4 Ways to Leverage Social Media to Enhance Your Career

This is a guest post by LGL Community member Scott Huntington.

Although many companies caution workers about using social media, utilizing sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can go a long way in positioning you within your own company and as a leader in your industry.  Obviously you need to be smart about how you use social media. Never lambast your company or post anything inappropriate.

1. Share Expertise

A good example of using LinkedIn to develop online leadership is the profile of Keith Springer, president and founder of Springer Financial Advisors. Springer publishes tips on stocks, what is currently going on in the market and his personal reasons for the ways he invests. This not only keeps his co-workers up to date, but also offers advice for others in his niche.

 2. Establish Authority

Another important aspect of utilizing the online world to establish authority is lending credibility to your posts or blog writing. While you may have multiple degrees in your field and years of experience, it’s still important to cite reliable studies from trusted sources, such as universities and well-known research firms. Make sure you add a bit more information to any topic you cover so that people understand you aren’t just regurgitating information, but you truly understand the topic.

If you are really ambitious, write a short book on the subject you know best. You’ll earn quite a lot of respect from your employees and your peers.

3. Get Off the Computer and Into the Real World

Although you can make connections online, you should also be attending events in your industry. As you meet people at conferences, speeches you give or even social gatherings, share what you do and ask them to connect with you online. These in-person connections are much more likely to read, share and promote your content than those who’ve never actually met you.

4. Utilize the Right Platforms

While online leadership is about utilizing online social media platforms, which platforms you choose can be just as important as how many followers you have. If your business focuses on technology, you can connect with like-minded people on Google+ and LinkedIn, but Pinterest probably isn’t going to bring you a lot of traffic. Study who is using each type of platform, analyze which social sites your competitors are on and start adding your voice to the mix to gain the online leadership skills necessary in today’s global marketplace.

If you liked this, you may also enjoy Scott’s previous LGL post. How to Be a Manager When Your Employees Are Older Than You.

How to Get Bigger Results from Small Talk

The truth is I HATE small, small talk. But you can’t get to big talk with strangers without some form of this connection cocktail.

Strangers don’t grow into acquaintances, acquaintances don’t grow into connections, connections don’t grow into friends–without a bit of early light banter. I’m not advocating for talk that remains small. Nothing makes me more crazy than when a relationship gets stuck in the “talk about the weather” phase. Consider small talk as a light knock on the door of bigger possibilities.

Why Small Talk Stays Small

Urban Dictionary shares the following definitions of “small talk.”

“Useless and unnecessary conversation attempted to fill the silence in an awkward situation. Commonly backfires into feelings of loneliness and social discomfort.”

“When you come across that person you haven’t seen in a while, but you really have no close connection with them anyways. But you know… you don’t want to be rude and just walk right past them… so then it turns to a complete BSing session between you and this acquaintance.”

“The act of supplying a person with irrelevant information about oneself in an attempt to appear friendly and normal to a person one is meeting for the first time. This practice is particularly important to extroverts (people who take pleasure in spewing random bits of their life stories at anybody who will listen…)”

A Bigger Approach to Small Talk

In their book We Dare You: How Handshakes Can Change the World, Mattson, Williams, and Orendi share three practical categories for starting more meaningful conversations.

Conversation Starters

  • How’s your day been so far?
  • Do you understand this stuff?
  • What’s the deal with that?
  • Would it be okay if I complimented you on something?
  • Could I get your opinion?

Fun Zone Questions

  • What celebrity do you most want to punch in the face?
  • What did you get in trouble for when you were a kid?
  • What was your favorite musical group when you were in middle school?
  • What was your worst date like? (oh boy, do I have a fun answer for this one 😉
  • What was your first job? Worst job?

Deep Zone Questions (to be used a bit further down the connection line)

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, What, you too? I thought I was the only one.” -C.S. Lewis

  • What is the most vivid memory from your childhood?
  • If you had to verbalize a slogan for your life what would that be?
  • What is your crowning achievement at this point in your life?
  • What’s the nicest thing someone ever said to you?
  • What are you really about?

When we take a bigger approach to small talk, we open important pathways to future connection. I challenge you to go bigger with your small talk this week, and let us know how it goes.

The Biggest Networking Mistake

Sarah (not her real name) had just received a kick-in-the-gut career wake up call – the kind we all pray never happens. She had 60-days to find something new. Perhaps it was her fault, perhaps not. These situations are prickly. The grapevine was buzzing with rumors when what she needed was connections.

“Do you want me to take a look at your LinkedIn profile?” I offered. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, but also felt compassion for an old colleague. Silence. “I don’t have one,” she admitted.

Not wanting to discourage, I tried another angle. “What professional contacts do you have outside the company?”

More silence. She had invested long and deep in her networking at work. She had mentors and sponsors, but such networks are tightly woven, and can unravel 27 times faster than they took to build.

Sarah was suffering from the networking mistake I see repeated over and over again across generations and industries: waiting to build a network until you “need it.”

There’s power in building your network without intention.

The Power of “Just Because” Networking

The most powerful networking tool is quite simple. Just show up and genuinely help everyone you can in as many circles as possible. Not because they can help you now, or even some day – but because you’re a human being and you have something to offer another human being. That’s it.

Call it karma, call it common sense. It works.

Yesterday, I received three calls out of the blue from folks I had helped, or connections of folks I had helped.

None of these relationships were started because I thought they could help me some day. On the surface, all of these loose ties had less “position” power than me.

As it turns out, two of the three will lead to cool opportunities that have the magical feeling of “falling from the sky.” The third was from an executive recruiter with an enormous offer that would have been highly attractive had I not just quit my day job to pursue my dream.

She had heard about me because good people know good people. I hadn’t talked to that good person who mentioned my name for years, and what I had done for her was very small. Guess who I referred that recruiter to? Yup, a good person who helps others just because.

JUST BECAUSE NETWORKINGTips For Just Because Networking

  • Treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect.
  • Accept all LinkedIn invitations (unless they’re really creepy: Side rant – LinkedIn is not a dating service).
  • Offer to help first.
  • Never ask for help on the first connection.
  • Plant bulbs of support everywhere. Just because you can.

Thanks to LGL community member Larry Coppenrath for creating the visual of today’s post.

Informational Interviews: Not Just For Rookies

A common misconception is that informational interviews are only for folks starting out in their career. Sure informational interviews are a great idea for the new college grad, but they can be game-changing later in your career as well. Two of the best executive roles I’ve had came from such informational interviews, and eventually the real interviews once a job was available.

I used this technique to move to a completely new side of the business, from Verizon to Verizon Wireless and establish an entirely new network (pun intended).

Of course I didn’t call them that. If you’re more established in your career, I’d avoid the term informational interview, but a rose by any other name…

In my case I just reached out via email with a short summary and my resume attached. I shared a bit of my background (with enough of an elevator speech to get them to open attached resume.). I indicated I would be in “the neighborhood (e.g. the same state)” and asked if I could swing by to introduce myself. It was important to say that I was perfectly happy in my current role (which was close enough to the truth to still go to church on Sunday), but just looking for career guidance and future possibilities.

Each of these introductions inevitably led me to ask the question: who else should I talk with?  That question led to more such informational interviews, a ride along, and an invitation to attend a local charity even dinner with the VP (which felt like a 4 hour interview). It takes time, so you can’t be in a rush. One job surfaced 9 months later, another took two years to bake, but involved a promotion. Both were worth the effort.

Tips For Conducting a Great Informational Interview

  1. Remember this is your dime, be prepared to lead the conversation
  2. Have intelligent questions prepared
  3. Listen more than you talk
  4. Be actively interested and take notes
  5. Have a strong elevator speech ready
  6. Don’t over-sell or ask for a job
  7. Share enough of yourself to leave them intrigued and remembering you

A Few Good Questions

  • What’s the best part of working in this areaof the business?
  • Who is the best at this role? What makes them exceptional? (those names are great people to follow-up with)
  • Who else would you recommend I talk with to gain additional perspective?
  • When you look at my current background, what’s missing to best prepare me for a job here? What additional experience would be helpful?
  • If a job were open in your department, what reservations would you have about considering me
  • Is there someone I could shadow to get to know more about this role?

My Saturday Afternoon With Seth Godin

About 2 years ago, I had the audacity (some should argue stupidity), to email Seth Godin my very first blog post. Let me be blunt, the post was terrible. But that’s not what he said when he wrote me back within a few hours of hitting send. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t say it was good, but he was full of encouragement. I had “shipped my art” as his books encourage us all to do. And as it turns out, that’s what mattered at that stage of the game. And so I kept writing.

I’ve got some big plans brewing for our LGL community (more to come April 1st), so when I received his invitation to attend his interactive “Impresario Workshop” in NYC, I signed up in minutes. I wanted to share my vision and get his perspective. More importantly, I wanted him to know how much his early note had meant to me. I’m a strong believer in ensuring people know the impact they’ve had on our development. The crazy part was that before I could thank him, he blew me away with more confidence-building observations. When I finally got to my “thank you part” I was busting with energy and even deeper gratitude. Real leaders light people up through genuine connection and intrapersonal inspiration.

Why Seth Godin Stopped Doing All the Talking

The real brilliance of the workshop was not what Seth Godin said from the stage. It came from who was in the room and how they connected. Unlike most workshops, the ratio of stage-to-audience content and audience-to-stage interaction (Through Q&A) was about 1:4. Seth Godin set the table for conversation, and then created a dialogue. His detailed responses made us all think more deeply.

It started by who he invited to the table. As part of the “application” process for early entry, we had to share what we were up to, including our websites and other social media presence. He knew his workshop would work because of who was in the room and what they were up to. He knew his job was to attract, connect and inspire. Of course, that’s entirely the point of being an “Impresario.” To change the culture by getting the right people in synch.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

The magic of the workshop came after it was over. We were invited to sign-up for optional dinners around the city, paired by areas of “common interests” as articulated in our applications. We didn’t know who we’d be meeting with until we showed up. My kindred spirits turned out to be a millennial gamer/game developer; an engineer turning into a consultant; an app developer preparing to launch a company overseas, and a PR consultant. Not a leadership thinker in sight…our conversation was on fire, and could have continued all night. Within 3 minutes we knew exactly why we were selected to be connected. We offered new angles and insights, and took away “action items” to continue the support.

Beyond the Usual Suspects

We tend to focus our networking efforts on folks with obvious common ground. Execs connect with execs. Leadership thinkers connect with other leadership thinkers. Bloggers with bloggers. Sales guys with sales guys. Call center experts with others in the same scene.

There’s risk in assuming you know who you’re looking for as you build your network.

What my dinner companions (and everyone I met throughout the day) had in common was not our day jobs.

Instead of chasing the usual suspects seek out humans who…

  • Are up to something amazing
  • Have a curious spirit
  • Are truly interested in other people
  • Have open minds
  • Are hungry for success
  • Have a propensity to connect
  • Ooze generosity
  • Engage in transparent and real conversations #meanit

Effective Networking: 6 Secrets Your Kids Know

We’d spent the last 5 days reconnecting as a family, completely dark from any semblance of social networking. Alright, I’ll be honest… all networking…each night my husband and I requested a table for 4 on this 5 night cruise to Mexico. It’s cool to meet other travelers… but not this time, we needed family and rest.

The final evening’s entertainment was a magic show.

My son, Sebastian, was lucky enough to be selected as the “assistant.” I wasn’t shocked by his hammy performance (he comes by that naturally). What happened next intrigued me.

As we exited the auditorium, people approached my son and began waving and congratulating him from across the room. He had stories about everyone. “Oh those are the women who taught me Mexican dominos at the pool, they live in Bri-ain,” trying to work his Liverpudlian accent, “but are really from Daaaalllas,” adding a draw. “You remember Abe, he calls himself the sausage king, he’s half deaf but likes to play the drums.”

The pattern continued as we hopped on the elevator…. “She’s the mommy of the girl I played ping-pong with on Tuesday.” And then on the way to dinner… and then again in the customs line the next day… This kid had connections.

The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups. We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it.

What Kids Can Teach Us About Networking

Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of these approaches into your networking.

  1. No agenda – Kids connect with no agenda. They don’t think, “gee, if I meet this girl, maybe she’ll introduce me to her brother with the Pokemon shirt…he may have a card in his collection I need…” Nope, they just join in and see what happens. They build relationships for the sake of relationships.
  2. Are open to new relationships – If someone introduces themselves, they don’t question motive.  Kids don’t wonder, “what’s this guy really want?”  They get past the small talk sooner. “Yeah, my math teacher’s really mean too… but maybe it’s me, I hate math.”
  3. They play – You’re going to meet a lot more people playing in the pool than on the deck. Kids get in the pool. Play leads to natural interaction and builds relationships.
  4. They share toys – Kids are taught to share their toys, and doing so leads to friendships. Grown-ups lose this instinct. I’m always amazed in my fitness class how grown-ups fight over weights (that don’t even belong to them). You can only use one set at a time, but everyone likes to have choices in front of them, just in case. Asking the person one mat over to “borrow” their weights typically leads to a dirty look. No one proactively offers. Most grown-ups don’t follow the same rules they teach their kids.
  5. They follow-up – When they meet someone they like, they attach more quickly. “That was fun, are you going to the kid’s club after dinner? Wanna meet at the pool again tomorrow?” They don’t call it networking. They have no system, they just ask.
  6. They bounce back. – No one likes to feel rejected. But most kids seem to accept casual slights for what they are. They don’t over-analyze. “What happened to John?” “Oh, he didn’t want to play any more.” They move on.

Lunch Taboos You Should Break

You’re REALLY busy. No time for lunch. Better to grab some almonds and a diet coke and work through. The time you save at lunch gets you home sooner to your family. I’m with you. 

In fact when I was pregnant, my assistant announced she had blocked 30 minutes for me every day to walk to the cafeteria for lunch. I was allowed to move the appointment, but not delete it, for the sake of the baby.

Oh sure, I do business lunches, with an agenda and a purpose. And my sales team used to share that whenever I had something serious to talk about I invited them for a pumpkin latte. When sales started to dip, I would get a pre-emptive call: “I’ve already started scouting out the nearest Starbucks. I know you’ll want to talk.”

So I was surprised when a former colleague invited me to lunch. In all the years we worked together (in the same building) we hadn’t gone to lunch. Now he was at another company. I thought, he must need help. I’d better make the time.

What I Learned At Lunch

We met for lunch and I waited for the agenda to emerge. There was none. We got caught up on our careers and families. We talked about leadership and engagement, culture, common business challenges, hopes, disappointments.
And then he shared:

“You know the biggest difference between the 2 cultures? At my new company going to lunch is encouraged. Our entire culture is built on relationships. We have an open invitation to invite anyone from any other department to lunch, just to get to know them. No agenda required. And we can expense it.”

I laughed. My finance guy would never have allowed that (he was my finance guy). “Yup,” he admitted. As he picked up the check, I vowed to treat the next time. I got back to my office and looked and my calendar. Who could use a nice salad?

Why Connections Will Change Your Life

I raced for the airport parking shuttle, threw my bag on the rack and collapsed in the seat. The hectic schlep is too familiar. The stranger next to me smiled, “How’d it go?” Ugh, what’s this guy want? What ever he’s selling, I don’t need.

I’ve been on that shuttle many times texting, returning calls, trying to remember if there was anything in the fridge to cook for dinner. The last thing on my mind is connecting. But for some reason, I played along.

I opened my heart and shared:

“Actually, quite well. I work in the call center space, and connection and empathy is fundamental. I saw more of that on this trip. I think they’re getting it. I also write a leadership blog and more people are engaging. The momentum is exciting”

His connection energized my thinking. I suddenly felt better about the progress. I took a shot. “Did you make the sale?” He laughed and beamed, “sure did.” And then he went on, “but I’m worried.

I’m in healthcare and the entire landscape is changing. I’ve been in this field forever, but may need to change. I’m not sure how I’ll replicate the income and my kids are still small. It’s all I’ve known.”

I felt sudden compassion for this stranger. This fleeting connection mattered. The 7 1/2 minute conversation energized us both. No cards exchanged. No romantic intentions. No next steps. No asks. Just two tired strangers offering the gift of connection. Next week, I’ll take that shuttle again with connections on my mind.

Creating Powerful Connections

Connections aren’t just for the people we love or those we lead. You can influence small corners of the world through fleeting connections.

  • Look up
  • Open your heart
  • Trust more
  • Ask
  • Share
  • Respond

Where have you found joy in random connections? To whom can you offer that gift?

Why Your Elevator Pitch Isn’t Working

You know you need an elevator pitch. Perhaps you’ve even practiced and gotten “why choose me” down to a perfect pitch. But somehow you never seem to get the chance to use it. Sadly, the biggest mistake I see aspiring networkers make is that they don’t recognize an “elevator” when they’re in one.

Invisible Elevators

I had my entire leadership team in for a Summit– 2 1/2 days of strategy, development, growing and fun. The shuttles from the hotel to our headquarters-based meeting left at 7 am. A few of us had cars and were driving over. As I walked into the parking lot, there was a cluster of folks who had clearly missed the bus.

“No worries, I’ve got room,” I said, cheerfully. Everyone looked at their feet. One of my Directors who also had a car offered, “or you can come with me…” They all followed her. I looked at them and smiled, “really?” You are on the way to a leadership summit, where the first thing on the agenda is how to network through elevator pitches and no one’s getting in my car? One brave soul came forward and we put her suitcase in my trunk. “Don’t worry, I said, no elevator pitch necessary.”

I then proceeded to share all the crazy stuff that had happened when I was in cars with executives. The time I was so busy “elevator pitching” my team’s results to our CEO that I drove past the exit (with an 8 mile recovery). The day I took a sales rep out to lunch for a “wager” we’d made on an “impossible” accomplishment, and got pulled over for an illegal turn. She warmed up. And bingo a BEAUTIFUL elevator pitch. I learned a bit about her and what she was up to. She asked about my career, and then shared more. We both left enriched by the time together.

Fast Pitch Exercise

Fast forward to 8 am. Summit.

A few leaders on my team created a “fast pitch” exercise. I recommend it if you ever have a large team together who are eager to advance.

A bit like speed dating, and speed mentoring, We had 120 people join us in fast pitch stations. My senior team and I were the “catchers” and everyone else brought their “elevator speeches” or joined us in a “mock interview” question in one-on-one sessions. Each session lasted only a few minutes, but we offered immediate feedback, and a chance to fine-tune. I was astounded by the progress made in such a short time.

Improve your elevator pitch

In the debrief, the team said they learned to…

  • Start with genuine connection
  • Understand what’s important to “them” and build on that
  • Don’t assume they get your world
  • Speak in understandable language
  • Don’t minimize who you are
  • Share your passion and energy
  • Speak from your heart (show up genuine)

Most importantly. Get in the car. Leverage that walk to the meeting. Chat while working together on volunteer day.  Get past the small talk at the recognition dinner.

Elevator speeches don’t need elevators.

Know your worth, hone your message, and share it.

Why Your Elevator Pitch Isn't Working

You know you need an elevator pitch. Perhaps you’ve even practiced and gotten “why choose me” down to a perfect pitch. But somehow you never seem to get the chance to use it. Sadly, the biggest mistake I see aspiring networkers make is that they don’t recognize an “elevator” when they’re in one.

Invisible Elevators

I had my entire leadership team in for a Summit– 2 1/2 days of strategy, development, growing and fun. The shuttles from the hotel to our headquarters-based meeting left at 7 am. A few of us had cars and were driving over. As I walked into the parking lot, there was a cluster of folks who had clearly missed the bus.

“No worries, I’ve got room,” I said, cheerfully. Everyone looked at their feet. One of my Directors who also had a car offered, “or you can come with me…” They all followed her. I looked at them and smiled, “really?” You are on the way to a leadership summit, where the first thing on the agenda is how to network through elevator pitches and no one’s getting in my car? One brave soul came forward and we put her suitcase in my trunk. “Don’t worry, I said, no elevator pitch necessary.”

I then proceeded to share all the crazy stuff that had happened when I was in cars with executives. The time I was so busy “elevator pitching” my team’s results to our CEO that I drove past the exit (with an 8 mile recovery). The day I took a sales rep out to lunch for a “wager” we’d made on an “impossible” accomplishment, and got pulled over for an illegal turn. She warmed up. And bingo a BEAUTIFUL elevator pitch. I learned a bit about her and what she was up to. She asked about my career, and then shared more. We both left enriched by the time together.

Fast Pitch Exercise

Fast forward to 8 am. Summit.

A few leaders on my team created a “fast pitch” exercise. I recommend it if you ever have a large team together who are eager to advance.

A bit like speed dating, and speed mentoring, We had 120 people join us in fast pitch stations. My senior team and I were the “catchers” and everyone else brought their “elevator speeches” or joined us in a “mock interview” question in one-on-one sessions. Each session lasted only a few minutes, but we offered immediate feedback, and a chance to fine-tune. I was astounded by the progress made in such a short time.

Improve your elevator pitch

In the debrief, the team said they learned to…

  • Start with genuine connection
  • Understand what’s important to “them” and build on that
  • Don’t assume they get your world
  • Speak in understandable language
  • Don’t minimize who you are
  • Share your passion and energy
  • Speak from your heart (show up genuine)

Most importantly. Get in the car. Leverage that walk to the meeting. Chat while working together on volunteer day.  Get past the small talk at the recognition dinner.

Elevator speeches don’t need elevators.

Know your worth, hone your message, and share it.

Connect, Influence, Inspire: A Growing Leaders Salute to Bill Gessert

Great leaders connect with, influence and inspire those around them. Bill Gessert, who has served as President of the International Customer Service Association since 2007, has spent his career creating forums and opportunities for leaders to connect and grow. And so, on the eve of Customer Service Week, first founded by the ICSA in 1988, I offer this Growing Leaders Salute to Bill Gessert.

Leadership and Connections

Q: How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

A: Early in my tenure as a “leader” I learned the sometimes painful lesson that as a leader, I don’t have to do EVERYTHING. That was not easy for me because I am very much a self-starter and am driven to see things get done. My philosophy of leadership has evolved to an understanding that to be truly effective, I need to rely on others their skills, abilities, ideas, and creativity. I work hard to recognize and understand what others bring to the table and then utilize their skills and abilities appropriately. Also, I believe a leader must be passionate about what they are doing. That passion is contagious and brings out the best efforts and results of others.

Q: Your leadership seems to be very much about creating connections. When and how did you realize that learning to connect was important?

Not soon enough! There is no reason to “go it alone” when there are so many people out there that know as much or more than I do. Connecting people is really one of the most rewarding things anyone can do. And when you make connections that matter, everyone benefits. When you make positive and meaningful connections, those people often return the favor at just the right time. Making connections – good ones – is a skill.

Q: How does involvement in associations help leaders to grow and develop?

A: Associations are ALL about connection. When we connect with others in our industry, people with a shared vision and goal, we are bound to learn and grow. One of the things we try to do at each conference is build time into the schedule to allow people to connect. We even include activities to help foster positive connections by helping people find their common ground with others.

The collective experience and knowledge of the “group” will always trump the individual. Associations create that “group” in a powerful way that makes everyone stronger. Leaders need to be exposed to the wide range of thoughts, ideas, emerging tools, and the thought leaders within their industry in order to develop their own skills and abilities. I’ve always felt one of the key attributes of effective leaders is remaining humble enough to keep learning. Associations, when they are working correctly, are a great source of learning opportunities.

Q: As a leader of volunteers at the ICSA, how do you encourage participation and shared leadership?

A: I think encouraging participation and spreading leadership around all begins with sharing the mission and vision of your group. Why do you exist? What do you provide that people cannot get anywhere else? What is your purpose, both today and into the future? And how are you going to get there? All of that has to be shared before people will choose to engage. This is especially true in a volunteer organization like the ICSA. We have accomplished a great deal in our 31 years of existence and it all pours out of a shared understanding of our mission and vision.

Also, from a very practical standpoint you have to recognize that people have only so much bandwidth to give to the Association’s work. It is important to not only understand that but to function out of that understanding. In other words, don’t ask someone to do something that just will not fit into the time they have to give to the Association. As a leader, it is important to talk to all your key volunteers and gain a realistic idea of how much time they have and what can be accomplished with that time.

Finally, never underestimate the power of recognition and thanks. Failure to say thanks for your time, effort, and results is the fastest way to disenfranchise a solid contributor to your team. I’ve gone back to sending hand written “thank yous” because I know how very much those have meant to me over the years. I find it more personal and sincere. It takes a bit more time (and I hate my handwriting) but the extra effort of writing those notes is always notices and deeply appreciated

Customer Service Week

Q: Can you tell me about why the ICSA felt like it was important to formalize a week to recognize customer service professionals?

A: The ICSA created National Customer Service Week for two reasons. First, as a means of celebrating the incredible efforts of front line service providers. We believe in regular and frequent recognition of the efforts of service professionals. But setting aside this one week ensures that there will be a focus on celebrating their work.

Secondly, National Customer Service Week was also created to increase the understanding and awareness of the vital role that customer service plays in building and maintaining loyal customers. The profitability of any organization is directly impacted by the quality of their service. National Customer Service Week is a time when the ICSA works to bring this fact into light and increase the awareness of the value of customer service “professionals.”

Q: What leadership lessons can be learned from the evolution of customer service week?

A: Jeanne Bliss wrote a wonderful book entitled, Chief Customer Officer. In it she shares how several outstanding and successful companies have accomplished their success in large part because someone within the organization fulfilled the role of Chief Customer Officer. A person who represents the customers in every strategic meeting and across all of the “silos” that tend to exist in organizations.

Glass Elevators: Why Having an Elevator Speech Matters

Yesterday I attended an important meeting with important people. I was not scheduled to speak. And then, sure enough, I was given the opportunity to give my elevator speech.

A good friend of mine in Finance (p.s. always have a good friend in Finance) batted the conversation my way game on.

  • What’s our channel’s mission?
  • How are our results?
  • What’s our team best at?
  • How have we improved?

The buttons on the figurative elevator were pressed time to roll.

You see, I am familiar with elevators, and what can happen in them.

Early Elevators

Very early in my career, a VP several levels above me asked me to attend a very controversial meeting on his behalf. To this day, I don’t know if it was deliberate (because he thought I could add value), or if he really didn’t understand the controversial nature of the meeting, or if he was just scared.

The minute I walked in, I was questioned as to why I was there ( instead of the VP). I stayed (not knowing if I should), and it was down hill from there.

I listened to all the ideas for the major undertaking that were being presented. Being completely naive about how to approach such things, I said everything that was on my mind no filters to everyone in the room. This involved questioning the entire methodology of some very well-thought out plans of some amazing leaders. I was discounted, and should have been. I did not approach it well.

So, later that day when I ran into that VP in the elevator (huge building, crazy coincedence), I looked at the floor. The next thing I heard Karin, I have been thinking. You may be on to something. Please tell me what you wanted to say.

I told her and got involved. That project transformed my career, and she became a fantastic mentor.

A bit later

So years later, as I grew in leadership responsibility, I wanted the best folks on my team to always be prepared to tell their story and share their ideas in a meaningful and concise way. From time to time, I lead “mentoring circles” on the subject of elevator speeches.

I always begin these sessions with my latest “elevator speech” as an example

  • what our team is about
  • how we are making a difference
  • real statistics of how we are improving
  • and my leadership vision to lead that team

One time, after doing the session with a great group of front line leaders, I got into the elevator. We had just been through a reorganization that week and I had a new senior leader that I had not yet met (but he must have seen my picture).

He looks at me and says, “Hey, Aren’t you on my new team?  What’s your story?”

So I shared my newly minted elevator speech.

That worked too.

Since then, I always keep one fresh.

Tomorrow morning

I am attending another important meeting in a very big hotel lots of elevators lots of people.

Keeping it fresh.