Sunday, October 7, 2012

How a power pose can affect your next meeting

Changing your body language can actually change body chemistry, research shows

Want to be more successful in your next business meeting? Try striking a "power pose," by standing tall and straight with an open posture. And whatever you do don't hunch over and make yourself "tiny," says Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School. Body language is especially important for women, who can easily be overshadowed in meetings by men, who naturally take up more space.

But Cuddy, who has done years of research on the topic, says both men and women can use body language to actually raise their testosterone levels and lower the levels of the anxiety-producing hormone cortisol.
Cuddy's views on the subject have gone viral after she told her own moving story before a packed audience at a TED conference earlier this year.

The speech became a ‘moment’ at the conference when Cuddy became overcome by emotion in describing her own experience counseling a young woman who thought she “did not belong” in business school.
“Stay and fake it, you’re going to make yourself powerful. And you know you’re gonna…,” Cuddy said, suddenly pausing and stopping, tears welling in her eyes.  A supportive audience coaxed her on with extended applause and she regained her poise. "And you're going to go into the classroom, and you are going to give the best comment ever." The student overcame her doubts and became a success “because she had not just faked it until she made it. She faked it until she became it.”

Cuddy went through her own crisis of confidence in becoming an advocate of body language as a transformative process.  A victim of a traumatic car accident while she was in college, she displayed signs of brain damage and was told she would not be able to finish college. She dropped out for a time.
A college adviser who saw her innate intelligence and wanted to help her back onto a successful academic track told her she needed to work on her confidence by speaking in front of people.
“Just do it and do it and do it, even if you are terrified,” was the advice she took to heart as she rose through the ranks of teaching and became known for her research. Cuddy in an article on, suggested business people should "should be walking around the hallway, putting your arms up."
"Sit at your desk and put your feet up on it," she said, offering an example of the "power pose." "Stand on your tiptoes with your hands in the air. When you go into a sales meeting, you want to be as squared off and tall as you naturally can be. If you're sitting down, you might consider not crossing your legs."
Cuddy said the tendency to hunch over and make yourself small, protecting against outsiders, is an instinct that dates back to primates in the jungle and even a few rungs lower in the animal kingdom, Cuddy says.
By acting more powerful and pumping yourself up, people can learn to change she says.  She tells people to “audit your own body.” “It’s not being fake,” said Sims Wyeth, of Sims Wyeth & Co in Montclair, N.J., a speech coach who has worked on the front lines with executives.  “It’s really you, but it’s an unfamiliar you that you start to understand.” The process of “becoming assertive and confident” is a problem for both genders, especially in speaking in front of people, he said.“I see it in a lot of men and women,” said Wyeth. “It doesn’t what you are like physically. Tall men sometimes feel awkward because they stand out.”
The transformative process that Cuddy talks about has been valuable for many women, he said. But men have their own issues to overcome, even if they are different ones.“They are peacocks. It’s not about swagger. It’s about avoiding all affectation and showing calm, not anxiety. Your body posture is an important part of that.” Cuddy argued passionately that learning to be more confident can “significantly change the outcome of your life”

By Richard Satran, TODAY contributor
From LifeInc on Today
Read the full article here

Friday, September 28, 2012

Assessing our politicians and their public image

Politicians need to be concerned with their public image as they are with the actual business of politics. They are the vehicle for explaining the issues and proposing solutions – that vehicle packages the message and becomes the message itself. The astute aspirant should be examining the way they present themselves in public in order to be ready when voters ask: Do you fit the image of what I want my public representative to look like? more here from the Star Newspaper

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tipping is not a city in China

Lets face it in Kenya tipping is not the order of the day.  Ok, so maybe we’ll give the security guy 20 bob for looking after our vehicle in town but generally for most services tipping or leaving a gratuity is never considered.   So then, does it mean that we will never receive good service if we don't pay "extra"?  Is this a practice connived to bribe service providers to give faster and better service to particular people and not to others? And if so what is the difference between a bribe and a tip? I think it’s as simple as this; a tip is usually a monetary thank you for a service provided in an exceptional manner. 

The tip in my opinion is not only a sign of appreciation for the services rendered to you but also has motivational connotation to it. Whether at a restaurant, a shoe shop, or the parking lot a show of reward for any service given to you should be offered. 

So when and where should it be done? And who receives the tip?  Well, any person who extends a service to you should receive a tip, be it at the local barber shop or salon, your friendly pub waiter or waitress, the dial-a-delivery guy, taxi driver, the list goes on.  The tip is offered immediately the service has been rendered and you have found it satisfactory. This is not to say that if it isn't then you shouldn't offer anything, by all means DO tip. The differentiation will be the amount given - more for exceptional service and less for service that is found wanting. 

Another point to note is that the percentages of your tips should not change because of the cost of the service. Let's take a hair dresser, for example. Of course, you can always tip on the lower end of 10 to 15%. (see the guide below). But if you are going to a more expensive salon, then it is assumed that you can still afford to tip the hairdresser at the desired percentage. Also tip those who serve you all year long or with whom you have a personal relationship at Christmas time.  

If wondering how much to tip here’s a rough and quick guide for typical services:

Hair dressers and barbers: 10 to 15 percent of the bill

Waiters 5 to 10 percent of the bill, 15 percent and above for excellent service.

Car wash attendants 10 to 15 percent of the cost

Security guards 30 to 50 shillings

Security guards at home or work (at Christmas) 2 weeks to one month’s pay

House help, domestic help, nanny, cook, gardener etc (at Christmas) 2 weeks to one month’s pay

Hotel concierge 300 to 1500 shillings either upon arrival or departure for any special services performed

Delivery person 30 to 50 shillings

Facial, spa treatment or any personal grooming service 10 to 15 percent of the bill unless instructed not to tip

Tour guide driver 400 to 1000 shillings per day

Golf caddies 15-20 percent of the greens fees for eighteen holes

Parking attendant 20-50 shillings 

Shoe shine attendant 20-50 shillings

Taxi driver 5 to 10 percent of the fare

Personal tutors, instructors, teachers, etc (at Christmas) a small gift

Porters at the airport, bus stage or railway 50 to 100 shillings per bag

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why you should never say "All protocols observed"

1. It is clearly a lie.
In essence you have NOT observed all protocols. It is just a claim that the necessarily rules of decorum have been observed but we all know protocol was overlooked altogether. Consider this, if you had been asked to pass a vote of thanks, would you thank one or two people and then state “All thanks given?”

2. There are other ways to observe protocol without having to mention each and every dignitary present.
One way is clustering: You can use a general phrase to address all that fall within a certain category – honourable delegates, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, my Lords etc. That way due diligence is paid.

3. It is a home-grown expression, unrecognised by the rest of the world.
Other than Kenyans, Nigerians, Ugandans and some South Africans who have become accustomed to hearing this, the expression remains totally alien to the rest of the world. Your audience will be at a loss as to what you mean; and as to why you have opted for that ‘short-cut.’

4. It is not necessary to use that expression when protocol has indeed been observed.
At times the speaker does indeed take his or her time to mention the dignitaries in the audience in order of precedence but spoils it by concluding the list with “all protocols observed.” If protocol has indeed been observed then that will be apparent to the audience and therefore redundant to include that out-of-place phrase.

Guest post from
Caroline Nderitu

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Office Faux Pas


I’ve worked with executives and professionals in many companies on protocol and business etiquette. I have heard first hand of stories ranging from the senior manager who began eating directly from the serving trays at the buffet table to someone who applied his deodorant stick during a meeting. Some of these examples may show a lack of self-awareness. You probably don't mean to blunder — but you don't know any better. So acknowledge that, chances are, you may be making business etiquette mistakes that you'd want to correct if only you knew about them. How do you find out? Well one way is to ask for feedback. I receive tons of questions either through email or during my sessions on all areas of business etiquette. I thought I’d share with you some choice ones I have recently received. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Q: I just started working at this company. I was using the men’s room when the CEO walked in to use the facilities himself. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to act?

A: The first rule of the men’s room is let others (CEO or no CEO) handle their business in peace. The men’s room ideally should be a place of respite from the madding world outside of the office. So avoid lengthy conversations on the sales meeting figures or the colour of Dan’s new tie. A cursory nod, acknowledgement or brief greeting will suffice. You should let the CEO finish his pit stop and say a quick good morning while you are both washing hands. You do wash your hands afterwards don’t you!

Q: Derek, I am going for a business meeting with a potential client at a Chinese restaurant and I have no idea how to use chops sticks. Help!


A: Don’t panic Ken, even though they do say when in Rome do as the Romans do. Most Chinese restaurants will give you conventional silverware to use and it’s better to stick with what you know than to struggle picking one grain of rice at a time. Do yourself a favour however and practice on your own and impress your client next time with your chop stick dexterity.

Q: Hi, I am a senior manager for this multinational company and the bosses from the head office in Europe were visiting. In the process of hugging and pecking as I was greeting them, my lipstick rubbed off on the Vice President’s collar just before he was going in to the meeting. I was mortified – what should I have done? Anne

A: Well, in the first place I would have avoided kissing as a way of greeting. The approved skin on skin contact in a professional setting is the handshake. If you know that Hans will insist on pecks then prepare in advance and either don’t wear lipstick that day or blot it off before you meet him. Either that or hang out with society types and learn the art of air kissing. Lipstick is made up of pigments, oils, waxes, and emollients meaning it is infernally difficult to remove without resorting to removing the shirt and washing it or using other products. This I presume being impossible under the circumstances, I would have apologised profusely to Hans and made arrangements then and there to buy or procure him another shirt.

Q: When I go out for a meeting in the morning hours there is this client who insists on buying me alcohol. Is it appropriate to accept or should I politely decline?

A: I think you know the answer to this one; I’m not sure in which business culture it is considered kosher to start drinking in the morning, certainly not here in Kenya. You can come up with any number of excuses for why you don’t drink alcohol and this will not make you any less of a man. Just be unfailingly polite.

Q: My boss and I had gone to a client’s office to make a business presentation. As he began speaking I noticed his zipper was wide open. I decided not to say anything in front of the client. Was this the right thing to do? Njeri

A: This is a tough one Njeri – good business etiquette dictates that it is a mistake to not say anything. But you also don’t want to embarrass him in public. Depending on how long he is speaking for, I’d advise that you tell him very quietly as soon as he sits down or even slip him a note. The cost of not telling could be high if it appears that you knew and kept quiet. If you're embarrassed, get someone else to do it. The trick here is to save him from embarrassment in front of the client and to limit his exposure.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The business of alcohol


I’ll be the first to admit that a little booze in the system makes for an honest, wittier, more stimulating conversation but in business take your cues from your company culture and the behaviour of your co-workers. Observe if successful people you work with drink at company events or how much they drink.  If you do not drink for personal, religious or philosophical reasons, there is no need to. Neither should you feel the need to offer any explanation, if someone asks you why you are not drinking alcohol, you can respond with "I much prefer this right now." Then move the conversation onto another topic. When you are not sure if the other people will be drinking, play it safe and order something non-alcoholic.  

When unwinding with co-workers or fellow professionals it’s okay to have few drinks to loosen up or relax and not seem prudish especially in a party type setting.   Everyone’s body chemistry is different but do know your limits, when to say enough is enough, when to call it a night and go home. Consider the effects of drinking too much on your relationships with your co-workers, your professional reputation, the office gossip mill, and your own view of yourself. 

Maybe the only thing worse than making a drunken fool of yourself with your co-workers or professional peers is showing up late to work the next day (or not at all), clearly hung over and unable to function. Not only will you be seen as irresponsible, you may be costing your company and clients a lot of money. One way to avoid this is once you make your drink decision for the night, stick to that poison all night. Bouncing all over the place from vodka to gin to whisky to beer to wine only leads to trouble and a leaden head the next day.  Another important thing to remember is that as you get older, your recovery time takes longer. Things I could do at 22 I cannot do at 32, like shots. Shots to me are always a turning point in the evening between relaxed fun and things rapidly going downhill. So save the tequila shots for when you are on holiday with your best friends and not with your co-workers.

Ideally when you are entertaining a client, you shouldn’t drink or you should limit yourself to only one drink if they are going to have a drink. If they do not order an alcoholic beverage, you probably shouldn’t either. Realize that you are on show as a representative for your company. Remember its one thing to celebrate great work together in the appropriate setting, quite another to have regular liquid lunches with potential or existing clients. Alcohol loosens our inhibitions so be aware of drinking and hitting on co-workers or clients or getting over amorous with them. Sure it sounds obvious, but it happens all the time and a move on the wrong person could be potentially fatal to you and your career. So avoid setting yourself up by having too many drinks.

Another good rule to employ is to say to yourself, “I’ll have one less.” Instead of the usual, “Let’s have one more,” just say to yourself “I’m going to have one less.” It’s a good rule of thumb. Don’t be that person closing the party at 4am in the morning when the cleaners are coming in. And if you hear the words open bar – go against the grain and start off with juice or a soft drink rather than join the scrum for the free Heineken. Delaying the inevitable as long as possible will help you drink less.

 “Leta Tusker mbili” should not be your mantra at every cocktail, business lunch, networking event or even after a round of golf – you know there are other more sophisticated choices out there. How you present yourself outside the office is just as important as it is at work. What you order can say a lot about you. This is especially for the new hires and upcoming professionals, your take on alcohol should change now that you are no longer in college and a steady pay check and adulthood has opened up a whole new world.  I’d strongly recommend that you take the time to educate yourself in the world of wines.  Wine is the go-to-choice for having alcohol at a business or company event.

So be smart, drink responsibly, and remember that while you may like your co-workers, they aren’t your friends from college and are less reliable to carry your drunken self back to the car or call you a cab nor should they be. Cheers!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is business dress dying?

Do you think dressing casually costs you points in the business world? Is business dress a dying breed in the corporate culture of today? A recent article published on MSNBC, talked about Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and how his “casual” way of dressing was losing his company investors on Wall Street:

Mark Zuckerberg’s shaggy, baggy, haute-hoodie Manhattan appearance to launch the campaign for his company’s initial public stock offering didn’t induce any “likes” from Wall Streeters or fashionistas — only the kinds of catty critiques that typically season Facebook’s chatter. But some style gurus believe Zuckerberg calculatedly donned his normal dorm-frumpy garb to send New York’s financiers a crisp message: “The West Coast techies truly fuel this economy, and you will now live by our rules (and our dress codes).”“He sort of thumbed his nose at that establishment, essentially saying that high tech is now moving into Wall Street. They’re young, they’re hip and they’re here,” said Joseph Rosenfeld, a San Jose–based “image mentor,” who helps rising dot-com stars and established Silicon Valley tycoons carve out personal styles. But Zuckerberg is not alone. There are many high-profile CEO’s that dress down and don’t sport a business suit.

The Facebook CEO’s scrappy duds certainly reflect a wrinkled “we’re-typing-code-all-night!” look common at the hustle-and-sweat startups of Silicon Valley and beyond. Other notable followers include entrepreneurs like Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Dennis Crowley (co-founder of Foursquare), Andrew Mason (founder of Groupon) and Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn). The untucked look has been the high-tech fashion norm since the days when Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak tinkered with their first prototypes in Jobs’ garage. When Apple hit the big time, Jobs didn’t change his look. For major launch events, he always strolled stages wearing his trademark black turtleneck and blue jeans. “At one time, that black turtleneck was a very striking, nonconformist look,” Bryant said. “But if we leap from business suit to black turtleneck to hoodie, you can easily see that Mark Zuckerberg’s cohort doesn’t feel that dress makes a strong statement. (Hoodies, T shirts and jeans are) just what they’re comfortable wearing. That’s really become their uniform.”

What do you think? Do you think dressing casually is okay today or does business dress still matter? In all my experience, I can safely say business dress does count in the corporate workplace. How you dress affects how you are perceived. Understand that the people mentioned above ‘want’ to be perceived in a certain way. But show up like that for an interview and it won’t be perceived well. Although business casual dressing is accepted by many companies today, there are still some rules to follow at work, and I can guarantee you’ll be taken aside by your boss for a one-on-one if you sport a “don’t care” attitude and don’t adhere to those rules.

The bottom line is if you’ve made it then you can get away with ‘casual’ or whatever your preferred style is. But if you’re still making your mark (like most of us) business dress plays a critically important role in getting ahead in the business world.

This article appeared on