The Art of the E-Intro

The internet and tough economy have combined to accelerate our ability and appetite for meeting strangers. Not just random strangers, but people who work at companies we may want to do business with, work with or learn from. We can easily search our contacts to find someone to make that intro, and most people are receptive in a way that was unimaginable only a few years ago.

Sure you can whip together a quick:

 “Hi Bob, allow me to introduce Karen. We had coffee this morning and I think you two would have a lot to talk about.”

If Bob really trusts me and has some time on his hands (ha!), he may reach out to Karen. Otherwise he’s left wondering what the common ground might be.

“Is this Karen person going to try and sell me something? Is this intro work-related, or is Cindy subtly fixing us up?”

A great intro leaves nothing to guesswork and inspires a sense of possibility that makes it impossible to ignore. Here is a (modified) Real Life Example with markers highlighting the key features:

Hi David,

(A) I remember your telling me that if I find good talent to pass them your way. I’d like to introduce you to a colleague of mine, Lori Martin. (B) While she’s been highly successful as a medical equipment sales rep, her real passion is early childhood education. She would love to be selling products that ensure every child is kindergarten ready.  Naturally, I thought of you and your tools. (C) Lori is great at turning cold leads hot, always beats her targets, and shares what works with colleagues so the whole team wins. Sounds like the kind of person you like to work with!

(D) I’ve cc’d Lori here so you each have the others’ information.  Feel free to reach out directly.  Enjoy!


Here’s how the “formula” breaks down:

A. Get their attention in a way that warms them up to what’s coming.

B. Share some context about the people you’re introducing. Be specific enough to intrigue them, but keep it brief for efficiency.

C. Throw in a personal observation about their strengths/experience to solidify the reason to connect.

D. Be clear about how to proceed.

One last tip, for the Subject, make it obvious so they know what the email is about now, and when they hunt for it later. E.g. David Meet Lori

Yes, an intro like that takes some time to put together – possibly as long as 15 – 20 minutes, and it shows. Readers learn important details, know why it’s worth their while and even feel a bit flattered.

Don’t whine about not having the time.  Yes, sometimes when you’ve spoken to both parties you can just say:

“Hi Bob and Karen, by now I’ve mentioned you each to one another. I think you’d enjoy meeting and discussing your mutual interest in in-bound marketing. I’ll now leave it up to you two to connect, enjoy!”

But when it really matters, like making sure a job application or proposal gets read, you truly honor your contact and that relationship by making a special intro. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll return the favor.

What other tips can you offer on the Art of the E-Intro?


Done? Learning from Biscuits and Resumes

Not much beats a warm, from-scratch biscuit.  My favorite 12-year old can get mighty impatient, doing the “Are They Done Yet” dance in front of the oven.   It’s a delicate, delicious balance.  Pull them too soon and you lose flaky layers to dense dough.  Wait a hair too long and the outside is sawdust dry and crumbly.  With biscuits, perfect does make a difference and the standard for “perfect” is fairly discernable.

That’s not necessarily the case with other creations.  Take resumes for example.  Ask 10 people for input on your resume and you’ll get 12 different ideas.   How do you decide who knows best?  What’s the standard?

A brilliant client once set a goal of getting her resume “80% there.”  She figured 80% was good enough to get her in the door.  Striving for more than that would tether her to wordsmithing for weeks instead of actually meeting people.  Besides, she observed, with a resume you can always modify it for the next person,  so there’s no need to add a bunch of  “perfect” pressure to an already stressful situation.

I’m grappling with the 80% rule now regarding our Daily Debrief App.  Is introducing an app like baking biscuits or writing a resume?  Sure feels like the former when you’re in it, although it’s really the later.  I’d say Eric, Spike and I are at about 70%.  Not ready to submit to the app store, but awfully darn close!

An almost there icon


Transistions Made Easy (Or At Least Easier)

I get to work with a lot of people who are ready for a change, by their own design or not.  Some know what they want:

  • New position at the Same Company
  • Similar Position in a Different Company or Industry
  • Different Everything

Others just have an itch that needs scratching but don’t know much beyond that.

Whatever the situation, most people can work out the tactical aspects of change. The trickiest steps in the transition tango are usually associated with uncomfortable, often unfamiliar, feelings*:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Lost
  • Scared
  • Self-Conscious
  • Excited
  • All of the above

*Supposedly women shouldn’t use “feeling” in business because men won’t get it and using that word makes us seem soft. Well guess what? After 10 years of doing this work, I can safely say that men “feel” these things too.

In response, I’ve developed the Multiple Paths Approach, which helps people become more calm, open, focused, and successful during their period of change-in-the-make. There are 2 basic steps:

1.  Name several possible “paths”   A path is a direction you are curious about, for example “I wonder what it’d be like to work in healthcare.”  Instead of thinking sequentially along just one track however, imagine exploring several interesting possibilities simultaneously, e.g.  “Healthcare is very dynamic, but I also love international travel.”  Write down a handful of possible paths.  It will allow your brain to relax since it doesn’t have to remember everything that’s buzzing around between your ears.  Naming many paths also shows some respect for the shy desires that get pushed aside if you’re only looking at the “practical” paths.  A path may relate to a position, company, industry, course of study, or new business idea. One path should always be Make the Current Situation As Good As Possible.

2.  Focus on the One Next Step for each path Following through on this piece is how you prevent overwhelm and build momentum.  For each path, determine what tiny step will carry you farther along the way.  It may involve researching online, talking to someone, or creating something.  You might not know what the next step is.  In that case, the “next step” is to calendar a time to figure it out!

3.  Steadily progress along each path Okay, I know I said “2” steps.  This last bit is just repeating the above step over and over until you reach a particular path’s “summit”.  For some paths, the summit may be a dead-end where you’ve learned enough to know that this isn’t for you. Use that knowledge to propel you along on a different path.

Years ago I was excited (for a week) about following the Be A Vet path.  That was until a “one next step” had me shadowing my vet and holding unhappy animals while the tech poked their innards for stool samples.  In one day I discovered that I get antsy if left in windowless rooms too long, and am more uncomfortable with cranky animals than cranky people.

Other summits may lead to beginning graduate school, starting a business or securing a new position at a different company. Clients have also earned an elusive promotion at their current organization because they did such a good job Making the Current Situation As Good as Possible, even while they were looking elsewhere!  Sometimes there’s no place like home, Toto.

This tool is most helpful when you’re:

  • Defining your paths with candor
  • Working your paths diligently
  • Looking for ah ha’s and applying that learning

The process also works better when you tether any sense of “already knowing” what lies ahead and walk the different paths with the sense of a true explorer.


When Did We Become Such Narcissists?

The net and associated communication tools have affected us in obvious ways, as well as less obvious ones.  On the later list, would be our sense of appropriate response time.  In the olden days, i.e. when I first started working, we used DHL to courier instructions to our Hong Kong supplier.  It “only” took 3 days.  Then the fax came along and felt like a miracle; we would hear back within 24 hours.Now, people send an email, go make a cup of tea and are miffed if they haven’t had a response by the time they return.Okay, so maybe not all of you have become so ingrained with e-instant gratification, but I do see a lot of self-flagellation when job seekers, salespeople and networkers don’t get a quick response when they reach out.   It’s amazing what we make up to fill the void:

  • I guess they found someone better.
  • They must’ve heard (fill in your Dark Secret) about me.
  • Even though they asked for the proposal, maybe they didn’t mean it.

Usually a less than immediate response is more about them than you! We’re really busy people – thanks in part to net-related  info overload, expectations of immediate communication, and compressed timelines.  We’re also juggling more travel, elder care, child care, etc.  A lack of (instant) response is more likely due to:

  • Being laid low by the flu.
  • Needing input from several people in different time zones.
  • Moving cautiously in a trembling economy before committing.

So next time you find yourself going down the dark alley of self blame and parking there*, remember it isn’t all about you.  Consider,  “what could be going on for them?”

*A favorite metaphor, courtesy of my dear friend Anita.


Journaling for Professional Development

Forget pink little girl diaries; this is a powerful tool!

I often task clients with keeping a journal to grow their self awareness and sense of options.  Through journaling, clients have:

  • chosen to start a business vs. work for someone else
  • identified a colleague’s before-the-first-cup-of-coffee intrusions as a primary source of stress
  • mapped out a strategy for securing a European assignment

Journaling has a positive effect on stress management, goal setting, career choices and work/life balance.  Putting thoughts in writing also boosts confidence as leaders find the approach needed to express complex ideas; role play conversations they’re avoiding, and become familiar with stylistic issues that support or detract from their effectiveness.

I have been impressed with journaling’s effectiveness and am surprised that more professionals don’t tap into this tool.  Several months ago I decided to do a little research and sent a survey to you, the subscribers of my newsletter.  A generous 27% completed the questionnaire; 31% of the respondents are men and 69% are women. Of the men, 44% responded “yes” when asked “Have you ever kept a journal or log to assist with achieving professional goals or furthering your work-life balance?”  Among the female respondents, 54% said yes.

Summary of the results:

Many different styles Some write at the end of the day, while others write first thing in the morning.  Some do both, using the morning session to set the tone for the day and the night journaling to reflect on choices and outcomes.   People use loose leaf paper, graph paper, spirals, elegant or artsy book journals and laptops.

Numerous methods Many write whatever comes to them in a spontaneous stream of consciousness. Others prefer a more guided process, reflecting on a specific topic, formally debriefing their day, or keeping succinct logs of goals and tasks.  Some respondents like even more structure and turn to pre-formatted journals, mentioning:  Day-Timer™, EssentialEdge™ or Franklin Covey™.  Peter Drucker also has an executive journal, The Effective Executive in Action: A Journal for Getting the Right Things Done, which he co-authored with Joseph A. Maciariello.

Wide range of benefits

  • Clarity –  progress toward goals, opportunities for improvement, impact of choices
  • Focus – priorities and next steps
  • Accountability – means of tracking progress and honoring commitments
  • Release of Frustration – productive venting, recognition of themes that cause aggravation
  • Peace of Mind – quieter mind, connection to higher self, different perspective, and optimism

One respondent noted how much she benefited from the “me” focus of journaling; typically the emphasis is on addressing the needs of one’s organization or others.

Respondents acknowledged some hurdles to sustaining consistent journaling.  Time was a big factor: competing commitments, the “daily grind”, getting enough sleep.  Other hinderances were: worrying that “I’m not doing it right”; having an overly complex process; re-running old patterns; and finding quiet, uninterrupted time.

Suggested solutions:

  • Choose a medium that feels right for you
  • Keep it with you and/or have it visible – in the briefcase, at the breakfast table or on the nightstand
  • Delineate a specific time to write and ensure it will be uninterrupted
  • Start off with finding just 10 minutes a day to journal
  • Keep motivated by recalling past accomplishments gained through journaling

In reflecting on their experience with journaling, professionals were surprised by how well it helped them let go of frustrations, work through leadership issues, accomplish things in new ways, stay on track with goals and recognize successes. One respondent highlighted that “in a world of constant message stimulation, there’s no better way to hear your own thoughts, sort things out, and create new ideas/possibilities than through journaling.”