Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is affecting your ability to be taken seriously?

I know this guy named Dalton.

I wouldn’t say we’re friends, but we’ve met a few times. We tend to speak at some of the same conferences. And I happen to think he’s pretty good, even though his style is much different than my own.

Still, I’ll never forget the day when I overheard one of his audience members tell her friend, “You know, with that mullet, I’ve always had a hard time taking Dalton seriously.”


What about YOU? What is affecting YOUR ability to be taken seriously?

Consider these six questions to make sure people don’t tune you out:

1. What causes YOU to (not) take someone seriously? Here’s a revealing exercise you might noodle with: (1) Make a list of three people you’ve never taken seriously, (2) Write down what, specifically, causes you to feel that way, and (3) Ask yourself if you embody any of those attributes.

Your lack of self-awareness may startle you. As Ken Shelton, founder and editor of Executive Excellence Magazine said, “With a little self-deception, we might believe that we are number one when in fact we’re not even on the charts.”

REMEMBER: Self-awareness creates options.

2. How might you be accidentally diminishing the perception of your expertise? My pal Robert Bradford, founder of The Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, once told me that every time you add a comma to the description of what you do, you suck a little bit more.

What about you? Are you positioning yourself as an expert in seventeen different areas? Are you spreading yourself too thin? Maybe people would take you more seriously if you picked a lane.

REMEMBER: Periods, not commas.

3. What’s your system for keeping yourself constantly relevant? Your customers, audience members, listeners and readers want to know what you’ve done for them lately. They want to know what you learned yesterday.

Your challenge is to create a game plan that keeps new wisdom coming through a revolving door. For example, I read five books a week. That’s one of the (many) ways I stay relevant.

REMEMBER: If you’re not current, you’re not credible.

4. What are you unconsciously doing that’s marring your credibility? The word “credibility” comes from the Latin creditum, which means, “a loan, thing entrusted to another.” That’s interesting. Credibility is on loan. Which means your credibility might take years to assemble, but only seconds to annihilate.

I’d spend some time thinking about situations in which your perception of other people’s credibility diminished. Then ask yourself if you’re mirroring any such behaviors in your own world.

REMEMBER: Credibility diminishes quickly.

5. How unquestionable is your knowledge base? When it comes to your area of expertise, you need to be able to talk forever. Period. In order to make that happen, my first suggestion is to make sure that everything you know is written down somewhere. Everything.

After all, if you don’t write it down – it never happened. Plus, when you write it down, you make it sound. My second suggestion is that you read 500 books about your topic. Simple as that. Thirdly, constantly search for and dissect new dimensions to your area of expertise. This enables you to answer any question, any time, about any area of your subject.

REMEMBER: Experts charge more.

6. What are you doing, saying or being that’s making you unlistenable? I’ve written extensively on the topic of being a listenable leader and becoming the most listenable person you know. And here’s what I’ve learned: Listenable people are taken seriously. Period.

So, here’s a rapid list of practices for doubling your listenability: Listen first. Pamper the short-term memory. Be funny early and often. Articulate strategy and ideas in plain language. Create a zone of respect around you without being overbearing. When it’s a technical matter, (still) speak English. Communicate reasons for changes and decisions. And of course, always speak with MCI, or Meaningful Concrete Immediacy.

REMEMBER: Listenable people are listened to.

In summary, let’s look to Google for a final picture of what it looks like when people don’t take you seriously. I did several searches on the following phrase: “I can’t take her/him/them seriously because…”

The results were astounding. And as you read them, I challenge you to think one last time about what might be causing people to not take YOU seriously:

“I can’t take her/him/them seriously because…”

o “…They can't walk their talk.” Is your integrity in tact?
o “…He tries too hard to be evil.” Are you overexerting?
o “…There's nothing real here at stake.” Are you relevant?
o “…I'm so used to them another way.” Are you a chameleon?
o “…I feel she's too preachy these days.” Are you Billy Graham?
o “…They don't take their work seriously.” Are you serious enough?
o “…They taken themselves TOO seriously.” Are you self-important?
o “…They change their minds about everything.” Are you wishy-washy?
o “…We are too busy laughing at their stupidity.” Are you an idiot?
o “…They are so obviously just seeking attention.” Are you waiting to be noticed?

“I can’t take her/him/them seriously because…”

o “…She, herself, has done worse things than me.” Are you a poor role model?
o “…She looks like a guest on the Jerry Springer show.” Are you dressed professionally?
o “…80% of the pictures out there of her have her in a bikini.” What happens when someone does a Google image search on your name?
o “…All of the effects and style is so old-fashioned looking to me.” Are you a dinosaur?
o “…When I listen to her try to make her points, I feel like I'm watching a PTA meeting.” Are you boring?
o “…If they were half as smart as they claimed, they'd be able to make their points or get rich without having to hurt people.” Are you compensating?
o “…It's just shtick, and when she actually says, “No, I'm dead serious,” we still can't take her seriously because that too is just more shtick.” Do you have substance to support your shtick?
o “…They give me powdered creamers or tiny plastic cream packets soaking in a tub of what used to be ice that's now melted into grey, dirty water that people have been dipping their dirty hands in.” Are you gross?

REMEMBER: People won’t take you seriously if they’re too busy questioning you.

Especially if you have a mullet.

What is affecting your ability to be taken seriously?

For the list called, "37 Personal Leadership Questions Guaranteed to Shake Your Soul," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!