Transcript of Building Stronger Connections with Colleagues and Clients
John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Dr. Melanie Katzman. She is a business psychologist, advisor and consultant to public and private companies as well as government and nonprofit institutions. She’s the founder of Katzman Consulting and the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning and Joy at Work. So Melanie, thanks for joining me.
Melanie Katzman: Thanks so much for having me.
John Jantsch: So a lot of times people come on this show, that’s the first time people meet them and they meet them as they’re talking about their book. But I wonder if you could tell us a little bit of how you got here.
Melanie Katzman: Sure. So I’m a clinical psychologist and a business consultant and one of the things that I’ve found is that wherever it was that I was having conversations with people, be it in my private therapy office or in people’s corner offices or in their business cubicles, I was hearing many of the same things. And that had to do with the ways in which people felt devalued, marginalized and dispirited by their work. And many of my suggestions were ones that I repeated, they were simple, they didn’t cost a lot of money and people really were experiencing positive results.
Melanie Katzman: And ultimately I said, well, I want to spread this more widely. I’ve always been dedicated throughout my career to the democratization of information and I thought if I could write a book that made it easy for people to feel better about their job and to help them help others at work, then I will have achieved one of my missions, which is to help people feel better about their lives and their work.
John Jantsch: I want to get on, there’s a couple of messages there, but the first thing I want to explore a little bit is that are you now going out and consulting with employee groups, leadership teams, teaching these concepts or is it really still contained to your private practice?
Melanie Katzman: So, I’m an unusual hybrid. I’ve had a private practice for the last 30 years and I’ve had a corporate consulting practice for the last 28 years. And so I’ve been working with multinational companies around the world, I have assisted startups, I work with private equity funds and hedge funds, family businesses on succession planning. And I spent a good portion of my time, both as a coach, as a facilitator, as a strategic consultant to businesses. And it’s from those experiences that I recognize the similarity that no matter what country I was working in, whatever sector I was working in and whether or not I was operating in my clinical capacity or in my corporate capacity, that there was tremendous aspects of our shared humanity that were worthy of bringing out into the larger world.
Melanie Katzman: So now that Connect First is out, for sure companies are asking me to come in and to talk to them about the messages contained in the book. But I would say it is a continually refreshing cycle. The book is a result of the lessons I’ve learned from my work and now I’m back out telling people about the book and then picking up new lessons and just kind of sharing those learnings all around.
John Jantsch: So there’s been a great deal written in the last few years about how all of this interconnectedness of technology is actually making us feel more disconnected. Are you seeing kind of a rise in some of the things that you’re seeing symptomatic of this kind of disconnectedness?
Melanie Katzman: I’ll be honest with you, some of the things that I’m seeing, I’ve been seeing for decades, they’re exacerbated by technology. So technology gives us the illusion of being connected, but oftentimes we’re not. And so people are collecting likes and followers and not forging deep friendships and establishing relationships. People are ending a difficult sentence with a smiley face and thinking that the conflict has been cleared. So, I think that there are ways in which technology has helped us, but there’s also ways in which it’s created an emotional shorthand that actually doesn’t get at the emotions at all.
John Jantsch: So it’s kind of sport to pick on millennials. Do you think that there’s a generational aspect to some of the things that you talk about in the book are at least things that some of our parents taught us. Do you see that going away?
Melanie Katzman: It’s a really common question that people ask me. And I think that there is an aspect of generational difference. So the book starts with a lot of the basics about establishing respect and then builds on that in terms of the creation of trust and loyalty and then ultimately resolving conflict, dreaming big and working across generations to find new solutions. So we do begin with basics that, as you mentioned, many people would say, but I learned that from my family. I have millennial children. I think I also taught them those things. So I don’t think the millennials didn’t learn it. But I do think that there is a sense of connectivity to their devices that many millennials have grown up with that has made it almost acceptable to look at your phone and not the person across the desk from you or that people are more resistant to picking up the phone and having a personal conversation.
Melanie Katzman: So I think that there is a generational difference in terms of comfort with direct communication and appreciation of eye contact or even recognizing when you have your headphones on, what you’re signaling is, I don’t want to hear you. So those kinds of sensory details really matter. So I do think there is a generational difference there, but ultimately there are people I work with of all ages who make some of the same errors at 60 that someone is making at 20.
John Jantsch: Yeah, it is funny to see the person that say the coffee counter with their headphones on and looking at their phone and ordering coffee at the same time.
Melanie Katzman: Well right, also I’m sure you see this, people sit in open plans, which are meant to increase collaboration, but then in order to focus, they’re staring at the screen and they’re putting on their headset and because they have an app that can bring them their food or their coffee, there isn’t the interaction. So there’s a false sense of community and I think that’s also where it gets tricky. We think we’re doing the right thing, but actually we’re not.
John Jantsch: So the book is organized around kind of seven main ideas and then as the title suggests, 52 simple practices or ways. How would you recommend somebody use this book?
Melanie Katzman: So I wrote the book initially such that anybody could at anytime, no matter where they are in their career progression, dip in, find the answer to the problem that they’re facing. And read it, put a book mark in it, give it to their colleague, give it to their kids, give it to their coworker and it continues to be a tool that can be used that way. However, it became clear in some of my early focus groups that there are people who like a linear progression, that a story arc is appealing.
Melanie Katzman: And so I ultimately created the book such that it is a build the way I mentioned it earlier, which is kind of the basics of establishing respect to being the person that people want to be with, growing loyalty, creating strong teams, managing conflict, working across interest groups, working across generations, and then figuring out how to leverage your platform with intention. So in a lot of ways the book starts out with a smile, literally and enter the dream. And for those people who want to change the world, it’s a guide book for that. And you can read it in order such that you see how each step builds on one another, but you don’t have to. You can just let the book fall open and go, “Oh, there’s a story. Does that work for me?”
John Jantsch: Well, I think there’s an element of sort of personal development to practicing some of these tips because I know, great. Okay. Remember people’s names. Yeah, I should do better at that, but that’s something you’re going to have to work on, right?
Melanie Katzman: Yeah. Remember people’s names, introduce people in a way in which they feel connected to the meaning of the work. Help people stand up taller and feel smarter as a result of the interaction with you. These are all things we can do. We have to remember to do it. And now one of the things I found having worked for many years in the corporate settings is that it’s very easy to say, where’s the company program? What’s the initiative that’s going to help us accomplish this? Are we having an event at an offsite or the end of the day? My joke is always is how many consultants does it take to change a light bulb? Do you know? If a light bulb has to want to change itself. If you’re not willing to make personal changes, then it’s going to be pretty impossible to achieve the results that you want.
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John Jantsch: Well, what struck me, and maybe I’m just sort of a systems person, process person was to think, okay, they’re 52 weeks in a year. I’ll take this and that’ll be my theme for the week that I focus on that because I get, and maybe some other people do too. Let’s say I sat down and read half the book one day there’d be 15 things I want to work on and now I’m not going to work on any of them because I’m overwhelmed. So again, that’s just the way my brain works. I could see people doing it that way to say, okay, this is something I want to work on so I’m going to carry it with me this week.
Melanie Katzman: Yeah. So actually there are a number of groups that have popped up on social media and within companies where there’s an effort to read a chapter a week to discuss it either within their leadership circles or online with friends. And I’m delighted to hear that. In 2020 I’m going to be launching some social media assets to help people think each week about ways that they can develop themselves. So absolutely, I wrote it with the intention that if you wanted to have your Connect First calendar program card deck, which we’re also developing, it’s all there. But equally I never want anyone to feel like they have an obstacle to change. So if 52 feels overwhelming, grab three, that’ll still be three better than the day before.
John Jantsch: Well I also found that some of them are going to be hard. Be a magnet, become the person people want to be with. I mean that’s probably with the exception of extreme introverts, that’s probably everyone’s goal. But not everybody’s going to be somebody we want to be with. I mean, how do people, if I aspire to do all of these things in this book, how do you deal with the ones that you’re probably just not going to do?
Melanie Katzman: Well, so it’s interesting that you mentioned that about introverts because I think introverts also want to be the person who’s included. That when people are putting together a team that their name is selected or when they come into a room, that people want to listen to what they have to say when they say something. So I find that with introverts, I’ll often tell them there are ways to connect to people that make you magnetic, that don’t require you to go as far outside your comfort zone as you might think. Consider information that you might have access to and send that to people before they ask. Broaden your point of view in a way that then helps you to broaden other people’s perspective.
Melanie Katzman: So if you adopt a generous, curious approach that we’re then in a position to make people attracted to us in the positive sense because working with you will be easy. You’re timely, you recognize when the job has been completed. You name the elephant in the room. All of these things, while they’re not easy, they’re not only the province of the extrovert. It’s the person who’s looking, watching, tracking what’s happening.
John Jantsch: Sure. I guess I was trying to be funny. There are definitely people who just don’t want to be around people, but I totally agree with your point there. This was another one that struck me, it’s number 42. Be a person first, help strangers feel less strange. Again, probably something that for some people comes natural and for others is quite hard.
Melanie Katzman: Yeah, I mean I think that so much of what I try to encourage in the book is for people to take the first step. Don’t assume that somebody who isn’t talking to you, asking your name, inquiring about your perspective is uninterested because so many of us get caught up in our own head. The idea that people may not be interested in us, so take a chance. Usually people will be grateful that you’ve made that effort and don’t just jump in and start negotiating.
Melanie Katzman: Now incredibly people when they are anxious or maybe not incredibly, when they’re anxious, they walk into a conflictual situation or potentially conflictual one, and get down to work. And actually work doesn’t flow as well as it could because they haven’t taken the time to as I say, be a person first. Establish commonalities. Look for the ways in which you can build bridges between each other and then build up into the conversations that may be more difficult. So oftentimes it’s kind of slow down, establish that connection and then you can speed up and be very efficient in your work.
John Jantsch: A lot of the connection elements of this book really are human to human. But are there elements of technology, of social media, of networks that are distributed that can actually facilitate or maybe even speed up some of these ideas?
Melanie Katzman: Well, I think it’s all about human to human, but we don’t always have to be in the same place. And I think this is the tricky thing because on the one hand I’m saying, be careful that we don’t use technology to replace the human connection. And on the other hand, we can use technology to enhance it. So I encourage people to do more video calls than conference calls in part because it’s harder to multitask. When people are on conference calls, they tend to do 12 other things. The calls aren’t particularly efficient and everybody’s time is wasted. So if you have the video technology, use it. In fact, use it so that you see the setting that somebody is working in.
Melanie Katzman: Now I’ll encourage people who are getting together for a conference call to start with what’s everyone’s sitting outside their window right now. Just locate each other in space. It kind of grounds the call literally by letting you know what the ground beneath your colleague’s feet is. So, I think that there are ways that we can be more humanly connected that go beyond, I’m sitting across from you in the same room. Having said that, wherever possible, I still encourage people to make some effort to be in the same place at the same time because then when you are not co-located, things still move more rapidly.
John Jantsch: Yeah. There’s something about body language that communicates comfort and trust in ways that I don’t think you could do over these kinds of technologies can you?
Melanie Katzman: It’s so easy to have misinterpretations, even when you’re in person, you can have misinterpretations. But then if you’re trying to infer somebody’s attitude through their email, it can be very confusing. Somebody shot off a note to you, between red lights in their car while their kids are screaming in the back and they just wanted to be efficient and sent you a note and you’re sitting at your desk and going, what? Are they mad? Are they happy? What did it mean? So, if you know someone and you’ve seen them and experienced them, and quite frankly, if you know them a little bit outside of just their job, then there’s a greater chance that you’re going to give them some slack and assume better intentions rather than jumping to the, what is this person trying to do to me?
John Jantsch: Yeah. I’ve discovered over the years that sarcasm and humor really are tough in email.
Melanie Katzman: Exactly, exactly. And particularly if you’re working in different cultures and that doesn’t mean different countries. I’m talking to you from New York City. We don’t always have the same sensibility or humor as somebody from another state in America or even someone from the West side to the East side of Manhattan. So humor is tricky. I agree.
John Jantsch: You talk faster, that’s for sure.
Melanie Katzman: Right. You’ll have to slow me down for the podcast or just listen to me in slow mo.
John Jantsch: One of my favorites and I’ve, and again this can be misinterpreted, but I have felt that this has been valuable to my career over the years and it’s number 20, have a point of view. And I think a lot of times people are afraid to maybe speak up but maybe more afraid to advance a thought that maybe not everybody agrees or they don’t know if everybody agrees with. But I think having a point of view about how something should be done or some practice, I think is a tremendous way to add value in a lot of situations.
Melanie Katzman: I do too. I mean when I am assigned as a coach to someone who’s a high potential or who’s positioned to move up in the organization, one of the things I often work with them on is to develop a point of view. How can you be additive, not just repeating what the company speak is, but really taking the time to find out how you can contribute in ways that other people haven’t thought of. How to ask the beautiful question. How to bring in information from other disciplines. And if people only come into situations either ready to repeat what they have heard or only discuss what they think is safe, they’re not ultimately advancing innovation, they’re not necessarily particularly interesting and they certainly aren’t establishing their value.
John Jantsch: Okay, let’s end on a negative note, shall we?
Melanie Katzman: If we have to.
John Jantsch: Which one of these is your pet peeve that you kind of wrote about because you were sick of seeing it.
Melanie Katzman: Oh, okay. But this is, I’m going make this a positive because it’s so easy, everyone can change. And in fact people have read the book and gone, “Oh my God, now I’m getting a thousand got it emails.” So my favorite chapter, which is my biggest pet peeve, is a chapter that says, Got it. Too often people send requests and receive no acknowledgement that they have been received and as a result you are left wondering, did the person get my message? Are they responding to it? How do I organize my time? When can I expect an answer? Am I just not worthy of a response? So an entire negative spiral ensues whether you are the boss who hasn’t received affirmation or whether you’re the subordinate.
Melanie Katzman: From both directions, not knowing whether someone’s email has been received is debilitating and frustrating. And for bonus points, if you can say, “Okay, I’ve received your request and I’m going to respond to it by X date,” it’s even better. People wait to be able to have the answer or the perfect answer before they respond. And as a result, people are frustrated and they’re not managing their time. So just say “Got it.” Takes two seconds, lets people know you’re on their radar screen. Trust me, even though you may be afraid that you’re clogging people’s inboxes, they will appreciate the acknowledgement more than they’ll be frustrated with it and they can always hit delete.
John Jantsch: Speaking with Dr. Melanie Katzman, author of Connect First. So Melanie, why don’t you tell people where they can find you and your work and obviously pick up a copy of Connect First.
Melanie Katzman: Well, thanks for asking. Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning and Joy at Work is available anywhere that you buy books, Barnes and Noble, Indie Bound, Amazon, all bookstores. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn at Melanie Katzman and it’s K-A-T-Z-M-A-N.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, thanks for dropping by and hopefully I’ll run into you soon next time I’m out there on the road.
Melanie Katzman: Thanks so much. It was a pleasure talking to you.
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