Leverage your hands to make a good first impression

A good first impression could be our only chance to show that we have confidence. At work and in life, confidence matters just as much as competence. However, while both skills can be learned and cultivated, we seem to understand that in order to show competence, we need time. The image we project in a first encounter tends to “stick”. It sets the tone for the relationships that follow, and is crucial when we want to negotiate effectively, because once formed, it becomes fixed in people’s minds.

Businesspeople handshaking after negotiation

Start with the basics

– Good grooming, but keep in mind that you are not going to a wedding!

– Be aware of your body language. Stand up straight. Your posture tells your story.   Good posture commands respect and promotes engagement. If your movements are aggressive, you could be signaling hostility.

– Positive energy. Avoid negativity and anxiety, and focus on positive thoughts. If necessary, mentally rehearse before you even enter the room.

– Be on time. It shows that you are responsible, reliable, and respectful.

– Be polite. Politeness shows mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

– Smile. A genuine smile relaxes the atmosphere and always opens doors.

– Offer a friendly “Hello” to everyone you meet, not only your client or your boss.

The first handshake speaks volumes

first impression handshale

A lot has been said and discussed about President Trump’s handshaking ways and approach. His awkward style, pulling other’s hand towards him or  strongly pushed in a different direction, projects him as a controller. This unusual behavior for a public leader has moved the art of handshaking from being present in the news worldwide, to the global business agenda. And thanks to Mrs. Trump, those who had forgotten the essentials of business etiquette to negotiate effectively, now will be more aware of the consequences of the power of a first imprint.

The person’s character is generally reflected when greeting someone. It defines us, the way we act and react, how we treat people, and is a good indicator of business outcomes. If you want to know if your handshake style is a deal maker or a deal breaker, check  the full spectrum of shaking hands that exist, and never forget that business etiquette also varies according to cultures and countries.

 A standard successful handshake that works to foster trust

  • Raise your hand from your side and extend until webs of both hands meet. Grasp across the palm, wrapping fingers around the opposite side from the thumb. Keep a vertical position, which means you are willing  to treat the other as an equal and generates mutual respect. The symmetry in their actions reinforces the symmetry in their relationship to enhance cooperation.
  • Hold firmly. Respect the other’s space. Shake a few times or for about three or four seconds.
  • Make eye contact. Smile. If you know the name of the person, say it. The same applies when you handshake to depart.
  • If your hands are full, rather than risk dropping everything, giving a polite nod is considered acceptable. If the other person’s hands are full, be kind and don’t offer a hand shake. Your discernment will be noted and appreciated.
  • If wearing gloves, remove them.
  • It is customary to stand if you’re caught in an introduction seated.

The anatomy of nonverbal communication

Obviously, a first impression is powerful in both directions. A first impression affects how you perceive the other party and how they perceive you. What happens in that first minute of the first impression can change the path of the negotiation. The main conclusion is that first impressions are not about what we say. More than words, 93% of a good first impression relays from the tone of our voice and what we project with our appearance and nonverbal communication – body language. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, “Words matter 7%, Tone of Voice 38%, and Body Language 55%.”

Therefore, the next time you prepare for an important meeting, remember that a negotiation starts before you are even seated. You have approximately one minute to generate trust and show your confidence. If you nail this first impression, you will be perceived as competent too.

In those initial 60 seconds, we judge the other person’s clothes, handshake, general appearance, and how he or she introduces him/herself. And, if we are part of a team, remember that all these subtle and subliminal pieces of information go beyond appearance, and encompasses group dynamics. In a negotiation, it is important for each team to show a united front. If one party senses that there is internal conflict and disagreement in the other team, it could provide an opening for a power play.


Smiling Woman eating healthy

A plan for long-term change for your New Year’s resolution and the Picasso Rule motivation

We often see that we can stick to a plan for long-term change over a short period, but then the whole thing derails and we go back to our usual ways. No matter what we want to accomplish, how much we want that change to happen or how much it will affect our life or our business, sometimes we completely forget that we have committed to it.

Smiling Woman eating healthy plan for long-term change

Dieting and eating healthy are two of the most common New Year’s resolution among women.

The New Year is still fresh, and a huge majority of us already failed to stay committed to whatever it is that we set out to do full of zeal. But it does not need to be that way. All it takes is some mind power to remain committed. Not that easy, right? So, how do we make the switch from short term change to long term change?

Whenever I get stuck and lose sight of my priorities, I apply the Picasso Rule. Once, asked by his need to constantly change his painting style to explore new concepts, Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached by means of a plan, in which we must fervently believe and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”.

Why do we fail in our plan for long-term change?

Take the example of an entrepreneur who keeps thinking that she should explore new markets to expand her business but never actually makes the time to lay the groundwork for it. Or someone who is so disorganized that her business is being affected by it. Even yet, a person who is so shy that her business marketing is taking a hit.

We cannot really say that these people ‘forget’ their problems; it is their attention that is not on their commitment to explore new market opportunities, become more organized, or network. These are all life-impacting situations reminding them of the need for long-term change every single day.

So, if we know that change and constantly adapting is a big part of being successful, then why do we fail?

The brain has its own ways

plan for long-term changeNow, we have a robust scientific base to affirm that the only way of creating behavior change is through habit formation, and we also know scientifically that if we change habits we will be able to create a sustainable and successful change.

This change process lies deep within our brain. When the brain is habituated to a particular behavior –let’s say that you start your day reading and responding to emails despite knowing that it is time consuming, and affects your mood and effectiveness– that’s because the brain is working at a level that is deep and ingrained and is controlling your actions.

To overcome what your brain believes is normal takes time, patience and most of all, motivation. When you realize this is when the Picasso Rule never fails. There is nothing that ignites your motivation more than firmly believing in what you want to do and heartily acting upon it!

A plan for long-term change

The process of change is never simple. There are so many stages that you go through, even to begin making changes.

  1. First, you realize that a problem exists.
  2. Next, you start thinking about the need to rectify it.
  3. The next step is to chart out the action plan for long-term change and
  4. Then you take the first step in implementing it.

This entire process can be said to be the preparation stage. However, “Action is the foundational key to all success,” said Picasso, and the first step to implement the plan for long-term change marks the beginning of the action stage.

Beyond this stage is where the challenge happens. No matter what your goal, whether you want to become a better decision-maker, or you want to improve your fitness or you want to do better in your business, the key is to make the changes you think are essential and to keep working at them.

Pablo Picasso, Head of Woman, 1938

“When they tell me I am too old to do something, I attempt it immediately”, said Picasso. He was motivated. The main reason we start so many grand ideas but fail to sustain them is that we lack the motivation to keep at it.

Look at it deeply and it is quite simple to understand. At some point, we no longer feel happy about doing it or we lose conviction that doing this can really yield the results we seek.

When you are motivated about the goal, these feelings do not find place in your psyche. However, when your motivation levels are low, doubts begin to creep in, and you wonder if all the effort is really worth it.

To keep motivated and consequently, sticking to the plan for long-term change, what you need is to constantly remind yourself that you are making a positive difference with every single step you take towards the goal.

Evaluate your progress periodically and compare it against achievable milestones that you have set for yourself. Let this be your way of reminding yourself of how far you have already come in your journey.

Being aware that you have actually made a difference with your efforts gives you the motivation to keep working at it because you are assured that you are really making headway.

I would only add three more small recommendations that have always helped me to navigate through difficult times of change:

  1. Own your strengths;
  2. Have the humility to see where you need the strength of others and simply ask for help; and lastly, and most fundamental,
  3. Keep your mind open and impressionable to change.

With these steps in mind, you can shoot for the moon because, as Picasso reminds us, “Everything you can imagine is real”.

Hands with world map traveler or passenger

Traveler or passenger? The DNA test to engage employees at your workplace

Before you begin reading, please ask yourself this question: In life, and this applies to personal and professional: Are you a traveler or passenger? Reflect on your answer, and towards the end of this article you will understand why I am asking this question. But keep in mind that, whatever your answer is, it will affect the way you run your business more than you may think.

Hands with world map traveler or passenger

Often, commercials convince us to buy their product; at least this is their main purpose. And sometimes, though not very often, they make us think also, which can be very gratifying.

This is the case with a promotional mini documentary recently aired by a Copenhagen-based travel search engine. The idea behind it is to prove that our views about foreigners and people from other races and ethnicities could be fundamentally changed if we knew more about our own genetic origins.

The DNA test

In April, the brand invited 67 people from all over the world to take part in a project in which they were offered to take a DNA test to find out more about their ancestry. Participants were asked about what they thought the test would uncover, and were also encouraged to share some of their views and prejudices about people from different parts of the world.

Some weeks later they were invited back, and their results were revealed. As you might imagine, those results contained some surprises — there were some emotional reactions, unexpected feedback, and some individuals recognized that they already felt differently about the world around them being in that little room where they were gathered.

“This test should be compulsory,” one of the participants said after the experiment.

The project, called “Let’s Open Our World” is part of a wider campaign by the brand, which has included a global survey of 7,200 people, proving that most have no idea of the diversity of their origins.

Approaching the workplace as a traveler or passenger

businessman traveling with trolley international flags trip traveler or passenger

It’s easy to think that there are more factors dividing us than uniting us. However, when we actually open our minds to the idea that those around us might have much more in common than we think, then we experience things differently and we begin to see things differently too. We see them in a different way and we definitely value and appreciate them in a more positive manner.

What do you think would happen if a similar experiment were to be taken at your workplace? As an introvert trained to be an extrovert, I always prepare myself for meetings as if they were going to be somewhat of a journey.

Because I spent most of my life living and working in different countries, I go to these meetings with my mind ready to “travel” through the room. I prepare myself, imagining that I am not going to a boring meeting, but rather that I am going somewhere to learn, share, and enjoy the cultural experience. I don’t like to be just a passenger. I prefer to be a traveler.

How to become an engaged traveler in the workplace

traveler or passenger engaged employees

Recently, a Gallup research poll showed that worldwide, a mere 13 percent of employees are engaged, involved in, enthusiastic and committed to their job and workplace. The remaining 87 percent of employees are either not engaged, indifferent, or worse. They are actively disengaged and are even hostile towards their organizations.

However, and this is the good news, according to the same survey, the companies that work actively to resist this gap have, on average, 64 percent of all employees emotionally invested in, culturally open and focused on creating value for their organizations. They go to work happy and they look at the workplace as part of their lives.

They care.

That sentiment of belonging brings to the company an infinite amount of energy and, consequently, positive results at every level. Therefore, if culture and engagement drives that kind of outcome in organizations, why is it so hard to find truly engaged workplaces? It really is more difficult than looking for a needle in a haystack.

To become “engaged travelers” at work, it is essential to introduce in our mindset the concept of cultural humility: the ability to maintain an interpersonal relation that is “other-oriented.”

In this increasingly multicultural world, recognizing and changing power imbalances and being open to “the other” in relation to aspects of cultural identity are crucial behaviors for understanding and developing a process-oriented approach to competency. Thus, by valuing everyone, we can provide a huge boost to engagement, retention, and morale inside a group, which will then help the organization to create a more solid and tailored corporate culture fabric.

The challenges of being a traveler or passenger

Now I would like you to think again about the traveler/passenger metaphor, imagining yourself in your work setting.

Traveling is challenging. We actually need to be open, let down our guard and be comfortable with the uncertainties. We must also be open to trust and willing to enjoy the cultural experience that we are about to live. If, when you travel, you give yourself over to the cultural experience that you meet along the journey, you are an active participant of your journey, you create an itinerary, you enjoy, learn, grow… you talk and share with others.

You create.

Otherwise you are just a passenger, an observer, a passive actor rather than an embracer and engaged traveler. Let’s Open Our World was perceived as an invitation to cross boundaries, embrace our differences and open our mind to the world. Your world.

So, what are you in your world? Traveler or passenger?



business focus

Test your business focus by finding your invisible gorilla (videos)

It is always good and necessary to have clear business goals and, therefore, business focus is also necessary to reach those goals. However, when I am coaching I often see that for some people having a goal and being rigidly attached to it often becomes an obstacle to sustaining and growing a business. Learning along the way, I came to the conclusion that goals too clearly defined can become blinders.

My first school teacher had a peculiar –to say the least- concept of discipline. Whenever she wanted to punish one of us for poor performance, she made the student wear for a few hours -sometimes even a whole day- a headband with two large pieces of paper attached to the sides, simulating horse blinders.

Nowadays, this would be a monumental scandal, but back then nobody questioned teaching methods, and that was her way to teach us how to focus, however controversial it may have been.

She probably didn’t realize that by punishing us with the blinders, she was only encouraging our tunnel vision, blocking other peripheral learning experiences and, consequently, making us less aware of new possibilities.

Keeping your business focus to accomplish goals

We all strive to accomplish goals in our personal life and in business. But we can stay focused in order to reach our long-term goals, and yet remain flexible and aware of what is going on around us to maintain control of what needs immediate action.

If you don’t want to be blindsided by competitors, your advisors, or yourself, the most effective way, from my point of view, is to develop strategic focus and a strong sense of awareness.

It sounds simple, but few entrepreneurs have the discipline of constantly zooming in and out of their “bubble zone” enabling them to really observe what is going on around them. At times, they can be too stressed out to be conscious of what is really happening and often forget that their business – your business- depends on your attention, and if you are overloaded or under pressure your level of attention to details tends to decrease.

A certain research done by Johns Hopkins University regarding this topic caught my eye. Before reading ahead, try this test for yourself:

If you have focused only on a particular thing – in this case the T–, you mastered what scientists call the “Art of Ignoring” or overlooking irrelevant information in order to get quicker results.

This type of exercises can be very useful for certain professions which rely on visual searches, such as radiologists or airport baggage screeners. The ability to ignore is a key part of the ability to pay attention, as the researchers determined. Nevertheless, as an entrepreneur, your business depends on your undivided attention. To you nothing, absolutely nothing, is irrelevant.

The John Hopkins research reminded me of another fabulous experiment which is extremely useful for business people. Perhaps you have heard about it, because it has been a classic since professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons published their book in 2010, The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us.

Look at the video first, and we will comment on it later:

Did you see the invisible gorilla?

Here is my two cents. You, as an entrepreneur, must always be looking for the invisible gorilla in your business. “The Monkey Business Illusion”, as it is known, reveals a lot about our focus, our attention, and our perceptions.

All of these are key points and have the capacity to boost, or to derail, your business. So, please reflect on this metaphor. Look for the gorilla, but keep your strategic business focus and awareness. Don’t blindside yourself.

If you concentrate only on one particular aspect of your project – location, employees, loans, marketing, levels of production, that client that would bring cache to your list of VIP, you will miss other important things that are happening right now in front of you.

Avoid over concentration but following these tips

To avoid this overlook, here are a few tips to enjoy the journey of your entrepreneurial experience, applying strategic focus:

  • Your goal is what you want to accomplish, the finish line. However, you will have better results if you keep your business focus on the daily challenges. If you commit to the process, instead of the goal itself, you will be happier. This state of mind will feed you clarity and energy and will activate your creativity.
  • Bringing to life an entrepreneurial initiative is literally like a road trip. You have a plan, your roadmap, and a destination. However, be ready, because just like in a road trip you will experience the greatest surprises during the unexpected stops. Be flexible and make it just as much about the journey as it is about the destination. In other words, be open to pull over, enjoy the landscape, and reflect.
  • If you are too preoccupied on how far you still have to reach your goal, and the long term progress seams unreachable, you will get overly stressed. Appreciate the present and enjoy the little wins. If you value what the builder that is in you is accomplishing, you will remain motivated and open to looking outside of the box, which is always a very healthy and stimulating exercise.
  • Lead from the front and promote and seek feedback. You might have great ideas but your employees and customers do also. Create an entrepreneurial culture and encourage and share creative thinking.
  • And lastly… Remove your blinders and keep all your senses turned on, always!!! Awareness is vital to identify opportunities and, of course, to find your “invisible gorillas”.