Upon meeting, it became apparent why my friend had been singing Jackie’s praises, as I was immediately struck by her confidence. She epitomized all the things that I, or any professional career woman for that matter, strive to be: savvy, smart and successful. This was more than 10 years ago and Jackie was just winding down a long career in media sales (The New Yorker, New York Magazine, A&E Network, Viacom, iVillage and Hearst Magazines), while working as a highly sought Dale Carnegie trainer and contemplating her next career move.
Jackie has since become a Results Certified Coach through NeuroLeadership Institute’s Intensive Coach Training program and launched her own professional development business. Today, as President of PointMaker Communications, Jackie works as a coach and trainer to help leaders gain the edge to think and communicate for maximum impact. Her programs cover everything from public speaking, presenting, holding difficult conversations, being assertive, resolving conflict, giving praise and recognition.
In this “Take Five Q&A” post, she discusses her motivation for leaving the corporate world, while sharing some excellent pointers for being an effective communicator. To learn more about Jackie and PointMaker Communications, go to https://pointmakercommunications.wordpress.com/.
You had a long and very successful career in sales. What made you shift gears and decide to become a professional development trainer and coach?
Back in 2004, I was sitting in a meeting – at the time I ran the teen internet sales and marketing division at Hearst – and I was listening to my colleagues talk about this client, that customer, this opportunity, etc.. and I realized that I just did not care one iota about any of it any longer. This was the confirmation that I had no more passion for selling advertising and I didn’t care enough about the salary to stay; I felt like I didn’t belong in that environment anymore. I’d been selling by that point for over 20 years.
Actually, prior to the job at Hearst, I had already begun the shift in building a new career. When after being fired from a managerial position at another Internet company in 2002, not knowing what to do with my life, a friend had reminded me that I had once wanted to become a trainer for Dale Carnegie. This came out of a course I had taken there while I worked for MTV Networks (during the early part of my sales career) and I fell in love with the program and the human relations principles associated with “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I thought the job of training people how to be more effective was really cool. I ended up working as a graduate assistant a few times and loved it. So, forward about 12 years, and my friend is reminding me about how much I loved Dale Carnegie, and I immediately enrolled to become a certified trainer there. That was almost 13 years ago now, and I’m still a freelance trainer with the organization!
In your opinion, what are some of the communication pitfalls that keep people from working effectively with their co-workers?
People who lack awareness of themselves and others; who don’t actively listen and don’t have the desire to embrace others’ ideas, tend to fall into this category. So, to avoid these pitfalls, people need to consider opening up the conversation to be inclusive of others.
The thought of entering a room of strangers terrifies most people. What are some of your best networking tips?
Dale Carnegie said, “You can win more friends in two months by showing genuine interest in people, rather than two years trying to get others interested in you.” The point here is, ask people questions about themselves. Show curiosity. This not only gets people talking about themselves (which people love to do!), but it also takes the pressure off of us to have to be great conversationalists! Secondly, once you get others on a roll, it will be easier to find common ground. Once that’s established, a new connection is made.
Most women have trouble asserting themselves out of fear of appearing unreasonable or aggressive. Any suggestions for overcoming this?
We must be authentic in order to be confident and to project confidence. People like assertive people. Being assertive is very different from being aggressive. As an example, an aggressive response might sound like this: “No, I don’t take on projects like that.” A more assertive way to say the same thing would be, “Oh, thank you for thinking of me. Although it’s not a fit for me, I would love the opportunity to tell you what type of projects are more a match with my expertise, so that I can meet your needs in the future.” The trick to overcome aggressive tendencies is to first become aware – what kind of feedback are you getting from others? Are people saying, You’re too intense? You’re aggressive? People are scared of you? Take that seriously! To remedy this, think about how people react to such intensity and bluntness and put yourself in their shoes.
If you are on the other side of the coin, too timid, the way to overcome this fear is to practice saying, “No,” and pushing back until it becomes part of the routine way you communicate. It’s just that you’ll want to do it in a way that doesn’t arouse ill-will. Facial expression should be relaxed and open, and tone of voice should be strong, clear and friendly. There’s no way around this but to practice.
If you had to do your career over again, knowing what you know now from years of training and professional/personal development, what would you do differently?
I would have budgeted and allocated my last commission check (from media sales) to hire a business coach and others who have expertise in building businesses from scratch and helping entrepreneurs transition from being an employee to a business owner. I might have hired a social media expert, a graphic designer to create a logo/look, a marketing expert, a PR person, etc… I’m an expert in helping people be more effective, and not an expert ‘entrepreneur’ that can play CEO, marketing director, social media manager, IT specialist, PR specialist, business development manager, etc. It’s too much at times and deciding what to focus on to carry my business forward can be daunting. Yes, I’ve learned a whole lot about being an entrepreneur and I would never give it up to be an employee again…I love my freedom, but I don’t love the many hats I have to wear in order to build my empire! I just want other people to do these things and for me to just walk in, help people, and go home! The best advice I can give to anyone considering the leap is to know that ebbs and flows are a key part of coping with being on your own and to be prepared to alter your lifestyle to be able to deal with those ebbs. That being said, to build your career around what you love and to feel so fulfilled to be living your purpose is worth all of the hard work it takes.