Author Archives: Jennifer Kahnweiler

Secrets from Leadership Speakers

Recipients of The National Speakers Association annual awards. Phillip Van Hooser, The Cavett Award, Bill Stainton, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), Carey Lorenz, CSP and Rory Vaden, CSP earned their CPAE’s, the Council of Peers Award for Excellence

Last week I spent time in Colorado near the front range of the Rocky Mountains at #Influence19, the annual conference run by the National Speakers Association. This is where professional speakers from around the world convene, learn, and laugh together.

The magic was in the design and execution… these professional leadership speakers absolutely rocked! I found I was intrigued by the process – the behind the scenes look at how these pros operate. What is it like before they walk on the stage? How do they get those books written? I took many notes and want to share a few highlights with you.

Special note: I am VP of Programs for NSA Georgia and we were able to invite a number of speakers from the conference to present here in Atlanta. Check out our organization if you, a friend, or colleague are exploring speaking or you are speaking already. You will get much, much better at the craft of speaking AND will learn terrific ways to run a successful speaking business.

Influence ’19 Leadership Speaker Gems

    • John Maxwell, one of the top leadership speakers and author has written 100 books and writes from 5:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. EVERY DAY. He doesn’t go for perfection. “It may not be my best bit, but it has to be my best shot!” said Maxwell.
    • Patricia Fripp does research on her clients like no one else I have every heard about. With one client, a tree company, she put on a hard hat and spent a day on job sites with the team. She even bought trees for her yard, just to experience the company’s customer service! Patricia (or Fripp as she is known) also said “specificity builds credibility.” Don’t say “thing.” If it weren’t a “thing” what would it be?
    • Robert Cialdini, author of mega hit Influence wants to know who he is writing for. He keeps a picture of his grandchildren next to him to keep his purpose close by. (My late Dad’s photo sits next to me and we have conversations when those writing block periods emerge). Cialdini also referenced his latest work about persuasion. “Prime people to be sympathetic to a message before they hear it.”
    • David Newman, marketing guru, said that for webinars or other services you provide, give value before you charge people. You are not giving anything away. You are just showing them your value. Would you go see a movie if the movie trailer wasn’t good? Love David’s analogies!
    • You Tube star, Jia Jiang’s“Rejection Therapy” approach encourages us to try and get rejected each day. He says we are too afraid of it and we need to get over this fear. He even has a new app you can can sign up for to help with the process!
    • Sonia Aranza, global diversity & inclusion strategist, said you can only take people as far as you have gone yourself. Do work on yourself (ex. go to a retreat) every year.
    • Sam Silverstein, an expert in creating an accountable workforce, says the power is in the debrief. When the client is happy with you, that is when you can effectively offer more services.

One special note: I was so glad to be at the Awards dinner to watch my friend and one of my speaking coaches Bill Stainton receive his CPAE! I am so proud of him and congratulations to ALL the well deserving award recipients!

There was much more, and I hope to see all my speaking friends at #Influence20!

Video: Introverts vs Extroverts

I love videos of introverts and extroverts that make me smile AND nail home points. A few years ago, I posted this amusing BuzzFeed video highlighting the differences between introverts and extroverts. I show it in some of my programs – it is a great way to bring up our differences with humor.

Do you think the I’s or E’s get a worse rap in this one? Maybe it depends through whose eyes you are watching it. I think when our traits are exaggerated they all can be very amusing (and very annoying at times).

As organizations increasingly encourage Introverted Leaders to use their Quiet Influence to step confidently into their roles, the next step awaits. How do we get introverts and extroverts – those Genius Opposites – to thrive together?

Video is a great way to get people talking. Another group I worked with used their video camera to interview random team members about their perceptions of different personality types. The video clips were shown at a company meeting and people discussed their assumptions and challenges.

So, to make your points and encourage dialogue in presentations and meetings, consider using video to get it done! 

How To Deliver Bad News in a Positive Way

Guest Post by Dianna Booher

Introverts often prefer communicating through writing. Sometimes leaders must take a position or summarize a verbal presentation over email. When this is bad news, it is not easy. But author Dianna Booher has written a book all about that: Faster Fewer Better Emails. In this guest post Dianna provides ways to communicate your message when it isn’t an easy one to convey.

Acknowledge the Facts

If the economy is free-falling, say so. If sales are sinking, say so. If the team is performing poorly, share your numbers. If your organization looks lousy beside the competition, come clean about the market feedback.

Nothing opens people’s minds and raises their estimation of your credibility like admitting the truth—and nothing decreases your credibility like ignoring the obvious or blaming, demonizing, or scapegoating others. You understand how pathetic that makes politicians look if you’ve ever heard them rationalize election results after a dramatic loss or listened to CEOs try to explain away poor earnings after failure to achieve their goals.

Small people shun responsibility. However, strong people shoulder it.

Stop Sugarcoating the Unknown and Unknowable

“Things will work—give it time!” “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine.” “It’ll all work itself out. It always does.” Such are the assurances parents give their kids. You expect them and even appreciate them—at age thirteen. But to an adult hearing such platitudes from bosses, colleagues, or friends who could not possibly know the future and how a situation will actually turn out, these remarks sound empty, if not insulting to your intelligence.

That’s not to say you can’t offer comforting words. You can and should. But to be helpful and consoling, those words should be the right words. Aim to get past the clichés and all-will-be-well platitudes to meaningful comments that encourage and give direction.

Focus on Options for the Future

In a negative situation, strong introverted leaders focus others on positive alternatives and actions with the power of their words. So, if you’re communicating about a tanking economy, the alternative may be to encourage listeners to change investment strategies for their 401K funds. If you’re communicating to comfort employees after personal property destruction because of a weather-related disaster, you could encourage them to consider rebuilding in another area. If you’re announcing a layoff––in addition to communicating compassion––you might focus on the option of new training for updated skills or offer contacts for their job search.

Structure the Message Appropriately

So, for either an email or conversation, how can you organize your bad-news message?

    1. Start on either a positive or neutral note.
    2. Elaborate on the current situation or your criteria/reasoning for making the negative decision.
    3. State the bad news (as positively as possible).
    4. Offer an alternative to meet the person’s goals, when possible.
    5. End with a goodwill statement focused on the future.

To increase your credibility in a bad-news situation, ditch a down-in-the-mouth demeanor. As an introverted leader, give helpful straight talk about the substantive issue and your words will be heard.

 

Dianna Booher’s latest books include Faster, Fewer, Better Emails, Communicate Like a Leader, What MORE Can I Say?, and Creating Personal Presence. She’s the bestselling author of 48 books, published in 61 foreign editions. Dianna helps organizations communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. National Media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, have featured her work on communication. www.BooherResearch.com @DiannaBooher

Dad and His Letters: A Father’s Day Tribute

Father's Day Tribute: Dad and HIs Letters

Photo by Carrie Boretz, his daughter

I wrote this blog post a few years ago for Father’s Day, and thought I would share it with you again.

For all us who have loved and lost our fathers.

 

I was sitting on a long airplane ride yesterday with tears streaming down my cheeks. Listening to a touching Story Corps podcast episode about fathers triggered profound feelings of loss.

My dad, Alvin Boretz, died 9 years ago and Father’s Day since then has been hard. His birthday was June 15th so the two days are always entwined in my mind. We always laughed that he got a bit cheated with a combined celebration.

I can’t call him to talk through a problem, share a piece of good news, or share the kids’  (and now the grandkids’) latest exploits. The truth is, he was gone in his mind several years before he actually died. But the physical loss was so final.

I do know that I am luckier than many people. Aside from having a father who was my greatest cheerleader, I had a Dad who wrote numerous letters through his life to me and many others. I have saved over 100 of them.  He was also a screenwriter and the entirety of his work is archived at The University of Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. I have been there several times to read his many screenplays, notes, and correspondence and it is always a joy.

As I write this post, the letters sit next to me, spilling out of the folders I have placed them in, loosely organized by decade.

Dad’s essence comes through in every one. Many are filled with encouragement, humor, and hope for the future – his and ours. And Dad loved to send me advice, including clippings from the The NY Times. Every time I forward a link to a friend or colleague, I smile and thank Dad for passing on his endless curiosity and desire to help others explore their current interests. He was always on the lookout. I read the NY Times each morning and often reflect on that comforting image of my mom and dad absorbing the news.

Dad’s words helped me to navigate life from my teens through my 20’s and 30’s.Though I left  NY at 18 for college and a career,  I could always depend on these welcome gifts in my mailbox from St. Louis, to Amherst, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. Other letters remain tough to read as Dad’s sadness and worry seep through the page like dark ink blots. He had a lot of tragedy in his life and his writing was an outlet for the emotions he couldn’t always express in his scripts or voice aloud. His letters didn’t escape this darkness.

After significant life events, both happy and sad, dad often made a point of writing letters. Here are a few excerpts from some of those letters. The beauty of his prose still moves me.

Excerpts from Dad’s letters

On deciding what career I should pursue:

“I have no advice….simply that your own good sense of survival and your judgment will help you to make proper decisions…none of which have to be irrevocable of course. That is important to remember. You are not committing your life…but simply starting out on a course of action which will allow you to make a livelihood and also hopefully to enjoy what you do and contribute. A most rare combination.” 

When my spouse ,Bill lost out on a job he wanted very much.

“The world is open to you. All that is required is resistance to all the injustice and madness that afflicts us all. There are few exceptions. Courage, my dear Bill. You can’t miss.”

After a  friend’s long time boyfriend broke up with her.

“You are the only one who can handle it and put a stop to your unhappiness. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ is a terrible cliché, but it is also an important truth. You will be busy working, functioning, living, and yes, even loving. Respect my gray hair and believe what I say. You are Kelly and that is someone wonderful.”

When Bill and I were in a serious car accident but weren’t injured:

“Sorry about the accident, but we all need a trauma like that to remind us of our vulnerability. Precisely at our zenith, we often attract the fates and that is good – for an affirmation that it is always a struggle. There is, of course, the inner struggle that all of us face and which surfaces when we least expect it. But at least it gives us a chance to handle our own destiny and to have some of the responsibility for our own lives. “

Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day and Happy Birthday!!!

 

 

The Quiet Leadership Speaker Who Stunned the Crowd

The quiet leadership speaker who stunned the crowd.

In the last few days, we have learned more about Robert F. Smith, leadership speaker and Austin billionaire who quietly announced at the 2019 Morehouse College commencement that he was paying off the student loans of each and every one of the 400 graduates. There was shock and then sheer exuberance at the realization that this tremendous financial burden would be lifted.This generous gift will change the lives of these graduates who can feel free to move ahead in their careers without the burden of financial debt.

So who is this man who performed such a generous gesture? There isn’t a ton on line about him but what videos and clips exist reveal a person who doesn’t want the spotlight except when he must stand in it. This makes me wonder if Robert Smith may be introverted in temperament. Introverts shy away from lots of attention unless it serves a purpose..

In videos of his speeches and interviews he describes how he learned and grew in his career.

What else about Mr. Smith have we learned?
  • He believes in having grit,…”calling someone each day for 5 months finally materializing in something you what you want” was an example he shared.
  • Discover the joy of figuring things out. “Fight through those problems.
  • He admired James Bond growing up.
  • He builds and develop people in his company, Vista Equity Partners. 
  • He is a deep thinker as evidenced in his interviews. A technology and business background supports this.
  • He gives to many causes, In addition to Morehousethe NY Times reports that “Cornell renamed its School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after Mr. Smith, and he has made major gifts to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and other cultural institutions. “
  • He  seized opportunities in each position he was in at Kraft, Goldman Sachs and Bell Labs before he founded his company.
  • He believes in the importance of studying. “You can make more money being smart than being strong or fast.” No one else can take intellectual property from you.

Robert F. Smith  has stayed under the radar until now. The NY Times reported, “Though he shunned the spotlight for many years, he has recently embraced a more public role, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and making major charitable contributions.”

Mr. Smith opened his heart and his purse. Whether he is an introvert or not may be revealed. What is certain, is that this leadership speaker has changed the course of hundreds of lives.

Why I Am a Big Fan of Techies

Why I am a fan girl of techies
With Janet Davis and Jennifer Ng AIn Kin, technology leaders at an IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference

 

I am a big fan of techies. Yet it makes no sense at all. From my earliest school days, I suffered from math anxiety. I still do.

Ms. Walsh, my 2nd grade teacher would write a math problem on the chalkboard, and my throat constricted, my stomach tightened, and my eyes got blurry. Things didn’t get much better in junior high and high school. The problems just got harder and more confusing. Even the math tutors my parents hired to help me decipher this foreign language couldn’t do much.

Fast forward, and now even doing my taxes can send me into a total tailspin. So what’s up with my fascination with techies? I think it comes down to three key reasons:

1) Techies are Creative 

Techies use numbers creatively to design robots, create time saving applications, and access instantaneous information.  And that creativity is closely associated with a wicked sense of humor!  Just take a look at the photo above of Canadian engineers Jennifer Ng Ain Kin  of Abbott Point of Care  and Janet Davis of Ciena, who called attention to the superpower of techie women at an IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference.

2) Techies Love What They Do

In describing a new process or program, I lose myself in their exuberance. It doesn’t matter that I have no idea about the intricacies of the problem they are solving. I just enjoy watching their utter joy in describing it to me.

3) Techies Appreciate and Respect “Soft Skills”  

Many techies are introverts. In order to sell their ideas, obtain resources, and instill innovation they know that people skills are necessary. And they look for ways to apply these tools to get results.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that next algebra exam any longer, but remembering that anxiety is useful. It gives me empathy for introverted techies who detest walking into a social gathering or speaking up at a meeting. Maybe we aren’t that different after all.

3 Reasons Introvert / Extrovert Partners Butt Heads

 

We live in a divided world. An estimated 50 percent of people fall on either the introvert or extrovert side of the spectrum. With those odds, chances are that you have interacted with and will interact with your opposite often.

Introverts and extroverts can create great harmonies together. Or their relationships can implode. Whether the outcome is wildly successful or totally disastrous is likely determined by whether they are in sync—or butt heads—with each other.

There is no way to assess how many breakthrough ideas never broke through because opposites could not get over the barriers their differences caused. But consider these examples:

  • Lerner and Loewe, world-famous Broadway show composers of hits such as Camelot and My Fair Lady, had much more to offer the world in an already-impressive roster of songs, but they couldn’t get over their dislike of each other.
  • Bob Eaton, the former Chrysler CEO, was outmaneuvered by his German counterpart and new CEO, Jurgen Schrempp of Daimler-Benz, in an ill-fated “merger of equals.”
  • Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, famous newspaper advice columnists and sisters, didn’t speak for seven years.

Perhaps you have a few examples like these in your own life. Maybe you’ve left a project because one of the key team members was an opposite type to you and the frustration overcame you. Maybe you left a job because you couldn’t work through your differences with your supervisor.

There are many reasons opposite partnerships in business don’t make it. Here are three of the major ones.

  1. Opposite wiring causes misfiring

The relationships of high-performing duos don’t just happen. Even as leaders with experience under our belt, we can let those with different styles crawl under our skin. Introverts don’t talk fast enough. Extroverts won’t stop interrupting. And under stress, introverts tend to shut down while extroverts go into hyperdrive. That is when potentially productive conflicts become stalemates.

  1. Not destroying the dislike

Introverted Gene Siskel and extroverted Roger Ebert, film critics, had a hit show together for 13 years, yet they vehemently hated each other. Clips from their interviews reveal a complex relationship in which they bickered and laughed, both on and off camera. But they had a hard time getting past their differences. They had to learn to act like friends and stop competing so their audience could reap the benefits of their great show.

  1. Not realizing your opposite’s strengths are your weaknesses

My daughter, Jessie Kahnweiler, is an LA-based filmmaker and an extrovert. She hired Liam, an introverted director of photography, for one of her complicated film shoots. As they were scoping out shots, Jessie spilled over with ideas. However, she sensed that Liam was not sharing in her excitement and she became frustrated. That is, until the day of the shoot when he appeared with a large notebook of carefully thought-out shots that had incorporated many of her suggestions. Jessie realized that Liam had the same level of enthusiasm as she did but approached it in an internally focused, methodical way. He was a planner and needed time to sort things out in his head—something she needed. His strengths were her weaknesses.

To determine potential landmines, become aware of where you and your opposite can clash. Learn what specific adjustments you can make to become the high-performing, dynamic duo you and your opposite are truly capable of being.

The Sound of Silence

Silence.

I think the universe is giving me the high sign to be quiet. For extroverts like myself, it is too easy to talk and make conversation. But what are we missing when we fill the space with our words and do not stop to let our pauses land?

Why, for instance, when waiting in line, is it easier to chatter or pick up your phone than simply stay present and notice what is going on with you and your surroundings?

I attended a retreat in Mexico and was away from technology and deadlines. The silence was beautiful. I meditated every morning and spent time in quiet reflection. To my family’s surprise, I even attended a silent dinner.

That last activity was a surprisingly relaxing and calming interlude. It was hard to believe that it lasted 1½ hours. I ate slowly, thinking about my food and how it looked and tasted. I was simply being. I came back determined to live more in the pause.

“The truth is in the silence. People are afraid to have a silent moment. People are jumping up and giving their opinion too quickly.” These words, spoken by the late comedian Gary Shandling  are profound. In an interview with podcast host Mark Maron, he went on to say that he believed that not being silent was a defensive reaction to not going deeper.

In my research for my book, Quiet Influence I found that introverts value quiet time above all other strengths. It is the place which is the wellspring for their creativity energy and where they go to recharge.

In Krista Tippitt’s podcast, On Being, Tiffany Shlain, a web guru, described how she and her family take a technology Sabbath on Friday night and Saturdays and how it has changed all of their lives for the better. Taking a radical step like that might just be the answer to reclaiming silence.

So, what will you do to build silence and a quiet space into your hectic life? Things are not going to get less busy, so it is probably wise to figure that out now, not tomorrow.