NOTES, INSPIRATIONS + MOTIVATION


Personal Brand is Part of Customer Experience

personal brand is product

You are the product and your personal brand is at the center of your business especially if you are an entrepreneur, solopreneur or small business owner. Your personal brand can make or break your business.  You are the hub of every interaction you have. And, you are also the product. What you do and say either adds values or detracts from your business relationships, client relationships and even your personal interactions.

Working with small businesses and entrepreneurs, I often take them through nine elements to their brand. Since your brand is intertwined with your business brand (be it service or product), review the following:

1. Product differentiation.Organizations that understand their competition and take a unique position among them do better than those that understand only their customers.

Personal Brand: What makes you different? Extract and discover this so that you can communicate that to the world.

2. Coordinated communications materials. Your brand name, logo, and slogan should all be consistent in carrying out the brand development mission.

Personal brand: Do all of your communication tools send the same message, give the same impression of your brand?

3. Positive positioning. Distinguish yourself by emphasizing your brand’s most specific, coveted benefits. A good way to improve a brand’s perception is to win awards from the Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, and other reputable sources.

Personal brand: Take notice – what are you doing now to make this happen? What are the coveted benefits of working with you? If this is a difficult question for you to answer, how difficult will it be for others?

4. Brand stewardship. Brands perform well if they are championed by a friendly and authoritative figure, such as the company CEO, a celebrity spokesperson, or a mascot.

Personal brand: Confidence attracts. What do you need to do to become more confident with yourself? What do you need to be a better version of you?

5. Positive associations. Strong brands usually represent a single positive benefit. An individual or company must decide which strong attribute to hang their hat on, then deliver a cohesive message with positive associations.

Personal brand: Who and what are you associating with?

6. Quality reinforcement. Consumers aren’t always able to distinguish the quality of one product compared to another. However, for an individual or company to develop their brand, they must make sure that it is seen as being high quality.

Personal brand: You must know what you have or do that makes you the best at what you do. It is your job to be able to compile that in bit-sized pieces; your job to connect the dots; your job to communicate succinctly what you do best.

7. Brand extensions. Several successful individuals and companies develop spinoff brand extensions that generate revenue streams from a related product or service.

Personal brand: What can you do to become more known and more connected? Associations with good companies, volunteer groups and even networking clubs provide a “halo” effect where your credibility is elevated because of the good reputation of the organization (i.e. Rotary Clubs). The key to success is to be sure that you sincerely believe and support the mission or vision of the organization.

8. Perceived value reinforcement. How the marketplace perceives the value of a product or service may dictate a brand’s image more than the product or service itself. Reinforcing the value of a product or service, as customers interpret it, is key.

Personal brand: Do you have a gratitude program (such as writing thank you notes) to reinforce someone’s connection with you?

9. Memorable slogan. Every integrated identity initiative must have a slogan.

Personal brand: What’s in your word garden

Written Appreciation

Written appreciation, when sincere, is powerful.

Though great for quickly communicating with people anywhere in the world, emails and even texting sorely lack the in-person aspects of communication that have become so vital to how the human species shares ideas and opinions. This simple absence is enough to make even the most harmless email appear aggressive, even if it’s sent with the full intention of serving as a “thank you”. Because of this, it’s up to you, the sender, to make sure your texts always seem genuine and always get the message across correctly.  Written appreciation, as long as it’s sincere, is often the most valued and most memorable form of appreciation.

Grammatical Errors

Thank you’s mean more if you include the person’s name. It’s a quick, simple flourish that really sets the tone to be more intimate and personal than some generalized message not denoted to be for anyone specific. This is why it’s so important to triple check that the name is spelled correctly. A misspelled name, instead of promoting intimacy, puts the reader on the defensive since you clearly aren’t courteous enough to respect a name they’ve had since birth. This goes for all other words in the message. Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are absolutely important for a message that you want an individual to take seriously. Let these mistake slip through, and they’ll take the thank you as callous and insincere.

Generalizations

Don’t write to the individual thanking them for the “lovely gift” or the “time spent” with them. Thank them for what they did for you specifically. Name the gift and expand on what they did with you during the time you had together. These specifics work to not only make the note more enjoyable but reminds the receiver of who you are and the good times you had together. In short, it inspires comradery should they not immediately remember what happened. This then translates into positive feelings that are now associated with both you and the note. It helps you set a tone without being able to do so physically, and that is your greatest hurdle with emails and texts.

5 Ways to Communicate Appreciation in Networking

How to truly show appreciation to colleagues and clients

Appreciation in business when you’re a solopreneur

Length

No, longer thank you’s messages are not inherently better than shorter thank you’s. In fact, the longer versions are often skimmed over and ignored immediately after.  When it comes to written appreciation, brief and sincere is most valued.

Remember, this is not a day and age where letter writing is a way to pass the time. This is a time period where time is everything. The longer something is, the less engaging it tends to be. In addition, you are not a trained writer. Your long notes will not be beautifully crafted diatribes that evoke tears. They’ll be awkward and end up repeating the same idea ten times over but with slightly different language.

Stick to what you know. Be concise. Thank them for exactly what you want to thank them for. Throw in a hope for the future. Wish them success. Be on your way. They’ll feel much more special that you both took the time to send such a message while still respecting their time.

Timing

As a rule of thumb, send your thank you text or email within 24 hours to 48 hours after an event, the gift or the meeting.  Yet, do know that a sincere thank you is appreciated anytime it’s received regardless if it’s even a month later.

Customer appreciation gives business owners the advantage

The burden of timely thank you

The human side of your brand is the most costly

Personal

People do business with people. The more personal a note is the more genuine and valued it is.  That doesn’t mean getting into personal or inappropriate stories – remember, the note (or email) is about them (what they did, specifically and what it meant to you).  A thank you note is not an additional sales piece or a chance for you to promote yourself.  The only kind of promotion that you might put in a thank you note is business card and this is really more from a standpoint of reminding them who you are or how they know you.  This is not a time to ask for referrals or even to ask for their business.  This is about sincere appreciation and not about any ulterior motives.

Appreciation and Discouragement

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Do you ever get discouraged?

I do.  You work hard, try your best, and still, things don’t work out as you hoped.  You plan, prepare, think ahead — and yet, something unforeseen comes out of nowhere and creates another obstacle you have to overcome.  Life (both at work and outside of work) is difficult (at times, at least.)

So what do you do?

It depends — on you and on the circumstances.  Sometimes you “put your head down” and just keep at it — persevering.

Other times you get frustrated and maybe even downright mad, and you let others around you know it.

Maybe you withdraw, which can take different forms:  you go to a movie, or you sit at home and binge on Netflix.  Some people drink to “get away from it for a while”.  Others smoke pot.  Some of us go and eat a boat-load of ice cream.  All efforts to ease the pain and try to feel better.

Sometimes we may take the “healthy” route — and go exercise at the gym, or go for a run.

What is discouragement, really? 

Discouragement, literally means, “without courage”. We lose that fighting edge to “go get ’em” and attack the challenges of the day.  We lose heart.  We are worn out.  We wonder if “it” (our goals / our vision) is worth all of the time and effort we are putting into trying to make things happen.

Anyone who has goals they are trying to reach (if they are honest about it) becomes discouraged.  The obstacles to overcome loom large and seem to be multiplying (versus going away as we deal with them).  We don’t seem to be making progress and wonder if all that we are doing makes any difference at all.

The Relationship between Discouragement and Appreciation

Appreciation is the act of communicating the fact that you value something about another person, or what they have done. (And hopefully, you communicate the appreciation in the way that is meaningful to the other person.)

Encouragement is closely related to appreciation.  Encouragement is coming along side of someone and trying to support and “give them courage” to keep going — that their efforts aren’t in vain.  The focus of encouragement is the present and future, while the emphasis of appreciation is for actions demonstrated in the past.

The Point?

When you see someone who is discouraged, you can use the same actions from their preferred language of appreciation to encourage them.

Give them a word of encouragement (“You are doing, great, Jeanne! I am impressed with how much progress you’ve made on this project this week.”)  Stop by their workspace, check in and see how they are doing.  See if there is a little something you could do that would help them move forward on the task.  Bring them their favorite Starbucks unannounced.Yes, we all get discouraged.  But that is partly what colleagues are for — to be there when we are losing hope, and let us know, if we keep going, we can (and WILL) get the task done!

Guest post: Dr. Paul White, AppreciationAtWork
Maria Elena Duron is a Premier Partner and Certified Trainer/Coach with Appreciation At Work

Appreciation in Business Cannot Overcome Toxicity

Everyone seems to really like you. You’re always supportive, never negative and never stop expressing your appreciation for the work that goes on around you. Whether your role is boss or employee, you understand that making your coworkers feel great is a necessary component of a healthy business. Yet, things aren’t great in the office. People talk behind others’ backs, apparent cliques now exist, HR seems on edge, and favoritism is running rampant. Though you try your hardest to promote a happy, healthy environment, no one can respond because of the severe level of toxicity wiping away your attempt at appreciation.  Toxicity kills any opportunity for appreciation in business.

Toxicity is a fear of every work environment. It’s something that can be sparked by an action as simple as a bad hire, leading to a snowball effect where resentment and frustration slowly build up into a boiling point, making productivity decline and good workers quit. Possibly the worst part about it is the fact that it drowns out any positivity that tries to steer things back on course. You could be the most appreciative employee to have ever existed, but without a healthy environment to express that in, your actions won’t be realized. In the end, sometimes the best form of thanks is to stop toxicity before it starts rather than focus on appreciation.

Identify
If it seems pressure is rising in the office, the first step is to identify where it’s coming from. Is it one person? Was it sparked by an event that resulted in unresolved feelings? Finding the source is an integral part of diffusing the situation. It alerts everyone to the problem, giving the entire office a cause to rally behind, once again unifying the culture. Just be sure this unification doesn’t go too far and result in a witch hunt. Over aggression when trying to find an answer tends to be just as harmful to the people involved as ignoring the situation at hand.

Help
Assuming the problem is emanating from an employee or group of employees, it’s time to practice empathy. Sit them down in a private setting and discuss the situation at hand. Much like identifying where the toxicity was coming from in the office, steer conversation toward figuring out why the employee was acting so negatively in the first place. While it would be a wonderful world where people could immediately identify and deal with their emotions, many individuals simply don’t understand how to analyze what they feel in such a way that results in determining why they’re feeling the way they do.

In addition, be patient through this process. Many times, toxic behavior stems from a personal place, and the employee needs time to trust you enough to open up honestly about what is going on. Sometimes, the problem isn’t even work-related but they haven’t had anywhere else to go about their life stressors. If it isn’t emotional and the employee simply lacks the maturity to properly handle various situations at work, it could very well mean some sort of disciplinary action is required.

Purge
It’s not fair to your other employees if one person refuses to change their toxic attitude. Though acceptable to give the person a chance to change the problems discussed with them, it’s not acceptable to keep them on when they’ve clearly proven their unwillingness to change. After you’ve spoken with them and highlighted exactly what they’re doing and why it needs to stop, give them time to adjust. If they don’t, it’s time to let them go.

I’m not a human resource expert so I’ll leave the next step to those that do have that expertise.

Kerri Pollard, past president of Commission Junction, stated at a recent Affiliate Summit keynote, “Don’t tolerate the brilliant jerk. It will cost you too much in teamwork.”

She is so right.

Manage
Occasionally, the source of the negativity doesn’t stem from an employee but upper management. It’s in this situation where controlling and stopping the bad habits is essential for company survival. Everything done by upper management trickles down, affecting every single employee no matter their position on the ladder. Do your best to manage upward. Ask good managers with influence to help stave off the toxic behavior. This can even be as simple as keeping them removed from any and all meetings and filtering their messages to the staff.

The flip side of this situation is that senior staff usually doesn’t face any kind of threat even when told about their behavior. This then leads to a system lacking accountability where those in power can abuse their position. If they won’t change, the answer then may be to move on to a company that prides itself in a healthy culture and respects those that show appreciation.
Improve

Other times the source of frustration comes for poor internal processes. If, for instance, the process for ordering a new part for a machine in a manufacturing company is long and complicated resulting in a decrease of production the part orderer gets yelled at for, it’s understandable that a level of resentment would build up over time.

This is arguably the easiest form of toxicity to deal with as it’s not a person causing the issue. All it takes to fix is a reform of how requests are processed, something that can be implemented in days.

No matter how kind you are to others and no matter your rung on the corporate ladder, your appreciation cannot break through an office muddied by toxicity. This is why it is of the utmost importance to keep the culture happy by knowing how to deal with the different types of negativity that can arise. Keep this under control, and your employees will finally feel the full weight of the admiration you hold for each and every one of them.

Networking Tip: Pushing the Pushers

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Selling ourselves and our brand is all about presentation. Sometimes this means giving a speech in front of a crowd of interested parties, other times it calls for a cold sell to someone you’ve met mere minutes ago. While the art of selling is a great ability to have, there are those that take the effort too far during networking situations. In conversations, they are extremely pushy, refusing to let you get a word in. In front of groups, all they can talk about is how wonderful their brand is. Though these individuals can’t be avoided,  here’s the first networking tip so they can be out maneuvered so long as you know how to approach the situation.

Listen

Immediately brushing a pushy salesperson aside can swiftly open up the door to unwanted return visits. They’ll mark you as possibly interested until they get to explain the entire scenario. In order to keep your time with them to a minimum, listen to the pitch the first time. Worst case scenario, you don’t like their brand. At this point, feel free to hand them a firm “no” and be on your way. In many cases, this will get the person to move on, as they don’t want to waste their own time, either. This is because, to them, the pitch is everything. If it can’t convince you, nothing else will.

The only time you should feel free to immediately stop the pitch is if you know it’s a product you do not nor will ever need. A coffee shop owner, for instance, would find no reason to ever purchase a fancy line of staplers, so why even waste time listening to such a spiel? During this type of situation, cut the individual off immediately, explain why you don’t need to hear anymore and feel free to move on. They’ll appreciate your honesty and respect for both of your schedules.

Exchange Information

If, during this networking event, you are strapped for time, it’s far more advantageous to get around to as many people as possible rather than get bogged down with a pusher that won’t take “no” for an answer. If you’ve found yourself stuck, ask for their business card and feel free to hand yours over as well. This will offer the potential of further communication outside of the event so both of you can go on to take further advantage of the event. For salesman, this means a possible avenue. For you, this means offering a better venue to hear the sales pitch at, one where there are no time limits.

Remember that once you are in the virtual arena, you exert a bit more power over the conversation. If you never want to deal with the email address again, block it or delete the email. If there’s a bit of interest, you’ll have time to read an email with all the information you need to make an informed decision. While it still may end up that there’s no interest on your end, moving conversation to a more personal level is appreciated by any brand.

Cut the Act

If you’ve ever had to sell anything, you understand that pitches are typically rehearsed and memorized down to the last punctuation mark. This preparation shines through the pasted on smiles of someone that has set their sights on you. Before they launch into the extended version of their product’s praise, catch them off guard. Joke about seeing how they’re ready to start their spiel. Remark on how prepared they look to perform what they’ve rehearsed for so long. This typically forces the salesperson to break character, leading to a real conversation rather than a canned stint.

Knocking them out of their rhythm my sound negative, but it’s a tactic that doesn’t have to end up in bruised egos or hurt feelings. If you are genuinely interested in the brand itself, getting them to drop the sales routine is the quickest way to have a serious discussion without all the fluff. You’ll get the answers you need, they’ll get to talk about what they want to talk about and no one’s time will be wasted as they try and hook you in with an obvious charade.

Use it to Your Advantage

At the end of the day, the pushy salesman needs to make sales in order to have made a success out of the networking event. Whether it’s a definite deal on the floor or bringing back an enormous collection of business cards to the office, these individuals are severely goal oriented, putting up blinders to virtually every social cue. Instead of trying to evade an insistence that will quickly overpower your passive avoidance, use it to your advantage. They sell something you might want. So do their competitors. How can they make their offer more enticing? Poke and prod to see just what kind of a deal you can strike.

Never be against window shopping. Typically, there will be four to five other brands selling similar products with each offering their own pros and cons. Be sure to spend some time perusing the various sellers to build a list of options being offered to you. Then, bring the offers around to the other brands to see just how far each company is willing to go to match the other. They can also help you pinpoint cons about one another that would not have seemed obvious to you at the start.

Salespeople can’t be faulted for wanting to grow their brand. It’s a desire each one of us has. Unfortunately, this means there are quite a few that willingly ignore societal cues in order to get one step closer toward making a sale. If you find yourself up against one of these pushy individuals at your next networking function, do what you can to make the most of the situation. Just because they’re annoying doesn’t always mean they should be ignored.

Keeping Your Personal Brand Professional in a Shark Fight

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The higher you climb, the more fans you get. Subsequently, the higher you climb, the more people are there to point out flaws in your arguments. Openly calling someone out for misinformation has always been a practice. Whether through poetry as was popular in the 1700s or through the internet as is popular today, you can’t amass an enormous following without amassing watchdogs there to make sure your ego doesn’t climb too high.

The Set Up

Such is how it recently happened in an exchange between businessman Mark Cuban and writer Amy Vernon. In a recently published article for Inc., Vernon targeted Cuban’s new bid for wealth, an app known as Cyber Dust, systematically pointing out all of the flaws in Cuban’s argument as presented in an exclusive Inc. video. In it, Cuban paints the picture of the privacy breach we’re all scared of. After all, everything we post online is accessible by everyone, can be screen captured by everyone and, according to Cuban, will be used by companies to profile potential hires. This means who you follow, who you retweet and everyone you come into contact with online is a potential threat. Immediately following this, he goes on to describe his new app and how it will protect your information when “30 seconds after they [the receiver] open it, the message disappears.”

While a great idea in theory, Vernon caught on to a few mistakes in the video and wrote her article breaking apart the weaknesses piece by piece. In it, she’s quick to point out that “Cyber Dust absolves itself of any responsibility if a message is not removed or deleted” in addition to the company not being responsible for screen captures. She also brings up the argument that Cuban’s advice to delete past tweets is a poor decision because “if you delete them and someone has a screenshot and doctors it, you have no way of proving it’s doctored.” All in all, it was not a slanderous post so much as a warning to those quickly jumping on to an app that purported to do things it cannot.

The Exchange

The ball was now in Cuban’s court. As much of a personality and figurehead as he is, it would be poor PR to simply ignore the holes poked in the argument he presented for his app project. What came next was a very simple personal branding lesson on maintaining professionalism during such socially broadcasted spats. The same day the article was posted, the response war began in earnest. Amongst truly interested parties and diehard fans of both names, the two engaged in a battle of words and facts. By the time the dust settled, it became clear that Vernon was the real winner.

While frustrating to both sides, Vernon maintained a calm, collected voice for the debate, never slipping into emotionally charged comments. She didn’t respond much on Twitter but did so when good questions came up. All in all, her main focus remained on the questions she had raised, nothing more. Her opponent, on the other hand, did his best to provide answers but ended up taking a childish route, insulting Vernon with, “Amy the next time you do any actual research on this topic will be your first time”.

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The Lesson for Your Personal Brand

Arguments will inevitably happen. Not everyone can agree on everything and that’s okay. The most important thing you can take away from this exchange is the fact that professionalism is the key to protecting your brand through anything. Though Vernon’s article was not inflammatory and merely brought inconsistencies in the presentation of the product, you may very well find yourself against far more slanderous opponents unopposed to writing articles that are derogatory in nature.

Keep Your Cool

The person who gets emotional about it loses the respect of those looking or listening in.

exchange-of-ideas-222789_1280In your business or work environment, keeping a calm demeanor will be beneficial to you.  Often, individuals try to rally the crowd especially when they feel the other person is wrong.  Yet, if you try to do that by being negative or insulting to the other person you will end up losing.  That negativity clings to you and ends up tainting what ever you are saying.  When you get personal with direct attacks, it reflects negatively on you, personally.

Utilize Your Resources

Using facts, statistics and quotes can help support your findings or “side” and if you’re not an expert on the topic then do bring in resources who are and can speak to it.

Bringing subject matter experts into the conversation, causes everyone to listen carefully.  Instead of listening to reply, they are truly listening to each of the points of information shared.

When you can use logic and known experts or expert resources to support you, then not only do you elevate the discussion, you elevate your personal brand.

Keep Communication Open

Communication and debates between two people lend themselves to keeping the lines of communication open since each person involved in the conversation is trying to convince the other person and share enough pertinent information that they may concede their point.

When the argument has an audience, on Twitter, or other social sites, then the theatrics of belittling your adversary can come into play.  Keep them out if you want your personal brand to be viewed as professional.

Ridiculing your adversary attracts the same reaction as name calling and in the court of public opinion can quickly categorize you as a “bully”.

Whatever it is you’re up against, always go back to Debate 101 rules. Stick to the facts, apologize when necessary and never, ever resort to emotions. When all eyes are on you and how you’ll react to a challenger, everyone, whether they support you or not, is waiting for you to slip up by getting emotional. Through denying this, you deny your opponent any leverage against you, making you the victor. Those watching will see the person offending you as being in the wrong, and you’ll be able to continue onward without having lost support. And, you’ll keep your personal brand professional.

Works Cited

Vernon, A. (2015, 11 June). What Mark Cuban Gets Wrong About Social Media. Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/amy-vernon/mark-cuban-is-wrong.html

With Great Networking Comes Great Responsibility

Networking Strategy MeetingsIt’s easy to be the one at a networking event littering the place with your business cards, belting out a chorus of “me, me, me”, and treating people as if they were things instead of people.

I recently witnessed it at a networking event.

It was conference and it was the welcome mixer.  Everyone was mixing, mingling, and there were occasional heartfelt reunions where you would see genuine hugging and laughter.  I had my own as a saw a friend of mine and fellow BRANDido (term of endearment of those who participate in #branchat – a Twitter chat all about branding).

Then, there was that guy.  You know – the one who wants to meet all the “important people”.

I didn’t have speaker on my badge. And, he didn’t recognize the business so he said his hello, how are you, is this your first time at this conference and quickly disengaged.

But, before he left he asked for my Twitter handle so we can follow each other (which is code for so you can follow me).

Then, he stopped where he was walking to.  Our digital manager pegged it first.  He leaned over to me and said, “he just read your Twitter profile and now you’re someone worth knowing.”

And, he turned around and asked me – so you are the head of #brandchat?

Sorry mate! Those kind of networkers are a dime a dozen.  Sadly, I don’t even remember his name to try to disguise it for this post.

They are the card collectors and the people who work through and use people.  If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Internship, he’s the Grant.

Don’t be that guy.

Top 6 Things Bad Networkers Do (And How to Not Be Like Them)

Eight Signs You’re A Terrible Networker

What Good Networkers Do… and Don’t Do

4 Places Where You Should Not Be Networking

Look at the person not the name tag

I have always said that you never know who someone is, who they will become or who they influence.

Then, I come across those networkers that are reading name tags, or follower count, fans or even titles to gauge if someone is “worth” talking to.

In order to make good connections, people have to have the opportunity to sample your character and competence and you must also take the opportunity to sample someone else’s character and competence.  This means getting to know them.

It’s also good to burn useless bridges, according to Gregory Ciotti.

“This skill is an absolute must to learn.

Eventually, you’re going to come across “leeches,” people who you’ve connected with but don’t see the relationship as give-and-take, more like, “How much can I get out of you?”

Networking is supposed to help you grow your business by meeting genuinely awesome people, not create a network of vultures who only reach out to you when they need something.

Cut these people off, and fast, you don’t need anyone holding you back.”

8 Networking Skills that Every Professional Needs to Have

Networking the Right Way: People Remember How You Make Them Feel

The 5 Keys to Networking Online Successfully

Be in the now

How many times have we heard that grunt of “uh huh” or that “oh yeah” that didn’t really have any meaning behind it.

At a networking event, if you’re thinking who this person could connect you with or what you can get from them, it’s tough to focus on the “now”.

When your mind is in the future, it is busy strategizing and you cannot hear and be fully present to the person that you’re with.

7 Tips for Networking

13 Things Mindful People Do Differently Every Day

Focus on Your Connection and Conversation

How can you help?

Do you know how you help others?  And, how do you deliver value to their lives?

When you network, if you help people in any aspect of their lives they see you as someone who can be helpful – regardless of the area of their life they need help.

It is the authentic desire to help that makes all the difference.

It is why when you network that quality beats out quantity.  If you can have a quality conversation with someone (one where you learn what they need help with our how you can help), and if you leave your “sales focus” at the door and focus on the person, you can not only develop the “know, like and trust” factor faster, you can solidify a relationship and loyalty.

It’s not givers gain

I’ve never liked that phrase.  It sounds like the motive is to gain something and in order to do that you’ll give something in exchange.

It seems very transactional and not relational.

Any networking event I’ve gone to when that’s chanted has felt like a group of people swarming others to find out “what makes them tick” and then to descend upon that information with the goals of giving something and expecting reciprocation in return.

It just never felt right.

In fact, it often brought to mind a question and answer lesson a good friend of mine, Jose Zertuche, would always share with me. He would ask, “What’s the difference between a salesperson and a con man especially when both can be so charismatic?”  His response, “intent”.  What’s your intent?

In giver’s gain, the intent to me seems solely focused on the giver with the focus (from the get go) to get that other to reciprocate.

5 Ways to Communicate Appreciation in Networking

Communicating genuine appreciation has been on my mind lately.

And, it’s a good thing since I appreciate any opportunity to focus on the good and the good things of connecting with other people

In networking with others, it is about forming friendships and alliances.  It is about seeing who is a good fit with your values, your business and your business goals.

Realistically we know that good networking takes work.

When someone’s taken the time to meet with you, converse with you or carry a conversation further than a mixer, how do you communicate appreciation in a way that meaningful to them and therefore more valuable?

#1 – Write your appreciation to them

A handwritten note still speaks volumes and is valued more than a quick thank you email, text or even a voice message of thanks.

Why E-Mail Will Never Replace the Handwritten Note

The Forgotten Power of Handwritten Notes

Some things are not meant to be simply digital.

When writing out your appreciation, it doesn’t need to be lengthy it just needs to be specific and personal.

Identify what it is that they did that you appreciate.  It’s not enough just to say “I appreciate you” or “Thank you”.  Take the time to be specific and identify what it is they did.

Then, go into how it helped you and then in the last sentence how it made a difference.

The structure is this by each sentence is:

  1. Thank them and state what you are specifically thanking them for
  2. How that has helped you.
  3. How it has made a difference.

For example:

“Thank you for taking the time to chat on the phone with me today.  You really helped me to understand what the holidays mean for your business.  Your insights really give me a better understanding of your schedule and give me some ideas on how I can help save you time.  Thank you for your help!”

#2 – Spend some quality time with your contact

All though handwritten notes are by far the most popular and meaningful way to express sincere appreciation to a networking connection – they are not the only way.  And, they are not always the best.

For some, having someone spend some uninterrupted quality time with them can say “thank you” more than any note could.

This could happen as a group like at a sports game or event. Or, even a group of connections going to lunch together.

Or, it could take place one-on-one as a meeting or even over coffee.

For some, just having someone slow down long enough to hear them and to value their time or company, is the highest form of appreciation they could ever receive.

Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than an investment of your time, especially because everyone knows how busy you are.

#3 – Do something that they want done for them in return

Have you ever heard the term – words are cheap?

Or this one – actions speak louder than words?

Those come from someone who would feel appreciated when someone provide an act of service to them to helpout.

Imagine that a networking contact of yours who has truly been helpful to you is completely swamped with work and cannot even get a chance to check a sporting schedule or potentially a great restaurant s/he would like to take the family to.

What if you went ahead and research the schedule and sent it to them?  Or found some great reviews on family friendly restaurants and sent that link to them or even provided them a contact name/phone number of someone at that restaurant.

Sometimes those kind acts of service are exactly the language of appreciation that someone would here.

Recently, I spoke at an event and was in the buffet line with a fellow speaker who within our 10 minutes in the line provided such a wealth of knowledge to me that I was genuinely grateful.  I then asked him what he was working on that I might be able to help with because I did appreciate his willingness to help me and answer my questions so thoroughly.  He responded that he was working on his first book and provided me some details.   I sent him a book on how to get started and the name of a book writing coach and publicist that could help him.  He called me and said what I provided him just really showed him how grateful I was for his help.

#4 – Gifts can show them how appreciative you are.

Not everyone is excited about receiving gifts.  But for those who are, be sure that the gift is specific to them. Sending golf balls to someone who doesn’t golf, is not a great way for you to show your appreciation and value for them.

If you send them specialty coffee and they’re not a coffee drinker, it could potentially hurt the relationship mores that it would nurture it leaving them feeling like you really don’t know them and you haven’t really been paying attention or listening to them.

The Problem with Gifts of Appreciation

#5 – Attaboys, Fist-bumps and Pats on the back

These are normally spontaneous but remember to give someone something like these after you know what they prefer.

Extending a fist bump to someone who’s not familiar with a fist bump can be quite awkward.

Fist bumps can’t replace handshakes: Your Say

Keep these five ways that your appreciation can be heard and received with the gratitude that you intended.

Any others’ that you’ve come across not mentioned here?

Please mention them in the comment section below.

Are Appreciation Triggers Results Alone?

Appreciation TriggersOne of the most frequent questions I am asked when I’m conducting a training for a business is:  Should you show appreciation for someone who isn’t performing well?

A tension exists in the world of recognition, employee engagement, and appreciation.  There are differences of opinion on the relationship between an employee’s performance and recognizing them.  Should you recognize an employee if they aren’t doing well in all areas of performance?  Is appreciation independent of performance?

To address the issue, I think we need to keep two foundational principles in mind:

  1. The purpose of work is to provide goods or services to customers in a profitable manner.
  2. People are more than “production units”, even at work.

So both sides of the argument have valid points.  Wise supervisors don’t communicate recognition without regard of an employee’s performance.  For example, why would you reward an employee who doesn’t show up to work regularly or on time?  There are some “bottom line” behaviors that need to be in place — showing up is one of them.

Conversely, if employees are only recognized when they produce results “above and beyond” the norm, they begin to feel that they are only valued as a super achiever.

Especially when referring to newer team members, a helpful mental image is that of a youth sports coach.  When a child is learning a sport, good coaches don’t berate or punish them if they cannot perform some of the higher level skills.  Rather, coaches encourage and support “good effort” on behaviors that approximate what they are looking for.  They try to shape the athlete’s performance closer and closer to the desired goal.  If the focus is solely on what a new team member isn’t doing well, the player can get discouraged and give up.

I think the same is true with employees who are growing into their position (or even learning what “work” is really about).  Supervisors should focus on and encourage those actions that are moving in the right direction. Then when appropriate, give gentle corrective instruction on critical skills that are still lagging.

Finally, appreciation can be communicated for characteristics that aren’t necessarily related to productivity.  I personally enjoying working with cheerful people more than grumps, or warm, friendly colleagues in contrast to cool and indifferent ones.  So I can express appreciation to a colleague for those qualities even if they are not the highest producer on the team.

I’d love to hear your perspective on this issue.  Please share your thoughts by posting a comment on our 5 Languages of Appreciation group page on LinkedIn.

Special guest post, Dr. Paul White, co-author – Appreciation at Work.

Appreciation in Business: A Crime against Words of Affirmation

A Crime against Words of Affirmation

Appreciate you! Thanks bunches! Grateful man! Thank you very much!  Thanks for all you do!

Meaningless. Droll. Lifeless words that are crimes against affirmation.

This is what we see as common place phrases that are used to convey appreciation in business.

Are you guilty of these types of words of affirmation?

Have you been on the receiving end of one of those standard thank yous?

Would you much rather hear nothing than to receive this kind of thanks?

There are many who would agree with you:

And, then there are those that are more about action as opposed to words.

Would you rather hear someone’s appreciation or would you rather see it in acts and deeds?

Regardless of the delivery, for appreciation to be heard with the true intention that was meant to be delivered with it – it must be genuine.

Fake it and you’ll be dead in the water.

After reading Dr. Paul White’s and Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation, I’ve been on a mission to learn about how these are applied in business and more importantly how they are applied by the people who are face-to-face with customers and clients.

I’m interested in that intersection where knowledge becomes powerful – when it’s applied.

To assuage any possible association with these current crimes against affirmation in your appreciation:

  1. Be specific

This means that it’s more than just an “appreciate you”; “thanks bunches”; or even “muchas gracias”.

Specifically describe what it is the person did, said or a character trait about them that you are grateful for.

For example:

  1. Something they did:

“I appreciate you staying late and helping that customer with their questions.”

  1. Something they said:

“I appreciate you sharing your thoughts about our new signage.”

  1. A character trait:

“I appreciate that you take ownership of our workspace and care about if it’s kept clean and safe.”

When you’re specific, your appreciation is more terrific.

Okay, it may seem corny but it’s true.  When you can take the time to specifically list what it is that you appreciate, then the fact that you noticed and that it has some impact is communicated just by the mere fact that you mentioned it.

  1. Personal

“Thanks all y’all for everything you do.”

That’s pretty general. Very vague. And, feels like something that someone is just checking off their list of things to do for the day.

Yes, it’s also a little Texan. (And, I am Texan and feel comfortable in saying y’all – even professionally).

However, whatever regional phrases you use – Make sure your appreciation is very specific to that person.

Before you communicate your appreciation answer these questions:

  1. What did this particular person do or say that you are grateful for?
  2. What’s the best way this person likes to receive a genuine ‘thank you’?

Remember, some people like to be thanked publicly.  Others do not.

Some appreciate gifts, gift cards and even tickets to activities. Some do not and lose the cards or tickets. Or, they bury them away.

Some really like a little extra time to be heard and to make a difference.

Some like plaques and certificates. Some see those as a waste of time.

Do you know your team members or the people you connect with enough to know the best way that is meaningful to them to be appreciated?

  1. Focus on how it matters or makes a difference to you

All of us want to know that we’re valued and that we matter.

Do you want to ignite someone’s productivity, motivation and dedication? Let them know in all sincerity how they’ve made a difference in your life. For business, you might want to focus more on your “work life”.

Knowing this, you know that saying thanks – even as specific as possible – is not enough.  You need to share not only what you’re thankful for but also share how that’s made a difference in your life.

  1. Share how it matters or makes a difference to the company and your customers

How their action has made a difference to you as an individual is important. But, it also matters that they know how they make a difference to the company or to customers.

Here’s an example:

I appreciate that you took the time to help that customer with their individual questions.  It takes a load of my plate so that I can focus on growing the business. And, I know you make sure our customers feel heard and helped. Thank you!

Let your appreciation do more, mean more and be received by the person you’re giving it to with the same meaning and sincerity of the intent.