Monday, January 14, 2013

On the edge

I attended a terrific seminar last week, hosted by a local professional association about which I had heard many good things.  As with many first-of-the-year meetings, the topic was planning for business generation.  The room was overflowing.

The presenter did an excellent job of building participation and conversation:  she didn't talk at the audience, but rather made a few points that led to interaction among the participants...sharing of information...making of connections, etc.  Attendees left the meeting animated and motivated.  Who could ask for more for on a January Friday afternoon?

There was one statement that the presenter made as she exhorted the crowd to develop personal marketing plans that was a lone discordant note in a otherwise resonant and well-orchestrated presentation:
"Your mother and grandmother were wrong: Humble does not work."
Is that true?  The antonyms of humble include arrogant, chesty, self-important, beaming, swelled, vainglorious, big-headed, persnickety, snooty, snot-nosed, stuck-up, too big for one's breeches, boastful and braggart.  I don't think those qualities are what the presenter would recommend as keys to winning friends and influencing people.  Unless you're running for Congress.

Business professionals today face a conundrum.  There is no question that while the ability to connect is growing exponentially, it is also harder to gain visibility and capture attention.  So we're resorting to stunts, gimmicks, the outsized and the outlandish and labeling it "edgy" to rationalize our actions.

We've become a nation of edgy addicts.  While edgy derives from "cutting edge," it has become so ubiquitous as to have become both dull and dulling.  And ineffective.  Audiences have developed edgy armor.

Do you view Wile E. Coyote as edgy? He sure thought himself so; labeled himself a "Super Genius" and developed elaborate plans and contraptions to pursue his quarry.  He was not passive:  none of us would question his aggression.  Just his his methods.  And his results.  FAIL.

In his new book "To Sell is Human," Dan Pink combs scientific and sociological evidence and notes that the most successful sales people are introverts, not extroverts. He notes three skills that are core to moving others to action:

  • Pitch: The skill of distilling your message to its essence and doing it in a way that engages another person deeply enough to begin a conversation.
  • Improvise: The skill of departing from the script to respond to unforeseen resistance and objections.  
  • Serve: The skill of turning your encounters from transactions to transcendence by making them personal and making them purposeful.

Engage. Personal. Purposeful.  Not terms associated with artificial or elaborate.  Or edgy, boastful and self-serving.  To make meaningful connections, of course you need a plan, but you don't need an act.  Don't conflate active and aggressive.

Step back from the precipice.  Know who you are, identify your audience, figure out what works for you, and practice it relentlessly.  Good things will follow.  Or my name is mud.

1 comment:

Nancy Drumm said...

Definitely agree with you on this one, Al. It seems so true in general media that only the edgy and outlandish get attention, but I certainly don't think it is a great strategy for long term business success--much more important to connect and engage on a real level--love the comment about not conflating active with aggressive.