Executive Coaching…The Ultimate Advantage

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Executive coaching is here to stay…Retaining the services of an executive coach or mentor represents what I believe to be the ultimate business advantage available to professionals. With the numerous studies that have been authored which provide ample data affirming the extraordinary results that can be achieved through utilizing an executive coach I’m always amazed at the number of professionals who don’t yet have a coach on retainer. In today’s blog post I’ll examine the reasons why I believe all (yes I said all) executives and entrepreneurs should have a coach or mentor.

Executives who rise to the C-suite do so largely based upon their ability to consistently make sound decisions. However while it may take years of solid decision making to reach the boardroom it often times only takes one bad decision to fall from the ivory tower. The reality is that in today’s competitive business world an executive is only as good as his/her last decision, or their ability to stay ahead of contemporaries and competitors.

For all the things that Thomas Jefferson was known and revered for, the belief that he was most passionate about was the principle that led him to found the University of Virginia…He believed that learning is a life long endeavor whose flame should not be extinguished until a persons last breath had been drawn.

Regrettably, as sound as the Jeffersonian principle of continuing education is, it too often runs contrary to how most executives manage their careers. Most successful executives make heavy investments in building their skill sets, knowledge base and subject matter expertise early in their careers only to make minimal investments in their professional development when they reach the C-suite. It is however at the C-suite level that an executive must be on top of his/her game as they have the broadest sphere of influence, the largest ability to impact a business and they also now have the most at risk…It is now that they should make the heaviest investment in refining their game because it is at the executive level that increased performance will pay the biggest dividends.

The only thing senior executives and entrepreneurs can count on is that their performance is constantly being evaluated by virtually everyone in the value chain. Combine that with the fact the performance standards and expectations are constantly being raised and it is no wonder that executives are seeking to leverage productivity through the use of outside experts in the form of professional coaches and mentors. Click here to see what other noted executives and the media are saying about retaining an executive coach.

In addition to my other duties at N2growth I also maintain an active personal coaching practice. My coaching clients are some of today’s leading executives and entrepreneurs. For most of these professionals the decision to retain my services was driven by one of two distinct motivations. Some of my clients had a defensive motive in that they wanted to protect what they had worked so hard to achieve while others had an offensive motive in that they were looking to take their companies or careers to the next level…Regardless of which camp they fell into these were already very successful people who recognized that its lonely at the top and that they could not afford to keep operating in a vacuum. I actually have a few clients where I am just one member of a coaching team that is on call to deliver real time advice and assistance when the need arises.

Think of any goal that you could set for yourself, or any standard that you could benchmark yourself against and you’ll find an intrinsic flaw…the problem is that you only know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know. No world-class athlete makes it to the top of their game without a coach so why should you or your executives try to perfect your game in the vacuum of isolation. Who do you turn to for advice and direction? Are you operating in a bubble and making decisions in a relative vacuum? Do you know what you don’t know?

The following questions represent a few things to consider when evaluating a potential coach:

  1. Who’s paying the coach? It is my recommendation that you personally retain the coach. You want someone whom you can trust implicitly and whose loyalty is pledged to you and you alone. If the coach is being paid for by the company or its investors then while you might still receive good advice, the coach’s loyalty will reside with someone other than you. 
  2. Is your coach qualified? Remember that the coaching industry is full of practitioners that paid a few hundred dollars for a professional designation, but yet have little or no real experience. Make sure that your coach not only possesses a track record, but that their skill sets and competencies are relevant to your needs. Click here to view my bio as an example of what to look for.
  3. Does your coach have references? The best indicator of a coach’s ability to help you will be based on how he has helped others…No successful clients equals a coach that should be avoided. Click here to view some of my references as an example of what to look for.
  4. What does the coach charge for his/her services? Remember, you get what you pay for…If your coach is only charging a few hundred dollars a month then that is likely representative of the caliber of advice you’ll receive. If your total annual compensation is well into the six figures then you can afford (actually you can’t not afford) to retain the services of a tier-one coach.

If you would like to discuss how coaching can benefit you or your executives feel free to contact me.

The Importance of Building Rapport

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Today’s Myatt on Mondays question: “How do you create rapport with people?” comes from a noted author, educator and leadership coach. At first glance you may be thinking that today’s question may not induce the most stimulating or thought provoking discussion and analysis, and if this is what you are thinking you couldn’t be more inacurrate in your evaluation.

Unlike previous Myatt on Mondays features where a question is posed to me via e-mail and I provide a unilateral answer, today’s feature is a compilation of extracts taken from an online dialogue that I participated in with some of the smartest people you’ll ever come across (with the exception of me of course…I was in way over my head). While the discussion was themed around the general topic of building rapport, it quickly developed tangential but very real links to leadership, politics, religion, human nature and yes even world peace…This is not a short read, but it will definitely cause you to do some soul searching and in the end refine your perspective on how best to deal with the most complicated variable that life can throw at you: other people…

I stray from the norm with this blog post simply because I want to demonstrate what can happen when you really peel back the layers and go in depth on a subject. When was the last time you had a long, in-depth and truly meaningful discussion with someone? In business and in life in general we have become all too comfortable in surface level conversations. People often seek quick solutions as to opposed to the right solutions. Time seems to be considered as the most precious commodity by many and therefore most conversations are governed by time rather than by meaning. Rarely do people push the envelope on a topic and really strive to find the truth, rather most seek to find a safe haven where they won’t be challenged or perhaps more importantly won’t have to evaluate and justify their own positions. I hope that you enjoy today’s post and that it will stimulate within you the desire to penetrate beyond the surface in order to make greater and more lasting contributions in all that you do. On to the dialogue…

The Participants: Yours truly; two professors from London (Jesvir and Harun) and a philanthropist from Liverpool (Martin) You can see that I was in trouble from the start…

The question posed by Jesvir: “How do you create rapport with people?”

The discussion and debate that followed:

Martin: The challenge I believe is not in just accepting another persons view of another person, but in finding our own direction, our own guiding light. In my case it burns very bright, so much so that I have little desire to get into looking at the potentially limiting perspectives of friends of friends who have opinions, these in truth can limit us too…I said that I was for something as opposed to being against something. If the system needs changing, I asked myself the question, who’s in the system? the answer of course is all of us, so my simple solution is to use the system itself as the means of communicating the commonality of our values, the logic of collaborative action and the common sense of maximising our collective potential towards a mutually beneficial goal.

Jesvir: Martin, I know that there is a wealth of knowledge & information you have acquired around your project and no doubt you have created a network of supporters with whom you have established rapport. If we just focus on this quality of “rapport” for now….how do you establish & nurture rapport in order to take your project forward? Would you share with us some of your favourite stories?

Martin: I believe it’s important to create a space of mutual interest, to find out what a person is interested in and looking for. I often feel as though I may have lost rapport to be honest, this often occurs when I say too much or go off on tangents which then make it difficult for people to grasp the simplicity of the campaign. So I’d say that my rapport building skills are very much a work in progress!

I do consciously listen and look for the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for other people and try to imagine what they’re looking for at 2 levels, firstly materially … is there a potential business exchange where they could derive an income from helping the campaign and beyond this are they looking for something that inspires them and answers their higher aspirations. Win-Win-Win.

Being in awe of peoples skills is easy for me, I’ve been that way since childhood and I express a genuine interest in the gifts that people have which I guess must contribute in someways to rapport. That coupled with a strong awareness that listening is a learned skill gives me a desire to learn about the other person and to practice being a listener (even if I do say too much if asked the right questions!)

I was first told about how to loose rapport in the desert by a former police officer who told me in no uncertain terms about how I’d lost rapport with a colleague by being ignorant or blind to his feelings. This knocked me back as I value every relationship and showed me that I need to be careful not to be clumsy with people’s feelings. I quickly apologised to the man in question but the damage had been done. To this day I recall the scene and the importance of paying attention to what I say!

Jesvir: So, I can see that you are adept at bringing out the best in others Martin and sure enough, that would help to create & nurture rapport. I guess that sometimes we have to respect other people’s values even if they conflict with our own in order to maintain rapport? What do you think?

Martin: You hit on a key element in your article, affirming people works in a number of ways. If we view ourselves as being patterned by life, then sometimes we may unconsciously affirm a potentially limiting belief in another. I’ve noticed that how we communicate to each other has a ripple effect over time and when we’re unconscious of what we’re actually saying and its impact, the ripples can have a long term effect.

Mike Myatt: Creating rapport is simply a matter of finding common ground. Moreover, building rapport is easily achieved assuming your motivations for doing so are sincere. I have always found that rapport is quickly developed when you listen, care and attempt to help people succeed. By way of contrast it is difficult to build rapport if you are driven by an agenda that is not in alignment with the other party…

Jesvir: Mike, you say: I have always found that rapport is quickly developed when you listen, care and attempt to help people succeed.

Goodwill is important isn’t it? When the goodwill is lost, rapport gets lost too…..the thing about leadership is that goodwill may be towards SOME people and not others…it is easy to express goodwill towards our supporters and much harder to express goodwill towards our opponents. How have you maintained rapport with your opponents Mike? You must have had “enemies” at some point in your life or if that is too strong a word, you must have had people who strongly disagreed with you? How do you maintain rapport with your opponents?

Mike Myatt: Great questions…While building and maintaining rapport with people with whom you disagree is certainly more challenging, many of the same rules expressed in my original comment still apply. I have found that often times conflict resolution requires more intense focus on understanding the needs, wants and desires of the other party. If opposing views are worth the time and energy to debate then they are worth a legitimate effort to gain alignment on perspective and resolution on position. However this will rarely happen if lines of communication do not remain open, and candid, effective communication in best maintained through a mutual respect and rapport. 

Jesvir: You say: “….candid, effective communication in best maintained through a mutual respect and rapport. “….I am sure this is true…but how do you maintain respect & rapport with people that you know are set on stabbing you in the back? I am sure that most leaders face that situation at some point…don’t you?

Mike Myatt: It is a leader’s responsibility to effectively lead not only those that agree but also those that disagree. There are always those who choose to oppose or undermine authority but it does not remove the obligation of a leader to fulfill his or her duty.

It is not essential that you be liked as a leader, but it is essential that you command the respect of those you lead. Respect is earned by honoring commitments and doing the right thing regardless of opinion, sentiment or influence. It is through right acts, good decisions and honest communication that you earn respect and maintain rapport even with those who are not necessarily your greatest supporters.

While I like to think that I have earned the respect of the majority of those I have led over the years I am not so naive to think that that all have liked or supported my positions…that being said, I have had to lead them as well and that has been done by adhering to the following principles:

  1. Hit conflict head-on…You can only resolve problems by proactively seeking to do so;
  2. Always attempt to understand others motivations prior to weighing-in on an issue;
  3. Say what you mean, mean what you say and follow-through on your commitments;
  4. Never be swayed by consensus rather be guided by doing the right thing, and;
  5. Know that no person is universally right or universally liked and become at peace with that.

Martin: It’s an interesting subject Mike, and I see you’re clearly experienced at leadership and also being conscious of your responsibilities as a leader. I’m currently doing a Common Purpose course, it’s designed to align leaders from across a given region, heads from public, private and voluntary sectors all learning together over a year long experiential course.

On the course I see many styles of leadership and ‘feel’ that we’re all leaders in one form or another and whilst that form may not show up for many people in their day to day lives, there is doubtless in everyone one thing they will have a passion for that shines.

I became aware of another leadership style that rather than assuming authority it assumes service to the team, it is based on trusting that each person has within them a desire to improve, to stretch, to grow, so the leaders role is to empower each person with the opportunity for this self discovery. It calls for tremendous faith, for total commitment to each person and willingness to allow each person to learn at their own rate but at the same time raising their bars to help them to attain their potential.

Grounded in the qualities you mention in your piece Mike, this style of ‘facilitation’ is one that I would aspire to, though I often feel as though I fall way short of the mark. I’ve seen it action for about 7 years and I’m always amazed by how simple and effortless a master practitioner of any skill can make it look.

Jesvir: Mike, I have looked at your profile & web pages and it all suggests that you are a naturally gifted leader in creating success in business…your ability to create & maintain rapport with people is probably due to the interpersonal skills you have developed and the respect you command because of a proven track record.

What advice would you give re. creating & maintaining rapport to someone who has not had your level of education and does not have a proven track record that commands respect?

I bring it back to the question of rapport again as I feel that so many would-be trailblazers fail miserably at this initial trial of personal power.

Mike Myatt: Martin and Jesvir, a great track record or powerful resume can certainly be an asset out of the gate, but history in-and-of-itself will not justify or sustain people’s loyalty over the long haul. I would refer you back to Martin’s comment on my last reply. While I don’t know Martin my perception of him is that he has a great grasp on the topic of leadership. I believe what Martin is referring to is the concept (or some derivation of) the “Servant Leader.” This concept was somewhat implied in my commentary but not drawn-out as clearly as I should have.

In my earlier comments I talked about earning respect as a key tenant in building rapport. The servant leader that operates on a basis of service above self will earn respect and engender instant rapport. Some of us come by this trait naturally and others learn the value of it over time. I suppose my first lesson in this regard came during my service in the military where I was charged with the responsibility of others. My troops ate before I did, rested before I did, slept before I did etc. Moreover, I never asked them to do anything that I would not do, and in fact, had not done myself. This earned their respect and loyalty and gave me an instant rapport even though in the beginning I had no great track record to fall back on. 

Jesvir: Mike, you say: >>>>My troops ate before I did, rested before I did, slept before I did etc.>>>> I can see how putting others first can generate instant rapport & long-term respect & loyalty….the most effective managers & people in leadership roles would need to follow this line of etiquette wouldn’t they? Those who get caught in the conflict between serving their seniors in the organisation vs serving their juniors in the organisation, can easily lose rapport and therefore the support of the people they are managing or leading.

Have you ever faced a dilemma over whether to support your upline vs your downline in an organisation? If so, how did you maintain rapport with BOTH groups?

Martin: On the subject of putting others first Jesvir I first got that one as a young boy, a teacher took me to one side and told me in no uncertain terms “think of others before yourself” his words resonated with me and from that day on it became second nature. A great example of patterning. Equally he could have said “look after number one” and I can see where that would lead me.

It came as no surprise to read that you’d had military training Mike, you share many great characteristics with other ex services people I’ve met, focus, precision, self discipline and whilst I wasn’t academic enough to follow my dream of joining the merchant navy, I can see what a great grounding it would have given me in so many aspects of my life.

I was referring to servant leadership earlier, though it wasn’t referred to as such on the courses I attended, the adoption of a service mindset is essential I would say in today’s world. This same mindset is born out of a sense of our relativity or smallness (humility) and results in a natural and total care for others, it can be learned and in my experience it begins to set us free as human beings from the prison of consciousness as Einstein is referring to here;

A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, has thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest– a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Imagine if such things were taught in primary schools! 

Jesvir: I like the notion of “widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature”….that reminds me of Ghandian philosophy of non-violence…..which in my mind conflicts with the military attitudes…I think I have a question for Mike again!  

Martin: It certainly fits into the Ghandian philosophy of none violence. But Gandhi was also a man who applied great levels of self discipline in his life. If military training were in the future no more than a builder of this trait and the only battles ever fought were only with ourselves and our weaker instincts then we would have a new breed self disciplined peaceful warriors. 

Mike Myatt: Jesvir, you are just full of enlightened questions aren’t you? All kidding aside, the question you posed is one faced by all leaders. In a perfect world the interests throughout the entire chain of command would be aligned with the interests of the enterprise. The reality is divergent interests always exist within any organization and this is most often a healthy thing as varying opinions stimulate innovation and creativity.

I don’t mean to be redundant in my answers to your questions, but perhaps I’m just simple-minded in my approach. I believe I have always been blessed with a higher quotient of street smarts and common sense than I have uniquely brilliant intellect and while this may limit my tactical approach to things I learned long ago to play to my strengths.

Opposing perspectives present a chance for learning and growth and if opposing views are looked at as an opportunity as opposed to a set-back then I believe positive steps can be taken. What I like to refer as “positional gaps” are best closed (here I go again…) by listening to both sides, finding common ground and then letting the principle of doing the right thing guide the process.

The ball is now squarely back in your court…

Jesvir: Mike, your military background and the skills you acquired as a result of this training gain you respect and open many doors ….the very same background will close lots of doors to you….I have in mind many of my friends that actively demonstrate against military interventions in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan…I am not sure they would easily trust or respect you.

So, how would you create rapport with people that feel terribly aggrieved about the things that you are associated with? I am sure you must have had a lot of experience of facing “the enemy” in your military experience…is it possible to be in rapport with those we consider to be the “enemy”….the obvious answer is “of course not”…we wouldn’t have such terrible wars if it was possible…but I am not looking for obvious answers as you may have gathered…just what works for you in this regard.

Mike Myatt: Jesvir, I fear we may be starting to stretch a bit, but I’m always game to explore…However you should also be aware that you’re starting to hit a bit close to home now, and you may find that the veneer of political correctness could quickly elude me in this area…

I am all for freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. I have no problem with those who choose to voice their opinion about military conflict except when they take a stand against those that honorably place their life in harm’s way to defend the very same people who mock them. I have heard many express sentiments along the lines of “I support the troops, but I don’t support the war.” While this makes for a nice sound bite, you’ll be hard pressed to find many serving in the military that will be comforted by statements such as this.

One of the beautiful things about life is the free will to make choices. I have the right to choose whom I want to build rapport with and whom I don’t. I believe it was Sun Tzu who said: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” While there is certainly an element of wisdom in the aforementioned quote, my long winded answer to your question is: I would choose not to build rapport with anyone that I truly considered an enemy.

I apologize if my candor and passion on this topic doesn’t sit well, but it is how I feel and you’ll find as you get to know me better that I rarely pull punches. For better insight into why I feel the way that I do in this regard you may be interested in reading a prior blog post that I authored on the 4th of July entitled: “The Heart of a Warrior.”

Martin: It’s a great blog Mike and I can really see how the experience has given you a strong sense of national pride … And in reference to the prison of consciousness Einstein referred to the idea of their being ‘an enemy’ I really wonder if this is where the prison walls appear for us as human beings?

Let’s say we had the same conversation about the qualities of a well trained soldier but with a man from say Germany, France, Korea, Russia, Italy, Algeria. Would they each describe their training as being the best, would they see others as enemies, would they derive skills and qualities that served them for life? No doubt.

Now where I’m getting to is this … strip away the veneer of nationality, of race or cultural identity, raise slightly above the boundaries that man imposes upon the earth and look at the possibility of their being one race of people called human beings, a race that identifies not with flags but with one another. The very same mindset that is capable of embodying the belief of service above self is already 99.9% there, this mindset thinks in terms of service, of teamwork, of comradeship, of integrity, of many shared values. The .01% that bursts the bubble of potential peace today is a shared belief that we’re right and they’re wrong … and we’re all alike.

Using the belief that everyone has a gift and a potential in the work place is the foundation for building an empowered team. It values the individual and in many countries around the world the individual may have come from another country, he/she may be the so called enemy but are they, who is the enemy? Perhaps it’s within each of us in the form of a belief that no longer serves us. Perhaps it’s a perceived that might is right or business power gives some the right to exploit their neighbours natural resources. Perhaps it’s a breakthrough that we’re on the verge of collectively experiencing in our consciousness.

I empathise with your statement about choosing not to build rapport with your enemies and in truth 7 years ago I was in that same space. But something clicked in my mind that allowed me to see every man as my brother, it was liberating and logical at the same time, like ‘why hadn’t I seen this before?’ and I’ve faced death since in my work and not had an ounce of fear, only unconditional love for my would be killers.

What has amazed me since this discovery was that aggression or anger has no place to go if it meets with a steadfast peaceful response, it’s as though anger in man is impartial and needs to fight it’s true opposite, if it is successful in finding its opposite it clashes and the consequences are evident.

So to differ slightly from Mikes approach, I would seek to find the common ground with everyone but not consciously seeing it as rapport, for me it’s just a recognition of another’s humanity, rapport is what occurs when we cross the bridge of you and me and discover us.

Mike Myatt: Martin, you are a true gentleman and scholar and clearly a great human being. I admire your philosophy and outlook on life, and in large part, find myself in whole-hearted agreement with you. I really don’t have anyone that I know on a personal level that I would consider an enemy in the strictest sense of the word.

That being said, I believe we may differ slightly in that I do believe there is a clear existence of “right and wrong” in this world. I am willing and capable of forgiving wrong doing where there is contrition, acceptance of responsibility and a sense of remorse. Building rapport and closing gaps in philosophical differences in these situations is what I believe we should rightly expect of all human beings.

I believe it is much more difficult to apply the aforementioned sentiments to the distinction of “good vs. evil” as I believe there is a clear difference between acts of wrong doing and acts of “evil”. Evil has always existed in this world and regrettably I believe it always will. I don’t believe this is necessarily a question of “flags” as there is an element of evil residing in every culture. Simply wishing evil doesn’t exist or wanting to look past its existence does not mean that it is not ever present. Evil shows no remorse or contrition…Evil does not discriminate and evil can strike at a moments notice as we witness on the news each and every day. It is evil that I see as everyone’s enemy and that I choose (it is clearly a choice) not to seek common ground with or to build rapport with. You cannot negotiate with evil as evil is not trustworthy and will not honor commitments and promises. I don’t mean to come-off as cynical or jaded, but I simply believe in dealing with the reality (at least as I see it) at hand.

Martin, I thank you for your comments and I hope that I can be proven wrong over time as I truly hope for the sake of all that you are correct and I am not.

Jesvir: Martin & Mike, I have read both your comments and blog The Heart of a Warrior and appreciate your honest contributions to the discussion here. Ideally I would love to think that I could build rapport & friendship with every single human being on the planet on the basis that we are human beings but I know that is not going to happen in my lifetime…..perhaps in future generations or in different dimensions of our existence.

Mike….you wouldn’t choose to build rapport with those you consider to be “evil” and the millions of people I have seen protesting against the current wars, express the same sentiment as you…they are choosing to take a stand against what they consider to be fundamentally evil in the Bush & Blair administrations.

It may make sense to all of us to fight against evil …. the paradox is that what we define as evil can be absolutely polemic in any organisation and society….what sets us apart is our certainty about our own definition of “evil”.

I was in a leadership role of an organisation and my credibility was being slowly eroded by a racist White South African who could not tolerate a “Coloured” in a position of power. I believe that racism is “evil” and like yourself, I expressed my freedom of choice, and chose not to build rapport with this person. Stonewalling her was very ineffective as you can imagine so I had to surrender my position of power.

In my experience, deeply entrenched racism is “evil” and most of us will face this irrational, fearful and oppressive behaviour in multi-cultural organisations…so I would love to know how people CAN build rapport with those that are set to sabotage their progress. Let me know if you are stimulated to think of ways we can bridge the gap between “us and them”.

Martin: Rumi said famously…Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense. Let’s stand back and look at conflict for a moment.
Is it in soldiers?
Is it in politicians?
Is it in citizens?
Is it in everyone else but not in me?
Is it only in me?

What am I looking out from?
Where do I experience you?
If there is conflict in me I see it in others.
If there is peace in me I see that in others.

And Mike & Jesvir we could quite easily distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil but here’s another view … life is just events, events, events, cause and effect. I wonder if right actions resonate within us all as our ideal. If in our heart of hearts we all know the difference between right and wrong.

Which leads me to this thought … the only person I can lead is myself, for the flaws I see in man are inherent within me, from this perspective I see that we’re all learning and that the only person I can logically effect change in is myself, so I work on changing/evolving/improving me or simply accepting that to err is human and learn from my mistakes as they occur.

Imagine if just for one year each of the worlds governments tended to its own internal issues, no traveling beyond its own national boundaries, no telling other governments how to act, just tending to its own challenges … of course it may never happen but never the less do you see my point? As human beings we’re all doing it to each other, we’re all creating conflict, we’re all complicit in hunger, poverty, war, terrorism as long as we continue as a majority to work on everyone else but ourselves.

Its a view, and that’s all it will ever be as the one thing I am crystal clear on this … I know nothing relative to what there is to know.

Jesvir: Martin, you say: >>>>For goodness to prevail it simply moves in the opposite direction, it gets on with its own business, it pays no credence to evil.>>>>

Do you have real examples of how that belief has actually worked in practice for you? I know it sounds good….if I were to follow that credence however, I’d be living in a remote mountain spot in the Himalayas somewhere…not very practical I’m afraid.

Previously I gave the example of how I emotionally shunned the racist White South African while they persisted in sabotaging my work….I was even coached around this issue at the time as my strategy was clearly not working. I was advised that I would need to find a way to build rapport with this person and I remember telling my coach that in order to build rapport with a racist, I would need to care about them…I did not care at all for this person and therefore my only option was to leave….I record that event as one of my leadership failures…so I am sincerely interested in learning what works in building rapport with those that we find it difficult to care for…this is the kind of rapport building that requires a great deal more courage than the straightforward interpersonal communication skills that make us popular with our natural supporters.

So…you talked about facing danger…in those situations, how did you build rapport with people that might easily have stabbed you in the back?

Maritn: Jesvir, It’s something that can’t be explained by words alone, it was though experiential education that I learned about the commonality of us all. In this learning I faced my prejudice and found that others prejudice was just like mine, that the feelings and thoughts I was having about another they were having also about me and for completely different reasons. It took me 4 days of experiential learning first then this was followed by a more intensive training that took another 4 days, then from this point forward each day became the lesson of awareness and consciousness. If I can learn this I thought, anyone can. I learned alongside other people who on first impression I judged to be quite different to me, racists, bigots, snobs, bullies, you name it it was there in thought from one person of another until that is we had each been through shared experiences that put us on the same page so to speak. On day 4 and day 8 I discovered that my prejudice was my ignorance and that I was not alone in this trait. I also shared an experience of seeing the positive traits in each and every single person present, especially as it happened in those whom I had formed opinions of in advance.

So, in a practical sense as well as an heartfelt understanding I came away from the experience with what could be described as a toolkit for life, one that enabled me to see what had previously eluded me. I’ve experimented with these findings ever since and realised that life itself is the lesson and that every single interaction gives me an opportunity to learn and to grow as a human being.

Harun: Jesvir, Thank you for inviting me to join this discussion and give my two pennies worth. First of all, please let me say that you guys are geniuses. I could never remotely give such eloquent arguments as you have regarding leadership and rapport. I fear I am too abrupt for many. But I can live with that.

I think it is all well and good building rapport, but what about knowing what can break down rapport. Digressing slightly, as a muslim, it disappoints me to see that on one hand Islam is treated so harshly by non-muslims; and on the other hand, the muslims getting the most amount of air time happen to be radicals who lie in the outer peripheries of the muslim community.

A number of years ago, I read a book (I can’t remember the title) that inspired me hugely. In a nutshell, I learnt that there are three kinds of attitudes you can have towards other people and their beliefs.

1. Intolerance, e.g. “I will not put up with you and your views”. This is symbolic of dictatorships and fascist leadership.

2. Tolerance, e.g. “I appreciate you have a view. I do not take this view, but I will put up with it.” I’m not sure I’m so excited by this approach either. Is British society so great because it is a tolerant society?!!

3. Understanding, e.g. “I don’t know your view point – yet. Please help me see things from your perspective”. This is where true inspirational leadership takes place.

The fact is that, as human beings, we are so diverse in nature even within a family, it is highly unlikely we will have the exact same view as anyone else. 1 & 2 clearly demonstrates that through the results of these attitudes. It is when we take the approach to understand others beliefs and cultures that we then become people of worth, people of value.

Rapport takes place when we become people of value. The integrity will shine through.

Mike Myatt: While I’m all for stimulating dialogue and philosophical exploration I believe we are beginning to rehash the same turf. It is true that I believe there is always room for growth and evolved thinking…that being said, we are debating the very bane of human existence which is in fact human nature itself. Pride, ego, fear, power, greed and a number of other factors will always create gaps in thinking and philosophy and no matter how much we all wish it wasn’t so…it is.

Bottom line…I believe rapport can be built with anyone where there is a sincere desire to do so. Turning the other cheek, compromise, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, finding common ground, being an active listener, service above self and numerous other approaches will always allow one to be successful in building rapport if the underlying desire is strong enough.

The issue is really not how to build rapport, but rather why to build rapport? If the issue, circumstance or situation is important enough and there is enough at stake people will do what is necessary to open lines of communication and close positional gaps.

Martin and Jesvir, I am clearly not the deep thinker that you two are but I have always had a talent for cutting to the heart of an issue. Let me say that I possess a generally optimistic outlook on life but that I also don’t consider myself to be an idealist, which by my definition makes me a realist. Therefore I don’t believe this is a complex issue, rather it is just an issue of accepting things for what they are and not creating complexities that do not exist. Can the world be improved? Absolutely and unequivocally yes! Will people ever exist in perfect harmony free from conflict? Absolutely and unequivocally not.
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While these were only partial excerpts and this post does not contain the dialogue in its entirety I felt it beneficial to examine different perspectives and philosophies and leave you with these questions to ponder: What motivates you to build rapport? Are your motivations for building rapport sincere, too broad or too narrow? And, are you taking the time to build rapport with people on issues of meaning and significance? 

Updated State of the Blogosphere

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

In a blog post I authored at the end of May entitled: “To Blog or Not To Blog” I noted that Nielsen reported that there were more than 28 Million Blogs on the Internet. It has only been a few months since that blog post and now David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati in his latest “State of the Blogosphere” notes that Technorati is now tracking over 50 Million Blogs. The only word I can think of to describe this level of growth would be “unprecedented.” The following bullet points summarize some of the highlights of David’s recent post:

  • Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size every 200 days, or about once every 6 and a half months.
  • The total posting volume of the blogosphere continues to rise, showing about 1.6 Million postings per day, or about 18.6 posts per second. This is about double the volume of about a year ago.
  • The Blogosphere is over 100 times bigger than it was just 3 years ago.

    Please read David’s entire post as it is the most complete and insightful singular source of data and information on the Blogosphere that I have read.

  • Passion Equals Purpose

    By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

    Passion is a key driver in achieving success because passion creates purpose. Purpose in turn creates focus, focus leads to results and results will normally move you closer to the fulfillment of your goals. I have worked with countless executives and entrepreneurs and consistently find that those professionals who exhibit an undying passion for what they do stand apart from the crowd. In today’s blog post I’ll examine the benefits of finding your passion and incorporating that passion into your life. 

    For many in the workforce a job is not who they are but simply what they do. These people’s passions lie outside the workplace and for the individuals who fit this description their jobs are little more than a means to an end. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this outlook on life and in some respects it is a more healthy and simple way to live. However if you have chosen to be an entrepreneur or senior executive you’ll find it much more difficult to bifurcate your career from the rest of you life. When you sign-up for a senior leadership role with high expectations and numerous responsibilities it is difficult (if not impossible) to just throw the switch into the off position and walk out the door at 5:00pm leaving your work behind. In fact, entrepreneurs and executives with this mentality are likely to be very frustrated individuals who don’t live-up to their own expectations or those of others.

    If you are an entrepreneur or senior executive and you feel ambivalent, frustrated, unmotivated or trapped in your career it is likely because what you do is not in sink with who you are or the things that are truly important to you. For passion in the workplace to be anything more than a fleeting state of mind you must align your personal goals and interests with what you do for a living. I’m not suggesting that you define who you are by what you do, rather I’m suggesting that if what you do is in balance with your priorities and interests you will be able to be passionate about what you do. I have always believed that for those entrepreneurs and executives who are passionate about what they do their careers are nothing short of a marvelous adventure as opposed to the drudgery of a day-to-day grind.   

    Do you wake-up each morning and look forward to going to work or do you dread the start of each day wishing you could just stay at home? Why do you do what you do? Do you enjoy what you do or do you feel trapped by what you do? If you lack passion about what you do I would strongly suggest that you go back to the drawing board a reassess your motivations. A great place to start is by reading an earlier blog post I authored entitled: “What Really Matters?”

    Is Podcasting a Viable Medium?

    By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

    Today’s Myatt on Mondays question comes from a Chief Marketing Officer of a professional services firm who asks: “Is Podcasting a Viable Medium?” I have answered questions like this each time a new medium comes to market. Over the years I’ve commented on fax machines, infomercials, e-mail, e-mercials, CD-ROM’s and DVD’s, Internet Yellow Pages (IYP), Instant Messaging (IM), Webinars, Blogging, and now in this post, Podcasting…

    I’ll start by defining podcasting for those not familiar with the term. Podcasting was created by former MTV VJ Adam Curry. The term (meant to rhyme with broadcasting) describes the technology used to push audio content from websites to end-users of the content who prefer to use iPods or other mp3 players to listen to said content. Podcasting is simply a new content delivery method that combines audio content delivery with RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Instead of reading the new content on a computer screen, you listen to the new content on an iPod, iPod-like device or via your computer.

    Now that the term Podcasting has been defined let’s address the issue of viability. Most of you familiar with my work know that I am a big believer in being an early adopter. I am always a proponent of being a market leader vs. a market lager. Those that move quickly in today’s market (see “The Need for Speed“) increase brand awareness, mind-share and market share while those that move slowly face increased barriers to entry, increased competition and reduced margins. Few consumers like (B2B, B2C or B2B2C) to work with companies that are behind the times. Once there is validation of proof of concept it is time to move aggressively.

    So the question remains are podcasts viable? The answer in my opinion is a resounding yes. According to Nielson Analytics about 9 million Internet users have downloaded postcasts in the last month alone. If the previous number doesn’t grab your attention you might want to consider the following statistics taken from a white paper produced by KnowledgeStorm, Inc in which almost 4,000 respondents comprised of business and IT professionals across a variety of job titles, vertical industries and company sizes weighed in:

    • 41 percent of survey respondents claim they have listened to podcasts on more than one occasion, while 13 percent stated that they “frequently” download or listen to them.
    • 32 percent of survey respondents stated their usage of podcasts has “Increased” or “Significantly Increased” in the last six months.
    • 72 percent claimed that they have downloaded or listened to podcasts on technology topics on more than one occasion; 23 percent do so “frequently.”
    • Nearly 60 percent of respondents said that information on business or technology topics, currently delivered as white papers or analyst reports, would be more interesting as podcasts.
    • 55 percent of respondents would be more likely to consume white papers and analyst reports if they were delivered as podcasts.
    • 57 percent of the frequent podcast users stated their biggest challenge with podcasts is the scarcity of interesting content.
    • 65 percent responded that they listen to podcasts for both personal and business interests.

    Bottom line…Podcasts are here to stay and I’d suggest that if you are not utilizing this channel that you begin to do so immediately. Happy Podcasting!

    Why Angel Investors Might Not Be For You

    By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

    There is hardly a week that passes where I don’t receive numerous inquiries about using “Angel” investors to finance early stage companies. I entered the phrase “Angel Investor” into Google and received almost 6 million returned searches comprised of everything ranging from individual investors to various groups, clubs and syndicates purportedly looking for deals, to investment portals where investors seeking capital can advertise to the “Angels”. In today’s blog post I’ll address the pros and cons of dealing with high net worth individuals as investors.  Let me begin by sharing my bias I come from the institutional world and prefer to deal with seasoned VC’s and private equity funds. In most cases I am not a big fan of Angel investors. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way let’s start by answering the question: “What is an “Angel” investor?” Answering that question is difficult as “Angel” investors are not a formal investment class and therefore the term means different things to different people. In my book an Angel investor is simply an individual investor nothing more. I know a hand full of Angel investors that are competent, well funded, thoughtful, experienced and savvy investors. An example of this type of Angel investor would be the Band of Angels in Palo Alto, California. This syndicate of Angel investors has more than 100 members, averages $600,000 per investment, and has invested close to $50 million dollars in total. The problem is that in my experience this is the exception not the rule. Regrettably there are many more low net worth posers who prey on businesses by calling themselves Angels who attempt to leverage themselves into opportunities at the expense of the entrepreneur.

    Angel investors do have two distinct advantages in that they almost always have some presence in the market, and entrepreneurs can often times cut better deals with non-institutional investors. That being said, angel investors are rarely anything more than a band-aid solution to capital formation as they rarely have deep enough pockets to carry and enterprise through multiple rounds of financing through to sustainability. Furthermore early stage angel investors often muck-up a capital structure such that they actually create a barrier to entry for VC’s, private equity firms and other investors looking to make later stage investments.  If you do seek capital from Angel investors I would strongly suggest that at a minimum you follow the guidelines listed below: 

    1. Look past the immediate need: Request a copy of their financial statement and evaluate not only their net worth, but their liquidity. Ask them straight out if they have the ability to meet future capital calls or make later stage investments.  

    2. Experience and connections can mean more than the capital: As for references from previous companies that they’ve funded. Talk to those entrepreneurs and ask if they received any assistance from the Angel other than the investment and if they would use them again. 

    3. Make the Angel play by usual and customary industry practices: Demand a term sheet from them at the outset. If they can’t perform in the time between term sheet issuance and final documentation then they likely won’t perform later when you really need them. Make sure you always negotiate a buy-back provision so that you can unwind the deal for either non-performance or if it just turns out they are difficult to work with. 

    If you are currently seeking capital I would suggest reading the following two earlier posts as they will provide additional valuable information: The first piece entitled Private Equity vs. Venture Capital and the second piece entitled My Philosophy on Valuations.

    Public Speaking

    By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

    I had my first paid public speaking engagement in 1985 and it has been a love-hate relationship every since…I love to speak but have always hated dealing with the details surrounding booking new engagements. Even though getting new speaking engagements has not been an issue for sometime now (everyone do me a favor and find some wood to knock-on), I know that it remains an issue for many up-and-coming speakers. So in today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t with regard to finding someone who wants to listen to what you have to say.

    The first thing to keep in mind is that you have to have something to say. I’m an experienced subject matter expert first, and a speaker second. Speaking is something that I enjoy…it gives me a break from my other business activities and gives me the opportunity to share my passion with people that can benefit from my experience. Take time to build your subject matter expertise and then build a great presentation around said subject matter. Work tirelessly on refining your presentation and then customize your presentation for each audience. I NEVER give a canned presentation. I take the time to understand my audience, how they can best benefit from my experiences and then I tailor the presentation accordingly. In fact, at most presentations I spend a few minutes up front asking the audience what they hope to take away from my presentation and I make sure and deliver…Quality, customized and personalized presentations will cause you to be invited back.

    I’ve never used a speaker’s agent and while I’m sure that there are quality agents out there who produce results, I truly don’t believe they are necessary to be a success in public speaking. I do belong to a few different speakers bureaus and find that they will produce a few engagements here and there, but I certainly don’t depend upon them to fill my speaking calendar. So how did I build my speaking career? The old fashioned way…I worked hard in the early years…Following are my tips for speakers looking to increase their profile and receive more invitations to speak:

    1. Service Organizations: In the early years I used service clubs and organizations (Rotary, Kiwanas, Lions, Chamber of Commerce events, etc.) to perfect my presentations and gain local exposure. They are always looking for speakers and you can stay as busy as you want here. While they don’t pay a fee to speak, I rarely spoke at a service club that didn’t either lead to a consulting assignment or another speaking engagement. This is low lying fruit and I strongly suggest that you take advantage of this venue when starting out.

    2. Trade Associations: Most industry groups and trade associations need participants for topical panels and roundtable discussions at local, regional, national and international events and conferences. This is an easy way to establish credibility among your peers which over time can lead to paid keynote presentations. A plus for speaking in this venue is that these events are well covered by industry media and you can normally pick up a few quotes, or perhaps even an interview as a result of your speaking engagement.

    3. Get published…Whether you write articles, white papers, books or blog posts you need to get your name associated with your area of subject matter expertise. Nothing says “expert” like being published. I have written well over 200 articles, author our corporate blog and have written or contributed to dozens of white papers. While writing takes time I can tell you that nothing has contributed to more speaking engagements than the published works that I have authored. The more media exposure you receive the more speaker requests you will receive. I started with local papers, worked my way up to trade publications and over time found my pieces published in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, Institutional Investor, Inc. Magazine, etc. Don’t ever listen to those that tell you writing is not a good use of time…It is the most powerful way to leverage your personal brand.

    4. Prepare a speakers bio: While many speakers invest thousands of dollars in a professional bio, video clips etc., I simply have a three page document posted on our corporate website. I use a professional bio which has attached both a speaker’s overview and references which you can view by clicking here. By keeping it simple I’m not “over-exposing” myself and by placing it online my information is available to the broadest possible demographic.

    5. Fees: Unless you’re just starting out or speaking on a pro-bono basis don’t speak for free. Set your honorarium and test the market to determine whether or not you are priced appropriately. If you set your price too low you won’t get many engagements because most organizations won’t value you if you don’t value yourself. On the other hand if you price yourself too high you may eliminate a number of opportunities that might have otherwise come your way. My honorarium is currently set at $7,500 plus expenses. Given my background and qualifications I am likely under priced based upon what some of my peers charge, however at this price I receive a number of inquiries from which I can choose. I have also chosen to waive my honorarium when speaking to business schools and other student groups.

    By establishing myself as a subject matter expert and working hard in the early years I now receive anywhere from a few to several unsolicited inquiries each month about potential speaking opportunities. If you enjoy speaking and are willing to work at your speaking career you can easily create a significant supplement to your annual income.