Posts Tagged ‘It’s Not Just Who You Know’

Put donors and prospects at ease by honing the fine art of small talk

Working in the nonprofit sector means attending many business-related social events, especially fundraisers. And a big part of a nonprofit executive’s job is talking to others about the organization’s mission and programs. However, despite the fact that nonprofit executives know their organization inside and out, and feel passionate about their mission and programs, some still have trouble conveying that passion to others, simply because they lack strong conversational skills.

Contrary to popular belief, the ability to talk easily with others is a learned skill, not a personality trait. And acquiring this skill will help you develop rapport with people and leave a positive impression that lasts longer than an exchange of business cards. Here are a few tips nonprofit executives can use to improve their small-talk skills:

Be the first to say hello. If you wait for others to approach you, you may wait all night. Also, when you say hello first,you determine what the conversation will be about, making it easier to talk about things you know and about which you feel comfortable.

Introduce yourself. Act as if you’re the host and introduce new arrivals to your conversational partner or partners.

Smile first and always shake hands when you meet anyone. This puts others at ease and makes you appear confident.

Take your time during introductions. Make an extra effort to remember names, and use them frequently in the conversation.

Maintain eye contact. Many people in a group of three or more people look around in the hope that others will maintain eye contact on your behalf. But people don’t feel listened to if you’re not looking at them.

Get somebody to talk about why they’re attending the event, and you are on your way to engaging them in conversation.

Show an interest in every person. The more interest you show, the wiser and more attractive you become to others.

Listen carefully for information that can keep the conversation going.

Remember: People want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are “special.” Take responsibility in helping people you talk to feel as if they’re the only person in the room.

Play the conversation game. When someone asks, “How’s business?” and “What’s going on?”, answer with more than “Pretty good”or “Not much.” Tell more about yourself so that others can learn more about you.

Be cautious when asking business and personal questions.Don’t open a conversation with “How’s your job going at _____?” What if that person just got fired or laid off? Questions like “What do you do?”, “Are you married?”, “Do you have children?” and “Where are you from?” lead to dead-end conversations. Be careful when you’re asking about an acquaintance’s spouse or special friend—you could regret it.

Be aware of body language. Nervous or ill-at-ease people make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable, even when you’re not.

Be prepared. Spend a few minutes before an anticipated event preparing to talk easily about three topics. They will come in handy when you find yourself in the middle of an awkward moment—or while seated at a table of eight where everyone is playing with their food.

Show an interest in conversational partner’s opinion, too.You’re not the only person who has opinions about funding the space program or what will happen to the stock market.

Stop conversation monopolists in their tracks. If possible,wait for the person to take a breath or to pause, then break in with a comment about their topic. Immediately redirect the conversation in the direction you wish it to go.

Be prepared with exit lines. You need to move around and meet others.

Don’t melt from conversations. Make a positive impression by shaking hands and saying goodbye as you leave.

With practice, you can learn how to make the most of meetings, fundraisers and other networking events. You’ll learn to appreciate, rather than dread, networking events.

See also:

The Fine Art of Small Talk

The Fine Art of Big Talk

It’s Not Just Who You Know: Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts Into Lasting, Genuine Relationships

Image credit:,,,

Leave a reply

A culture of giving

Dylan Taylor showed up at my office on the Friday before Christmas with a nicely wrapped gift that, frankly, blew me away–all the baseball cards for the 1977 New York Yankees, matted and framed with a personalized plaque that said, “To the greatest Yankee fan. Love, your friend, Dylan.”

Dylan and I met about a year ago when he hired me to speak at the national sales conference for Colliers International.  We soon learned that our children attended the same school in Denver, and we’ve since become close friends on our way to the Fifth Floor.

Dylan, the CEO for Colliers’ U.S. division, had read my book and particularly liked what I wrote about building “Fifth Floor All-Star Teams.” That’s where he learned of my love for the Yankees and, in particular, the 1977 world championship team.

In the time I’ve known Dylan, he’s been nothing but a “giver–the type of person you want in your business, on your team, in your life. And that makes him a perfect fit at Colliers, a leader in the global real estate services industry.

Colliers considers “community” a core value, but it’s not just a word they frame somewhere in the corporate offices. They live it out. In fact, they’re living it out in a way that can involve me, you and tens of thousands of other people.

On Feb. 22, Colliers is launching “Everyone Gives”–an eight-day, online giving campaign that, frankly, will change the world. Doug Frye, the international CEO, came up with the idea while thinking about how Colliers could live out its commitment to community in an innovative way that could multiply beyond what any one person or office could do. The plan he came up with is simple but powerful: You give $5 to the charity of your choice and ask at least two friends to give $5 to the charity of their choice. Each person who gives asks at least two more people to give and they, in turn, ask two more people.

Colliers has 15,000 employees in 61 countries, so the potential of this fundraiser is off the charts. Plus, you and I can join in by going to and by promoting the event on our blogs and through our social networks. We all can give. We all can ask others to give. And we all can watch the “giving tree” online as it expands its branches to include thousands and thousands of givers who will impact millions of people in need.

This is a way Colliers’ employees can think differently about what it means to participate in community. It also opens the doors for discussions with their clients and partners that go well beyond the transactional. It helps them build relationships that, in turn, help both their communities and their business.

I knew Colliers was a great company that valued relationships, but Dylan and Doug showed me how that value has become so deeply ingrained in the corporate culture. With Dylan, it’s been through our personal relationship. I’ve seen him live the value in dozens of ways. With Doug, it was by watching him give his presentation to his company’s top 1,200 performers last September in Chicago. He was on stage just before I delivered the closing keynote, and he didn’t talk about mergers or corporate goals or strategies for growing the business. He spent his entire time talking about Everyone Gives. He talked with tremendous passion about how Colliers was going to change the world–$5 at a time.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about business strategies and tactics. It means he knows they don’t operate in a vacuum. He showed his commitment to helping others isn’t lip service, and that’s why others follow his lead. I know I am. I hope you will, too.

See also:

It’s Not Just Who You Know: Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts into Lasting, Genuine Relationships

The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Image credit:


Leave a reply

Withstand unreliable times by making “people smart” choices

The article that follows by Tommy Spaulding tells a brief story about CEO, Ray Hunt, of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Ray is a terrific example of the best practices author Dan Erling shares in Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time.

Numerous studies report that the most successful companies are those run by leaders who understand that people are the most important part of the business equation. Despite these reports, CEOs still do not prioritize the hiring process and end up losing precious time and money. Losses in recruiting, training, and productivity can be staggering—up to 13 times that person’s salary and more for managerial or revenue-generating positions, says Erling.

Transformative leaders take something great and make it greater. Ray Hunt is a transformative leader. The Texas-based oil company was founded by Hunt’s father in 1934 and stands today as a testimony to the wisdom of what he calls “people smart” leadership.

Mr. Hunt, now in his late 60s, serves as the chairman, president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., the parent company that oversees what’s grown into a multi-billion-dollar family of businesses. Chris Kleinert, the president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Investments, introduced me to Mr. Hunt. Chris and I met when I spoke to the Young Presidents’ Organization, and Chris invited me to speak during the annual meeting of Hunt’s top 150 managers. I flew to Dallas the day before the conference and Chris introduced me to Hunter Hunt, the president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Energy, and to Chris’s father-in-law, Ray, so that they could give me a better feel for the history of the company.

Since 1974, the Hunt family business has doubled in revenue and growth every five years and it’s on pace to do it again. In good economies and slow economies, the Hunts have not only survived but grown. They now have more than 3,000 employees and a diversified assortment of business interests that help drive that growth. But with such growth comes challenges, and it didn’t take me long to understand why Ray Hunt has been so adept at facing and meeting those challenges.

First of all, Mr. Hunt proves success doesn’t have to strangle humility. He is a gentle, soft-spoken, humble Texan–a world-class gentleman with a servant’s heart. I’m sure he’s had his moments of imperfection just like the rest of us, but it only took a few minutes with him to realize the authenticity of his character. That’s what drives his leadership: he cares about people.

In fact, Mr. Hunt made it clear that being “people smart” has been the key to his organization’s success. He pointed out, for instance, that he has nothing against people with doctorate degrees, but that he could only think of one person he’d ever hired who had that level of formal education. Instead, he’s done just fine by hiring based more on work ethic, communication skills and shared values. “If you can build with that,” he told me, “growth happens.”

One of the “five basic characteristics” stressed in the Hunt companies is “a strong corporate culture.” When a company’s employees operate with shared personal values and work ethic, they attract others who share those values, and that’s how you grow a strong, competent workforce.

When I met Mr. Hunt, he talked about viewing employees as family members, about hiring the right people and about focusing on building the right type of “corporate culture.” In fact, he must have mentioned “corporate culture” a dozen times in the 15 minutes he spoke about Hunt Consolidated. Frankly, it seemed almost obsessive. But in an organization racing forward so fast, Mr. Hunt knows the one thing that can take it off track is for it to stray from the values and culture that led to its success.

Mr. Hunt believes that a Chairman and CEO’s greatest responsibility is to protect its “corporate culture.” And it is also important to make sure the succession plan is in sync with the company’s values. Having spent time with Chris Kleinert and Hunter Hunt, Hunt Consolidated, Inc. is in good hands. They share Mr. Hunt’s passion for people-smart leadership that starts at the top and works its way down to every level of the constantly growing organization. He’s set them up for continued success, and their shared commitment to his principles no doubt will drive the company’s growth for years to come.

A candidate who fits your culture is as important as one who has the hard and soft skills you require, says Dan Erling. Assess your culture within the department where the new position will be filled and the nonprofit as a whole. Evaluating your own culture is very difficult because you work within it every day. Using any one of the tools available online or Erling’s scorecard will help you uncover important surprises that may impact your hiring decision.

See also:

Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time

It’s Not Just Who You Know


Leave a reply

Who’s on your personal board of directors?

Whenever I look at past positions I’ve held or recent projects I consulted on, I don’t remember the dozens of emails, marketing plans or fundraising appeals I wrote. Instead I always think about the people who worked with me. It’s how I got things done—working with people, laughing with people, or just plain relating to people. Funny thing, we also remember all too well the folks we encounter who stood in our way of a goal or shied away from our inclusive attempts. Why? Because how we get along with one another in this world has an impact on everything we do, how we think of ourselves, and most importantly, how relation-rich our lives are.

I had the pleasure of reading and featuring a book this month that was written by one of the best, genuine relationship-builders I know, It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding. I recall meeting Tommy more than 15 years ago and thinking, “I wish I knew his secret for connecting with people so easily.” Well, the secret’s out! Thank you, Tommy, for spilling the goods and telling your story. It was a wonderful read. And for my CausePlanet folks, I’ll be sharing excerpts from my interview with Tommy over the next couple of weeks.

CausePlanet: The concept of looking at your relationships in your life as your “personal board of directors” is an important preliminary step to evaluating your “relational equity,” as you put it. What areas of one’s life should each of these relationships represent and why?

Spaulding: It all depends on each person’s values. I’ve broken my mentors and “personal board of directors” into four categories: Family, Health, Professional and Spiritual. It is good to place one, two or three relationships/mentors in each of your chosen areas. These relationships should not only help you grow in these areas, but also hold you accountable. You should surround yourself with relationships that tell you what you “need” to hear, rather than what you “want” to hear.

CausePlanet: I like how you boldly state that “netgiving” is about love. Other authors have echoed this sentiment, even in areas such as philanthrocapitalism. What’s the best way to inject love into your business relationships gracefully?

Spaulding: Here’s the rub. If your actions aren’t sincere, genuine and authentic, then “injecting” love in any relationship is like filling a tank of gas with a gigantic hole in the gas tank—it just won’t fill up. You can’t fake netgiving and you can’t fake love. Both come straight from your heart. And when you build personal and professional relationships with this spirit in your heart, you have built something that lasts a lifetime.

CausePlanet: You introduce an innovative term called “ROR,” or Return on Relationships. How does the notion of “netgiving” without expectations coexist with the notion of getting a return on your relationships or ROR?

Spaulding: Aw, you just cracked the code with your great question. ROR (Return on Relationships) only works when you don’t expect a return. It sounds counterintuitive, but it is as real as rain. If you enter every relationship with an expected outcome of “getting” something, you are building the foundation for a transactional relationship. If you enter a relationship with a “netgiving” heart, then 99 percent of the time your return will be greater than you anticipated.

Spaulding’s book released on August 10, 2010 or you can read a Page to Practice™ summary by subscribing to our monthly service or visit the summary store for single titles. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn about what we’re reading for nonprofit leaders.

Leave a reply

It’s not about the networking

Every once in a while a book comes along that makes you examine everyone around you in a new light. It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding did just that for me. Relationships are quirky, always changing, and no two connections are alike. Spaulding’s book examines the good, the bad and the promising through a five-floor paradigm with Fifth Floor relationships representing the best of them and the basement representing—you guessed it—the worst of them.

Nonprofit leaders who make the time to read this book will find they look at the people in their life with a different lens—a lens that sheds new light on how to nurture their professional and personal relationships so they become what Spaulding refers to as Fifth Floor relationships. This is not just a book that espouses the merits of good networking. In fact, it discourages it. Instead, Spaulding provides real examples and strategies for elevating your current relationships and how to launch new ones in the spirit of giving rather than taking. Additionally, Spaulding uses a helpful First through Fifth Floor analogy for evaluating your relationships, and provides readers with nine essential traits for committing to a new way of genuinely connecting with the people around them. You will never look at a chance meeting or formal introduction in the same way after reading this book.

Spaulding’s book releases on August 10, 2010 or you can read a Page to Practice™ summary by subscribing to our monthly service or visit the summary store for single issues. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn about what we’re reading for nonprofit leaders.

Leave a reply

Keeping your career fresh: Don’t pass the “buy date”

One of our terrific contributors, Deborah Brackney, who is vice president for Mountain States Employers Council, submitted an article to CausePlanet that merits repeating because of its ongoing relevancy: Look for challenges in different phases of your career to keep it fresh. I think too often we wait for opportunities to happen to us rather than seek them out or actively manage our careers in the nonprofit sector.

According to Brackney, there are phases and stages to our work lives. And at each stage, there are concrete steps we can take to manage our careers. The model of organizational development that suggests that organizations go through distinct phases – Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Ending – is similar to the phases of a career.

When we are in the Introductory phase, we are just beginning to learn what it is to be an employee. At this stage, employees should ask themselves, does this job fit my values, my lifestyle and prepare me for other jobs?

The next stage – Growth – occurs as we develop into our careers and our professions. It is often in this stage where promotions happen, or we move into jobs with more responsibility and decision making. At this point, there are three opportunities to maximize your career: sharing knowledge, developing leadership skills and reflecting on your job situation.

At the Growth stage, it’s time to reflect and ask if this is the right career, job or organization for you is critical. Especially in nonprofits, it is important to assess an employee’s job alignment with the mission and work of the organization. Developing an informal network of peers is helpful in guiding your reflections.

As we enter into the Maturity stage of our careers, one of the most important tasks we can take on is mentoring. Finding a newer employee or younger colleague who benefits from the wisdom of this career stage helps sustain the organization and helps keep our skills fresh.

One of the pitfalls of this stage is the risk of job burnout. To help manage burnout, many find a formal or informal coach who can help set goals or point out new areas of growth. Job advancement at this stage is often lateral, and it is best to assess if a new job will renew our sense of purpose.  Four sites that are helpful if you look for a new job are:

These three stages are not necessarily linear. We can enter a job at the growth or maturity stage. We may decide that we want to take on a new profession and start again in the Introduction stage. Whatever stage we are in, it is important to keep resumes updated and networks fresh. Don’t wait until you realize that you are ready for a career change to update your resume and reconnect with your network. Newer social networking tools such as LinkedIn are great for staying close to colleagues.

Watch for our upcoming feature by Tommy Spaulding called It’s Not Just Who You Know for tips on “netgiving” versus networking.

Leave a reply

Welcome! Please provide your log-in information below.
Forget your password?
Enter your email or user name and your log-in information will be sent to the email on file.