Archive for the ‘General’ category

Why “that’s a great question” is not a great answer

May 21, 2017

huh2

Are you trying to hold attention and be remembered when you speak to your team at work? Whether you are speaking live or on video, attention spans are extremely short and it doesn’t take much for your audience to click off and multi-task.

I’ve interviewed hundreds of executives on webinars and a long-running technology talk show, and there is one annoying habit I feel compelled to speak up about. It must still be being taught by other presentation coaches, because it happens so often. When the host asks a question, the guest buys themselves time to answer by starting with “That’s a great question…”

In my humble opinion, this has become so cliche that it can actually distract an audience rather than hold their attention. Why? Because it is not sincere, and it’s often so repetitive that it becomes hypnotic. I’m sorry, but every question is NOT a great question. So many questions in corporate interviews are rehearsed softballs with a scripted response that follows.

What should you say instead of “That’s a great question” the next time YOU are being interviewed? Just answer the question. Perhaps pause for a moment, but get to the point. Don’t waste any time. If the interviewer actually surprises you with an unrehearsed question, give your genuine reaction. Something like:

  • “Hey that’s a hardball question, but I’m glad you’re giving me an opportunity to address it.”
  • “Are you asking <repeat the question> because you are <insert possible motivation here>?”
  • “You know, I’ve been hearing that question from the team a lot recently. We don’t have an answer yet but I want everyone to know we are working on it diligently…”

An interview format is more engaging to watch than a lecture because it is a conversation. The host should be representing the audience with real and relevant questions that are on the top of their minds. If the conversation feels authentic, you will get and hold attention. If the audience smells overly rehearsed talking points or corporate buzzwords, they will tune out.

Are you willing to take the risk to be original and authentic in your next interview? Now THAT’S a great question.

A Short Message on Mother’s Day

May 14, 2017

daveandmom

Being a mom’s not a job, it’s more like a mission

For some it’s an accident, for some a decision

Whatever the reason, the reason it’s rough

Is that you never believe you are doing enough

For these kids who at first need your help every day

But eventually don’t want you to get in their way

Then they become self-sufficient outside of your nest

Pat yourself on the back, hey you passed the test!

But it doesn’t feel finished, your love still flows

And you wait for a call, yeah that’s how it goes

So for all of you kids, yeah I’m talking to you

I have a suggestion for a great thing to do

Call her on Mother’s day and then set a reminder

To call her again next week because you will find her

Surprised in the most pleasant and wonderful way

Just talk to her even if there’s not much to say

You may be self-sufficient as a daughter or son

But to a mother her mission is never done

At the limit of your strength, fight on

April 18, 2017

MedalBoston

We saw warning signs at mile seven. Jeff was already beginning to feel tightness in his legs. Due to ongoing chemo treatments, he was only able to do up to a 15-mile run in his training. Brad and I looked at each other and realized it was going to be a long day for Jeff. Our mission was to help him get to the Boston Marathon finish line.

Thanks to Jeff, Brad, Ramona, family and friends, we had raised over $38,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. This further fueled Jeff’s determination to finish this dream race.  But honestly, I wasn’t sure how we were going to pull this one off.

The mother of all marathons was an amazing event. We took in the sights and sounds of the friendly people in the tiny towns. We talked to Doug Flutie, who was running for his Autism foundation. We saluted veterans running with US flags, and a German man who had run 208 marathons. We got attacked by the Wellesley kissing bandits and cheered on by college kids who MAYBE had a little too much to drink.

As we approached the 15-mile mark, Brad and I kept the dialogue going with Jeff. As I’ve learned in past races, your longest training run can create an artificial limit in your mind. Though Jeff had pain, some dizziness and even nausea, he remained focused. Each water and walk break was brief and he insisted that we keep going when I suggested extra walks.

I broadcasted on Facebook Live and read the comments out loud so we all knew the love was flowing from back home and across the world. It was a temporary but welcome distraction from pain.

Then I heard Jeff say out loud, “Go away. Just go away. You’re not going to stop me now.”  He was talking to the pain and fatigue, refusing to let it override his body and mind.

As we started up Heartbreak Hill, he wanted to run but he stopped suddenly in the middle of the street. “Oh crap, my right quad is starting to give out.”

We had done the math and wanted to keep a pace to beat a 6-hour total finishing time, but I convinced Jeff that it was better to walk up the remaining uphills and take advantage of the downhills to make up some time. His body was overheated and under stress, but his heart refused to break.

Brad counted down each mile and kept us steady at a 13-minute mile pace.
7 miles.
6 miles.
5 miles. That’s doable.
4 miles. We are really doing this.
3 miles. Thank you, God.
2 miles…

There is nothing like supportive applause from the roadside crowd, I did my best to reignite the Boston faithful so late in the day. Each cheer brought a shot of adrenaline like a cool breeze on a hot day. It kept us believing.

We rounded the last corner and saw that historic finish line in the distance. And when they announced our names, Brad and I raised Jeff’s arms in triumph as we have done in every race… but this one was historic in another way.  I have never seen a more gutsy display of focus, determination and sheer will to cross a finish line.

I couldn’t help crying as we hugged. I had been prepared to carry Jeff across the finish line if I had to, but I didn’t have to.  Every time I thought he had hit his limit that day, he decided to fight on.

That’s a choice we all have when we hit a limiting belief in our lives. There’s a reserve deep down inside us. It’s fueled by love and support, and ignited by courage.

Jeff, you really showed me something amazing yesterday. There is no limit to your strength.  Thank you, brother.

*** Donation site is still open, thank you! https://donate.themmrf.org/2017Boston/gojeffgo

Hang a lantern on it

February 26, 2017

lantern2

What’s holding you back from speaking?  I’ve been coaching people for years on how to speak without fear, and one common fear I hear from English as a Second Language speakers is that they will be judged too harshly on minor pronunciation and grammar mistakes.

I’ve found the opposite to be true. Most native English speakers enjoy your accent and find it charming that you make an occasional mistake.  What matters far more is that you have a message worth sharing and that you share it passionately. Connecting with the audience is way more important and will earn you forgiveness on minor language mistakes.

The key to relaxing is to “hang a lantern on it and move on.” I heard this phrase from a Hollywood scriptwriter. It means that you illuminate and call attention to an inconsistency in the story by having a character notice and mention it. It’s the writer’s way of telling the reader “I did this on purpose; it’s not a mistake.” It helps the audience suspend disbelief and enjoy themselves.

So how do you hang a lantern on your self-imposed speaking weakness?  Experiment with humor and illuminate it in a light-hearted way. In other words, let the audience know that YOU know and it clears the air.

  • “I’ve been working hard on my English but it’s not quite perfect yet. So please raise your hand if I accidentally insult you.”
  • “My Spanish is 100% perfect… but you pressed 1 for English, so you get 80% perfect.  I’ll give it my best shot.”
  • “I have a problem with P’s and F’s so Flease Porgive me. By the way, there is a blue Honda with its lights on in the Farking lot.”

On a similar note, a lady in one of my workshops asked how she could overcome her self-consciousness about being deaf in one ear. She was afraid someone would ask a question that she could not hear, and she didn’t want them to think she was ignoring them.

I suggested she hang a lantern on it, and instruct the audience “Before we begin I want you all to know that I am completely deaf in my left ear. So, if you like to ask questions you might want to move to the right side of the room now.” Then you smile and let them know you are joking… but you have also cleared the air to let go of your self-consciousness.

Most audiences are more forgiving than we think. They usually ARE pulling for you, and making mistakes simply makes you more human in their eyes. It makes you one of them. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, they will pay more attention to what you have to say than exactly how you say it.

The story you don’t know

December 10, 2016

NYMarathon_Sm

Much has been written about Jeff, Brad and I running marathons together. I even managed to finish a full Ironman. Jeff and wife Ramona climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. And we do all these things to raise money for a cure for Multiple Myeloma, because Jeff has been a survivor for over 6 years now.

The story you don’t know is that Jeff has been on chemo throughout every one of these challenges.  He has relapsed within the last few months and continues to experiment with the right blend of treatments that will fit with living a full life.

His full life also includes helping other patients. I’ve referred several friends over the years who asked me if they could talk to Jeff. They are not only looking for second opinions on doctor’s orders, but seeking encouragement from someone who has found the mental fortitude to keep fighting. He always makes time for them.

In short, Jeff gives hope. And he gives it freely.

When you ask him about his dream race, he will tell you without hesitation that it’s Boston. He narrowly missed qualifying in his twenties, and it’s been a goal ever since.  Thanks to MMRF Endurance Events, the Brothers Goad will be running the 2017 Boston Marathon this April!

To get Jeff across that legendary finish line, we have collectively committed to a minimum fundraising goal of $30,000 by April 1st.  This is where we need your help.

Sharing this post with your friends may bring hope to cancer patients who will see that anything is possible. Donating will help get us closer to a cure…and keep my big brother alive to make a difference. Our story is not finished, and we’d love for you to be a part of it!

Please donate at this link, thank you!

https://donate.themmrf.org/2017Boston/gojeffgo

NOTE:  If you still have 2016 company matching funds to use up, please consider using them for this cause before the end of December!

Off script

December 1, 2016

the_real_world_v3

In 1992, MTV’s “The Real World” launched the so-called reality show trend we love/hate today. But we later learned that even that first “reality” show wasn’t completely real. Show producers set up scenarios to create conflict between cast members and even asked them to “replay” scenes for the camera crew to capture.

The alluring promise of a reality show is that it is unscripted. The truth is that they are partially scripted. The setups may be staged but the dialogue is real. And people who crave uncertainty in an otherwise routine life just love it when they can’t guess what someone will say next.

Why am I going on about stuff you already know?  Because our lives are also partially scripted. We often tell ourselves stories about our identity and our weaknesses that keep us from achieving our best. We set up conflict as a way to blame someone else for what we are afraid or unwilling to do. We even broadcast our love, anger and frustration to our friends in the coffee shop or on social media…and everyone watches.

I have done all these things.

The authentic life I am trying my best to live now is partially scripted. I am wired by my DNA and the defining moments of my childhood to act and react in ways that are often beyond my conscious control. I’ve been set up, but I still control the dialogue. I can choose to get angry or remain calm in the face of an attack. I can be optimistic when surrounded by negativity.  I can even go completely off script and surprise everyone by taking on something no one ever thought I could achieve.

In other words, I run the show.  I still make mistakes, but I am defying the scriptwriters and defining my own moments now.

All of this is much easier said than done.  And honestly, it hard to do without an external coach, counselor or trusted friend who can help keep you honest with yourself.

No matter how difficult it may seem, this is my wish for you too my friend. I hope you have the courage to go off script. When you watch the reruns of your life 10 years from now, you will be most thankful for the moments when you made necessary decisions, disrupted damaging patterns and achieved amazing things after surrounding yourself with amazing kindred spirits.

It’s your show. And it’s worth the risk, isn’t it?

 

Oh that’s just perfect

October 20, 2016

frustration

If sloppy is a 0 and perfect is a 10, most commercial software gets released at about a 7. Then customers beat on it, bugs are fixed and it eventually gets to a 9. Nothing ever reaches a perfect 10.

Whether you are writing a speech, creating a project plan or engineering something new… when do you usually show your work?  If you don’t really care about who consumes your content, follows your plan or uses your product, you can just release it at a 3 and move on to other things.  If you procrastinators and tinkerers care too much about perfecting it in your secret hidden bunker, you’ll be so late it may not matter anymore.

Following the software example, perhaps you should be risking judgment by showing it to other people at around a 5? Do an alpha test with colleagues you trust and then a beta test with customers you trust. Listen closely and make adjustments you had not even considered before.

The worst that can happen is that you are found out to be imperfect like the rest of us.  The best that can happen is that you release something amazing because the audience had a hand in creating it.

Nothing is delivered until it is received.