Effective Leaders Stand Out (part two)

Last week, we covered the first four of nine simple things that an aspiring leader can do in order to stand out.  Here are five more – I’m anxious for your opinions!

1) Whenever possible, communicate by phone or in person.

Is the person you need to visit with in the same building?  Walk up the hall.  Consider the number of emails and texts you deal with on a daily basis.  Yes, they’re convenient, but it’s hard for any of them to stand out.  What if you are the person who makes conversation the default?  You’ll stand out.  Warning — you might be annoying, too, if the person you’re working to connect with much prefers the written word.  Use with good judgment.

2) Stand in such a way as to be trusted and accepted.

Without going all-out on body language, just consider these two ideas: stand with your arms at your side (not in pockets, not crossed in front or back, not fidgety).  Might feel weird at first, but research confirms this posture conveys the most openness and trustworthiness.  Also, face the person speaking.  Fully.  Imagine a line from your nose to theirs – and keep it perpendicular to your shoulders. Set yourself apart by being the best-connecting listener.

3) Never interrupt.

Ever.  Most people interrupt, and it’s normal. Set yourself apart by never doing it.  Makes people feel valued.

4) Take every opportunity to write hand-written notes.

Especially to say thank you.  It’s a lost art, and doesn’t take much time.  However, it conveys that you’ve taken time and care, and this impression will help you stand out.

5) Never be sarcastic.

It makes people wonder how you really feel.  This uncertainty interferes with connection. Stand out by being sincere.

There are lots of ways to set yourself apart, to be sure.  But these nine have the most payoff, based on how easily you can implement them.

And remember, these tools (in this post and all of them) are always to be used for good and not for evil.  In every interaction, you have the power to make the world a better place.  Do it!

12 Responses

  1. Michael Albarracin
    | Reply

    I love these blogs Alan! Every time I read one of these blogs, I try to make a point to do just what is presented and realize that there are habits that I have that diminish effectiveness. Thanks for the insight. Keep them coming!

  2. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    Thanks, Michael! That positive feedback is motivating to me — when I’m working with a group, the feedback is present, and immediate. But these blogs? Written alone, usually in my basement. Though today, at Panera.

    I’ll keep at it. The goal is to be valuable.

  3. Wade
    | Reply

    Number 5 is the hardest for me to avoid. The habit is hard to break.

  4. Kate Washut
    | Reply

    Wait a minute…no sarcasm? I’m sorry, Alan, but you’ve just lost my vote for hero of the day. 😉

    Oh, sorry. That was a little sarcastic, wasn’t it?

    On a more sincere note (See, I’m learning already!), great advice! I’m glad you pointed out in #1 that being sensitive to peoples’ preferences for communication is wise. Easier said than done, but I think it’s important to respect a person’s desire to “stay in the zone” and let them respond when it works for them. It totally depends on the person and the environment, of course.

    Good stuff, Alan. Keep it up.

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Thanks, Kate!
      And yes, you, and Wade – I not only feel your pain, I share it.
      You can ask my mom (but please don’t) – I’ve been “skilled” at sarcasm my whole life. So much so, that sometimes when I’m not being sarcastic at all, people think I am because of the tone of my voice. Or something. It’s been a struggle for me. But the more I look at the people I admire as leaders, the more I realize that they are absent sarcasm.
      (But it’s so much fun!!!!!!!!)

      On the communication point, so true. When I was a teacher, I made a point to respond to all parent emails with an immediate (if possible) phone call — to show that I was “responsive”.
      Over time, I realized (mainly through folks pointing it out to me) that some folks were caught off guard – they didn’t want such “responsiveness” – they wanted time to think and react. Instead of “responsive”, they found me “aggressive.” Whoops.

      Yup. Gotta see where people are at, then engage on their terms.

  5. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    More good stuff from a good man. Thanks.

  6. LP
    | Reply

    This is awesome! Handwritten notes really can make all the difference. I even could benefit from writing a few more.

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Well, Laura, because of you, I think there will be an uptick of some sort. Thanks for chiming in!

  7. Joe
    | Reply


    Great article, and it was nice getting to know you in line outside of the Apple store on iPad 2 mania day!

    It may be easier to communicate your thoughts over email because you have time to think about it, revise it, etc. I suppose that it’s a quicker form of communication too, but man, I really wish more people would take your suggestion and talk in person and on the telephone more often, because the emotion AND the personal connection is lost in an email.

    I enjoyed looking through your site – keep up the good work!


    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Thanks for weighing in, Joe — also great to meet you! I am digging the iPad — you?

  8. Matt Pries
    | Reply

    I’m a teacher, and when I have a “disciplinary” convo with kids, I tend to stand next to them, both of us leaning against the wall, if possible. It’s less in their face, more comfortable for their space bubble, and I am literally on their side. It’s worked well. If I do talk face to face with them in this situation (depends on where we are and how/where they are standing), I do my best to use the posture you offered. Still, I wonder what you think of the side-by-side method. I think it’s better than face-to-face when possible.

    Also . . . maybe the difference with the perception others have of you with sarcasm is that sarcasm is more “acceptable” when people have a relationship built — as they likely do with you. You probably wouldn’t be sarcastic with Joe from the iPad line (though you may have been), but you absolutely are with me. And that’s okay — if it avoids personal digs. Even in relationships, sarcasm can hurt, so choose wisely, eh?

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Great points, Matt. As always!

      In those situations you describe, it sounds like you know what you are doing. A disciplinary conversation like that is way more about finding a way that makes them receptive– helping them save face is a great way to do that. The body language ideas that I outlined are more about non-stressful, “normal” conversations.

      Sarcasm can be a habit, and even in close relationships, it can leave people guessing. I’m honestly trying to purge it. But I’m so good at it! 😉

      Thanks for engaging, Matt. It adds value to this page.

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