Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Ballroom Dancing Can Make You A Better Leader

You may be wondering how in the world twirling around the dance floor can impact a person's leadership abilities, but the topic bears serious consideration.

In her book, Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me A Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO, executive Patrice Tanaka discusses the numerous ways that competitive ballroom dancing re-shaped her mind, body and life in ways she never dreamed possible.

In an interview with Forbes magazine (http://onforb.es/I5QkeA), Tanaka explains how learning to lead, follow, and "let go" dramatically changed the way she viewed her business. “I used to be such a solo person,” Tanaka stated, “but in dancing, the woman follows, never leads. In learning how to dance, I’ve learned to know when it’s important to be not just a follower, but an active follower in business.”

Actually, this is an extremely important concept in leadership development. Many leaders believe they must be in "lead" mode 24/7, but this is not the case. Great leaders also know how to be great followers. They understand the concepts of grace and humility. They know when to let others shine. And they know how to mentor their colleagues and employees to make them better people.

On the dance floor, the leader has a number of very important roles. First is to ensure the safety of the follower by safely maneuvering the follower around the floor and taking care to use proper body mechanics to avoid injury. The leader is also responsible for making the follower look good. 

Leaders in business should care for their employees, customers, and vendors in much the same way. By keeping an eye on their mission, vision, and values, they can safely and successfully maneuver their businesses in today's highly competitive marketplace.

Consider, too, that dancing develops a number of important cognitive and physical skills that can benefit leaders on many levels. Here are just a few:
  • Rhythm.  This is especially significant because leaders must be in sync with the beat of their business.
  • Timing.  In business, timing can be everything. A well-timed merger, innovation, or brand redesign can mean the difference between success and mediocrity.
  • Line of dance.  Most dances move around the floor in a counter-clockwise pattern, which is contrary to our typical "clockwise" view of the world. Today's leaders must be willing and able to think in nontraditional ways - working outside of the status quo in order to move in new and better directions.
  • Amalgamation.  When first learning to dance, most people learn the basics of prescribed patterns. Some go on to dance only those patterns while others add their own flair and creativity, blending patterns together into a true art form. Creative leaders understand the importance of having a strong foundation of structure and technique, but they also know how to turn a basic pattern into something new and breathtaking.
According to Zacko-Smith (2010), "... leaders need to be comfortable with ambiguity, embrace risk-taking, and be able to influence and inspire others in new ways and directions." (http://bit.ly/1fdBpkT)

Perhaps there is no better way to develop these essential leadership competencies than on the dance floor. I encourage you to give it a try.

Be well,

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why Are You Unhappy in Your Career?

If the results from our career satisfaction survey are any indication, many (if not most) people are unhappy and unfulfilled in their jobs.  This is a societal tragedy.  Our work should be a natural extension of our authentic selves - a manifestation of our mission, vision, and values.  Too many times, however, people disempowered to pursue and live their authentic lives and, thus, take jobs that are completely incongruent with who they are.  Ultimately, this not only damages self-esteem and confidence, it also does a disservice to the organizations they work for.  From an image perspective, unhappy employees create negative perceptions on multiple levels.

It makes sense, then, that you should pursue your dreams.  As a spiritual person, I truly believe that the dreams of our hearts wouldn't be there if we weren't supposed to be living them.  Given that, you can't allow fear (or any other perceived obstacle) to prevent you from living your authentic life.  We've all read the inspirational stories of people who have overcome tremendous strife to live a life of victory.  Well, if they can do it, so can you!

Recall the popular acronym for fear:  False Evidence Appearing Real.  So often, people buy in to false beliefs that keep them stuck.  Some examples: "I'm not smart enough," "I'll never raise the money to start my business," "I'm too old," "I don't have enough experience," "I'll never make it without a college degree." 

Friend, if you're holding on to these kinds of beliefs, I encourage you to let go of them today.  The reality is, your destiny is in your mind.  Change your thoughts, change your life.  As Napoleon Hill so aptly stated:

"Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
Henry Ford put it another way:
"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't-- either way, you're right."
Over the past two decades, I've worked with thousands of people who wasted years of their lives being stuck in the ruts of fear and false beliefs.  When left unchecked, fear can become absolutely crippling.  That's why I want you to start taking control of your thinking and your emotions today.  Ask yourself who you would be and what you would do without the fears, self-doubts, and false beliefs.  Would your life be different?  How so?  What does it feel like to imagine yourself free, fulfilled, and authentically living your life's passion?
I encourage you to stop wasting time and seize the moment.  Time is a precious commodity and you owe it to yourself to do the things you love. 
If you're not sure of your life mission or your right livelihood, that's okay.  Those answers are inside of you.  Start by asking yourself, "What really lights me up?" Surely there at least a few things in your life that excite and stimulate you.  Additional clues can be found in your:
  • hobbies
  • daydreams
  • education
  • conversations with friends and family
  • prayers
  • doodles
  • musings
  • childhood dreams and pastimes
  • volunteer activities
  • church activities
  • favorite movies and TV shows
  • artwork, crafts, and other creative interests
  • dreams (the ones you have while sleeping)
  • blogs and social media posts
  • home and office décor
  • wardrobe
  • choice of books and other reading materials
  • job search
  • resume
  • list of life accomplishments
  • the music you listen to
Another helpful self-discovery tool is the "vision board" exercise.  This activity will really help you identify where you are now and visualize the life you really want.  Here are the instructions:
1.  Get a large poster board, approximately 24" x 36".
2.  Next, gather a wide range of magazines - some suggestions include National Geographic, People, GQ, Vogue, Town and Country, Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset, Martha Stewart Living, and The Robb Report. You might also want to include photographs, mementos, and other artifacts.  Gather whatever symbols represent the life you have - and the life you want.
3.  On one side of the board, write "The Life I Have"; on the other side, write "The Life I Want."
4.  Starting with "The Life I Have," go through your magazines and other items and select the images that best represent the life you're currently living.  Glue the items to that side of the board.
5.  Repeat the same process on the other side, "The Life I Want."
What differences and similarities did you identify on both sides?  Or were they completely different?  What images from your current life can you appreciate and build upon?  Most important, what steps will be you begin taking today to get unstuck and start moving toward your ideal life?
If you need more in-depth assistance identifying your authentic self and perfect livelihood, enlist the guidance of a licensed career counselor or a psychologist who specializes in self-actualization and career issues.
Already have an idea of what you'd like to do, but not sure how to get started?  Consider finding a mentor - someone who is already successful doing what you want to do - and ask them to help you.  Perhaps you could "apprentice" with that person for a few months.  If you have a few extra hours during the week, you might also pursue a professional internship.  These tactics will enable you to try on new careers and see how well they fit before making the leap from your present job.
Remember, people respond very positively to folks who love what they do.  Moreover, your career satisfaction is directly related to your image, health, success, and overall well-being.  Now is the time to start living your passion!
To your success,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Your Color, Your Brand

"The great importance of color lies in the fact that it can influence all the different aspects of man - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual ...." J. Dodson Hessey.

For professionals concerned about their brand, color can be a powerful communicator and influencer. Consider the job applicant or attorney going to court to win a case. What color(s) would best convey credibility and a strong personal brand? Pink? Pale yellow? Lavender? What about navy blue, deep emerald green, crisp white, or burgundy?

If you chose the latter list of colors, you're absolutely right. Of course, pastels look terrific on certain skin tones (a type I call "Wind" in my Elements Color Typing System), but for important meetings, even fair-toned Winds need to amp up their color palette with a bolder "statement" color - one that conveys their personal brand message.

One tip I teach my attorney clients when they go to court: Be very mindful of the colors worn by jurors. The colors jurors choose to wear provide a wealth of nonverbal information about their personality and self-perception - all critical data for attorneys to use to determine the potential outcome of a case.

And just like jurors, the colors we select for our wardrobe, make-up, business cards and personal marketing materials all convey powerful messages that others read, whether consciously or subconsciously. The key is knowing which colors (a) look best on you and (b) reinforce your brand message.

Happy "coloring!"


Monday, March 19, 2012

Career Mapping: The Right Path to Success

One of the most important career lessons I’ve learned over the years is this: You can spend hours beefing up your résumé, polishing your skills and mastering the art of the interview but, if you’re not 100% clear about where you’re headed – professionally speaking – you might as well throw that time and effort right out the window.

As a licensed career counselor, I’ve worked with scores of people over the years who have followed this path of working feverishly in careers for which they feel no passion and have no sense of direction.

The thing about your career is that it’s not just a means to a beautiful house or a fancy sports car (although those would be nice perks). Your career should be a natural extension of who you are as a human being – an authentic reflection of YOU. Consequently, choosing the right career and mapping a course for long-term success should be at the top of your priority list. After all, do you really want to let someone else decide your professional fate?

Developing a smart career plan, now coined as “career mapping,” requires, first and foremost, a high sense of self-esteem and internal locus of control. You won’t dare to dream big if you don’t believe in yourself - or if you believe your fate is determined by the outside world. Too often, we allow our employers to take away our personal power, submitting ourselves to the mind games of the corporate ladder, “golden handcuffs,” office politics and the antiquated belief that a person should focus solely on making on a living and not expect to love what they do. Balderdash!

There are a number of ways to approach the creation of your career map. First is to get an idea of where you’re going. As career coach Gordon Miller says, “Think about it. If you're in [Boston] and you want to get to [New York City], a map is a handy thing to have. Without it you might eventually end up New York City. Might. Eventually. But it could take much longer than it needs to and it most likely will be a forgettable trip.”

If you haven’t sat down and done some serious soul-searching about your life mission and greater purpose in this world, now is a good time to start. What you come up with here will be the starting point of your career map. Are you passionate about working with children? Rescuing animals? Healing the sick? Creativity and the arts? Running a “green” company? Helping others become more successful?

What are the deeper values beyond making money and achieving professional recognition? What truly gives you joy? Those are the authentic, natural extensions of yourself that I talked about earlier. Can you make a career from these things? Absolutely! I work with clients every day who do just that. The key is their career map.

For example, one of my clients (I’ll call her Ann) is a professional woman in her late 30s with a husband and three children. She had been working as a branch manager at a local bank – a job she hated. “I felt so uninspired and lacking in any form of creativity,” she said. “I worked with people all day, but that interaction left me feeling completely unfulfilled.”

In helping Ann discover her authentic self, she realized that she felt the most passionate about her role as a working mother and the challenges she and her friends were facing as dual-role women. “The pressures on working moms is tremendous,” said Ann. “There is no rest, no relaxation, no down time. We’re always struggling with life-balance issues and, sometimes, it causes strain on our marriages and children. I truly felt called to do my part to help.”

For the short-term, Ann devised her career map to take her off her well-beaten work path. “I decided,” she said, “to begin focusing my work at the bank on helping professional women with their finances. I helped them set aside nest eggs and save more for their children’s college funds. I provided a friendly and supportive ear – and I wound up actually looking forward to going to work every day.”

Ann knew, however, that her career passion was not in banking. She had discovered her mission and was on a roll. As she began working on her long-term career map, she realized that she wanted to be her own boss and that there were many other women just like her with nowhere to turn for support and guidance.

So, Ann formed a small business dedicated to providing life and career coaching, professional networking, child care and personal concierge services to working mothers. Within the first 90 days, Ann had over 30 clients. Today, she is running her business full-time from her home office where she can spend more time with her own kids – and call her own shots. “I feel like I’m living a dream,” she says. “I know this is just the beginning. My long-term career map is leading me toward franchising this concept and licensing my coaching materials. I see the end destination as the most exciting and productive time of my life. I can’t wait to get there, but I’m sure enjoying the journey. And my career map is keeping me right on course to get where I want to go.”

Career coach, Gordon Miller, offers these guidelines for putting together your own career map:

1) Develop a birds-eye view of your plan. One year, five years -- whatever makes sense for you. There are times when the map will need to be changed suddenly. Perhaps your significant other finds a great job in another city, or you realize that the new boss and you don't jive.

2) Identify your market. Just as Ann identified a viable market for her business idea, you will need to identify who your market is. Research and determine which industries, companies or market segments are most likely to continue to grow and need you and your special talents.

3) Write your marketing plan. If you’re working long hours, not making the money you want and are quite unhappy, it may be a matter of focus. Decide which aspect of your profession is the most appealing for you and develop a plan to market your knowledge, skills and experience to get the position – or start the business - you want.

4) Identify your strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. But first you have to know what they are. Ask the people in your life you most respect to help you with this one. Put them down on paper. It may give you a new understanding of you.

5) The Positioning Statement. In order to be good at what we do, we have to know what business we are in. The positioning statement is no more than one paragraph long and succinctly states: “Who I am,” “Here's how I'm going to position myself going forward,” “Here are my capabilities” and “Here's how I fit into my industry, company or market segment.”

6) The Action Plan. Now that you know what you want to do for the next year or two, you need to identify the tactics you will use to carry out your plan. You might include research, talking to experts in your industry and mirroring people who are already successful doing what you want to do.

7) The Financial Plan. The key here is to understand that a change in career direction may have an impact on your finances. I recommend you determine early on what could happen - good or not so good - and have a plan to deal with any potential dip in income.

8) The Review. How often should you stop along your journey? As often as necessary! Look frequently at where you are on your map. Check “weather patterns” and “road conditions.” If you’re new to "mapping,” I suggest you do it once a week. When you’re comfortable with the process, once a month is probably often enough. The key is to set a pattern for regularly looking at your progress.1

If you happen to be a manager supervising employees, you can do them a tremendous service by employing career mapping from an organizational perspective. Investing some time and resources in this process can save a lot of grief for both you and your employees. Likewise, if you love your job and the company you work for, but don’t have a long-range plan in place, schedule time with your boss to develop a career map you can both agree upon.

In the office, career mapping allows employer and employee to map out a strategic career path within the company, providing the employee with long-term goals, as well as opportunities to learn a variety of new skills through training curricula, continuing education, in-house mentoring programs, and proficiency enhancement workshops. Benefits to the company include reduced turnover, higher morale, increased productivity, and a significant reduction in hiring costs.

Savvy employers must begin to take a long-term approach to their hiring strategies. As companies grow, employees must be given the opportunity to evolve and develop their career paths within the organization; employees tend to start looking elsewhere when opportunities for growth are stifled.

To give you an example of how career mapping works within the organization, let’s talk about Jennifer, a first-time manager in a large technical services company. Jennifer has been laid off several times over the past five years and is looking to find a permanent home where she can grow with the company and, eventually, assume a senior leadership position. She is proficient in her technical skills, but lacks refinement in the areas of interpersonal communication, strategic planning and senior-level management.

After thorough assessments, brainstorming and planning, Jennifer and her supervisors can identify specific annual goals for her professional development. Jennifer’s first year map might include enrolling in a public speaking seminar series, attending various communication, strategy and leadership courses, or perhaps commencing an MBA program.

As part of her five-year career map, Jennifer can benefit from the experience of working in a variety of different roles in various departments throughout the company. Specific assignments, learning objectives and the mastering of various departmental responsibilities will enable her to hone her skills and become well-prepared to step into that senior position.

Utilizing career mapping is a critical exercise for short and long-term success.

You owe it to yourself to develop a map that makes you happy. If you sense your map isn’t congruent with the road you’re on, you might be better off to take a detour and chart a course to your own bliss.

1. Adapted from: http://hotjobs.yahoo.com/findingajob/Career_Mapping_Dont_Get_Lost_Along_the_Way__20021114-133.html?subtopic=Job+Hunting+Tips

To your success,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Use Your Resume to Promote Your Brand

If you're in the process of creating or updating your resume, you're probably receiving all sorts of conflicting information and advice. One of the most erroneous "rules" about resumes is that they should never be longer than one page. Pardon me for being blunt, but this is absolute bunk.

Granted, if you're a high school or college student without a lot of experience, a one-page resume might be perfectly appropriate. But if you've been working for a few years, you've likely amassed more skills and knowledge than can be effectively conveyed on a single page. In order to tell your story sufficiently to a prospective employer, you need to include a variety of section headings and bullet points highlighting your achievements, along with a "Testimonials" page (a page with five or six short recommendations from previous supervisors, coworkers and other "heavy hitters" within your sphere of influence). This will result in a resume that might be anywhere from 3-6 pages in length. Many of our clients have resumes that are even longer, but they have never received negative feedback because the format we use is aesthetically designed and exceptionally reader-friendly.

I have spent the past 20 years perfecting this resume format; it has received kudos from employers around the world. In fact, many employers are so impressed by our format that they actually ask our clients who prepared their resumes. We've even had employers pick up the phone to commend us on a job well done. Needless to say, our clients consistently get hired.

Here's the key: You must think of your resume as your most important marketing piece. Your resume is often the first interaction a prospective employer has with you, so it must stand out, tell your story and make a strong, positive impression. Remember, image is everything. Just as corporations like Coca-Cola, Tiffany and Starbucks use color and type font to communicate their brand message, job candidates must utilize this same strategy to communicate their personal brand.

Consider paper color, texture and quality. Avoid plain copy paper and, instead, select a high-quality paper that has body, richness and color (just be sure the paper isn't too dark, lest the text gets obscured). Muted colors work best. Soft greys, blues, greens and tans convey sophistication and are pleasing to the eye. Laid, linen and other textured finishes offer a pleasing tactile aspect to the resume while smooth vellum finishes are clean and uncomplicated. Select the paper finish that best represents your personality, style and brand.

When selecting type fonts, consider a more dramatic font for your name while keeping the rest of the text clean and easy to read. For example, you might use Arial Black for your name and section headings, and Futura Light for the text. Be sure to incorporate sufficient white space and clearly separate sections of the resume by using clean, bold headings.

It's also important to take into consideration the industry for which you're applying. Conservative fields, such as banking, insurance, health care and accounting will require a bit more of a traditional aesthetic while creative fields such as advertising, public relations, graphic design, Web development, media and entertainment typically allow for pure creative freedom. Whatever your industry, there is plenty of leeway to express yourself and your brand.

The one significant challenge is technology. As more employers are moving to Web-based employment sites, candidates are finding they must focus more on key words than originality. This is an unfortunate consequence of online job-hunting. However, there are ways to circumvent being lost in the sea of parsed plain text.

First, note that most online job sites permit the uploading of .pdf versions of the resume. Even though you may be required to enter key information in plain text, take advantage of the opportunity to upload your well-designed resume as a .pdf file (which will preserve your fonts and formatting). Second, use your cover letter to maximize keywords and phrases; often, applications will be flagged and selected based on keywords in the cover letter, not the resume.

When you have an interview, take along a hard copy of your resume as a leave-behind piece. I recommend either printing it on an 11"x17" sheet and folding it in half, newsletter style, or binding it with a clear cover and black backing (either GBC or Velobinding). This makes a professional, polished presentation that will most certainly stand out from the countless one-page resumes on plain white paper.

My best,

Voice Mail Etiquette: A Discussion


I just read an interesting blog at BNET (http://bit.ly/qizLhr) on the topic of voice mail etiquette. While the blogger conveyed an apparent disdain for voice mail altogether, I think it has merit - particularly when callers follow a few rules:

Generally speaking, any form of electronic communication should be polite, succinct, and easy for the recipient to understand and reply to. When leaving your contact information, don't zip through your phone number so fast that the listener has to replay the message four times to copy it down. State your name clearly (spell it, if necessary) and always state your phone number twice. This is a very thoughtful and professional gesture.

No one wants to listen to five minutes of voice mail rambling; that is simply inconsiderate. Keep in mind, too, that many people have limits on the number of messages their voice mail system can handle, so don't eat up their time with superfluous or overly lengthy messages. After 60 seconds of recording, you're likely to get cut off. Worse, your recipient may become irritated trying to glean the salient points from your soliloquy and just delete it. Ouch.

While some may prefer text messages, instant messages, or emails, I personally enjoy hearing the sound of a human being versus reading the interminable influx of emails. I'd much rather interact with "Sally" than "Arial" or "Verdana." Plus, it is much easier to discern emotion, mood and other subtleties in the human voice than in emails and text messages.

The practice of etiquette focuses on making others feel comfortable, at ease and respected. By simply considering these points before leaving a voice mail or sending an email, the risk of committing a communication faux pas will be minimized.

To your success,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Company News >>>

For Immediate Release:

Identity IQ, LLC announced today that the company will soon be changing its name and brand to The Davenport Institute, LLC. The new company name reflects that of its managing member, Debra Brittain Davenport. The change will differentiate the company from other organizations with similar monikers and eliminate any potential brand and product confusion.

The Davenport Institute will continue to serve individuals and organizations with expertise in the areas of image and perceptual management, career development, and wellness education.

The Davenport Institute will additionally be updating and enhancing its website to incorporate the new business name and brand.

#  #  #

Friday, May 27, 2011

Attorneys Using Image Consultants to Hone the Art of Rainmaking

Using an “image is everything” approach, attorneys develop their personal brands for today’s tough market.

Social capital. Self-promotion. Branding. Image. Body language. Etiquette. Color psychology. Not the typical jargon one would expect to hear coming from the conference room of a major law firm. But in today’s uber-competitive legal arena, many attorneys and top-seed law firms are realizing the importance of high-level image consulting for boosting careers – and profits.

One key issue facing law firms today is the transition of associates to partner status. Says one Phoenix law partner, “Associates are expected to stay focused on client work – to keep their heads in the files. But once they’re being considered for partner, all of a sudden they’re expected to transform into successful rainmakers, and that’s just not realistic. What’s desperately needed is a program that grooms associates for this transition and teaches them to be successful on several different levels.”

Through intensive interviews with attorneys and our previous work with law firms, we’ve identified key success markers that can launch attorneys to the next level, even in this tough economy. These include image or visual presentation, their personal brand, communication and social capital skills, presence, body language and the ability to read people.

Success also depends heavily on other factors such as wellness and smart career planning. Associates must be groomed for two critical career roles: firm ambassador and partner. The two go hand-in-hand. Associates who become savvy in the area of social capital and master the arts of personal branding and self-care become much more effective rainmakers. I've even gone so far as to accompany timid attorneys to networking and other A-level functions, mentoring them through the process of casting nets and navigating crowds to identify and build successful relationships.

One attorney client parlayed a passion for wine into a niche practice specialty. Another polished his image and learned high-level networking techniques that boosted his business by 41%.

Image consulting is also imperative for attorneys, their clients and witnesses when making courtroom appearances because nonverbal communication may never be more important than in court. The proliferation and significance of nonverbal messages in a courtroom can be missed by the unskilled eye. Therefore, attorneys must be vigilant about their own nonverbal communication and they must be highly skilled at reading the body language of the jury and judge. The wrong suit, hairstyle or color can wreck havoc on juror perceptions, as can distracting body movements like fidgeting, playing with one’s hair or avoiding eye contact. For example, the color pink should never be worn by attorneys – ever. Pink connotes softness, fluffiness, and cute little babies. It’s a definite pushover color that weakens an attorney’s visual impact. Surprisingly, I see attorneys wearing pink – suits on women and ties on men – more often than one would think.

The importance of image cannot be overstated - especially in the field of law where communication and visual presence can mean winning or losing a case.

Be well,