Mike McAllen talked with Debra Benton about her upcoming IMEX Keynote called: Leaders Needed: Apply Within: Benton will dissect and decode the secret sauce of traits and nuance needed to elevate your presence in the world where you want to be – your authentic self. Learn how to tweak what you already have to present yourself in a way that people are receptive to you; build trust with colleagues and customers. Rearrange how you view yourself by differentiating yourself and still be comfortable in situations you normally don’t feel comfortable. And finally, sharpen how you think and behave so that people remember you for the right reasons – enhancing your business grace, connection and rapport.
Mike: Welcome back to the Meetings Podcast. This is Mike McAllen from Grass Shack Events and Media, and on today’s show, we have Debra Benton, who is a speaker, consultant, author. Debra has been in business successfully for over 30 years having founded Benton Management Resources in 1976. She’s helped professionals worldwide design subtle changes in their presentation added to in leadership style that ultimately result in an increase in their personal and professional effectiveness and their financial status. Hi, Debra. Leaders Needed: Apply Within
Debra: Good morning.
Mike: I read that all without making one mistake.
Debra: You read it well.
Mike: So thank you very much speaking with me and good morning to you.
Debra: You know, as I listened to letting you say I started my business in 1976 that’s probably before a number of the audience was even born, but in fairness to me, I did start it at a very young age. I was only 22 years old so you can do the Math.
Mike: Well I was thinking you must have been like 2 years old or something when you started that.
Debra: You’re generous, but I think – It was closer to 2, right, now that I think about it, yeah, uh-huh.
Mike: So you’re going to be the first keynote speaker at IMEX America, which is coming up in Las Vegas.
Debra: I’m excited, yes.
Mike: Yeah, it’s a big, big conference. I’m going to be down there also. I’m excited to meet you in person, and I wanted to first ask you how you got into business. How did you start Benton Management Resources?
Debra: Well, it really applies to the subject that I’ll be speaking about, and that is I started my career with a very successful high-tech company. Doing extra interesting work in a management trainee program and pretty much thought I was a hot shot doing good work on time, on budget according to appraisals, but a couple of years into it, my boss called me into his office and very uncomfortably, nervously, flat out fired me, and of course I knew to ask why. He says, “Not that you’re lazy or ignorant or dishonest or anything like that, but you don’t deal well with the good old boys, and the fit’s not good, and the chemistry’s not right,” and I was let go. And that’s a lot of people who succeed in lies resulting from an overcompensation of some insecurity and pretty much I set about the path to find out what these intangible people skills, leadership, the it-stack during business is all about, and did years in research, ended up writing 9 books, and that brings me to IMEX.
Mike: Yeah, I saw you. A lot of books. A lot. That’s great. And so what is your – What’s your keynote going to be centered…?
Debra: Well, what I found from my research to be more memorable, impressive, credible, genuine, trusted, liked, comfortable, confident, competent, you have to think, act, and relate in a way that controls the effect on others versus leaving it to chance. I know that’s a mouthful there, but the whole point is you and I have more ability to control the effect, the impact that we have on others so that we get recognition, appreciation, and reward. You know, the truth is, in any walk of life, being brilliant at what you do is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. You also have to affect people in the way that makes them want to work with you, trust you, like you, have confidence in you. And so what I try to impart in my presentation and will in IMEX is some examples of how you think and act and relate to accomplish that goal, and it makes life a whole lot more fun, and you feel the satisfaction in your work and not a frustration, which too many of us can feel.
Mike: Yeah, that’s very interesting. It kind of hits home with me because I have a business, which I’ve had for 10 years now, and then, I’m starting a new one. Actually, we’re launching it there at IMEX, but I have always – I always find it interesting in the last 10 years after starting the business that it isn’t – It’s always trying to – like I can do the work fantastically, but it’s the relationships that I build that really gets us business. It’s not…
Debra: Right, it’s everything.
Mike: It’s never like – I mean the job itself is easy.
Debra: Right, right. It’s like I had a female engineering client one time. Her company, her boss had sent her to work with me in a coaching capacity, and she kind of stomp her feet so to speak and she said, “You know, I don’t want to work on all these intangible things. I just want my work to speak for itself.”
And her boss leaned over and whispered to me and said, “Well then it better speak louder.” You get the point?
The point is, you know, as good as you are, and I’m sure you’re great at what you do, others are too. So what separates you is how people feel about you when they deal with you and expecting competence is necessary and they get it, but they also want someone that they feel good around, that they feel they can trust, that they’re willing to talk to, they’re willing to take good or bad news from, and as complicated as all that sounds, it really is quite simple. It’s in your attitude and your physical comportment, and when you open your mouth, how you cooperate the things we’re talking about. So I tried to make the complex simple because I need it simple for myself, and that’s what I’ll try to get across in our time together at IMEX.
Debra: Well, you know, you think of the Meeting professional, you guys work so hard to bring everything to the table well, and yet, you don’t often get the respect at the table that you deserve because you’re not CEO or senior vice presidents and such and such…
Debra: …and I believe it’s your personality, your competence that gives you that feed at the table, and you have the right and you’re happy and you deserve it, but you have to do things to show them. You belong there…
Debra: …and in a confident comfortable way, not an arrogant way, of course.
Mike: And you’re so right too from – I have a production company so I just kid of step into a company for a little while and then I step out, so just exactly what you’re saying, I can totally see the successful meeting planners and the ones that are not successful because of just that that they demand the respect, kind of, and then the CEOs, these big powerful people, really turn to them and look at them, you know, as a great piece of their puzzle of their company. It’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to your keynote.
So tell me. You’re an executive coach also, so tell me about what that entails. What do you do for people?
Debra: Well sometimes, companies send people to me. Sometimes individuals come in themselves, but it’s always someone who is really bright. You know, off-the-chart bright in their specialty, but they need to take advantage of the – They need to step up to the bat and take advantage of the power that can be theirs. And you know, one of my longtime mentors said to me, “Debra, you teach people that they can behave different than their mom had taught them. You teach people they don’t have to defer to others.” And I thought, you know, that’s pretty cool. That’s cools. I’m always for giving respect and praise and admiration for others, to others and their accomplishment, but if you don’t give it to yourself, if you don’t effectively toot your own horn, you know, you can do it with self respect, and you have to self promote, but with self respect, if you don’t do it, no one else will…
Debra: …and then they’ll lose out on all that you have to offer. And again, what I try to do is make it simple so people sit there in the audience and they listen, and they’re almost nodding their head like uh-huh, I can see where that could work for me, and that’s what makes me happy. That’s what makes success, and that’s my goal to have people sit there and say uh-huh, I’ve got new tools, new skills to walk away right now and change my life even for the better.
Mike: That’s fantastic. And so are you – Do you do more speaking or more coaching? What’s your…?
Debra: You know, I’m in New York City speaking this week, and then I return home, and then I pack all my money to go to Las Vegas and lose it after the speak, but I’ll do it after the speak so that I won’t be in a bad mood, okay.
Mike: Or maybe you’ll win huge. You never know.
Debra: Yeah, I’m thinking it’s not going to happen, but thank you for that optimistic… But no, I travel a great deal. That’s what my life is. I’m happy doing it. I love what I do. I get to work with great people, you know, really hardworking, good, down-to-the-earth people, and help them get better, and I mean what…
You know, one wonderful thing that I get paid for doing it. I travel to nice places and get to do it so how lucky am I? So that’s my story and actually, I think a client said to me the other day. He said, “Debra, you don’t just love this stuff, do you?” He said, “You marinade in it, don’t you?” That’s a good way of putting it because, you know, until I die, I’m going to be doing this, and really, helping people be better, get more what they want in life, you know. There was an old country western song about this woman. It’s a Johnny Cash song, and he said, “His sister is a beautician and she makes money making other people look good,” all right, and I always liked that song because I make money making other people do well, helping other people do well.
Mike: That’s great.
Debra: And so that’s kind of cool.
Mike: Very cool. So tell me a little bit about your latest book. It’s The Virtual Executive. Is that… I was looking
Debra: Right. Thank you. How to think like a CEO online and offline. The purpose: a lot of the things that I talked about, when you see me, for example, at IMEX, certainly, I demonstrate and talk about it in terms of what works in person, but we don’t just work in person anymore. Tremendous amount of our work is done on the phone, online, you know, text and email, etcetera. And so several of my audience noticed over the recent years would say, “Debra, I love everything you’re telling me, but how do I do it online? How do I do a virtual handshake? I do I connect and bond with someone through an email?” And I thought, you know, that’s the future, and so I tried to translate all the good advice I learned in the research and given over the years, and translate it into what works online, what works when you’re not in person.
Mike: Yeah, and that is so important these days, isn’t it? I mean just so much is done on the computer. I’ll sit here in my office all day and never see anybody.
Debra: Right. There was an expression that somebody said to me in China. For example, the new snail mail is email. So I mean the world is going to text. Even then, who knows where we’ll go to next? But yes, that’s our world. The good thing is we have a broader reach. You can send in your office or you can reach the world, and you can do business instantly all over the world. The bad thing is they don’t get to see your tall, handsome face, your tall, good-looking body, handsome face. Since I haven’t met you, I’m sure these all fits.
Mike: You clearly haven’t met me.
Debra: I’m imagining you in my mind. That’s still an advantage. See, I can imagine what you look like.
Mike: Well maybe we shouldn’t meet then really. I don’t want to ruin it for you.
Debra: Like my friend said, she said – My girlfriend said, “I can’t get on Facebook until I get a facelift.” She said, “I need 6 inches in botox.” But anyway – And you know what? Regardless of looks, it’s one’s personality, one’s presence, and one’s ability to make the others feel good around them. That’s what makes you handsome by the way anyway.
Debra: And humor. You have a great sense of humor. I’m all for appropriate humor. The best leaders use a good-natured humor. It’s that they’re joke tellers, but they have an attitude of good cheer, and that’s part of what we’ll talk about too.
Mike: Yeah. All right, Debra, well, thank you so much for speaking with me, and I look forward to your keynote and meeting you, of course, down there.
Debra: I look forward to meeting you, and we’ll have a great time, and I’m still happy I’ll get your addresser’s group, and hopefully, we can make a difference.
Mike: I want to thank you again, and I’ll see you later.
Debra: All right. Thanks Mike.