Business Communication

Choose Kindness

Kindness Matters

Every morning I take a moment to write down two things. The first is something I’m grateful for. The second is a positive experience I had yesterday. This simple ritual helps me focus on the things that matter. The kindness of others is often on my list.

We all have extreme power in our ability to choose how we listen, how we react, and how we treat others. Kindness, I believe, is one of our most powerful tools. It is free, and is an incredible investment in ourselves and in others.

Don’t confuse kindness with weakness. Being kind does not mean you’re afraid to make hard choices or that you have to avoid conflict. Rooting yourself in kindness simply means that you treat people with the respect that they deserve, and that helps ensure the outcome of even the most difficult situation is as good as it can be. 

No person has ever left this earth with a perfect score. We all make mistakes, mishandle situations, and let our emotions cloud our judgement from time to time. Let’s be more kind to each other when we stumble. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When we remember to be kind we act in a way that invites others to do the same. And that’s infectious.

Artwork by Reychelle Ann Ignacio on Canva.
You Matter - The Power of Thanks

The Power of a Sincere Thank You

With Thanksgiving behind us and the holiday rush upon us, things seem to be moving quite fast, don’t they? So much to do, so many people to see — lots of year-end things to take care of at work and at home…. 

In hectic times, it’s even more important to slow down, observe, and give thanks. When things are moving fast at home or it’s crunch time at work, the people you lead are also feeling the pressure. In fact, they are likely going the extra mile just like you to keep it together and avoid dropping one of the balls they have in the air.

Saying thank you, a sincere thank you, is a simple and powerful way to lift spirits, motivate, and empower. Look for opportunities to say it this holiday season — especially when you can say it with eye contact (or with a handwritten note) and back it up with the “why” behind your sentiments.

Don’t get me wrong, an email or text message that gives thanks is better than nothing. How about a thank you that comes with a smile and some supporting facts as to why what someone did made a difference to you? Now that’s a real gift.

Give the Gift of Your Attention

Give It. Get It.

We are bombarded with messages every day from brands, employers, clients, friends, and family members. With so much coming our way through our screens, it’s understandable that we begin to tune out the noise—anything that we don’t deem worthy of our attention. Yet attention is what you need when you want to teach, motive, or persuade.

But you won’t earn anyone’s full attention if you’re not willing to give them yours.

Here are 6 tips to help:

  1. Demonstrate your commitment to being present and in the moment by giving your full attention to others.
  2. Expect the attention of others in return, and kindly ask for it if you’re not getting it. A simple, “Let’s all focus on the task at hand without interruption” should send the message.
  3. Listen more and speak less.
  4. Listen to what’s not being said.
  5. Be open to a different perspective.
  6. Be clear, concise, direct, and kind in your responses.

Anything else we should add to this list? Tell me in the comments.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Time to Kill The Elevator Pitch

It’s Time to Kill the Elevator Pitch

I’ve probably written or refined more than 200 elevator pitches over the years—you know, the short blurb that you’re supposed to memorize and be ready to spew out in the time that it takes to impress a prospect during an elevator ride.

The concept behind the elevator pitch makes sense. You need to be able to tell someone about your product, service, or organization quickly and clearly. And yes, you need to be prepared to do so. 

However, when you stop thinking about “pitching” and start thinking of it as sharing or educating, you can turn a dry, planned pitch into something much more useful: a conversation. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Think about who you help and how you help them. Then write down several short statements about how you solve their problems or make a difference. These will become what I call your “library of nuggets.” Some examples: “I help people overcome their fear of public speaking.” Or “Our app helps people create secure passwords and use them conveniently on all of their devices.” Be sure to include a few nuggets about why your solution is better than others.
  2. When you meet a prospect, find out who they are before you tell them about yourself. This will not only make you more approachable (you’re showing them that you care about who they are and what they do), it will also allow you to steer the conversation in a way where you can connect with them and start a meaningful conversation.
  3. Once you know who they are and what their world looks like, pull from your library of nuggets to tailor your conversation to their specific perspective and needs.
  4. Try to start with a question that you think they will be able to answer easily, which will let you include them in the story you’re about to tell.

Here’s an example:

Hi, I’m Thomas. What’s your name?

I’m Dana.

Nice to met you, Dana. What do you do?

I’m in commercial banking. How about you?

Well, in banking I’m sure you know how people have so many passwords to remember these days, but they don’t always use secure ones. 

Yes, it’s a problem. I have too many passwords to remember myself!

Right, and most people use the same insecure password for a lot of their accounts. That’s not good. But it’s impossible to keep track of multiple passwords that are secure. My company created an app that creates and keeps track of all of the different passwords you need and makes it really easy to call them up when you need them. 

That sounds great. What’s the name of the app?

And here’s another example that I used the other day:

Hi, I’m Michael.

Hi, I’m Andrew. What does your company do?

Do you know anyone in marketing at your company?

I’m in HR, but I talk with our marketing director Connie a lot. She really has a lot on her plate.

Yes, solo or small marketing teams are usually stretched pretty thin. We actually work with a lot of in-house marketing directors who have some really good plans in place, but they don’t have the writers, designers, and digital marketers on staff to get everything done that needs to get done. My team helps them with that.

Wow, I think Connie needs to talk to you.

I’d love to speak with her. Some of our clients just need a really good creative team to help execute the plan that is already in place, and some need our strategic guidance to guide or expand their plan. No matter what Connie’s situation is, I’m sure we can find a way to help.


Not every introductory conversation will be the same, and that’s the point. An elevator pitch is written for one person, you. Real connections require more. Give them the courtesy of a conversation—just be ready with your library of nuggets so you feel prepared to tailor the conversation for each individual.

Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash
Tips for Being Heard at Work

Be Heard

When we feel we aren’t being heard, a common reaction is to talk louder. Or interrupt. And if you’re an introvert, you might lean the other way and keep your comments to yourself instead of trying to share them with those who need to hear them. 

Your voice counts. Considering how your brain operates in certain situations as well as how the specific people you communicate with listen and process information will help you be heard, and more importantly, understood. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Let kindness lead the way. You can never go wrong by being kind, and doing so diffuses tension and helps others avoid feeling defensive. Even in the most difficult conversations, when you show the other person that you care, you make your communications more tailored to their needs—and more effective. 
  2. Read the room. If you have experience with the people in the room, you likely know how they operate. Some may just want the facts quickly while some may like to dive in deep and understand the background. Whenever possible, try to tailor your communications to the needs of the people in the room and give them what they need to be able to connect with, and understand, you.
  3. Listen now and speak later. If you can’t formulate the right response on the fly, give yourself the time you need to process everything and craft a response that you can feel good about. You can always have a second conversation later when you’ve gathered your thoughts, or send a follow-up message with your response after the heat of the moment has passed.
  4. Don’t hide or procrastinate. It’s easy to hide behind emails or text communication because you can lob your thoughts over the fence to get it off your shoulders/mind/plate and plop it in their court. Consider when you need a call, videoconference, or meeting to discuss a topic, move something forward right away, or put an issue to bed. 
  5. A good visual can make all the difference. Some people need a visual aid to help them grasp a concept. Consider when a topic might benefit from something people can see to help them connect the dots. This can be something you prepare beforehand, or a quick sketch you create on a whiteboard to help people grasp the idea.
  6. Sometimes you just can’t beat a blowhard. There are people who need to hear themselves talk and refuse to listen. Don’t try to win. Instead, figure out how you can slowly persuade them over the longer term. Share your perspective but don’t expect to convince them to agree with you today.
  7. Let others be heard. Listening is probably the most powerful tool you have in your communications toolbox. Everyone wants to feel that their voice matters. 

And don’t forget, most people never get thanked for the good work they do—and it means a lot when they do. Thank people for contributing and validate when you hear something that contributes to the conversation.

What else should we add to this list?

Photo by Headway on Unsplash
Brand Messages Need to be Focused

Don’t Be Afraid of Focus

Focus is sometimes scary because it means potentially missing out on something else. 

But if you’re not focused, you won’t connect with the human beings you want to connect with on the level that makes you engaging and credible. This is true in business and life in general. 

Think about it. When you’re distracted, you can’t participate fully in the task at hand, whether it be a conversation with a loved one, or a personal project you’re working on by yourself. 

In business, when you’re distracted, the noise you create makes your messages unclear. Clients and customers won’t spend much time figuring out if you’re the right fit for them. You need to tell them clearly and quickly.

I’m not saying that we can’t be visionary, entrepreneurial, or open to new opportunities. Just be sure that your communications with colleagues, prospects, and customers are focused and tailored to the human beings receiving them.

Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

I love shopping with Zappos. They make it easy and fun to shop with them, and very easy to return things (which is important when I buy shoes because I have oddball-sized feet).

And their packaging sends me messages that make me want to give them more business.

“Build open and honest relationships with communication.”

Agreed.

Face to Face Lunch Meeting

When You Need Clarity, Have Lunch

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a colleague, who is also a friend. It happened to be on a day when I was feeling a bit frustrated over a few things, but I was trying to stay positive so our lunch would be fun (like it usually is when we get together).

She could tell something wasn’t right with me, and she opened the door to let me air my frustrations. I did (but reluctantly because I didn’t want to be a downer)—and then she felt comfortable doing the same. 

The result was that we had a brutally honest conversation with each other, which helped us be brutally honest with ourselves. In less than an hour, we both walked away with more clarity on the issues we both faced, ideas for finding potential solutions, and a positive outlook that was energizing. 

If you haven’t done it in a while, get away from your desk and have lunch with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor. I highly recommend it.

Photo by Sander Dalhuisen on Unsplash
Phones and Business Meetings

Why I Don’t Bring My Phone to Meetings

“I wish this conversation was as important as your phone.” That’s what I said to myself recently when a colleague kept looking at his phone with each buzz that came through during our 15-minute conversation. I was giving him what I thought was pretty valuable free advice, but I had to repeat myself so many times that I simply stopped being giving with my time and defaulted to meaningless chit-chat. I was annoyed, but then this experience did make me think about my own behavior.

My mobile phone usually sits face down beside me at home at the dinner table and lives in my pocket during meetings at work. Like almost everyone else, it’s nearly impossible not to look at it when it does that glorious ding or buzz that lets me know someone on the other end has something to say to me. At work, my excuse for having the phone with me at all times is to ensure I don’t miss a meeting (I live by my work calendar and its notifications).

I love my phone. I was one of those people you saw on TV back in 2007 waiting outside an Apple Store to ensure I got mine on launch day. However, I don’t like what all of these mobile screens have done to face-to-face communications. Last weekend, I observed a family of four at a restaurant (two parents, one late teen, and one early teen). They were all texting with others on their phones instead of talking with each other. (Maybe they were texting each other!) In business, I’ve had to pause meetings and sit and wait for clients to answer emails, calls, or texts on their phones before continuing our conversation. Are all of these interruptions really worthy of harpooning the momentum of a conversation with another human being who is in your presence?

Of course they aren’t. The rare emergency is understandable; the constant interruption is disrespectful. We can do better.

So, two months ago, I stopped bringing my phone to meetings and it’s been wonderful. I also leave it in another room when I have dinner at home. I was never the type who would take a call or respond to a message during a meeting or during dinner, but my phone would still buzz in my pocket taking my mind off of the conversation for a brief moment. That brief moment was enough to throw me off the path of what I was saying or what someone else was sharing. Without the phone there, I’m fully present and not distracted.

Try it.

Leave your phone behind during work meetings unless you’re expecting that rare, critical call. And when that’s the case, tell the people you’re with why your phone may need to trump your time with them. It’s a simple thing, but it will make people feel like you care about them more than the other person vying for your attention through your mobile device—one that likely doesn’t truly need an immediate response.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
Listening is a Powerful Tool

You, Me, and No-one Else

I’ve got some terrific mentors. I’m lucky. I think of two of them often, especially when I’m trying to be sure I listen well and avoid rushing others. And, as a creative person, it’s sometimes hard to stay in the moment and listen when the thing that someone else is saying is sparking a great idea in my head.

But, there’s a place for brainstorming and collaborating, and there’s a place for listening quietly — and absorbing.

Try it.

Focus on your coworker, client, partner, child, or parent today. Listen to what is said, and zoom in on the feelings behind the words. Make him or her feel like in that very moment and for as long as is needed to finish your conversation, there’s nothing else in the world that matters. Your full attention is a wonderful gift, and a powerful communications tool.

Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash
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