We usually keep a straight face or we are told to keep a friendly face in presenting companies, organizations, political or professional views. We have learned somehow that a neutral face is more professional than an expressive one. Look at all the images on LinkedIn and in newspapers.
But when building thought leadership, you are constantly convincing people and your face is a very persuasive asset, because it is straight from the gut, what you see is what you get.
So I would challenge people with an expressive face to get aware of the power of it and use it conveying what they want to express. The face is the larger part of the 80% ‘body language’ that transmits the message. Nobody doubts a facial expression, as it is obviously hard to to fake it without people noticing.
I think this is quite easy to relate to for many now being on video calls a lot. That setting makes people use visual cues more than ever. And look for them too – they are all we have to focus on.
We see passion on faces, doubt, kindness, engagement etc. I have heard that my face says a lot. Facial expressions are just so much quicker and more precise than words are and more international too.
So my conclusion, of having watched so many faces more intensely than normal the last few weeks, has been, that I will focus way more on people’s facial expressions in any messaging or mediatraining I’ll lead from now on.
So use it, and be aware. Let me close off with when facial expressions are actually tricky:
- When politicians and public figures forget for a second that raising an eyebrow can the next big thing in the news or company gossip.
- If you try to hide your true thinking in a conversation, and you have a face that is lightly wired to your thinking, you will have a tough time keeping your cards to yourself.
- When there is inconsistency between content and facial expressions. When you hear a serious message or apology and see a grin, trust is out the door. I see that a lot with politicians actually.
- When facial responses are too big to hide. Remember Fauci trying to hide his expression during an early Corona briefing in March?
So, stay aware and keep twinkling!
(And ‘the use of timing and silence’ too is underestimated. Have you seen Trudeau last week with his longest silence ever, making a clear statement without saying anything? That is advanced.)
How do you select experts to do a job for you? You don’t want to duplicate yourself and probably look to hire someone who knows stuff you don’t and you can barely check. Here are some tips straight from the pitch team.
I realized what a headache this can be, when I renovated my house last summer and had to selected the team to do this. I quickly knew I would be needing an interpreter, an orchestrator and a team leader to get it done. You want good people in your house, but there is no way you’ll be able to find, select and run a team of carpenters, plumbers, door hangers (yes, it’s a profession). I found a good builder to do that for me.
Seeking advice from people you trust and who know the specific area, is often the shortest and safest route. And you should do that too when selecting branding professionals. Below some considerations from me, having been the one to select experts and teams many time. Let me know if this is helpful at all.
1. Objectify– Know what you are looking for
This applies to vacancies as well as to hiring experts or agencies. Even if you don’t know what the drug is you need, you can describe the complaint as precisely as possible, and then check how many offered solutions will adequately actually remove that pain.
I always set up a list with features or characteristics that are important to me. In the left margin I list the features and each applicant or agency gets 1 column and I literally mark them and ask the selection team to do the same. I know what I am looking for, so per need I can tell how well the different ‘offerers’ score. This helps not just in understanding your preferences and voting, but also in discussing differences in perception in a group of selectors. You’ll learn about what is important to your co-selectors.
Plus you need this because your memory is simply not capable of remembering all 20 variables from various parties. The brain has the task to spare processing capacity and starts summarizing before you know it. In this case you want to keep track of all the individual elements, and you want to weigh and compare between the parties.
I will mention a few features that you will probably want to include in your list: “understands my business sufficiently to act fast”, “has qualities to be a sparring partner at the right level”, “can execute”, “is able to convince internal decision-makers”,”is able to bring across knowledge”. If you select people/agencies along these elements, plus “planning skills”, “available when needed”, “tactical”, “creative” and other criteria that are important in your specific situation, you can compare at a later moment and adequately discuss with colleagues.
Do not forget the important internal debate about the criteria. Maybe you do not agree on the criteria or the scoring, or you revise the criteria after seeing the parties. That is not bad. An overview like I described will help in the discussion and enable you to think and talk about them openly and transparently. Feel free to email me if you would like to see such a sheet for inspiration. Happy to share.
2. Click does not count
Of course click counts, but stay focused. I click with a lot of people with whom I should only drink a glass of wine or something, but should not necessarily work with. There is click and click.
Don’t go with the charming people, unless ‘charming’ was on your list. Check if the person you have been talking to, will be actually be taking care of your account.
It belongs to the first point ‘objectify’. Yet I mention ‘click’ separately because it easily makes things unclear. It also happens the other way around: people with great skills but substantive lesser social skills get rejected for positions in which sales techniques are not even important. Even though it is not a criterion, charm affects all of us tremendously.
One thing I like to mention is: be aware of accents and if someone is addressing you in a second language. People talking to you in a second language, always carry a handicap. They are probably 10 or 20 IQ points more intelligent than they appear to you as they are managing the interface of language constantly.
Try to look through all this and just touch upon issues like integrity, like-minded values, skills and substance; which can also be a form of click
3. Never select on price
This was hard when I selected my home renovator, cause when everything is expensive you want to bill that looks least bad. But i stuck with the principle and it worked out. Comparing quotes in tenders is almost impossible (unless you provide RFP type of lists to fill in), but it has to be done anyway. Price matters….
Be conscious The ‘cheapest on paper’ might underestimate (consciously or unconsciously) the process and might charge you later or you are left with incomplete projects. I learned in my process that the cheaper builder had scoped very slim which would have left me with unexpected costs later.
But even more importantly, if he/she is not good or not delivers what you needed, then even half of the bill will be too much.
We all know quotes like:
If you think a professional is expressive, try working with an amateur.
Think of what it costs to fail this or not do it.
In the case of equal criteria the price can be the deciding factor, but equal ability is hardly ever there.
Studying proposals is a very educative exercise any way and in any choice you make, you probably lose something you liked in the other party. Talk about that with co-selectors, the suppliers, applicants and maybe you can get best of both.
I do a lot of questioning to find the way to go. I ask them out loud and internally to build consultation and to understand the world. I ask to understand constructs, connections, logic, and the context and stakeholders surrounding the matters at hand. I ask to get agreement on the end goal, get to know the start point and to understand and envision the way to get there. And there is this one question i ask multiple times a day – out loud and quietly.
Imagine below tactical and strategic questions – and if you and i have spoken in the last week, you might recognize one or two of them.
- What should be in the post-merger integration plan?
- How to create a best corporate communications setup for next year for Europe?
- Should we hire a global agency, individual agencies or run with in an inhouse team?
- What formulation works best to get the buy in from the team?
- Should we double our marketing budget?
- How to raise the profile of our CEO?
- How to build a stronger brand?
- What needs to be the focus in our marketing and branding strategy for 2020?
- When and how should we act/respond to this data leak (or general issue)?
- We are going to launch in Europe, one country at a time. What should we be watching out for?
- How should we pitch this story?
- How to propel our social media?
All good questions right? Some huge and some are tiny. They do not have a lot in common at first sight. But they all start the same mental process and I hear myself repeating the same return question all the time as that is what the answer depends on.
It is this same question always that lays the foundation for any strategy and any tactic. And don’t focus too much on the ‘what’ in the question, it is the detailed ‘whom’ that matters just as much.
The question is easy, the multitude of answers make it messy. There is hardly ever one ‘whom’ – list, identify and understand them, understand how they influence each other, when etc. There is hardly ever one objective and the starting points are never the same for all groups(s). There are always multiple stages the audiences will go through and success does not happen overnight or as a one off. That is where story or content layering (marketing) comes in, and PR, campaigns, in all types of forms you can think of.
What question do you lead with?
I am really good at reverse parking, in parallel too. I just enjoy a smooth single-move park. The reason I am bringing this up, is not to boost my ego, but to to make a point about having quota for women in leadership positions. A topical discussion in the Netherlands since the Social Economical Council (SER) advised the government last week to make a (whooping) 30% women in supervisory boards (!) mandatory for listed companies.
I am unsure the supervisory board is the place to start, but that aside, let’s just focus on anything in that direction becoming mandatory. I have been in doubt about quota for a long time but organic change is so extremely slow in this conservative country, that I am now leaning in the direction of the SER. Let me clarify that by telling you about my outstanding parking skills.
I am good at it. I have had people literally applauding me in the streets, once an older gentleman took off his hat to bow for me, finger whistle homages from across the street have happened, no kidding. I don’t get a weekly cheer so when I do, I just wholeheartedly enjoy the 5 seconds of fame.
How many men get compliments?
So by now I am quite aware that it is a stand out thing to do a good parallel park. Let’s do a test – how many men get compliments on their parking? So far i haven’t heard a positive reaction and i know some men I asked to be minimally in my league or ahead. My point is of course – although i would love to believe to be absolutely remarkable at something – that my parking is nothing but proper. It is nowhere near sensational yet i get (and enjoy) a silly amount of praise. Which can – sadly – only happen against the prejudice of women and reverse parking.
Good at it… for a woman
Also I have been told to be good at kiting…, for a woman. The kite surf instructor wrapped up a day of blood sweat and tears on the beach with saying: ‘you are great at flying a kite, you have an excellent feel for it….’ and just when he made me feel warm and fuzzy, swallowing my beginner frustration, he added ‘…for a woman’. I’ll spare you what followed.
Fast thinkers need prejudice
Of course people conclude things based on prejudice; earlier experience and what society has taught them. That is how the brain work and that is how it should work, we have too many decisions to make to think them all through. But prejudice is not what should influence sound, important business decisions about individuals.
This everyday story is really for everyone who thinks that such biases no longer exist, for those who naturally assume that the world already is equal between the sexes. So if you really don’t think anything is needed to eliminate disadvantages, just ask any lady who can properly park a car.