I had the opportunity last week to work with Leesa Wallace, The Performance Architect. She is an expert in leadership and management learning strategy, curriculum design, and program facilitation. During a pilot program, she introduced a concept that I found fascinating – Eye Connection. With her permission I would like to share it with you on this blog.
Beyond the basics of eye contact
Eye connection is the intentional practice of communicating one thought to one person. You decide ahead of time whose eyes you are going to look at as you communicate your thought.
Leesa’s mantra is: One Thought – One Person.
What your eyes do when you communicate
What you do with your eyes sends powerful messages to the people you are with. You may not even be aware of what your eyes are doing when you communicate with people.
It’s very interesting to observe someone’s eye patterns. Eye movements provide clues as to how people process and access information in their brains. Eye movements will reveal where they go to search for stored data in their mental files, and how they formulate responses to questions or situations at work. You might even be able to detect when they are telling a lie, by watching their eye movements very closely.
What I notice most often is when people divert their eyes at critical moments in communication and how that lessens their credibility and power.
Think about how often your eyes flick away right at the moment of truth. For example what do you do with your eyes when you give your recommendation, ask for the order, or ask for a pay raise?
When you speak or listen to others speak, what are the actions of your eyes?
- Do your eyes move rapidly – scanning the room?
- Do you look at the floor or at the ceiling?
- Do your eyes ping pong from side to side?
- Do you stare off into space?
- Do you defocus your eyes and appear to look at nothing at all?
- Do you look into someone’s eyes?
Why and how eye connection works so well
Stimulus comes in from the eyes or ears and goes immediately to your brain. When you look at a group of people, your instinct is to move your eyes rapidly to take them all in. This stimulates the eyes.
The faster the eyes move, the faster your brain has to work to take in the information. This can result in feeling more nervous, speaking too quickly, going blank, or not thinking clearly.
Eye Connection fundamentals:
The idea behind Eye Connection is to talk to one person at a time, one thought at a time. A thought is a short, declarative statement (not a question).
In a remote situation or on conference calls, the eye connection skill becomes even more important, especially since we tend to speed up virtually. I suggest that you find three or four objects in the room and finish your thoughts with ‘them.’ Sounds weird. Actually, it works.
After finishing a thought, PAUSE. Then begin your next thought, looking at another person’s eyes.
Do not stare. Finishing a thought with someone is speaking to them, not staring at them. It allows you to read the audience and adjust your message, if necessary.
Who will you start your eye connection with?
This is an important decision and often one not even considered before we open our mouths. So as you prepare the opening remarks of your presentation or your business meeting you are facilitating, give some strategic thought as to WHO you will be looking at when you say your words.
If you are sitting at a conference table with people to your right, to your left and straight ahead of you, observe the eye connections being made around the room. When it’s your turn to speak, lead, or respond, practice good eye connection. Take your time to shift your body to face the person you want to make the eye connection with. Then speak. You will be amazed at the power that this nonverbal communication has on them…and on you.
Uncomfortable at first
Leesa Wallace shared with the participants enrolled in her “Presenting with Impact” one day course:
“At first, the skill of eye connection doesn’t feel natural. But with practice and experience you will come to discover its power and utility.”
Eye connection helps you to reduce nervousness and allows you to better connect with your audience. Using the eye connection strategy also slows you down when you speak, giving your brain time to process, and your audience time to absorb your ideas.
Put this idea into action
The next time you preparing for a meeting or presentation, make a decision as to whom you will make eye connection with when you begin speaking. Be very intentional about this. Before you speak, turn your body and your eyes to face this person. Then speak. One thought delivered on this one person. Don’t rush, take your time. Pause before moving on.
Practice this eye connection strategy is everyday situations where you are speaking and communicating with others.
Try the eye connection strategy when you are on conference calls. Pull up the LinkedIn profile of the person you are speaking to on the telephone and look at their photo as you speak to them over the telephone. Or post colored sheets of paper around your office and use these as objects to direct your eye connection to when participating in or leading tele-sessions. Make eye connection part of your virtual communication strategy.
Lastly, observe what other people do with their eyes when they communicate. Don’t judge it, just observe it. Observe the impact that this important aspect of nonverbal communication has on you and your colleagues.
And remember the mantra: One thought – One person.
I was in a yoga class this past Saturday when it dawned on me that August 23rd held special significance. Three years ago, I completed my final chemotherapy treatment. I had sent ovarian cancer out of my life for good (hopefully!) I remember that day because it’s also my mother’s birthday. Two good reasons to celebrate!
- This photo was taken during my last chemo session. I decided to dress up and wear a wig to celebrate the occasion in style. Why not?!
When I shared this triumphant news with my yoga instructor, she praised me for being strong and resilient. She then told me about a book that she had read titled, When bad things happen to good people, by Rabbi Harold Kushner. This book had been very helpful to her as a young widow with three young children, dealing with the sudden death of her husband in a freak accident.
I have not read this book, but just the mention of its title got us into a conversation about overcoming adversity and hardship. What person on Earth has not experienced some kind of adversity? Trauma affects all people. Suffering is universal; it’s the human condition.
We agreed that it’s what you do after the hardship that makes all the difference. Difficult experiences can shape your life positively or negatively, depending on your response and attitude.
Suddenly the phrase, “Resume of Your Life” popped out of my mouth, and I knew it was an idea worth sharing on this blog.
Have you ever wanted to write a full-disclosure resume?
I got this crazy idea in my head to write a resume of my life. That is, recording the key events and milestones that I had experienced over the different periods, from childhood to adulthood. It could serve as an outline for a possible autobiography, if I ever wanted to write one (or if anyone would ever want to read it). It would take less time and could serve as a good reflection on my life (if not memory jogger).
Using the format of my existing professional resume (created by my friend and resume writer, Bree Gurin), I began organizing my life events in decades (in reverse chronological order). Since I couldn’t remember the specific year in which things happened, my age in decades seemed like an easier way to organize and capture the major events in my life. Maybe you are like me and you can remember what you did on your 30th birthday, but need a calculator to figure out in which calendar year that milestone occurred.
- Here’s the TEMPLATE – Resume of My Life that I created for this exercise. You can delete or modify any section(s) to fit your situation.
I gave each decade a theme (e.g., My 50′s = Resilient Survivor; My 40′s = Adventures in Parenting ; My 30′s = Marriage, Living Abroad, Career Growth; My 20′s Single Ambitious Career Woman, etc.)
In bullet point format under each decade, I listed the major events, decisions, failures, victories, hardships and lessons learned. I included only the ones that really stood out to me as benchmark experiences. I honored each one as a valuable life lesson.
When all of that was done, I pushed my chair back and reflected on what should be at the top of my Life’s Resume. What would be my personal summary statement? (versus summary of professional expertise?) In place of Competencies, what Attributes and Gifts would I capture on my personal resume? This section perhaps held the greatest value for me in this exercise.
When it was done and I had printed it out, I couldn’t help but wonder what themes and experiences would continue to shape me as an individual in future decades. This exercise made me see that my life’s experiences, both good and bad, were valuable.
To share or not to share?
I considered sharing the Resume of My Life on this blog, but I have decided that it is too personal to post on the worldwide web. Something like this is better shared one-on-one with selected individuals.
But I did want to share the top portion with you, so you could get an idea of what/how you might work on your own. I feel that this exercise will be useful in the development of your personal brand and living your personal brand values.
Resume of My Life
Kathy McAfee – “The Great Encourager”
Global Difference Maker whose personal mission is to change the world for good by inspiring people to direct their talents and resources to make a difference for others. A woman of action who lives her life with a fierce urgency of now. Bold and determined, Kathy puts herself and her ideas out into the world to take hold and grow. Kathy possesses a dynamic presence and compelling qualities that win people over. A good friend, loving daughter, loyal wife, thoughtful sister, aunt, niece and cousin, Kathy strives to make other people happy, while also being content herself.
Gifts and Attributes
|Relationship Building||Business Curiosity||Positive Attitude|
|Creativity and Imagination||Self-Healing /Resilient||Action – Doer|
|Writing – Blogging||Appreciation/Gratitude||Money Smart|
|Marketing and Branding||Generous – Philanthropic||Self-Motivated|
|Communication Skills||High Energy||Inspiring|
Do you possess some of these same gifts and attributes? What words would you include on your personal life resume?
What would Buddha say?
As you reflect upon the events that have shaped your life and made you the person that you are, I want to share one more insight. It comes from the book that I am reading called, The Trauma of Everyday Life, by Mark Epstein, MD. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Epstein (born 1953) is an American author and psychotherapist, integrating both Buddha’s and Sigmund Freud’s approaches to trauma, and writing about their interplay. In his most recent book, The Trauma of Everyday Life, he interprets the Buddha’s spiritual journey as grounded in Buddha’s personal childhood trauma.
(Trauma) …is not something to be ashamed of, not a sign of weakness, and not a reflection of inner failing. It is simply a fact of life.”
“…the traumas of everyday life, if they do not destroy us, become bearable, even illuminating, when we learn to relate to them differently.” -
- Dr. Mark Epstein, author of The Trauma of Everyday Life (page 3)
Put this idea into action
Set aside at least two hours for this exercise. Download the TEMPLATE – Resume of My Life and save it to your computer. Fill in your name on the template. Have a copy of your professional resume on hand, which will be useful in referencing key dates, places and events from your work life.
Allow yourself to be completely honest about the events in your life: the good, the bad and the ugly. They all contributed to making you the person that you have become. No one else has to see this personal life resume, unless you decide to share it with them.
If you are a visually dominant person, you might enjoy putting the Resume of Your Life in a visual timeline fashion (just as magazines do to depict the history of a company).
When you are finished, print it out and review it. Reflect upon your life’s lessons. Avoid blaming others for the things that happened to you. Instead, take responsibility for your response, and pride in your perseverance and survival.
Make a plan to review your Life Resume and update it periodically. Keep up with the changes in your life.
Finally, always be on the lookout for cool things to add to your Life Resume. Every experience (good, bad and ordinary) can teach you something and add to the richness of your life.
Walking down the hall of one of my client’s corporate offices last week, I saw these six power words artfully displayed in tall, bold letters on a wall. The letters must have been at least 18 inches high and the black printing against the white walls caught my full and undivided attention. The words were:
These are the LEGO® brand values. As they say on their web page, “The LEGO brand is more than simply our familiar logo. It is the expectations that people have of the company towards its products and services, and the accountability that the LEGO Group feels towards the world around it. The brand acts as a guarantee of quality and originality.”
Does it all start with personal values?
I was in a friend’s house last week and saw this piece of artwork hung in the entryway from their garage to their kitchen. Notice the clever positioning of “Family Rules.” Although intriguing and filled with positive ideas, there are certainly are a lot of rules to follow. Argh!
I wonder if the people who live in this house stopped noticing this visual communication after a while.
I imagine them walking right on by, unloading their groceries, coming in from work/school, without a second glance at this family manifesto.
And isn’t that what we all do? Slip back into unconscious awareness and old behaviors? How often do we lose sight of our organizational and personal mission statements, and go on automatic pilot in our daily lives?
It got me to thinking about my own brand values.
What expectations do my clients, customers and friends have of my products, services and brand? How do other people experience me? How do I want them to experience me?
I’m wondering if you’ve spent any time pondering these questions for yourself. And not just for your organization, but for your own personal brand? What are the core principles that you strive to live each and every day?
As you read the rest of this blog post, please do so through the perspective of your own personal brand values.
Corporate branding versus personal branding
Over the course of my marketing career, I have spent many long hours writing, rewriting, brainstorming, facilitating, and unearthing vision and mission statements for various organizations. It can be a tortuous process, involving many people and many long hours. I am sure this is where the expression “getting caught up in your underwear” originated from. In the end you have an unusual outcome – a statement of purpose that most people keep at a safe distance.
Marketing thought-leaders have tried to simplify the process. For example, Guy Kawasaki promotes Mantras versus Missions. “A mantra is three or four words that explain why your produce, service, or company should exist.”
Other people have tried to reinvent the process of getting to a vision/mission by calling it a “Manifesto,” or “Axiom” or “Credo.”
How do large, successful companies express their brand values?
I was curious about what brand values that other large, successful organizations have.
Starbucks serves up their brand values a little differently than most (but then, you’d expect that). I have summarized in one or two words what I believe each of their six pillars stands for:
- Our Coffee (Quality)
- Our Partners (Diversity)
- Our Customers (Human Connection)
- Our Stores (Humanity)
- Our Neighborhood (Responsibility & Community)
- Our Shareholders (Accountability)
Google brand values are expressed through a philosophical manifesto “Ten things we know to be true.”
- Focus on the user and all else will follow
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well
- Fast is better than slow
- Democracy on the web works
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
- You can make money without doing evil
- There’s always more information out there
- The need for information crosses borders
- You can be serious without a suit
- Great just isn’t good enough
Amazon’s mission statement was harder to find. Every time I queried the phrase Amazon’s mission statement, the web site tried to sell me a book. Go figure? I finally found a short mission statement on the FAQ page of Amazon’s Investor Relations page of their web site:
“We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.”
Further research into founder/CEO Jeff Bezos’s bio landed me on this page http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/bez0bio-1 where I garnered a little more insight into the founder’s vision and core values. “Our vision,” Mr. Bezos said, “is to be the world’s most customer-centric company. The place where people come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Six Core Values of Amazon:
- customer obsession
- bias for action
- high hiring bar
Put this idea into action
Now that you’ve seen how the big boys do it, it’s time to identify your own personal brand values. This is not an exercise in copycat, although you might have recognized something of yourself in these icon company’s brand values.
Make a list of words or phrases that you live by. Include principles that you deeply care about. Don’t worry about how other people will react or perceive your values, just capture them on paper.
Write a few sentences about what these words/concepts mean to you. Use a journal to capture your free spirited thoughts.
Now, create some sort of visual picture of your personal brand values. I like to use Wordle.net to create a word montage. They call it a Word Cloud. I call it a motivating piece of visual communication. Here’s my Wordle visual depiction of my personal brand values as I understand them today:
Frequently people in my network reach out to let me know about open job positions. They ask for my help in sharing the opportunity with people that I know who might be qualified and interested. They need help in finding talented, motivated people to join their team. And they know that one of the best strategies for talent acquisition is tapping into their employees’ networks.
Perhaps you also receive these kinds of requests.
What do you do when you become aware of an opportunity? How much time and effort do you give it? Are you simply too busy to do anything about it? Does your mind go blank when thinking of people who might fit and who might want to know about this?
With each request, you have a decision to make.
- Can I help out in any meaningful way?
- Can I think of anyone who might be relevant for this position?
- Do I want to get involved, or am I just too busy?
- WIIFM or What’s in it for me?
Now, you may not think of yourself as a recruiter; and you may not possess hiring skills or relevant experience; but you can participate in this very important process – matching the right people to the right opportunities.
Last week, a client of mine reached out to let me know that she had landed a great new job that she was excited about. I had worked with her a few years ago on the process of reinventing herself and focusing her career in a new direction. She clearly had the energy, the intelligence and the drive to make it happen, she just needed a little coaching guidance to help her figure it out.
When we reconnected last week she also informed me of a new position at her new company. She asked me if I could recommend anyone for this open position. I didn’t have much information about the position, but I knew her, and I checked out her company on line.
Then I got a LinkedIn invitation from one of her colleagues. I instantly recognized the company name, and I assumed that my client had been speaking about me to her peer. This new LinkedIn connection quickly moved into a short online conversation. Ironically, this new connection is the
I then forwarded the name and contact details of a person in my network whom I know is looking for a new opportunity. The action started to happen almost immediately. Within two days, they had exchanged emails, had a telephone conversation and arranged an in person interview for the next week.
I couldn’t believe how quickly things were transpiring. It was all so exciting. The act of networking and helping was once again proving valuable to me and to others. I was grateful that I took the time and effort to act on this particular request. I don’t know what will happen and I have zero control over the outcome, but I do know that I have enough influence to create opportunities for other people. And that influence makes me feel powerful, motivated, excited and hopeful for the future!
Put this idea into action
The next time someone in your network reaches out to you with the good news that an organization is hiring and asks you to recommend someone for the position, STOP.
- Take the time to read the message (don’t just delete it).
- Find out what you need to know in order to connect the dots between this particular opportunity and the people in your network.
- Make the effort to do something about it.
Be part of the recruiting process. Be an ambassador for your organization when you network. Help attract the talent that your company needs to thrive. Even if you aren’t looking for a job for yourself, take part in the job creating process. Leverage your network to create opportunities for others.
You can easily leverage the power of your network to stimulate the economy. Take pride that you are helping people and organizations to grow simply through your ability to connect people with opportunity. It feels great to help people succeed in their careers and organizations!