Self-Promotion is the New Referral—Here’s How to Make it Work for You

Self-promotion is more important than ever. Here's how to do it naturally.

We are all leaders when it comes to conversation

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Cheri B. Torres.

Ever said or overheard, “I can’t do anything about it. I’m not the leader!” Nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter what role you play in an organization, you have the power to influence conversations. And everything that happens in an organization is influenced by conversation.

Conversation is like water in which we swim. We are always engaged in conversation, either internally with ourselves or externally with others. Yet, we are seldom aware of our words and the influence they are having. Just like fish, who’s health and well being depend upon water quality, our well being, health and success depends upon the quality of our conversations. Research has determined they can add or deplete years from our life and predict success in teams and organizations.

Here’s why: Our words affect our brain chemistry.

  • If we feel devalued, threatened, blamed, shamed or judged, a flood of stress hormones, including cortisol, norepinephrine, and testosterone, are released. These hormones stimulate fight, flight, freeze or appease behaviors. They leave us with an urge to protect ourselves, inhibiting our ability to connect with others and limiting our creative and critical thinking. Over time, stress hormones weaken our immune system and steal years of life.
  • When we feel valued, safe, included and encouraged, a different set of hormones are released, including oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. These are “feel good” hormones. They open up and expand our brain’s capacity for connecting with others and give us access to creative and critical thinking. Feel good hormones improve our immune system and add years to life.

Since each one of us starts or enters into conversations, each of us can take a leadership role in making sure we engage in conversations that help everyone in them feel good. Being intentional about how we talk to each other allows us to foster “we” thinking, helping to build strong and productive teams.

How do we do that? Two simple practices:

  1. Ask generative questions -- of yourself and others. These are questions for which you don’t have answers and about which you are curious. The answers to them help make the invisible visible, build shared understanding, deepen relationships, and surface possibilities. For example:
    • If you suddenly withdraw during a meeting because you’re feeling threatened or unsure, instead of staying there, ask yourself: "Where’d that response come from? Is it justified? Could I have misunderstood? What might I ask here or how could I add value?"
    • If you observe someone else acting defensively or devaluing another, instead of joining in or getting defensive yourself, you can ask: "What’s going on for you? What would you like to have happen? How can I support you? What do you need?"
    • If people (including your boss or the “official” leader) are stuck or dealing with a complex challenge instead of throwing up your hands along with everyone else, you can ask: "Do you think the whole team working together might be able to break through this? What is it that our customers really want? What are we trying to accomplish? What’s our bottom line aspiration?"
  2. Begin with a positive frame. Talk about what you want instead of what you don’t want. Create an appreciative tone and a positive direction for your conversations. For example:
    • If a colleague isn’t holding up their end of the workload, instead of talking about how they are failing, initiate a conversation about what they need to meet deadlines or workload.
    • If meetings in your organization are a waste of time, instead of talking about how bad meetings are, frame the conversation to talk about making meetings efficient, effective and engaging.

People at any level of an organization can use their words to initiate or shift a conversation. Anyone can ask a question that might disrupt ordinary thinking to make way for new ideas. We are all conversational leaders -- if we choose to be.


Cheri B. Torres, Ph.D., is the co-author of bestselling book, Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement, with Jackie Stavros. She’s also a keynote speaker, senior consultant with and partner at Innovation Partners International, specializing in training and development.

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Why should leaders increase their EQ?

I recently gave a speech on the topic of emotional quotient (also called emotional intelligence) to an audience of over 1,000 people. After my presentation, I went to lunch along with the participants. Sitting at the table just behind me were two women who struck up a conversation about my presentation. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop a bit.

“Look! It’s him,” one woman said.

Her companion retorted sarcastically, “Do you really think all of that stuff he talked about even works?”

Her friend replied, “Well, if you speak to others the way you just answered me, then I think you need to pay attention to some of what he said!”

I laughed. This short exchange caused me to think of all the advantages available to people who invest time and effort in improving their emotional intelligence. 

The notion of emotional intelligence was identified in the late 20th century through the research conducted by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. Daniel Goleman built on this research and popularized the notion of EQ and its application to business.

In the past, it was thought that people with higher IQ would outperform people with lower IQ. Interestingly enough, research showed that people with higher IQ outperformed people with lower IQ only about 20% of the time, while people with lower IQ outperformed people with higher IQ 70% of the time. Researchers discovered that the critical difference was EQ, or emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s emotions and the emotions of others and to manage those emotions to achieve more effective results. You could simply ask yourself, “In a moment of high or negative emotion, do I have my feelings or do they have me?”

Your emotional intelligence affects a variety of factors that contribute to individual and organizational success.

Here are 10 advantages of becoming more emotionally intelligent:

1. Self-awareness. People with high EQ understand themselves more deeply. They realize what is important to them and are committed to their own growth and development. They are open to feedback that will help them improve. They are also more aware and sensitive to the feelings of others.   

2. Communication. People with high emotional intelligence recognize the importance of communicating clearly and respectfully. They are able to stay calm in the face of highly emotional reactions of others. They know how to defuse defensiveness and to discover the underlying causes of a person’s emotional reactions. This allows them to influence others, to solve problems more effectively and to maintain the quality of their relationships.

3. Leadership. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to control themselves, their emotions, thoughts and actions in a positive manner. This self-control helps them to behave consistently as they influence and connect with those that they manage. They build trust and work to maintain a positive culture and demeanor among members of their team.

4. Change. Implementing innovation and trying to adapt to needed change can become a source of frustration, anger or a lack of empathy. People who are emotionally intelligent can manage the stress and anxiety that often comes with change. Being able to manage a variety of tense situations helps to instill trust and confidence in others while helping them to more easily and confidently make progress in stressful times.

5. Teamwork. Working with the many viewpoints of other people is never easy. Being able to share ideas openly and honestly helps team members increase respect for each another while learning to value differing points of view. Leaders who are emotionally intelligent don’t control or manipulate the team dynamic to get what they want. Rather, they work together to contribute solutions which are best for the business and the goals they are trying to achieve.


6. Culture. Cultivating an environment where everyone respects and trusts one another creates a culture of support and mutual benefit. This type of positive environment is enjoyable and rewarding for those who work together. Such a collaborative culture increases retention and establishes good will among company members and teams. 

7. Compassion. Emotional intelligence promotes compassion and empathy for others. Knowing how to approach and connect with people aids understanding and builds respect. The ability to demonstrate empathy is key. Practicing empathy helps strengthen relationships, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase understanding in a time where meeting goals and deadlines is often valued more than people.  

8. Motivation. Emotionally intelligent people are frequently optimistic and not easily derailed when facing a challenge. They are hard workers with a growth mindset, and they persevere in the face of obstacles. They are driven by a sense of ambition to be successful, no matter what the situation, and their energy is infectious. They focus on purpose and process when things get tough rather than assigning blame to people and performance.

9. Productivity. Because people with high EQ know how to appropriately deal with conflict and differing values, they are not derailed by others’ negative or “hot” emotions. These leaders can manage themselves and know how to help others reclaim their rationality during heated exchanges. Their skills help them to solve problems and manage conflict more efficiently. Consequently, they are more productive in their work behavior and enable others to do the same.

10. Relationships. The quality of our relationships has a direct impact on the respect we have for one another, as well as the quality of results we are able to achieve. Knowing how to build and maintain effective relationships is one key to effectively working with others. People with high EQ do not take the negative emotional reactions of others personally. Instead, they seek to understand the source of others’ feelings and the values that are important to others. This allows them to effectively engage rather than avoid those who might react more emotionally in the workplace.

These are only a few of the advantages of becoming more emotionally intelligent. So what’s the good news about EQ? The skills for becoming more emotionally intelligent may be learned and used to become more effective as a person and as a leader.

Your increased EQ will not only help you manage your work and personal relationships, but will also improve your ability to lead and manage others more effectively.


John R. Stoker is the author of “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of DialogueWORKS, Inc. His organization helps clients and their teams improve leadership engagement in order to achieve superior results. He is an expert in the fields of leadership, change, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, and has worked and spoken to such companies as Cox Communications, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and AbbVie. Connect with him on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.

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This Is How You Lead a Virtual Team Without Coming Across Like a Looming Sci-Fi Overlord

Nobody likes the boss staring at them on a screen..

10 Telltale Phrases That Indicate Somebody Isn’t Telling the Truth

It's harder to tell a convincing lie than speak an unpleasant truth.

Here’s why you need to separate praise from feedback

As a foodie, I love all kinds of mashups. From bacon apple pie to mac-and=cheese quesadillas it’s stimulating to creatively pair ingredients in unexpected ways. But when it comes to leadership communication, combining certain types of information within the same conversation is a recipe for disaster.

To illustrate, let’s use a fictitious member of your team, “Jim,” as an example. Suppose that Jim works remotely, and you have a video call with him this afternoon to go through a few items. You only have 30 minutes to meet, so you decide to economize and tell him several things within the same conversation.

As you’re talking, you give him some praise about a recent project, as well as some directive feedback. “Hey, Jim, thanks for staying late and pulling all the metrics for the Carson account ... oh and that reminds me, speaking of metrics, you need to be more clear with Accounting on the month-end reports. Your numbers were inaccurate again this month; it’s slowing down the workflow.”

This mashup of information simply does not work.

If you’ve ever tried to economize with your communication, you’re not alone. Research by O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report finds that 42% of employees who received recognition from their leaders also received a message of “here’s how you can do better” within that same communication. Communicating with employees this way sends mixed messages, leaving them to wonder if your praise is genuine. Further, when recognition is paired with a suggestion for improvement, it sets up an atmosphere of “conditional” praise, in which the receiver wonders what, exactly, he or she must do to earn recognition that’s “worthy” of your notice.

Seem like I’m splitting hairs? Here’s a distinction that may help. Recognition is the act of acknowledging the contributions of a team member. When you give feedback you are letting someone know whether his or her actions had the intended impact. (Here’s a step-by-step process for giving feedback.)

Ideally, recognition demonstrates genuine appreciation for the employee as a human being, not just his contributions. Feedback is a way to shape future behaviors for improved results.

Both recognition and feedback are important aspects of the leader-team member relationship. When you conflate the two, you create confusion and resentment. Let’s go back to Jim for a moment. If you have two pieces of information to give Jim—one that praises and one that requests a different behavior -- you need to create space between the delivery of the two points.

For the recognition conversation, say, “Jim, I really appreciate that you stayed late last week to wrap up all the details for the Carson account. Your attention to detail set the stage for the big presentation on Tuesday. That’s something I can always count on; you go the extra mile to line up all the numbers. Thanks!”

If, at a later time (even later in the same video call), you need to address Jim’s inaccurate status reports, by all means, do so. Just don’t link it directly to your positive comments.

Conditional praise leaves a bad taste in employees’ mouth. Before you chat with team members, give thought to the types of information you’re about to impart to ensure your message is on point. Let positive comments stand on their own to show that you value your team members’ contributions.


Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Join her Facebook community The People Equation and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

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How you share your story demonstrates your perceived leadership

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Jim Haudan and Rich Berens.

Having a compelling strategy story does not mean you are good at sharing it.

Let’s assume you now have a great vision statement and a compelling strategy story supporting it. What can get in the way now? The answer is the ability of your leaders to convey it effectively.

The gap between leaders thinking they are effective at telling the story and what the rest of the organization thinks is pretty stunning. After leaders give a presentation, we often witness HR or communications folks high-fiving about how well the message was delivered.

When we then ask people within the organization how they felt about what was shared and what stuck, we get an entirely different story.

Addressing this gap provides tremendous opportunity for better engagement of your people and effective activation of your strategic ambition.

Your “telling a great story” goal should be to have a three- to five-minute story that is your own, that you can tell with passion and conviction, and that inspires people to connect with the larger ambitions of the organization. From there, you can build out your story based on need, audiences, or length of time you have.

Presentation affects perception

When a leader or senior executive delivers a poor presentation, 83% of listeners develop a moderate or significantly negative perception of that person’s overall leadership ability. That is impact far beyond how good a storyteller you are. That is impact on how effective you will be as a leader. Period.

Recently, we were in a session with the executive team of a large global financial firm that was going through significant change. The goal was to determine how the organization needed to evolve to maintain and expand its leadership. We had great dialogue, and the team landed on new strategies and structures that would profoundly impact the organization and people’s jobs for years to come.

For the last half day of the retreat, we took a step back, looked at the tremendous volume of work, and tried to create the story of what was happening for the entire organization. Why are we changing, what does winning look like for us as a company going forward, and how do we bring this change to life to continue to be a leader in our industry?

To start the activity, we broke the executives into two teams and gave them 60 minutes to work through the overall narrative and create a 3-minute story. The task was addressing the company’s 10,000+ employees and making the case for why this change was necessary and exciting and something everyone would want to be a part of.

Now this is a very bright set of executives running an excellent company. They have all the right degrees, global experience and a track record of success. They were also fully engaged in this challenge and working through the storyline.

Compelling, clear story

As both teams gave their pitch, the CEO sitting next to us gave us a funny look and then leaned over and whispered, “These stories suck. I would not get out of bed in the morning and be excited about this.”

This was astounding, as these people all worked through the critical strategic challenges, achieved alignment, were fully on board with the overall direction, and were excited to tell the story to the rest of the organization. And even with those requirements present, their stories did anything but inspire.

Think about your story; make sure it is compelling, clear and understandable and be sure that success is defined when you see the energy and passion that you have for the subject in the faces of your people.


Jim Haudan is co-founder and chairman, and Rich Berens is CEO and chief client fanatic, of Root Inc. Haudan and Berens' "What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back" is written to help professionals scrutinize their approach to leadership and figure out personal blind spots.

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You Can’t Please Everyone (and the Sooner You Realize That, the Happier You’ll Be)

Sometimes it seems like—no matter how hard you try—you always end up disappointing someone. It's a fact: You can never please absolutely everybody. However, that notion doesn't have to destroy your confidence. It can actually empower you and make you better at your job.

3 Better Ways to Say “I Don’t Want to”

Presented with an opportunity or request that only makes you groan or cringe? While you might just want to scream, "I don't want to!" there are more polite and professional ways to get your point across. Here are three better ways to turn someone down when you don't want to do something.

This Is the Right Way to Respond to Microaggressions at Work

How you communicate in the workplace can positively or negatively impact your team's culture. That means you want to be aware of the microagressions you or those around you project. It’s important to recognize and acknowledge them, and here's just how to do it.