changes. The best part is that once internalized, the mutual mentoring methodology carries beyond the RSM Signature Event.

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: Your Brand Already Exists, facilitated by Cosette Gutiérrez.

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: Your Brand Already Exists, facilitated by Cosette Gutiérrez.

Granted, this approach is not for everyone. Our feedback surveys often reveal a few people who would have preferred “topic experts” to facilitate our Mutual Mentoring Circles. Having speakers who present their topics with a Power Point. Panel discussions. Facilitators who capture key learnings on flip charts. And there’s nothing wrong with preferring that kind of conference. It’s just not what we do.

Our Facilitators

From Left to Right (standing, kneeling and standing): Stephen Palacios, Jolanta Kordowski, Johanna Torres, Mariela Dabbah, Cosette Gutiérrez, Ali Curi and Lily Benjamin.

From Left to Right (standing, kneeling and standing): Stephen Palacios, Jolanta Kordowski, Johanna Torres, Mariela Dabbah, Cosette Gutiérrez, Ali Curi and Lily Benjamin.

Our RSM Circles’ facilitators are high-level executives from large organizations who honor us with their participation. They are specifically trained in our methodology. Their mandate during these conversations is to leave their “expert hat” at the door and to adopt the role of the curious explorer. An experience they cherish so much, they keep coming back year after year to facilitate at this annual conference.

This year’s star facilitators were:

Lily Benjamin, SVP, Leadership Development & Transformation, U.S. Trust, Bank of America.

Ali Curi, President, Hispanic Professionals Networking Group (HPNG.)

Cosette Gutiérrez, VP, Operations & Social Responsibility, DonorsChoose.org.

Jolanta Kordowski, AVP, Organizational Effectiveness, MetLife.

Stephen Palacios, General Manager, VP, Lieberman Research Worldwide.

Johanna Torres, Editor-in-Chief, MamasLatinas.com.

Action planning session and beyond

After two rounds of Mutual Mentoring Circles, our event attendees participate in an insightful Action Planning session. It’s the chance to put pen to paper and work through some concrete career goals. After all the conversations that have been taking place, it’s time for some introspection. And then, everyone has the opportunity to partner with someone to practice mutual mentoring after the day’s activities come to an end.

Setting up career goals during the Action Planning Session

Setting up career goals during the Action Planning Session

Our Q&A with a top female leader

In addition to our Mutual Mentoring Circles, for our RSM Signature Event we invite a successful leader to share how she made it to where she is in her career. And you couldn’t ask for a more candid leader than Marta L. Tellado. Marta shared the career trajectory that led to her current position as CEO of Consumer Reports, the largest consumer advocacy organization in the world. Ali Curi interviewed her and then turned it over to the audience. And in typical Red Shoe Movement fashion, we then had Marta ask questions of the audience. This is how mutual mentoring works. An even playing field at all times. As an explorer, what did Marta want to ask the audience? “What do you find most fascinating and most challenging about the American corporate culture?”

Ali Curi interviews Marta Tellado, CEO, Consumer Reports

Ali Curi, President HPNG,  interviews Marta Tellado, CEO, Consumer Reports

The fun part

Alexandra Contreras of Colgate-Palmolive picks up her Farylrobin shoes (while wearing another pair she won last year!)

Alexandra Contreras of Colgate-Palmolive picks up her Farylrobin shoes (while wearing another pair she won last year!)

And of course, we wouldn’t be true to our name if there weren’t some actual shoes involved, right? So to help more people celebrate #RedShoeTuesday, we gave away dozens of pairs of red shoes during early registration and at the event. They were two styles specially designed for the Red Shoe Movement by our great partner, Farylrobin.

We also raffled LolaRamona shoes and, this year for the first time, we gave away red ties! As the number of male attendees grows, we want to make sure they have the right accessory to support women’s career growth in style.

Winner of a Cyberoptix tie

Winner of a Cyberoptix tie

It’s been a fabulous year! And next year will be even better. I can’t wait to see you at our next event!

Testimonials of our attendees

Hear first hand what participants had to say about the event.

If you want to bring this level of engagement to your organization, let us know. Our RSM Onsite Event is the in-company version of the RSM Signature Event. ‘Till next time!

Art of Self-Promotion – Principles, Strategies & Your Script

The art of self-promotion, is essential for success. Find out the main principles that rule this leadership competency, the winning strategies and how to create an influential conversation about your value.

In my last self-promotion post we discussed how essential a leadership competency it is. Today, I’m sharing with you insights on the art of self-promotion than few people reveal. Let’s get started.

Part of mastering the art of self-promotion is to learn to include the contributions of others as you naturally weave-in yours in a conversation.

Part of mastering the art of self-promotion is to learn to include the contributions of others as you naturally weave-in yours in a conversation.

Principles to Help you Embrace the Art of Self-Promotion

The art of self-promotion is strongly anchored in your personal brand. And in order to brand yourself you must first understand your personality, passions, interests, and talents. Performance alone won’t speak for itself. Self-promotion is a leadership competency that is essential for communicating your talent and establishing your credibility.

  1. First, ‘know thyself’ – Understand your personal value proposition. Authenticity is the foundation of the art of self-promotion. It provides you with the confidence you need to communicate the value you add to the organization. A little later, I will provide an exercise to allow you to write a clear script that identifies your strengths in ways that speak to the language of business outcomes. Your personal value proposition should be complimentary to the business needs, and in alignment with others’ goals and interests. Including others on your self-promotion formula can help you minimize, or avoid, resentment. Your personal value proposition should encompass past achievements, current impact, and future potential contributions.
  1. No one climbs Everest alone – There is a myth that self-promotion means to advocate for oneself. In other words that it’s about stating ‘just the facts/ just MY facts’. But the reality is that there are a variety of different methods you can use to showcase your talents. Speaking about your teams’ accomplishments is another effective way to expand your own leadership and gain visibility. By doing so, you indirectly showcase your judgment, decision-making skills, and contributions while you promote others.

5 Key Strategies to Ace the Art of Self-Promotion

To strategically, and healthily self-promote, as well as endorse and promote others consider these actions:

1Personal Board of Directors (Sponsor, Mentor, and a Peer Advisor): Create a group of support to ensure you have people with your best interest in mind who can help you build and promote your personal brand. Personal branding is about people’s perception of you. Of the image you project. You don’t need to do it alone. Your Sponsor is a champion, your Mentor is a guide, and your Peer Advisor is a consultant that sees you in action and gives you feedback to keep you honest and in alignment with your goals.

  • Sponsor: strategically seek the support and championship of someone with a position of authority and visibility to help you build awareness of your accomplishments. Someone who believes in you and fights for your legacy.
  • Mentor: strategically select someone to advice you on how to navigate the culture of the organization, identify key relationships to foster, and coach you on how to be effective. Someone who encourages and guides you to take calculated risks (such as accepting stretch assignment to display your potential.) Someone who can celebrate your boldness and who helps you recover when something doesn’t go as planned.
  • Peer Advisor: choose a colleague with whom you have frequent interactions and sees you perform in most aspects of your job. This is a person with a clear understanding of your role and responsibilities, including your cross-functional and multidisciplinary expertise. This person also needs to be clear about your goals and the support and guidance your Sponsor and Mentor provide in order to give you just-in-time feedback on how you are doing. This person is your “guardian angel,” someone you trust enough to be vulnerable with.

2Networking: attend professional events and make strategic and meaningful connections. Seek opportunities to share and collaborate in these forums. Actions speak louder than words, assuming an active role in these forums (being a panelist, facilitating a workshop, committing to a speaking engagement, etc.,) will allow you the opportunities to display your talents. This is a chance for people to learn about you in an indirect and modest way. One last note: Make sure to reciprocate if you rely on other people to give you a boost!

3Buddy System: establish a group of colleagues or friends with a shared goal of supporting and promoting one another. (This is at the core of the Red Shoe Movement Principles and what their methodology is all about.) This could be done in meetings, social media, and professional networks. You can support the effort by publicizing each other’s wins. All of this can be done in the spirit of promoting one another, but also of sharing knowledge.

4Passive: this is a subtle way to “feature” your accomplishments. Display awards, prices, recognitions, important degrees or certification in strategic places in your workstation. When you do it in good taste it becomes a quiet endorsement of your brand. Keep a professional bio available. Have a concise, yet relevant profile describing your qualifications in social media platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs, etc.

5Just the Facts: this is how most people know about self-promotion. But “just the facts” it’s not only about giving a “speech” where you talk about your accomplishments. Weaving the facts into a conversation can be a very effective yet subtle method of self-promotion. (See an example below.)

For your personal brand to have a positive impact it must be authentic. That provides the foundation to talk about your value.

For your personal brand to have a positive impact it must be authentic. That provides the foundation to talk about your value.

A Winning Script to Effectively Share Your Value

Now that you have the principles and the strategies, here is a suggested three-prong self-promotion script to help you effectively communicate and showcase “just the facts.”

  1. State the current paradigm (the business challenge and/ or potential )
  2. Determine how to introduce the challenge into a “boast.”
  3. Make the boast, and give credit where credit is due!

Example of a Three-Prong Self-Promotion Script:

Rebecca, I just successfully closed the mega-deal with XYZ Company we’ve been working on for sixe months. It was not easy, as they are strong negotiators, but with the support of our research team, I drove home a $10 million dollars deal.

Notice the emphasis on your strength in handling a difficult negotiation, the inclusion of your team, and your ability to close a deal that will have a great impact on the bottom-line.

Final Words on Self-Promotion

Self-promotion is strongly anchored in your personal brand

Self-promotion is strongly anchored in your personal brand so it’s critical to understand who you are before you talk about your value.

The art of self-promotion is critical for one’s success no matter what your position in the organization. A word of advice, it takes practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect and it gives you confidence. Think about this: Professional salespeople make hundreds of sales calls a day. This constant repetition makes selling less scary. Similarly, the more you practice, the more natural your self-promoting becomes.

Remember to talk about outcomes, be matter-of-fact, make your self-promotion relevant, draw future applications, and individualize your accomplishments while including others!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Male Dominated Occupation Captain Kate is Queen

Kate McCue is the first female American Captain of a mega ship. In a male dominated occupation, Captain Kate is at the helm of the Celebrity Summit. A 965-foot-long, 91,000 gross tonnage, luxury cruise-ship. And she’ll rock your boat!

She could’ve been a cruise director, her dream when she was a child. But her dad suggested she could “drive the thing.” And he reminded her of that long-ago conversation when it came time to go to college. He encouraged her to apply to California State University Maritime Academy, where there were 15 men to each woman. And only 8 girls in her graduating class.

What’s fascinating about Kate is that she started her career at the bottom, as an Apprentice Officer 3rd on a training ship and banana boat. In an occupation known for being predominantly male, she worked her way to the top by working hard, establishing strong relationships and smiling a lot.

Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.

Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.

How did it feel the first time you sat at the head of the Celebrity Summit as the captain?

When I took over the Celebrity Summit as Master, there is only one word that comes to mind: “EPIC”! It was the culmination of the dream, the hard work, and years of hope coming to fruition and it felt larger than life.

Do you feel a sense of added responsibility being the first female American captain of a mega ship? Is there something you must prove being a woman in a male dominated occupation?

Many are surprised to hear that I have always worked with women in this industry, whether they were my senior officers, my peers, or my apprentices. I am not alone and only on very rare occasions did I find myself as the solo female presence on the bridge.

One of the secrets to success, regardless of gender, is the ability to do your job, do it well, and do even more than what is expected. Then there is no way you can’t succeed.

Don't miss another great piece on a male dominated occupation: Bia Figueiredo, race car driver.

From the get go, you said you wanted to be a very visible captain. (And judging from your passengers’ comments you are!) How much of a leader’s role is staying in touch with her clients and her team?

Safety is and will always be the number one priority.

The ability to understand what your team, your guests and your ship need or want is imperative. Being a visible captain means that I am accessible for open communication and constant feedback, which makes a more cohesive environment.

"Safety is and will always be the first priority," says Captain Kate who is known for begin very friendly with passengers and crew.

“Safety is and will always be the first priority,” says Captain Kate who is known for begin very friendly with passengers and crew.

What kind of leader are you?

I strive to be an approachable manager who can reach out to others with warmth and sincerity. Besides being quick to offer a smile, the most valuable contributions, as a manager, are the commitment to teamwork, empathy, and the ability to connect with others.

What traits are clear advantages you bring to a male dominated occupation?

Before becoming a Captain I was sent to Sweden for a Marine Profile, which is a series of psychological tests, specifically for mariners. The results surprised me as I was diagnosed with excessive tendency to smile, even under the pressure of the tests. Many people will tell you that if you smile too much, you won’t be taken seriously. I found the contrary because a genuine smile breaks the ice, makes people feel comfortable, instills trust, and is contagious. I have even read that smiling can be a more effective leadership technique than having great management abilities.

Hear Rosemary Rodriguez talk about being a film director, a male dominated occupation.

What are some of the aspects of your personality or your style that you’ve had to adjust for this role?

On the way up the ranks, I liked to do it all. However, when I was promoted to Captain, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it all myself. I needed help. I had to share the responsibility and tasks or I wouldn’t be able to build a team or even sleep. Luckily I have an incredible group of experts in their respective fields that constantly exceed my expectations. It makes my life and my job that much more enjoyable.

As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.

As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.

It seems that the captain uniform was originally designed for an all male workforce. Do you think eventually there will be some adjustments to accommodate more women in this male dominated job? What would be some of your suggestions for a uniform that would be more feminine?

My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional

My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.

When I started sailing, I had to buy my own uniform pants because the women’s pants never came with the basic necessities: Pockets & belt loops. Try carrying around items like keys, a radio, and flashlight with no belt or pockets!

When I came to Celebrity Cruises, they actually asked for my opinion on several uniform pieces, which I thought was pretty fantastic. We now have more tailored evening jackets and pants with all the bells and whistles!

I have a few more suggestions for uniforms, for example, work shoes. My go-to shoe for evenings is a Christian Louboutin black patent leather platforms. You simply can’t go wrong there! In a perfect world, every one of my female crew would have access to that fabulous feminine addition to their uniform!

Another suggestion I would make for any company uniform is regarding neckties. My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.

You are a role model to women and girls who might not have considered a career like yours. How do you embrace that role?

I am honored and humbled to be considered a role model by any means. With that comes the obligation to uphold the position.

I do like to use social media, Instagram in particular, as a platform to answer questions or impart advice to inquiring minds. The focus of my Instagram account is to provide a behind the scenes look into the life of a Captain, making it more tangible and hopefully interesting to others attracted to the career or the shipping industry.

Kate McCue is ready to embrace #RedShoeTuesday!

Kate McCue is ready to embrace #RedShoeTuesday!

Finally, do you keep up with the comments your guests leave on the Celebrity Cruises website? What are some of the most surprising comments you’ve read?

A guest posted on the Celebrity Cruises Facebook page, the following, which really rocked my world: “On our Celebrity Silhouette transatlantic crossing in April, a man sat with us one night for dinner. I apologized for not remembering his name but you, Captain Kate, I am sure will remember him. He lost his wife and has been cruising alone. He could not say enough about you and how kind you were to him. He was on the cruise with you and your parents. He even travels with a 8×10 photo of you and proudly shows it to all of his dinner mates. I just wanted you to know how much your kindness touched this man.”

On a much lighter note, a guest once told me at a cocktail party that I am to Captains what Southwest is to airlines. I hope I can assume that Southwest’s reputation of incredible crew who strive to provide Positively Outrageous Service with a fun-loving attitude was what she meant! Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me to dance in the corridors or sing on the public address system. I save that for special occasions!

Connect with Captain Kate McCue on Instagram!

@captainkatemccue

Your personal brand already exists. Are you aware of it?

When I ask the members of our Step Up Plus program “what is your personal brand?” most of them stay quiet. They are not sure if I mean the 30-second elevator pitch or something else entirely.

The difference between a 30-second elevator pitch and your personal brand

Your 30-second elevator pitch is more like the ad you can thoughtfully put together to explain who you are, how you impact others, what you are good at, what your goals are, etc. The main difference between your elevator pitch and your personal brand is that you control 100% your pitch. You can’t control 100% of your personal brand because it’s lives in people’s heads.

Your personal brand is quite different from your 30-second elevator pitch.

Your personal brand is quite different from your 30-second elevator pitch.

What is your personal brand?

Simply put, your personal brand is how others perceive you. It’s the image other people have of you. Their experience of you. What makes up your reputation. A collage, if you will, of aspects including your:

  • Presence
  • Behavior
  • Personality
  • Values
  • Sense of humor
  • Speech patterns
  • Relationships
  • Ideas
  • Appearance

And a lot more. So, sure, there is certain amount of control you can exercise over people’s perception of you. You can adjust things like your behavior, the way in which you present your ideas, the kind of relationships you keep, and how you dress. But what about your personality, your sense of humor, or your deeply held values? Those are much harder to change.

Live by your word and you'll build a powerful reputation and memorable brand.

Live by your word and you’ll build a powerful reputation and memorable brand.

Here's a great video on personal branding.

Whether you want it or not, your personal brand already exists

So, why not finding out what it is. A simple, yet effective exercise to get a clear picture of how others perceive you is to conduct your own market research. Send a brief note to a group of 5-10 trusted colleagues, bosses, and even friends. The message should go something like this:

“I’m evaluating my personal brand and would appreciate your insights. Would you share with me the first few sentences or adjectives that come to mind when you think of me? For example: You are hardworking. You are punctual. You seldom join your colleagues for social events. You like to stick to what you know.”

By giving people clear examples of characteristics that are frequently considered positive and others that are not so positive, you show that you want honest answers. It makes people more likely to be open with you. Review the answers you receive and try not to take them to heart. Use them to inform you about your personal brand. Then ask yourself:

Figure out what makes you unique and sharpen your personal brand. You bring it everywhere with you whether you want it or not.

Figure out what makes you unique and sharpen your personal brand. You bring it everywhere with you whether you want it or not.

Do these answers fit with what I think of myself? And also, is this the type of personal brand I need to fulfill my current and future career goals?

If your thoughts about yourself are quite different from the perception of you out there, you may need to work with someone to help you figure out why. This is a good time to consult your mentors.

Here’s the story of a woman who built an amazing brand for her business. Mariebelle. Don’t miss it!

If the perception out there doesn’t support your career objectives, you have to look at the areas where you can make adjustments.

The following suggestions can help you make the largest impact on your personal brand in the shortest time.

1Make your word sacred. When you promise something, deliver. If you know you can’t, don’t commit to it or negotiate a more reasonable deadline. Every time you break your word you affect negatively your personal brand. So avoid putting yourself in this situation at all costs.

2Evaluate the people in your inner circle and aim for top quality relationships. Are they helping you with your brand or imprinting a negative vibe to it? Remember the idea of “guilty by association.” If you hang out with people others respect, they will respect you. I don’t need to tell you that the opposite is true too.

3Be aware of your behavior at all times. A big part of your brand is people’s experience of you and with you. So ask yourself: Do you take advantage of others? Do you criticize others? Laugh at them? Are you ready to lend a hand? Do you volunteer in company projects? Are you dependable? Do you brighten people’s days? Do you think of about what makes others happy? There are a million questions along these lines that can help you figure out how your behavior might be impacting your personal brand.

4Work on your appearance. Whatever your personal style, looking well put together and clean go a long way. Check out our Business Attire Guide for valuable posts on how to use accessories, how to dress for casual Fridays, and so on.

If you are happy with the results of your personal brand research, the only thing left to do is to reinforce it. And using your brand to your advantage.

Here are a few suggestions:

1Leverage your uniqueness. Bring that which makes you different to every role and every position you apply to. Consider this: When you think of your favorite product or person, a salient characteristic comes to mind. That’s how people should think of you. The inspired leader. The change maker. The woman who helps others soar.

2Find initiatives where your personal brand ads value. Where can you make a difference? For example if your brand is: “the multicultural, consensus-building leader,” you can approach a team in need of exactly that.

3Constantly build your brand. If Starbucks stopped offering comfortable chairs, wi-fi and coffee, you’d probably stop going there for meetings, right? They’ve established themselves not only as a coffee house, but as the “third space.” Neither the office nor home. Well, your brand is who you are. If you hurt it, people will stop thinking of you as their first choice when an opportunity comes along.

First Lady Michelle Obama is known for her generosity, her inspirational style and an ability to get things done at a large and small scale. How well is your brand known?

First Lady Michelle Obama is known for her generosity, her inspirational style and an ability to get things done at a large and small scale. How well is your brand known?

As you see, you are inseparable from your personal brand. There are things you can adjust and others you can’t. By tweaking those you can, you will strengthen others’ positive perception of you. In the end, that’s what will always open doors.

Consider signing up for our Step Up (individual) or Step Up Plus (corporations) Programs to further develop your personal brand and many other key soft skills critical for career growth. That’s what we do best.

Is flattery interfering with your career goals? This story is a wake up call!

If flattery can get a millionaire man to completely change his mind about who he funds for president, what can it do to women in the workplace?

I literally stopped in my tracks. I was out for my morning walk listening to one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. The episode was called Get Your Money’s Worth and part of it was dedicated to the story of Doug Deason, a Dallas millionaire and his father Darwin Deason, a billionaire. It was about their search for a Republican candidate to support for President of the United States.

The Deasons had budgeted 2 million dollars for this election cycle. After a thorough vetting process where they met with each candidate, they first endorsed Rick Perry and then Ted Cruz. They had such dislike for Donald Trump that the thought of vetting him didn’t cross their minds.

Even when you know someone is using flattery to get something, it's hard to resist its allure.

Even when you know someone is using flattery to get something, it’s hard to resist its allure.

But when faced with the reality that Donald Trump would become the Republican nominee, Doug and his dad set up a meeting with him. Doug prepared a list of questions for Trump (similar to the ones he’d been asking all the other candidates before he decided who to support.) Only that, when he met with Trump, he didn’t get a chance to ask much. Why? Because Trump used flattery to win over him and his dad. Just like that. With plain, old flattery.

This is part of the transcript of Doug’s comment to Zoe Chace, the podcast’s producer and reporter right after the Deasons met Trump: “…he kept complimenting Dad on me, (…), ‘I know how great it is to be able to turn something over to your kids, and let them run it, and let them do it.’ Which, obviously, is what I do. So it was nice to be complimented, right?”

They walked out of that meeting believing that Donald Trump was nice. That he had their same mindset. He thought like a businessman. Forget all the reasons for which the Deasons had decided to never even vet him. A brief meeting peppered with the right flattery, complimenting a dad on his son, was enough to shift the destination of millions of dollars. Because money begets money. And when a couple of billionaires bet on one candidate, many others tend to follow. Which is exactly what happened.

Way too often women are happy with being told they are doing a great job. But is that enough?

Way too often women are happy with being told they are doing a great job. But is that enough?

The story stopped me in my tracks because I had a long-held belief that men were less susceptible to flattery than women. But they are not. And in fact, an amazing study of 451 CEOs (which we know are mostly men) showed that high levels of flattery lead to opinion conformity. Which means that CEOs “become over-confident in their strategic decisions and in their ability to correct performance problems with the current strategy.”

The study revealed that CEOs subject to flattery were more likely to believe they were better leaders. But this was not confirmed by the firm’s performance data. The authors of the study said that firms with flattered CEOs were less likely to change strategy when performance dropped.

What’s most disturbing is that studies have shown that even when you consciously know that the flattery is BS (as most CEOs surely do,) the subconscious impact remains.

So, if this can happen to a CEO, someone who is trained and experience in the art of identifying BS, where does it leave you?

It’s time to ask yourself if flattery is interfering with your goals.

How about: "You look like you know exactly where you are going!"

How about: “You look like you know exactly where you are going!”

Most people seem predisposed to flatter little girls. “You look so cute!” “What a pretty dress!” “I love your hair!” As of late, we’ve been hearing more and more about the effects of praising girl’s appearance and boy’s achievements or behavior. But the truth is that we all grew up appreciating flattery and putting a lot of weight and value on it.

As a matter of fact, we are now in a constant state of pursuing flattery. Think about how you feel when you post a picture on social media and receive only a few likes. Your ego takes a nosedive, doesn’t it? Well, it maybe time to stop with the selfies for a minute and reflect on how seeking and receiving flattery might be getting in the way of what you really want. Primarily at work.

Here are some comments from clients and colleagues (who will remain anonymous) to help me make this point.

“My boss told me he couldn’t have finished the project without me.”

“My supervisor was incredibly impressed with how well I manage the company’s external relationships. Everybody knows me when I walk in the room and she finally saw that. She told me, ‘I now realize how hard you’ve worked for the organization all these years.’”

“I rolled out the Business Resource Groups in our organization two years ago and they are showing very positive results. So my boss told me I had a powerful vision and an uncanny ability to execute. Then she asked me to replicate the same model in Latin America. And this is not even my main role.”

What happened when promotion time came around? Did these women, who had received the most flattering comments from their supervisors, get their due? You guessed it. Nope. They were asked to do more for the same pay. Yet they didn’t even think to ask for more. The usual answer when I ask why, is: “Oh, I’m happy to do it.” Or “I love what I do and money is not all that matters.”

This begs the question: Are women so satisfied with being flattered that they are willing to forgo money they deserve? Is getting a great compliment enough?

Even when flattery is blatant and you the motives of the person using it are obvious, you can't avoid its subconscious effects.

Even when flattery is blatant and you the motives of the person using it are obvious, you can’t avoid its subconscious effects.

Remember: Knowing that someone is using flattery to get something from you (even when the ulterior motives are evident,) doesn’t protect you against its effect. So next time your supervisors flatter you for going above and beyond your job description, take the compliment. Enjoy it. Use it as an ego boost. And then write down exactly how you want to leverage your contribution, and the fact that it is being recognized as such, in the next salary negotiation. Or to get that stretch assignment you’ve been pining for.

And as usual, if you’d like to work on this and other key skills to help you move to your next career level, check out our Step Up and Step Up Plus programs. They have proven to work marvelously!