Bank It: Growing Your Social Capital

connect-20333_1280In April’s Twin Cities Business column, I talk about social capital – what it is, why it’s so important and how you build and utilize it. Knowing how to network and taking time to nurture relationships that can have professional usefulness in the future is vital – because no person, and no business, is an island.

The key is to identify professional and social networking opportunities that will pay the greatest dividend, and to participate in them wholeheartedly and authentically. By making “deposits” this way, you can expect to be able to make a withdrawal from your networks down the line. So the next time you launch a big event, a new business venture or just need a professional favor, the more social capital you bank now, the better off you’ll be then.

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WOW!ed by the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum

roshinicarter“What a thrill!” That’s the easiest way to summarize the experience I had as a Social Media Delegate for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

The Forum was held at the Radisson Blu Minneapolis from March 6-8, 2015. I was honored to attend presentations from many inspirational people enacting real and meaningful change in the world. Topics ranged from disarmament to the Ebola crisis, reconciling religious differences to human trafficking in North Dakota’s oil boom, and even the complex and violent situations in Ukraine and Mexico.

Former President Carter was the keynote speaker. He delivered moving and educational content focused on themes present in his book A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. He spoke of nations striving to avoid war, and how America is sadly not yet one of them – relating how our country is embroiled in at least 30 different armed conflicts at all times. President Carter also described the way in which America lags behind other countries in female representation in leadership, a topic that always catches my attention. For example, I learned 23% of the world’s elected officials are women. But in the United States, women comprise only 15% of our leadership. The number one goal of The Carter Center is to eliminate mistreatment of women and girls, making this a full circle commitment to championing women’s rights.

It felt as though some things also came “full circle” for me as one of a small group to meet President Carter. My mother and late father met Mr. Carter on the campaign trail in Minneapolis when he was running for president in 1976. My mother is still on cloud nine after seeing my photo with him from the Forum. Even this former TV reporter was caught a bit off guard by President Carter’s authenticity and humility. He is full of charm and one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the honor of meeting.

If you have the chance to attend a future Nobel Peace Prize Forum, I highly recommend it. This weekend of WOW! moments was both enlightening and motivating. We truly have the power to change the world if we really set our collective minds to it.

Why Your Updo May Be Your Downfall

“You wanna be taken seriously, you need serious hair.”

This is one of my favorite lines from the 1980’s classic movie Working Girl. Although we don’t have to deal with those giant hairdos, it still makes sense today. Bad hair, or bad hair habits, can discredit what lies underneath in a heartbeat. You can’t deliver a WOW! moment without WOW! hair.

My friend Alyssa Caplan, owner of The Wow Bar, a wildly popular pair of blow dry bars in the Twin Cities, is of course an expert on this topic. “Good hair is good for business,” says Alyssa. “Our clients schedule appointments not only for special events, but for important business meetings or even as part of their weekly routine. Hair is a huge part of the good grooming habits important for anyone trying to make a strong impression.”

Even if you can’t make it to The Wow Bar every week, you CAN avoid what I call a “coif-failure.” Here are my top five hair disasters – the ones that could damage your personal brand and your message, even before you open your mouth:

  • You’re probably not rocking a 50’s bouffant, but many people walk around every day with an outdated hairstyle. It is incredibly important to have a hairstyle that sends the message that you’re on trend and current.
  • As a former broadcast journalist, I know about “helmet head” and I’m telling you stay far, far away. A good blowout will last longer and look much better than a style set with too much AquaNet.
  • Long hair is challenging for many women, and particularly for those “of a certain age.” Long hair must be styled correctly and in place; and please, no perky ponytails if you’re gunning for the CEO’s job.
  • For those of you that dye your hair, keep the color current. Those dark roots could make you look like a procrastinator. And colors that are unnatural don’t belong anywhere in business, unless you’re in a creative role. Then it might actually add to your brand image.
  • Finally, guys I beg you, be conscious of your facial hair. I know of few men who look good with a mustache and if you must have a beard, make sure it’s well maintained. For those of you losing your hair, don’t underestimate the power of the dome. When carried with aplomb, bald is powerful AND sexy.

Remember that grooming habits can make or break your brand. Your hair tells a story. Make it a good one.

Is Your Voicemail Sending the Wrong Message?

It’s entirely possible a voicemail message may be your first “live” introduction to an important new contact. Just as you’d want to make the best possible impression when meeting someone face-to-face, you WOW! them on the phone. Your voicemail message has to be a powerful performance as well.

Have you ever listened to a voicemail recording and thought, “ugh, I hate the way my voice sounds on messages!” It’s actually such a common phenomenon that you may even, like a significant number of people, be borderline phobic about leaving voicemail messages.  It’s a signal that you may not own your vocal behavior.

When you talk day to day, you don’t notice verbal tics. You not hear its high pitch or “vocal fry”, or you may not notice a distracting rhythm to your speech. However, there are ways to solve this problem and start leaving voicemail messages that work.

The first step to creating a professional voicemail that leaves the right impression – both incoming and outgoing messages – is to record yourself. You need to learn to perform on the phone in the way you’d perform when trying to impress an audience at a presentation, in the boardroom or during a high-stakes meeting.  If you’re nervous or distracted when leaving a message for someone, you’re going to use fillers like “um” or “uh,” or the pitch of your voice may rise. If you’re uncomfortable when recording your outgoing message it may sound robotic and stiff, or rushed.

Record yourself repeatedly and practice until you’ve deleted those undesirable habits. Not sure what to look for? Here are some qualities you should try to eliminate in your “voicemail voice:”

  • Unnaturally high pitch, usually a problem more for women than men
  • Unnaturally low pitch, which can sound forced or condescending
  • Vocal fry, a creaky vibrato quality that’s hot with celebrities like Kim Kardashian, but sounds awful in business
  • Talking too quietly, which may seem meek
  • Talking too loudly, which may seem aggressive
  • Rushing your words
  • Pauses or fillers that could seem disorganized
  • Airy or nasal quality

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The WOW! List – Oscars Edition

Photo courtesy ABC

Photo courtesy ABC

The Academy Awards represent an event where it’s not just a good idea to bring your WOW! it’s absolutely required.  Yet every year there are those few who somehow manage to rise above the rest. Here is my list of those celebrities that WOWed the red carpet at the Oscars in 2015:

From the moment I saw Lupita Nyong’o, I said WOW! She flowed down the red carpet in a body hugging yet classy Calvin Klein Collection gown adorned with 6,000 pearls, a look that was both age appropriate and glamorous. Kudos to her stylist Micaela Erlanger for putting together an exquisite look from every perspective including hair, makeup and jewelry. No wonder Jennifer Aniston just signed with Erlanger!

Another favorite of mine tonight was Rita Ora, who brought the kind of WOW! only a rock star can. Ora wore a Marchesa strapless mermaid dress that suited the occasion but still reflected her unique personality. Plus, the gown draped her curves perfectly.

For the men (yes, they WOW! us too!) it was a close competition with Benedict Cumberbatch running second only to my current obsession Common. I absolutely loved his sleek, well-tailored navy velvet tuxedo with a classic white bow tie. He’s one of the only men who can pull off velvet AND a silver brooch. Of course with that body he probably could have brought the WOW! wearing a garbage bag. Read the rest of this entry »