Ladies and Gentlemen, Serving Ladies and Gentleman

 

Back when my kids were small, they loved watching the movie “Goonies,” circa 1985. I’ll never forget the sound of Sloth, the monster-looking character, calling out to the gang of young boys, “Hey, you GUY-UYYYYYYS!” I think of this whenever I hear a leader, trainer or professional speaker call an audience “you guys…”

First of all, I’m not a guy. When I’m in the audience and I hear someone in authority, a leader speaking from the front of the room or from the stage or at the head of a boardroom table, call us “you guys” it makes me think of a gang of little boys (much like the one in “Goonies”) huddled out back in a homemade fort, the one that says “Girls Keep Out!” There’s a familiarity about the expression that seems at odds with the message.

While I know the phrase is meant to represent the collective audience, “you” or “you all” in the plural, there’s something about addressing a group of professionals as “you guys” that seems off. Call me old-fashioned (go ahead, I dare you) but language matters. When we are speaking to an audience, unless they are under the age of 13 I think it’s important to address them as “ladies and gentlemen.”

My former boss Chuck Lauer, taught me that. He was publisher of Modern Healthcare magazine for more than 30 years and he was vigilant about the importance of etiquette in business. He used to refer to the tagline of the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels and resorts: “We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” That’s also how he referred to his audiences whenever he gave a speech and I learned to do the same. He was the consummate speaker, a leader and a powerful connector of people. Chuck, affectionately referred to as “Chuckles” by those of us on his sales and marketing team, died April 30 at the age of 86, leaving a legacy of wisdom in his famous Modern Healthcare columns, his books and the many friendships that will live on.

So the next time you’re in front of a group, think about who they are and choose your words carefully. How you address people impacts how they see themselves and how they behave as well as how they perceive and respond to you. Chuck was fond of saying that good manners never go out of style.

Photo: Chuck Lauer addressing the sales teams of all of Crain’s publications based in the Los Angeles office in 2007 during a sales boot camp he and I designed with Teri Louden and delivered in LA, New York, Akron, Detroit and Chicago.

 

What Shapes Us

Recently I attended a Wheaton Chamber of Commerce luncheon that featured my good friend and client Rob O’Dell from Wheaton Wealth Partners. Rob shared his presentation, “Bridging the Generational Gap,” emphasizing the nuances of communicating with–and selling to–people of different generations. Using his firm’s innovative Mind-Mapping visuals, Rob shared the profile and values of the four generations: “Matures,” “Baby Boomers,” “Generation X” and “Millennials.” As a card-carrying Boomer (that’s an AARP card), I listened with keen interest, not only for hints on how I can be more effective in my own communications but because Rob’s descriptions really hit me as a guide for what shapes us.

For Baby Boomers, one of the most sentinel events of our lives was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a milestone that shaped our generation in a way that still resonates today. Until I heard Rob’s presentation, I hadn’t thought about how as a generation, we are “optimistic and driven.” One would think that the losses we experienced, including the loss of our heroes and an unpopular war, would have soured our outlook. But instead, Rob described this generation as idealistic, hard-working and driven. We thrive on story, including credentials, performance, history and tenure in the marketplace.

The GenX folks, in contrast, are described as cynical, skeptical and distrusting. The resignation of Richard Nixon, the space shuttle disaster and the effects of divorce taught this generation that things don’t go according to plan. Many of them were brought up as latch-key kids who now, in the workplace, savor and require independence. They don’t want to be wined and dined: they want to do their work and go home. Also, this is the first generation to have access to the Internet, allowing them to research online. A GenX customer looking for a car may show up at the car lot having logged 16 hours on the Internet and knowing more about the inventory than the sales person. They crave information and transparency.

Millennials are known as the “Whatever” generation with “huge goals and no specific plans,” according to Rob. They aren’t dependent on superiors in the workplace for knowledge. And, like Boomers, they are idealistic and cause-driven. Texting is their preferred method of communication and reaching them requires a presence on social media. Millennials are being followed by the “iGeneration,” which says it all (Steve Jobs would be proud).

Rob’s presentation, which you can see in full by clicking here, gave me new insights about what shapes us. His descriptions remind me that everyone comes to the work world–and life–with his or her own perceptions of how things are and how they “should” be. The profiles of each generation give me new guidelines for connecting with the people around me. And they remind me never to assume that what shaped me, shaped them.

 

Masthead photo: “Jackie Frieze, 1964” silk screen on linen, by Andy Warhol, Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago

Having Lunch with Alexander Calder

I’m in Chicago today, having a late lunch on the mezzanine of the Formerly-Known-As-Sears-Tower, AKA “The Willis Tower” although no hard-core Chicagoan likes to call it that. And I’m looking out over the balcony to see the famous moving sculpture by Alexander Calder, “The Universe.” Unveiled in October of 1974, this huge sculpture has three distinct moving parts, all of them mesmerizing.

Calder mobile Sears TowerPublic art is a passion of mine and Chicago is a great city for people with a passion for public art. I see it everywhere and I always stop to admire, no matter how hurried I may be. This very lobby recently hosted a show featuring Donna Hapac, a local sculptor introduced to me by my own beloved coach Jackie Sloane. Donna was featured in a show with several other talented sculptors and I asked for an introduction to learn more about the world of art since I’ve recently taken on a new artist client–my husband, Bill.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the artist community, thanks to insights from Donna and other artists I’ve interviewed:

  • Art, like any business, depends on relationships. To a person, each artist I’ve asked to interview has granted me their time and shared generously of their vision and experience. Mike Bauer, a sculptor who works in concrete and steel creating sculptures of considerable beauty and magnitude, opened his home and his studio to Bill and me and told us of his own journey as an artist. Lennée Eller, program manager of the Phoenix Airport Museum at Sky Harbor International Airport, joined us for lunch and gave us insights about marketing art in the Valley of the Sun. And Donna Hapac graciously invited us to another show featuring her delicate organic sculptural forms held at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago. (The show is up through June 8–go see if if you’re in the Chicago area!)
  • People love sharing their stories. Most people–not just artists–love to share their own stories of how they got from where they were to where they are, their challenges, triumphs and horror stories. If you’re interested in pursuing any niche–whether it’s sky-diving or swaps, haute cuisine or haute couture, find people who are in that niche and ask them to share their stories with you. For the price of a latté and an hour, they will share their stories with you if you’re respectful and they know you’re serious about learning.
  • “Stories sell art.” These are the wise words of wisdom from Ms. Eller, who not only runs an extensive collection of art at the Phoenix Airport Museum but is an artist herself. This is something I hear over and over again as a member of the National Speakers Association…stories sell everything.

I’ve only begun to research the business of art. In the meantime, I get to revel in the fruits of this world-class city of art, venturing to galleries, museums and institutes that hold a world unto itself. Like this Calder sculpture, there’s movement and grace, symmetry and mystery. There are secrets but also experts who are more than willing to share. I hope you find that in whatever world you’re exploring. All you have to do is ask.

Note: If you are eager for an “artist’s date” and you’re in the Chicago area, please join us for an artist’s reception, Then & Now: Paintings by Bill Austin,” at the DuPage Framing Center (DFC) from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. next Friday, May 9. Bob Greene, owner of DFC, kindly agreed to host this reception which is at 276 E. Geneva Road in the elbow of a shopping center at the southeast corner of Main Street and Geneva in Wheaton, IL. 

You Gotta Get a Gimmick

My brief theatrical career included playing a “Toreadorable” in a summer stock production of “Gypsy” when I was about 13. My sister had dragged me to the auditions because of her own thespian ambitions, and I think she just liked having some company and a ready-made fan in me, so I suddenly found myself in the chorus. Now, forty-plus years later, I can still sing every word of every song in that libretto. My favorite song is “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” the refrain of a song sung by three strippers who are instructing young Louise before she turns into the unforgettable Gypsy Rose Lee. Their sage advice is to get a gimmick that makes you stand out from everyone else.

The same holds true in the world of business. What makes people remember you? Maybe you aren’t wearing phony Roman soldier regalia and carrying a horn like one of the strippers in “Gypsy”–at least, I hope not. But each of us has our own unique style and sensibility. “Gimmick” implies that it’s false but I prefer to think that the essence of this theme is to find something special about yourself and then use it, leverage it, let yourself be known for it. For Jeffrey Gitomer, he’s known not only for his brash and in-your-face sales advice but he’s recognizable in his red shirt with his name patch sewn onto the chest, looking like an upscale mechanic. Another world-class speaker, Patricia Fripp, wears stylish hats that set her apart in a crowd. And her British accent, along with her nuggets of wisdom which she calls “Frippisms,” make her undeniably unique. Think George Will and his bowtie, Louise Nevelson and her turban, George Burns and his cigar.

Last year I was interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter, Elizabeth Bernstein, for a column she writes called “Bonds” (it’s about relationships, not financial instruments). Her article was about being a diva, and I was delighted to respond as a source. I’d been encouraging business women for years to redefine the word “Diva” to mean a woman who knows what she wants, knows how to get what she wants and honors the people who support her. When Elizabeth asked me what was diva-like about me, though, I was stumped. Somehow, I ended up describing my love of vintage jewelry, born during a time when that was all I could afford, my signature pearls and red lipstick. I defaulted to describing my style. Like Jeffrey Gitomer’s red shirt, it’s a uniform I put on every day because it feels like an expression of the authentic “me.”

So what’s your “gimmick?” What do you do or say or wear that most expresses your brand and your style? What makes you unique and unforgettable? Please share about your own way of expressing yourself that sets you apart from everyone else. We’d love to know.

[Photo: The Village Voice]

Why Fly Fishing Beats a Net

There are many paradoxes when marketing yourself or your business, and one of the most powerful paradoxes is “The narrower your focus, the wider your opportunity.”

This defies logic. You’d think that a broad, sweeping approach might be best–something like fishing with a big net. Picture someone casting a net into a lake. Will he get the fish he wants? Maybe. But he’ll also get everything else–other types of fish, seaweed, old boots, maybe even a rusty car part or two.

Fly fishing is an elegant sport where the fisherman uses a very specific fly, often made by hand, then casts that fly into a very specific body of water, looking for a very specific type of fish. Just like target marketing.

Larry Nash, Ernst & Young’s director of experienced and executive recruiting, agrees. In an article in eFinancialCareers.com, “How to land a job at Ernst & Young” by Beecher Tuttle, Mr. Nash gives some great tips for those who are interested in working for this global consulting firm. His advice is pertinent to anyone who is networking either to make a job transition or to build a business. He also supports my principle of The Golden Rolodex–you know way more people than you think.

“First, I’d encourage everyone to use your online networks to see who you know who works at the company or who knows someone there,” Mr. Nash said. “Make an introduction and ask for a referral. People should recognize that their network is likely much more expansive than they think. It’s not just who you went to school with or former colleagues, but everyone you know, people you go to church with, for example. Then you can tap into their network.”

fly-fishing-malibuAccording to Mr. Nash, targeting the organization is as important as identifying the people you want to reach. “It helps you focus on who you should network with. One of the common frustrations is receiving an application for lots of jobs. Some people may apply to hundreds of jobs, making it hard for an organization because you don’t know where they want to work. When networking, it’s good to have a targeted approach.”

Knowing what you want is the first step to your career satisfaction. Before you start fishing, figure out what kind of fish you want to catch. Then prepare accordingly.

(Photo credits: Bob Hutchinson, masthead; Graham Owen, www.grahamowengallery.com, Malibu fly fishing)