Keeping Your Cool

“Everyone says self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. It is, but there is another aspect to awareness that may be equally compelling and sadly overlooked. It’s self-management.”

 – John Baldoni, author and internationally recognized executive coach

Everyone looses his or her cool from time to time – after all, we’re only human, right? But what happens when we do it repeatedly?

Our reputation, our influence, our ability to both lead and succeed is diminished.

You can manage a budget, manage a supply chain, manage innovation, even manage aScreen Shot 2015-10-12 at 1.22.11 PM team well but if you cannot manage your own reactions to people, obstacles or temper-triggers, it can derail your company or your career.

Failure to manage oneself well is essentially a failure to maintain self-control and a focus on the ultimate end-goal of healthy, ethical success as a team.

What does failure to manage oneself look like? You’ve seen it. It can manifest as temper outbursts, impatience, ingratitude, detachment, sarcasm or hubris. You’ve seen it displayed in some form, and you’ve displayed it yourself in one of these forms – we all have at some point.

None of this is fatal if it happens infrequently – acknowledgement and apologies smooth over the occasional slip up. What can be fatal is a failure to commit to managing yourself and your reactions.

We each need to be self-aware of what our typical “triggers” are. For instance:

  • If you are high on the impatience spectrum – either naturally or adapting – your trigger might be when you perceive that others are “dragging their feet” or when deadlines are missed.
  • If you are high on the dominance spectrum – either naturally or adapting – your trigger could be when you perceive others aren’t making or sticking to clear decisions.
  • If you are high on the conformity spectrum – either naturally or adapting – you might start to loose it when the numbers don’t add up, or you perceive a lack of clear instructions or respect of protocol.

Self-awareness of your triggers is key – but it must be followed by a controlled response. It is not enough to know what sets you off, if you don’t find strategies for avoiding exploding.

Sometimes that can be a simple as taking a ten-minute break from the situation in order to calm down and switch trains of thought.

Pages 8 and 9 of your Forte Communication Profile can help you see your current potential triggers and help you respond to them in a healthy, effective manner.

Do you know which interactions, behaviors, or situations tend to set you off? Think back over the last year. Chances are, you can identify patterns. If not, ask a trusted close co-worker – chances are they can identify your patterns.

We each need to release the expectation that the rest of the world needs to change and stop setting us off. Instead, we must own our own triggers and manage how we react to them.

It’s not uncommon for “strong personalities” to rise to leadership positions. However, your very strengths can become liabilities when not managed well.

The good news is, you are totally in control of you.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Rachel is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. Call at The Forté Institute at 910-452-5152.

Sneakers, Status & NonConformity

90_1396654483A friend of mine tells the story of his first Friday working for an insurance company – no one told him Fridays were “casual day.”  He showed up to work in a pressed shirt and bow tie, and was teased about it.

Every Friday for years since he has bucked the corporate culture and worn a bow tie. Interestingly, he also rapidly became one of the company’s top sellers.

What Does Your Attire Communicate?

In a new twist on “the clothes make the man,” recent research finds that under certain circumstances, people wearing unexpected attire are perceived as having higher status and greater competence.

“Our studies found that nonconformity leads to positive inferences of status and competence when it is associated with deliberateness and intentionality,” writes Bellezza, Gino and Keinan in “The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity,” from the Spring 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.

While it was long thought expensive shoes and custom suits signaled power, competence and success, that idea has been turned on its head in the 21st century – at least by the elite.

One of the most visible examples is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. Whether being interviewed by the media or meeting with Wall Street bankers, Zuckerberg shows up wearing jeans and a hoodie.

The point is not how formal or causal you dress – it’s how unconventional your  choice is perceived to be from the occasion or the norm.

While the most traditional-minded among us may chaff at Zuckerberg’s wardrobe choices, many are impressed by them – deducing that Zuckerberg has earned the right to wear whatever he pleases, and has the courage to do so.

“From a psychological standpoint, intentional deviance from a norm can project heightened status and competence by signaling that one has the autonomy to act according to one’s own inclinations,” write the study’s authors.

Should You Replace Your Suits with Hoodies?

Can I show up to teach at the university in yoga pants, flip-flops and my favorite concert t-shirt from my college days and impress others with that choice? Perhaps some students would applaud me; I suspect many of my fellow faculty would not. I might get away with it, however, if I have the highest teaching evaluation scores on campus and/or bring in millions in grant money with my research.

There is a cost/benefit analysis to be done when choosing to deliberately buck convention with your non-conformity.

Research reveals that onlookers attribute heightened status and competence to a nonconforming individual when they think he or she is both aware of the accepted norm and able to conform to it, but deliberately decides not to.

When nonconforming behavior or attire appears to be prompted by lack of means, lack of better alternatives, or lack of awareness of the code, it does not lead to positive inferences from others. Think of my clueless friend on his first Friday at work.

To benefit from deviance from the norm, we should make sure that others perceive our nonconforming practices to be intentional choices. Think of my friend each Friday since.

Managing Impressions

“Conformity to rules and social norms in both professional and nonprofessional settings tends to generate social acceptance and avoids negative sanctions such as social disapproval, ridicule and exclusion. Signaling through nonconformity comes at the cost of abandoning this comfort zone and the benefits of following the crowd.” write the researchers.

Nonetheless, it might work to your advantage to make a bold choice from time to time … especially if you are in the company of other non-conformists.

In an experiment, one of the authors taught a class to executives at Harvard Business School wearing nonconforming red Converse sneakers. Many of the executives deducted that the professor teaching the class was a well-published scholar, high ranking in her field. And the positive inference of competence and status was particularly strong for executives who themselves owned an unusual pair of shoes.

This experiment shows it can pay to know the tendency towards conformity or nonconformity of those you interact with – The Forte Institutue can help you discover this.

Clearly, nonconformity is seen in a positive light in certain scenarios. However, in other scenarios deviation from the norm can result in disapproval rather than increased status.

As you contemplate wing tips vs. sneakers, consider whom you are aiming to impress and whether you are confident enough to withstand any potential costs of nonconformity. As this research shows, if you go with the Converse, go boldly in them rather than treading lightly.


The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Rachel is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. Call at The Forté Institute at 910-452-5152.

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Pitching Your Ideas


Are you trying to convince your boss to develop a new product or implement your strategies for growth, but can’t get him or her to listen?

Would you like to introduce a new system to your team – one you are certain would bring many benefits – but you can’t get their buy-in?

Do you come into contact with prospective buyers/clients but aren’t sure how to effectively sell to them without coming across as pushy?


No matter where we sit in the company structure, we all share ideas with someone else with the aim of being persuasive and well received. We have a goal, but we need someone else’s receptivity or action to achieve it.

No matter how great our idea, how needed our improvement, or how much of a deal our product is, we must successfully overcome the communication challenge known as “the pitch.”


Facilitating Your “Pitch”

Here are a few guidelines to follow when pitching a product or idea:

  • Get really clear on what you’re offering, and why.  – If you can’t explain it clearly and concisely, odds are they won’t get it. Distill your idea into a singular, “sticky” statement that covers what it is, and what its benefits are.  Use that statement towards the beginning of your pitch.
  • Be conversational. – You want to connect with your audience, so even if you are standing in a boardroom with PowerPoint slides behind you, your pitch should feel more like a conversation than a presentation. Consider telling a story as you explain your idea – stories are memorable and hook into our emotions. 
  • Ask questions. – Interacting with your audience is key to keeping them engaged, and questions involve them in your pitch.  If you meet with someone individually, like a client or your boss, be sure to listen as much as you speak. If you’re presenting to a group, invite questions at key stages during the presentation.  Ask about their initial reaction or hesitations, ask if they’ve had experience with something similar. Make them feel heard. And realize what you hear can help you tailor your pitch on the fly.
  • Focus on helping rather than selling. – Make it your goal to serve your audience. Identify what your audience needs (be that your boss, team or clients) and seek to show them how you or your idea can meet their needs. Don’t assume they have the same needs or goals you have. Don’t assume they have a felt need for what you’re pitching – some needs we feel, others we are blind to. Even if this pitch isn’t green-lighted, if you’re perceived as helpful, you’ll have future opportunities to pitch.
  • Be contagious. – Remember that emotion can be contagious, so let your passion or your conviction shine through as you pitch. Present with energy and humble confidence. If you don’t appear to “feel it,” your audience isn’t likely to either.

If we sincerely seek to be helpful, present a clear and compelling case, and engage the audience and listen to them, our pitch will be much more likely to land on receptive ears. Plus, we’ll open the door to dialogue about our idea – effectively turning our audience into our collaborative partners.



Here’s a terrific video on how to pitch anything in 15 seconds by Carmine Gallon at

If you’d like to discover how to specifically communicate so that your boss or employees will listen, have your team take the Forte Communication Profile Survey. This can show you each person’s individual preferences for how they like to receive information and make decisions. Call us at 910-452-5152.

Forte Institute member Rachel Olsen is on faculty in the Communication Studies department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. 

Certification Training – October

Forté offer 8 different tools in our suite of products – from communication style profiles, to interaction reports, to performance-coaching guidance and more.

Are you knowledgeable and comfortable using the various products in the suite?

If not, we offer certification training workshops periodically throughout the year. We’re holding a virtual training session next week – attend yourself or “send” someone from your staff.

Here are the details:

  • Wednesday, October 1st and Thursday, October 2nd
  • From 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
  • Virtual training via computer on
  • Cost is less than two grand for two days of training across the entire Forté Suite
  • 90 days of follow up support included

To find out more – or to register – simply call us at 910-452-5152.