The Two Things That Young People Need to Know to be Successful

June 12, 2014

I hear the same thing over and over from industry folks.  There are two things that are problematic concerning young people coming into the construction industry.  They come up again and again.

Communication skills


Relationship skills

These kids coming into construction and engineering today are VERY smart.  They grew up with technology.  They get things very quickly.  We have retired baby boomers who are leaving the industry in droves now that their 401Ks are back up to where they need to be to retire.

These kids are hungry.  They want to know what the boomers know.  They want to move into leadership positions as quickly as humanly possible.  They have student loans to pay off.  But the boomers tend to put them in meaningless positions and tell the young folks that they have to “pay their dues” just like they did.  And they use these two things:  communication, both written and verbal, and relationship skills.  I have written a book on communication and presentation skills, and I teach emotional intelligence, which ultimately improves relationship skills.

Don’t worry young people.  You get things quickly.  And both of these skills are teachable and learnable.  Trust me.  I’ve been doing it for the past 14 years.  If you want some resources on how to do this, just email me and let me know.  I’ll give you some excellent ways to improve these two skills.  Take away the baby boomer’s excuses.  Become masters of communication and relationships and ignite your career!


The first step to design? Say what?

August 13, 2013

empathy 1

Stanford’s D school has a design methodology that is a true miracle.  The D School is an interdisciplinary school that teaches design.  The first step . . . wait for it . . . is . . . EMPATHIZE!  When I talk to engineers about this method, they are dubious.  What?  Empathize?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Isn’t that that crazy, soft stuff we’ve been hearing about?  That soft stuff that’s so important to the success of projects?  That icky stuff that contributes to collaboration?  Can’t we just give you a solution right away?  Do we really have to empathize?

The answer is YES YOU DO!

The steps are:


Define the problem




I will be going through the other four steps in future blogs, but for now, let’s focus on the first step, which is to EMPATHIZE.  You must ask the right questions of your user  and find out what they truly need.  And needs doesn’t mean ONLY technical needs.  Needs extends to the emotional, the physical, even the spiritual.  There is a great tool called an empathy map.  See the link at the bottom for a pdf of this method.  Basically, you explore four areas during this inquiry:

When you have a session with the user, you ask lots of good, leading questions.  Then, you start noting details of the following four areas:

SAY: What are some quotes and defining words your user said?

DO: What actions and behaviors did you notice?

THINK: What might your user be thinking? What does this tell you about his or her beliefs?

FEEL: What emotions might your subject be feeling?

So, when faced with a problem, remember the first step:  EMPATHIZE!

How to increase your oxytocin and boost the quality of your relationships

August 30, 2011

Oxytocin is an amazing hormone.  It is called the “cuddle” hormone and is secreted by mothers and babies when mothers are breastfeeding.  It is also released during orgasm and when we have basic human contact with others.  From handshakes to pats on the back to massage, that human touch starts the production of oxytocin.  It gives us that feeling of warmth and connection.  We naturally mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us.  Mirror neurons in our brains fire without any conscious thought.  Emotions are, indeed, contagious from a  physiological point of view.  Try this experiment.  Get a partner and try not to show any emotion.  Then ask them to put a great big, genuine smile on their face.  What happens? Your mirror neurons kick in and you WANT to smile.  It’s involuntary and automatic.  Can you look at the following photo and not smile?

Think of the power of that connection and what you can do to affect it during your next encounter with another human being.

There was a study done where men sorted pictures of angry faces.  Normally this triggers a response in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.  These negative faces trigger a negative emotional response.  But they took half the men and had them inhale oxytocin.  The other half  inhaled a placebo.  The men who inhaled the oxytocin showed far less activity in the amygdala and far less negative emotions.

So, short of breastfeeding, how do we boost our own levels of oxytocin? There are no supplements or foods that naturally boost this amazing hormone.  But there are some things we can do.

1.  Smile.  Smiling not only releases lots of good hormones in your body, including oxytocin, it will excite the mirror neurons of the person sitting across from you.  They will be much more likely to “catch” your emotion that you are sending them.

2.  Make an emotional connection.  Ask the person how they are truly feeling.  Try to empathize with their situation.  Show real concern.  Remember, treat everyone kindly because we are all fighting epic battles.  This concern for another human being starts the oxytocin pumping.

3.  Reach out and touch someone.  What do they do every two hours to premature babies?  They hold them and feed them.  Humans need human touch.  One story from a Romanian orphanage tells of a child that survived in a room full of kids because he was near the door.  As the attendant turned out the light and shut the door, she touched the kid on her way out.  He was the only one that made it out alive and owes his life to human touch.  So look for appropriate ways to impart touch to someone else.  Ken Blanchard talks about the literal pat on the back.  Take every opportunity to give a good, warm, open, inviting handshake (and it won’t hurt to smile while you do it).  Hugs are also great things and I find myself hugging more, even in business settings.

4.  Send love.  I know this sounds a little esoteric, but emotions create energy and that energy will affect the outcome of any situation. So if you put yourself in a good emotional state of love or even a state of positive thinking, the people across from you will pick up on that energy and it will affect them and the outcome.  I have found that this works even with the most hard boiled people and the most contentious situations.

If you try these ways to increase oxytocin and improve your relationships, you will find that people will be much more receptive and open.  I would love to hear about your experiments with this approach.  Post here or let me know via email.


Forget About Your People And They Will Certainly Forget About You

August 29, 2011

I attended the SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services) National Conference this past week in Chicago and there was a common theme running throughout the conference:

It’s all about your people.

This goes for both internal and external customers.  This concept may seem trite and redundant and many of you will say, “Duh!”  But I think it bears repeating because during these stressful times, we tend to forget that.  Even if it is unintentional,  many companies neglect to truly take care of their people and their external clients.  They are in survival mode, and they buckle down.  The focus is internal, and we forget the people sitting across from us.  Keep in mind that, as a business owner, your people are scared, unsure, and likely approaching burning out with the amount of stress involved in trying to get new work.  This goes for clients as well.  Get up right now and go talk to someone near you.  Ask them how they are doing, and perhaps more importantly, how they are feeling.

During these stressful times, we crave connection with others, so do everything within your power to create those connections.  The golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We talk about the platinum rule which says,  “Treat others the way that they want to be treated.”  Remember, others may want to be treated differently than you would want to be treated. The platinum rule honors that difference.

Both individuals and companies can focus on ways to create more connections with others both internally and externally. Increase the social activities during work hours and after work hours. Involve the families. Let people know you care. Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the personal milestones of births, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  Mourn the losses personally and professionally with your people.  Let them know that you not only know about their life, but you care about what happens to them.  If you don’t take these steps, be prepared for a mass exodus when the economy turns.  People will go where they feel cared about and nurtured.  Period.  And if you have leaders in the company who don’t subscribe to this notion of taking care of your people, remember that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t like their boss.

This isn’t hard to do, but it takes effort and focus.  And the payback can be tremendous!  If you have any success stories with this people approach, please share them.  I would love to post it on the BDI Blog!