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.

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.

How To Respond Faster To Leads – And Why It Matters

What can you do in an hour? You can take lunch or connect with a friend over coffee. In about an hour you can get new glasses, get your oil changed or walk about 4,500 steps on the treadmill. It also takes the C

SI crew about an hour to solve a murder (including commercials, of course). An hour is also the maximum amount of time you should take to respond to an inbound lead. Why, specifically, an hour?

A study in Harvard Business Review analyzed 1.25 million leads across 29 business-to-consumer companies and 13 business-to-business companies. It found that companies that responded to inbound leads within one hour were seven times more likely to qualify the lead (have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker) than companies that responded within two hours. Plus, those that responded within one hour were 60 times more likely to qualify the lead than those who responded 24 hours or longer after receiving the lead.

In a recent article in Inc. magazine, Tommy Mello, the founder of A1 Garage Doors, shared four ways he makes sure his company responds to inbound leads within that critical first hour.

Review your org chart. It isn’t necessary for all employees to be focused on hyper response. Take a look at your organization and identify those who should be.

Make hyper-responsiveness a key metric that you measure. After you know who needs to respond quickly, put the expectations in place. Do they need to respond in five minutes or an hour? Make sure you have the tools and systems in place to track the time to respond and the results.

Provide a centralized customer relation

ship management system. Using a centralized CRM will allow your sales teams to have all the information they need in front of them and provide reminders for follow up. It also allows the company to see who the top performers are to benchmark and replicate their processes across the rest of the team.

Create an FAQ template. Responding quickly has the risk of responding poorly due to the time pressure. Having templates in places to help your employees respond to the most common types of inbound leads will help minimize missteps and keep the conversations on point.

Do You Really Need An App for That?

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? According to a report from App Annie, the average smartphone user accesses over 30 apps monthly—and these are approximately one-third to one-half of the total apps installed on their phones. With the Apple App Store expecting to offer five million apps by 2020, it’s certain that app usage will continue to rise.

As business owners, we feel the pressure to develop an app. Why? It makes us “current.” It provides convenience for the customer. It sets us apart from the competition. And the reasons continue. However, unless your business already has a developer team in house, an app can be a costly investment that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a return on investment.

Today we share these key questions to ask when deciding whether or not to invest in app development, according to Sarah Perez, writer for TechCrunch.

1. Would it provide value to your customers? The first question many business leaders ask themselves is whether developing an app would be good for the company. There are a million reasons why apps can benefit any business, but what is most important is whether an app would add value to your customers.

Even if you don’t use technology to make transactions, many businesses can find creative ways to provide value to customers with an app, from ordering products to tracking delivery. Getting customers to download an app is easy. But whether it adds value to their experience with your business is the biggest question, so ask your customers what they need.

2. Do you want to stand out from the competition? Big or small, almost all businesses today have a website. What’s less common for small businesses is having a mobile app that customers want to download and use. If none of your competitors have already made a killer app, that may be the reason to get a jumpstart and provide value that no one else is offering.

3. Does the return on investment outweigh the cost of hiring a developer? If hiring a developer will cost more than business gained or retained from the app, then perhaps focusing on updating your website is a better use of resources. Find out if your customers spend more time on their phones, tablets or computers— then you’ll know where to invest for the most visibility.

Mobile apps might not be right for every business. But knowing how customers spend their time and providing value to them is important for any business wanting to stay on top.

Source: Sarah Perez currently works as a writer for TechCrunch, after having previously spent more than three years at ReadWriteWeb. Prior to her work as a reporter, she worked in IT across a number of industries, including banking, retail and software.

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.

Image courtesy of google image search.

Three C’s To Hiring The Right Person

Have you ever led a team where everyone seems to gel together? You reach success with a highly effective team in both the work they produce and in the attitude of the team. But how do you bring about this type of teamwork?

It starts with hiring the right people. As a leader, one of the hardest jobs is to add high-quality people to your team.

The more homework you do on the front end of the selection process, the better chance you’ll have of finding the right fit, says Ron Edmondson, a church leader and pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This homework requires that you look within yourself to see what you need most in another person.

Edmondson suggests the next time you have an open position, to consider these three C’s. Which of these types of people would be most helpful to you at this time in your leadership?

1. Someone Who Complements You. This person can do more of what you do. If you are strategic—they are strategic. If you are a relational leader—they will be more so. It could be there’s just not enough of you to go around, but you need more of what you bring to your organization. Edmondson explains that in his large and growing church, he did this by hiring another executive pastor, so the church now has two leaders—one that is relational and one that is strategic.

2. Someone Who Completes You. What are you missing that you simply can’t bring to the team? It could be a quality you are not wired to provide or you no longer have enough time to provide it. This person can fill in gaps you have in your leadership. And, we all have those gaps. Edmondson gives the example of when his church hired a senior adult pastor who was still in the prime of his career. This role was needed because the church had a large senior population and this person provided this demographic with someone they could trust and feel comfortable with; it filled a gap for the church. So where are the gaps or missing holes on your team? Consider, not the open position, but the talent and personality you need for your team.

3. Someone Who Competes With You. This type of person could be needed as you are looking to transition out as a leader or if your organization is large enough to be investing in the next generation of leaders. This is the person who eventually wants your job. They want to do what you do someday, perhaps even more than the position for which you are hiring them. And, if they are really good, they are going to, at times, appear to be in direct competition for yo

ur job. This type of person will push you to be a better leader, and will also serve as bench strength for your team.

Edmondson sums it up by explaining, “You have to decide what you want or need in the person you are hiring. This is beneficial for you and the person who will come to work with you. And, it can hopefully help you avoid making a mistake in hiring.”

Source: As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, a church leader and the planter of two churches, Ron Edmondson is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. His specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor, he consults with church and ministry leaders.

Image courtesy of google image search.

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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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 that support 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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Using “Thank-You” To Get What You Want

Most of us like to be thanked, especially when the sentiment is sincere. For that reason, saying “thank-you” is one of the most powerful phrases in any language.

Upon meeting you, a job candidate thanks you for considering him for the position. Your boss thanks you in a staff meeting for the project you are about to undertake. A sign in your gym thanks members for placing used towels in the hamper.

Today, we share these insights into the power of saying thank-you in advance to get what you want from Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works, Inc.

Why A Thank-You In Advance Works

Zabriskie says that thanking people in advance works for a several reasons. The first has to do with a sense of obligation many people feel to reciprocate after they’ve received something.

The second explanation for the technique’s effectiveness is because people want to conform to a positive image of themselves. In other words, “I’m going to act like a good worker because I am a good worker.”

A third explanation for the power of this method has to do with instruction. Often, we assume people intuitively know what they are supposed to do. Guess what? Many don’t. They’ve forgotten, they’re preoccupied or they’re simply not thinking. Offered in the right way, many people will follow a suggested course of action, because it’s the path of least resistance.

The Structure Of Saying Thank-You In Advance

To plan an advanced thank-you, use the following framework:

1. Think about the desired result. “I want my employees to show up on time.”

2. Identify the type of people who typically demonstrate that behavior. “Responsible and accountable people show up on time.”

3. Craft a statement that identifies the people you are addressing as that group, and be specific about the result you want to see. For example: “I appreciate the fact that I have such a dedicated team. I want to thank you in advance for giving 110 percent this week. The hours during this busy season are demanding, and it takes a true group of professionals to act upbeat and engaged with every visitor. This is why we hired you.”

Tips and Cautions:

1. Thanking people for good behavior should be done before you’ve observed anything particularly egregious. For example, imagine a chaotic scene in a retail environment where customers are pushing and shoving each other. It’s more difficult to thank them into a reverse course after they’ve gone wild. However, a little advanced gratitude offered earlier could have helped avoid mayhem.

2. Thanking people is not a substitute for confronting inappropriate behavior. For example, if an employee comes to work dressed improperly, you can’t thank your way around addressing the problem. However, you can use a thank you as part of the corrective conversation. “Mary, I appreciate you listening to me this morning, and I want to thank you in advance for taking the conversation seriously. I know you have what it takes to represent our company well. I look forward to seeing you be successful here.”

3. Thanking people for everything dilutes the method’s effectiveness. “Bill, I want to thank you for coming in on time today. I know how important punctuality is to you, so thank you for parking in the employee lot and not taking a visitor’s space.” Too much of that, and Bill is going to think you’ve got a screw or two loose. Worse still, he’s not going to believe a word you say.

Perfecting the science and art of the advanced thank-you takes time but it can be an important tool of influence.

PCT wants to thank you in advance for checking your inbox tomorrow for the next issue.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

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Seven Ways To Motivate Your Team

It’s 2018, a new year, and a great opportunity to assess what can be done to make your team more collaborative, motivated and effective in the coming year. Here, we share these pillars from executive coach Jan Makela to help you and your team get there.

1. Vision and mission: Begin by asking some key questions. What is it that you want? What is in it for others? There has to be something bigger than you that others can grasp and buy in to. Why does your organization exist? Workers today want to work for organizations that can show a purpose or cause. Makela gives the example of Google, whose corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

2. Goals: In just a few weeks, everyone will be setting goals for the New Year, whether it’s losing weight, saving money or something else. And then what happens? The goals go into a drawer or are hidden in an electronic file never to see the light of day until someone asks for them. So, put your goals on display so that the entire team can see them daily. Why? Out of sight means out of mind. Keep your goals in front of the people in charge of accomplishing them and ask them about their progress on a routine basis-preferably weekly. Ask them how they are doing and what can you do to make the goals easier to accomplish.

3. Expectations: Only 30 percent of employees know what is expected of them at work. Your goal is to get people to work and perform together. People will live up or down to the perception of your expectations of them. If they think you believe in their abilities and expect them to do well, they will. Remember, if people don’t know what you expect, don’t be surprised by what you get.

4. Feedback: Positive feedback grows and negative feedback stifles. Catch your employees doing the job right and recognize them for it. They will do more of what generates positive feedback.

5. Treat everyone fairly but not equally: The people you work with are all unique individuals, and although you need to treat each one fairly, that does not necessarily mean equally. They have different values, wants, backgrounds, skill sets and experiences, and most likely they are at different stages of their careers. One size fits nobody. Great managers play chess, meaning that all of the pieces move differently. The key to success is knowing the differences between the pieces, how each piece moves and how to create a strategy that maximizes the moves for all of them. Another key piece of the puzzle is showing your team that you genuinely care about them. They need to know you have their interest at heart; people want to know that someone at work cares about them as a person.

6. Provide tools and resources to do quality work: Most people want to do quality work. Part of that is having the tools and resources to do a quality job. Ask your team members what you can do to make their job easier. If they say, “I need a new widget maker,” get it. Provide them with the resources they need to succeed. If they say they don’t need anything, your response should be, “guess I can expect quality work.” You want to remove any and all reasons for failure. You only leave a path to success.

7. Celebrate success: What do organizations do when they accomplish a big thing? Well, they move on to the next big thing. It is important to stop and celebrate with your team. Allow people to share the memory of what has been accomplished. Simple things like handwritten notes are important. Remember to thank everyone for what they did and how their contribution led to the overall achievement of the group.

The seven pillars can help you and your team stand out within your organization.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker and bestselling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Makela has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development with a focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners and professionals.