Mental Skills: Get Your Head in the Game

How to control and increase one’s mental skills was the topic that drew a capacity crowd for the latest installment of CFA Society Chicago’s Vault Series on August 20. The featured speaker was Jim Gary, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with 52 years’ experience in the mental health field. In 1999, Gary started a program to help high school athletes adapt behavioral techniques to enhance their confidence and performance. One of his students was Tom Kulentes, who found the program so rewarding it led him to a career as a high school psychology teacher and, eventually principal. He also joined Gary as a partner in his counselling business. Gary’s success with student athletes received wide media attention, to the point that the Chicago Blackhawks commissioned him to work with their players and staff. He was the first mental health therapist on the staff of an NHL team, so he developed the completely new role on his own. Gary had the honor of working with the teams that won three Stanley Cup Championships (earning him a ring for each one).

Gray began his presentation with a demonstration of a simple visualization exercise. He had the audience stand up and twist their upper bodies as far to the side as they could without moving below the waist. Then he asked them to close their eyes; draw, hold and release a deep breath; and visualize repeating the exercise while trying to turn further. Then they repeated the movement with closed eyes.  Most in the room were able to turn further than they had the first time. The effectiveness of the example was evident to everyone. Gray called visualization–when the mind directs the action of the body, a simple and effective tool that everyone can use to increase their effectiveness and performance in many ways (but that few do). When we train our minds to send a positive message to the body, we will get a positive result, although Gary also demonstrated that negative messages create a correspondingly opposite effect. Visualization has even been shown to be effective in medicine. With the right coaching and a strong signal, the body can respond in a way that helps a patient recover.

Gary next introduced his partner, Tom Kulentes. Now a high school principal, Kulentes experienced such a positive impact from Gary’s counselling when he was a high school wrestler that he has applied it in his professional and personal life ever since, eventually joining him as a business partner. Kulentes approaches his role as a school administrator by assuming his students begin with an unknown, but unlimited capability–or talent–to learn and improve themselves. Such talent can’t be measured, but it can be increased with improved mental skills. These skills can be taught and enhanced with mental exercises and are one of the best predictors of performance.

Gary and Kulentes used their work with the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team to illustrate the application of mental skills counselling. Like all teams in the National Hockey League, the Blackhawks operate at the highest level of competition in their field. They employ the best athletes, selected from around the world, guided by top coaches, trainers, and counsellors focusing on attaining peak performance of both body and mind through deliberate, intense training and practice. The level of competition creates intense pressure on all participants but especially the players. They need to perform at peak levels consistently while managing the pressure of travel, risk of injury, intense media coverage, contract negotiations, and fan expectations, not to mention family obligations.

Kulentes likened the competitive, pressure-packed environment of the professional hockey player to that of investment managers. The environment creates stress which he defined as the body’s internal response to external pressure. He diagrammed stress graphically under a bell curve. A state of stress occupied the center, tallest part of the curve where the subject should feel energized and focused, where performance peaks because work seems to be easy. By contrast, in the left tail, the subject might feel bored or detached from performance which can improve as he moves to the right on the stress spectrum and up the curve. Past the sweet point in the middle of the curve, stress increases greatly and becomes distress characterized by increasing fatigue, burn-out, poor health, and culminating in a breakdown. Successful performance requires knowing oneself well enough to stay in the mid-range of the spectrum and at the peak level under the curve. Kulentes emphasized this by quoting a proverb: “Mastering others is strength, but mastering ourselves is power.”

Kulentes continued by explaining the concept of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, as defined by the psychologist Carol Dweck. Everyone possesses elements of both, with one usually dominant. People with a dominant fixed mindset perceive their talent, or ability, as fixed, or limited to certain areas where they feel more of an innate aptitude. Growth mindset people perceive ability as something that can be developed and increased over time with effort. They see challenges as opportunities to improve while the fixed mindset person sees them as obstacles, or risks to avoid. The growth mindset person focuses on process while the fixed mindset person focuses on outcomes. People perceived as great achievers (even over-achievers) all demonstrate a growth mindset. He presented examples such as Mozart and Einstein, along with a number of greats from the world of sports.

The attribute that most sets growth mind set people apart is “grit” which Kulentes defined as:

  • Applying sustained effort strenuously over time,
  • Enduring temporary setbacks, obstacles, and failures, and
  • Persevering until the desired goal is achieved.

People exhibiting this sort of grit will enjoy greater success than they otherwise would.  Kulentes described success as the visible part of an iceberg, lying above the surface. It’s small compared to what’s below the surface which represents the important features on which success depends such as dedication, hard work, and diligence.

Gary returned to the lectern to complete the presentation by introducing one more concept: that of the Self Talk.  This he described as a brief statement affirming one’s commitment to taking control of how the mind controls the body. As examples he provided:

  • “I will take control of the messages I give myself.”
  • “Today I will recognize negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts.”
  • “Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” (From Cubs manager Joe Maddon.)

EQ vs IQ

Ask yourself – Am I intelligent? Yes. No. When I get enough sleep. All of these? Ask yourself again, am I emotionally intelligent? In general people respond in the positive to both of these questions – ‘of course I am intelligent’ (think about overconfidence). While basic intelligence may be more measurable, emotional intelligence is more imprecise. After all what does it mean to be emotionally intelligent?

On July 30th, CFA Society Chicago’s Professional Development Advisory Group invited Lee H. Eisenstaedt of the Leading With Courage® Academy to guide a sold out audience through what emotional intelligence is, how to improve it, and how to apply emotional intelligence to be a better leader.

Eisenstaedt focuses on helping individuals and teams realize peace of mind and confidence from being more effective leaders who are able to make a bigger impact and create higher-performing organizations. He uses workshops, assessments, and executive coaching offered through the Leading with Courage® Academy which is based on his Amazon best-seller Being A Leader With Courage:  How To Succeed In Your C-Level Position In 18 Months Or Less. He is also the co-author of the book Wallet Share: Grow Your Practice Without Adding Clients, and is a frequent speaker at national and regional conferences on the topics of leadership and client loyalty.

Eisenstaedt began by providing three takeaways of the presentation. They were:

  • Authority, position and title do not equal leadership
    • Leadership is about what you do, not where you’re seated
    • Authority can compel others to take action, but it does little to inspire belief
  • Leadership is about relationships and influence
    • Leadership happens when your influence causes people to work towards a shared vision
    • Influence and significance come from caring about and growing others
    • Leadership is about inspiring / motivating ourselves and others to create high-performing teams and engaged organizations
  • Being self-aware is a never-ending journey
    • Have the courage to seek feedback
    • Self-awareness keeps you relevant

Eisenstaedt explained that emotional intelligence is the ability to, Perceive, Understand, Express, Reason with, and Manage emotions within oneself and others. In a work setting, emotional intelligence is about how intelligently you use emotions to get positive results. Good to know but how is emotional intelligence important in the workplace? Eisenstaedt provided the following data:

  • 90% of what moves people up the ladder when IQ and technical skills are similar is emotional intelligence – Harvard Business Review
  • The World Economic Forum predicts emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 employment skills of the immediate future
  • Skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become differentiators as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over other tasks – Harvard Business Review
  • TalentSmart found that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence while just 20% of the bottom performers are high in it.

Eisenstaedt asked the audience to participate in an interactive phone app-based exercise. The audience was instructed to think about the best and worst boss they had worked for, rate them based on how those bosses made you feel, along with three words describing them. Once completed, Eisenstaedt put the results into a real-time word-cloud. Popular words describing best bosses included supportive, inclusive, and listener, while the adjectives describing the worst bosses were distant, self-serving and aloof.

Eisenstaedt provided a model of emotional intelligence applied to leadership qualities. There are six competencies that emotionally intelligent leaders exhibit.

  • Inspiring Performance: Facilitating high performance in others through problem solving, promoting, recognizing and supporting others’ work. Leaders that exhibit a more inspiring style often empower others to perform above and beyond what is expected of them.
  • Self-Management: Managing one’s own mood, emotions, time and behavior, and continuously improving oneself. Leaders high in self-management are often described as resilient rather than it’s opposite of being temperamental. Self-Management is important in leadership because a leader’s mood can be infectious and can therefore be a powerful force in the workplace.
  • Emotional Reasoning: Using emotional information from yourself and others and combining it with other facts and information when decision-making. Leaders high in this skill make expansive decisions whereas leaders low in the skill make more limited decisions based on facts and technical data only. Emotional reasoning is important in leadership because feelings and emotions contain important information.
  • Authenticity: Openly and effectively expressing oneself, honouring commitments and encouraging this behavior in others. Leaders low in this skill might be described as untrustworthy. Authenticity is important in leadership because it helps leaders create understanding, openness and feelings of trust in others.
  • Awareness of Others: Noticing and acknowledging others, ensuring others feel valued and adjusting your leadership style to best fit with others. Leaders high in this skill are said to be empathetic rather than insensitive. Awareness of others is important because leadership is fundamentally about facilitating performance and the way others feel is directly linked to the way they perform.
  • Present/Self-aware: Being aware of the behavior you demonstrate, your strengths and limitations, and the impact you have on others. This trait is important because a leader’s behavior can positively or negatively impact the performance and engagement of others. The opposite of self-awareness is to be disconnected.

Eisenstaedt returned to the best boss / worst boss exercise explaining the point of this was to confirm that better bosses exhibited high emotional intelligence, while the poorly rated bosses exhibited low emotional intelligence. Most of the words chosen by the audience could be directly related to the six competencies listed above. Eisenstaedt also pointed out that the way a boss or colleague makes you feel has a tremendous impact on your productivity.

Eisenstaedt shifted to explain basic neuroscience behind emotional intelligence and engaging with others. There is a base reptilian brain – this keeps you alive, controlling breathing, heart beating, saving you from threats. These include social oriented threats (loss of control over situations, lack of certainty in your daily life, etc.). While other parts of the brain control higher functions, the reptilian brain’s main function is to minimize danger or maximize rewards.

There are triggers that our reptilian brain reacts to. Feelings of trust, certainty, approval, sense of belonging, and fairness are rewarded in the brain with Oxytocin (a hormone associated with boosting trust and empathy and reducing anxiety and stress). On the negative side diminished approval or status, fear of being conned or tricked, lack of security, loss of control, unfairness, feelings of danger all cause the brain to release Cortisol (a hormone released by the body in stressful situations). Eisenstaedt gave suggestions on how to avoid triggers that lead to stressful situations. He used the SCARF method to identify and reduce those situations of stress.

  • Status: Represents your importance relative to others. An increase in status generates a larger neural response than money does.
  • Certainty: Humans are certainty seeking machines where any ambiguity triggers a threat response.
  • Autonomy: When we experience stressors the threat response is dramatically higher if we feel we have no control. Work on providing a feeling of choice, of control, of autonomy in every situation – try to offer alternatives and some sense of choice.
  • Relatedness: New or different people can trigger a threat response. Build trust and a sense of what we have in common by bringing people together socially, in teams, with shared goals.
  • Fairness: Unfair interactions or systems generate a threat response. Be more than fair and be generous with all, and in so doing so all must feel they are being treated fairly.

Eisenstaedt wrapped up with a suggestion to evaluate all your relationships (in particular the ones where tension exists). Use SCARF to help identify problem areas. Consider what those problems are in terms of SCARF and seek out ways to address and improve them.

Storytelling: A Critical Brand Building Skill for Leaders

CFA Society Chicago hosted a storytelling event on May 14th at the Global Conference Center. The purpose of this program was to help society members claim their value using stories as a tool to highlight leadership and communication skills. Storytelling is a big part of personal branding. So, how can it help us and how do we tell a good story while remaining authentic? Daniella Levitt, president of Ovation Global Strategies and Executive Director of Leading Women Executives, engaged our right side of the brain and helped us become more comfortable talking about ourselves and the unique value proposition we bring to the table.

Storytelling shapes how others see us and embodies what we have learned about ourselves as leaders, but telling your own story can be uncomfortable. However, learning and practicing this does reap benefits because stories are 22x more effective than just rattling off a list of accomplishments. A story is a tool of authentic leadership. We started by creating the framework for our leadership stories and exploring the idea of leaders as teachers with a unique teachable point of view (TPOV). 

A TPOV includes the following attributes:

  1. In context of your role as a leader in your organization
  2. In context of your leadership identity.
  3. A direct tie-in with your leadership story and your persona brand.

Elements of this also include ideas, values, emotional energy and edge.  It should reflect how we take risks and make decisions. 

To create our TPOVs, we can create a chart mapping our leadership story placing events on the Y-axis and time on the X-axis. Organizing high events in our lives and careers above a horizontal dotted line and low events below will help uncover insights from our leadership stories. We will be able to answer questions such as: Am I a risk taker? Did my low points bring clarity and help facilitate change? These discoveries will become our TPOV.   

Levitt emphasized that developing this is an iterative process requiring reflection and feedback.  We should also develop a plan that encompasses the most important milestones we can think of and identify a small group of people who can help us move forward with the most critical aspects of our plans. 

We worked in groups at our tables on illustrating our own TPOV and the stories that would bring them to life. Levitt recommended we meet our fellow attendees again for coffee to practice and communicate our next iteration.

Levitt closed the event by providing a checklist for a good story:

  1. Know your theme and punchline.
  2. Draw from what you know.
  3. Simplicity works best.
  4. Adjust chronology as required.
  5. Make your audience care.
  6. Be passionate and value a dash of mystery, unpredictability and drama.

Hopefully with a TPOV and personal story, we will all feel better prepared the next time someone says “Tell me a little bit about yourself”. 

Present Like a Pro

In the third installment of a continuing series on communication, Scott Wentworth addressed members of CFA Society Chicago on how to make good business presentations on April 4th.  The capacity crowd of 90 in the Vault at 33 North LaSalle Street spoke to the popularity of the topic as well as the value of Wentworth’s previous two appearances before our society.  Wentworth founded Wentworth Financial Communications in 2015 to help financial businesses (especially investment managers) demonstrate their expertise through various forms of marketing content, including white papers, blogs, and newsletters. Prior to founding the company, he served as the head marketing writer at William Blair & Company. In his previous appearances with CFA Society Chicago (2017 and 2018), Wentworth addressed business writing, the primary focus of his company. This time, he spoke on oral communication, specifically how to make effective presentations.

Wentworth began by demonstrating (without announcing) several common presentation mistakes such as reading from a script, employing busy or confusing graphics, and relying on undependable technology. His point made, he quickly moved on to a very effective presentation embedding his recommendations within it. He pointed out that presenting is not the same as public speaking. A good presenter does not need to have a commanding presence or an abundance of charisma. Of greater importance is identifying and concentrating on one main idea, and then making a compelling case supporting it to the audience. Successful presenting requires skills that can be learned such as clarity, persuasion, concision, and good preparation.

Wentworth then went on to describe in detail his five tactics for a good presentation. First is identifying the goal of a presentation. He gave as examples motivating the audience to action, changing minds, correcting a misconception, or simply gathering information back from the audience. 

With the goal set, the second tactic is to analyze the audience. Is it hostile or supportive?  Uninterested or engaged? Uninformed or well-informed? This may be a difficult step if the presenter has limited information, but may be inferred from factors such as the type, purpose or setting of the presentation. It is important because it will direct the tone of the presentation.  To address a hostile audience, the presenter should emphasize areas of agreement first and seek out areas the audience would view as “win-win”. Whereas, with a supportive audience the presenter should reinforce their enthusiasm and provide an action plan or tools that lead to tangible benefits.

Wentworth described his third tactic as crafting your story arc. He admitted this is the most difficult aspect of a presentation because it is an art, not a science. It begins with identifying the one main idea he mentioned at the outset. This idea should be boiled down to as few words as possible and repeated throughout the presentation to drive it home.  In must be articulated early in the presentation to allow for this repetition, and also to protect against the risk of running out of time. Other features of the story arc include:

  • Using empathy to demonstrate that the presenter understands the audience’s situation and can help.
  • Focusing on the benefits offered rather than features (a common trap for investment managers who often focus on a product’s defining characteristics or performance).
  • Highlighting differentiating factors
  • Making things tangible.  Avoid abstract ideas, or if they’re necessary, convert them to a more tangible concept via examples or anecdotes.

The fourth tactic is creating effective visual aids. This can lead to another common error of presenters: considering the slide deck to be the presentation. Wentworth says it is not.  Rather, slides are a visual aid, just part of the presentation along with the equally-important delivery, the message or theme, and the interaction with the audience. He followed-up with a list of Do’s and Don’ts for slides.

Slides should

  • Reinforce the main idea,
  • Illustrate statistics or relationships,
  • Explain complex ideas, and
  • Keep the audience engaged. 

Slides should not

  • Outline the full presentation (they are just an aid),
  • Serve as a teleprompter, nor
  • Be distractive (too busy). 

As an aside, Wentworth recommended that the slides a presenter uses be pared down as much as possible with the bulk of the information conveyed by the presenter directly.  He recommended to having a more detailed deck as a “leave behind” for the audience.

The final recommended tactic is to practice with purpose for which Wentworth had several helpful hints:

  1. Do a dry run alone to learn the material and time the presentation
  2. Repeat with a reviewer (e.g., a co-presenter, team member, or even a spouse)
  3. Prepare for a failure of technology and have a plan B in case of a breakdown
  4. Don’t memorize lines. You’re likely to forget them which increases tension and nervousness.

Wentworth concluded his presentation, not by asking for questions, but rather asking the audience to provide examples of roadblocks or challenges they had faced in making presentations. Many offered up cases which proved to be good illustrations of how to apply the five tactics he had outlined. The discussion naturally led into a robust series of questions that extended for over half an hour. The level of audience engagement proved that Wentworth had both talked the talk, and walked the walk in demonstrating how to make a good presentation.

Past Wentworth Financial Communications Events:

The New Networking

How should one define networking? It could be described as simply an exchange of information and services. But, according to Sameer Somal, a better definition that could lead to a very successful career could be “finding ways to give to others”.

 “You have one of the very best societies,” Sameer said, mentioning the many high quality events put on by CFA Society Chicago. He couldn’t resist a gentle dig on the Chicago Bears, fans of which had recently witnessed a double doink missed field goal that led to a playoff loss against his favorite team the Eagles.

His Blue Ocean Global Technology provides digital reputation management, which Somal described as building, maintaining and repairing reputations. He’s an expert who has testified on internet defamation cases in court and says that the digital identity we all have will be one of the most valuable commodities of the future, which makes reputation management important not just for companies but for individuals as well.

His message has much in common with How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which Somal said was “the bible of the subject”. According to the Carnegie Institute, as much as 85% of an individual’s success can come from ability to communicate, with only a small fraction determined by analytical skill.

One thing that Somal hears a lot from investment managers is “our business comes from word of mouth”. He said that might be true a decade ago, but now young generations (children of a client, etc.) will immediately look up a firm on the internet, and you need to manage your presence online.

His highly interactive presentation was sprinkled with giveaways to encourage participation, with Somal handing out a tin of Butterfields Peach Buds (“This is the finest candy that I send out all over the world”) to Austin Galm for being the first to answer a question.

Networking is really just the beginning step, as relationships are built over a period of time, and according to Somal, “the fortune is in the follow up”. Somal said that following up after meeting is the biggest part of networking that is often overlooked, and he asked the audience “Why would you even go to a networking event if you’re not going to follow up with the people you meet there?” And while the internet is an indispensable part of networking, Somal said that it is best to “use the internet to get off the internet”, and connect with people in person.

Somal confronted some myths he frequently hears about networking, such as it is only for salespeople and it isn’t as effective as people think. He told a story about how he was able to connect with a number of influential people using respectful and thoughtful language, often in handwritten notes. It’s also important to decide what kind of networker you want to be, Somal said. For some, it means making one important connection at an event. Somal described himself as a “speed networker”, and he tries to have memorable interactions and make as many connections as possible while at an event.

He also has a process that he follows for staying in touch with someone new, which he does within the first 6 months of meeting. When interacting with someone for the first time, it’s best to avoid the question “What do you do?”, because the answer can define a person. Better questions are open-ended, and could be something like “Tell me about your role at your firm”.

Not everyone is as altruistic as Somal when it comes to seeing networking as a way to enrich others. He is always on the lookout for what he terms “givers and takers”, and will quickly determine which side a new contact is on.

He covered topics such as body language, ways to introduce yourself and ideas for some interesting questions to ask. Things like eye contact, positivity, keeping your phone in your pocket and being confident will go a long way when meeting new people. Good questions come from preparation, and it is helpful to research who will be attending a conference in order to think about what might be good things to ask him or her. One of Somal’s favorite questions to ask is “What is giving you positive energy lately?” This question tends to get a smile on people’s faces and get them to remember you in a good way.

When reaching out to execs with mentoring and networking requests, Somal said that it’s best not to ask for anything right away, but to simply say that you’d like to build a relationship with them over time and earn their trust. After you connect with someone you met at a conference, wait about a month and then send another quick note telling them a little more about yourself. Here are three tips Somal recommended to prepare for meeting people at an event:

  1. Prepare a memorable 30 second elevator pitch about yourself
  2. Create relevant and thoughtful questions
  3. Focus on quality, not quantity

If you read an article by someone you liked, send them a note that says “I loved your article and would be delighted to invest in this friendship over time”. Going along with his digital reputation mindset, Somal will often encourage prospects and networking targets to Google him on voicemails he leaves.

In terms of methods of following up, you can use social media, email, text, phone or a handwritten note. Somal said that it’s important to use all of them. Many people he speaks with, particularly younger people, hate using the phone, yet it’s still important to have good phone skills despite all of us being better at in-person interaction.

Somal finished his speech with a quote that summed up his philosophy on networking: “Give without remembering and receive without forgetting”.

Reading List

  1. The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey
  2. Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
  3. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  4. Give and Take by Adam Grant

Tips and Tricks for Negotiating for Yourself

“So much of life is a negotiation – so even if you’re not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you.” – Kevin O’Leary

When we think of negotiations, we tend to restrict our thinking to business situations like deals, compensation, office location etc. However, we negotiate in our daily lives starting as early as toddlers when children hold their parent’s hostage to have their way. To talk about some tips and tactics to help us amp up our negotiation game in every walk of life, the Society’s CFA Women’s Network hosted Laurel Bellows on November 27, 2018, at The Standard Club.

Laurel Bellows, founding principal of The Bellows Law Group, P.C. is past president of the nearly 400,000-member American Bar Association, past president of The Chicago Bar Association and past president of the International Women’s Forum Chicago and The Chicago Network. Bellows is currently serving on the Executive Committee of the InterAmerican Bar Association.

Bellows began the event with a short video clip of a comic which was aimed to explain how brains of men and women work. It was good humor that shed light on how men and women think differently and hence negotiate differently. Overall, it was a great event with simple yet important takeaways we all should focus on while negotiating. Some key themes to discussed during the event are briefly described below.

Know your opposition

Knowing how the opposition thinks and anticipating their goals and their best alternatives for the negotiation can help you strategize your efforts.

Determining the goal of negotiation

By determining what constitutes a successful negotiation to you can help you decide what works for you and how flexible you could be during the process. It is important to think about what kind of relationship you would like to have in the future with the counter party and how their non-performance could affect you. At the end of the day a successful negotiation is when you have a viable deal for both parties.

Preparation is Power

Key is to Prepare, Prepare and Prepare. Do not negotiate with your gut! Determine authority of the person you are dealing with and make sure they can sign off on the negotiated terms at the end of the conversation. You do not want to waste time negotiating with a person who would need approval from a higher authority which almost every time leads to a counter offer to your best negotiated terms. Gather knowledge, know your opposition and visualize your deal. This process will help you figure out motivation of the deal for yourself/client, define finite priorities and be able to articulate your position succinctly in 5-7 words. If you are dealing with a difficult person, be firm and don’t be afraid to walk out! If on the phone, respectfully let the other person know you are not comfortable with their behavior towards you (especially if they are shouting) and hang up. Deciding on where to hold the negotiations, your place or theirs? Your office will enable you to take control, their office would give you the ability to walk away. Whichever the case may be, own the room you walk-in!

Build a working relationship

Clarify your position, propose creative options and be consistent to establish trust/reputation with the opposition. Never lose sight of your reputation and listen closely to your opposition. Do not plan your response while listening to them, the brain can only focus on one!

Do not have more than one best alternative to what is on the table at any given time during a negotiation. The best alternative may change constantly as you may choose one over the other but avoid having more than one at any given time. If the BATNA is no deal you walk out! Make sure you are aware that walking out could be for good.

Control the Agenda

By controlling the agenda, you will be able to focus on objectives, control information exchange timing and who makes the first offer.

Persuade the Opposition

Be patient and listen to your opposition. Your tone of voice matters depending on who you are against. Mirror your opposition to engage with them and build trust and be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations. It is ok to be fearful, but you may be able reframe the situation with optimism and further the conversation with curiosity.

Conversational Techniques

Use accurate facts asserting informed certainty. Do not be afraid to interrupt to take control of the conversation but do so respectfully. It’s a good idea to have a default expression like a light smile to be unpredictable and be sure to practice a few default moods ahead of time. Power language is important. For example, using more ‘ands’ (positive) in place of ‘buts’ (negative) can make a difference. Try recording your ending sentence to see whether your statements have a hint of a question or uncertainty and address that. Use open questions to gather more information and use ‘blocking’ technique (answer with another question or refuse to exchange information at the time). Try to avoid impasses by talking past a ‘o’ by either stating facts or moving on to another subject.

Communication

Avoid negotiating on email unless you really must. It is easy for the opposition to say ‘no’ not leaving much room to negotiate. During team negotiations make sure you know ‘who is who’! A telephone negotiation can happen from time to time. Be prepared and have an agenda as small and simple as conveying a deadline or timeline or a mood. If you get a call suddenly, ask them call back in 5-10 minutes to make sure you are prepared and have an agenda. There is no excuse for not being prepared!

Reaching an agreement

Leaving a little bit something on the table sometimes during negotiations may help build long-term relationships. Attend carefully to the dates and time concessions. After the deal, the opposition party may come up with minor changes like a week or two early delivery dates or a minor design change in packaging. It is best to either refuse outright or ask something in return. It could be a small ask even if you don’t care much about the change but if not done at that time, expect many of such nuances down the road. Just be resilient!

Launch Your Search

The CFA Society Chicago Professional Development Advisory Group hosted the Launch Your Search program over the course of 4 weekly sessions in September and October. Over thirty participants gathered to develop or enhance the skills necessary to successfully navigate a job search, lessen the associated stress, boost confidence and stand above the competition to get hired faster. The program was conducted by Megan Walls who is a certified executive and career coach who provides professional guidance for all phases of your career: entry, advancement, and change.

Week 1 kicked off with participants learning How to Talk Confidently in an Interview. Individuals reviewed their personal strengths that were determined by taking the GALLUP Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment. Years of research suggest that the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviors. A review of the knowledge and skills you have acquired can provide a basic sense of your abilities, but an awareness and understanding of your natural talents will provide true insights into the core reasons behind your consistent successes.

Each participant’s report listed his or her most dominant strengths from 34 themes that were measured. The strength themes include a broad range from Achiever, Communicator, Developer and Includer, to Learner Maximizer, Relator, and Strategist. Many participants agreed that they have difficulty talking confidently in an interview for various reasons – they’re modest, they feel like they’re bragging, or they don’t think their accomplishments are unique. But, we learned that leveraging these strengths into stories makes it much easier to talk about yourself and articulate your value proposition.

We spent time individually to develop Strength Success Stories based on our Top 5 Themes.The process includes listing a strength and providing an example of how you’ve used it in a business situation.Then a CAR (challenge, action, result) story is crafted on that strength. Having these stories polished and at the ready relieves anxiety, increases confidence and makes you stand out as self-aware in an interview.

An example CAR story:

CHALLENGE: There was no recording keeping system for the sales/orders that came in from the sales representatives.

ACTION: I developed an electronic submission form and organized a two-step process for the sales representatives to use on future orders.

RESULT: Company orders were processed 40% faster.

Week 2 focused on Crafting Your Personal Brand Statement. This one to two sentence statement conveys your uniqueness and competitive advantage to your target audience. It should be easily understood, memorable and benefit driven.  Your statement should answer 3 questions: 1) what value do you provide (describe your expertise); 2) what sets you apart from the competition (your unique attributes – use your strengths learned in the first session), and 3) who is your target audience or what is the position you are seeking? This statement will be the foundation for your marketing material and distinguish you from others in the same industry by creating differentiation in the minds of networking contacts and interviewers. Additionally, it establishes a consistent (versus broad) message, highlights your credibility/expertise and tells an organization why they need you.

Example Personal Brand Statements:

I use my passionate, emphatic approach to build key relationships with customers (sets you apart) that evolve into multi-year contracts (value) for high tech companies selling enterprise software (target audience).

I help small to medium size businesses (target audience) grow strong brands and boost organic growth up to 27% (value) by creating marketing programs that speak to customer needs (sets you apart).

Modernizing Your Resume was the focus during week 3. The group discussed many aspects of resumes, including the differences in today’s resumes, as well as the best ways to get your resume noticed. It’s important to make the best of your resume and grab the attention of your potential employer quickly. Typically, a recruiter or employer will only spend six seconds looking over your resume. With this being the case, the top third of your resume is most important. This section should include the highlights of your strengths, achievements, and value you will bring to an organization. Walls provided this example:

Corporate Finance Executive | Senior Finance Management Professional

Dynamic and resourceful problem solver who mitigate risk and addresses opportunities for profitable growth

Strategic about cost-savings: Eliminated, averted or saved $3M during tenure at XYZ Corp.

Adaptable to fast-paced changing environments: Partnered with cross-functional team to create financial model to calculate weekly one-year cash liquidity positions during financial crisis.

Extensive finance and management skills: Eliminated key man risk in department by creating cross coverage task list and initiating cross training of staff, allowing continuous workflow during absences.

Analytical approach to achieve results: Led development of database to consolidate disparate data sources so bankers could have accurate real-time picture of expenses, saving time and money.

Further, with job applications being submitted online, it’s imperative to have your resume make it past the ATS (applicant tracking system) so your resume makes it to a human being in HR, or better yet, the hiring manager. (In addition to applying online, you should always network into the organization to have someone at the company present you personally.) To pass the screening of an ATS your resume must contain keywords specific to the job! Scour job descriptions in your industry to gather those that best suit the position you’re looking for and incorporate them into your resume.

In addition to keywords, it’s important to use statements that are accomplishment driven. Beyond explaining what you were required to do in your role, you should expand on your successes. Your past experiences should enlighten prospective employers on what value you bring to the organization. Your CAR stories will be helpful in penning your achievements. To make your achievements pop, use powerful verbs in describing how you were effective.

The Powerful Verbs below will be helpful if for example, you:

Saved the Company Time or Money – conserved, consolidated, decreased deducted, diagnosed, lessened, reconciled, reduced

Led a Project – chaired, controlled, coordinated, executed, headed, operated, orchestrated, oversaw, planned, produced, programmed

Supported Customers – advised advocated, arbitrated, coached consulted, educated, fielded, informed, resolved

The final week’s topic was Structure your Job Search Plan, Set Goals & Take Action. In order to jump-start and conduct a successful search you need to be mindful of many factors and be honest about where stand personally in each area. To help you focus your time and effort in the right areas, rank each of the following components on a scale of 1-10:

  • Structured Plan & Goals
  • Time Commitment
  • Networking
  • Resume & Marketing
  • Mindset & Attitude
  • Personal Brand
  • Interview Prep & Skills
  • Self-Awareness

With an understanding of where you need to dedicate time, you can start setting goals for a systematic job search. Think about the strategies you will pursue to move toward this goal and establish specific action items.  Be aware that obstacles will arise along the way so think about how you can best overcome them.  Often times you will require support in various forms so don’t hesitate to ask for help – many people have been through this process and are willing to be of assistance.

Participants gained invaluable job search insights and left armed with many tools to help them throughout the process. Additionally, new networking contacts were made and all benefited from the ideas/support from others in the group.

Should you desire career coaching or help with your job search, you can find information about Megan Wall’s services from her website www.WallsCareerCoach.com, and she can be reached at megan@wallscareercoach.com or 847.490.5776.

Moving Beyond LinkedIn 101

Many within the business field have heard of LinkedIn as the professional business social media platform that business users use to connect with one another. After all, Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition in June of 2016 made for quite the headline and further solidified LinkedIn as the premier business social media platform. But how many users are active on the site? How many professionals use the site to its fullest potential? Even if we are not job searching, a thorough update of one’s profile can be beneficial for everyone’s professional careers.On November 20th, CFA Society Chicago’s Professional Development Advisory Group brought in Kim Stapleton, founder of “The Network Effect”, to provide a crash course in how to get your LinkedIn up to par. Stapleton provided the following tips and tricks for maximizing your LinkedIn efficiency.

Keep your information up to date and remain active.

  • Keep your profile information up-to-date to foster dialog with future potential employers, industry contacts, and prospective clients.
  • Check LinkedIn at least weekly to see who you may have connected with that week and what people in your industry are saying through the LinkedIn NewsFeed.
  • Be active:  Add links to relevant videos and presentations users in your industry would find interesting and relevant.
  • Build your network: Connect with current colleagues, prospects, clients, referral sources, friends and alumni.  Personalizing your connection request helps the user remember how you’ve met.
  • Utilize “shared connections” to find ways to get introductions.  Users will be connected to each other in more ways than you think whether it be alumni connections or employment histories.

Optimize your profile.

  • Add your Full Contact Information.  It’s useful for users trying to make contact with you.  Phone number and email (work or personal) are helpful for connections trying to reach out.  Customize your URL: “linkedin.com/in/[firstnamelastname]”.  Your contact information is only shared with users you have accepted a connection with—cold calls from non-connections should be limited.
  • Adding your Professional Photo makes you 14x more likely to be found and 36x more likely to receive a message.
  • Add your Volunteer Experience—its helps to show employers and clients you are a well-rounded individual and which topics you are passionate about.
  • Listing “Skills” in your profile makes you 13x more likely to be viewed and 17x more likely if you have 5 or more skills.  Skills increases your google and LinkedIn search engine optimization.
  • Adding Videos and Presentations help turn your profile in a sales opportunity by enhancing your profile visually and adding relevant content for your clients.
  • Join “Groups” that are relevant to either the industry that you are in or the industry you want to be in.  Groups helps you connect with people directly in the industry.
  • Follow “Clients and Prospects”.  Follow industry leaders–both individuals and reputable companies.  Often industry leaders with millions of followers post relevant industry topics.
  • If you’re job hunting, enable “Job Alerts”. You can set job alerts specific to your target career path such as “equity research” or “accountant”.

Q&A session.

  • Users are not notified when you “un-connect” with someone.  Try to keep your connections to people you know to keep your rolodex of connections clean.
  • Export connection information into Excel. It is helpful to have a rolodex of you contacts all in E  It can be easier to search through your contacts in Excel versus on the web interface or phone.
  • Try Premium for 30 days for free. However, it is likely only recruiters or very active business development users will find the Premium version worth the monthly fee.

The largest takeaway from the event was that even if you are not job searching, it is important to remain active and keep your profile up to date on LinkedIn for networking purposes.  You never know when a connection may be relevant for a potential introduction, business lead, or new job opportunity and LinkedIn is a great way to stay relevant in the professional business world.

Transition Techniques

Eric Schweitzer, vice president, global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. lead a panel discussion about employment transition on Tuesday, August 7 for members of the CFA Society Chicago. In addition to leading the conversation, Eric shared his experience transitioning from a bank trust department to an outplacement and coaching position. He emphasized the importance of preparation to identify relevant skills and brand.

Nancy Fehrenbach, CFA, a financial planning analyst with Phase 3 Advisory Services, Ltd. shared her process “re-entering” the investment advisory business after an extended time working as a mother, for non-profits, and as a school board president. Fehrenbach found that networking with friends and acquaintances helped her gain insights into how her experiences and skills could translate into a new role in the financial services industry. She found that investment advisory firms often look for new hires with “a book of business.” Her time away from the industry and skill set focused on analysis and customer service versus new business development. She eventually found the appropriate role for her providing financial planning services to individuals.

Daryl Brown, CFA, a director of market strategy at TransUnion, found self-evaluation tools and books, like What Color is Your Parachute, helpful in “boiling down” his skill set to effectively sell himself. Brown emphasized the importance of networking through LinkedIn. He used LinkedIn to find people that had a connection to employers that he wanted to pursue. He found that people wanted to offer assistance. Daryl encouraged the audience to reach out, even if it feels uncomfortable. Brown subscribed to the LinkedIn premium level and used the skills and endorsement features.

Phil Jandora, CFA, a senior transitions analyst in the Investments group at Willis Towers Watson, supported the critical importance of social media in his job search process. He used LinkedIn to learn about opportunities and to build out second and third level contacts. Jandora’s experience supports the advice presented in various “Jump Start Your Job Search” messages- your resume is a necessity but your network is critical. Jandora also noted that programs like Toast Masters or improvisation training can help build the communication skills necessary for the job search process.

Tim Byhre, CFA, director of business valuation at RSM, emphasized the importance of level two connections in the job search process. Most significant, he noted the importance of maintaining and building relationships before you need them. Byhre also noted his use of Glassdoor to learn about the culture of companies. He read Glassdoor reviews about what it’s like to work at the firm to determine if the firm would be a good fit for him. Tim emphasized the importance of writing down your skill set along with an explanation of how they can be used to further the success of a potential employer.  He found this preparedness very helpful when interviewing.

Eric Schweitzer supported the importance of networking and emphasized that you should know the answers to the following questions before making calls – why am I calling, what am I looking for, and why am I looking? He also noted that you should ask the individual to “do something”- offer a reference, referral, opening to a company, etc.

The panel emphasized the importance of finding a cultural fit. Fehrenbach noted her desire to work with people that she liked and enjoyed being around. Schweitzer noted that the right role at the wrong company can lead to failure. Brown said that potential employers will probably recognize a cultural mismatch, so don’t waste time compromising for a paycheck.

All agreed that a disciplined process with a focus on the future that reaches out to second level contacts can produce a successful employment transition. Throughout the process, focus on the audience’s perspective with an emphasis on “how” or “why” versus “what”. A final thought from Schweitzer – employers want to know how you are going to help them fix their problems without bringing any of your own along.

Taking Control of Your Career

The CFA Women’s Network at CFA Society Chicago kicked off their series Taking it to the Next Level: Empowering Tools for Women in Finance aimed at events that optimize career development and advancement for women in the financial services area.

The first event in the series, titled Taking Control of Your Career, focused on managing and shifting the course of careers by the speaker Gail Meneley. Meneley is the co-founder of Shields Meneley Partners, a confidential advisory service to C-Suite executives and board of directors during times of organizational and professional crisis and transition. She was one of eight founders of the Center for Executive Options and served as a CEO of the Institute of Financial Education. With extensive business experience, Meneley has been widely quoted and published in multiple reputable business publications and has been the keynote speaker at national conferences and conventions. She holds a B.A. from Mundelein College of Loyola University and has participated in executive programs at the University of Texas, the University of Washington, and the University of Southern California. Additionally, she is active in many civic, cultural and business organizations including the Economic Club of Chicago, The Chicago Network, the Chicago Finance Exchange, and the Lake Forest Caucus.

Meneley presented advise on how to navigate through career transitions and or progression to the mostly female audience at a well-attended event. She touched upon some of the important, yet less discussed issues faced by women during their careers. Key takeaways from the discussion are briefed below.

Better Navigation at work

Meneley could not stress enough to remain confident in periods of uncertainty and self- doubt that women are more likely to feel than their male counterparts in the workplace. Additionally, she advised women to stop selling their abilities short – both internally and externally, and ‘learn to toot their own horns’ shunning the uneasy feeling which is usually experienced by most women in the situation.

She advised women to make the expectations at work clear at the outset by carrying out discussions that may be uncomfortable like the authority to carry out assigned tasks, extent of involvement in terms of leading a project vs helping the team in a more supportive role. This should help manage responsibilities and receive deserved credit for the performed work.

Stagnation and Progression

If you feel you are feeling stagnating at work or disagree with any aspect of your role, she advised to discuss it with your manager before thinking of switching jobs. However, just complaining about your situation will not be fruitful and instead take up this discussion with your manager with a suggestion to resolve it.

In order to prepare yourself for the conversation, make sure you understand the root cause of your feelings. Is it the lack of opportunities or lack of responsibilities? What would it take for you to feel satisfied at your job?

Being explicit about your expectations will help your manager address them more effectively. Signing up for not so popular projects would be one way to communicate your commitment and enthusiasm at work and a way to standout from your peers. Despite your efforts and failure on your managers part to resolve your reasonable concerns may be a sign to think about alternatives to the current role.

Assessing your dissatisfaction in the current role

Many women feel dissatisfied in their current roles which might be signs of emotional and/or literal blockage at work or a result of reaction to a negative situation at work. To deal with such feelings, Meneley provided some guidance to assess your situation by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you disagree with the overall business strategy?
  • Did you engage your manager without resolution?
  • Have you lost respect for the team?
  • Are you frustrated with the work?

If any of the above apply to you, it may be time to consider an exit. However, she cautioned to rule out any emotional reaction to a specific negative situation by giving it some time to see how you feel after a while. If after 6 months negative feelings haven’t improved or have gotten worse, it might be time for the necessary action.

Career Growth Strategy & Change in Jobs

Gail Meneley stressed on how one must ‘always’ continue to engage in networking and building professional and personal relationships whether they are looking for a job, looking to switch jobs or careers or content with their current employer. Constant networking should be an integral part of your overall career strategy.

Other important considerations should be self-reflection of whether you have achieved the satisfaction you expected in your current role or with your current employer? If not, what could be improved and how? What would be your favorite job and why? Do you feel like meeting your coworkers each morning? Do you see yourself managing other people?

If you feel you need to change jobs or transition into a different career path you must be thoughtful of your moves from one employer to the other and its emotional and practical implications. One very valid consideration would be the decision to relocate. If you do plan to relocate make sure it matters and is a long-term decision.

Skills Enhancement

In order to grow professionally, one should constantly learn new skills. Women who consider themselves as introverts can train themselves to become extroverts by doing the following:

  • Try to get to know other people
  • Draw out people by interacting with them and making them feel comfortable around you
  • Learn to read other people
  • Hire a coach. This should be particularly beneficial when transitioning for single person role a leadership role

Very effectively, Meneley explained how a manager’s role differs from that of a leader. Managers, she said, have a more engineering type process to tackle people and work whereas leadership roles are more about connection of hearts and minds. Effective leaders tend to focus on what interests other people and end up making them excited about the job. To ascertain a good leader from a bad leader, look at who everyone is following. To transition from being a manger to a leader, work on your people skills and do not hesitate to seek help from a career coaching expert.

Exit Strategy

Once you have made up your mind to leave your current employer, it is important to make your exit at a positive note. Meneley emphasized to maintain a relationship of mutual respect with the employer. This would include negotiating an exit package that both parties can agree on and using exit interview as a means of keeping your reputation intact. She strongly advised against suing the employer as this could have ramifications to your employability in the future.