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5 Lessons from Regis


Today marks Regis Philbin’s final appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly. I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on his life and what we as individuals and organizations can learn from him. Surely, anyone known universally by their first name (think Cher, Pele, Celine, Bono, etc. ) has lessons to teach.

  1. Be personable, approachable- Most of us think of Regis as an eccentric neighbor, a crazy uncle, or a kindly grandfather figure. He makes us laugh. Regis also makes us feel comfortable.We’ve invited him into our living rooms for close to 17,000 hours of television over a few decades. We’ve invited him into our lives. Does your organization get invited into the lives of its members, employees, and/or customers? Or are you viewed begrudgingly as an uninvited guest or an obligatory participant? What can you do to change the dynamics so your constituents want to spend more time with you? So you’re invited to be a part of their dialogue?
  2. Share the spotlight- Part of the appeal of Regis is that he doesn’t have to have the spotlight to himself. He’s actually more effective when he has a co-host- someone to bounce ideas off or have playful banter with. Getting along with others and playing nicely in the sandbox is a lesson we learned in kindergarten. What can your association, company, or agency do to better recognize and promote its partners, vendors, thought leaders, and other members of its circle of influence? Are there opportunities to turn competitors into valued partners to better advance your cause? What are the ways that highlighting the work of others reflects well on you and your accomplishments?
  3. Say what you think- Another key ingredient to the success of Regis has been his willingness to make off-the-cuff remarks. Now, this is the area in which we tread lightly, especially those of us accustomed to the carefully-crafted press release or prepared statement. Saying what you think doesn’t always win; sometimes it may get you in trouble. In this era of social media, however, organizations need to have quicker responses, they need to move as a living organism and not hide behind official statements. Associations, companies, and agencies need people who are well-trained and can think on their feet. The moment won’t wait for you and your team to do research, polls, or surveys. Train them. Trust them. Let them go. Are the wins adding up? Are they greater than the temporary setbacks of missed cues or foot-in-the-mouth moments?
  4. Be outRegis- From crazy costumes to inane skits to interesting guests, Regis has shown his willingness to take risks. He showed himself to be vulnerable. Regis snatched success from the jaws of failure. Most of us would have been too self-conscious to pull off much of what he’s done. But, we’re the National American Society for the Association of Professional Hydragoposcatators (NASAPH, for short). Who cares?! Take a moment to recognize and enjoy the accomplishments. Ensure that there’s time to get to know members, employees, and customers on a personal level. What are you doing to stand out? And not just as a mammoth organization or a leader in your industry?
  5. Thanks for the memories- From humble origins in the Bronx and a Catholic education to the national stage, Regis genuinely seems to connect with childhood friends and mega-superstars alike. He’s also invested in the lives of young men by providing scholarships to Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. He took a circuitous route through local television in California and back to New York  to become a fixture on national TV in his late 50’s. Take time to remember where you came from and who got you there. It’s taken many people and perhaps many years to get you to where you are today. Do you have moments to celebrate and recognize the contributions of staff, volunteers, customers, members, etc.?

What are the lessons you’ve learned from Regis?

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  1. November 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Jay, what a great post and good reminders – be human, be Regis. Smiling.

  2. November 18, 2011 at 10:32 am

    This is a really solid round-up of lessons learned from Regis’ pretty phenomenal career. I didn’t have the opportunity to see much of him “live” but a recent illness while I was attending a conference confined me to my hotel room and provided the perfect opportunity to catch one of his final broadcasts!

    I think what I found most interesting, and perhaps telling, about Regis was how widely respected and admired he was. He genuinely connected with people and left a lasting impression. I can’t help but believe that what you detailed above is part of his magic. He could be zany and outspoken but he could also be very thoughtful and serious, somehow he knew when to be what and shifted gears seamlessly. However, what got him to where he is today was the fact that he knew who he was and wasn’t afraid of it, he embraced it.

    I think associations, businesses and organizations alike could all benefit from taking a good look at Regis and taking his example to heart. Have a personality and an opinion, share the stage – with your members, volunteers, clients, customers, etc. – and let them shine, have some fun and don’t be afraid to be human! In the end, I believe that those that leave a mark, make an impression or are generally honored and remembered are those who chose to exemplify those ideals but who also make mistakes (and learn from them) and always continue improving! I can’t help but believe that it’s a universal truth that applies whether you are an individual, for-profit, not-for-profit, etc.

    A really thoughtful – and thought provoking – post. Nicely done.

  3. November 18, 2011 at 10:59 am

    First, I have to say that never in my life did I think I would be reading a post or writing about Regis.

    I think that you did a great job capturing aspects of Regis that really can relate to the association world – and I would add one more to the list – his voice. Regis has a distinctive voice that whether he is on tv in another room or he comes over the radio in your car, you know it is him, or someone trying to impersonate him. His voice is recognized by thousands of people – and with it you automatically think of they qualities that you list above.

    Aren’t associations striving for the same thing? Wouldn’t it be ideal if our members, or better yet professionals that are not yet members, heard a message and the recognition that that was the voice of our associations was instantaneous? What would we say? Would it really just be a sales pitch for products? How could we engage in conversation?

    Better yet, are we using that voice now, and if not why not? It worked for Regis 🙂

  4. Chrissy Ward
    November 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Okay – Jay, I have never had the pleasure of meeting you, but you are a great ambassador for social media. The sunniness in your voice and your immediate willingness to embrace SoMe neophytes and show them the ropes. You are Regis and are leading by example.

    Now to your post…

    Regarding #3: Say What You Think – I look at this as a dearth of leadership, both on the part of the organization and the communicator. Social media provides an incredible and immediate ability to lead movements and constituents. One of the things that annoys me about associations is that they don’t develop their staff expertise in writing content or empowering them to speak/interact through social media. Heck, even RT’ing relevant contact to make their members smarter and more efficient. Aren’t we all advocates for our collective mission? Find it strange and utterly non-strategic. Glorious post. I truly look forward to meeting you!

  5. November 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I especially like the co-host, be-okay-with-number-two concept. It is an undervalued position in life.

  6. Brian Davis
    November 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Well done, Jay! I couldn’t help but think of the Penn State story when reading the following sentence: “In this era of social media, however, organizations need to have quicker responses, they need to move as a living organism and not hide behind official statements.” You encourage speculation when you don’t respond quickly.

  7. November 28, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Great post, a nice rubric for eventprofs, honestly. One thing you can piggyback off sharing the spotlight is knowing how to be loyal. When Kathy Lee Gifford was going through her child labor scandal, Regis weighed in as a friend and a business partner. His commentary during that time was circumspect and smart, and that’s the mark of a good businessman. We should all be so thoughtful when dealing with our vendors, our clients–anyone we hope to have a good relationship with.

  1. January 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm

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