“It isn’t what they say about you, it’s what they whisper.”
Walk into any bookstore and go to the business or self-help section. You’ll find at least a thousand books on success … which is enough to make your head spin … and make you wonder who’s right and who’s wrong.
I like the way Maria Urani, the Vice President of Delivery Services at Nationwide Insurance, cuts through all that clutter. She says professional success boils down to three elements and three elements only: Performance, Image, and Exposure. And in the last two issues of the “Tuesday Tip,” I’ve covered the elements of Performance and Image in some detail. Let’s look at the third element of EXPOSURE … which is all about being known.
Certainly companies know about the importance of EXPOSURE. They’ve got to be known before they can sell anything and make any profits. And in light of our difficult economic times, Dr. Ann Weeks has uncovered some very unusual company mergers and acquisitions that are taking place … all in the hopes of increasing their EXPOSURE.
For example, Dr. Weeks says:
* Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Company will merge and become “Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace”
* Polygram Records, Warner Brothers, and Zesta Crackers will join forces and become “Poly, Warner, Cracker”
* 3M will merge with Goodyear and issue forth as “MMMGood”
* Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become “ZipAudiDoDa”
* FedEx is expected to join with UPS and become “FedUP” … and finally …
* Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become “Poupon Pants”
Of course, Dr. Weeks is teasing, but you get the point. To be successful, you’ve got to be noticed. And that’s as true on the professional level as it is on the company level. So how can you get the EXPOSURE you need to ensure the success you want?
=> 1. Get a well respected, highly successful person to be your mentor.
You see … there are two ways to learn: through trial and error or other people’s experience. The first way costs a lot, takes a long time, and brings inconsistent results. The second way is quicker, easier, and almost always effective.
With a highly successful mentor giving you advice, challenging your thoughts and behaviors, and holding you accountable, you’ll avoid the mistakes he or she made. You’ll learn his or her secrets of success. And as you grow and mature professionally, your mentor will EXPOSE you to lots of other people and opportunities.
One other tip. As you select your mentor, make sure he or she is an encourager as well. As Tommy Barnett, the founder of the Dream Center puts it, “There is no such thing as an impossible dream … and one thing is for sure … the world doesn’t need another dream killer. I try hard to be an encourager, a dream-builder.”
Barnett goes on to ask, “I wonder how many people will one day discover that they spent their lives killing other people’s dreams. I picture certain people, like weed-control experts, walking around a lawn and spraying weed poison on every flower that tries to pop up. Their words are really dream poison.”
So get a mentor, but pick your mentor wisely.
=> 2. Help others succeed.
The author Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.” She’s right. That’s not only a nice thing to do, it’s also a very smart business thing to do. As you help others succeed, they will EXPOSE you to others you might help and might help you.
Major Robert Devens of the Iowa National Guard certainly supports that belief. He wrote me a note a while ago, saying, “I believe the words ‘Customer Service’ may be the best sales pitch, but I challenge everyone to take it one step further. I challenge people to focus on ‘Customer Success’ where you help your customers succeed.”
Right on!!! When you help people achieve their goals, they talk about you.
And motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, “You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.” It’s the best PR, EXPOSURE, or word-of-mouth advertising you can ever get.
Jason Damkoehler, one of my “Tuesday Tip” subscribers, wrapped it most eloquently when he wrote, “True greatness is defined and measured not by the level of your achievement, but by the level of lasting positive influence you bear in the lives of those that come into contact with you.”
=> 3. Keep confidences confident.
When I’m delivering my program on “The Service Payoff: How Customer Service Champions Outserve and Outlast The Competition,” I talk about the fact that your customers will always talk about you; just make sure that talk is positive. Make sure that whatever EXPOSURE you get is positive.
Well that same principle applies to your coworker relationships. If you want them to talk about you positively, keep confidentiality. You want to be known as a trusted advisor, not as a gossip.
It’s hard enough to earn the trust of somebody. It’s harder still to reestablish that trust once it has been broken. And by all means, keep your promises. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, do it!
=> 4. Focus on positioning.
Instead of trying to sell yourself, try to position yourself.
Smart companies do this. They know their prospects and customers have been inundated with advertising and sales pitches over the radio, on the TV, in their e-mail, and in their mailbox. Their attention span is shorter and their mistrust is higher. So smart companies try to position themselves in the customer’s mind with 3 or 4 positive words or feelings that always come to mind when they think about that company.
You can and should do the same thing. Instead of trying to get more EXPOSURE in your organization by trying to sell others on how good you are, focus on positioning. So when people are talking about expertise, or integrity, or innovation, or whatever, your name always comes to mind.
And if you don’t know how you’re positioned in the minds of others, ask 10 to 20 of your coworkers and customers to list the words that come to mind when they hear your name. It will take guts to ask, but the lesson could be eye-opening.
=> 5. Bring learning back to the organization.
You could volunteer to present your team results at the next all-staff meeting. Public speaking is one of the best ways to increase your EXPOSURE.
But please, don’t wing your presentation. Outline it in advance. Make sure every point is clear and crisp. Make sure your points are relevant to the audience that is listening to you. Tell a story. Add a little humor. And for heaven’s sake, practice your presentation a few times before you give it. Again, your goal is positive EXPOSURE, not a sigh of resignation when you get up to speak.
If you attend an off-site conference that had significant value for you and would also help your coworkers, offer to teach them some of the highlights of what you learned. It could be a real gift. As William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, said back in the 1600’s, “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
That’s what a lot of people do when they attend my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program. They bring the highlights back to their colleagues. Mona Parekh and six of her colleagues from Clarke County Hospital did that. As she wrote, “Thank you for sharing your methodology of success. It works! I used your techniques and accomplished the goal I set at ‘The Journey.’ I took my last 4 exams for certification and passed them all! And now the 6 of us who attended your ‘Journey’ program are teaching your techniques to our employees. They really enjoy it, and it’s working for them.”