Recently, I was watching one of the zillions of online interviews and webinars proliferating our world these days. I was amused at some of the points this self-made successful CEO was sharing. He was positioning them as if they were ‘rocket science’. Yet, actually, every single one of them I can personally point back to what my mom and dad taught me as I was growing up. And yes, every single one of them they positioned as ‘the ticket to entry’ when I was growing up in the South.
What was equally interesting to me was how the listeners on this webinar were commenting in the CHAT box – about how ‘amazing’ these points were. Truly, it was as if they had never heard them before in their lives, much less in their careers. So, I couldn’t resist offering my personal top 5 ‘ways to stand out’ to my followers. And, if you are like me, you may roll your eyes and say ‘these are so basic’ (which, by the way, they are.).
Yet, the clincher is this: everyone may think they know these, yet not everyone does these.
That is the point. So – as we end the first week of May – here are 5 points to consider IF you want to separate yourself from the pack.
- Do what you say you are going to do. Yes, that is as basic as it gets. However, how many times have people with whom we work say they will do ‘x’ by ‘x date’ and will share with us when ‘x’ is completed…..AND….in some cases none of those are done?!!. Don’t you love it when you hear someone say: ‘Give it to her (him) – she (he) will always get it done right, on time, under budget, and keep you informed of her (his) progress as they are doing it’? I know I do! That is the reputation I want. And sadly we know that it literally only takes one or two stumbles to ruin that reputation. A proof point: one of my clients pointed out to me a few weeks ago: “Kristin, I will always remember what you told me a few years ago….tell them what you are going to do, do it, then tell them when you have done it. That has served me so well as I have progressed in my career.” Sure….it is simple. Sure….it is basic. Yet, I KNOW we have all experienced less than satisfactory experiences in life when folks don’t do what they say they were going to do. And yes, I also realize we are all human. Yet – what a great guardrail by which to navigate life and career…..and what a fabulous ‘brand’ to establish by simply doing what you say you are going to do.
- Follow-up with people. Again, it just doesn’t get more basic than this. Yet, so many times it simply doesn’t happen. A personal example: a distant colleague from my past (literally from 10-12 years ago) reached out wanting help with her career….her resume…what she wanted to do…how to position her experience, etc. etc. I was happy to help in any way I could – and actually spent HOURS researching options for her, rewriting her resume, helping her position language for interviews, etc. We spent considerable time working on these aspects; and I did so ‘pro bono’ as I sincerely wanted to support her. Fast forward – I have yet to hear from her relative to her job search, etc. – even after reaching out to her not once, but 3 separate times. This is not only just rude (forget expecting a ‘thank you’)….it is unprofessional. When we meet with someone, follow-up with a thank you, a recap of the meeting, sending an article or other resource made during the meeting. It is an easy and wonderful way to reaffirm you heard them, you saw them, you want to serve them, you value them, and you differentiate yourself by simply following up with materials or any other resource that may augment and extend the discussion you had with that person. Simple. Basic. Yet, so powerful.
- Give back. When I meet with mentors, supporters, and other resources who are helping me along the way, I often feel at a loss as to how to repay them for their generosity and ongoing interest in my life and career. I can assure you – no one gets through life alone, must less succeeds in business alone. Yet, over the years, I often felt inadequate in what I had that would be of value to those who had achieved so much more than I had, at that point. Sure, there is always a nice bottle of bourbon or wine, or a new best-selling book, or even a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Who doesn’t love something they can enjoy? Yet, the other option that I have found, that can be even more valued, is simply to ASK what/how you can help that person. It may be an introduction to someone in your sphere, or an invitation to attend a charity event you are hosting, or a referral to another resource or client for them. It truly matters not….what DOES matter is reciprocity of VALUE.
- Always put your best foot forward. First impressions last. Yes. They. Do. Honor the person you are meeting by dressing nicely, putting in a little extra effort. And on Zoom or virtually, it still matters. Simply being pulled together, prepared, and organized – people will remember this. I know I do. When someone comes to meet with me, and they have a ‘list’ they want to discuss with me – I am touched and very impressed. It says they value my time. When someone joins me for lunch or coffee, and they bring a book they just finished and thought I might enjoy, I am humbled. It is incredibly simple, yet over the years, I think we have loosened the rules a bit – and just by paying a bit more attention and valuing the other person by honoring their time AND their presence by these little things – can make a long lasting impact.
- Finally, and this is core to the way in which I was reared in the deep South: write hand-written thank you notes. Yes, old habits die hard. My momma reared us to write thank you notes for any/all gifts (things, experiences, time, etc.) given to us. We literally began writing thank you notes as small children, and I cannot fathom not doing so now. And yes, that includes sending them to clients who refer others to me, new opportunities to work with them, time spent with me with no financial reward, etc. And no – an email does not solely cut for me. Sure, I will send the email as that is the ‘new normal’ and I get it…..yet, nothing – NOTHING – shows gratitude more than a genuine, personal, and authentic handwritten note. And trust me, I can personally count on one hand the notes I get from others – yet, how I LOVE to get personal mail and how warm it feels to open a note and have someone express niceties in the written word and in their own penmanship.
So – there you have it. Nothing hard. Nothing complicated. And yes….very basic. Yet, from what I am learning – these small actions can (and do) make a difference in how people think of you. And remember, your reputation (your brand) is what people THINK, SAY, and DO relative to you – when you are not present.
What examples can you share that make people stand out in your mind?