Say My Name, Say My Name…

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There were many poems that I was required to remember, recite and interpret during my private school days.  I had no belief that they would be relevant to me at any point in my life, very much like Geometry.  Fast forward and there is one poem that has never left my mind.  I can recite it word for word, perhaps because it is pertinent to life and how I interact with others personally and professionally.  The quote is from, “Othello”, and is often cited separately from the work itself:  Good Name (scroll to the bottom to see it).   Long story short, Iago is letting Othello know the value of his reputation, how highly he regards it and how personally he takes any association of his name with anything disreputable.  His name is of greater value than money because it is solely his; while money can belong to anyone and will exchange hands.

Take the word “name” and use it in its most literal translation and the meaning remains the same.  In one of the best sales training that I ever attended–for various reasons–there was ONE thing that I could say each individual in the room recalled without having to refer to a manual:  “A first name is the most beautiful word in the English language“.  Our trainer was attempting to convey how important it was to use someone’s name in conversation, remember it, and treat it like a personal endearment.  He stressed it as one of the most valuable tools in the game of rapport development.  I agree with him wholeheartedly!

My daughter has an interesting name, Da’Monet.  She was named after two of my favorite artists (ironically, she’s a talented young artist) and longs to be a celebrity (we’ll see).  Her name would allow her to forego a last name if she chose to, a la Beyonce, and she is very territorial about its pronunciation.  After only a few days of hearing it incorrectly, one school year, she told her teacher just to call her “Dee”.  She would rather you shorten it than say it wrong.  Shame on her mother for the Italian/French hybrid.   Day-Mo-Nay (the long “O” is pertinent to her as well).

In any case, we are all protective of our name, whether it is Stephanie, Stefanie or Stefany (shame on the mother who spells it with an “f” and a “y”).  When someone pronounces it wrong, we’re corrective.  When someone spells it wrong, we allow them to be apologetic.  What happens when they get it wrong all together?  We’re offended–quietly or otherwise.

On the first day of a new job, I realized that my phone display was programmed to say, “Stacy”, but I let it go.  What harm could it do?  Never mind that everyone had the proper name on their telephones, it just couldn’t be that important to me in the moment.  For the first few weeks, I realized that a person that was a part of the interview process and ultimate hiring decision was referring to me as “Stacy” as well, but I also let that go.  Then something drastic changed my perspective…Experience.

Slowly but surely the error became perceived as a slight because of experiences within the environment.  Being cut out of all conversation at the meeting that I prospected, closed for and arranged.  Being unacknowledged as having attended the meeting at all in the follow-up letter.  Being forced out of a trip that I cold prospected and managed through to the close phase so that someone else could go and get the contract signed.  All of these things made me realize why the incorrect name on the phone was relevant even when I thought it wasn’t.  It had nothing to do with the fact that I was accustomed to being the rock star in an environment where everyone knew my name and everything to do with my perceived value from the beginning of the process.

The longer that I worked there the more aware I became of the irrelevance of anyone on the “team” that wasn’t in an executive position.  Time wasn’t respected, appreciation wasn’t shown except on special occasions and yes, accomplishments were claimed with key players being relegated to a “cc” on the email as opposed to a congratulation or mention.  Not remembering my name was a foreshadowing of my “place” in the company.  It was and will be the only time that I allow my good name to be ignored without kind correction.

The same impact can be felt by your clients.  Remembering a name could be as simple as that or it could be as impactful as your lack of effort in doing so.  How do you ask someone to trust you to handle their business if they can’t expect you to recall their name?  The same could be said for a receptionist answering the phone every time that you call a company; wouldn’t it make sense to acknowledge her importance to the process (and she is) by simply recalling her name and using it when she picks up the phone?

It’s not important only to recall the name of your target, prospect, gatekeeper or acquaintance, it’s important to use it from the moment you hear it (role-play this out so you sound natural instead of gratuitous).  For instance:

Front Desk:  Good Morning, Thank you for calling Dr. D’s office, this is Rachel.  How can I help you?

Me:  Good Morning, Rachel.  How are you?

Rachel (pauses because she is somewhat stunned at the usage of her name and trying to figure out if I know her)…..I’m good, how are you?

Me:  (start natural conversation, a little rapport with her and my ultimate request).

It’s that simple.  Usage of the name says that EVERYONE is just as important to the process as the decision maker.  The Sales Coordinator’s time, name and ultimate feeling of how I view her is just as important to me as the Sales Manager’s.

If you ever think of forgetting the value of the good name and its usage, follow the tip of my 10th grade English teacher and recall the words of Iago:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.  -Shakespeare

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A Road Full of Potholes

Each day as I’m making the trek to and from work it ends on a road that is chock full of potholes thanks to the abuse it takes from the commercial trucks making the same journey.  It’s quite interesting to watch all of the 4 wheel vehicles jockeying to avoid the massive potholes that are often side by side, veering into the other lane or snaking along to avoid the risk of a necessary realignment or new tires.  Every now and then they will notice that a new divot has formed but it’s too late to swerve and so the tires sink into this hard bed of disaster…such is life!

That’s right, such is life in the professional world.  Careers are rarely paths of straight, perfectly paved asphalt.  More often they are bending, winding, and pothole filled with a few fender benders along the way.  The difference is how we navigate and the impact that we allow the potholes to have on our vehicle.

There was a movie called, “Why Did I Get Married?” that was fairly popular a few years ago.  The title gives the obvious impression of what you will see for two hours.  Another movie that could easily be made is “Why did I Take This Job?”.  There are few guarantees in life and I would put jobs and companies at the top ten on the low guarantee list.  I often hear and have experienced the feeling of professionals struggling with a career choice made.  Some linger on choice, consistently reflecting on their “mistake”, while I EXPECT it to happen to everyone at least once and think it’s necessary for growth.

A recent graduate questioned his decision to accept a position with one engineering firm over another.  His reasons were numerous and genuine, his quest was the magic feeling that this was a guaranteed “right” decision.  My question was, “how do you know that something is a sure thing?”   His response: “That’s my problem, I never feel ‘sure’.  Maybe he was looking for too much.  The Oprah Aha moment doesn’t come in every situation!  Just about every decision we make is based on a combination of what we know (research, etc.)  with a healthy dose of what we feel: intuition, emotion, gut feeling, an inkling…whatever you want to call it!  The facts that you know are based merely on the information that you have.  When it comes to career decisions, after you’ve read Glassdoor reviews, interviewed the employer, spoken to other employees (a rarity in today’s corporate climate), and weighed your options the finality is based on “your gut”.  You ask for assistance from friends and families and  they will give you advice but more often than not you’ll hear “what’s your gut telling you?” or “go with your gut!”  By the way, going with your gut is obviously popular since the phrase results in 186,000,000 Google results, at press time….just saying.

The decision to study one major over another during college is rarely based on the fact that this is what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life, it’s the fact that it’s something that interests you wrapped in the feeling that you want to do this.  How many of us are actually doing what we planned to do as 17-year-old high school graduates?  Even more interesting is how few of us stick with the major that we chose during our freshmen year….did we panic? For the most part, I would say no.  Our youthful energy and flexibility convinced us that change was okay and we didn’t have to have a sure thing.  Why is that so hard to accept with a career decision?

If you’re struggling with what you want to be when you grow up, BE COMFORTED, at some stage in the game most of us will (or are)–many times over.  We will evaluate and re-evaluate at different stages in our lives, based on our renewed needs and focus.  What works at 21 will not at 35 and again at 50.  Know this and in the meantime:  Take risks, Trust Your Gut, Make Decisions, and Don’t Look Back!  If things don’t pan out as perfectly as you planned…rinse, wash, repeat.

Professional Sins: Facebooking Your Problems

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I’m proud to say that I was the inspiration for this post

This is a throwback that I came across the other day and it prompted me to write this brief post.

Being a full disclosure kind of girl, I’ll give you some background:  The guy who posted this was new to the company, insecure about his abilities to compete with an established salesrep, and focused on the wrong things.  I pegged him as being out of his element– trying to turn a full time outside sales rep into a grounded inside salesrep can be like managing an undiagnosed ADHD child, and he showed it.  Ultimately, I left after doing everything I wanted to in that role, he received a small portion of the pie I left behind, failed miserably in multiple ways and is no longer with the company.

The purpose of this post isn’t to snark about a “legend in his own mind”, it’s to focus on something that we all have done: FACEBOOKING OUR PROBLEMS.  I’m a firm believer in using social media for professional discourse and self promotion, unfortunately the lines can easily be confused by emotion.

Lest I toot my own horn erroneously, I have committed this sin myself.  Thankfully, I was smart enough to have a facebook page with airtight privacy settings and no professional friends–that weren’t trustworthy, although now if I work with you I don’t friend you at all.   After realizing that there were other ways to “vent”, because who doesn’t, I moved on to discussing pertinent issues with my mentors, blogging about it in a less direct manner, or deciding that it was worth moving past without mention.

There have been numerous instances of individuals being fired for facebooking their problems, something I don’t agree with.  Call me a hard line liberal (I’m not) but anyone who’s had a bad day at work and wants to opine about it via Facebook shouldn’t be fired, however, as a professional you should be careful of the risks you take.

Putting your emotional rant out to the masses, even if you believe you’re among friends, can create pains more harmful than firing.  You risk tainting your professional reputation and could become less trusted by your peers.  You may keep your job but who wants to promote someone that can’t control their emotions and obviously your ability to make smart decisions could be called into question.  That’s just a few of the potential issues with social media venting.

This post doesn’t need more than 500 words (421 and counting ).  A digital footprint is impossible to erase because it’s virtually written in pen, think twice before you post.