What mistakes have you made in your earlier days, or still make today?
I often forget to work the room after I hook up with the first round of people who I click with. On the brighter side, I can definitely vouch for the amazing effect that maintaining a good posture has on mingling and creating new relationships and friendships.
The most effective of all 10 tips in this podcast episode (and the easiest one to achieve IMO) is radiating a welcoming and open body language. Julie always laughs about my tendency of striking heart to heart conversations with strangers wherever we go – whether it’s a trip on the train or a transatlantic flight to the USA, openness and genuine enthusiasm are THE REAL secret sauce for making strangers into friends.
A lot has been said about communicating your message successfully, especially during presentations. Blog posts have been written, debating the ‘right’ look for your deck (AKA “every time you use bullet points a kitten dies”), your tone, the data you should use, your pose, body language and what not.
That’s all fine and dandy, but will becoming a polished speaker really help your message get through? According to an experiment carried at Stanford University, the answer is – NO.
Polished [presentation] wasn’t memorable. It was the students who used stories in their presentations that were best remembered.
I’ve seen this phenomenon first-handed two years ago. The company I worked for sent me to develop a system for a call centre of a large Israeli mobile network provider.
The system was much more intelligent than the industry’s standards, and could recognize ineffective behavior/actions of agents within seconds. Suspicious incidents where pushed to the supervisor, who was monitoring the data for anything unusual. Data highlighted in yellow meant “an event developing” and data highlighted in red meant “an event that is losing money to the company right now”. It was an awesome project! 🙂
We launched on October. By the end of the same year, my system saved our customer over $200,000. This surpassed all expectations by a mile. But when I came back next year and analyzed the logs, I realizes that the power of our system was no where near being fully utilized. This meant our customer could save even more money, if we could figure out what causes the underutilization.
“You can triple the results you’ve been seeing”, I told him. “Let me observe your supervisors’s work for a week, and I’ll tell you how.” The deal was made.
A lot of data was collected during the observation period, as every single action that supervisors took was logged. After analysis, I sat down with the call centre (CC) manager. “You have good supervisors. They are very professional and mostly doing the best they can”, I told her. “But, they have too many tasks happening at the same time, the prioritization is wrong in my opinion. A lot of their protocols are outdated or missing, and they really need some new hardware over there”
“I know all of that” she answered. “But many of these tasks root from company policies or direct requests from my boss or the GM. I’ve been asking for new hardware and more manpower for months already” she explained in despair. No one got her message.
Let Me Tell You A Story
Presenting my findings to the GM, he grilled me immediately. “I’ve seen these STATISTICS before and I’m not buying it. Our current manpower should be able to handle this, why aren’t they? Find the real problem!” he said, suggesting an early end to our meeting. “Let me tell you a story”, I replied.
I described a typical work day of a supervisor at the company. I told him about the constant interruptions, the “urgent” reports that had to be prepared, hundreds of little emergencies that had to be attended. And on the top of everything, tens of alerts beeping from our new high-tech monitoring system, screens full of flashing red and yellow notifications….I shared their despair of the workload, the time consumed in switching between the tasks, the amount of stuff they missed while not being able to concentrate.
“STOP!” He exclaimed. “But why are the doing all these tasks? They should be looking at the monitoring system and proactively handling events, not be running like headless chickens!!”
Before I knew it, we were going through each and every task a supervisor has, and he was canceling many of them. “This is not worth their time. This can be done once a week instead of twice a day. This should be done by X, not by them”. Next came my recommendations. They all accepted, effective immediately. He sent the needed emails while I was still talking.
Would that have happened if I kept focusing on number, reports and data? No. Only when he listened to a story and was taken through “a day in their life”, he understood the size of the shoes they had to fill.
I always hated my name. Meron. I remember myself as a little child, sitting with my mother going through the book of names, looking for a “better” one. I must have been five years old. Maybe six.
I never found one, but also never made peace with mine. I obsessed about this for almost 20 years, until I accepted the fact that I’m unhappy with it. After all, there are worse things in the world than hating your own name, right?
During the last 90 days, I travelled more than 60,000km. I’ve been to Israel, Denmark, Australia, the U.S.A. and back. With such a non-global name like Meron, you can guess people had trouble pronouncing it correctly.
I got called Melon, Maron, Miron, Ron, Aaron, Mario and more. Most people would be bothered, but I was almost relieved. I never liked the sound of my name, and Melon was at least funny!
From the business point of view, I was taking a hit. Nothing I did or achieved had my clear signature. How can I brand something that I’m proud of, with a name I hate?
Things changed a month ago.
I was attending (together with 350 other people) the ePub conference in Los Angeles. I met a lot of people and repeated my name over and over again to the ever-changing faces.
Two things surprised me. First, the genuine effort that people made to learn how to pronounce my name correctly. The second surprise was Kamal.
Kamal is the author of the Amazon bestseller Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. The book became an amazing sensation after #1 Entrepreneurship-Guru Tim Ferriss recommended it – effectively shooting it up to the top of the charts.
Kamal is one of those people you can’t help but notice. His kindness, charm and humbleness reminds me of Leonard Cohen. His smile shines from the inside out and his heart must be at least the size of a watermelon!
I was eager to share Kamal’s amazing story with the readers of The Inspiring Innovation Magazine, so as soon as he went off-stage, I rushed towards and made a quick introduction.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name. Could you repeat that?” he asked.
As I repeated my name, his reaction caught me off-guard:
“Wow, I love Hebrew names!” he said with a big smile. “They always have such a deep meaning. Tell me yours!”.
I was baffled. I never thought that anyone would care about my silly name! Its meaning never even bothered me, and I only found it out by chance less than a year ago.
“According to the Tractate,” I told Kamal, “at the end of each year, the entire mankind stands in front of god, waiting for him to sentence them for the coming year. Like innocent sheep standing in front of their shepherd, humans helplessly face their creator. The Tractate describes this as ‘standing like Merons’ – hence my name.”
“I LOVE it!”. Kamal said, excited. We discussed the interview, exchanged details, and parted.
As the days went by, more and more introductions were made and consequently, less and less people could actually recall each other’s names.
One of the days, I was walking the hall on the way to the conference room, when I stumbled upon Kamal. He saw me, smiled, and greeted; “Hey! The new-born!”
Was he mocking my young age? That didn’t seem right! My face must have given away my confusion.
“Your name!” he explained. “The people! standing at the new year’s eve, like innocent sheep!”
He was reminding me the meaning of my own name!
The morning after the conference ended, I was sitting at the hotel’s lobby drinking coffee. Suddenly, the host of the event – Ryan Diess – passed by.
“Ryan!” I exclaimed. “This was terrific man! Thank you for putting this together!”
“Thanks!” he answered. “What was your name, again?”
I didn’t even have the chance to open my mouth before someone else, standing behind Ryan, answered: “It’s Meron. The new-borne” I smiled. That’s some personal branding at work!
As we took off LAX, I took out my iPad and read Kamal’s book. Since I used to have a very, very, VERY low self-esteem and self-confidence, Kamal’s calling to love yourself hit me at a soft spot. Finishing the book, I realized that I will never truly love myself, until I’ll learn to love my name as well.
I was looking back at the days of the conference. “If my name resonated with Kamal strongly enough that he remembered it – out of the hundreds of people he spoke to this weekend” – I thought, “there must be others out there that it will touch them too!”
In addition to this life altering realization, for the first time in my life, I had my personal branding. And it was me all along.
For this very reason, I will be soon moving this blog to MeronBareket.com. This blog, “Denting My Universe”, has accomplished its goal within less than a year.
Kamal’s book is short and clean of fluff: I started reading after takeoff and finished by the time beverages were served. Let me see any therapist that gets you similar results in such a short time! I urge you to read this book.
It made a dent in my universe, who knows what kind of dent it will put in yours?
When I meet you or your company or your product or your restaurant or your website, I desperately need to put it into an existing category, because the mental cost of inventing a new category for every new thing I see is too high.
No one wants to be categorized. No one wants to be considered “like anyone else”, and rightly so. We’re all different. But as Seth puts it, people can’t afford the mental cost of not categorizing people.
This is something I struggled through badly in most of my years. Ever since I was 10, I was never a good fit for any common category. You might think it’s good, but it has a hidden cost. For I was not left alone in a category bearing my own name. Instead, I was constantly placed in the wrong category, the wrong checkbox and the wrong line.
You can refuse to be categorized. You can insist that it’s unfair that people judge you like this, that the categories available to you are too constricting and that your organization and your offering are too unique to be categorized.
If you make this choice, the odds are you will be categorized anyway. But since you didn’t participate, you will be miscategorized, which is far worse than being categorized.
Now that I know myself better, I also know which categories I fit. There are many of them, but I learned to cater the most relevant one for me on each encounter I have. The effect? People understand me better, and can relate to me better. And I’m not fighting so hard anymore.