Get Noticed

Getting lucky often involves getting noticed.  If you get noticed by the “right” person, it can lead to connections that this person can make for you, which can accelerate your path toward your goals.

In many settings, getting noticed is actually pretty easy. My company, MailerMailer, is participating as a live case study for a social media class this semester at the University of Maryland. Last week, we threw a kick-off party during class so the students could meet some of my team and ask questions about the project.  To get the discussing going, I asked a simple question: what would you like to get out of the class?get noticed

What happened next surprised me, not so much by what happened but by how fast.  I expected the more vocal and active class participants to chime in with their ideas.  As I listened, I also looked around the room and spotted several students checking their friends’ Facebook status on their laptops. They weren’t paying attention.  To be fair, I wasn’t a perfect student when I was in college either and I know the vast majority of these students are motivated and I am looking forward to working with them on their class project.  But I couldn’t help shake the feeling that the ones who were not as involved could easily stand out, too. They got noticed, but probably not in the way that put them in the best light.  Luckily, most got noticed in a good way.

Within minutes, I was able to spot the leaders – in other words, the people I would most likely want to hire. They were the ones asking the most thoughtful questions.

If you are by nature a shy person, you have work a little harder to summon up the courage to raise your hand and speak your thoughts. The talkative ones don’t always have the best ideas. One of my company’s most innovative team members is very shy.  Yet her ideas are backed with tremendous thought and insight.

So, here’s the secret to getting noticed (in a good way): ask a thought-provoking question.  When you get someone else to think deep, you create an emotional connection. That increases the chances they will remember you.

It works almost every time and in almost every setting. Here are a few outstanding questions to ask other leaders, excerpted from author and speaker Michael Hyatt:

  • How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate the “core values”?
  • When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
  • As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?

Read the full list of 20 questions to ask leaders

Bill Gates on Pure Luck

Was Bill Gates just plain lucky?

At a Columbia University Business School town hall meeting hosted by CNBC, a student asked Bill Gates the role pure luck played in his success. Here is how Gates responded:Bill Gates

“I was lucky in many ways:  I was lucky to be born with certain skills. I was lucky to have parents that created an environment where they shared what they were working on and let me to buy as many books as I wanted to, and I was lucky with timing. The invention of the microprocessor was something profound, and it turned out that only if you were young and you were looking at that could you appreciate what that meant. And I was obsessed with writing software, and it turned out that was the key missing thing that allowed the microprocessor to have this incredible impact. So in timing, in skill set, in some of the people I was lucky enough to meet – it’s unusual to have so much luck in one’s life, but it’s been a major factor in what I’ve been able to do.”

If you read his words carefully, you will see a lot of the luck he had was something he created himself – his obsession with writing software, his realization that software was the missing ingredient to making the microprocessor’s huge, his desire to read many books (which he could have gotten at the library if he didn’t have the money to buy them).  The universe took care of the timing.  It was his tremendous focus and drive that did the rest.

Getting lucky by raising your hand

When Brooks Raiford was in seventh grade, he applied and was accepted to be a page for one week at the North Carolina state senate.  On his first day, there was an event that was getting a lot of press coverage.  The Lt. Governor walked in and asked the group for a volunteer to be his personal page for the day.  This likely meant whoever volunteered would be on camera throughout the controversial ordeal since they would be physically near the Lt. Governor all day.

The other pages didn’t want to do it.  Brooks raised his hand and was selected.  The next day, the Lt. Governor walked in and asked the same question. Nobody volunteered so he asked Brooks if he would like to do it again.  Brooks ended up being the Lt. Governor’s personal page for the entire week.  He had a phenomenal experience and, at age 13, had made connections in the Governor’s office and State Senate that would prove valuable later in his career.  The experience was very motivational and shaped his interest in getting involved in politics.  That was a couple of decades ago and he has gone on to have a very successful career in politics and business.  He is now President and CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association whose membership comprises organizations that provide 100,000 jobs in the state.

No matter your age, you can get lucky.  Brooks created his own luck by raising his hand.  He saw the opportunity and volunteered.