Saturday, August 23, 2014

Face to Face Networking and Why You Need to Take the Shuttle Bus

Like many of you, I’ve been attending conferences, seminars, symposiums and other live events this summer to keep my skills sharp, to network with peers and to get the old (mental) battery recharged. Three big takeaways have jumped out at me:

1.      Even in this 24/7 digital age, humans of all ages still need to connect face to face.

2.      Some of your best networking will take place in the least likely of places.

3.      The air conditioning is always on too strong, whether you’re in South Florida or Winnipeg (but only one gender will voice their discomfort).
Last week’s post “Notice What You Notice” was all about paying closer attention to your surroundings and how you take in information and learn from it. The same goes for professional networking, whether it’s making new contacts, landing new clients or setting the stage for a strategic alliance. In a semi-snarky piece I wrote last week for Association Adviser, a leading publication for trade association execs, I explained why I always take the shuttle bus at large conventions or conferences. That’s where I’ve made some of my best and most meaningful contacts over the years. The shuttle ride is long enough to have a meaningful conversation with your name-badged seatmate—i.e. it’s better than  a superficial “elevator pitch,” but it’s not as risky as striking up a conversation with your seatmate on a cross-country flight. Key Takeaways
Here are some other takeaways that I’ve gleaned from recent events I’ve attended. Let me know if you agree:
·         Well-run live events are still one of the most powerful ways that association professionals can network, learn and share ideas.  
·         Show organizers are realizing how much time and dollar pressure their attendees are under.
·         Attendees come better organized and more focused than ever before and expect you to do the same.
No matter how busy you are, find a way to get yourself out of the office and show up for the “must-attend” events in your industry. You just can't find a replacement for eye contact, body language and serendipitous encounters. And, no matter how long the line is, always take the shuttle bus if it’s offered.
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TAGS: Association Adviser, shuttle busses, networking, power of face to face


Friday, August 08, 2014

Notice What You Notice

As the calendar page flips over to August, many of you may be on vacation or stuck in a long airport delay. The kids or grandkids are out of school, and half the people you need to reach at work are either out of the office—or have one foot out the door. Either way, everyone’s out of their normal routine a little and things just aren’t running as smoothly as you’d prefer.

Like it or not, you’re mind’s going to drift and the temptation is to focus on what’s wrong with your practice, business, family, golf swing, tennis stroke or relationships. It’s good to address those issues head on, but better yet, focus on the good things you can make better, not the bad things that are dragging you down.

In a surprisingly pithy op-ed piece today, Times columnist David Brooks suggested that there are two types of people: those who keep a journal (mental or actual) and those who don’t. “People who keep a journal often see it as part of the process of self-understanding and personal growth. They don’t want insights and events to slip through their minds. They think with their fingers and have to write to process experiences and become aware of their feelings. People who oppose journal-keeping fear it contributes to self-absorption and narcissism.

Maybe Brooks is on vacation this week, but we think the point he’s trying to make is that the more your can distance yourself form your own “intimacy with yourself” the more reliable your self-awareness is likely to be.”

You may have to take an exotic trip or put yourself in some kind of social situation that’s way outside your comfort zone. Maybe it’s joining a new networking group or civic organization, taking up a new sport (in which you’re sure to look foolish at first) and striking up a conversation with someone in your building elevator or commuter train that you keep interacting with but never engage. Pay attention to your body language and voice inflection in those situations. Are you listening more or talking more?

Notice what you notice

Back in my triathlon days, I had a great swim coach, the late Doug Stern. Doug had an amazing ability to remember every single person’s name in his aquatics class—even with five or six dozen people in identical swim caps thrashing about him—and he mentioned everyone by name several times during each workout. Don’t think that matters!

But, it wasn’t Doug’s charisma that made him so great, it was how he got you attuned to your body in the water. “Notice what you notice,” he always told us when trying to help us master a new stroke technique.


Sharon Sloane, CEO of the training video company Will Interactive, told NYT interviewer Adam Bryant that she finishes every day with some “chair time.” That’s when she just sits quietly by herself at the end of the day, turns off her devices, and just lets the day “wash over” her. What really happened? What did she not pick up on in a meeting? Which dots didn’t get connected at the time?

Whether you’re in the water, on land, or in the air this month, take time out from the grind and notice what you notice. You’ll be glad you did.
Best, HB

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TAGS: Doug Stern, notice what you notice, Sharon Sloane, chair time, David Brooks, Adam Bryan, keeping a journal

Sunday, July 27, 2014

No Time to Think?

Get off the grid and don’t be afraid of your own thoughts

Many of you are familiar with Stephen Covey’s famous observation that we’re “so busy sawing we don’t have time to sharpen the saw.” We’ve all been there. Done that. We know it’s not a good way to be. But many of you have told us lately that you feel you’re spending way too much time at the saw mill lately. Guess the Dog Days of Summer got cancelled this year.

What to do? If you’re expecting us to recommend deep breathing, long walks on the beach and some yoga or meditation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Most of you are Type A, if not Type A-plus! You need something more concrete, more tactical!
That said, we’re not knocking deep breathing, long walks, yoga and meditation. All can be helpful. But what most of you need is tough self-love, not navel gazing. You need to unplug from the grid and carve out some time to think. Really think without distractions. Bring a pencil and a yellow legal pad if you like, but nothing more high tech than that.

Personally, I take a 24-hour break from all technology every weekend. Usually from mid-day Saturday to mid-day Sunday. Unless it’s a life threatening text or cell phone call, I’m just not going to address it during my 24-hour “quiet period.” Try it for yourself some weekend. The world won’t come to an end and see if you don’t come back Sunday evening a little more energized than you normally are.
Kate Murphy had a great piece in today’s New York Times that talked about why people who complain about being “super busy,” “crazy busy” or “insanely busy” never take advantage of a rare moment for “reflective thought” when they get it. Stuck in traffic or a long grocery line? What do we do? Out comes the mobile device. Sound familiar? As Murphy observed, the journal Science published a study that showed how far people will go to avoid introspection.

Turns out many of us don’t like introspection. Or we’re afraid of our own thoughts. Or we’re afraid that we’ll just dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. But, according to Silicon Valley psychologist, Stephanie Brown, “suppressing negative feelings just gives them more power.” And you can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to let go of them. Brown is the author of “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster.


While we agree with the experts about the importance of self-reflection, it doesn’t mean you have to focus exclusively on fixing what’s wrong. You can also focus on potential good things. Try this: Substitute the words “opportunity” or “innovation” for the word “problem” during your next self-reflective time. See what happens. Just as many people are afraid to face their fears head on, you’d be surprised how many people are afraid to bring their BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) to light. Don’t be afraid to see how good you and your team can be.

Stay focused this week, even if many around you seem like they’ve checked out for the summer. Doing so will pay big dividends come September.

Best, HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: No time to think, time management, adrenal burnout, stress, Science journal, Stephanie Brown

Monday, July 14, 2014

You’re Never as Good as You Think You Are

Go for BHAGs, but don’t forget basic blocking and tackling

My dad had a great saying whenever he used to drive me home from a game or a meet growing up: “You’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re not as bad as you think, either.”

If Dad sensed I was getting overconfident, he’d remind that me that there’s always someone better around the corner, and that the competition would only get tougher with each new level I ascended. But, if I was down in the dumps after a tough loss, he’d focus on one or two things I did well and remind me how much better I’d gotten since the year before.

That was helpful in college and the early years of my career. I was captain of my high school track and cross-country team and got named to many All-area honors team. I thought I was pretty talented until I got to college. Guess what? The other 30 guys were also captains of their high school teams, and I quickly went from leading the pack to barely keeping up with the back of the pack. Mind you. I was running faster than I ever dreamed possible, but your perspective changes when you’re getting lapped instead of standing on the winner’s podium.

I later learned my Dad was a city champion swimmer in high school, but lasted only one season at an elite college program when he found out how "real swimmers" trained.

BHAGs and basics

I bring this up because now is the time of year that many of you are holding, or planning to hold, your offsite retreats. You’ll spend a few days away from the daily grind to clear the air, review your strategy and make BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for the next fiscal year.

Just don’t pull a Brazil.

Even if you’re No.1 or close to No.1 in your niche, don’t think you “own” that niche or are entitled to the top spot based on past performance. You’ve got to stay hungry and earn the business every day. The minute you let your guard down and forget how to fight for new clients (and retain existing clients) is the minute you get blindsided by a savvy upstart or a new wrinkle from a longstanding rival. 

BHAGs are great motivators. Just don’t forget the basic blocking and tackling that go your firm to where you are today. Also, don’t throw in the towel if you’ve recently lost a big client or key employee. No great team or company revolves around just one player.  Empower everyone else to step it up a notch.

Lessons learned from the World Cup

In case you missed the end of the FIFA World Cup of soccer this weekend, host nation Brazil, the country with the most World Cup championships in history--the country that invented the term jogo bonito (Portuguese, for “beautiful game” and internationally popularized by Nike commercials) thought it was their divine right to win the World Cup on their home soil this summer. No Way Jose. Or as the Brazilians would say, “imagina na copa” when things go horribly wrong.

Brazil showed up, but they didn’t show up to play. Big difference.

In the semi-finals against eventual champion Germany, Brazil was missing two key players (one for injury and one for poor sportsmanship) and basically threw in the towel before the game started. A brief defensive lapse let in a sloppy goal in the 11th minute of the game. But, instead of regrouping against the disciplined and well-coached Germans, Brazil conceded four more goals in the next 20 minutes of the game and had one of the most infamous meltdowns in global soccer history. As my former colleague Ron Rudolph posted the other day: “Brazil Is Getting Waxed

It will take years for much of the Brazilian population to get over their 7-1 humiliation to the Germans. But, they had a chance for redemption just a few days later in the 3rd place “consolation” game against highly regarded Netherlands. Again, this game was for bragging rights to be the third best team in the world at the planet’s most popular sport. The Dutch relished the opportunity. The Brazilians turned down their noses at it. Apparently the third place game was beneath Brazil’s dignity and they left the tournament with their tail between their legs, 0-3 losers again.

*** We also recommend David Brook’s recent op-ed piece
Baseball or Soccer. Sometimes the non-sports writers give you the best take on the big game.


Brazilian soccer will eventually return to the top echelon of the world stage. But it will take a rebuilding effort like Germany’s that was 12 years in the making.

Key Takeaway: Show up every day ready to play. You never know who or what you’re up against. Always look through the front windshield, not the rearview mirror, and great opportunities will find you like open space on the soccer pitch.
Best, HB

blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: Brazil soccer meltdown, Brazil getting waxed, Ron Rudolph, BHAGs, You’re never as good as you think, David Brooks Baseball or Soccer

Friday, July 04, 2014

Respect Everyone, Fear No One.

Lessons learned from U.S. soccer and our founding fathers  

My high school wrestling coach had a favorite saying: “Fear no one, but respect everyone.” What he meant by that is you don’t take any opponent for granted, no matter how poor their record or how timid they look strolling out to the mat. By the same token, he said you don’t back down from any foe, even if he’s an undefeated state champion who looks like he’s in a bad mood and hasn’t eaten in days. It seemed to work pretty well Coach Neil (Buckley). He never had a losing season in 50 years and was believed to be one of the winningest high school wrestling coaches ever when he passed 20 years ago. Not bad for a guy who never wrestled himself.

Fear no one, but respect everyone is a mantra that tennis great, Roger Federer, is fond of reciting, too.  He’s having one heck of a run at Wimbledon this week. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the philosophy our founding fathers had two and a half centuries ago. Like a scrappy startup, what they lacked in resources and training, they made up for in agility and fearlessness. They certainly didn’t expect to take over the 13 original colonies without a fight, but they weren’t intimidated by the Brits and other 800 pound gorillas in their Colonial land grab “space.”
U.S.A soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann, continues to take flak for comments he made at the outset of the World Cup Soccer tournament when said the U.S. was NOT going to win it all. He wasn’t being pessimistic, he was being realistic.

Big difference.

Many journalists and patriotic soccer buffs missed the point. Klinsmann said the U.S. wasn’t going to win it all, but certainly deserved to be on the same field as the planet’s best national soccer teams. That would be a first for U.S. soccer. Klinsmann also said we not only belonged on the same field as the world’s best, but we didn’t need to wait for the favorites to dictate the pace of the game. We were now good enough to set the tone ourselves. After defeating Ghana, the U.S. tied highly ranked Portugal and gave Euro titans Germany and Belgium all they could handle in close one-goal games.

Same goes for your firm. If you’re bidding on a game-changing contract against a much larger rival, don’t be intimidated. Take a good honest look at your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. Make sure the client understands the special talents and services you can deliver….and how hungry you are for their business. You’re good enough to set the terms and dictate the pace of the negotiations. Don’t let the client or the Big Boys do it for you.


The U.S. may be out of the World Cup, but the patriotic fervor the team stirred up—and TV ratings that far surpassed the World Series and NBA finals—is something you should take note of if you have Millennials at your firm or are trying to recruit them. They have a global view of the world, and increasingly soccer is their No.1 favorite sport.

Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks. You earned it.
Best, HB

blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: wrestling, Neil Buckley, U.S.A soccer, Jurgen Klinsmann, tennis Roger Federer, Wimbledon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Take a Page from U.S. Soccer—Use Your Head and Your Best Leg

And finish what you start!
Don’t know the difference between a soccer ball and a beach ball? That’s OK. You can still learn a thing or two from the U.S. men’s national soccer team that’s currently representing our country at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

We’ll resist the temptation to use the cliché “it’s never over till it’s over.” You can thank the New York Times today for dusting off that overused malapropism attributed to legendary New York Yankees manager, Yogi Berra. What irked us about the
Times article was that it implied the overachieving U.S. soccer somehow got shafted by the referee on Sunday when Portugal scored a dramatic game tying goal as the final seconds of “stoppage time” wound down. That’s right. Soccer has a large digital game clock on the scoreboard—but the “official” clock is the one that only the head referee sees on his wrist watch. The head ref decides when a game is officially over.

As President Obama would say, “let’s be perfectly clear.” The U.S. didn’t get screwed. We let our guard down for a second and didn’t finish the job after 95 minutes of superb play against one of the world’s best players and best teams. In a flash, near-certain advancement into the final round of 16 teams vanished as quickly as the temporary aerosol spray lines that the referees use to mark free kicks on the field.

The last-second letdown by the U.S. defense was like not proofing the last slide of your big keynote presentation, or like not checking the numbers on the last table of your annual report to the board or like not checking the last job reference on a potential key hire’s resume. It always comes back to get you.

Bottom line: You have to stay 100 percent focused 100 percent of the time. You never know where great danger or great opportunity lurks. We tell the kids on my son’s baseball team that if you’re not paying attention in the field, the ball will find you. It’s remarkable how often that really happens. Doesn’t matter if it’s the starting shortstop or the backup right fielder. Same thing in business.

Here’s the thing about stoppage time

Unlike most American sports that can’t seem to go more than 30 seconds without a time-out, two minutes of commercials, and extended discussions and high fiving between players, coaches and refs, the soccer clock just keeps running. That’s right, the clock keeps running even if the ball goes into the stands or an injured player is writhing in pain on the field. Just like real life, time never stops. That being said, soccer referees take note of injury time, out of bounds and other delays in the otherwise continuous flow of the game. As “regulation” time winds down on the official scoreboard clock—World Cup soccer plays two 45 minute halves—a referee holds up a huge Plexiglass placard alerting both teams and the spectators how much “extra time” has been added to the game. In the case of the Portugal vs. U.S. game it was 5 minutes.

Just like in business. You can’t control everything that comes your way, but you CAN control the way you react to every situation that comes your way. The known variable: The refs allotted five minutes of stoppage to the game. You don’t need a sophisticated NASCAR timing system to know that five minutes is approximately 300 seconds—not 10 minutes or 15 minutes or 20 minutes. IS IT REALLY THAT HARD TO STAY FOCUSED a few seconds longer than you expected? You fight hard until you hear the final whistle, then you shake hands with the other team and do it all again the next day. Finish what you start.

NOTE: Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.
Meanwhile, there have been some bright spots for the U.S. Very few of the global soccer cognoscenti expected much from the U.S. squad. But here they are, two weeks into the tournament, still undefeated in one of the toughest groups of the tournament. A respectable showing Thursday against powerhouse Germany and the Yanks could advance to the final 16—it just didn’t have to be this hard.

In their earlier first round game, the U.S. defeated African powerhouse Ghana 2-1 when super substitute John Brooks rose above the Ghanaian defense with four minutes left in the game to drive a header low and hard, just out of the reach of the goalkeeper for the game winning goal. Brooks become the first U.S. sub ever to score a goal in World Cup play.

As advertising exec, Are Traasdahl, explained in a recent New York Times interview you need to follow the “better leg” theory. Whether in business or on the soccer field, everyone is better at certain things and not as good at others, he said. You need to understand each teammate’s strengths and weakness and put them in position to use their “better leg” as often as possible. That’s what U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann did so well against Ghana game and not so well against Portugal. Let’s hope he gets it together against his former countrymen from Germany.

TAGS: U.S. World Cup soccer, Yogi Berra, stoppage time, Jonathan Brooks, Are Traasdahl, Jurgen Klinsmann

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bloomberg's Advice: Like What You Do;You'll Do More of It and Be More Successful

If you think you’ve been getting more “out of office” replies than usual, you’re not alone. With August becoming the new September in this hypercompetitive world, vacation season is already upon us in June. So, now is the time to dig in and stay focused, even when it seems everyone else you depend on is just “mailing it in” from their beach house, pool deck or lakeside cabin.

As many of you have probably learned intuitively, you’re going to gravitate to things you like to do in order to make a living. And if you can make a good living doing things you like to do, then you’re going to work harder to get better at those skills.

You didn’t just fall into your occupation

It’s not by accident that you became a top notch financial advisor, attorney or insurance professional. There’s something about the intellectual challenge of these demanding occupations, and the ability to help people, that you find infinitely fascinating and rewarding. It what drives you to put up with the long hours, constant pressure and demanding clients you serve.

Obviously the money’s great, but according to Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of NYC and billionaire founder of Bloomberg, LP: “If you like what you do, you’re going to do more of it and the more you do of it, the more successful you’re going to be—and that give you more reason to like it.” Bloomberg shared these pearls of obvious wisdom last week on a Bloomberg West TV interview with fellow panelist Lloyd Blankfien, CEO of Goldman Sachs. 

Sounds simple enough. And if you dislike something, the process works exactly in reverse said Bloomberg , as “you spiral downward” becoming less successful, the more you do things you don’t like.

So if you feel like you’re stuck in a dead end job or a stagnant practice then you have no one to blame but yourself implied Bloomberg, reminding viewers that we still live in one of the most open, most entrepreneurial societies in the world where everyone has a chance to control their own destiny.


Have a great week. Stay focused. But don’t, forget to take a walk or get some exercise every day no matter how many things you have on your plate. It’ll be waiting for you when you get back and you’ll have more patience and energy to tackle it. That’s a far better approach than grinding it out and mailing it in.

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.