Being Bilingual is your Key to Becoming Influential

Dan WeedinFrom my December column for the Kitsap Business Journal…

Hola. Me llamo Dan Weedin. Como esta usted?

Okay, that’s NOT the bilingual I meant, but I wanted to take this brief opportunity to show off and grab your attention.

Being bilingual is critical to your success as an executive, business leader, entrepreneur, and sales professional. Unfortunately, most of you only speak one “language,” and in so doing leave others confused and money on the table. Allow me to explain…

Coming out of the insurance and risk mitigation world, we have our own special jargon. We like to talk about exposures, hazards, perils, exclusions, redundancy, and coinsurance. We reference ITV, ACV, BI, RC, BOR, and DIC. It’s clear to us, but gibberish to normal people. Unfortunately, I’ve watched professionals in my industry use terms and acronyms like this when speaking with current and prospective clients. To say this is painful for their listeners is an understatement. What’s worse is that important information is being misinterpreted and rejected because the message is flawed. They are speaking the wrong language.

I am on the school board in my community. In the beginning, I was inundated with academic-speak. I thought that insurance jargon was confusing. Hang around a school district for a while and you’ll feel like you’re in a different country! The perceived lack of “transparency” and communication to the public is really a misnomer. They are speaking the wrong language.

This affliction is rampant in all industries, yet gets pervasive when the content gets more complex. CFOs, financial executives, financial planners, insurance agents, and attorneys may lead the pack. In an effort to be influential, they lead with methodology instead of results; and speak in their language rather than the intended audience’s. The results are misunderstandings, frustration, extra work, lost time, lost opportunity, and stress. If you want to be influential, you need to become bilingual. You must speak in a manner that is easy to comprehend and clearly states your call to action.

So let’s get started on getting you a quick and simple Business Language 101 lesson! Here are my seven techniques to becoming bilingual and influential:

Translate your language into their language. Stop using jargon that only you know. Find other words to be descriptive. If you must use industry jargon, take the time to explain it. Drop all acronyms, even if you think they know it. If it’s highly technical, make it simple. You already have credibility; your goal is now results.

Strategic or tactical? If you’re speaking to the CEO or business owner, you need to be strategic. Strategic is the WHY. This means big picture; visionary; results; and ramifications. If you’re speaking to vendors, direct reports, or employees, you need to be tactical. This is the HOW. This means techniques, specificity, and instructional. Know your audience and what motivates them to act.

Be results-oriented. Too many of my colleagues get caught up in their methodology. Most people don’t care about the intricacies of how the car starts. They only care about the results of the car starting. Change your language to results — increased sales; reduced risk; improved morale; decreased drama; enhanced product. If you stay focused on results over methodology, people will be more engaged.

Become a storyteller. Since we were children, we humans have always cherished being told a story. This is even truer in a business environment. Become adept at taking personal stories and using them as a metaphor for a business outcome. I promise that people will remember your message more clearly if you have a witty story attached to it. The best speakers in the world always use stories. You should, too.

Add humor. No cheesy jokes; I’m talking about light and appropriate humor to add sizzle to your steak. Stories are the best way to uncover your humor. People learn when they laugh. That’s why advertisers use it. Have some fun and practice this. You will become an object of interest if you do, and that is part of being influential.

Limit technology. Only use a slide presentation if it adds value to your presentation through images. Images. Don’t fill space with bullet points and text. Don’t read to people. I guarantee they already know how! The focus should be on your words, not words on a screen. Simple graphs, charts and images can enhance your message. Use technology for good, not evil.

Call to action. Always leave with a call to action. Even in a one-on-one conversation, you need to be direct and specific about what you want to happen next. Never assume that your verbiage implied next steps. Be clear, concise and direct.

My professional mentor Alan Weiss espouses that language controls conversations; conversations control relationships; and relationships control business. If you’re going to maximize your influence in business, you must maximize your relationships. The best way to do that is to be influential. You can’t be influential if you’re not understood. Become bilingual by turning the complex into simple, and your results will be increased influence, enhanced credibility, and improved outcomes.

Hasta la vista, baby!

© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Follow on Twitter – @danweedin

VIDEO: Episode #6 – Situational Crisis Communication Theory

This is a 10-part video series I recently created for Chron, which is the online version for the Houston Chronicle. The topic surrounds crisis planning and disaster recovery for small business. The questions and topics were raised by readers of Chron. There really is no order to the videos; they each deal with a different topic in this area. This is of vital importance for businesses and organizations of all sizes. Executives and small business owners should focus on these strategies to assure sustainable operations and revenue. I will feature a new video daily for the next 10 days.

Video #6 – Situational Crisis Communication Theory

Situational Crisis Communication Theory


© 2013 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Extra Points – Influence

Being Influential. 

This weekend, Barb and I were at a picnic with friends. One of our friends, Diane, asked our opinion on which coffee flavor sounded the best – Kahlua or Chocolate Raspberry Truffle. Barb responded with, “Kahlua is my favorite!” I followed with “You can’t go wrong with chocolate raspberry truffle.” She opted for suggestion. When Barb asked why she chose mine, Diane said, “I don’t know. He seemed to make a more convincing case.”
My “more convincing case” was actually just a slight language difference, which leads to being influential. Barb’s recommendation was really just was about her. She stated her preference. By leading off with the word “you,” mine was about Diane. The value for her was that she couldn’t go wrong with my option. Subtle…yes. Effective…yes. Patricia Fripp taught me that in speaking, you need to have a good “I-You” ratio. By emphasizing “you,” you emphasize what’s in it for them.
If you are in a leadership or sales position, you must be good at being influential. Language is the key to being influential. Learning how to make suggestions and give direction in ways that make it valuable to your listener, will make you more successful in your career and in your life.
This week’s quote – “Language controls conversation. Conversation controls relationships. Relationships control business.”
~Alan Weiss

Fierce Converations

Just got done reading a very fine book…

Fierce Conversations is a book by Susan Scott, who is also from the Seattle area. I was given the book by my colleague, Dave Shapiro and I read it during my trip back East.

Fierce Conversations offers great insights and strategies into having important and often challenging conversations in both your professional and personal life. What I liked most is that Ms. Scott offers specific templates that can be used for any situation to craft the opening dialogue. If you are a leader in your business or organization (both for and non-profit), or if you’d simply like to enhance your family conversations, this is a terrific read.

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

What Image are You Portraying?

Whether you’re a potential employee or employer, the image you present must be professional.

Boy, how’s that for going out on a limb?!

Unbelievably, this often doesn’t happen, so we need to talk about it. Case in point…today. I’m a member of an insurance group on Linked In. Here is exactly (thanks to copy and paste) what was listed on one of the discussions…

Career Opportunity in Inusrance. Check out the Farmers Insurace website!

Farmers Insurance is growing and has expanded here to the Greater Philadelphia area. Find out more about the career opportunities here at Farmers.

The word “insurance”shows up three times in this short promotion and twice its misspelled. Unlike what the artist Meatloaf espouses in his song, two out of three is really bad!

Spell check is a wonderful thing. So are the little red dots underneath a misspelled word. So is taking the time to re-read. I will admit, I’ve made spelling errors and other gaffes before. I just sent out a promotion for upcoming events with the wrong month (darn June and July)! However misspelling your own industry twice is unforgivable. This is a “reach out” to attract others to your organization. That you’re the best thing since sliced bread. You offer a tremendous career opportunity. But you can’t even spell your industry…twice (note they are misspelled differently).

As consultants and entrepreneurs, we offer proposals, promotions, and professional services. How do we look if we consistently misspell words or use poor grammar? Once is an accident, twice is simply being lazy. It impacts our image and our ability to close a deal.

The guy who wrote this probably feels dumb, and he should. Let’s hope he learns from it. Let’s hope we all learn from examples like this and make sure our image is what we want to portray, regardless of whether its our resume, a job offering, or a proposal to your next prospect.

P.S. I spare no expense on my proofreading. Captain Jack is diligent in his reviews (see above)…

© 2011 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Extra Points – Communication

This week’s focus point

I just saw an amazing story on ESPN’s college basketball program on the Gallaudet Lady Bison. Gaullaudet is a Division 3 basketball program that is like every other women’s college team, with one exception. They are all deaf. The school is solely for the deaf and extremely hard of hearing. Their coach can hear, but he’s tasked with the difficult job of communicating in their language; in a game that is built around communication. Puts a whole new meaning to your players not listening to you!

Somehow, this team is successful on the court because they’ve found a way to communicate with each other and with their leader through the ups and downs and emotions of a basketball game and season. As a high school basketball coach myself, I find this remarkable and a lesson for all of us who can hear. Perhaps we can often be more “deaf” to communicating in our workplace, with our clients and prospects, with our colleagues, and with our family. Perhaps we are talking too “loudly” to actually be heard. Communicating with each other requires all parties to be engaged and committed. There’s no better example than the Lady Bison.

These women and coaching staff have found a way to make what seems nearly impossible possible. What’s our excuse?

This week’s quote –“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
– My wonderful wife Barb sent this to me. She doesn’t know who said it so I’ll give credit to her:)

Observations about Observing

I’m always amazed at how well my wife Barb is able to pick out the “bad guys” in the television programs we watch. We are big NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, and Hawaii 5-0 fans. We also have started watching Bones from the beginning on Netflix. Note – being “empty-nesters” has its advantages.

We always try to figure out “who dunnit” early in the show. I think I come up right about 25% of the time, yet Barb has a nearly perfect record, I think. I asked her last night what makes her so smart. (By the way guys, this is an excellent question to ask regularly) Her reply was pretty profound. She said it wasn’t about being smart; rather it was that she believes she is very observant.

She’s right. Being observant is a vital skill in life, particularly in business. Where are areas you can be observant? How about…

  • Your client or prospect’s office. What memorabilia do they display? Who’s photos are hanging up? What accomplishments or hobbies are they proud of? I remember being in a client’s office and noticing his photo while running the Boston Marathon.  I also always look to see if they are a member of Rotary because I am. You can learn a lot about what motivates a person by observing their office.
  • At breakfast or lunch meetings. How does your prospect treat the wait staff? What does she order and how does she liked things cooked? Is he allergic to anything? The proverbial “breaking of bread” tends to be a fairly relaxed setting and you get a chance to see your prospect or client in a more natural setting.
  • At events. Golf outings, ball games, or charity functions are excellent places to observe behavior. When you know the personality and social style of your prospect or client, you are better able to serve their needs and get your message heard.
  • Over the phone. You can observe even when you can’t see. Active listening is a key component of observing. Be in the moment and focus on their words. Key in on phrases, terms, or comments which will offer you insight into them personally.

Be careful not to judge. This isn’t about whether you agree or disagree with their behavior. Don’t assume that someone is damaged. Being observant should be about fact-finding, not fixing.

In the end, you are building a relationship with someone. In order to do that well, you need to be observant. By practicing and honing this skill, you will find that you will build greater rapport and earn more business.

© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Meet the New Dan; Same as the Old Dan

OK. I get it.

Over the past five years in my consulting practice, I’ve tried to develop a “brand” for myself. I have a variety of things that I do, a myriad of expertise to improve the condition of my clients, and a lot of ways to confuse people. Sometimes even me!

Through the help of several friends from my consulting community (Alan Weiss’s tremendous community), I think I’ve finally been able to pull all this together. It actually started when I interviewed Betsy Jordyn last month on igniting talent. It culminated (or maybe I should say continues…) last week with my friend from Portland, Rick Pay. My thanks to both of them.

Here’s the deal. I have “skill” in several areas. However, my talent and passion lie in one thing – leadership. That’s where I’ve always found myself gravitating to. Whether it’s being a director on the school board, serving on non-profit committees, coaching high school basketball, or presiding over a large Rotary Club, leadership has been the spirit that leads me. Hang with me because it gets better…

I believe that there are 4 core areas of leadership that any business, corporation, non-profit, athletic program, or family need. They are:

  1. Communications – The ability to herald your message and influence others to your organization, your clients, your prospects, your family, and the world.
  2. Revenue Generation – The ability to be a “Rainmaker,” or at least hire people who have this talent.
  3. Risk Management – Your first and last line of defense. Protecting your employees, your business, your clients, and your family. I call it, “Protecting your House.”
  4. Life Balance – The ability to enjoy life with your family and friends and rejuvenate your spirit regularly. As my mentor Alan Weiss has always said, “True wealth is discretionary time.”

What you will see from me is everything I always have done – insurance, risk management, communications, public speaking, team-building, life balance, juggling (okay maybe not this – encapsulated into the leadership genre. I believe relationship building is one of my talents. It’s what has made me successful in all the areas of expertise I can help others with. Leveraging your relationships to maximize your success is not only okay, it’s what’s needed in a new economy. You need to go back to building powerful relationships and alliances with the aim of improving the condition and lives of others.

Thanks for hanging with me. This is my bottom line – You will begin to see a consolidation of all things Dan. Hence, my Weedin 360 blog will really make sense. It will take some time and thoughtfulness, so I ask your indulgence as I attempt to make my administrative burden lighter and your ability to gain value from me easier!

So I’m really not changing. I’m just being much more clear on who I am, what I do, and how you can benefit.

Same old Dan…now a newer version!

© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Have You Lost Your “Team?”

How do you know if you’ve lost your team?

Yesterday, the Seattle Mariners fired manager Don Wakamatsu after only a year and a half. Last year, he led the team to 85 wins and was a strong contender for Manager of the Year. Less than a full season later he’s the poster child for failure, as the team will undoubtedly lose 100 games. His biggest perceived failure is that he “lost his team.”

How do you “lose” a team? Basically, what this means in sports vernacular is that the team lost respect for him as the boss. It started with Ken Griffey Jr.’s quick departure after what seems to be differences with the skipper. It morphed into a very public dugout fight with Chone Figgins, captured on national television. By the time this week arrived, General Manager Jack Zduriencik decided that Wak must go, even though the team won 2 out of 3 games over the weekend.

In sports, head coaching has become more of a management position than an expertise one. Yes, you have to know your “stuff” when it comes to X’s and O’s. However, it is now more important that you are able to effectively communicate with prima-dona athletes, who can become as petulant as your 5-year old when they don’t get their way. This situation can clearly be seen in many management positions in business.

How good is your management team at effectively communicating with employees? How quickly and efficiently can they deal with conflict? How well do they motivate employees and do they really have influence?

If you are the owner of a business, your “coach” in the field is critical to your success. When you evaluate them, are you truly gauging their ability to communicate and influence? How do you know?

If you are a manager in charge of a team of employees, you should be asking yourself the same questions. Your career and remuneration may hinge on how well you communicate, inspire, and lead. How well are you doing?

Sports are played out on the big screen of our lives. The wins and losses are easy to track and the personalities are open books to read and sometimes even come with notes. Business operates more in a cloud, sometimes even to the owners. Unfortunately, you might be losing as many games as the Mariners and not really even knowing it until it’s too late.

Make sure it doesn’t happen to you by making educated decisions on your top people. Give them training when necessary and help them to enhance their communication and leadership skills so they don’t “lose” your team.

© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved