Looking out over the marsh…

Posted January 27, 2016 by altmaninitiative
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It has been some time since I’ve posted on this blog.  Some of you know that I packed up and moved out of the Charlotte area earlier this year.  I’m now living in North Myrtle Beach, and as I write this, I’m looking out over the marsh at the beautiful water, marsh grasses, and beachfront homes.

I’m in another chapter of my personal and professional life.  My husband retired last February, and I thought I’d start retiring as well.  I WAS WRONG!  And I’m happy about that.  My clients continue to call me to help with their people challenges, hiring projects, meetings and team building events.  I had more work in 2015 than I did in 2014.

As I grow older and think about retiring, I realize just how much joy I get from interacting with business people and helping them with their issues and opportunities.  It’s in my blood — it’s who I am.

Will I ever really retire, I doubt it. So call me — let’s talk about your challenges and opportunities…and I’ll tell you how the marsh looks today!



What’s cookin’?

Posted November 21, 2012 by altmaninitiative
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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  No presents to buy, no serious decorations expected, just food, friends and family.  Tonight is our family gathering with our children–well, most of our children.  Our oldest, Kathy, is in law school and won’t make it home until mid-December. 

I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ll bake a turkey, make dressing and gravy, sweet potato casserole, green peas, and I’ll open a can of cranberry sauce.  We’ll have my husband’s famous macaroni and cheese, and for dessert, we’ll have pecan pie and baked apple tarts.  The food will be scrumptious.  The company will be even better.

Now that our kids are grown, we don’t see them all that much, especially not as a group.  It’s great having them together and listening to stories of what’s going on in their lives.  They’ve matured nicely.  They are all bright and responsible, and a little funny besides.  We’ll spend most of the evening laughing together.

My next favorite day of the year will be around Christmas, when we all get together for breakfast and I make my famous gingerbread muffins!   Kathy will scramble the eggs, Audrey will make the biscuits, Camille will fry the bacon, and Justin will supervise us all, giving sage advice from time to time.  Ahhhh, good times!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  I hope you’ll have time to cook up some great memories over the next few days.

Presidential race is a study in behavior styles

Posted November 7, 2012 by altmaninitiative
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I study people for a living, so I can’t help but analyze political candidates.  This presidential election gave me two good specimens to analyze. 

Obama and Romney are behavioral opposites.  Let me explain — and understand that I am just talking about behavior style, not political platforms or promises.

Obama comes across as approachable and warm.  Romney comes across as more stern and detached.

Obama comes across as relateable.  Romney comes across as aloof.

Obama’s facial expressions are usually relaxed and natural.  Romney often looks as though he’s having to remember to smile.

Obama talks more about people.  Romney talks more about the task at hand.

In DISC terms (DISC is the behavioral model I teach and use in my practice), I would label Obama as Influencer/Steady and Romney as Dominant/Compliant.  2012 Presidential Candidate DISC Styles  These are opposites on the DISC graph, though neither is inherently right or wrong.  There is a need for people who are task oriented like Romney, just as there is a need for people who are people-oriented like Obama.  Both have value.

Here’s what I observed most specifically from the campaign.  Romney was trying to learn to adapt his style to look more open, compassionate and engaging.  (I’m not saying he isn’t those things, just that his behavior style doesn’t SHOW them easily.)  These traits are exhibited more naturally by Obama.  Romney ended up looking “fake,” because he never developed a comfortable way to adapt his style.

In my observation, politicians who naturally exhibit more of the people-oriented temperament are generally more successful.  Based on my observations, the winners below exhibited more warmth, approachability, banter-ability or influencing ability than the losers:

  • Kennedy over Nixon
  • Reagan over Carter
  • Reagan over Mondale
  • Clinton over Bush
  • Clinton over Dole
  • Bush over Gore
  • Bush over Kerry
  • Obama over McCain and Romney

Those who lost were generally more “stiff” and less approachable.

Maybe this happens because most of the population falls on the people-oriented end of the spectrum (around 68%) than the task-oriented end of the spectrum (around 32%).  Statistically, we are usually more comfortable with people who are more like us.

Does that mean the political platforms don’t matter?  Of course not.  But behavior style does play a part in how comfortable people are with others, and how positively they feel toward others.

Studying behavior styles is fascinating to me.  Understanding how to connect with other people and make them more comfortable is a critical skill in business as well as politics.  If you’d like to learn more about this concept, give me a call.  I’m putting together a class for early December, and I’d love to have you join me!  704-315-9090

People who need people…

Posted October 24, 2012 by altmaninitiative
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Yesterday, I heard 3 businesses talk about how they have grown revenues in the midst of a down economy.  Each of them mentioned partnering, networking, and developing referrals as a major component.  When I look at my own business (up 32% over 2011), nearly all of my growth has come from referrals and networking.

In B2B (business to business) companies, relationships are key.  If you sell an intangible, like most service companies do, the stakes are even higher.  New customers need to trust you quickly and to have reason to feel confident in your abilities.  Hearing about you from people they already trust skyrockets that process, leading to more contracts in less time.

This isn’t new information, but I’m still shocked by the number of business people who have not built substantial referral networks–both for the marketing benefits and for the resources those referral sources could provide to existing clients.  Why have so many people failed to take this basic step?  Here are the most common reasons cited:

1.  It’s hard to find time to meet with people.

2.  I don’t know how to make connections with people I don’t know.

3.  I’m uncomfortable with networking — it feels self-serving.

4.  I’ve met with people, but nothing ever comes of it.

Building good referral sources DOES take time.  You’re developing a relationship, and that doesn’t happen over one cup of coffee.  Building a good referral network requires you to meet people you don’t already know and grow those relationships.  Building good referral partners is a two-way street, so it isn’t self-serving at all.  You want to find people who are comfortable recommending you that you are also comfortable recommending.  Both parties benefit from a good referral relationship.

After years of watching people struggle with this neccesary part of business, I’ve developed a system to help. 

6 Degrees is a structured networking approach to connect business people to the appropriate types of referral partners, to help them build relationships together, and to facilitate mutual success.  It answers all of the objections mentioned earlier. 

If you’ve struggled with developing good referral partners, or you simply want to extend your referral network, take a look at www.6Degrees.biz .  It may be just the thing to help your business hit new levels of success.

I’ve been “Branded”

Posted October 11, 2012 by altmaninitiative
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I had a great customer experience yesterday, and it surprised me, because it wasn’t what I expected.  I experienced a “brand” that was well represented throughout my visit.  Let me tell you about it.

Those of you who know me know that I’m not “girly.”  I’m a nuts and bolts kind of gal — business minded, focused, etc.  I spend little attention on makeup and hairstyles and the like.  It’s just not my thing.

Well, I decided to scope out some makeup for the Fall (my tan is starting to fade, you see).  I went into the department store called ULTA.  I had never been in before, and I was a little nervous.  Makeup stores and makeup counters at big department stores scare me.  The people who work there are usually made up to the hilt, girly, and really in to makeup and “foof.”  I always feel like they’re looking at me like I’m from Mars.  I expected to find the same kind of atmosphere at ULTA.  I was wrong.

The staff greeted me in a friendly, pleasant manner.  They didn’t look down their noses at me or react in any negative way. They were very willing to help, but they didn’t try to push anything on me.  They listened when I said I wasn’t into a lot of makeup, just wanted the basics.  They asked a few good questions and then showed me what I wanted to see.  They gave me time to consider and ask my questions.  They didn’t try to upsell me or make me feel “less than” in any way.

Even their language was good branding.  They referred to me as a “guest” throughout the visit, instead of calling me a “customer.”  They treated me like a guest–like they were glad I was there, not because they saw dollar signs or a blank canvas begging to be painted, but because they wanted me to find what I was looking for.  I really appreciated that.

So kudos to ULTA for a great job of branding.  I’ll go back to ULTA.  And I won’t be nervous the next time.

Office Buzzwords that can help your career

Posted September 2, 2012 by altmaninitiative
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Fox & Friends this morning had the list of top ten office buzzwords that people find most annoying.  I know that catch phrases and buzzwords can often be used as nonsense or filler, but that doesn’t mean the phrase itself doesn’t have some wisdom worth considering.

Here are my top 5 catch-phrases/buzzwords that I think made a difference in my career.  Maybe they can make a difference in yours.

1.  Add value – A job isn’t just a list of tasks – it’s part of a value chain that keeps your company in business.  Understand your job from that perspective, and then look for ways you can add value to your piece of the puzzle.  If you don’t know how your job fits, ask someone to explain that to you — if you’re a boss, ask yourself whether or not your employees understand this equation.  If you’re not sure they do, make it a priority.  You can’t expect them to add value if they don’t know what the value is in the first place.

2.  “Nobody owes you a living.”  This is one my Dad used to say to me and my sisters.  We all started working regular jobs when we were 16.  Dad made sure we knew that getting the job wasn’t the important part — working hard enough to keep it was.  He frequently reminded us that our employers were paying us a wage to DO something.  The employer didn’t owe us anything for just showing up.  If we didn’t do a good job, we shouldn’t be paid.  I’ve always remembered that and have tried to instill that in my children as well.

3.  “Give 110 per cent” – This is another of my Dad’s lessons (and one of the catch phrases Fox’s survey said was most annoying).  Maybe people find it annoying, but it’s a good idea anyway.  Doing what is required is 100%:  show up on time, do the tasks you’re assigned as well as you can, work (don’t play) during the hours you’re paid for.  That’s the minimum.  If you can do a little something extra, you’re adding to your own value and showing that you care about yourself and your company.  This has made a huge difference in my career, I believe.

4.  Make things happen, don’t just let things happen – This is especially true in your career.  I know people who complain about not getting raises or promotions or opportunities to work on projects – and many of those people never volunteer for projects, never offer up creative ideas, or go above and beyond.  Your career is yours to manage.  Sure, you can’t make everything happen just when you want it to.  Good people have been laid off, companies have closed causing people to lose their jobs.  But, even in those situations, moving forward is up to the individual.  It may take time, and it may be a long road, but no one can make it happen for you.  You have to make it happen for yourself.

5.  It’s what you know AND who you know – The cliche is “it’s NOT what you know, it’s who you know.”  In my experience, it’s both.  Knowing a lot of information or having a great skill is important.  Just having skills isn’t enough.  Being connected is critical to a great career, whether within your company or with people outside your company.  As a business owner, I can tell you that connections and networks have made my business what it is.  I know a lot — but I have to connect with people to be able to get clients and provide services.  Networking IS critical!

I’ve had a great career, one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and been successful at.  Lots of people have helped make that happen over the years, and I’m grateful to them all–from my Mom and Dad who taught me how to work to employers, co-workers, partners and clients.  I’m still enjoying my career, and I’m still trying to practice the 5 points above.  If your career has been great, pass along your wisdom to others.  If it hasn’t been what you hoped for, think about what you can do to change that.  The power is yours.

Flying high

Posted July 9, 2012 by altmaninitiative
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Flying high

Denise floats up into the wind tunnel during her first indoor skydiving experience