Need to Be Heard? Learn to Be Brief.

brief_Bookcover_play-03-231x300I love concise messages. So when offered the opportunity to read Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less by Joseph McCormack and then blog about it, I was all in. Writing a book about being brief showcases the author’s credibility from the first paragraph. McCormack’s Brief succeeds in all ways.

“That’s the way it goes,” we say when we don’t get:

  • Support for our ideas
  • An approval after our presentation
  • The sale
  • A job or promotion

There’s always reason (aka an excuse):

  • Bad timing
  • An off day
  • Competing factors
  • Favoritism or office politics

Actually, when things don’t go our way,  it’s usually about us–what we say and how we say it, attached to what we do and how we do it.

If we want better outcomes, we need to master brevity.

Learn to be brief.

Your career is driven by words:

  • Your boss explains the need for improved processes. You present new ideas and initiatives..
  • Your customers express their needs. You describe how your company’s products and services can meet them.
  • Your manager declares the desire to build talent. You define your capabilities.

Your biggest career challenge is cutting through the maddening clutter of noise, distractions, and interruptions, exacerbated by digital communications.

Joseph McCormack’s book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, leads you out of McCormack bb16d5afeedd0ad8986cb9_L__V367807303_SX200_the morass and into some rarefied air.

He writes:

Brevity is a choice. When you want to get more, decide to say less.

Think about that for a second. Consider how much workplace air you fill with talk that grabs the undivided attention of others. For most of us, it’s not much.

Consider these statistics from McCormack:

People speak about 150 words per minute, yet have the approximate mental capacity to consume about five times that number, or 750 words per minute.

Unless you’ve quickly hooked your listener with compelling information or stories, s/he has lots of time to drift to other thoughts before you’ve made your point.

Think about the last time you listened to someone who captivated you with an idea or an observation–a time when you hung on every word. Do you communicate that effectively? If not, what would it take and what would your career payoffs be?

Brief gives you the insights and the tools.


If brevity in communication were easy to do, you’d see a lot more of your coworkers doing it. If you master being brief, your career value will increase if not soar!.

McCormack writes:

To be brief doesn’t just mean being concise. Your responsibility is to balance how long it takes to convey a message well enough to cause a person to act on it.

Effective presentations are smooth. Creating them can be rough. You don’t get to the power of brevity without putting in the challenging mental work.

McCormack adds:

Brevity starts with deep expertise. Only with thorough knowledge can you accurately make a summary.

His book digs into the how to’s, providing clearly stated models and stories that remove the mystique so you can up your brevity.

He emphasizes:

To communicate effectively nowadays, you must be able to speak in headlines and grab someone’s attention right away.

He advocates this approach:

Map it. BRIEF Maps [his model]…used to condense and trim volumes of information

Tell it.  Narrative storytelling…to explain in a way that’s clear, concise, and compelling

Talk it. …turn monologues into controlled conversations

Show it. Visuals that attract attention and capture imagination

Digital screens, phone calls, meetings, email, and interruptions of every dimension compete with what you want others to hear. Being brief helps to deflect their potentially negative effects.

Brief branding

Like it or not, you already have a reputation around the way you communicate.  Do you know what it is? Are you a rambler, a dominator, a repeater, a windbag, an empty suit, or a clarifier?

If you want to boost your career, become known for being brief, bringing clarity, and cutting through the clutter, taking the pain out of getting work done.

If you want to get good at it, then consider reading Brief.


Everyone Has a Hidden Agenda. Can You Uncover It? | Kevin Allen Has.

When I accepted the invitation to write about Kevin Allen’s new book, The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following, I thought I knew what the book would be about. Instead, I got a terrific surprise and an eye-opening experience.

Ulterior motives. Inauthentic behavior. Secret maneuvers. Hidden agendas for many of us have often been considered the tactics of career climbers impatient to get ahead. Finally, there’s a new and tested perspective that will better serve us.

Kevin Allen, business development expert, shows us that hidden agendas are actually gateways to discovery and revelation. When clarified, they can propel us to the best kind of success.

Uncovering the hidden agendas of clients, coworkers, and our companies means tapping into your inner Sherlock. Fortunately, dear Watson is now as near as your bookshelf.

Embracing the pitch

Kevin Allen is an adman and every successful adman is also a pitchman who understands the importance of connection.

In his book, The Hidden Agenda: A Proven Way to Win Business and Create a Following, Allen gives us an insider’s look at ad campaigns around the globe that he pitched, specifically MasterCard’s Priceless campaign, and how he was able to tap into each client’s hidden agenda.

Allen’s career history is extraordinary and extensive but a couple things stand out.

He writes:

I grew up in the tough hallways of the toughest ad agency in the competitive field of advertising, McCann Erickson.

Whereas I first thought it a business weakness that I was sensitive and intuitive, it actually became a potent business asset, one that will only increase in importance as time progresses.

It was Allen’s soft side that was his differentiator. Once he realized that and learned how to capitalize on it for the companies and clients he worked for, his career was off and running.

He learned early on that pitching is about connecting with others at an emotional level:

…behind every decision to buy–whether the item is a service or a product, an argument or an idea–is the unspoken emotional motivation. This is the hidden agenda.

Every day you personally have an opportunity to make a pitch for:

  • the job vacancy or promotion you seek
  • your idea to improve the way work is done
  • new business–new products or services
  • favorable treatment by regulators, community leaders, or donors
  • media coverage, on-line support, or endorsements

To pitch successfully, you need to understand your target’s hidden agenda.

Digging deep

Connecting is step one. Creating a following is what follows.

No matter what you have to sell or propose, you need to frame a pitch that goes to the emotional heart of every hidden agenda.

Allen explains further:

People don’t follow you because they’ve been hoodwinked; they follow you because they believe in you. They employ you, promote you, buy from you, or hire you because you understand their values, their wants, and their needs.

He drives home this point:

The hidden agenda is the unspoken, emotional motivation that resides in the heart of your audience. This emotional core is the true motivator behind every decision.

Allen explains three driving forces that underpin every hidden agenda, along with sample questions he asks to identify them like:

  1. Wants–What frustrates you about the perceptions connected with your company/brand?
  2. Needs–What keeps you up a night?
  3. Values–What is your company’s noble calling?

His book  takes you through the process for uncovering the hidden agenda and framing the pitch. His easily readable examples and illustrations are compelling, motivating, and straight-forward. Allen gives us the inside scoop and makes it feel incredibly comfortable. Yes, we all can do this if we’re willing to dig deep.

Big points for soft skills

Allen gives full-throated voice to the value of intuitiveness, sensitivity, and humanity in the workplace, even in large, hard-driving advertising companies battling fierce competition.

He writes:

Success in winning business and creating a following means coming across as your own genuine self and allowing others to see you as you are, all in the name of making a human connection.

He’s so right about that. We all need to remember to be true to ourselves and positive about our capabilities, never apologizing for what we do well. If we tap into our own hidden agendas, we’ll likely find our careers moving in just the right direction.

“Job Hopper” Resumes Revisited | Finding the Upside

It can make you feel like pulling the covers over your head. It reads like you have no direction. It’s a road block to interviews. What is it? Okay, you knew all along. A resume that brands you a “job hopper.” 

If you’ve changed jobs often, you need to understand why. If you don’t do this honestly, you won’t be credible explaining yourself. 

Job hopping is a symptom not a disease. If you treat it, you’ll be on your feet in no time. 

We all have aspirations for a good job with opportunity and reward. Then work realities show up: We get frustrated and leave, downsized or laid off. We move on and it happens again. Is it us? Is it circumstance? Whatever it is, our work history doesn’t read well. 

Let your resume show how your past jobs have broadened you. 

Each job teaches us something about how business works and what’s expected. That cumulative knowledge has value to showcase in your resume. Here’s how: 

  • Include and highlight in bold the skills from the posting that you demonstrated in each prior job
  • Identify similarities between the companies you’ve worked for and the one you’re applying to now
  • Use the same number of content bullets for each job, showcasing their experiential value instead of your length of service
  • Consider including a “Profile” section at the start of your resume: a bulleted list of your business and technical skills/knowledge
  • Make sure your resume has a professional look and quality content  

(If you don’t know how to do this, hire an expert to help you. It’ll pay for itself.)  

Let your cover letter address your job pattern head on! 

If you’ve been asked about your “job hopping” or aren’t getting interviews, then it’s time to get in front of the issue.

For starters, do not call yourself a “job hopper” or invite that label from the screener. Your cover letter is the tool you use to put your job experience—not work history—in perspective. 

Cover letters are difficult to craft, so here’s an excerpt from one I wrote for a sales candidate with many job changes over a six-year period: 

“My prior sales positions have been diverse and centered on the highly competitive device markets. I have learned a lot about the industry and myself from my experiences. 

I am passionate about products I believe in. I am gratified by the trust of my customers in those products and in the services I provide. Getting results for them and for the company are my bottom line. 

The creativity, autonomy, and mobility of sales, coupled with face-to-face interactions with customers, fit my personality. Once I understood this about myself, I realized that the sales process, regardless of the industry, is what motivates me.” 

Here’s the message the recruiter takes away from this cover letter. The candidate had: 

  • held a number of prior positions
  • acquired broad personal and industry knowledge as a result
  • validated his passion for products and serving customers
  • underscored his commitment to making money for the company
  • connected with the traits that made “sales” the right fit for him
  • developed a clear focus for his career 

This letter increases the candidate’s odds for getting a second look and an interview. 

Don’t undermine yourself by apologizing for your job changes. Turn your experiences into value. 

Everyone makes career bloopers of some kind. It only matters if you keep doing it. 

Take a fresh look at what you’ve done in past jobs and share perspectives that show how business fit you are. Remember: A hiring organization is looking for talent. They don’t expect or want “lifers” anymore. 

Companies, however, want you to be dependable and reliable. If you’ve had legitimate reasons to move around, situations that are about life happening, then don’t feel the need to apologize. Just address them at the right time. 

But, if you’ve done “no-no” things that caused you to change jobs, that’s reason for a different post. I would never think that of you! 

What are your most pressing concerns about your job history? Or do you have a strategy to share? Every idea helps!

Got a Job That’s Crushing You? | Start to Lift the Weight

Oh, boy, it’s exciting to get a new job, especially with a new company. Everything looks so promising. We feel really good about ourselves–validated,  reinforced, and successful.                                         

It’s amazing how our careers can start out in one place and morph to another. 

It’s all so gradual that we hardly know it’s happening until one day we realize that we’re someplace that we don’t want to be. Or, more often, a place that’s crushing us. 

I have a talented friend who was hired by a huge company two years ago in marketing communications. After a few months, the department downsized and the work doubled as sales needed more and more marketing materials to cut through the barriers of a tight economy. The demands on my friend accelerated. Other staffers weren’t pulling their weight. So her days got longer and longer. 

Has this happened to you? It has to me. I thought it would be my demise. 

Feeling trapped in your job, paralyzes your ability to make changes. 

Our jobs can’t trap us but we can convince ourselves that they do. After all, we go to work every day by choice. It only takes a letter or a word to say, “Bye, bye.” 

It’s really our personal situations that create the bind. When we have dependents, debts, health issues, and family commitments, we need to keep our jobs, even when they are wrong for us. 

The demands of our personal lives, coupled with the stresses of our jobs, can drive us to an airless place. Here’s how we often feel: 

  • Exhausted and unable to think analytically
  • Defeated and unable to fathom any options
  • Imprisoned by the workload and the realities of our lives 

Truth is: There are always other options. They may require some creativity, planning, repositioning, and timing, but they exist. 

The struggle is: If you are exhausted from your “work life,” the idea of exploring options, solving problems, and firing up your smothered optimism at the end of the day is too much. 

So what to do? Start small and focus on yourself. 

  1. Make a list of the little things that make you feel uplifted (15 minutes of quiet time, an outing with a friend, a short walk, a few flowers in a vase). Give yourself at least one daily.
  2.  Make two lists about your job: Things I Have to Do and Things That Can Wait (Maybe Forever). Smart employees negotiate work output with their supervisors. If you don’t explain what can and cannot get done reasonably, your supervisor will expect it all. We are not mules unless we agree to be. Heehaw! 
  3. Take a hard look at your personal situation and come up ways to reduce your obligations and a timetable for how long you believe you need this job. Doing this will help you feel more empowered, since you’re now staying for your personal business reasons. (Your life is your business, remember?) 
  4. Then, develop a career change strategy—one that you will implement while you still have a job. Do this with your timeline in mind and a focus on work that fits you. 

You always have options and choices. 

None of us much cares for change because it’s disruptive. We operate too often on the principle that “The devil we know is better than the one we don’t.” This can make us our own worst enemy. 

Small steps are important steps because they add up. The more you take, the farther you get. Each one helps you get more business fit. 

Getting help can be a really worthwhile investment. You’ll probably only need a leg up and then you’ll be on your way. I’m rootin’ for ya’! 

Do you have an “I feel trapped in my job” story to share or an “I escaped” one? That would be a big help all around.