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A POWERFUL 4-STEP PROCESS FOR OVERCOMING RESISTANCE AND GETTING RESULTS
By HARRISON MONARTH
McGraw-Hill EducationCopyright © 2014 Harrison Monarth
All rights reserved.
The Art of Getting on the Radar
What if there were a way you could learn to be lucky?
Think about it. How many times have you witnessed a positive event—such as when an old friend from college lands a plum job at a hot start-up, an otherwise quiet colleague serves up a winning idea that's implemented companywide, or your neighbor in the cubicle farm snags a coveted invitation to a star-studded industry party—and you chalked it up to luck? If any one of those people told you these opportunities landed in their lap after taking an advanced course in cultivating windfalls, you'd be signing up the next day—or perhaps even within minutes, depending on how satisfied you are with your current situation.
Now I'm going to let you in on a secret: you can start the course right away. To master the first lesson, every time you hear the word luck, swap it out for the word opportunity. As the two become interchangeable in your mind, it would make good sense to remember that opportunities (like luck) don't materialize from the ether. No matter if they're large or small, you have a choice whether or not to take advantage of the opportunities that can advance your career or help you leapfrog over obstacles. As we'll learn, opportunities are attached to people, so one way to capitalize on said opportunities is to first identify the people or groups who can most benefit you and then look for ways to get on their radar.
A quick definition of what I mean by "radar" is needed here, though it's easy to get the idea. Being on someone's radar simply means that you somehow made an impact, however small, that can give you the chance to leverage the person's awareness of you for a deeper, more meaningful connection. And while none of us walks around with a gracefully arched, silver-colored radar dish strapped to our head, we all carry out unconscious sweeps to detect significant others in our social and work circles. The key word here is significant. The barista handing us our mochachino on the way to the office in the morning may get a smile and a friendly nod from us on our way in or out of the coffee shop, but he's not really on our radar. Most of us are hardly aware of a shift change at Starbucks and—casually indifferent—simply take our beverage from anyone who'll pass it over the counter. And we'll never give him a second thought.
Before people are open to hearing our suggestions, proposals, inquiries, or requests for help or support to a significant end, they need to consciously acknowledge the significance of our presence in their life experience. Before we get to present an agenda or issue to others, we need them to recognize us as important enough to listen to. This has less to do with luck and everything to do with harnessing opportunities to make an impression: on our boss (on whose radar we should be, but may also not be, if we blend into the background), a potential mentor, our colleagues, even potential new friends. If you can't get on the radar with key people, you might as well be invisible and—especially at work—miss a chance to land a high-stakes interview, get assigned a new client, get promoted (should have volunteered for that innovation project), earn recognition for a winning idea (that your more ambitious colleague decided to present because you felt uncomfortable), or make the most of any other opportunity that could propel you forward.
Speaking of missing opportunities, we all think we can spot them and make the right call in the moment, but reality is often different, and a narrow but definitive window of opportunity opens and closes in the blink of an eye.
I was reminded of this on a day I presented a workshop on executive presence and personal branding to 130 of AT&T's high-potential leaders from across the globe, at their company headquarters in downtown Dallas. My program was part of an extensive leadership development and networking program, and for that day, several top-level executives sat in the auditorium with all the high-potential managers, to take in my session. As I normally do, I asked for several of the present managers to introduce themselves and give a brief personal statement about who they were and what their value—not simply role or position, but actual value—was to the company. So if you were a sales leader, you wouldn't just say your name and identify yourself as a sales leader in a particular sector in a particular part of the country or world. You would mention how you generate revenue (make money) for the company by making sure that the people under you have all the support, training, and tools they need to once again top the previous quarter as "we've done for the fourth consecutive time over the past two years." Or something to that effect. Showing value is a powerful way to get on the radar with higher-ups. Guaranteed.
Since we had 130 people in the audience, I suggested that we have 10 people introduce themselves quickly at a clip of about a minute each, saving precious time for the actual program. What the managers didn't realize was that the introductions were a very important part of the program already and a lesson about to be learned. As I called for volunteers, sheepish glances to the left and right sought to unload my invitation on a neighboring seatmate. Slowly a few hands would rise ever so reluctantly as if to say, "Well, if no one else will, I guess I'll go...." And so, like a dentist pulls teeth, I pulled a few volunteers out to give their introductions.
Mind you, these were "high potentials," meaning they were rising leaders in a company that has committed to developing their skills to become highly effective communicators and decision makers. They weren't frightened novices who'd never spoken up in front of a group of people before.
Seconds after the introductions, I flashed a motion graphic of a sweeping radar on a big screen in front of the assembled room. Then I said, "A moment ago, 130 of you had the chance to get on the radar with several high-level executives in this room. You had the chance to concisely and uninterruptedly share your value to decision makers whose interest you could have piqued, perhaps prompting an inquiry by them that might've led to an invitation to a personal conversation, face-to-face." And the members of the audience got the idea. A wasted opportunity to get on that radar, wasted for no good reason whatsoever.
So whose radar should you be on? Begin by thinking about the people who are on your radar and how they got there. Who stood out in a positive way, and why? Then make a list of the specific people who can help you achieve your own personal and professional goals. I'll give a few random examples you can tailor to your situation. For example, if you're an aspiring author looking to get your book proposal reviewed, you will need to identify which literary agents or acquisitions editors at a publisher would be most interested in your subject matter, based on their past choices. If it's a different position you're after at your place of work, your HR department may be a logical next step but not necessarily the most influential. There is likely a stakeholder or decision maker associated with that position who should learn about your skills, experience, and enthusiasm for the job. If it's a dream client you've been trying to get, you might think about who's currently on the potential client's radar who could provide an introduction for you or put in a good word about your services. If it seems daunting, consider this: right now, someone out there is trying to get on your radar. Your e-mail box is likely full of those trying to get on your radar. You can help them reach a goal because you represent a link in their process. An unintended benefit is that by giving someone else a hand up, you can get on even more people's radar.
Opening the Door to Opportunity
It's not surprising that Reid Hoffman, a cofounder of the largest social network for business, LinkedIn, is a firm believer that opportunities are attached to individuals. In a recent article he wrote:
If you're looking for an opportunity, you're really looking for people. If you're evaluating an opportunity, you're really evaluating people. If you're trying to marshal resources to go after an opportunity, you're really trying to enlist the support and involvement of other people. A company doesn't offer you a job, people do. Opportunities flow through congregations of people. Those with good ideas and information tend to hang out with one another. You will get ahead if you can tap the circles that dish the best opportunities. In fact, it's how people have gotten ahead for centuries.
As part of the executive team at PayPal before it was acquired by eBay, Hoffman says that though he and the others eventually moved on to different jobs, they continued to stay in touch and collaborate informally. When he started LinkedIn in 2003—something he calls one of the biggest opportunities of his career—Hoffman says he was able to get the business up and running at warp speed by simply tapping the intellect, resources, and investment capital of his corporate network.
With a current market cap of $19 billion, LinkedIn has earned a place in the firmament of legendary start-ups—handily beating Facebook with an even more stellar IPO. But Hoffman is still busy connecting. He quotes author Steven Berlin Johnson, saying, "Chance favors the connected mind," and adds, "Connect your mind to as many networks as did Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Priestley, J. P. Morgan, and others, and you'll be one step closer to spotting and seizing those game-changing opportunities that great careers are made of."
In other words, don't hang back. Wallflowers don't get asked to dance, and reluctant networkers won't get on the radar that will open the door to opportunity. Hoffman recommends starting by joining smaller groups or connecting with local factions of larger national or international organizations. These can be alumni networks from your university, local business owners' forums, or special interest groups. Get in the door, introduce yourself, and start getting on the radar where it matters.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Just make sure that you're ready to get on the radar when it counts.
Two years ago, a team of psychologists from Canada, Belgium, and the United States found that there is some truth to the tired chestnut that goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Their findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, suggest that even though you might be a stellar human in all other regards, your tongue-tied attempt at small talk and your sweaty palms will likely take prominence in the mind of the CEO whose hand you shook at the last industry trade show, shortly after spilling that small plate in the buffet line.
"Imagine you have a new colleague at work and your impression of that person is not very favorable" explains lead author Bertram Gawronski, Canada Research Chair at the University of Western Ontario. "A few weeks later, you meet your colleague at a party and you realize he is actually a very nice guy. Although you know your first impression was wrong, your gut response to your new colleague will be influenced by your new experience only in contexts that are similar to the party. However, your first impression will still dominate in all other contexts."
Here's how to make sure it's a good one.
Nine Ways to Stand Out from the Pack
Obviously, getting on the radar in a positive light involves a bit more thought than making sure your shoes are shined and your shirt is clean, though both are important. It's a process that, if cultivated carefully, can open doors and windows to tremendous opportunity. And even though those first impressions can be peskily persistent, they don't have to remain set in stone. You can chip away at the negative ones with continued dedication toward presenting your best self in a variety of new contexts—and far away from the finger food.
Present like a Pro
No matter what industry you're in, presenting proposals, information, and ideas is likely part of your professional (and personal) existence. Better do it well then. Brilliant contributors who can't convince or persuade or at least engage long enough to get an important point across are quickly marginalized in favor of those who can. The statement "How you say something is more important than what you say" is false on its face, but it's well intended. Presenting with passion and conviction while engaging an audience's emotions is important, but so is having a concise, meaningful, and relevant message—structured with chosen words for impact—that plants just the right seeds in the minds of an audience. Learning how to do this well requires study and practice. Shun tired clichés, bland visuals, overloaded PowerPoint slides, and rambling data dumps that the audience can't possibly process without mentally fatiguing minutes after the information onslaught begins. Instead, present briefly, in as simple a wording as possible, with slides lean and mean, relevant and clear points with just enough detail to get the message across. And act like your life depends on the people in the audience "getting it." Then they know you really care, and they might deem it important enough to care as much.
Cultivate a Reputation of Expertise
Before you clutch your heart in terror that you'll need a PhD, several published books, and an appearance on The Colbert Report to be acknowledged as an expert, take a deep breath. Now understand that there is an important difference between having expertise and being an expert. The latter requires all the trappings of a life's work, homing in on a particular subject and being able to expound on it with fluency and inspire the reverence of all who listen.
Fortunately, we don't need to be bona fide experts in order to get on the radar. In fact, the moniker is overrated. Economist Noreena Hertz contends that we, as a society, become less innovative and less likely to be able to make our own decisions when we are being spoon-fed by experts. Not to mention that so-called experts can make mistakes, too. Hertz notes that doctors misdiagnose 4 times out of 10 and that we are statistically more likely to file our tax returns correctly than a tax advisor.
Instead of striving for hallowed expert status, spend a moment thinking about the experiences you have cultivated and all the good work you've already done. For those just starting out or embarking on a different career, make a list of all the skills you've already acquired such as time or project management, leadership in any team or group, the ability to self-direct, attention to detail, superior writing skills, etc. These are all qualities that can add up to important slivers of expertise in a particular field and ingredients that can distinguish you to help get you on the radar.
Embrace Leadership via Skill and Dominance
The next time you are in a roomful of people, take note of who draws the most eyeballs. You may be surprised to find that it's not always Miss Congeniality or the affable guy from accounting who seems to know everyone's name. A new study from the University of British Columbia published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that two sets of behaviors catch people's attention: prestige, via the appearance of skill and competency, and dominance.
"Our findings suggest there are really two ways to top the social ladder and gain leadership—impressing people with your skills or powering your way through old-fashioned dominance," says lead author Joey Cheng, a PhD candidate in UBC's Department of Psychology. "By measuring levels of influence and visual attention, we find that people defer to and readily spot the prestigious and dominant leaders."
Likability has long been cited as an important influence strategy, and yet by asserting yourself in group dynamics by standing up for what you believe in and by making your voice and opinion heard, you can attract that critical attention that lands you on others' radar. Equally important a strategy to get on the radar and influence opportunities, you need to be able to exude an air of competence. How to do this without impeccable and long-earned credentials? You can assert your credibility by being able to speak knowledgeably—perhaps by sharing expertise—to the people whose radar you are trying to tip your way, making them feel certain you, or your product or service, can meet their particular needs.
Write E-mails People Can't Ignore
Sometimes the only way to get on someone's radar is through e-mail. If you are like most people, you're rolling your eyes at the probability (or lack thereof) that your target will be wading through a clogged inbox and instantly single out your message.
Excerpted from BREAKTHROUGH COMMUNICATION by HARRISON MONARTH. Copyright © 2014 Harrison Monarth. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
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