Lessons From A Sommelier

Take Control of The Wine List
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®

Imagine this — You are seated at an upscale restaurant with one of your best clients and then handed a wine list thicker than a college textbook.  You want to pick out the “perfect” wine to impress your client but everything looks like it is written in a foreign language.  After only a few minutes the server asks if you have made your selection so you decide to order the most familiar thing on the menu.  You are not sure your selection will coordinate with your meals and it costs more than your boss will tolerate for a client dinner.  By the time the bottle arrives you have broken out in a cold sweat and are ready to take a big gulp!  The good news is that understanding the three main ways wine lists are organized is the first step to preventing this from ever happening to you.

There are three primary types of wine lists:  those organized by the grape varietal, by geography or where it is made, by flavor profile.  Keep in mind that some lists blend several of these methods.  Let’s explore each of these three types of wine lists:

By Grape Varietal.  Organized by the main grape variety used to prodice the wine, this type of list definitely appeals to our varietally conscious culture.  It may be further organized by country or state.  Thinking of the grape varietal first and the origin second is an American trend.  Many European countries are trying to focus on the grape varieties despite regulations that ban the top rated wine from listing them on the label.  Sections for the popular varietals, e.g., Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, are usually listed, as well as an “other varietals” category for white and red.  These lesser known varietal sections can often be more interesting, and is where many bargains can be found!

By Geography.  This wine list is organized by countries of origin and ofen has the more specific subcategories, like the regions or state, which is the traditional type of win list.  If you love French wines, this type of list makes it easy.  Flip to the French section and then look at what regions or wines are offered.  The grape varietal used may (or may not) be listed next to the wines in this type of list.  This is not an issue for most wine from the US since the wine is usually labeled by grape varietal, e.g., Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.  The European wine industry, however, tends to focus on the region and assume we know what grapes are grown.  Even though the principal grapes of Burgundy are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they won’t appear on the bottle of Burgundy’s finest wines.

Progressive.  This type of list is a relatively new approach that is organized by the flavor and body profile.  A typical category might be dry-light-bodied whites and the wines in that category may be ordered from mildest to fullest.  This allows diners to look for the type of wine they enjoy and then order options in the same flavor and body category.  Your favorite grapes or countries may be located in many different categories.  Once you get the hang of these lists, they are tons of fun.  They don’t require any special knowledge of geography or grapes — just a knowledge what you like.

Knowing these categories will give you a better understanding of the three most common ways restaurants will organize their lists.  The geographic and grape varietal lists will account for 80% of the lists encountered, but the progressive list may be a growing trend for the future.

Secrets to Ordering a Great Bottle of Wine Every Time!

  • Ask the sommelier or server for suggestions.  Most are eager to help and have tasted most (if not all) of the wines on their list.  Those of us who have chosen wine as a career enjoy drinking wine every night but don’t necessarily have large budgets.  Sommeliers and servers will know the best bargains because that is what we are drinking at home!
  • If you are on a budget but don’t want the client to know that, point out a wine in your price range and then for ask for an alternate suggestion.  Any good server will recommend something within $10 of the wine you pointed out.  Don’t go for the least expensive bottle however; look for the second or third level wines.  The lowest priced wines are actually marked up the most (sometimes 4 or 5 times ccost) whereas higher priced wines might only be marked up 2 times cost.
  • Let’s face it, we are not experts in French, Spanish or Italian, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the wine, right?  If you find a great wine you want to order but are afraid to pronounce it, look for the Bin Number listed to the left of the wine.  Many restaurants use these as a method to organize their wine inventory.  If the list does not use bin numbers then point to the wine in question and any astute server will get the message.
  • Resist the temptation to order the cult favorites like Opus One or other highly sought after wines with name recognition.  These wines are expensive because, like Gucci or Cartier, the brand’s status is part of what you are paying for.  Many times you can find wines that are similar in quality for much less, especially if you are willing to try lesser known grape varietals or regions.  Ask your sommelier or server — they will be able to recommend the best buys.
  • Try to taste as much as you can at home or at free in-store tastings.  Retail wines are usually only marked up 30-50% over cost as opposed to the standard 2-3 times markup at a restaurant.  Experimenting at home will give you the experience to order great wine you’ll love when you are out!

And now, the next time you take an important client (or that special someone) to dinner, they will be impressed with your ability to find the right wine in no time!

About Laurie:
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach® is a wine educator, dynamic speaker and author of the award winning book The Sipping Point:  A Crash Course in Wine.  Laurie’s specialty is creating unique corporate keynotes, team building events and group tasting seminars where she can deliver on her mission to demystify wine one glass at a time.  Laurie is a regular contributor to several magazines and a sought after guest expert on radio stations across the country, including most recently Martha Stewart radio.

To receive Laurie’s FREE audio CD “The 7 Secrets to Flawlessly Ordering Wine” visit:  www.thewinecoachsecrets.com.

Master The Simple

A relatively new client who hired me to work on business development asked me this week about using Twitter and mobile marketing to push blog and newsletter content.  Interesting idea, except that this client doesn’t yet have a blog or a newsletter!  When I pointed that out, she  pushed back at first, telling me that she wants to make the best use possible of technology. Fine, I said, but once you know what that is, what will you be able to do with it?  She was quiet for a few seconds, then she chuckled and said yes, but it’s much easier to think about how to distribute articles than to write them.  So true, isn’t it?

That reminded me of one of the keys to any kind of development:  build the foundation first.  As any of you who have heard me talk about business development (or who have read The Reluctant Rainmaker) know, I’m in favor of repurposing your work in as many ways as possible and getting it out to the widest effective audience possible.  With today’s technology, that can mean using so many different avenues.

A slight diversion — but stay with me, because it does relate.  This weekend, I decided to look for a fairly simple white bookcase.  I checked the Ikea website, and I found 16 pages of white bookcases.  Tall, short, with glass doors and without, with narrow shelves or deep shelves, and on and on and on.  I had so many options that I felt paralyzed.  How could I possibly decide among that many white bookcases?  All told, I probably spent 20 or 30 minutes browsing bookcases and comparing them, and that time was basically wasted because the choices were too numerous for me to get anywhere.  Without more context, the various styles meant nothing to me.

That’s what happens to some lawyers as they think about business development:  the options are so numerous that it’s easy to get paralyzed.  Should you focus on writing or speaking or networking?  If it’s writing, should it be in traditional journals or on a blog?  If networking, should it be with lawyers or in an industry group, or should you focus on social online?  Creating a business development plan is the first step I recommend, because it will help you to cut through all of those options without getting overwhelmed.

As you plan, though, I recommend simplifying and doing first things first.  Do you want to focus on building interpersonal relationships, which will lead to new business if built strategically and mined appropriately?  Or should you focus first on building your substantive knowledge, skills, and credibility?  Whichever you answered, what’s  the most important thing for you to do right now to reach that goal?  Do that.

In other words, before you spend hours on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, meet face-to-face with a group of people who are your ideal clients or who can refer you to your ideal clients.  As fabulous as online networking can be, it rarely if ever will replace face-to-face conversation.  Before you explore how to use video to get your presentations online for the world to see, make some presentations in real-time in front of the right audience.  Build your foundation, and then expand it.

Am I encouraging you to forego technology?  Absolutely not.  But you must have a firm foundation built before you begin to exploit the wonders of technology.  Simplify, and master the simplest step before you expand to more complicated steps.

The No [Censored] Rule

The No [Censored] Rule
By Robert Sutton, Ph.D.

Note:  To avoid triggering filters, I’m substituting the word “jerk” for the censored word in the title.  You can see the original in the image.

Dr. Robert I. Sutton is a champion of the civilized workplace, created and maintained through careful enforcement of the no “jerk” rule.  Expanding and deepending his 2004 Harvard Business Review article entitled “More Trouble Then They’re Worth,” Sutton’s 2007 book The No [Censored] Rule offers valuable tips for eliminating or avoiding nasty people in business.  As its tag line promises, this truly is “the definitive guide to working with — and surviving — workplace bullies, creeps, jerks, tyrants, tormentors, despots, and egomaniacs.”

In less than 200 entertaining pages, Sutton explains how to identify a workplace jerk (even how to tell if you’re the jerk) and describes the damage these jerks wreak on the organizations in which they work and the clients and colleagues with whom they come into contact.  He also addresses how to handle a workplace jerk, while warning of the dangers of “jerk poisoning.”  According to Sutton, a jerk is one who oppresses, humiliates, de-energizes, or belittles his target (generally someone less powerful than himself), causing the target to feel worse about herself following an interaction with the jerk.   (And, as his numerous examples prove, this behavior is not by any means limited to male perpetrators or female victims.)

These jerks use tactics such as personal insults, sarcasm and teasing as vehicles for insults, shaming, and treating people as if they’re invisible to deman others.  This behavior is sometimes hard to distinguish from routine bad behavior, but (like obscenity) you’re likely to know it when you see it.  Sutton distinguishes temporary jerks (because, as he notes, we all have the potential to act like jerks at times, particularly when we’re stressed) from certified jerks, who routinely show themselves to be nasty people.  The latter, he argues, must go.  He also carefully distinguishes constructive, even noisy, arguments about ideas from behavior that descends into a nasty personal attack and disavows any hint that spineless or obsequious people are the preferred alternative to jerks.

Having diagnosed the problem, Sutton then recommends how to implement and enforce a “no jerk rule,” how a jerk may reform himself/herself, and how to survive working in nasty environments or with nasty people.  Survival mechanisms include looking for small wins that allow you to sustain (or regain) confidence and a sense of control, reframing the situation and detaching from it, limiting exposure to the jerk, building situations of “safety, support, and sanity,” fighting and winning the right small battles, and leaving the job that’s put you in contact with the jerk.

Sutton also discusses the dangerous topic of the benefits of the jerk’s behavior, such as motivating fear-driven performance and perfectionism.  Though he is careful to note that these benefits don’t justify bad behavior, the “virtues of nastiness” are as real as the damage nastiness causes.  Sutton includes five key tips for those who want to be effective jerks, while noting that even these tips are inherently dangerous:

  1. Expressing anger, even nastiness, can be an effective method for grabbing and keeping power.
  2. Nastiness and intimidation are especially effective for vanquishing competitors.
  3. If you demean your people to motivate them, alternate it with (at least occasional) encouragement and praise.
  4. Create a “toxic tandem” with someone who will play good cop to your bad cop.
  5. Being all jerk, all the time, won’t work.

Although the jerk partner (or senior associate or paralegal or…) is, unfortunately, almost an archetype in law firm life, it’s just as important to identify nasty clients — or better yet, nasty potential clients.  Those are the clients who will demand and demean, who will push good lawyers to make bad arguments, who will cause their lawyers untold stress.  Lawyers must know when to refuse a case, and evaluating the cost of representing a jerk is a critical underlying skill.  Check this previous blog post for tips on identifying red flags for potentially difficult or nasty clients.

4 Steps To Growing Your Leadership Presence

When you talk, you want others to listen, right?  Whether it’s a now-or-never event (making a key point in an oral argument, for instance) or one in a long stream of communications (talking with a colleague about some aspect of a representation), getting your point across and making some sort of advance in what you’re doing is probably at the top of your list every time you open your mouth.

How you present yourself, how you communicate, how you listen, how you connect, and how you respond to feedback you receive creates leadership presence.  Think about stage presence, that indefinable something that makes magic as soon as an actor steps onto a stage.  Leadership presence is the business version of stage presence.

Leadership presence can be cultivated.  Belle Linda Halpern and Kathe Lubar of The Ariel Group wrote a book titled Leadership Presence, in which they outline the PRES model.  To develop your own presence, consider these aspects:

P – Being Present.  Being “present” means being fully focused on what’s going on in the time and space you’re occupying, so that you’re able to respond to whatever happens, however, unexpected it may be.

R – Reaching Out.  Leaders must listen to others and build authentic relationships.  Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in reaching out to others in a genuine and effective way.

E – Expressiveness.  Use your words, your body language, and the tone and rate of your speech to express your message, and ensure that each of these routes for communication is congruent with the others.  We’ve probably all seen someone who shakes his head in a “no” gesture while saying, “What a great idea,” or a manager who stands in front of a group to announce an “exciting new initiative with lots of opportunities for us to do well,” while her body is slumped and her voice is halting and quiet.  Harness the power of communication and express your message clearly.

S – Self-knowing.  Effective leaders tend to be self-aware, authentic regardless of situation or circumstance, and guided by core values and priorities.  Bill George uses the analogy of True North in his book of the same title.  A leader who knows her True North and acts accordingly will exhibit a stronger presence than one who shifts based on context.

Practice using “PRES” when you speak over the next few days or weeks.  Notice how you feel and how others respond to you.  Notice where you feel comfortable and where perhaps you need additional practice.  And notice, most importantly, the effect your presence has on your leadership.

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