Give your meetings purpose

Far too often, when people are asked what was decided in a meeting, the response is: To have another meeting. Meetings for the sake of meeting accomplish nothing. In order for a meeting to be effective, it must advance your project and move the ball forward.

How can you make your meetings count?

  • Have an agenda. If you’re facilitating a meeting, always prepare an agenda in advance. Distribute it ahead of time and insist that everyone come to the meeting prepared to discuss the key points. An agenda will help to keep everyone focused and will bring structure to the conversation.
  • Keep meetings short. A wise person once suggested that all meetings should be held in the hallway where everyone remains standing. Why? Rather than allowing a group to become idle in their seats, standing in a hallway forces everyone get to the point. While you don’t have to go so far as to have everyone standing, you should recognize that long meetings promote rambling and people zoning out. Short meetings promote direct, concise communication.
  • Ask people to turn off their mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets make communication quick and easy, but they can be a big distraction in a meeting. When people are staring at their phones, they aren’t paying attention to what you and others have to say.
  • Start by asking the tough questions others may not want to ask. Not only will this give you credibility, it will set the tone for a frank, honest discussion. Others in the rooms are then more likely to be candid.
  • Use strong visuals. Visuals help people to focus on what’s important. Contrary to what some may say, PowerPoint remains a very effective tool when it’s used appropriately. All slides should be simple with a clean design. Avoid cluttering slides with tons of text and too many images.
  • At the conclusion of a meeting, ask, “What are our next steps?” This discussion should result in well-defined tasks each person will complete before the next meeting. When the group leaves the meeting, they should know exactly who is responsible for each task and when those tasks are to be completed.

If you follow these tips, your meetings should be more focused and will lead to action.

Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good® LLC which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.

Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.

Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.

Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups: They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.

Don’t just sit there – add value with thoughtful comments

Good things happen when verbalizing in the workplace improves. One of those good outcomes is to help reduce mistakes. If you’re really clear in what you say and how you say it, the true intent of your words will come through to others. Comments, guidance and instruction from you will be processed better.

What are some of the other benefits of verbalizing well?

  • You will be better able to apply your knowledge and perspectives in discussions with others, especially those who may represent different areas of your company.
  • Others will see you as participative and engaged, not just taking up space. You will be more respected if you verbalize well.
  • People with good verbal skills have an easier time taking control of an interaction.
  • Your boss will be able to send you to represent her confident you will handle the situation well.

Twelve steps to improve your verbal skills?

Here are twelve, practical and easy-to-apply tips that will immediately make you more effective at verbalizing in your workplace.

  • Think before you speak. Always organize your thoughts.
  • Get to the point. Don’t ramble.
  • Always think about the other person. What does he or she need to hear?
  • Tell stories. Bring conversations to life by adding verbal anecdotes.
  • Engage others. Don’t just talk at people. Talk with them. Strike the right balance between listening and talking. Another part of engaging others is making eye contact. If it’s one-on-one, look right at that person. If it’s a group presentation, look around the room frequently to make eye contact with many people.
  • Inflect your voice. No one likes to listen to someone who drones on in a monotone, flat voice. When you’re about to say something important, place emphasis on it with the tone of your voice.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Act like you want to be there and believe in what you’re saying. Avoid physical movements that detract from attention. Speak with your voice, not your hands.
  • Ask good questions. Remember, you are judged every bit as much by the quality of what you ask as what you say.
  • Anticipate the tough questions. What’s the question you hope nobody asks? You’ll be glad you thought about that. To build credibility, ask that tough question yourself, then answer it. If I was sitting where you are, this is what I’d want to know.
  • Stay on the high road. Talk about what your company does and stands for. Let competitors talk about themselves.
  • If you’re chatting with a person or group outside your core business, avoid industry lingo.
  • Talk like an adult. Limit the use of the words like and you know.

One more tip

Speak up when your comment or question will add value to a discussion. Absent that, don’t fall in love with the sound of your own voice. At the end of the day, the content of what you say is what’s most important.

Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good® LLC which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.

Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.

Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.

Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups: They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.

Being tone-deaf is worse than having your words fall on deaf ears

When and how a message is presented can be just as important as the contents

Do you remember when you were a kid and you really wanted to tell your dad something important? For me, at least, it too frequently was an error of omission. In my rush to rid myself of guilt, I’d blurt out my confession, hoping for leniency as soon as my dad came in the door. With my bad luck it was always after he’d had a horrible day at work.

As they say, “timing is everything.” In business, one of the first lessons a manager must learn — sometimes the hard way — is to pick a time and place to deliver a message, either positive or negative. As in the case of the over-anxious kid who belts out the words without setting the stage, the reaction many times can be painfully negative.

A practiced and savvy executive must not only create the appropriate setting for communicating successfully, but must also be cognizant of the tone. This helps to ensure the message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Today, headlines are overflowing with examples of business leaders, politicians and others who should know better, making the fatal or near-fatal mistake of incorrectly packaging not only the words but also the tone to maximize the message.

Here is a “how not to do it” example. A company decides to close a plant, lay off scores of workers and, in that same pronouncement, boasts of a huge new dividend for investors. By linking these actions in the same announcement, the company is being insensitive and utterly tone-deaf. Of course, the company is supposed to look for and execute on initiatives that improve efficiency and profitability. But it doesn’t pass the smell test to combine this somber message for some with positive news for others, particularly when many people may believe investors are already too richly rewarded.

A more effective implementation would be first to provide the harsh news of job terminations, while explaining how it will make the company more successful for all remaining employees and investors. Then amplify the message by revealing the outplacement assistance being provided to those adversely affected. A second announcement about increasing the dividend should come after a respectful period of lamenting for those laid off, so as not to rub salt in the wounds, and to affirm that the increase is a result of new efficiencies from optimizing the company’s plants and workforce.

Being tone-sensitive means being attuned to what is going to be said, how it’s said and the place in which it is said. Doing so can sometimes put form in front of substance, but it can also help avoid potential pitfalls that take on a life of their own.

We’ve all heard this other childhood admonishment, “Wait ’til your father gets home!” This should be modified to, “Wait ’til your dad gets home and the right mood has been set.” The latter is particularly critical for companies orchestrating the right tone for conveying important actions.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax and in 16-years, as CEO, grew the retailer to sales of $5 billion in 1,000 stores worldwide.

The truth behind workplace communication problems

Much has been written about all the ways leaders and companies fail to effectively support communication among employees. It’s true they mess up a lot on communications. Even leaders that work the hardest and get it right most often still face regular negative feedback from employees on the subject.

It’s easy to get discouraged when your initiatives fall flat. But the fact is, employers, it’s not always you! Employees also have a role to play in making things better and there are times when they need to hear the truth about that. So here it is: Bosses, you probably aren’t being honest with your employees about their role in improving communications around the office.

Privilege and initiative

People who continually complain about poor communication do so for two primary reasons. First, they have unrealistic expectations about what information they should be getting. Often employees want information they aren’t entitled to. Not all things can or should be shared. Not all decisions can or should be collaborative. It is a leader’s job to find out what their people want to know and make it clear which is which.

Second, there are employees who fail to initiate contact with co-workers and develop the relationships that lead to getting the information they need. The best employees solve communication problems by taking ownership and finding out what they need to know. They get up and go see the person that isn’t communicating with them and ask for information, over and over again if necessary. The decision to take initiative and make it happen can set someone apart in the workplace.

To all the employees who are reading this: Stop sending emails to the person down the hall and complaining about them not being responsive. Get up and go ask for what you need. Follow up with rigor. Be the person most in the know because you take the most initiative. It’s no coincidence that the most visible people in your company complain the least about communication. Rest assured, as you advance in your career it doesn’t get easier to get good communication, you just get better at making it happen. Start learning now.

Make it personal

In the end there are two kinds of people, those who look around and say, “This place has poor communication,” and those who look at themselves and decide to deal with their circumstances through personal initiative or a realignment of their expectations.

Employees should talk to their co-workers about their weekend, their families and their interests. Building authentic relationships with people makes a huge difference in their willingness to communicate and collaborate. Shrugging past people in the parking lot on the way in doesn’t lead to warm communication vibes later when trying to get work-related information from them.

People interact with the people they feel the most valued by, the safest with, and most liked by. Taking initiative and ownership for communication can make a huge difference in personal performance and change the culture of the organization in the process.

Under Daniel Flowers’ leadership, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank received Feeding America’s 2012 Food Bank of the Year award, the highest recognition achievable by food banks.

Everything in business requires communication. Everything.

Can you think of an aspect of business that doesn’t require communication? Not likely, because absolutely everything that goes on in the workplace requires communication.

For example, consider these 10 everyday workplace activities that demand accurate, clear, timely communication.

  • Providing guidance and instruction for others.
  • Communicating within a team.
  • Handling problems.
  • Setting expectations.
  • Sharing bad news.
  • Asking and answering questions.
  • Getting a message out.
  • Building morale.
  • Holding others accountable.
  • Opening a meeting.

Everything that goes on in the workplace requires communication, no exceptions. The better a manager communicates, the greater the chance of success for that manager as well as his or her employer.

Just get better

Managers don’t need to become world-class communicators, but it is very much in their self-interest to become better at communicating. When a manager focuses on improving his or her communication skills, that manager will become both a more effective leader as well as a more helpful team member. In turn, that will build stronger workplace relationships and the manager will gain new levels of respect along the way.

Look around your own workplace. Chances are you’ll see some combination of the following on any given day.

  • Failure to listen.
  • Failure to offer clear instruction.
  • Failure to get to the point.
  • Failure to share important information.
  • Failure to check facts.
  • Failure to add value to a conversation.
  • Failure to seek clarification.
  • Failure to communicate points of distinction.
  • Failure to suggest a solution or next steps.
  • Failure to review before sending a message.
  • Failure to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of digital communication.
  • Failure to write clear reports.
  • Failure to provide complete answers.
  • Failure to engage others in a discussion.

Case in point

You have messages you need to get out. You may need to instill urgency in your team, address a performance issue or share some unhappy news. When communicating, always put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What do they need to know? What is your message to convey that information to them? Get that out immediately. Support it with facts. Reinforce the message along the way whether it’s with just one other person or a group of employees. Come back to the message when answering questions. You do not need to use the same words in every instance, but the thoughts expressed must be consistent. Mixed messages cause big problems. Consistency of communication is paramount.

Ask yourself: When you’re communicating an issue, do you deliver a clear message that you reinforce several times? Remember, everything requires communication. Consistency is essential to being a good communicator.

Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good℠ LLC, which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.

Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.

Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.

Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups:  They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.

Adhering to the three Cs of smart corporate communications pays off

A big factor in workplace discontent is not wages, benefits or hours — it’s the manager, says a recent Gallup poll.

Employees supervised by highly-engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged. Half of U.S. adults report they have left jobs to get away from their managers.

That’s pretty sad. But anyone who influences the attitudes and actions of others is a leader — whether or not he or she has a leadership title in an organization.

Great leaders engage employees and team members in an atmosphere of trust and honest communication, which not only prevents chagrin from escalating into a crisis, it improves worker productivity and retention. A good thing to remember about communicating in any environment is this: people are sensitive and everyone wants to be included.

I have facilitated more than 4,000 workshops, seminars and keynotes over my 30-year career in the U.S. and internationally, with clients that have included some of the world’s largest corporations. I see frequently that leaders need to learn how to communicate proactively with employees in order to build a positive, team-centric atmosphere.

Maintaining a positive corporate culture within an organization is not only a human resources issue, it’s a financial one. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202 percent, according to a Dale Carnegie research study.

It will always require fewer resources to address a distraction than resolve a conflict. Few problems go away by ignoring them; that’s why it’s better to assertively address the source of employee chagrin.

Here’s a work-conflict escalation continuum that should motivate any leader to address those insignificant situations before they grow into major ones:

Chagrin — Being left out of an email chain, not being recognized in a meeting, or making an appointment with a leader that is not kept are all small things that can damage a work team. Leaders need to cultivate a team spirit that encourages people to speak out and speak up when feeling even slightly disengaged.

Conflict  Conflicts can emerge as retaliation to being excluded, disrespected or underutilized. There may be break room conversation about other team members or immature behavior that insults or hurts a coworker. A great workplace leader addresses the issues directly — and perhaps privately — with affected employees.

Crisis — When the organization becomes the focal point of a negative news story or lawsuit  — especially if it involves a perceived injustice or unlawful termination  — then the issue is a crisis. Lawyers or public relations professionals can spin a situation, but crisis mitigation is expensive and takes a toll on your bottom line as well as your reputation.

The best leaders reduce communication barriers, allowing employees to make a maximum contribution. Visit personally with employees beyond an annual review. Communicate to each person in an informal, personal way that builds trust between you. When people feel included or important, they feel respected and recognized.

Finally, get the right answers by asking the right questions. Leaders sit squarely in the middle of the conflict escalation continuum whether they recognize it or not. The good news is that they have the power to choose the level at which they will engage honestly with employees.

Kendall C. Wright is president of Entelechy Training and Development (entelechy is a Greek word meaning “realization of potential”), and helps individuals and organizations develop leadership, management and motivation skills. For information, visit

Team building: find the GLUE that binds your team

Danny checks his email and finds a message advising him that he is the new team leader for the Alpha project. The email goes on to say that “during your time at this company, we believe you have shown the skills needed for success as a leader.” He immediately hits panic mode because his dream has come true — but he’s not quite sure he is ready to lead.

He has always been successful in completing the tasks assigned and he knows his business like the back of his hand, but he does not know where to begin as the top dog. The process of leading a team is about communication and organization.

Initially, you must determine the course of action based on all that you know about your industry and the project that has been assigned to you. Then, begin by outlining a plan to complete the task with success. When you have completed your outline for the plan of attack — and you can present it with confidence — you are ready to face the team. It is confidence and preparedness that allows them to buy in to you as the team leader.

Once you have amassed and organized the knowledge you possess in your industry, leadership is about finding the glue that binds your team together.

Let’s look at the GLUE.

Gather Team Information

Listen to the Team

Unify the Team

Empower and Execute.

Gather information about the team members and their backgrounds and skill sets. Sometimes that information is available within the organization. Other times you are fortunate enough to know your team members.

No matter how you acquire the information, learn what you can about what the players have done on other teams or within the company at large. This background information is essential as a basis upon which you will build the infrastructure of your team.

Now keep in mind: People change. Therefore, this collected information will be subject to modification and change as you watch the team come together during the life of the project. The initial information should be reviewed and analyzed as much is you analyze the project itself.

If the information you are gathering is subjective: consider the source. Depending on who provided the information, it may or may not be accurate. Ultimately, it is in the next phase — as you listen to your team members and learn — that you will begin to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team in reality.

Listen to their concerns and knowledge to determine their ability to understand and comprehend. As you do so, the several types of players will surface. Listen closely to the comments and thoughts of your team. The way they speak and address the situation at hand will give you great insight into the type of team member they will become.

As each team member speaks or reacts to your plan, you must balance their words and actions against the information that you have gathered about their backgrounds and with the plan that you wish to implement.

Team members will all individually bring positive skillsets to the table. Pay attention to those who will be constructive team members and aggressive participants as well as those with initiative who will lead their portion of the project with excitement. You may find that one person is an expert in the subject matter at hand while another is an expert in organization.

As you determine the place in your machine for each of the players, you will want to make sure that you speak to the expertise of the individuals so that they feel that you are speaking directly to them. For instance, when you were speaking of technical elements, you will want to look directly to your technician.

On the other hand, while you are mapping out the course of action, you may want to begin with and acknowledge that you recognize a specific individual’s organizational skills, and indicate that you trust them with keeping the task on course. If someone is questioning every action you take, give that person value by letting them know that they are beneficially keeping you on your toes. This will give that person value as your conscience.

Unify them by finding a common thread, or by creating one that they can commit to. Once you have identified the type of team members you are managing, you will want to present the project and the individual tasks in a format that speaks to the specific skillsets of the individual members.

Create unity by making it clear that they are all essential and necessary members of your team.  Help them understand that they are working for the common good of the team and the organization, and let them know that their relationship to each other is vital for success. If they can understand how they fit into the big picture — and how the project fits into the big picture of the organization — they will be more likely to feel like a part of the solution.

Empower the team to execute the plan with dedication and passion. Make the path ahead clear. Allow them to understand the stages of development as your project progresses. Give them feedback as you move along the way, and be ready and willing to step in and assist with mediation if conflict or hostility begins.

By allowing the team to clearly visualize the direction upon which they are embarking, execution will become more fluid and guaranteed. Always keep an open line of communication with all team members in a transparent and open fashion so that you will minimize the risk of competition for control.

With his plan outlined, and with a firm grasp on who his team members will be, Danny can walk into the conference room with all the information he could gather. He can now pay attention to the team members and listen carefully so that he can unify and empower them. He has the GLUE to bind his team. He must now put the plan in motion as he fosters the all for one and one for all mindset.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an adjunct professor at Widener University School of Law, he developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information, visit   

Seven ways to ensure that you’re understood when you speak

The new manager walks into the conference room. The several staff members turn and look at each other expressing obvious shock over is youthfulness. He begins to tell the staff that he is only instituting one new change: they are going to begin online marketing using LinkedIn.

He explains to the staff that they are to update their resumes, and they are to encourage their customers to provide positive feedback, commentary and peer endorsements. The small group begins to whisper among themselves.

“What do you mean by peer endorsements?”

”Why are we updating our resumes?” another asks.

And finally, a third simply asks, “What do you mean ’linked in?’”

Those who have developed or grown up in an environment where a specific concept is the norm must remember that communication fails without a base understanding. Effective communication requires that one never assumes that the listener listens from the same mental place from which the speaker speaks.

Get Ready!

There’s a series of events that takes place internally before you even utter a word. Pay attention to your internal process. What do you think about before you speak? Are you considering who you are speaking to? Do not change who you are, but allow your thought process to engage and develop.

Get Set!

As you prepare to communicate, educate yourself about the listener. Begin by sizing them up. Prioritize your audience and customize your message and delivery. Take a look at the individual or the audience and ask yourself if they fit into one of the several categories of listener. Then: stop, think, and formulate a message to strike the heart of the individual listener. If there is more than one person in the audience, then your message will have to be delivered to reach each person as you speak to them all. Take a look around the crowd; observe the various people and how they are acting.

As you consider the following list, think of people in your life. Who do you know that fits most often into one of the categories? Start communicating by thinking about how that individual is best addressed.

  1. The Active Listener. This individual will listen to you and hang on your every word. They will take in your message and listen attentively. They often show signs of response—either physically or verbally—to reassure you they are listening. The active listener will also be the first person to verbally give you feedback to assure you they understand. This is the Holy Grail audience.
  1. The Inactive Listener. This is the speaker’s worst nightmare. The listener truly allows the words to flow in one ear and out the other. Commonly, the inactive listener is far away in another place daydreaming or solving other problems. This listener is not really listening, they are not present. They may merely be waiting to speak to state their position without hearing yours.
  1. The Selective Listener. As the name implies, this listener is waiting to hear what they expect to hear, or hear what they want to hear. A selective listener hears only information needed to formulate a counter argument, or may filter your words until he feels like he has achieved base comprehension to his satisfaction.
  1. The Rushed Listener. Much like an inactive listener, a rushed listener will listen only as far as is needed to get the gist of what is being said. Then, they can transition comfortably into an inactive listener.
  1. The Scared Listener. This is really a subcategory of the selective listener, but this listener is focused on avoiding harm. Someone who is fearful of being criticized or rejected may only hear those words and phrases they feel they must defend against. Thus, you will be speaking to a selective listener in self-defense mode.
  1. The Thoughtful Listener. This is a person who would otherwise be an active listener, and they will give you signs of a concurrence and support, but their only goal is to please you. Accordingly, they become a selective listener who filters out those things they must do in order to make you happy. The message gets lost in their thoughtfulness.
  1. The “Uneducated” Listener. This is not a listener who was uneducated in an academic sense. This is a listener who is uneducated as to the arena in which you are speaking.


It is time for you to deliver your message. You have considered who you are, what you have to communicate, and the type of listener or listeners who will hear you speak. It is go time. How will you keep the listener’s attention?

Use all the tools at your disposal:

  1. Vocal. By using tone and volume, we avoid monotony and rhythmically keep them listening.
  1. Remaining Stationary v. Moving About. In a longer presentation, controlled movement may aid in keeping attention. In short presentations, keeping focus as you stand firmly, may add to the importance of the message.
  1. Demonstrative items. If you hold up a report, use slides or display the new product, it becomes eye candy to make your presentation more attractive. Everyone has had an experience where someone tries to explain a situation using the salt-and-pepper shakers as people. Using props such as these allows your audience to visualize your example.
  1. Feed their heads. Use vocabulary that they can understand. Give them something their minds can digest and remember. In the boardroom, you will keep their concentration and focus by referring to income trends and future projections. On the sales floor, you will keep their attention by providing positive customer feedback and acknowledging the salespeople who lead the field. On the factory floor, you will build a better relationship by telling them that they have greater production and teamwork than anyone else in the business.
  1. Give them something to remember. Relate what you have to say to an anchor that exists in the listeners mind. It may be a comparison to a past experience or a past success. Show them the big picture. In the boardroom, stock charts, predictions, projections and sales trend analysis may do the trick. On the production floor, a simple banner with the percentage increase in production blown up as large as possible will tell the widget assemblyman exactly what they need to remember.

By weaving together all of these considerations you will create a tapestry that will cover a larger range of listeners. In the event of a one-on-one conversation, a few moments of observation will tell you who you are speaking to, and what you need to say to get them to understand.

Take time to pay attention to your communication process, and then, listen to your listener before you speak. You will hear volumes that allow you to communicate much more successfully.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit


How to transition to a referral based sales model by creating an army of ambassadors

When I consult with CEOs and business owners of companies earning $20 million or more, the most common question I get is, “How do we transition to become a referral-based business?”

In the beginning, the company’s and CEO’s efforts are geared toward acquiring a customer base. Now they have clientele who likes them, respects them, and trusts them but doesn’t refer them. How do you transition?

First, it isn’t a transition. It’s a transformation. Running a referral-based business doesn’t mean giving up your sales team. It means adding unpaid sales people to the team — ambassadors. Your clients transform throughout the buying process and become a part of your sales staff, speaking highly of you and referring you willingly. Like Apple. Like Nordstrom’s.

Here are three tactics to assist you in this transformation:

Ask and Ye Shall Repel!

Asking for referrals can be one of the most repelling and repulsive acts a salesperson can do. If you’ve ever had someone ask you for referrals, you know that creepy, awkward feeling. Then there is the guy who brings your LinkedIn Connections list to the meeting… no… just no.

The best time to discuss referrals is when someone asks how they can help you or when they offer to do something for you. Referrals are an answer, not a question. How can you deliver so much value to your clientele that they ask you how they can help you? It’s easier than you think and doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Don’t Reward. Appreciate!

Referral Reward Programs are the easy solution many consultants suggest. The problems are they can be difficult to manage and track, they are an expense, and they don’t increase the behavior you desire long-term. 

You don’t want to monetize a relationship with someone who will passionately and freely champion you and your services. You’ve taken a relationship based on like, respect, and trust and replaced it with a monetary relationship.

People don’t refer you to make a buck or two. They refer you to help a friend, to look good, and to support a business they trust.

Here’s the other side of Referral Reward Programs: What would you think if you found your friend was paid to recommend the company to which you were just referred? Referral sources simply want to be appreciated.

Consider other ways you can express your appreciation without monetizing the relationship.

Focus on the Vital Few

Not everybody will refer you. Some clients in your database are pre-destined and pre-supposed to referring you — others will never, ever refer you no matter what you do.

We have developed an Ambassador Score (or A-Score) system that determines the likelihood of a person referring you and your company. In many cases, a database of 15,000 can be whittled down to a mere 150 people who receive the focus of your most valuable resources — your time, energy, effort, and money. So who are your Top 150 ambassadors?

Five-second Overview: 

Don’t train your sales staff to ask for referrals. 

Don’t create a Referral Reward Program.

Don’t worry about all your clientele. 

Michael J. Maher is the author of the best-selling book (7L): The Seven Levels of Communication; Go from Relationships to Referrals. He’s North America’s Most Referred Realtor, a renowned speaker and master business coach who has worked with hundreds of businesses and helped train thousands of sales executives. 

Communication within a family business: Giving all family members a voice

In every family there are those who speak up and those who stay silent, those who fight to have their needs heard and those who remain in the background. These are often the same dynamics that exist in all social groupings, including a company.

One can only imagine the range of communication styles within a family business. While it may feel just as frightening for the talkers to stop and listen as it does for the quiet ones to speak up, the value that comes from everyone having a voice far outweighs the risks.

Consider priorities

If you are part of a successful family business, you already know that of these two words, family takes priority over business. Yet sometimes it is difficult for family members to change their patterns of communicating with one another, even when they are not running a business together.

What I’ve observed over the years, both in my own family system and in the client families I work with, is that when people feel heard, deeper connection, communication, and change are possible. Now, of course, some people don’t want deep connection within their family business, or authentic communication, and this article is not for those people.

If you want to know the full truth of how your family and your family business is functioning, ask the quiet ones. Ask the ones who don’t offer opinions, who don’t speak up, who don’t share their thoughts on what moves to make. Just because they are not fighting to have their voices heard doesn’t mean they don’t have suggestions or ideas for how to make the family business more successful.

There is no one today who does not inwardly crave to be seen and heard for who they really are. The reason that many families don’t open dialogues in a more direct, targeted way with the entire range of family personalities is that they are afraid of what they will find out about themselves and each other. The true family culture will be revealed, and what if it isn’t as compassionate or cooperative as everyone assumed?

From what I have seen, when everyone is invited to speak up in a way that feels safe and honoring of who they are, beautiful, often magical, changes happen. I’ve seen longstanding rifts heal. I’ve seen love and care expressed in new and surprising ways. I’ve seen perceptions shift and traumas dissolve.

Openness is important

When families who work in a business together or who co-manage large common assets create this space for an open dialogue, generational patterns can shift and be rewoven.
There are many ways to help family members find, develop and share their voices. There is no one-size-fits all solution. Some business families would benefit from a skilled therapist; others need a coach/facilitator, and still others might find that an adviser or friend is a good outside ear to get the ball rolling.
My filmmaking process with clients has shown me that it is another way to invest in expressing all the perspectives and experiences within a family and family business. Sometimes I feel like the champion for the quiet family members because it is often in my interviews with them when they finally get the chance to be heard and to express their feelings, observations, and ideas for the first time.

No matter how you choose to open up this deeper communication within your family system, know that by fortifying your connections with each other, you are fortifying your business.

Arielle Nobile is the CEO and chief creative officer of Legacy Connections Films, which she founded 10 years ago. LCF produces private documentary films, legacy films that serve as a mirror for clients to reflect on how far they have come and to share a vision for where they are going. Visit