Create Your Own Magic With These Three Steps

Have you ever done something difficult at work, but made it look easy? Maybe you solved a problem, helped a client or negotiated a deal in a way that astounded your colleagues? It felt amazing, right? Inspiring delight and wonder is powerful—even addicting. It’s this sense of awe and power that also drives magicians to do what they do, and why people love them for it.

What most people don’t realize about magic shows, though, is that it’s not all props and performance. To truly surprise and delight, a seasoned magician uses his expertise. And you don’t have to run away with the circus or even learn a single magic trick to apply magical thinking to your business or career.

Today, we reveal three secrets for creating the wow factor at work developed by Kostya Kimlat, a magician with more than 20 years of experience.

1. Innovation And Lateral Thinking. Magicians have always had to work backwards: They come up with a surprising effect and then devise a means to accomplish it. They must consider all mental, visual and physical tools available. To continue astonishing people, a magician can’t stick with the same tactics. Their tricks must constantly evolve, but here’s the key—their approach to developing new material stays the same: Magicians start the creative process by acting as if anything is possible.

To be creative and innovative, you have to be able to see existing resources as more than they are. You must seek methods and technologies unknown to you (and maybe to others). You can’t do any of those things when you decide preemptively that any end goal—a new product, service, client or corporate structure—is outside the range of what’s possible.

2. Perception management. No magician’s trick is complete with only physical tools and technologies. To fool someone, a magician must do something the other person doesn’t know, recognize or perceive. Knowing and managing an audience’s perceptions are what make the trick.

Similarly, to excel at work, it’s not enough to just be creative. You must also accurately understand what people around you perceive—what they believe and expect. Before an important meeting with a client, your boss or employees, do some digging on what your investors believe about your company before you present. Find out what delighted or disappointed them at the most recent board meeting—and why. Do the research beforehand to more deeply understand what others believe they know, how they see you and what they are looking for, and you’ll be able to deliver and even dazzle by going beyond expectations.

3. Social Intelligence. Highly successful magicians aren’t just good at tricks. They’re great entertainers. They pull people in. Why? They read people in a way that others don’t. Perception management—the ability to understand how people perceive you and what you do—is a skill that can be learned, developed and refined. If you practice taking the perspectives of others enough, you’ll develop a powerful tool: social intelligence.

Being a great thinker doesn’t just mean having great ideas; it’s understanding and anticipating the thoughts of others. It’s knowing how they think and feel, and making informed guesses on how they will react. It’s about being ready instead of reacting in panic.

You can practice the same strategies at the office. Constantly assess what those above, below and beside you are perceiving, what they expect and how they feel. Do this not just during crucial moments, but at every point of interaction. Do it well enough and it will be what sets you apart. It will become your magic, your own wow factor.

With these three magician’s secrets, you can bring innovation and lateral thinking to your job. Wow your coworkers by anticipating what they’re going to think or say at the next meeting, and astonish them with your masterful ability to connect and communicate with anyone you meet.

Source: Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, Fool Us. Kimlat speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician to improve sales and customer service.

Hook Top Candidates With Great Storytelling

It takes an average of 27 days to hire a new employee, according to a recent survey, but the best candidates are off the market within 10 days. In today’s tight job market, it’s a challenge for many executives to convince top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.

To become better at hiring and training, Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, suggests taking the approach of a storyteller. Give candidates lots of facts and figures about your company and then tell them the right story.

Core Values Are Key. Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values. Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive an organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Some examples of core values include statements such as:

  • We go the extra mile for customers
  • We do whatever it takes to get the job done

Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.

The Core Value Storytelling Formula. For every core value, the company should capture a true story that represents that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core value storytelling formula:

1. Start with a main character. Every story starts with a character who wants something: your client. Make your main character likable so the listeners will root for them.

2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the protagonist’s way?

 

3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. Heroes cannot succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provide.

4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.

5. Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).

6. Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Put Stories Into Action. After you’ve identified the core value and have examples to share with candidates, persuade future hires—and educate current employees and customers—with these opportunities:

During a job interview. Don’t start the interview by telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared information about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.

At weekly staff meetings. During staff meetings, tell a story to illustrate one of your core values.

At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core-value selling.

On the company website. Detail for clients and potential clients the power of story by promoting core-value stories on your website.

In company collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade others on an emotional level. Utilize storytelling as a key strategy for showcasing your core values.

Three Ways To Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive criticism can be a very sensitive area. It’s an opportunity to identify areas of improvement, but it can also mean bruising an ego here or there.

In her recent blog post from The Muse, author Kat Boogard shared three ways to give constructive feedback, which we’ll outline below.

1. ” You always …” Always. As Boogard says, “always’ seems like such an innocent word, but when used to give feedback, it can quickly put someone on the defensive.

As she points out, “always” can imply that there’s a mistake that has happened on a frequent enough basis that you can chalk it up as something that person repeatedly does. Maybe that’s true. However, constructive criticism is hard enough to swallow without being made to feel like you’ve been making the same mistake for a long time.

So, when giving feedback, drop the “A” word.

2. “Everybody has noticed that …” Sometimes when you receive feedback, it can feel embarrassing or disheartening, especially when you didn’t realize there was a problem to begin with.

Implying that everyone has noticed will make the recipient feel like they’ve been talked about and that negative comments were made.

When giving feedback, there’s no need to relay the details of every single complaint. In the end, it shouldn’t matter how many people have commented. What matters is that the person is aware that he or she needs to fix it.

3. “If I were you …” Constructive criticism is generally better received when it’s rooted in fact-as opposed to just opinion. This phrase, “If I were you …” can come across as judgmental.

Remember, not everybody works the same way, which means that just because you’d do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the way that other person is doing it is wrong and warrants correction.

Providing feedback can be a positive discussion and an effective step toward improvement. By demonstrating respect and basing feedback on facts, not judgement or opinion, you’ll create a positive foundation for next steps to improvement.

Source: Kat Boogard is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor on the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she’s usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco.

Getting To The Customer Experience Finish Line

This week we focuse on the trend toward declining customer satisfaction scores and what your organization can do to pull ahead of this problem. The solution, of course, is dependent on your organization recognizing that, because of higher expectations set by customer experience leaders such as Amazon, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, customers expect an ever-improving experience. Being good at what you do is no longer enough.

In his recent blog post, “Why Good is a Four-Letter Word,” customer experience author and speaker Jay Baer writes: “Exceptional brands understand that the customer experience finish line is a mirage, and are constantly upping their game.”

In research for his book, Talk Triggers, Baer discovered that most organizations could take cues from leaders to do more to improve customer experience, but choose not to. Why? Because they believe that being satisfactory in the products or services they provide is good enough. It’s not.

In today’s experience economy, where any competitor can copy what you do in virtually no time, having satisfied customers is not enough. To truly succeed you need to create rabid fans of your products and services. You must provide an experience that turns customers into advocates who are willing to help you share your story.

According to Baer, “Good enough is not enough. Good is the minimum prerequisite required for you to remain in business. Good does not create conversations. Good does not turn your customers into advocates. Good is not the goal.”

His recommendation is to create a series of checkpoints. Set the specific goals needed to dramatically improve your customer experience and make each a checkpoint. When you get to a checkpoint, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and start working toward the next checkpoint. And keep adding to your checkpoints because as soon as you reach one, your customers will very likely have increased their expectations once again.

Outline your customer service checkpoints, and start your journey to an exceptional customer experience.

Source: Jay Baer is president of Convince & Convert, a global keynote speaker and emcee, host of the Social Pros podcast, an inductee into the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s also the author of five books including Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.

Four Ways To Close Your Best Candidate

No matter how large and successful your business, you need to hire great talent to succeed. Getting that talent is 100 percent a sales process. Perhaps, the most critical stage of this process is extending a job offer to the prized candidate.

Once you’ve found the ideal candidate, follow these three proven steps from Patrick McHargue, director of talent at PromoPlacement, to successfully make the job offer and ensure it’s accepted.

1. Formalize Your Offer. The first step to extending a job offer is getting the offer down on paper in an organized and easy-to-comprehend way. Focus on the main points and make the offer clear and to the point. If you make it too complex, you’ll likely confuse the candidate.

The offer letter should be on your company letterhead and include the following:

  • An introduction that expresses your excitement and hopes for a long relationship
  • Title of the position being offered
  • Potential start date
  • Compensation/pay period
  • Overview of health insurance benefits
  • Number of sick, personal and vacation days
  • Space for the candidate to sign to confirm their acceptance of the offer

2. Sell The Opportunity. The recruiting and hiring process needs to be a marriage of your human resources and sales/marketing teams. In today’s highly competitive talent market, you need to sell the candidate on why he or she should join your company. Sell your company culture, your growth rate, opportunity for promotion and your company’s position in the market place. Sell whatever you must sell about your company and the opportunity. Make it compelling or you will lose your candidate.

3. Present Over The Phone. The single most important aspect of extending a job offer is how you present the offer to your candidate. There are several ways but by far the most effective method is to review the offer over the phone with your candidate. To do this, schedule an offer call with your candidate. Email the offer letter just before your call and read it over together on the phone.

This method is the strongest option for two reasons. First, it allows you to get the genuine first reaction of your candidate as he or she is seeing the offer for the first time. Second, it segues perfectly into a close.

4. Close! Offer your candidate the opportunity to join your team and close the deal. As you read over and review the offer letter with your candidate, clarify any questions that he or she may have. Then get the person on board by saying something like, “Would the second or the ninth be better for your first day with the team?”

Extending a job offer the right way is all about presenting your candidate with reasons to want to join your team. Follow these simple steps and your offers will be accepted far more often, and you’ll have a strong advantage over competitors in the talent war going on now in the promotional product industry.

Source: Patrick McHargue is the director of talent at PromoPlacement, an industry search and placement firm. He grew up in the promotional product industry, earned an MBA ininternational business, and managed a $35 million sales territory before focusing on the development of tools and services to benefit the promotional product industry.

How To Improve Your Luck At Work

It seems like some people have all the luck. Whatever type of business they get involved in is successful. Whatever decisions they make turn out to be the right ones. They appear to have the Midas touch. Now, we all know that’s not completely true, and in fact, luck has very little to do with it. In most cases, their success is driven by the way they work-for example, Elon Musk or Richard Branson.

Today, we share ways to work smarter and improve your luck in business with these principles from Marty Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals.

1. Plan to deliver more than you commit. Make your habit one of under-promising and over-delivering. Always give more than you get.

2. Never seek excuses when things don’t work. Among the best of the best, good luck is an excuse for something they didn’t anticipate, and makes success appear to be random. Learn to accept responsibility for all actions and inactions, and never point the finger of blame at anyone or anything else.

3. Always treat failures as learning opportunities. There are no mistakes, only opportunities for improvement. Every good entrepreneur learns to pivot, and learn from that experience or failure.

4. Never give up until you achieve your dream. Many experts believe that the single biggest cause of startup failure is entrepreneurs simply giving up just prior to success. We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison who made his own luck by enduring more than a thousand failures before finding a light bulb filament that worked. He kept his energy focused and avoided naysayers.

5. Maintain self-confidence as well as respect for others. Confidence in yourself is key, but not to the extent of arrogance. The best entrepreneurs admit their own weaknesses, and build relationships and trust with people who can help them. The right relationships with the right people can be your greatest source of luck.

6. Be willing and able to work collaboratively. Products may be invented by a single person, but successful businesses require a team of people working together. That means everyone is willing to share what they know and share in successes.

7. Show up for more opportunities. When you are dealing with all the unknowns of new and untested business ventures, success follows the laws of probabilities. Many people set their scope of interest too narrowly, or look for “sure things” before they start a new venture.

Source: Marty Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. He has a 30-year track record of demonstrated results as an executive in general management, computer software development, product management and marketing, as well as in leading technical business transformations, conducting due diligence for investors, mentoring new technical executives, and overseeing business development, customer service and outsourcing both onshore and offshore.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. 

Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments thatsupport productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

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Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

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Five Ways Small Businesses Can Leverage PR

It was Edward Bernays, known as the father of public relations, who said, “”Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.”

In today’s business world, public relations is often associated with large, corporate challenges and societal issues. But, PR can have an important impact on a small business as well. In fact, when it comes to branding and marketing, PR is one of the most important tools to help get you the right type of attention-and it can easily fit into your marketing budget.

Here, we share these five tips for PR success, from business author Shannon Gausepohl.

To get started with PR, begin with the right mindset. Building brand awareness and name recognition takes time. Gausepohl advises to set aside 10 percent of your annual budget for public relations activities. Use these dollars to help you:

  • Establish clear, measurable goals for your business.
  • Determine the best strategy to achieve these goals and execute this strategy.
  • Review your results and establish new goals or a new strategy.

Here are key steps to building and implementing your plan:

1. Figure out your “why.” What is the ultimate goal of your PR campaign? Increase customer engagement? Position yourself as a community leader? You’ll need to define your goal before creating your PR strategy or tactics.

Remember, the “why” is your story, not your product or your service. For example, say you are a launching a new restaurant. Instead of telling people to check out this new trendy place (your what), you’ll need to answer why it matters. Why did you decide to start this restaurant in the first place?

2. Build your own media list. The next step is to identify your influencers, both online and offline. Who are those influencers with the most targeted reach that can serve as a third-party earned endorsement? Before you pitch anything, make sure that what you’re sending is relevant to what the media out writes about or covers.

3. Create your brand message. When sending information, personalize it to both your brand and the person you are pitching to. Often, highly personalized, short email pitches are better than long-winded news releases.

Also, if you don’t hear back right away, don’t take it personally. It often takes a few tries before a journalist will reach out to you. If one pitch doesn’t work, be patient, wait and try a new angle when you have something newsworthy to share again.

4. Be a source for the media. It’s valuable to build relationships with journalists in your industry. You can save them time by providing industry information and being a resource. Be fast in your response to their requests and don’t bother with multiple follow-ups. Be sincere, helpful and informative.

5. Ask for help. There are PR resources to fit any budget, so ask for help. You can source both independent contractors as well as PR firms to help you navigate your industry landscape. These resources already have the trust and relationships with the media, and they can help you design PR campaigns that build your brand and serve as a resource should you need to navigate through any potential issues.

Try these tips to improve your PR value, influence key audiences and build your brand equity.

Source: Shannon Gausepohl graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She has worked at a newspaper and in the public relations field, and is currently a staff writer at Business News Daily. Gausepohl is a zealous bookworm, has her blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and loves her Blue Heeler mix, Tucker.

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Create A Positive, Productive Workplace

Have you ever worked in a setting that was not a happy place? Ever had a boss that always had their door closed and did not welcome questions or conversation, which created an isolated environment. Plus, the company’s structure was continually changing, so job security was always in question. And there was a definite pecking order of favorite employees, causing animosity among teammates. Working in an environment like this can be stressful, distracting and downright depressing.

Today, we share a model for creating a happy workplace by looking to one of the most cheerful places on earth—the North Pole—and Santa’s workshop. Human resources expert Susan Heathfield has studied the elves who work there (well, the concept anyway), and says they are always happy and continue to meet production demand for toys as the world’s population of children increases. Based on this model, here’s what Heathfield says are the keys to a creating a happy workplace.

Create a purpose. Santa’s elves have a higher purpose than themselves by providing little boys and girls all over the world with exactly what they want for Christmas. Bringing joy through their work and knowing that they are participating in an activity that impacts millions in a positive way brings a sense of purpose and happiness.

Know your customer. Elves have a customer intelligence gathering system that allows them to get up close with customers—literally. They get to see people in shopping centers all over the world and ask them what they want. Elves listen and they build intelligence on the customer. These insights are rewarding in allowing them to be targeted in their work. And by meeting the customer needs, they have happy customers who will refer their work to others.

Create a sense of security. Elves feel totally needed and secure in their employment. Santa simply can’t serve the entire world on his own. It takes a spirit of teamwork between the elves, reindeer and the entire North Pole operations team. Elves have lots of customer orders and they know they will never run out of work. Job security and teamwork are desirable conditions to create happy employees.

Live the mission and vision. Elves have clear direction. They must meet the goal of delivering presents on Christmas Eve. They must do whatever it takes to make that delivery happen. And they have a vision: to create joy for boys and girls around the world. It’s an aspiration that keeps the elf team motivated and focused, and when they hit their goals, the impact is highly rewarding. Elves know they make a difference to millions of lives.

Have an open-door policy. One key principle at the North Pole is that jolly old elf, Santa. He creates an atmosphere of laughter and trust, yet he motivates and delegates across the elf teams. He doesn’t play favorites because every elf matters to get the work done, and every elf’s ideas are seriously considered. Santa creates an environment in which he’s approachable by all elves, no matter their roles.

Tap into these elf-friendly tips to create a happy and productive workplace for your team in 2018.

Source: Susan Heathfield is a human resources expert. She is a management and organization development consultant who specializes in human resources issues and in management development to create forward-thinking workplaces. She is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer and writer.