Avoiding Smart Guy Syndrome

Throughout my years coaching executives, I’ve noticed a common behavior that decredentials leaders: the need to illustrate they are the smartest person in the room. Trust me, the moment you start doing that, you’ve lost:

  • the climate to foster meaningful, honest dialogue
  • the possibility of debate that’s essential to gaining insight and coming to the BEST decision, not you’re decision
  • the freedom to discover a solution with others
  • your direct reports’ trust in you as someone who cares about them and their input

That’s a lot to give up, right?

Four Behaviors to Avoid the “Smart Guy” Syndrome

Being aware of your need to establish yourself as the “smart guy” and knowing what you’re giving up as described above is just the beginning. From there, try these four behaviors that will help you avoid losing the confidence and trust of those in the room:

Never Rush-to-Judgement

Immediately judging input and the person giving it as “good” or “bad,” “worthy” or “not worthy” will create tension in the room. The moment you do this you shut the space of discovery down. You’re actually saying, I don’t need your input, I’ve got this. You will no longer get honest input, rather you will get what they think you want to hear.

Tell the Truth

If you’re afraid to tell the truth, you can’t lead. Of course, there are issues you should not discuss or open up about, you’ve got to be responsible for all the issues. Most issues are better communicated with honesty than with fabrication. And being able to admit you don’t have all the answers will engender loyalty far more than creating solutions out of thin air.


I can’t stress this enough. The leader who listens is the leader who is respected. Let conversations remain ambiguous for a while and notice who participates in the solution of the issue, beyond you; that’s a future leader.

Offer honest consistent feedback

The clearer your observations are of people the more they will desire your coaching of them. They will feel your concern for their development, rather than your isolated positions. People want feedback so they can improve how they operate. Not giving them feedback says either you didn’t listen, didn’t care, or don’t have the respect for their input. That’s not going to win you many fans, is it?

Try these four behaviors at your next meeting. Let me know how it goes with a “Reply” below so we can all learn from your experience!  

– SG



Five Steps for Introducing Yourself

number-five-redYou might be surprised to realize that how you introduce yourself makes a big difference with people. In my coaching assignments, I’ve observed executives either going through the motions introducing themselves to people/clients or meaning it and linking their introduction to the excitement of the meeting.

Setting the Tone

As we’ve spoken about before; people buy people first, product second. What this means during one’s introduction is that HOW you introduce yourself and WHY you’re jazzed to be there can make all the difference in the world. You get to set the “tone” for the meeting.

That’s why its important. Lets break this down a bit.

Five Steps for Introducing Yourself

Step #1: Do your homework
Know who’s attending the meeting. Having a little knowledge about who you are introducing yourself to will give you confidence in your initial contact with them.

Step #2: Understand why is the meeting important to the attendees
Yes, be clear on the importance of the meeting to you but, simultaneously know what’s important to your attendees. What’s keeping them up at night? What are their challenges?

Step #3: Find the Value for Them
Genuinely link the value of the meeting for yourself. Hint: If you’re not excited about it, your attendees won’t be either.

Step #4: Be Clear and Direct
Write out your introduction to be confident and clear. Name, background, relationship to the subject at hand and why your excited to part of the meeting. Remember, you are setting the tone and you are establishing a level of trust right from the start.

Step #5: Be Engaging
Deliver it like you mean it, as a host in a welcoming fashion. It makes a difference and credentials you as a professional. Sure, maybe they aren’t completely engaged yet but if YOU aren’t, you have no chance of succeeding in your encounter with them.

Try these steps at the next meeting you host. Let me know how it goes!

Six Steps for Great Online Meetings

While I always believe that in-person meetings generate better, actionable results, many times the logistics of all attendees being in the same place are too difficult to overcome. At that point, you have to resort to an online meeting. This creates a whole new set of challenges as you try to capture their attention.

Think how often you multi-task when you’re on a conference call. Someone texts you, you answer it. An email comes in, you respond. You remember an upcoming meeting and put it on your calendar. All the while, someone is talking to you!

Grabbing and keeping a client’s attention is mission-critical to succeeding with a demonstration of your product via an online meeting. Outlined below are the six steps to holding their attention and gaining their agreement that your idea is the right one.

Step #1: Know Your Client’s Goals

I know it sounds simple. Too often, though, we’re caught up in our own product and dismiss our client’s core goals that fueled the meeting’s purpose in the first place.

Introduce the demo by stating your client’s goals. Think about what this does. The action illustrates that your client’s desires are more important than your demo. And guess what? THEY ARE! Clients want and need to be affirmed. They need to know you’ve listened to what they’ve said and tailored a demo just for them. With this overture of empathy, you can then state the challenges they’ve shared with you, making your idea their solution.

Step #2: Check-In

Once you’ve stated your client’s core goals, ask him/her to agree with them. Present the challenge they said was preventing them from achieving their goal. Then, check-in with them by getting their agreement on this issue.

“From our previous discussions, it seems that your biggest issues are X, Y and Z. Did I capture that accurately?”

Also check-in a few times throughout the demo by asking your client questions such as “How do you see this aspect of the product helping your business?” That gets them involved in your conversation while also potentially giving you new intel upon which to base your recommendations.

Step #3: Be Concise

It’s easy to go off on a tangent with the product you enjoy speaking about…DON’T. No one enjoys a wind-bag. Keep your comments concise and tailored to your client’s issues.

Step #4: Avoid Qualifying Words

You are asking your client to believe in you and your product. Assuming that YOU believe in you and your product, you must speak strongly and with conviction. Qualifying words and phrases will weaken your position and give them reason to doubt what you are saying. That’s when they’ll start reaching for their phone to check their messages…you’ve lost them!

Some phrases to avoid are:

We feel this is a solution to…
I think the product…
Hopefully this aspect of the product will…
Perhaps our service could

How would you change those to be stronger, more assertive? That’s a good exercise to do before you conduct the meeting.

Step #5: Know Your Competition

You have to be ready to defend your organization/idea and respond to the inevitable question of product blurring. How well do you know your competition’s offerings? How does what you offer stack up? Where are you vulnerable? Where do you shine? Know the answers to these questions and be ready for challenges related to what else is out there so that you can command the conversation. Don’t open the door for your competition!

Step #6: Declare the Next Step

Yes, I mean declare it. Even if it’s wrong, you’ve stated what you believe to be the next appropriate step. If they have a problem with it, they will present a countered next step. They now understand there is a next step both of you should agree on. And you will leave the meeting knowing what is expected of you. Now all you have to do is deliver!

Online meetings present a lot of challenges, even technical ones. Commandeer the situation by being prepared and moving the conversation along according to what you want to get out of the meeting. Let me know how it goes!

Find Your Seat at the Table

Taking your seat at the table in business can be daunting.

There are naysayers, skeptics, and executives who feel their voice is the only voice required at that table. Read more

Sales Training Tip: Researching Clients for Success

Last week, I gave you some basic considerations when preparing for a client meeting. It takes a good amount of preparation and thought, yes?

As promised, this week I’ll list what I have found to be some useful required information that you must know before going into the meeting.  Know all of this and you’ll be set for a very successful, productive meeting.

Read more