Being A Great Negotiator Starts With Becoming More Aware

Setting up a business deal requires time, patience and some steady nerves. Perhaps you’re talking with a client about establishing — or expanding — your services at their firm. Perhaps you’re sitting down with fellow partners, trying to chart a course for the business. Everyone has ideas. Everyone has wants. You just need to negotiate.

Besides the usual research and planning that goes into a deal, there are other ways to prepare yourself before you sit down at the table. Below, members of Forbes Coaches Council talk about those key skills, qualities and tactics, as well as how they can help you. Here’s what they advise:

Members of Forbes Coaches Council share the top tactics of every skilled negotiator.

1.Face, And Clear Away, Any Personal Baggage

The late Jim Camp, author of Start with No, taught me that one of the steps in negotiation that’s often missed is to face and clear any personal baggage that we have when we come to the table. We often have hidden agendas that need to come out into the open before we can make progress. – Sandi Leyva, Sandra L Leyva Inc.

2. Identify Your End Goal

Get clear on what you want to accomplish throughout the negotiation process and your desired outcome. Do you want a win-win outcome? A collaborative process? What about your end goal? Is it negotiable? How so? The more clear you are in the beginning, the easier it is to negotiate not only for what you want, but also you’ll be able to list out the facts to support it. – Gina Gomez, Gina Gomez, Business & Life Coach

3. Build Trust

Trust is a critical foundation of any successful relationship. Negotiations start well before you even meet at the table for the discussion. Build credibility, act honestly and show genuine interest with others. This will create more opportunities for the desired result for both parties. – Alan Trivedi, Trivedi Coaching & Consulting Group

4. Develop Your Perception And Persuasion Skills

Effective negotiation involves a blend of communication and persuasion skills. You can’t negotiate if you don’t know how to persuade. Persuading involves being able to influence others to achieve your goal. You need high levels of perception and good influencing skills to negotiate successfully. – Dr. Corinthia Price, WorkforceCareerReadiness™

5. Listen Carefully, Then Restate The Points

The more effectively you can listen with optimism, the greater your opportunity for success in a negotiation. Hear your counterpart without interruption. Be aware of emotions, body language, and tone of voice to get the full picture. Then restate their key points to their satisfaction before making your own. It’s not a competition against them: It’s an opportunity for you to both get what you want. – Hayward Suggs, Commonquest Consulting

6. Find The Core Value That You Can Align Towards

In negotiations, you want everyone at the table to leave feeling like they got what they wanted. You don’t have to agree on everything — in fact, many solid partnerships and relationships thrive on an appreciation of each others’ differences. Find the core value that you can align towards, and work out the details once you find the outcome that serves everyone best. – Karen Pery, Karen Pery Coaching + Consulting

7. Learn What Matters Most

Learn about what matters most to the other person. Be curious to find a way where you can both win. In Negotiating with Giants, Peter D. Johnston shares an example: Two people are fighting over an orange. Before cutting it in half, we learn one wants the rind for baking and the other wants only the juice. There is often a way for each person to get most of what they really want. – Susanne Biro, Susanne Biro & Associates Coaching Inc.

8. Weigh All Options, And Be Flexible In Your Communication Tactics

Yes, you want to “win,” but what if what your counterpart is suggesting can make your win larger? Don’t go into negotiation conversations ready to prove a point or to shut the other party down. Weigh all options, and be flexible in your communication tactics. – Maleeka T. Hollaway, The Official Maleeka Group, LLC.

9. Know Your Non-Negotiables To Negotiate Well

When you are clear on what your non-negotiables are, you can engage in productive negotiation. If you have not clearly determined your own non-negotiables, the process won’t feel strong, and you won’t feel confident. By knowing exactly what your non-negotiables are, and sticking to them, you and the other party are more likely to successfully get what you both want. – Kiran Gaind, The Connected Family

10. Get Comfortable With Silence

Silence can be the result of listening, thinking or waiting out the other party. Too many people lose in negotiations because they are uncomfortable with a pause and move forward too fast. Use the “power of the pause” to make a point or to consider the scope of discussion. It actually is a sign of strength versus weakness when you can control your natural impulse to talk. – LaKisha Greenwade, Lucki Fit LLC

11. Know Your Walk-Away Point

Sometimes, the other side in a negotiation may have unrealistic expectations that are set in concrete. In any negotiation, you need to have options to be flexible for reaching agreement. But, knowing your limits is a critical skill — to recognize when it is time to “pull the plug” and walk away. Examine your options carefully, but recognize when no deal is a better result than a bad deal. – Susan P. Joyce,

Source : Forbes

Present Like A Pro In The Corporate World


The ability to communicate your ideas effectively will be one of the greatest determinants of how far and how fast you advance in your career. There are plenty of smart people out there who seem to freeze up when it’s time to present to a more senior group of people, or who just don’t seem to be able to articulate their vision clearly to their leader, and end up walking away from these meetings feeling deflated.

As the former speechwriter for the CEO and President of General Motors and a keynote speaker myself, I work with high potentials and executives who want to give more persuasive presentations. Often, these people lack the confidence and some of the know-how necessary to make their presentations stand out and garner the desired results. Though it is fairly common for people in the corporate world to make presentations, many haven’t had much coaching on how to do a really great job in this area. I recently worked with executives who felt like they were average communicators and knew that if they wanted to progress in their careers, they needed to invest some time and energy into their presentation skills.

I love seeing the difference in people who really put themselves out there to try out new styles and translate feedback into meaningful results. If you have ever felt like you could have done a better job sharing your ideas, I have a few tips you can use to improve your presentations starting today:

1. Connect with your audience by starting with a story. Even a formal, corporate presentation can often be enhanced by sharing a one- or two-minute anecdote in the beginning of your presentation that adds a personal dimension to your talk and connects with your listeners right from the get-go. Try to tie in the story, even loosely, to your forthcoming points as a segway to the “meat” of your presentation.

2. Don’t ramble. The best way you can ensure you don’t go on for too long is to practice, practice, practice. Don’t “wing” presentations or important discussions with your boss. Make it tight. Think of any possible questions you could be asked about your information and be sure to work out an answer for it in advance. Steve Jobs was known for giving high-impact speeches; he never winged it. He would practice his talks so thoroughly that they seemed natural.

3. Cut back on your PowerPoint. I often see PowerPoint as an overused tool that becomes a crutch for the speaker. If you choose to use PowerPoint, do so to display useful, attention-grabbing images with just a few bullet points on each slide that you speak to, rather than read aloud.

4. Take a breath. As part of my preparation for my recent executive session, I read the book Breathe… Just Steps to Breathtaking Speeches by drama and vocal coach Brenda Smith. She discusses how things like breathing properly during presentations helps set the right tone and pace for a bigger impact. It is important to remember to breathe during, but also before, your presentation. As a big believer in pre-talk or pre-meeting success rituals, I always take a few moments before going into almost anything, including a coaching call with my clients, to take some deep breaths to feel grounded. During this time, I remind myself of the real meaning behind my work — to help others. This takes the pressure off of all the other stresses I may be feeling and opens the door for me to do my best job communicating my ideas.

5. Listen. When we go into important meetings, we can get caught up in our own heads, focusing so hard on what we are going to say that we forget that presentations are two-way communications. Even beyond any Q&A session, it’s important to listen to the cues your audience gives off. Are they tired, bored, energized, interested, uncomfortable? If you notice a certain vibe from your audience, you may need to shift your style to make sure it meets their needs. This will increase your chances of ensuring your messages are received and that you’re providing information of value to your audience. Whether in a one-on-one meeting with your leader or a talk to a packed auditorium, the same principles apply: Be yourself. Be real. Share your stuff and be confident about who you are. Connect. Relax.

Remember, at the end of your talk, some people are going to love you, some will dislike you, and many will probably land in the middle. It is when you tried your best and were true to your ideas that you know you were a success. Making the investment to work with a coach can be a great use of your time and resources. In the meantime, you can put these steps into practice right away to fine-tune your presentation style and become a great communicator.


Source: Forbes

Improve Team Collaboration With These Key Skills


What is collaborative teaming in an organization? When we look at this concept, a good analogy is to think of the word “team” like playing on a soccer team, for instance. Continual communication is critical to the team’s success, requiring frequent collaboration between team members to deliver a winning solution or service.

Before there can be effective collaborative teaming, the initial question to ponder is, does your organization have an environment that is conducive to effective communication? What are the requirements for this type of environment?

Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” Less than one-third of teams are engaged at work, and according to Gallup (paywall), a majority of workers “believe that their organization’s project performance would improve if their teams worked more collaboratively.”

What’s the culprit? Effective communication is often lacking, resulting in miscommunication.

Certain skills are needed to improve team performance and raise employee engagement. Exemplary team members excel at:

  • Communicating
  • Engaging in conflict resolution so that projects stay on target
  • Listening to fellow team members
  • Persuading team members, which can avert conflict and increase productivity

While all criteria are crucial, good communication begins with the ability to listen to other team members well. Yes, miscommunication between team members is inevitable, but there are several factors in particular that can destabilize teams:

  • Important emails get overlooked or end up in spam
  • Misunderstandings
  • Misinterpretations
  • Non-understanding
  • Lack of trust
  • Personalities that don’t mesh with one another
  • Power control issues that stem from insecurity
  • Lack of clarity on roles, expectations, and goals
  • Lack of attendance to meetings and not meeting deadlines

Let’s look at three facets to miscommunication:

  1. Misunderstanding: This is a failure to understand something correctly, which results in making assumptions. Really listening to what is being said without assuming is a challenge for most individuals. To ensure understanding, have the team reflect back on what they heard. Reflecting back on what was said can minimize misunderstandings.
  2. Non-understanding: This means not processing or receiving information. It can happen due to an overflow of emails or missing important meetings.
  3. Misinterpretation: This means assuming that someone has the information you need them to. An excellent assessment for teams is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, as it can give team members an understanding of how fellow teammates listen to and process information. There are 16 different personality sets that are derived from taking the assessment, and within those subsets, a person is either a “J” or a “P.” When someone is assessed as a “J,” they process information quickly and make decisions quickly. A “P” is someone who wants to gather more data and will often start analyzing one thing, missing the rest of the information.

A CIO I coach was expressing frustration with her team members. She is a “J.” As she told me about their last team meeting, it was apparent that most of her team members were “P’s.”  I recommended to her that she learn who the “P’s” were in her team so that she could call on them to recap a meeting and figure out if they caught all the information. Knowing who on your team is a “J” and a “P” is crucial to preventing communication gaps.

Miscommunication is the culprit that undermines team performance. Another way to strengthen team collaboration and improve communication is ensuring that everyone is clear about their roles and what is expected of them. What are some of the abilities that define expectations and roles on your team?

A strong team has four abilities:

  • Technical skills in a specific discipline
  • Problem-solving skills: analyzing difficult situations or impasses, and crafting solutions
  • Interpersonal skills, especially the ability to collaborate effectively with others
  • Organizational skills: communicating well and avoiding conflicts with operating units and their personnel

Individuals who are strong in all four areas are scarce, as most of the emphasis lies on technical and problem-solving skills.

A member who is strong in interpersonal skills and is organizationally savvy may be the team’s most valuable member, as they can gather resources and acquire help from other operating units. Neutralizing weaknesses on your team can be remedied by looking for members who aren’t just valued for their skills but are strong in interpersonal and organizational abilities. Having a team member with these strengths enhances the team’s effectiveness and productivity.

Another aspect of communication is being open and honest. Building an atmosphere of trust is about communicating openly and honestly with everyone on the team. Can you do that? Does your team bring up issues quickly? And when the issues are on the table, how efficiently does your team work to resolve them? Are your team members encouraged to bring you the bad news? If so, how do you respond to the news?

Building trust and having open communication connects team members and improves engagement. Ask yourself how well you facilitate communication between members. Do you approach your team often or are you a recluse in your office? Do you communicate with everyone equally or do you have a few in your inner circle and exclude others?

If you want to tighten up communication and enhance team collaboration, present the questions highlighted here to your team. Take time to review, and dive deep into your teams’ effectiveness. In this way, you can scrutinize what needs to change to improve team engagement.


Source : Forbes

How to Optimally Answer, ‘What Do You Do?’

Sometimes, just replying, “You know, I’m not 100 percent sure” breaks the ice and gets a more productive conversation started.

As a former member of the the networking organization BNI, and an enthusiast of the membership network WeWork, I often hear the same question: “What do you do?”

If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve heard it too.

It’s such a loaded question, isn’t it? I’ve answered it so many times, but I still feel a little flutter in my stomach every time someone asks, “What’s your job? What do you do for a living?”

Because the question they’re really asking is: “Who are you, and why should I care?”

The problem with standard answers

I could reply, “I’m a writer,” or “I’m a content marketer” or “I’m an astronaut.” In fact, that’s the answer I hear 99 percent of the time. Whether the person answering is 18 or 65, he or she almost always says the same thing: “Oh, I’m an intern at such-and-such bank,,” or “I’m retired.”

But when you give those answers, you’re automatically putting yourself in a tiny box. Most people’s reaction is to default to either a polite, “Oh, okay” or “Wow, what’s that like?” And that reaction usually has to do with how much money they think you’re making.

There has got to be a better way to answer this question, right? As it turns out, there is.

Expectations versus reality

People like to compartmentalize and label everything they can. It’s human nature. So, when someone asks you, “What do you do?” nine times out of 10, they don’t genuinely care about your answer. Whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or an aspiring actor doesn’t matter to them.

What they really want to know is, “How can you help me?”

Keeping this in mind, consider something called Jobs to Be Done theory. It’s a business theory developed at Harvard Business School that has broad implications for everything from product development to marketing.

What job do you get done?

Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) theory posits that customers don’t hire a product because of its bells and whistles and doodads, but because it gets a job done. The quote that sums up JTBD theory best is Theodore Levitt’s famous “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole!”

So, when the iPod came out, for example, everyone and their mom bought one not just because it was the coolest thing ever at the time, but because, in Apple’s words, you could have “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The iPod completely phased out the Walkman and similar devices because it was much better at getting a specific job done: playing a large, curated selection of music on the go.

Unfortunately, JTBD theory on its own doesn’t explain all consumer behavior. For example, how do people choose candy bars? What about soft drinks? Why on earth does anyone choose Pepsi over Coke?

The truth is that there are many products out there that are almost exactly the same as other products that people choose, only with the latter, there are emotional reasons involved (where marketing and branding come into play).

Typically, for lower-priced products, consumers choose products for emotional reasons, like a specific type of lifestyle branding, or the goal of saving money. In the higher-priced tiers, consumers choose products for functional reasons, like getting an important job done better than the competition.

While this may all seem tangential to the question, “What do you do?” it’s actually relevant. In the real world, people buy products because of functional and emotional reasons. The iPod was a hit because Apple created a product that 100 percent did the functional job better. But the iPod’s creators also branded the gadget exceptionally well and created an emotional connection with consumers, too.

How can you help me?

Let’s stop talking about products and return to people. As mentioned earlier, when someone asks, “What do you do?” he or she is really asking, “How can you help me?” The questioner wants to know if you can satisfy some functional or emotional need he or she has.

So, when you say, “I’m in sales,” you’re not really answering either question (unless your questioner is specifically looking to hire a salesperson). When I say, “I’m a writer,” that’s too unspecific. Some people will automatically assume I’m dirt poor; some will think my work is kind of neat and some won’t care either way.

In a business setting, your goal is to frame the question and answer it differently so that you pique your listener’s curiosity and convince this person’s interest to keep listening.

Two ways to answer, “What do you do?”

I’ve experimented with a lot of answers to the question, and discovered that two answers are far and away the most engaging (at least in my experience).

When my listener isn’t really paying attention and has just mentally tossed a coin between asking, “What do you do?” and, “How about this weather?” answering the what-do-you-do question in any direct way is a losing battle for attention.

The best way to answer, then, is to be modest and slightly mysterious. For example, at an informal event or get-together where people are asking this as an ice-breaker, I’ll say something like, “You know, I’m still not 100 percent sure.” That tends to earn me a laugh and some goodwill.

You’ll notice that when you answer that way, something interesting happens. If you’re confident and carry yourself well, your listener(s) will become interested. Eventually, he or she will come back to you for a more earnest conversation, which you can take in any direction you want because the listener is actually paying attention this time.

For example, I could mention during this second conversation that I run a successful writing agency and actually be heard.

Keep in mind that this second scenario won’t happen if my listener wasn’t really interested to begin with. If he or she was interested, I’ll answer directly — but in JTBD fashion. For example, I know that no one really cares that I’m a writer. But I also know that most people are interested in how they can further their own business or career.

So, instead of saying I’m a writer, I might say, “I help people and businesses say the right things and get more recognition and customers.” That usually gets them interested in a longer conversation. It sets the stage for me to build on the two most important aspects of relationships: trust and respect.

Remember: no one wants to buy a quarter-inch drill–they want a quarter-inch hole. So, give them what they want.

So, what do you do?

The next time someone asks you this tired old question, try out one of these two answers. Or make up your own. The idea is to answer differently than everyone else does and to give your listener a compelling reason to want to talk to you.

In fact, let’s take some time to practice right now


Here Are 5 Free Ways To Level Up Your Salary Negotiation Skills

Want to learn 5 free ways to level up your negotiation skills to help you summit that next career goal? This post profiles five free resources that you can access immediately to help you research and prepare for your next salary negotiation.

Negotiation skills can radically change your earning potential and accelerate your career trajectory. A recent study of job seekers found that only half of those looking for a job negotiate their salary. When applicants did negotiate, the job seeker would ended up with a higher salary. While all salary negotiations are not the same, the value of preparation is helpful in any situation.  It literally pays off to do your research and preparation before negotiating a starting salary or an annual review. Let’s take a look at five free negotiation resources that can help level up your negotiation skills right now:

Cindy Gallop is legendary in breaking boundaries and being fearless about demanding her worth. She’s also dedicated to helping people – and particularly women – demand that they are paid their value. The Cindy Gallop Chatbot was made to commemorate the Equal Pay Day, and it’s the liberating digital gift that keeps on helping people. The interactive chatbot gives f-bomb laden encouragement, as well as industry and geographically specific salary data. If you’re getting ready for a salary negotiation or annual review, get on Facebook Messenger and add the AskCindyGallop chatbot to help you prepare. It’s as easy as texting a friend.

2. Refinery29’s Secret Guide To Getting More

This interactive guide is a rich salary negotiation treasure trove developed by Lindsey Stanberry and Benish Shah. It features research and data from ten major industries, including finance, healthcare, tech, media, and many more. Each tab contains job titles at every level of the career ladder, including the market rate of salaries and insider tips from industry experts. Tabs also contain “conversation starters” which expand on industry standards, expectations, and useful tips on how to discuss aspects of your position with your negotiating partner or supervisor. The guide features curated posts with more information and research on pitfalls to avoid and other useful tactical negotiation tips.

3. Salary Negotiation: Learn The Negotiation Mindset Class on Udemy

A popular free class with over 30,000 students enrolled, Jim Hopkinson offers a chance to learn the basics of negotiation skills in 30 minutes or less. Hopkinson is the author of Salary Tutor, and is a speaker, trainer and mentor to entrepreneurs. This Udemy class can be a quick and helpful primer for anyone looking to bolster their negotiation skills and develop an adaptive negotiation mindset.

4. Nasty Gap Free Negotiation Courses

Rafaela Sapire learned something upsetting about her first job. She found out she had left money on the table in terms of her salary because she didn’t negotiate. So she launched Nasty Gap, and set out to help others with her four-part free course, including guides, research and step-by-step videos to help job seekers. She also gathered research and support for women founders seeking help in pitching seed funding.

5. The Negotiation Planner App

The Negotiation Planner is a web and mobile app offering no-frills tactical advice on how to plan for negotiations, including deals around salary. The website was developed by negotiation expert George Siedel, and features helpful checklists such as the Power Tool. This tool provides clarifying guidance around determining and focusing what your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) might be. The questions featured in the Planner can be a helpful reference when gaming out your future salary negotiation.


The Fatal Mistake 90% Of Job Seekers Make

Dear ,

I’m an HR Coordinator in a small company that is growing fast.

We’ve already hired 42 people this year and have plans to hire at least 50 more.

A few of our department managers have brought me Pain Letters they received and we have hired some of those applicants. Pain Letters that show a job-seeker’s awareness of our business and our issues are fine.

They are welcome, because they make our hiring process easier!

What bothers me are the people who write to me (because it’s easy to find my contact information) via LinkedIn or email and say all the standard, useless things you tell people not to say about themselves.

They launch into a self-promotional message that has no relevance to us at all.

These introduction messages could go to any company. They have nothing to do with us! If a job-seeker can’t take three minutes to research our firm and show the relevance between their background and our needs, we’re not going to interview them.

What are your thoughts, Liz?




Dear Samantha,

The sad truth is that job seekers have been taught such terrible habits for so long it is hard for them to change their ways.

The standard self-introduction message tends to look like this:

Dear Samantha,

I am a strategic, multi-skilled professional with seventeen years of experience in the aerospace, consumer packaged goods and legal services industries, and a proven track record of success….

Everything about this message is wrong.

Daniel McGinn: Why Being Mentally Prepared Is Key To Career Success

I spoke to Daniel McGinn, author of Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed, about what science tells us about mental preparation, how to raise your confidence at work, how to become a better public speaker, his pre-performance rituals and best career advice.

McGinn works as a senior editor at Harvard Business Review, where he edits the IdeaWatch and How I Did It sections, manages the magazine’s annual Best Performing CEOs in the World ranking, and edits feature articles on topics including negotiation, sales, and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining HBR in 2010, McGinn spent 17 years as a reporter, bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor at Newsweek, based on New York, Detroit, and Boston. At Newsweek, he wrote cover stories on topics including marriage and children’s television, but he specialized in covering management, writing profiles of leading companies and CEOs. He is also the author of House Lust: America’s Obsession with our Homes, and the editor of How I Did It: Lessons from the Front Lines of Business.

Dan Schawbel: What does science tell us about mental preparation and its impact on our careers and personal lives?

Daniel McGinn: There is a lot of research, most of it in sports psychology or social psychology, suggesting that people who engage in certain behaviors before stressful activities or high-stakes performances will do better. For instance, there are more than a dozen studies showing that athletes who engage in a pre-performance routine—a set of thoughts and actions—before competing tend to score higher. There are studies showing people who listen to a motivational song before an event perform better. Most serious athletes have some sort of routine to get psyched up. (I love watching the Olympics to observe these rituals.) In my book, I’m making the case that people in non-athletic fields—professionals who sell, pitch ideas, litigate, negotiate, give speeches, appear on TV, etc—can use these types of techniques to be better at their jobs, too. There are a lot of examples in my book, from surgeons to comedians to race car drivers, who use these kinds of techniques every day.

Schawbel: A lot of people struggle with confidence issues at work, especially when asking for a raise. What do you recommend to them?

McGinn: Whether or not you can convince your boss to give you a raise is going to depend mostly on the substance of the argument. Can you make a clear and compelling articulation of the value you’re creating for the company that isn’t already reflected in your salary? And even if you make a compelling case, the company has to be able to afford to pay you more. But all that said, you’re right that your mindset can make a difference. You want to go into a meeting like this feeling confident and powerful. There are several techniques you can try, but here’s one. Adam Galinsky, a Columbia professor, has done research in which people are asked to spend a few minutes writing about a time they felt powerful, or about their goals and aspirations, before engaging in group activities or doing a mock interview. This research shows people who wrote about being powerful or goal-oriented subsequently behaved that way. It’s a simple way to prime yourself to be assertive.

Schawbel: What advice would you give to someone who is afraid of public speaking but has to do it for their job?

McGinn: In my book there’s a whole chapter about techniques to reduce this kind of anxiety. Here are three things that can help. There’s a technique called “centering” that musicians at Juilliard learn to use before auditions. It’s complicated to explain in print, but this YouTube video gives a simple explanation. There’s another technique called “reappraisal” which involves trying to subtly shift your emotions, so that instead of feeling “nervous,” you focus on being “excited,” a more positive but similar feeling. Finally, doctors can prescribe beta blockers for people who get nervous before public speaking. Beta blockers inhibit the body’s response to adrenalin, and I’ve interviewed people who say this drug alleviates the physical sensations of stage fright—the dry mouth, sweating, shallow breathing, etc. For some people, this can make a big difference.

Schawbel: What is your pre-performance ritual and how did you form it?

McGinn: It depends on the activity I’m going to perform. Since I’m a writer and editor, the activity I do most frequently—the one that’s most important to my success–is writing. Some days, when the work is easy or not high-stakes, I don’t do anything special—I just sit down and start. But when I’m working on something that’s especially challenging or something with make-or-break consequences, I do engage in rituals to boost my confidence. I spend a few minutes reading a favorite article or two that I wrote earlier in my career, or a good review of one of my books, to reinforce the idea that I’m good at this work. I write in an office where I’ve hung copies of old stories and awards on my wall, for the same reason. (There’s research that this kind of “visual priming” can help people perform.) I used to listen to classical music while I work, but after doing research for the book, I learned that as an introvert, I work better in silence. I used to wear a set of electronic noise-cancelling headphones, but they broke, and I replaced them with a $15 industrial/construction pair. They’re not as comfortable (they kind of squeeze my head) but I’ve found that when I put them on before I write, the physical sensation of the squeezing cues my body that it’s time to buckle down and work. These rituals may sound simple, but that’s kind of the point—small things you habituate as a way to signal yourself that “it’s time to bring my A-game” can make a difference. These are idiosyncratic to my work as a writer, but every person should identify the “use case” that really drives their career, and develop their own pre-performance routine.

Schawbel: What are your top three pieces of career advice?

McGinn: I’m not sure I have the expertise or wisdom to be dispensing career advice to others, but I can offer a couple of things that have helped me. First, even though we’re way past the age of the Organization Man, I’ve tended to stick with employers a long time: I’ve worked at Harvard Business Review for seven years, and before that I was at Newsweek for 17. Most people change jobs much more frequently, and there are benefits to that–but there are also costs, sometimes people discount those costs. Second, I’ve been really fortunate to work for employers and bosses that let me take on outside work—such as writing books on the side. Having a gig or a side hustle on top of a traditional job is a great way to diversify professional interests, expand a network, and gain new skills and knowledge. Finally, you can’t underestimate the role that luck plays in the twists and turns of our careers. Planning, talent, and hard work are all important, of course, but many of the successful people I’ve met recognize that random events have played a role in where they ended up. There are some things that are just out of your control.