avenue q

I’m through being your schadenfreude guy.

telly monster avenue q

Friends can grow weary, when we are hurting, when we need to talk, a friend can blank someone out after a while.  The current political angst and anger as well as suspicions that have arisen since the November election have some people feeling more frazzled than others. I also feel the need to resign as your schadenfreude friend.


I saw Avenue Q with a wonderful friend when we were both in New York City not too long ago.  She and I have been through some upheavals in our lives and seeing the play together was a great treat.  If you’re not familiar with Avenue Q, it’s an R rated muppet show where the puppeteers do a great job of acting out a story of life on a street in a major city.  The themes they touch on are the same standards of believing in yourself, believe in your dreams, but there’s also some real brutally honest themes that hit audiences in between the eyes with their sagacity.


Themes like, the Internet is for porn or everyone is a little bit racist and also we seemingly have a couple of bears on our shoulders the play calls the “bad idea bears,” the little adorable bears say that any wild ass and stupid idea we come up with, (like mixing tequila with a lot of whiskey and wine in our stomachs) is a great idea.


The part that I identified with was the scene where one of the muppet’s who had been living with the still-in-the-closet gay republican financial advisor, (I’m well aware that is a loaded lead in)  is kicked out on the street by his roommate.  He becomes homeless living on the street in front of his former room-mates building.  The other residents try and put him up in their flats but ultimately he wears out his welcome in each of the places and is back on the street.


The character notices through a discussion with one of the other characters that his being on the street makes other people feel better about themselves because they see the other has hit a low in their life.  The schadenfreude of the people who see him living on the street brings them some joy, and so his purpose, at least for the moment, is that he is helping other people feel good through his misery.


Why does that resonate with me?  For one, I believe that homelessness is one of the things I fear the most.  For a number of years I have been transitioning my career to learning and development, and while I enjoy the work I do now, and am passionate about helping others succeed, it’s the being of a schadenfreude object that I’m particularly done with.  You see, after a divorce, and a series of transitional positions that fit me like my old high school dress shirts, I have done work that was ill fit for my skill level, (another term is called being severely underemployed) and always the one to keep chasing money, (as well as provide for 5 kids) I was never short of motivation.


Once upon a time, I was for all the world this once successful happy person, and then, by my own hand, I left my marriage, my neighborhood and a lot of “friends“ said good-bye to me.


There were times where I felt like all I was about was being the person constantly needing help.  I knew I was in a bad place, and tried my best to put a brave and happy face to my bumps I was facing.  I know now that the gift of pressing on and working to achieve my masters degree, and hone my skills as a trainer and facilitator and coach through all these difficult times is going to make the arrival to my new found career all the more victorious.  But getting through it took a lot of people looking out and checking on me.  I have expended every last financial resource in weathering the unhappy and turbulent transition.  And I want to thank those who were truly there for me, who loved me unconditionally and just let me talk.  I felt safe doing it.


The truth is, as Mick Jagger sang it “we all need someone we can lean on”.  I wore many of you down, and perhaps some of you are done.  I get it.   But for those of you who have stuck with me, I want to say thank you.  I’m really better now, and while I’m not out of the woods by any stretch, (I still worry about being homeless, I think I need to have it to motivate me) but I am focusing on what I have to give.


Your patience with me has created a profound change, I am now someone who loves what he does.  That to me is priceless so the investment to get here where I can eventually crawl back up the financial ladder again is at least there, although very challenging.  I have always been and remain a devoted dad to my children, and to others’ children as well (more on this in a later post) Your help has gotten me to this point.


To summarize, If I have over taxed you, I’m sorry.  I was recently shut down by what I thought was one of my best friends because of the fatigue of political discourse on social media. And I’m mad as hell about the lack of moral fiber in the leadership of this country.  It was a direct shut down by my friend and I felt betrayed.  How dare he shut me down after I have patiently listened to him lay out his hurting soul?!  My reflection on the whole incident made me wonder what a friend is for, and then I realized that being a “needy” one for so long has probably wore him out.


I’ll still need some understanding from you, my friends in the coming months and years, but I promise not as much as I once did.  I’m sticking to the focusing, on you, and what you need.


Let me know how I can help you.  I’m serious.


Just don’t ask me to be the Schadenfreude guy any more. I quit.


At the Root of Rebuilding Trust.. Or , If Trust were just a simple thing…

Falling tree-1      Then trusting I would be, but foolish I would climb once more a tree too weak to stand- Gordon Lightfoot. 

It seems like I have a never ending storage bank of connective songs for topics in my head.  Trust has been thrust upon us this week as we seem to be innundated by stories in the news about trust in government, political leaders and business leaders as well as the media.

A new survey regarding trust in institutions and media and politics is at an all time low.  It’s the same level percentage wise as the approval rating of the president elect, 37%.    The survey conducted by Edelman is a sampling of 33,000 respondents in 28 countries.  These respondents were also screened as to whether Edelman defines an informed audience.

Edelman’s criteria for inclusion in the poll was interesting as well.  They interviewed individuals deemed informed subjects.  What’s an informed subject? Someone who watches political news sources multiple times per week and possessed a degree from a University (among other criteria) . The firm has been conducting the poll for the past  17 years.  Business, NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) once slightly immune to the lack of trust only reserved for media and the political entities in their countries, have caught up with the public’s lack of trust this year.   The biggest offender in business in terms of mistrust was the Pharmaceutical industry which a whopping 82% of respondents believed needed more regulation to protect consumers.

Matthew Harrington the COO of Edelman wrote in a summative article for  the Harvard Business Review:

Smart leaders, as the adage goes, will not let this crisis in confidence go to waste. They will see that a reordering of the communications paradigm that began to shift 20 years ago with the emergence of the internet has solidified in the last few years as social media has taken hold. People experimented, engaged, and then committed to their mobile devices as the primary conduit through which they connect, learn, and live much of their lives. This has changed the way they interact with almost everything, including businesses.”

He goes on to suggest that leaders go beyond the approach of building products and services for the people, but start demonstrating they are aligned ” with the people”.  It’s smart, and business leaders may be starting to wake up to the calling of building trust.  Recent moves by Ford, GE and other’s this week in announcing reinvestment in US manufacturing recently has been welcome news to an audience that fully 53% said they were concerned globalization was heading us in the wrong direction.

But it would also seem as though that shift mentioned in the quote above is a factor in the erosion of trust.  Simon Sinek’s wonderful interview on Dutch television gives us insight into the connection between lack of trust and the rise of the mobile phone addiction.  If you haven’t seen it, I have the link here .  I believe Mr. Harrington and Mr. Sinek are on to the roots of rebuilding trust.

Simon Sinek on cultural ramifications of the cell phone addiction

Simon Sinek on cultural ramifications of the cell phone addiction

Sinek’s analysis begs for a training intervention to help with the  organic method, ” from the bottom up”, led by individuals who have put into practice the steps any addict has to take to get away from the drug that has taken over their lives.   Mr. Harrington’s suggested approach also can bear fruit and I’m curious if there’s a connection to  John O’Donohue’s work.

Author, speaker, poet, John O'Donohue

Author, speaker, poet, John O’Donohue

O’Donohue was the poet, author,speaker, and a former Catholic priest who spoke to business leaders about the concepts of integrity and beauty, and right work. Business leaders found profound change in his reflective teachings. I’m not suggesting that O’Donohue met with and exposed his leadership principles with the CEO’s of the companies that decided to do the right thing for their businesses and their employees and keep the jobs here.  But surely there were some commonalities in the medicine administered and the result.

It’s evident by the broiling distrust of political figures in this country and abroad that there is an opportunity for smart leaders to address the gap.  This gap in trust and the apparent causes and remedy’s will be bandied about.  But for us in the training industry, the work lies ahead for building the interventions.  Based on Edelman’s study, we have nowhere to go but up.

I’ll leave you with a snip of John O’Donohue’s poetry, this from his poem entitled “For one who holds power”.

In your heart may there be a sanctuary
For the stillness where clarity is born.

May your work be infused with passion and creativity
And have the wisdom to balance compassion and

May your soul find the graciousness
To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.
May your power never become a shell
Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.
May you welcome your own vulnerability
As the ground where healing and truth join.

May integrity of soul be your first ideal.
The source that will guide and bless your work.


Coaching Through the Challenge at Retail Level

Coaching Though the Challenge, The changing face of motivation


A recent story I enjoyed on CBS Sunday Morning featured the story of Charles Clark, the custodian who works for TrinityHigh School in EulessTexas.  Mr. Clark is extraordinary not just for the work he performs in keeping the school clean and tidy.  He takes pride in that, but what he does in addition to his duties of working with students he sees as falling through the cracks, is beyond noteworthy.  Its work that speaks to all of us that have needed someone’s direction at a critical time in our development and has a lesson for those whose job or mission it is to coach others to success.


In my current challenge of working to educate and motivate employees of a national consumer electronics retailer to promote a particular service that is sold in store.  Our team consists of 10 sales trainers and our work seems at times to be like beating a hammer against an unbreakable stone.  Many of my counterparts express frustration at trying to motivate employees at this level due to an understandable list of “negatives”


The negatives can include the following:


“They don’t see any monetary benefit for promoting therefore they don’t care and won’t”


“They aren’t in their jobs long enough to be effective” (there is high churn in these stores)


“Management at the stores give lip service to promoting our program, they run away from and sometimes outright hide when a representative walks in the door”.


All of these confront anyone whether we are paid to coach others or we do it , as Mr. Clark does, as an extension of his work here on earth.  His advice in this video at 1:30 of this video hits home. I have always believed this is the key to seeing results from anyone I have coached.  How we show the people we work with that we care, and genuinely are interested in them is critical to establishing the trust and rapport that Mr. Clark speaks to.


The piece on CBS points to Dr. King’s inspiring quote “ Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are we doing to help others”.  Another quote which gives us inspiration in the club of coaching through difficulty might be this.


 “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.


Connecting with others starts with what Mr Clark points to in his approach with the students he mentors.  Our charge in this world is to start from humility and bring about the caring for others first, not because we wish to promote our agenda’s, but because we genuinely care about them. Some who enter coaching others that don’t start with this have lost before the engagement starts.  Others can point the ship in the right direction by changing their tactics.  As Daniel Pink has pointed out in his best seller “Drive” workers today are motivated by other factors than money.  Autonomy and Mastery lead the list of qualities our teams yearn for.


They only ask for us to step in and provide them the direction.


What’s The Big Idea?

What’s your Big Idea?

Your fiery Coach tells you to find what gets you lost.

airspeedvelocityThoughts about working on yourself and where you may find yourself one year from today.

My daughter gave me a coffee cup for my Christmas present this year which had printed on its side the mathematical equation for calculating the airspeed velocity of an un-laden swallow.  For those of you non Monty Python savvy people, it is a reference to the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in an hilarious scene which features some castle guards quizzing King Arthur and his knights who are not riding horses but rather are being accompanied by a squire clapping two coconut halves together simulating a galloping horse sound.  .  The bit goes down a rabbit hole with the two guards discussing how the coconuts might have found their way to England which is of course a Temperate zone, not tropical.  Surely a swallow , carried the coconut by the husks, and brought them to England when they migrated here.

 I was thinking of the work I’m engaged in today versus just 5 years ago and the difficulty some people, myself included, seem to have in finding their compass.  My purpose in writing this is to introduce you to the concept of getting lost, to find your way. 

Migrating, as it were, to a new vocation is no less complicated than the equation on the coffee cup,   it is composed of uncertainty, doubt, frustration, pain and the ultimate fear of being on the street.  At the same time, the universe seems to provide in the equation an uplifting and calming sense of “knowing” that you are on your way. 

Getting up to velocity to get you migrated over is probably not as formulaic as it is coaxed out of us.   How did I stumble into this new passion of mine and how can others do it?.  The answer for me was profound.  I had to find what  Got me lost.

Or better said, figure out what you get lost in doing.  Yeah, I know the whole find work your passionate about seems like a pipe dream to most people but I’ve made the switch and whilst I’m bumping on the rocks on my way down, praying for my wings to finally get me soaring, I’ll tell you I can see the vision more clearly now.  I had to find what I get lost in, or as Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi  preaches, what get’s you into Flow? (hint, it’s rewarding and you lose all track of time when you do it?)   

Currently I’m working on a project which could help millions of people find their “compass” as they migrate from one career to another.  It’s exciting work and has me engaged like never before.  I have expanded my coaching practice as a result of this work and will be writing more about the journey, whether it’s here or perhaps on a new site,  I have time to plot that out.

But back to you, the migrating human.  If you haven’t thought about the causes of moving forward in your life, I challenge you to think more about the  big idea that engages you, and gets you lost.   Migratory birds are compelled to migrate because of the evolutionary DNA imbedded in them to seek food and good breeding grounds.  What if your motivation was more than just  higher income or more life balance?  Goals like that are fine certainly but attaching your goals to something you can get lost in is another step we don’t often consider.  I realize I’m using direction and migration and the use of the word lost may not appear to be properly used.  But the key to finding your direction is in what you get lost in.

My big idea was to create a Dale Carnegie like training and development system that can start anyone, regardless of past experience, on the road to Personal mastery.  To create an army of self assured, competent and intrinsically motivated clients may seem like a pipe dream, but it’s how I want to leave my mark on the world.

Of course we don’t know this growing up.    I migrated without a compass or idea for many years. Naturally  I was always just a bit envious of those people who either  knew as a child, as my boyhood friend Vivek knew, what he wanted to be when he grew up. or, figured the game out in their 30’s and 40’s and had spread their wings then.   It seemed unfair.  I’ve heard it said that the wanderer (read, person who hasn’t figured what they are doing here)  is the most fascinating person to meet.  I will tell you after a while you get to believe it’s because they can walk away from the conversation saying “ Boy, I’m glad I’m not as confused as that guy, But how interesting he is!”

May your new year be underway with compass set.  I look forward to sharing your thoughts and your journey and I promise more on getting up to velocity and wish you a pleasant trip whether by horse, or afoot with clapping coconuts.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Coach Bob

To Mom, A poem that took 51 years and 2 weeks to write.

Humor, tragedy, drama.  If I can be allowed a little lee way here I post this knowing all too well that most people who lose a parent have different ways of expressing themselves.  Some do it articulately, and others not so much.   I find  poetry to be  therapeutic.  If you’ve ever lost your mom or dad , you understand the feelings.  If you haven’t , my sincere hope is that  you may find this form of therapy useful.

2014-01-11 09.25.51

I know that this isn’t worthy of Richard Blanco or Maya Angelou, but I did after all win the best poem award as a second grader for my poem Memorial Day, which I read at a tree dedication at the Paul Revere grade school in Blue Island Illinois on Memorial Day.  I think Mom kept the paper clipping of it.

From a speaking perspective, I found that getting up to talk about the lessons of my mother in her life was easier than I thought.  For as long as I have been speaking, I have had a very tough time talking through the emotions that can stir up inside me.  I don’t like breaking down in front of strangers.   John Boehner and I seem to have this emotive while speaking thing in common.  I powered through the 10 minutes,  giving it as imperfect yet genuine touch keeping to the structure whilst pointing out three lessons of her life.  They are mentioned, some briefly others more elaborately in the poem.  Again, my apologies to Maya and Richard.  

Seated Round Marcia’s Table 

Seated round Marcia’s table

Sing to me the lullaby to awaken

Ten pounds twelve ounces snug and content

Inside your womb so safe and loving,

Anxious was the world back then

Bays of pigs and bomb shelters awaited

Babies born that grey November day


Seated round Marcia’s table

A Little Hoss loved and joined soon after

By sisters who made memories

Fit for their mothers love

What rarified air you breathed

As you danced with your gap toothed cowboy partner

The tuckpointing former soldier boy we called dad

Each day you were the others trophy

Prized and spouse proud

Few couples were so lucky, as you


Seated round Marcia’s table

The good weary on smiling faces

Allow yourself mother, a moment of rest

Are you hungry? , are you comfortable children?

It’s Jennie’s daughter after all,

and her apron comes with high expectation

Loving, beaming

Mother hen clucking

It seems they like Marcia’s kitchen best


Seated round Marcia’s table

Marcia’s song carries itself down to the river

It is heard by friends and strangers alike

Accompanied by the music each traveler brings





Fidelis Paterna

Pat Sajack and Vanna

Fruit Loops and Tuna

I’ll shoot you a moon ahhh, but,

Little Lulu and Olive Oyl,

There’s leftovers in the fridge.


Seated round Marcia’s table

Now are only embers

Memories and moonbeams

Legacy and traditions to carry on

beautiful as waves upon the cabins shore

Children together

Forever more

Holiday Toast Guide

Do you need to craft the perfect holiday Toast?

** Stillman Media’s Social and Special Toast guide


How to craft it when it needs to be heartfelt yet brief


What better way to tell everyone how much they mean to you by toasting them this holiday season.  Try the Tee pee approach to your toast.


Your friends and family are gathered round, the drinks have been passed, and now it’s time to make a toast.  Try this method for making a toast to be remembered.  Here’s an observation on a reliably good formula for a meaningful, heart felt and dare we say elements of witty toast.

1 A great quote:

2. A brief story that binds you all together

3. An ending that ties up the occasion to the first two things in a heartfelt manner above.


Thinking about how you accomplish this may seem daunting, but try it on a small scale and have it prepped before hand.  It’s okay to write it all out so you don’t forget, but your friends and family will appreciate something that incorporates all three to make it personal and unique.


Here’s an example:  A Toast.

“To quote one of my heroes,  Ralph Waldo Emerson, “You have done what you could—some blunders and absurdities have crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

(Now comes 2nd element) This reminds me of how Bill overcame his health obstacles this year and was an inspiration to us all. Jean overcame her old nonsense with perhaps a bit too high a spirit, but a high spirit none the less.


(Finally tie in to the occasion) Raise a glass to this spirit as we enter into 2014 With this, the best family I, or even Emerson could ever ask for!”.

Obviously the group shared story needs to be a happy, positive one. Don’t make the mistake of pointing out Uncle Dan’s drinking problem, (he probably shouldn’t be participating in the toast come to think about it) Nor should you bring up anything that might be deemed embarrassing to someone.  If you don’t have a filter on such things, run it past someone who does.


Enjoy your holiday’s and let me know how your toast making went!.


All the best,


Bob S.


Five Stops on the Road to Establishing Trust


Five Stops on the Road to Trust


The majority of great sales people seem to fall into the category of being unconscious competents when it comes to knowing when to lead the sale to the close.  If you don’t fall into that category, or if you do and are curious to know what you seem to so effortlessly do, we submit these 5 stops for your consideration.  The next time you work with a customer for the first time, ask yourself which of these did you pass along the way to the sale, or , by contrast, if you didn’t close them , what did you miss along the way?

 First Stop: The Blink Moment

Those of you familiar with author Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” will know that moment.  If you’ve ever had a spidey sense go off that something was not right, or just felt good about a person, that’s the Blink moment.  During these moments customers and salespeople are both checking in with their gut response on that first meeting.

They are judging whether they feel comfortable with you or if you are signaling a bad “vibe”.  It’s the reaction that is hard to control or affect the outcome of. beyond doing our best to be professional in our appearance and genuine in our motivations.


Second Stop: Listening

Listening and reading into what another person is communicating is often not done, or done in a half hearted manner.  Humans respond better when they know they are being listened to.

Like so many of the fundamentals this one is overlooked.  We have no further to look than college and professional sports and winning teams.  They always credit the fundamentals. 

We stress this fundamental in a fun way during our trainings, and incorporate it into our trainings.

Like anything it is best when utilized with care and not overdone.

How do you exhibit to your prospects that you are listening.?

Third Stop: Do we like them, are they like us?

So you pass the initial two tests just fine you say? .  Mirroring others helps get us into sync or rapport with others.  In his work “How to make people like you in 90 seconds or less”,  Nicholas Boothman points out that there are three potential ways to identify with someone when communicating .  If we fail to sync up with their style of communicating , we will most likely fail in trying to connect with them.

Bottom line, we like doing business with people we like and are like us.

“Trust that you know what you’re doing here.”

Fourth Stop:  Are you competent?   

Do you know what you’re doing?  Trust takes a holiday when we come off as less than confident.  Knowing your product and industry is one step in the right direction.  Knowing how to engage anybody on their terms is a huge confidence booster.

Fifth Stop: Outside Validation

Humphrey Bogart simply asked these nice gentlemen for their badges.  The man’s reply is the stuff of great movie lore.

What finally gets the customer to say yes, is his need to validate that you’ve done this before, or your customers are happy, etc etc.

How do you communicate validation?  Testimonials are a great way to show the prospect your badges.  

Getting through the 5 intersections takes discipline, and awareness as well as a great sense of the scene you are playing a role in.  We have found that we can raise even the most seasoned professionals awareness of these interchanges and once you are cognizant of them, they become a game to run through.

At the end of the day, increasing your ability to move from stranger to trusted advisor is more achievable if you operate from a position of what needs work and what’s working.

To your future engagements.  I am wishing you all the best.

Bob Stillman



author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Robert Stillman is a Professional Speaker and authority on the subject of Rapport, and Building Trust within the sales process. He has worked with Fortune 500 clients such as Microsoft, Google, Best Buy and others in teaching the art of engaging customers. He is the author of the upcoming book, “Rapport 2.0, connecting with the distanced generation”. A book on utilizing improvisational theater techniques to engage millenials in both training environments and engaging customers. His latest training program, Rapport in 4 teaches how to establish Rapport in 80 seconds and establish trust in 20 minutes or less. The New 80/20 rule for the information age. [/author_info] [/author]

Why this Down Syndrome Awareness day is different.


And you know it ain’t hard, to get along with

Somebody elses troubles, and they don’t make you lose any sleep tonight”.  Steve Goodman

It’s National Down Syndrome Awareness Day,  and just over 18 months ago, I gave about as much mental real estate for it then as most people around the world give notice to the various awareness day’s that don’t affect them directly.  It’s been 18 months since a little boy came into my life quite unexpectedly.  But not unlike George Bailey on Christmas Eve, or even Scrooge on the same night, I’m a changed man, and I couldn’t write this before today.

Amanda and I had been dating only 4 months when we found out she was pregnant.  She turned down the test that could screen to check whether or not the baby had certain genetic “defects”, including Down Syndrome.  Cooper was born on September 9th, 2011 and when he came into the world he looked like my other boys.  Douglas and Matthew had similar features and Amanda was warned by my family about the Stillman head, which if you have met me you know,  is much bigger than your average human cranium.

There was something different about Coopers hands though, and I asked the doctor repeatedly about it.  I’ll never forget how he evaded the obvious diagnosis.  He kept pointing to the traits of Down syndrome to me as he inspected Coopers hands, talking about Simian crease in his palm, and his spread wide big toe.  Never uttering the words “Down Syndrome”, he spoke to me as if I should “get it”, yet I didn’t get it.  Nope, I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep, or the lack of food, but I didn’t understand his point behind all this pointing out of features.  Evidently the good Doctor wasn’t trained on how to break the news to new parents.  This wasn’t to be his only lack of skill, but I’ll leave my disappointment in those areas for perhaps another time.

Back to the nursery in Holland Michigan on September 9th, 2011, after his cesarian delivery and cleaning up by the staff, came the moment of reckoning.  Finally, Cooper opened his eyes, and I saw it.  I saw that look to his eyes that I have seen and we all see in people with Down Syndrome.  All parents of children with Down syndrome have this story to tell with variations in the story line.  I’m ashamed that I shared the feelings many parents have which initially is  one akin more to that of a death or disappointment when their child arrives with that extra dose of chromosome.  I’m also ashamed It has taken me this long to write about this experience.

It’s funny to see other people’s reactions to Cooper today.  Whether it’s with me or Amanda and I together.  I’d say 40% that engage, see my boy’s face and are moved to smile at either him or Amanda and I and reflect his love and joy back in some way.  Others, give no notice that anything is different and just smile, while about 15%  look away nervously, and uncomfortably.  As if seeing a child with Down syndrome will spread the affliction on the party they got going on in their lives.  You can almost feel the pity pang shot your way, or maybe its imaginary, amplified by that same pity pang given to other parents who had children with special needs when I was guilty of that sort of thing.  They don’t make me mad anymore as I understand societies discomfort with those with special needs.  And I guess it’s about that “not being mad anymore” place that I write about today.

From feeling like I got dealt a hand that nobody wants, I’ve awakened to a whole new feeling about this  21st day of March.  I didn’t want to say it until it was heartfelt.  Not just heartfelt but as strongly as anything I’ve felt in my life.  I genuinely am caught up in an extra powerful tidal wave of love sort of way with this little boy.  It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or feel disheartened in the middle of the night, (and yes I mean 3 flippin a. m. in the morning,) no that doesn’t go away, but I’ve evolved as a Dad. Maybe even as a human.

Down Syndrome Awareness Day

History will show that I have two memorable experiences with special needs kids prior to Coopers arrival.  The first is that those who know me know I have a beautiful daughter that my ex and I adopted. Jenna was born with a cleft lip and palate.  As you can see by the picture she is a beautiful and I’ll tell you, a very smart and totally loved member of the entire Stillman clan.   But special needs cleft lip and palate, is a far cry on the special needs scale than a child with Down Syndrome.  I of course love all my children and .Jenna as well as my 3 other children know that I love them even when I act like an overbearing dad.

The second may seem insignificant but it was my only admirable act of courage in my entire life and it happened when I was a middle school student.   I somehow found the spirit to stand up for a girl with special needs on my bus who was teased mercilessly every morning.  This was kind of a big deal in 7th grade as my big cranium meant I took my fair share of teasing and bullying then too.

But it was the arrival of Cooper and the through the fire of the storms surrounding this coming to grips with a child with real special needs.  First comes the death of the dreams you had of all the things your son or daughter was going to be in your pre child arrival dreams.  Then a slow coming to terms with a fate of being the guy who was dealt the hand nobody wants.  But the truth is, how dare I ever think that way?.

This precious little boy who:

chews on unused and I’m embarrassed to say used diapers when Amanda and I aren’t careful about throwing them out right away, and

bends my screen on my laptop back to see what I’m doing as he just now did

and plays a game we have labeled “shake shake”, with a sock,which he inexplicably finds fascinating.

and at 18 months still isn’t walking or eating solid food, and yet..

this boy has forced my hand and my heart.

I’m in Coop.  I get it now, I’m sorry son it’s taken me this long to see what it is, but I get you more than the doctor ever would have hoped for in his inept communications effort.   I’m  grateful for and worthy of your challenges, as you knew when you chose to make your appearance in this vain old bastards life.

As many couples face the choice of whether to have a baby with Down Syndrome or abort, please know that  I say this as someone who absolutely believes and supports a woman’s right to choose.  But let me say to that couple who is facing this decision.  I would not trade my Coop for any so called “perfect”  baby in the universe.  According to the statistics, an overwhelming 92% of women/ couples choose to abort their baby when they find out it has Down Syndrome.  It’s something that saddens me more now than at any other time.

There is a truth that the other 8 % know that they will not.  It is the truth that sets us on a more challenging but oh so rewarding path.  An endless source of love and heart grabbing, awe inspiring, tear evoking entertainment is yours for the embracing.

I guess at some level I needed to change my ways, and become a better person.  Cooper has reawakened my sense of fairness, equality, and being kind.  Old habits die hard, but my son is hardwired with something that is guaranteed to remind me to become bigger than I was.

The truth is, my head went from being something I’m ashamed of to something I’m right proud of.  The hand I’ve been dealt with Cooper means less sleep now, less predictable milestones and the like, but a love that I’ve never know before in its wake.

Happy Down Syndrome awareness day everyone.

A renewed and reborn dad.

Bob Stillman

Can Improvisational training improve First Point of Contact (FPOC) experiences?

I was back in Chicago this past week, and I got a chance to do a follow up visit with Jim Cathcart who was in town conducting his sales training course, “Relationship Sales” for a client of his.  Jim is a true gentleman and I’m grateful for the relationship we have with Jim acting as a mentor as I continue in my role as the expert in teaching effective Rapport in 20 minutes or less.

During the conversation we were discussing the emerging field of managing your businesses first point of contact with a prospect.  The world market is finding what they want and need online and experiencing their Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)  online, but it’s still up to employees in the field of sales and hospitality to put their organizations solidly in the “ I’m glad I’m doing business with this company” category, after they have made the choice.

I discussed the tale of two car dealers with Jim.  The story was given to me by a friend of mine, and a strategic partner whose business it is to drive web traffic to automotive retailers websites.  They do a great job with ZMOT, however, they sometime run into trouble with getting the staff of the auto dealership to be effective in their role as FPOC , or first point of contact, with customer.

Dealership one, has an experienced Sales Manager who receives directly, all calls on every car in inventory.  He also is responsible for welcoming each and every customer that walks in.  He welcomes this responsibility and he’s very good at it.  He has a staff of three assistants plus the usual sales staff.  He effectively engages prospects whether it’s via phone or in person and ultimately sells the most number of cars for his dealership, usually delegating various parts of the sales process to others. He also is responsible for the lion share of his dealerships sales.

Dealership two, has a Business Development Center, or BDC that is staffed by 4 young men who while very bright and enthusiastic,  time and again, they send out emails and work prospects on the phone, all to little effect.  They collectively account for only a small fraction of the sales that Dealership one’s Sales Manager brings in.

My friends point is that Dealership two is killing his results for helping dealerships by driving away business with impersonal, crm derived template emails that don’t answer questions, and phone habits that fail to engage a prospect when they take the time to call in.  Our collaboration is to work together and develop a first point of contact training for dealership #2 and other dealerships like it.

As I related this story to Jim I could see that his wheels were turning, and he said, “ you know, when I got off the plane here in Chicago, I went to the hotel shuttle area, and I climbed aboard what I was pretty sure was my shuttle.”   He went on, “ I was greeted by a Shuttle driver who had a fantastic attitude.  He started off by saying, “ my name is …. (Jim didn’t remember his name) and I should first tell you that there are 10 Marriot properties in this area serving the airport, and while all of them are great properties, this shuttle only goes to X and Y properties, so if you’re going to those two , you are on the right shuttle! .  Jim found out he was on the right shuttle and was then treated to a story about how the shuttle driver liked all the Marriot properties but these two properties were his favorite ones.  He stated some of the reasons why and then talked a bit about the area.  All the while sharing enthusiasm and a big smile.

Jim said he got off the shuttle and tipped the man extra and told him “ this was for the attitude,  you did a great job. “   “And you know what else ? “.  Jim turned to me, “ I started off my stay at that Marriot in a great mood”.

The power of managing your first point of contact with customers and prospects pays dividends all the way through the buying cycle.  My friend was right and Jim was reconfirming in its importance.  The importance of managing the relationship through the ZMOT to affirming that you’ve made a good decision still rests with power of a person to person interaction.  Stay tuned to the details of our Improvisational customer engagement training, being adopted (just slightly) to address this need.


All the best,

Feds go from “Just the Facts” to “The Art of Productive Conversations”

FBI.gov article reveals the Ten techniques for establishing Rapport.

Published on the web in October of this year, I found a lengthy article, more suitable to a “how to” manual but very informative on the FBI’s web site on the subject of building rapport.  The article, entitled “Mastering Rapport and Having Productive Conversations by Robin K. Dreeke  takes the example of two FBI agents, one experienced and the other a rookie, in the art of developing sources for crime investigation work.

Yes they weren’t feds, but the boys of Dragnet were quintessential, quick talking, fast thinking lawmen. And let’s face it. Who really knew Joe Friday?


Dreeke uses a day in the life of two agents as the more experienced agent relay’s her techniques as they jointly call on potential information sources in the cyber security community.  In the end, the article gives ten techniques which are quite helpful, and are recapped in the article with very clear, albeit crime writing style narrative to assist would be informant developers, on the art of productive conversations.

I was pleased to see that many of the techniques taught through the various conversations are the very same techniques we use in teaching rapport skills in our “Productive Conversations” workshop, Which is part of our Rapport 2.0 bootcamp.

Ten Techniques for Building Rapport

1) Establish artificial time constraints. Allow the potential source to feel that there is

an end in sight.

2) Remember nonverbals. Ensure that both your body language and voice are nonthreatening.

3) Speak slower. Do not oversell and talk too fast. You lose credibility quickly and appear too strong and threatening.

4) Have a sympathy or assistance theme. Human beings want to provide assistance and help. It also appeals to their ego that they may know more than you.

5) Suspend your ego. This probably represents the hardest technique but, without a doubt, is the most effective. Do not build yourself up—build someone else up, and you will have strong rapport.

6) Validate others. Human beings crave feeling connected and accepted. Validation feeds this need, and few offer it. Be the great validator and have instant, valuable rapport.

7) Ask “how, when, and why” questions. When you want to dig deep and make a connection, asking these questions serves as the safest, most effective way. People will tell you what they are willing to talk about.

8) Connect using quid pro quo. Some people are more guarded than others. Allow them to feel comfortable by sharing a little about yourself if needed. Do not overdo it.

9) Give gifts (reciprocal altruism). Human beings reciprocate gifts given. Give a gift, either intangible or material, and seek a conversation and rapport in return.

10) Manage expectations. Avoid feeling and embodying disappointment by ensuring that your methods focus on benefiting the targeted individual, not you. Ultimately, you will win, but your mind-set needs to focus on the other person.

I for one, forgot about, and am a terrible abuser of rule number 3 and found this article good reading.  To access it, click on the link here

Practice these 10, and start reaping the benefits of deeper connections with the people you interact with every day.

All the best,

Robert Stillman