#32a How to Not Look Like a Tool in Your Business Communications

On Brazen Careerist the other day, Ed Barrientos introduced a topic about verbal pet peeves. You know…words, etc. that drive you nuts. As a hater of the word “moist” I jumped right on this. This post takes communication preferences one step further.

People of the world:  There are many atrocious behaviors going on out there.

Lesson #1: You look like a tool if you are not thoughtful

I have foregone my office at the George Washington University School of Business and am here in my pink fuzzy slippers, listening to Metallica, tallying the winners of the 2010 Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition.  What a sight. Here is the communications metaphor: Don’t let a casual appearance, feeling, or vibe inappropriately impact your communications or…as the title states…you will look like a tool.  (Note, this is not to be confused with the BAND “Tool” which my three year-old daughter calls “Toodle.”) This point will be made over and over again over during these posts. The social media and work-at-home revolution has created a Darwinian dividing line. My hypothesis:  Individuals who have ALWAYS had a good understanding of people EXCEL in these ambiguous or contradictory social/business communication situations. They can handle it, because they get people. This is something you can practice and grow into, but – you have to want to.

Lesson #2: Students – you can get away with murder. Normal people – not so much.

Here is an actual email I sent to a student yesterday after he – shall we say – threw me under the bus with a contact I gave him.  The rules were “introduce yourself and say you’re a fan.”  Instead, he sent my contact a “can we talk and can you look at my resume and here is the attachment” email. Aaack! This kind of stuff makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, this kid is great. He owned up right away and I bear no ill will. But, here is what I told him:

Email (names are disguised, of course)

From: “Student name”
Sent: Monday, March 15, 2010 5:38 PM
To: Kathy Korman Frey
Subject: Re: FW: Kathy Korman Frey Follow-up / “Famous Person” Book Title

Student Name.

When we originally spoke, hitting “Famous Person” up for internship ideas or a call was not part of it. It was about making contact and letting her know the impact of her book. Hitting someone up for advice, looking at your resume, etc – in my world view – are things that come later, once an acknowledgement of your email is established. Also, assuming someone of her stature will look at an attachment and set up a call with you makes you look naïve. (I am saying this in a nice “I-want-you-to-come-off-looking-sophisticated” way vs a super critical way).

[….Other stuff, other stuff, other stuff…..]

Prof Frey

Lesson #3. EARN your way into a relationship.

There is no finger-snapping, just-add-water relationship building. Even getting to know folks via Twitter or Facebook is a process and investment. Later in my email, I told the student,

“Don’t be the naïve undergrad who fails to recognize how RIDICULOUSLY busy a person  like ‘Famous Person’ is. You need to EARN your way into relationships.”

These are my rules of thumb for communicating with busy / famous people:

  • 30 seconds – First, you earn 30 seconds – MAYBE – via a glance at an email (less if it’s a Tweet).
  • Follow up – You earn NO additional time if they don’t respond to you. Instead, you earn an additional follow-up via phone (novel concept) where you leave a message saying you sent an email, and the bottom line of that email. And/ or, you forward the email and say in a non passive-aggressive way a la “I just wanted to be sure this came through. You made a big impact on me.”
  • Off the grid – The BEST next thing you can do is try to attend something they are attending and meet them face to face. If that is not possible, approach them on Twitter or Facebook or Linked in and remind them of who you are (that person who knows such and such who emailed you). If there is some advice you want, mention that, and how quick it will be.
  • Five to fifteen – When you approach for the advice, plan on getting from the person a five  minute email – minimum – up to  a 15 minute phone call – max.
  • Bonus Round – Anything else is a miracle and you should be thanking your lucky stars.

Wrap up: Treat a busy person’s time as they do (VALUABLE)

You’ll be an immediate stand-out in their minds versus the scads of other folks constantly asking them for things.

PARTING THOUGHTS: Has basic communication gone by the wayside? Perhaps I am old-fashioned in my advice.  However, I strongly suspect that being courteous and thoughtful will never be out of style.

Stay tuned for my next post including advice like, “Don’t be a user” and other strong opinions on communication.

Related Links

Your Image is You – Project a Professional Image in Writing

Back to basics? Here is a great grammar bootcamp (as you can see from the title, I believe infinitives can be split)

Find me on Twitter www.Twitter.com/ChiefHotMomma

Find me on Facebook www.Facebook.com/KathyKormanFrey

See the blog for my class at GW www.WomensLeadershipClass.wordpress.com


What is the Hot Mommas Project?

The Hot Mommas Project is an award-winning venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business.  We make women’s stories teachable using our “case wizard” at www.HotMommasProject.org . The Hot Mommas Project library is the first of its kind, providing scalable, global access to role models and virtual mentors that can be used by educators, trainers, and parents. We’ve been featured in Prentice Hall textbooks, the Washington Post Magazine, NPR and are the winner of a national Coleman Foundation case award.

How you can get involved: Write your story, or nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older.

Our call for 2011 nominations has begun. While the contest runs through January 31, 2011 – Start now! There will be prizes this spring and fall for early bird publishers.

How it works: Nominated women come online, write their story using our “case wizard,” and click “publish” to be permanently archived in our case library.  Winners will be published in a leading Prentice Hall textbook in addition to other honors and prizes. To participate, nominate a dynamic woman 18 or older (yourself included) here or find us on Twitter. No, you do not need to be a mom.

#19 How We Hired an Intern on Twitter (yes..Found, Interviewed, Hired)

 Here is Brandy. She is our new intern. Isn’t she adorable?

Twitter-size pic of Brandy

Twitter-size pic of Brandy

She is smart as a whip and responsive beyond belief too. She is actually totally overqualified to be an intern. She is a virtual assistant – and a fabulous one who gets paid. But she wants to help US – The Hot Mommas Project – because she is inspired and wants to give back. Here is how we found her, and hired her, 0n Twitter. Continue reading