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Someone You Should Know

There is a lot of talk about what Twitter can do for us. Maybe it can make us money. Maybe it can make us famous. Maybe it’s just fun. Maybe it’s about the people…

Valeria Maltoni, Conversation AgentI’d like to introduce you to someone who deserves to be considered an influencer of the best kind. Everyone, meet Valeria Maltoni.

I met Valeria on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog when I used to participate in the conversation. Actually, it was Caroline Di Diego who was kind enough to send me reminders about the chat as she knew how much I enjoy exploring ideas and seeing how they apply in real life. So, I joined in and became intrigued by the host, Valeria. At that point, I only knew her as @ConversationAge but she seemed to truly care that the chat, #kaizenblog and that the participants did more than just enjoy a conversation. This passion was refreshing and I wanted to know more.

Passion, intellect, curiosity and a thirst to connect with others are all characteristics of Valeria that are easy to see. She brings her whole self to everything. Perhaps this is because she is Italian but it’s probably more true that this is just how she is. Sure you can learn about her on her site but to truly get to know her, have a conversation. My first full-blown offline conversation with her contained references to Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, social media and other philosophers. Nice and light, just like any “how to get to know you” kind of conversation should be.

 She is a Connector. Valeria thrives on getting to know others and hearing them think. There are two things that I delight in and deeply appreciate since we partnered up to be co-hosts on #kaizenblog. The first is that she has introduced me to interesting people like Tom Asacker , Taylor Davidson , Aliza Sherman and, of course, the core group of tweeps who come every Friday to explore “kaizen” and business. Her passion for connection isn’t simply for her own gain but to make the world more cozy and ready for a good conversation (with or without espresso).

The second thing that delights me is her reminders every now and then that I “should” do something. Having someone who gives an occasional nudge (or shove) to go beyond my regular way of operating is such a gift! She inspires me to see the world even more broadly, to explore other possibilities and to act according my grander vision. Since she is a marketing strategist, she can see what is coming two or three steps ahead. As someone who doesn’t inhabit that world primarily, her perspective fuels my imagination and my tendency to test how an idea can work in real life. It’s a cliche, I know, but Valeria does inspire me to bring my A game.

She nudges people on a regular basis. This is not a gift she has given just to me. When she founded #kaizenblog, it wasn’t good enough to explore an idea. Valeria wanted people to grapple with an idea, take it home with them and find a way to implement it in their work and lives. She continues to do this in her work with her colleagues, her clients, her blog, her Facebook page and on Twitter. As she reminded us in her last time on #kaizenblog, she’s not going anywhere!

Take some time to check out her Twitter stream, her Facebook page or her blog. Engage with her. It’s something that will be illuminating and valuable! Have a conversation with the Conversation Agent. After all, her message is “connecting ideas and people-how talk can change our lives.”



Stories That Work #kaizenblog recap

While telling stories is as old as human history, the craft of telling a good story is repeatedly re-discovered. Currently, there is a lot of discussion about telling stories in business. Tell about your brand in a story. Explain your corporate culture to new hires in a story. Encourage your customers to tell stories about your products. In this week’s #kaizenblog chat on Twitter, we decided to take a closer look at stories and how they’re told. As Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) pointed out, “Stories also work because our brains use narrative as shortcut to remember things.”

If you missed the chat, there are a number of links to books, blogs, and other stories that are well worth your attention. To catch up on the conversation and these links, here is the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – StoriesThatWorkPt1

Why do stories work? Seems like a basic question but a foundation can be a good place to start. Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) explained, “from vStorytellingery young, we’re taught to appreciate stories (we read to babies) and having things framed as stories is a throwback.”

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “Stories work because people can relate to them ~ life is story”
  • Paul Pruneau (@PaulPruneau) “Stories connect all of us and our experiences together. They inspire, inform and influence ideas and action”
  • Rob Petersen (@robpetersen) “Q1. Stories work because , if we relate to them,  we can see/believe they can be replicated to work over and over”
  • Sarah Montague (@sarahmontague) “Q1 Stories work because they are a way for ppl to share experiences; makes it tangible + personal”
  • EJ Ellis (@EJEllisTweets) “Stories work because they engage a listener’s attention, imagination & anticipation”

There is a simplicity in what makes stories work. We can process them with our ears and eyes. There are themes and archetypes for us to connect with and use as we tell stories to others. As Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) S tweeted, “Q1 Joseph Campbell says stories give us ‘the experience of life’ McKee says  stories are ‘stories are equipment for living.’ “

What are the elements of a good story? Stories are framed by ingredients that are repeated throughout time orally and in print.

  • Chanelle Schneider (@WriterChanelle) “Conflict, character, growth, change”
  • Stephen Denny “Q2: Key element of a good story is a “dark side” – what happens to our hero (us, usually) when everything goes wrong”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “Q2: Key elements? Protagonist, Conflict, steps to resolving conflict. Key twists to plot”
  • David Spinks (@DavidSpinks) “Q2: It’s relatable”
  • Meg Fowler (@megfowler) “A2: Elements of a good story: fully realized characters, a universal challenge, w/ personal twist  & an unmistakable perspective”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “A2 element of a good story – the listener/reader can see themselves in the story”
  • Catherine Connors (@tipperary_lass) “Q2 – a perfect balance between theme, plot, story structure. Characters and settings”

When we can put ourselves in the story or can react in sympathy or empathy, stories are much more engaging. Emotion seems to be a key ingredient as well. For many of the participants in the chat, they talked about journeys and transformation. Cathy Larkin (@CathyWebSavvyPR) remarked on the telling of a story,”Q2-elements of a gd story-knowing your audience, who you’re writing for. & yr goal – what reaction/action do U want.”

To make it more concrete, Valeria Maltoni asked, What are some examples of great stories?

  • Chris Paulsen (@chris_paulsen) “Examples-Winston Churchill saving Europe; Reagan surviving an  assassination attempt.”
  • Laura Crum “Others: Bill Gates as a dropout and now unbelievably successful. Obama’s story that got him elected.”
  • Jeff Gibbard (@jgibbard) “Example of a great story: Kurt Vonnegut’s: A Long Walk to Forever, part of Welcome to the Monkey House”
  • Rich Becker (@RickBecker) “Apple. Zappos. Papa John’s. All of them had great stories at the start. They invited you to become part of their story.”
  • EJEllis “6th Sense: great because your perception of the story is greatly altered when the status of Willis’ character is revealed.”

Maybe great stories can rise up and be told but storytellers are a key piece of what gives a story life. John Reddish (@GetResults) pointed out the enduring power of stories as lessons, “Great teachers have always used stories 2 spread their words – Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Joseph Campbell a good resource.” There was a lot of back and forth about branding and the stories that go with this. Does using social media make it more or less important to tell stories? Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) observed, “the increased importnce of storytelling reflects importnce of communication-all driven by social media.”

The elements and examples of great stories certainly echo why stories work for all of us so well. Developing the craft of telling stories becomes more essential with so much use of social media in branding and marketing ideas as well as the products and services of businesses large and small. How does your story connect?

  • Thomas Kuplic (@tbkuplic) “Q3: There must be a way to invite audience to participate. Do something, take action, live the 3rd act with you.”
  • John Reddish “Q3 – in speaking world our “signature” stories (unique 2 us) are our bread and butter – tailored to each speech”
  • Eric Tsai (@designdamage) “A3: ur story connect when u meet audience where they’re at, feeling related, they get that u get them”
  • Patrick Prothe “Re Q3 – IMO for story to connect, must strike a nerve, hit an emotion w/ aud. therefore u must understand them first”
  • Linda Naiman (@alchemize) “A3: I use arts in groups as crucible for storytelling –people connect thru imagination trust, + thru embodied learning”
  • Matt Fox (@persuasionfox) “depends on purpose of the story. How do I want to influence the person determine the type of story”
  • Rob Petersen “Q3: Great stories connect when audience sees themselves in it, taking the same journey & achieving the same results”

Really there were so many tweets about how stories connect (and links to illustrate points), it became clear that developing one’s craft as a storyteller had to include how you engaged with your audience. It was striking that there were very few references to customers or clients. Does this mean that stories of our businesses are entertainment?

Since it is clearly a craft that has to be learned and practiced, Valeria Maltoni suggested that we have another conversationa about storytelling so look for Part 2 of “Stories That Work”

What does make stories work and why?

*#kQ4-This is a special one-off conversation that came out of  “Year In Review (So Far)”  that will include a simultaneous Skype converation and Twitter chat. The focus will be on your goals and the actions you want to take to achieve these goals. Look for announcements on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and in this blog space. 




Community Building Through the Art of Connecting-#kaizenblog recap

Connection and Building CommunityThere are just some people who seem to know everybody. Maybe they’ve been in their industry a long time. Maybe they are “collectors”. Maybe even both. What are “collectors”? They are people who have mastered the art of connecting and they meet people and add them to their network in a meaningful way. They just seem to know that this person will fit in somehow.

Inspiring connector as well as co-host and founder of the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, Valeria Maltoni led the way with this conversation. As usual, there are a lot of great contributions from everyone in the conversation and you may want to look that the transcript here Transcript for #kaizenblog – CommunityBldgConnection There was an interesting side conversation started by Yann Ropars (@yannr) about makes a good community leader. Definitely worth checking out!

Maltoni started the conversation on her site with the post, “Why Believing is the Most Important Thing You Can Do” By using her experiences with others, she illustrated how making true connections with another person leads to expanding one’s understanding of the world and thus, leads to opportunities for each of us. These opportunities could be for personal growth, philanthropy, or even business. But…it starts with the connection with another person.

What makes connecting important to you? Responses seem to center on how connecting with another human being is central.

  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) ” ‘Satisficing‘ –  we look for shortcuts because we’re busy. Connections are shortcuts.”
  • AngelaDunn (@blogbrevity) “Q1 I find inspiration from connecting others, finding synergies between people & ideas”
  • Amy Blake (@BlakeGroup) “IMO, one aspect of being human means wanting to connect , in biz + life”
  • Bruno Coehlo (@bcoehlo2000) “In an Era of mass cold communication, warm human interaction has become even more important!”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “Forming meaningful, relationships/Rising above superficiality”
  • Bernd Nurnberger (@CoCreatr) “learning, helping, exchange, trust, trade – make connection important to me”

Maltoni summed it up, “Shared interests, emotional investments are the fuel that makes connecting work!” Many of the comments followed this theme. It may be that we spend a lot of time in the online world but that hasn’t changed our need and desire to deepen the relationship with those we meet.

How do we help others succeed? The interesting piece is that truly connecting opens us up to want more for others. Sure, we start relationships wondering about what the person may offer us. This can be as simple as an enjoyable conversation to a benefit for our business. However, when (and hopefully not if) you move past that initial stage, you begin to want something for the other person. What do you have at your disposal that could be helpful?

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “contributing/communicating U name it > OUTPUT = other 50%”
  • Yann Ropars “Be present and create meaningful space for participants”
  • Jerry Evans (@inspiredtrain) “Knowledge, sharing, empathy, sympathy, encouragement, leadership, clear strategies and policies”
  • Rob Petersen (@robpetersen) “Add show willingness to help, make connection in return to your list; could be long list”
  • Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen) “Consider what others need/want 1st”
  • Rick Alcantara (@jerseycoach) “Q2-You help others succeed by providing them with the ideas and tools to achieve/become something greater”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Connect others to success by listening to their goals and providing insight on how they can achieve them. Share yourself”

Helping others in an altruistic way seem to resonate very much with the #kaizenblog participants. There were several tweets that echoed deeply listening so you can hear what the person might need and/or want. Providing one’s insights and experience was another thing that people wanted to share to foster others’ success.

As she often does, Maltoni brought the conversation into an unexpected place with the third discusssion question. How to give power away? She clarified the question when she tweeted, “Q3 clarification = another way to let go of control.” Building community is less about the leader per se and more about how the group can gel and move as a unit. There were many ideas of how the leader could set the stage for enabling the community members to have power.

  • Amy Blake “Q3 This is where mentoring kicks in…sharing away power while maintaining direction.”
  • Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker) “Q3-power in numbers. motivation skyrockets when people feel greater purpose & satisfaction”
  • Namrata Rana (@futurechat) “Community is built by enabling, enthusing and empowering. This builds trust and a self fulfilling cycle of relationships”
  •  Cathy Larkin (@CathyWebSavvyPR) “Q3: Power is often tied to or tied up in Ego. Let that go. Earn trust, yes, but let ego go – & the energy & workflow grtr”
  • Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) “Q3 Power is not “given away.” It’s authority that’s delegated & while authority can b delegated, responsibility cannot”
  • Bruno Coehlo “Define clear & measurable goals. Praise good performance and redirect them when they go off track. Build leaders!”
  • Torrey McGraw (@torreymcgraw) “Q3 Don’t be afraid to be wrong as “expert”. Ask, listen & throw preconceptions out the window to achieve goals”
  • Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing) “Q3 Key is being open to new ideas, new voices, new perspectives”

So the conversation ended with an opportunity for everyone to turn the focus onto their own actions and how they build their own communities. What are 3 things you do regularly that help you build community? It was fascinating to see the myriad ways people engage with their communities.

  • Caroline Di Diego “I mentor small biz to be sustainable =help local community”
  • Diane Court (@dc2fla) “Q4 Ask questions, Listen, Recognize & appreciate contributions w/out judgement <= require my constant attention to improve”
  • Rick Alcantara “Q4: Send articles about interesting topics, mentor young professionals, connect my biz contacts with one another.”
  • Cathy Larkin “Q4 3 things 2 build commty: ID community needs, be the connector 2 help solve needs, be positive/upbeat”
  • Joe Sanchez “Q4: Engage (two-way comms w/ feedback), assess (how r we doing towards achieving our goals), recognize (reward/incentivize).”

This week’s #kaizenblog conversation had a lot of energy! For many of our participants, asking questions is a favored strategy to discover what community members are thinking, feeling, and doing. It seems, from this conversation, that egotism is  community killer. There were many references to managing one’s ego and insecurities as being important to having effective communication as well as understanding what needs and wants are present in the community. Writing this recap is part of how I help build the #kaizenblog community and it’s a pleasure to highlight both our regulars and our newer members.

How do you rate the importance of serving others to build communities?

What could this mean for your business/work?

What 3 things do you do regularly that helps you build community?




Networking is Beautiful!

Business networking sounds so cold and impersonal. People in a Networkingbunch of suits in a hotel conference room talking at each other with banal elevator pitches. This does happen in real life, sadly. There is another way and it is worthwhile to evaluate how your approach reflects both who you are and the values and purpose of your small business or startup. So, what makes networking beautiful? In a nutshell, letting go of your desired outcome. But I need to grow my business, you say. Of course you do. Most of us go to find clients or someone who can further our small business or venture in some way. However, our desire for a successful business can shortchange our opportunities. Recently, I  had a conversation with someone who organized a networking event that was very well attended and he asked rhetorically why he was even there since he was getting “nothing” for his efforts. Frankly, I was surprised to hear his question. His subsequent response explained everything. I noted that there was a large group of people in the room and the possibility of developing relationships which could benefit his business and he said that was not what he wanted. He wanted something akin to instant gratification. What is he missing? His focus on outcomes clouded his vision and possibly prevented him from seeing some connections that would build his dream business. Desire has its positive aspects but it can get in the way by creating over-focus or even obsession that blocks us from connecting with other people. What could happen if we come  with our goals in mind and then disengage from looking only for lucrative results. Allow yourself to stop acting hellbent on finding customers, investors, or whatever. Get to know a few people in the room and see what unfolds. You will get your desired outcome. When we relate with someone, there is a mutual joining which leads to better referrals, better alliances, and possibilities we dream of. How is networking beautiful to you?

Are you WYSIWYG?

WYSIWYG is one of those terms thatWindow and chair made me chuckle when I first heard it. It seemed cute. Actually, it is pretty clever when you realize that it refers to “word processing or desktop publishing in which the screen prints text exactly as it will be printed.” (according to The term stuck with me as a computer thing for quite some time but recently it took on another dimension. Two things started a thought process. On Twitter, there have been numerous conversations about transparency. Some of the questions center on what is transparency, how much is necessary, and how to use it when marketing. To add more depth, Chris Brogan, a social media marketing expert and president of New Marketing Labs, ( posted “Cafe Shaped Conversations.” The blog post centered on the importance of the human touch when conducting business. This post follows a consistent theme that Brogan writes about how being yourself as an effective business tool. This is illustrated by Carol Jordan of You Are Here Books. His point is to connect with people through social media the way you would connect in-person in a focused and genuine manner. Many of us have rules about how a business person should look or act. Even if you have been in business in one capacity or another, you may have set up some rules or guidelines which begin something like, “people in my position must…” Fill in the blank. Now, what would happen if you broke this rule? Would you appear more genuine, more at ease? Would your business development be less strenuous and less stressful? Is it okay to be “what you see is what you get?” As I look back at the early days of my business, I had rules about what I thought a business owner should be like. Certainly, I was anxious to appear competent, contained, and serious.While this is not the first business I have started, it is the business that best suits me and my talents. Frankly, I did not trust my abilities or my knowledge base. I tried to cram myself into an elevator pitch. I began to feel like I was wearing someone else’s clothes. Looking at yourself, how would you describe your style? Your business? Being comfortable in one’s skin exudes confidence that we are okay no matter if we are succeeding or failing. It enables us to be authentic and connect with people. We have heard sales trainers and coaches talk about the “know, like, and trust” factor in converting prospects into sales. Instead of a transactional process, what would make doing business more about being yourself and acknowledging the person who wants your products and services? By using “what you see is what you get,” you cut out silly rules that cramp your natural abilities and personality. What makes you comfortable in your own skin? It is a common fear that someone will find out you are a fraud. However, this is usually an unfounded fear held by extremely competent, intelligent, and ethical people. As entrepreneurs, we continuously push ourselves out of our circle of comfort. Remembering that we come with great abilities and a record of success enables us to settle into our authenticity. Check your rules. Are they supporting you or thwarting you? Get rid of anything that interferes with your natural connection with people. Dare to be WYSIWYG!