We all admire the charismatic people we interact with. Those who open doors with a smile and generally make everyone around them feel better about themselves while making us wonder to ourselves, how they do that? Many of us look on with envy at these smooth operators and curse ourselves for not being naturally gifted. The truth, however, is that charismatic people use traits that every one of us can develop. Traits that will make us more interesting to be around better liked by others and more talented in dealing with people. Three traits of charismatic people are:


Charismatic people are comfortable being themselves. This kind of authenticity keeps them from trying to be someone they’re not. This kind of authenticity allows them to be vulnerable, and human. This kind of authenticity is the basis for genuine warmth and it’s impossible to project warmth by trying to be someone else. We all have the ability to be authentic. When we let our guard down and allow ourselves to simply be ourselves we relieve the pressure of trying to be perfect and form the basis for an honest connection with others. Embracing our true authenticity can make us charismatic.


Charismatic people make it a habit to be present in the moments that make their lives. This kind of presence keeps them from looking past the people they’re engaged with. This kind of presence keeps them off of their phones and focused on the people next to them. This kind of presence keeps their attention in the here and  now, showing the people they talk to that they matter and are important. We all have the ability to be present. We must simply force our attention into the situations that we’re engaged in. By giving others our presence we become more charismatic.


Charismatic people are curious about the world they live in and the people they engage with. This kind of curiosity keeps them focused on the people they’re talking to and inspires more questions than monologs. This kind of curiosity drives a need to understand not only what people are saying but their reason for talking, to begin with. This kind of curiosity makes them interesting because it makes them interested in others. We all have the ability to be curious. We simply have to use that ability when dealing with people and become more engaging by asking more questions. Our curiosity can make us more charismatic. Though we look at charismatic people as if they possess something the rest of us don’t have, the truth is all of us can develop the three traits that I have outlined above. When we take the time to make ourselves authentic, present and curious, it will only be a short time before others see look us and wonder how we do it. ]]>

Larry is my dad. In the above picture, his smile is as close to a smile as you’re going to see in a picture of him. My dad is a blue collar guy. He’s never worried much about building a career because he’s spent his life building houses. While he’s climbed more extension ladders than corporate ones, he has given me the best advice I’ve ever received about getting ahead in business: Don’t be an A**hole. This advice has made my dad a popular guy. He doesn’t smile a lot, he isn’t outgoing, but he takes pride in being kind to people and people respond with kindness. I’ve always watched in amazement at the way people always seem to know and like my dad when we’re out at a county fair or anywhere in his element. People call him by his name and seem happy to see him. He never read How to Win Friends and Influence People, but he embodies its principles but simply following his own “don’t be an A**hole” advice. This sounds really simple, but think about how few kind people we come across on a daily basis. There aren’t many. It makes my dad’s “don’t be an A**hole” advice all the more meaningful because as he tells me, it costs nothing. It costs nothing to speak to people you see and have a kind word. It costs nothing to keep your word when you give it to someone. It costs nothing to hold a door, to look people in the eye or to treat people the way you wish to be treated. It costs nothing to not be an A**hole. The interesting thing about this Don’t be an A**hole advice is that it has two benefits. The first one is the way people begin to respond to people who are genuine and kind. There’s a kind of respect this behavior earns that can’t be bought in any other way. The second is they way you begin to feel about yourself when you treat people with respect. When we’re kind to others, we begin to be kind to ourselves too. This feeling tends to fuel more kindness and this positive cycle continues. Sadly, the converse of this is true as well. I have had moments in my life when I didn’t live this golden advice. I’ve treated people poorly and forgotten that everyone has value. When I’ve behaved this way, I never find a positive light to see myself. Negativity breeds more negativity and this cycle continues too. It’s in those moments that dad’s advice really comes in handy. Don’t be an A**hole. I write a lot about improving communication skills and personal branding because I really believe in it as a way to advance in business. As valuable as these skills are, they’re meaningless if we can’t treat people with kindness and follow my dad’s advice. Don’t be an A**hole. facebook_1477568984049  ]]>

On Monday, I wrote a post about the Three Great Challenges Young Leaders Face. Today, I’m writing about the single greatest skill I’ve developed to overcome these challenges: Public Speaking.  It comes as a great shock to most people that I grew up a painfully shy kid. Yes, the person that never stops talking used to send his little brother to the McDonald’s counter for a refill. I hated talking to anyone I didn’t know and constantly found myself awkward. That was until my freshman year in high school when my teachers pushed me into competing in FFA public speaking contests. It was there that public speaking opened up a whole new world for me. While I never won, the rewards have been even greater, including:

Improved Relationships

The basis of all relationships is quality communication. Learning to speak in public has allowed me to build relationships because being able to speak to groups has made me much better in one on one situations. It’s an unexpected byproduct that I continue to enjoy.

Improved Self Confidence

Like most people, I was scared of public speaking. Simply doing something that scared the daylights out of me increased my confidence levels in every other area of my life. Doing what I feared gave me the confidence to be myself and that’s been a lifelong gift.

A Reputation

There’s a funny thing about the way the world views someone that can speak in public. If you’re able to string sentences together, the world immediately sees you as more intelligent and charismatic. Developing as a public speaker has allowed me to develop a reputation and that’s a powerful personal branding tool.

Career Advancement

Being able to command a room has not only allowed me to get jobs that I wasn’t entirely qualified for, it has given me the opportunity to grow into those jobs and advance. In the modern economy, there are few skills as important as being able to communicate. Employers value this skill and reward those who have it.

An Opportunity to Serve Others

My work with United Way gives me the opportunity to give voice to people whose stories often go unheard. Public speaking makes it possible for me to advocate on their behalf and serve others. It’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t have if I couldn’t speak. In short, public speaking has given a shy kid an opportunity to find friends, become confident, develop my brand and advance in my career while serving others. It’s helped me become a leader of myself and others and given me the opportunity to help others develop those qualities too. While I can’t promise that public speaking will do the same for you, I can promise it’s worth the effort to find out. ]]>

Having spent the last year working with and coaching several of today’s young leaders, I’ve noticed that there are three great challenges that all young leaders face. Every young leader faces these challenges, but some handle them better than others. It’s how we handle these challenges that will determine how successful our careers will be. Our three great challenges are:

Getting Noticed

The first great challenge young leaders face is simply getting noticed. With 79 million members of the millennial generation, standing out from the rest of the largest generation in memory presents a great challenge.

Being Taken Seriously

If we’re able to stand out and get noticed, the second great challenge is being taken seriously. Showcasing the technical skill and knowledge required to be successful in a way that when we speak, people listen, presents a great challenge. 

Leading Ourselves

The first two great challenges relate to how others see us. The last great challenge is related to how we see ourselves in relation to the job we have to do. Leading ourselves to develop the disciplines and learn the skills is presents a great challenge. It’s tempting to think that by doing our best work, we will get noticed, be taken seriously and know how to lead ourselves. This thought is outdated. Today, doing our best work isn’t enough.
  • In order to get noticed, our style is as important as our substance. We have to learn to package ourselves in the way we dress, speak and carry ourselves in a way that separates us from the rest of the pack.
  • In order to be taken seriously, we need the soft skills that allow us to highlight our hard skills. Being great at our jobs isn’t enough if we can’t get along with the people we work with or explain the great work that we do.
  • The key to effective self-leadership is developing the confidence to believe in ourselves and the ambition to do what is necessary. No one can lead us if we aren’t capable of leading ourselves.
  In order to overcome these great challenges, I’ve coached the young leaders that I work with to develop their own unique charisma and communication style. By developing their softer skills and learning to command a room, these leaders have mastered their three great challenges and set themselves up for a successful career. ]]>

This week, somewhat out of character, I have dedicated this blog to subjects of motivation and inspiration. I say somewhat out of character because I don’t consider myself to be a motivational speaker, but instead a trainer in executive image and communication. I have dedicated to writing about these subjects this week, however, because I’ve found being motivated and inspired is a big part of being charismatic and successful. To wrap up this week of motivation, I wanted to share a video that I stumbled across last week one day. It’s only 2:48 seconds long, but the idea it presents crawled inside of my mind and has stayed planted there. The language is course, and not exactly the way that I would phrase it, but it is none the less inspiring. [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_w9q9WXWu8[/embedyt] My biggest take away from this little video was that I now had a name for the feeling of procrastination that sometimes overwhelms me. How many times I had promised myself something at night only to see myself break that promise in daylight. Calling this feeling Mr. Resistance and giving this feeling a name, though, allows me to label and overcome it when I feel it setting in. In his words, it lets me punch it in the mouth. Having never been a fan of wrestling, I had no idea who The Ultimate Warrior was until I saw this video, but his message has served an inspiration to me all week and it’s my hope that you will get the same benefit from hearing it. ]]>

In Monday’s post, A Lesson From The Successful, I shared the story of how I stumbled across the Common Denominator Of Success. That successful people develop the habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do even though they don’t like doing them either. In that post, I mentioned the fact that we can eventually learn to enjoy the things that we dislike doing once we begin to see results and fall in love with the process, but in the beginning, we need to be reminded that we’re paying a price for greater gain. I believe that learning to love the process of achieving our goals is one of the best skills we can develop because when we do, that love can fuel on even bigger goals. I still can’t believe how it happened to me. On my 30th birthday, I was a mess. I was fat, I was sick and I was zapped out. My doctor was as frustrated as I was nothing she said to me seemed to make a difference. I weighed 330 pounds, was diabetic with blood pressure high enough to make my head explode. I was a ticking time bomb with three young kids and a beautiful wife at home. Knowing that I needed some encouragement, a couple of the ladies in my office building talked me into joining their team for a health challenge. We all signed up, weighed in once a week and competed with other teams from across our area. I have to say that I wasn’t that concerned with getting healthier, but I’m competitive and hated the thought of losing, so I began to pay the price. I researched all of the ways that people like me could drop weight quickly. I found a diet strategy and a workout strategy and started. I hated every minute of it. I hated counting carbs, I hated tracking my food, but mostly, I hated working out. Every day as I walked into the gym, knowing that I was going to lift weights, I couldn’t stand the happy people I passed by. The lady at the front desk that checked me in would say things like “have fun.” Fun? I’d think, “FUN?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’m only here so that I can win this competition!” Although I dreaded going, I kept at it. Every day, I’d hit it again and again. I lifted six days a week and only missed on the holidays that the gym was closed. I didn’t go to have fun, I went because I was paying a price. Then the competition ended. I didn’t win, but I found myself 55 pounds lighter and extremely proud of my progress. My reason for going was gone but as weird as it sounded, I didn’t hate going anymore. One day on the squat rack, I had just hit what was for me a really big 475-pound squat and a guy walked up to me. He said, “as often as you come you must really love this place.” At that moment it occurred to me that I was having the time of my life. I wasn’t paying a price anymore, was living the reward. I had fallen in love with the process and for me, it made all the difference in the world. I lost another fifty pounds, got off of all of my medications and became the healthiest I’d been in my life. That’s what loving the process did for me. It started with paying the price for my goal and doing what I didn’t like doing, but when the dislike turned to love, I was unstoppable. No matter what your goal, pay the price and one day, you’ll fall in love too. ]]>

When I began my career as a salesperson, I hated the telephone. I loved seeing people and I loved helping people solve problems, but I wasn’t getting in front of anyone because I hated making phone calls. During one of my weekly coaching sessions, my mentor was discussing with me my lack of success and pointed to my lack of phone activity as my problem. “I just hate the phone,” I told him. “So.” He said. “I hate the phone too, but I still pick it up and use it.” This came as a real shock to me. This guy was the best appointment setter that I’ve ever been around. He was olive oil smooth on the phone no matter who he was calling and he’s telling me that he hated the phone too. It was then that he took a tattered copy of a small booklet out of his jacket pocket and put it on the table. “This is why I make phone calls.” He told me. The booklet on the table in front of me was titled The Common Denominator of Success. It was actually a speech delivered at a life insurance convention by Albert E.N. Gray that was turned into a book. In the short and concise book, Gray makes the point that successful people make a habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do. This is what my mentor was doing. He was making the habit of doing the things that I didn’t like to do. Not because he enjoyed doing it any more than I did, but because he enjoyed being successful more than he hated making phone calls. He told me that when he started making phone calls, he put his copy of The Common Denominator of Success on the table in front of him and left it there until he was done. It reminded him that even though it was uncomfortable, it was the thing that failures don’t like to do and he was going to do it. This piece of advice has had a profound effect on me and I continue to think about it all of the time. Eventually, we can learn to enjoy the process, but in the beginning, the boost that it can bring is valuable and it can apply to every area of our lives. Consider the things that are holding you back. Is it because you don’t like doing something? Chances are good that the successful people you admire don’t like doing it either, but they do it anyway. They do it because they joy of the result means more to them than the inconvenience of the process. Today, I have my own tattered booklet sitting on my desk. It serves as my reminder that successful people don’t like doing the things I dislike any more than I do, but they do them anyway. With that kind of mindset, their success is possible for me too. ]]>

On Monday, I posted a blog about using humor as a secret weapon in presentations. While it’s a great tool for being likable, it only works if we’re able to project warmth. Warmth is the feeling that you like the people that you’re talking to and have the desire to help them. It’s an incredible way to make your audience like you, but it’s incredibly hard to fake and nearly impossible to project if you’re scared or nervous. Projecting Warmth is delicate but there are some tricks that make it easier.

Don’t Fake It

Authenticity is one of the most crucial elements of warmth. It’s impossible to be yourself while trying to be something else. If we try to fake it, our audience will see right through it, and you will never be able to project warmth.

Make Yourself Audience-Centered

We’ve all seen speakers and presenters that make the entire presentation about themselves. It seems as if the reason they step to the front of the room is to tell you how great they are. When we do this, it makes it really difficult to project warmth. Warmth is the feeling that you like your audience and have a desire to help them, talking about ourselves, and making the presentation about us do not allow us to do that. When we make ourselves audience-centered, we share our stories as the relate to the people we’re speaking to. When we’re audience centered we become more interested in solving their problems than we do meeting own needs to feel important. When we’re audience-centered, we project warmth because it will come across that we really care.

Become Grateful

This is probably the biggest key to projecting warmth. Becoming grateful for everything that’s great in our lives, everything that we have going right for us will help us project warmth. When we become grateful, we become more humble, less arrogant and generally more likable. Becoming grateful will help put us in a mindset that makes us more relatable. The most important role that gratitude plays is the courage that it inspires. It’s nearly impossible to project warmth when we’re nervous or scared, but it’s impossible to feel nervous or scared and grateful at the same time!   The most effective mindset to establish before a presentation is a mindset that’s authentic and centered on your audience and off of yourself. A mindset full of gratitude for the things that you have and the things that are going right in your life. If we’re authentic and interested in the people we’re talking to while grateful for who are, that’s when we truly project the warmth that makes the connection possible.  ]]>

When I first began my career, I was convinced that the best way to give feedback was sit someone down, and like Frank Costanza at Festivus, tell them all of the ways they had disappointed me. Needless to say, I was not a popular, or an effective manager. I, like a lot of young leaders, had developed the hard skills required to do my job, but I hadn’t yet developed the soft skills required to do it well. It took the President of the company sitting me down and coaching me on the proper way to give feedback. He did it in a way that kept me from being resentful, defensive or embarrassed, yet pushed me in the right direction with encouragement to get better. The formula he gave me is as follows:

Begin With The Positive

This is not the sandwich style of evaluation that puts one negative between two positives in the hope that the person being evaluated doesn’t get their feeling hurt. This is realizing that reinforcing good habits is every bit as important as correcting the poor ones. By being able to state the positive aspects of whatever we are giving feedback about, we are highlighting the things that they need to keep doing, and keep consistent with. Catching people doing something well is great way to ensure that they continue to do so. I rarely mentioned the good things that people did because I thought they already knew those and that they needed to be told what they were doing wrong. This approach did nothing to build a foundation for improvement. By beginning with the positive, that’s what we’re doing, building a foundation.

State Areas For Improvement In Relation To Potential

No one likes to be told they aren’t doing something well, but we’re much more receptive to being told the things we need to improve in order to be our best. Stating our areas of improvement in relation to our potential is a way of talking about the things that are holding us back from achieving the performance we really want. When the President of my company talked about how bright my future was, I paid attention. We all like to hear how great we are. When he told me that the biggest thing holding me back was the way I criticized employee performance, he told me that the only way I could reach my potential was learn to give constructive feedback. This was an eye-opening experience because he wasn’t “airing his grievances”, he was helping me get what I wanted. This made all the difference in the world in the way I received what he was telling me.

Give Encouragement To Try Again

Not all performance appraisals are going to be nice. Sometimes we need to hear things that we aren’t prepared to hear, but if the person delivering the feedback isn’t at the same time encouraging, the chances of a change in performance are slim. This actually goes in line with my earlier point of putting feedback in relation to potential. Letting someone know that they are valued and respected is a crucial step to winning compliance. Encouraging the person we’re evaluating to try again and do it better is the best way to conclude a feedback session. It puts us in the position of coach rather than dictator and can be the difference in someone actually reaching their potential.    Of all of the important skills that we can develop, being able to effectively deliver feedback is one of the most critical. Doing it well takes courage, compassion and discipline, but this is an extremely cheap cost when compared with improved performance. ]]>

If there were a secret weapon that would make your message better received, make you more likable and help you stand out in every presentation you were to make, would you use it? Of course, you would. That’s why I’m surprised so few people employ humor in their presentations. When used appropriately, it can be a secret weapon that can help you nail every presentation you make. Consider why:

  • People love to laugh. When we do, we relax and when we learn best in a relaxed environment.
  • When your audience is relaxed, you will relax, making you more confident in your delivery.
  • People love people who make them feel good. Humor helps us bring positive feelings. to our audience.
  • We remember presenters that entertain.
  As powerful as humor can be, it can also be rather delicate. Finding it can be challenging and that’s the point of this post, finding humor, and there’s nothing funny about that.

Jokes Never Work

It’s virtually impossible to make jokes work in a presentation. Most people have heard them before, taking the punch out of it and more are inappropriate which will call your professionalism into question. There’s a better way.

Set Yourself Up

I love using threes in presentations. Our minds are really well adapted to anticipating things in numbers of three. Making it work for humor means using it to lead down a familiar path with the first two statements and then taking an expected turn with the third. An example comes from my “How’d I Get Here”  speech. Describing my mother watching me standing on a rock in our yard, I use the rule of three to get a laugh: Ever since I was big enough to climb that rock, my mother watched and encouraged me. As I stood tall to accept my medal she’d applaud, when I gave my stirring speeches she would cheer and when I’d sing —  well she’d go back inside. No one expected my mom to go back inside, that’s where the humor was. I set myself up for an expected moment.


Some of the best comedians working the stage today make their living taking very simple personal stories and exaggerating them until they’re funny. This works in presentations too. We all have very small stories that happen to us every day, but by stretching a little here and there, they can turn into really funny stories. Consider a small story I sometimes use to make a larger point about perspective. On the farm where I grew up my brother and I own a small herd of cows together and last week I got one of those calls that can ruin a day. All ten cows were standing in my mom and dad’s front yard. When my brother and I started trying to get the cows back into the pasture, they scattered like dust in the wind. They ran everywhere. As we chased those cows all over the yard, the woods and the field next to the house, my blood started to boil. The longer we walked the madder I got. And then I noticed that my brother wasn’t mad at all. The further we walked, the happier he got. How could it be, that both of us, chasing the same cows in the same heat, both of us late for work and both of us dirty, sweaty and getting frustrated, but I’m getting mad and he’s getting happy? The difference was that I looked at it as a wasted morning but he was looking at his Fitbit and counting steps! Every time a cow went further from the pasture, he was that much closer to his daily goal. A small story about the cows getting out, but by stretching it just a little, there’s humor to be had. Humor is, in fact, a secret weapon. Most people are afraid to use it because they associate being funny with telling a joke. By setting ourselves up and exaggerating simple stories, we can be humorous and still be on message, and that’s the mark of a professional.]]>