Do You Use Verbal White Space?

Note: I was prompted by the recent political debates to re-publish
this popular post from the 2012 archives. Hope you enjoy it!

Graphic designers know how to focus your attention.
They frequently communicate through the use of white space.

Whitespace

Less is more. The message is clear. There's no clutter.

Use Verbal Whitespace

You can increase your verbal impact  the same way. How many times have you wished that someone would just "say what they mean?"

Boss says: "We finished the senior level meeting and it looks as if we have to increase our numbers. We've been working hard on that project for a long time. I told the management team about the obstacles, how much overtime people have been putting in, and what the client has been saying. You know how much I appreciate your...."

Boss means: "We have to increase our sales by 10% and decrease our expenses by 5%. It's not really negotiable. I want to decide before the end of the meeting  how we can do that."

Father: "You know, son, there are a lot of people out there who could get you into trouble. I know that you are really a good kid and don't want to get into trouble. Man, when I was your age, there were a lot of kids in my class who were doing things that their parents never knew about. One of them even ended up going to jail for awhile. We live in a tough world. When..."

Father means: "Son, I love you. I found out for sure that John on your soccer team is taking drugs. I don't want you to do that or even try it. You can die. And I love you."

The Power of Noun-Verb-Object

We think that piling on extra words somehow makes our communication more palatable and therefore, better. More than likely it will make it confusing and incomprehensible. Which can lead to "Uh, just what am I supposed to do?"

Start thinking the way your fourth grade teacher taught you: Noun-verb-object.

"Please (you) give me the first draft of your report by 5 o'clock on Thursday."

"We will meet on Tuesday at 10 am."

"Let's (us) start a new marketing campaignI want to announce the kick-off in March."

Your brevity will be appreciated. Really.

Your message will be clear and understandable.

Your trust level with others will go up because your verbal packaging will go down.

Roesler communication principle #1: Truth comes in sentences. Bull**** comes in paragraphs.

 

Photo Source: 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/smartfat/38625613/






 

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How Culture Impacts Perception

Re-published by request.

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, Canadian and Japanese researchers  have confirmed some very specific distinctions.

EastWest When East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine the principles behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work,

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.

 

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Leaders Connect Visually

Influential people create compelling images.

But of what?

6a00d8341c500653ef0147e0a31f1d970b-320wiOf the benefits those around them will gain from the ideas they propose. They take time to let us know what we'll see, hear, and feel. You can do this, too. Take time to choose words that create pictures, sounds, and feelings that will make your ideas connect in different ways all at once.

For example: "Using this plan offers clear benefits that are in total harmony with our goals and will have an impact on customer satisfaction." In one sentence, you've touched the visual, auditory, and feeling senses of your listeners.

It's not about manipulation, it's about communication. The kind that successful leaders carefully craft before stepping into a meeting.

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How To Measure Relationships

“It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
 --Maurice, Robin, & Barry Gibb, The Bee Gees: “Words”


Listen to the Lyrics

Do you want to know a way to check the depth of how someone is relating to you at a given moment? Just listen and check out their language. You’ll be fascinated at how revealing it will be. Here’s what I mean:

  • When people operate at a surface level, they often share catch-phrases or clichés: “Well, the new design isn’t moving along too fast. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’ll hang in and hunker down; it’s all about ‘getting more efficient and effective’.”Bee_gees_words
  • Move a step deeper and folks will offer some facts: “I want to improve the quality by 10%.” “Jessica said she’ll give us three people from her team when the software project gets approval.”
  • More intimate: You’ll notice that you hear people offer personal judgments, opinions, and thoughts: “I’ve been watching your progress and I think you could use some help with the engineering. We’ve been getting some comments from the design folks who are concerned about the execution. Let’s see if we can get to the heart of this and make sure you get the results you want.”  “If the new talent development program isn’t in full swing by November, I believe we’re going to lose some people to our main competitor. They’re hiring.”
  • Most intimate: Listen for people to actually express how they feel. “I’m fed up with trying to launch this program. It’s been a drain on me since I’m not getting the financial support we need. I’m even sorry that I took it on. Even my friends tell me my demeanor has changed. I need some help about what to do next.”


One more thought. You’ll be able to tell, over time, when others view their relationship with you more deeply. They’ll start using first-person pronouns more frequently: I, You, We, Us.

What cues have you become conscious of over the years?

photo attribution: Picture Sleeve and Album Art Museum 

What kinds of other cues do people send at work and what is "acceptable?" 

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Four Ways You Can Impact Learning

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?"

If they don't like the answer they may keep looking.

For leaders, managers, and heads of projects, helping people learn is a critical contribution to individual and organizational success.

So, here are Four Ways to Impact Learning that will serve you well.

Training02_small

 



Impact on Curiosity:
For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact on self confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact on motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact on Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into the topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps. When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

What are your unique methods for impacting learning?

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Presentation Success Tip: How To Help People Follow You

Create Transitions

 

 
"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue."

And-now-a-word-from-our-sponsors

How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering "How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience with you:

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next--and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it.

 

 

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Do You Know Your Conversation Catalysts?

Do you want to spread your message for a product, service, or maybe an important organizational change?

Here's a question to answer: "Who are your Conversation Catalysts?"

My friend Valeria Maltoni , conversation and connection gurette, wrote about a Keller Fay Group research finding that showed 15% of the population to be  Conversation Catalysts.  Conversation Catalyst

"These influencers tend to recommend brands and products more often at the tune of 149 times a week vs. 79 for the average population. They also tend to have more conversations -- 184 vs. 114 -- and talk more about brands than others."

Valeria then highlighted the level of various media influences and, ultimately, what this means for the importance of a company website.

The take-away for us is this: Conversation catalysts talk to a whole lot more people and will be happy to share their experiences with them -- good, bad, or indifferent.

Let's connect the dots to make this work for you now

1. Who are the 15% in your customer base or organization? Find out and reach out.

2. What do you want them to say, think, and feel about you and your product or message?

3. How can you make that happen? For real. Genuinely. Authentically.

Hint: The answer involves first reaching that critical 15% in the most effective way (you may want to go back and look at the media research).

Note: If you try to fool the 15% with your puff-piece equivalent of Flash technology, remember that they have the power to reveal you as a fraud.

The takeaway for today

Your customers are going to talk about you. If you are a manager, your employees are going to talk about you.

Regardless of the audience, are you influencing the conversation with the right people at the right time in the right way in order to create the right conversations for success?

 

Image source:  www.leidsuitburo.nl

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Communication: Where to Find the Meaning

"We see things not as they are, but as we are."
   --H.M Tomlinson

Meaning is in the Response You Get

We often deal with new ideas, with changing how things are done, with trying to persuade others about our point of view. The longer you've lived, the more you realize the number of obstacles to people automatically accepting and absorbing your information.

Maybe the greatest single stumbling block to real communication is the one-sided nature of speaking.

I know that you already know about this: intellectually. But let's face it:  Most of us concentrate on what to say and how to say it. In our zeal to  get our message across we forget that at the other end of our message is a real, live person with her own zeal, goals, and concerns. These may not coincide with ours, especially at the moment when we are about to start communicating our new ideas.

Inluence Blog Graphic.001

So, Do This:

1. Openly acknowledge the areas of similarity first.

2. Re-state why you are together and what you hope to accomplish.

3. List the areas of disagreement or fuzziness. Don't discuss them yet, just list them.

4. Identify and work through the items that have the least value or emotional attachment. This creates a quick track record of successes.

5. Get to the tougher ones, with this important element:

Explain why it is important to you.

It's a lot easier to work together when you understand the deeper issues involved. Without this, you aren't really operating at a human level--you are just exchanging information whose underlying realities may be much more sympatico and understandable than the statement given on the surface.

Remember: Meaning is in the response. The deeper, more honest the response, the more chance you have of understanding the truth of each other's reality.

How do you approach these kinds of situations?

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Culture and Perception

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, a few years ago Canadian and Japanese researchers  confirmed some very specific distinctions.

East westWhen East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine theprinciples behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work.

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.

 

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Build Trust By Saying "No"

There's some twisted thinking going on about building trusting relationships. It goes like this:

"If I make people happy by not disagreeing with them they will like me more. Then they'll trust me more because I'm agreeable. Wow. Then when I need something or want something I'm more likely to get it. And if I'm a manager, that's good."

Right?

NoThink for a moment about the people--or person--you trust the most. Do they always say "yes? No. And that's why you trust them.

We trust people who have limits and beliefs, then care enough to state what they are. A relationship of "yeses" leaves us suspicious at best.

People don't have to be disagreeable in order to disagree. We often respect someone who tells us not only that (s)he sees things differently, but who then takes time to calmly explain "why." Taking time to explain "why" is a sign of respect toward us.

When you mean "yes" say "yes." When you mean "no" say "no." And share your reason.

In an era that seems to beg for leadership, become someone who people want to follow because they trust that you mean what you say. An honest "no" to others will get you an honest "yes" on their trust scale.

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How About A Look At Your Conference Call?

Ever wonder what a conference call "looks" like?

Hat tip to Leadercast for this all-too-true (and therefore, hilarious) look at: The Conference Call.

Enjoy!

 

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Use Words That Connect

You need to find the connection between people's needs and wishes and your own goals in order to genuinely be influential. 

When asked how he became influential, former U.S. President Harry Truman said simply: "I find out what people want and then I help them get it."

InfluenceFirst, Find Out What They Want 

If you're looking for questions that work well, here are six. You can use your own variations on the theme:

  • What do you really like about the current situation?
  • What would you like to see happen differently?
  • What do you need from this?
  • Is there something that is most important to you?
  • What is your preferred action in this situation?
Then, Use The Right Words

You've asked questions and have a good grasp of the other person's situation. Now, it's time to select words that really make your ideas pop. Do what good writers do and pick words that stimulate and connect. Here are some examples:

Feeling words: Impress, thrill, intrigued, lively, brisk, grasp,

Words that attract the sense of hearing: resonate, harmonize, tuned in, clear as a bell, loud and clear

Visual words: pinpoint, bright, focused, imagine, reveal, picture

You get the idea. Words matter.

Toss out the professional jargon and focus on the senses of your listener. Then, imagine the thrill of knowing your sharp idea made the right impression.

photo source:wikipedia http://tinyurl.com/yzc7eeg

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Presenting? Take A Pause For The Cause

Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings."--Stanislavski

Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

SpeakerSometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what's coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological pauses build tension and heighten curiosity.

Logical pauses between words and sentences give an audience the time needed to piece together the key elements of the joke or series of rapid one-liners. When it all comes together, you've got a room filled with laughter.

Make "The Pause" an intentional part of your presentation, meeting, or change initiative.

Psychological: When you pause to create a "curious" state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what's happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good "Stand-Up" leader and speaker?

photo source: Wikipedia 

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5 Ways To Increase Your Influence

"You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time." J.S. Knox

TemptsAlignment

This is one of the great buzzwords of our time. When used consciously, it's also the key to building solid relationships as well as the foundation for being influential. When you are able to show how someone else's needs can be met through your idea or process, you both stand a chance of walking away satisfied. 

The question: How do you do it?

Five Styles to Help You Influence

1. Demonstrate. Give a successful example of your idea. 

How? Highlight related examples of the same idea already taking place in your organization or in another business. 

2. Cost-Focus. Show how problems and costs can be minimized. 

How?  Run through the numbers to reveal, factually, the cost benefits of your approach. Do this on paper and hand the other person(s) a copy to hold in their grubby little paws. This makes it real. Don't just say it; print out the math.

3. Values-based consistency. Show that your solution is consistent with, and strongly supports, the other person's values. 

How? Do your homework and find out the non negotiables in the business lives of those listening. Then, clearly point out the values-alignment that your solution brings.

4. Time Awareness. Demonstrate how the plan will unfold over a specific period of time.

How? My favorite--because it is low risk and high payoff--is to do a trial project implemented in stages with "client" review at designated points. It is very powerful because the other person is actively involved, shares likes and dislikes at each step, and is part of the successes and problem-solving. Ownership emerges rather quickly.

5. Testimonials. Show that your idea already has the support of other respected people. 

How? Ask others who have used the idea to give you a blurb or, internally, to come to the meeting. Nothing succeeds like someone else showing how successful you have been with them. You hardly have to say a word except "thank you" to those who have helped.

Some Other Thoughts

  • Listen to what sound like objections and acknowledge them. You'll gain respect. You'll lose respect if you don't treat feedback to your ideas as being legitimate. 
  • Stay focused on your theme and not everything you know about the idea or proposal. Too many details will distract your listeners. However, if they ask for details, be prepared to respond. It means they are interested. 
  • Consistent with #4 above: People are more likely to accept a smaller proposal if they've just rejected a larger one. Keep the pilot program in your back pocket as a reasonable alternative to implementing the entire idea. It will seem sensible to the individual or group.

 

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Who Are Your Conversation Catalysts?

Do you want to spread your message for a product, service, or maybe an important organizational change?

Here's a question to answer: "Who are your Conversation Catalysts?"

In the midst of working with a client on a new marketing approach, I was reminded of an article that conversation and connection maven Valeria Maltoni  wrote quite a while back about a Keller Fay Group research study showing that 15% of the population to be  Conversation Catalysts.

Conversations"These influencers tend to recommend brands and products more often at the tune of 149 times a week vs. 79 for the average population. They also tend to have more conversations -- 184 vs. 114 -- and talk more about brands than others."

Valeria then did a nice job of highlighting the level of various media influences and, ultimately, what this means for the importance of a company website.

But the take away for us is this: Conversation catalysts talk to a whole lot more people and will be happy to share their experiences with them -- good, bad, or indifferent.

Let's connect the dots to make this work for you now

1. Who are the 15% in your customer base or organization? Find out and reach out.

2. What do you want them to say, think, and feel about you and your product or message?

3. How can you make that happen? For real. Genuinely. Authentically.

Hint: The answer involves first reaching that critical 15% in the most effective way (you may want to go back and look at the media research).

Note: If you try to fool the 15% with your puff-piece equivalent of Flash technology, remember that they have the power to reveal you as a fraud.

The takeaway for today

Your customers are going to talk about you. If you are a manager, your employees are going to talk about you.

Regardless of the audience, are you influencing the conversation with the right people at the right timein the right way in order to create the right conversations for success?

Think about this: They now have the ability to create a repuTweetion for you in 140 characters or less.

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Persuasion and Sales: Sure You Can

You've heard it:

"I could never be in sales."

Monitor your conversations for a day. How often are your really trying to convince someone to see things your way?

For some reason it's OK to persuade but icky to sell. (You might change your mind about the sales thing if you looked into the financial compensation of successful sales people).

Persuasion ZipKeynote.001

 Let's Talk Persuasion: 3 Different Ways

We frequently use proprietary assessments to help people clarify their talents. One of the things we've discovered is that there are three unique ways people can be gifted at persuasion:

1. Negotiating. This is an above-average ability to discern the needs and desires of two people--or groups--and orchestrate agreement between them.

If this is a talent of yours, people will see you actively seeking to assist people in conflict. Those with this talent can quickly garner the credibility needed to help resolve issues.

Do you inherently "jump in" when you see the need for resolution? Are you successful more often than not?

2. Selling. This is just what it implies. People with this specific talent excel at introducing a product or concept and then going for "the close," whether it's money or a commitment.

Are you always thinking about better ways to get a commitment. . .now?!

3. Promoting. Think about someone whose enthusiasm and excitement is infectious. As a result, with multiple exposures and relationship, other people are willing to try out a new idea and look at new ways of seeing things.

The "close" is a fait accompli. There's no reason to say  "will that be cash or charge?" The organic nature of the process leads to implementation or closure.

Do people accept your ideas because of your genuine enthusiasm and willingness to spread your enthusiasm over a period of time? Do you view yourself as an educator who brings about change?

One of these is your persuasive talent

Acknowledge it, learn more about it, use it often, and don't let anyone talk you into doing it differently.

The world and the workplace need to be influenced by people with sound ideas, positive motives, and ways of communicating that don't force some sort of "acting."

How will you exercise your persuasive talent today?

__________________________________________

Kudos to the kommenters (always wanted to do that) who add to the knowledge base here at All Things Workplace. Remember, too, to subscribe via email or RSS--we don't post daily but usually once a week, twice if something special comes up. For those who want a quick workplace tip each week, be sure to receive our special newsletter from steveroesler.com. Sign-up is in the upper right hand corner and only takes a moment. Also: we never, ever share our readers' emails with anyone in any way.

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Presentation Tip To Make You A Star

We've all had to give, and sit through, "presentations." I'm convinced that once a conversation is called a "presentation," evil gremlins take over the process. People who are normally conversant and affable can morph into PowerPoint Bots. That's just the stylistic part. 

What really bugs us about meetings and presentations is the value of our time. If you're presenting, you've got a room of people who also have other things on their minds and their to-do lists. So, what you offer up better be valuable.

Bigstock-Business-presentation--IS---17510393

Here's a simple way to make that happen:

Talk with the participants in advance.

Tell them your topic. Ask them what they want to know. Ask them what they don't care about. They'll give you the important content from their perspectives (which is the whole idea, isn't it?). And your prep time will be reduced because you'll know exaclty how to focus on "the right stuff."

The other benefits?

1. You will have established a relationship before they walk into the room. You'll feel more comfortable. They will, too.

2. If your presentation is intended to lead to a decision, you'll have the pulse of the group in advance.

3. You'll know who else to bring into the meeting if other support or technical/financial information is important.

4. They'll tend to be on your side. When was the last time a speaker called you and said "What do you really need from this topic?"

5. As a result of #4, participants will know you took time to prepare. Your credibility goes up. So does their willingness to "be there."

Try it. 

image source: bigstockphoto.com

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"Communication" Does Not Communicate

How many workplace issues are introduced to you as, "We've got a communication problem?"

Communication is a catch-all phrase. It's  generic, socially acceptable, and really just sends the signal that someone wants to start a conversation. But it probably won't end up being about communication.

Psychologists and counselors refer to these kinds of introductory pronouncements as "presenting" problems." They're  a call for help when someone doesn't know what to do or may not even be aware of the real issue.

Unless you know the genuine issue, you can spend a lot of time creating an elegant solution for the wrong problem.

In organizations, communication is the #1  presenting problem.

DogsThe next time someone lays a communication issue on you, follow through with:

"That sounds interesting. Help me out. Describe specifically what you see happening and why it's a problem."

You may discover that the Marketing group refused to follow guidelines from Research and ended up slightly misrepresenting a product.

You don't yet know the cause. But you do know the real situation and where to focus your energy.

How many presenting problems can you uncover today?

If you've got a favorite "presenting problem" story, toss it into the mix with a comment below. You may help someone else see how to probe and work on the right thing at the right time.

How about when "You Know The Words But Don't Understand the Meaning ?" I recall an article my online friend Jackie Cameron wrote a while back that highlights a new communication challenge prompted by social media.


 

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What, Why, and How: Feedback

Why Is Feedback Important?

Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket's course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay "on course" is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

Here's the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. It's our best chance at knowing whether we're on track or not.

Feedback

What Gets In The Way of Giving Feedback?

1. Let's face it: few of us enjoy hearing about those areas of work life where we're coming up short. It's human nature. The flip side is that managers are people, too, and they have the same thoughts and feelings. So it's not exactly a peak experience being the proverbial "messenger" even though it comes with the job.

2. The term "feedback" has morphed into "Here's what you need to correct" instead of "Here's how I think we're doing."

3. Feedback has been institutionalized to the point where it is often done at yearly or semi-annual performance reviews. That's usually too far away from the actual performance for a person to make the kind of changes that will alter an outcome. So it's almost like a "Gotcha!"

4. It takes a relationship built on trust to have meaningful conversations about performance.

Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do. And if something goes wrong, one person points that out to the other. They talk about what to do differently. And they learn that, even if something does go wrong, they care enough to bring it up and do something about it. I've said this before: The people you trust the most are the people who tell you the truth--good and bad. If it's good, they offer encouragement. If it's bad, they offer ways to work with you to sort things out.

5. Lack of ongoing, natural conversation about work life gets in the way of building relationships that breed the level of trust we need to have ongoing, natural conversations. It's circular.

What Can You Do About This?

1. Managers: Start the conversation from Day 1.

Set the tone for the future early on by asking, "How are things going with project x?" What didn't we anticipate? What's going well? What isn't going well, so we can find out how to get it on track?

Then make sure that both of you do what you say you'll do.

2. Employees: If there isn't a conversation, start one. Turn the questions in #1 into statements. For example, "Here's how project x is going." "Here's what we didn't anticipate."

Sure, maybe your boss doesn't like bad news. Here's a secret: Surprises are worse than bad news.

If you start the conversation, you have a better chance of putting your boss at ease with the whole idea of "How are we doing?"

3. Keep talking about having conversations, not feedback.

Language conveys feeling. The whole notion of feedback has degenerated to the point where the word contains more negative connotations than positive. Why? Maybe because it was never meant to be associated with the human condition in the first place.

From the time we're kids we have conversations. We talk about "What's going on" and "How are things going?"

Start having ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. Start now. 

I absolutely guarantee you that two people of goodwill can increase their combined performance and reduce their stress-inducing baggage by having regular, honest talks about their progress and the factors impacting it. These kinds of talks are the foundation of every good relationship, on and off the job.

Bonus Thought: The longer you wait, the larger the "negative" becomes and the more difficult it is to discuss. Regular, frequent conversations mean that the problem areas will be smaller and easier to talk about!

 

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Paying Attention to People

I received an email from a reader requesting "a post I recalled reading about 'paying attention to people.' " I think this was the one from December, 2009. The original experiment and its impact on management and human behavior is timeless. 

In the 1920s, physiologist Elton Mayo conducted experiments at the Hawthorne Electrical Works in Chicago.

He was trying to confirm his theory that better lighting led to greater productivity. So, he had the lights on the factory floor turned up. Voila! As he expected, production levels increased, too. Done deal?

As an afterthought he decided to turn the lights down just to see what would happen. Production went up again. In fact, he found that whatever he did with the lighting, production increased.

 

 

Mayo

Novel thought: Mayo discussed his findings with the workers who were involved. They told him that the interest Mayo and his researchers showed toward them made them feel more valued. They were accustomed to being ignored.

While the increased lighting no doubt made things brighter and healthier, it was the increase in morale that most impacted improvement in productivity. This became known as the Hawthorne Effect

Most people schooled in management & organization development are well aware of the studies.  However, I'm finding more and more business folks who haven't been exposed to them; I thought it might be a good idea to revisit what is the beginning of the "human relations"  movement in management.

While scientists and pseudo-scientists have argued everything from methodology to the number of toilet breaks employees of that era received, the simple learning is this: When you pay attention to people, tell them what you are doing, and ask their opinion about things, the response--all else being equal--is a boost in morale and productivity. I dare say that Elton had stumbled upon Employee Engagement long before the term became popular.

I'm wondering: after 80+ years, why isn't this fundamental learning a part of every organization's modus operandi?

photo source: www.library.hbs.edu

____________________________

Bonus:

 

Kudos



 

Kudos. Over the years, we've actually set up systems for certain clients who needed a tickler that popped up on the calendar reminding them what to do, when, and how regarding "recognition checks." That's not our core business, but it was a helpful solution for many.

Would such a solution be helpful in your company? Look no further. 

How about a systematic approach with a tech solution for the "recognition challenged"? Check out the folks at Kudos who have created a terrific way to help manager who may not "feel" it but darn right well out to "do" it. Hat tip (well, "kudos") to Co-CEO Tom Short for cluing us in to their approach. 

Disclaimer: Neither All Things Workplace nor The Steve Roesler Group has a business arrangement with, nor gains revenue from, Kudos.


 

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Presenting? Master The Segue

Help People Follow You: Create Transitions 

"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue." How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering,"How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Bridge1

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience along with you:

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it and you're stock as a communicator will skyrocket.

 

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5 Meeting Traps and How To Fix Them

I just returned from a good meeting.

Everyone was engaged, no one dominated (unless it made sense because of specific expertise), and every speaker followed up to check for understanding. It was more like sitting around a warm fireplace in winter than a typical business meeting.  So, it made me think about the planning that went into it and how it was led.

If you've struggled through more than a few bad meetings, I'm guessing you've experienced the following traps. Here they are and how to fix them.

1) People think they are experts.

Many people tell me that they know how to run an effective meeting. Actually, all they do is host a party. They invite guests, provide treats, and preside over a conversation. People talk. People eat. And nothing happens. Or, if they somehow manage to reach an agreement, there's no concrete follow-up to implement it.

What to do: Learn how to design and lead successful meetings. Attend a workshop, buy a book, or hire a facilitator who also teaches you what and why (s)he is doing so you can do it yourself the next time. If you are a leader at any level, being a meeting pro is linked closely to your long-term success. Recognize that there are systematic ways that can help people make practical, methodical progress toward results. Of course, you have to know what they are in order to use them. 
If you want professional help, contact me (609.654.7376) and we can look at the most sensible way for you to learn how to become a meeting pro.

2) People think they are inspiring.

(Inhaling deeply for extra breath): Too many meeting leaders labor under the delusion that long-winded announcements and dissertations impress others. The opposite is true. A long lecture quickly becomes a boring (and sometimes offensive) harangue. Why? Most employees want an active role in contributing to the business; listening to a lecturette feels like a waste of time.

What to do: Design meetings that give attendees opportunities to contribute. 
Plan questions that focus thinking on the situation at hand. Use activities 
that help people make decisions. Communicate your own thoughts  in e-
mails and casual converstations. If you must use a meeting, keep announcements brief and crisp (less than a few minutes).

Sleeping+in+Meeting

3) People think others agree with them.

Many of us rely on nods, smiles, and eye contact to measure acceptance. Most employees will do anything to appease a boss. And if the boss seems to be 
upset, the employees will become even more agreeable. Then, once the meeting 
ends, the employees will do one of three things: 1) forget the lecture, 2) ignore the message, 3) sabotage the idea.

What to do: Conduct meetings using an agreed process that everyone considers to be fair and effective. The single best element to remember: people will accept decisions that they helped make.

4) People think others are clairvoyant.

How many times have you received a meeting invitation without an agenda? At the same time, you were expected to arrive with a vision for what needs to be done. Whenever we go to a meeting, we do bring our private hopes, fears, and solutions to the situation supposedly being addressed. But without a clear agenda and a solid process to work the agenda, the result is something between chitchat and chaos, depending upon the complexity of the issue.

Note: A vague agenda, such as a list of topics, is about as useful as no agenda.

What to do: Write out your goal for the meeting. Then prepare an agenda that is so 
complete someone else could use it to run the meeting without you. Specify each 
step and provide blocks of time scheduled time. Send the agenda at least a few days before the meeting so that the attendees can use it to prepare. Call key participants before the meeting to see if they have questions or want to talk about the agenda.

5) People think meetings are necessary.

Have an emergency, surprise, or a twitch? Call a meeting. 

Uh, no.

A meeting is a special and often expensive process. It should be used only to 
obtain results that require the efforts of the right group of people working together in the right way on the right issue. Meetings are not universal cures for whatever ails the work group. Held for the wrong reasons, meetings waste everyone's time and can undermine the leader's actual intentions.

What to do: Challenge every meeting for its ability to add verifiable value to your business objectives. If successful, do the results outweigh the cost of holding a 
meeting. Is there another activity that could accomplish the same result? 

Yes?

Use it.

Number 5 is the one that really gets to me; I often come down fairly hard on clients and associates whose first step in addressing an issue is to call a meeting. Given my business and the importance of using time wisely, unnecessary meetings are unnecessarily costly. I hate when that happens.

Reader Expertise Wanted!

Meetings are one thing we all have in common. Weigh in with your own experiences, traps, and techniques--you'll provide help to a lot of people who are looking for it.

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5 Tips To Make Things Happen

Decisions get made. It's time to start.

The goal is clear. There is a picture of what the result should look like.

Now we just have to "do it."

Take_action__tour_0 Some don't make it...

.. .individually or organizationally.

Given that there are entire industries built around "doing it"--continuous improvement, change management, life coaching-- there must be some trick to that whole in between area. If you are involved in any kind of a change, here are 5 tips that you can take to the bank. (Ignoring them may put you in the collection agency).

1. Language matters.

"We're going to make a transition from___to____" impacts the brain a lot better than "We're going to change."

(Honestly, I don't want to change--do you? But I don't have any problem making a transition).

2. Friendships matter.

Be willing to talk and be willing to listen. When things change at home or in your family, you have coffee and conversation with friends. Why? It's cathartic. And you don't feel alone. Changes at work are no different.

3. Grace matters.

Transitions and change imply, by definition, that people are trying something for the first time. When your little child tried out her first steps and fell after the third one, you didn't offer a performance appraisal. You hugged her, made a big fuss, took a video, and called the grandparents.

Offer the same to adults who are trying something for the first time. Truth be told, they are feeling like kids at that moment.

Note: I'd avoid the hug and the video; it's your call on whether to phone the grandparents.

4. Accountability matters.

This isn't opposed to numbers 2 or 3. Accountability is an act of deep friendship. Friends don't let friends drive drunk. They also don't let friends do things--or avoid doing things--that are hurting their careers.

5. Small wins matter.

Make an example of anyone or any result that approximates the longer term ideal. Do it often.

If you wait until everyone gets it perfect, there won't be a celebration. There may not be a reason for it.

That's why continuous improvement is called continuous improvement. 

_______________________________

Bonus for You For 2012

During the Christmas/New Year respite, I scrolled through the list of leadership and workplace blogs that I've subscribed to over the years. Some I read religiously, others I spot-check for information. Here are seven that I recommend for those who want a glimpse into the insights of writers who possess depth and breadth of experience and are engaging in their writing and subject matter. The numbers aren't rankings, simply an orderly way to present the information. These seven writers will add, exponentially, to your leadership and workplace savvy.

1. Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership. The Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers shares personal leadership insights, productivity tips, and and offers glimpses of his life, personal and professional. The model of transparency, authenticity, and a leaders of substance.

2. Steve Farber consistently reflects his commitment to his theme for Extreme Leadership. His message is simple, yet profound: "Truly great leaders in life become so because they cause others to become greater than themselves."

3. Managing Leadership is the engaging online presence of Jim Stroup whose military and academic credentials go a long way in explaining the depth of his thinking and writing. Jim is a must-read for those who want to delve into the facts and fantasies of modern management development.

4. Wally Bock is the force behind Three Star Leadership. Each week, Wally makes sure you are in touch with new and useful resources; helps readers look at what really works (and doesn't) when it comes to developing supervisors; and provides a free weekly newsletter (you just need to sign up) that will give you fascinating and surprising glimpses into the lives of people who have made a difference in our lives.

5. Dan McCarthy combines years of experience as a learning executive with Paychex with his current role as Director of Development Programs at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Great Leadership By Dan is a place where you can explore working models for talent and leadership development and interact with Dan (he's all about learning and his responses to comments are frequently mini-lessons unto themselves.

6. Mike Myatt focuses on his work with CEOs and, as a result, allows a glimpse into the daily challenges of the C-world. Mike is also enjoys engaging with his readers and trying out different ways to connect and keep others connected.

7. The term Remarkable Leadership points to just one person: Kevin Eikenberry. Leadership Coach and Author, online teacher, and social media maven, Kevin is the kind of of guy you want to meet after reading a few of his articles and listening to what he's up to on any given week. The place to do it all? Leadership & Learning.

You can't get off to a better "leadership learning" start in 2012 than with this gang. Enjoy!


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Are You Sure You're Communicating?

"The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through."--Sydney J. Harris

Communication: Don't Mix and Match Your Verbal Wardrobe

I want to offer an easy, uncluttered model to use when you want to bump up your communication game.

Kids_talkingThink about your levels of interaction on a scale of Nicety all the way to Intimacy. One of the keys to keeping your interactions on target is making sure that you "meet people where they are" and not try to take them where you want to go before they are ready. (They may never be ready).

Here's a way to look at it on five levels of increasing depth:

1. Niceties. "Hey, how are you?"

"Fine,how are you?"

"Ok."

Polite acknowledgment of another person is part of social graciousness. If you or the other person doesn't want to take it any further, that's fine. Just don't mistake it for anything other than what it is.  But don't discount the social importance of niceties, either. It' s amazing how many people get miffed when they offer a "Hey, waddup?" and don't get a response.

2. Facts. If the other person is into facts, stay with the facts until (s)he moves on. If that's where they stay, just ask if there is anything that you should do with those facts.

3. Thoughts and Ideas. These are different from facts. They reflect what's going on inside someone's head. This is also where we get into difficulty by passing judgment on someone in the middle of their personal brainstorm. Stay in non-evaluative brainstorm mode with them.

4. Feelings. When people start expressing how they feel, you've hit a pretty high level on their personal trust scale. The best way to keep it is to acknowledge the legitimacy of how they feel. The best way to lose it is to tell them they shouldn't feel that way.

5. Intimacy. Familiarity that reaches a deeply personal level.

In the workplace you may not reach this level inside the confines of the office building. In fact, it may be totally inappropriate. But highly relational people can have a tendency to unconsciously go here because it's so innately comfortable and meaningful (for them).

I can't tell you the number of coaching/advising engagements I've had with people who have gotten themselves into difficulty at this level. They've said things that were taken as "way too intimate" by others. Fortunately, most well-meaning people "get it" when they are coached regarding the distinctions in levels and how other people may interpret personal warmth or familiarity.

If you want to keep your emloyer--and yourself--out of litigation, save your intimacy-level conversations for home and friends.

Meetthem_blog_070108001

How to Use This?

The next time you're engaged in a discussion, pay attention to where the other person is operating on the "depth" chart.

1. Listen and stay with them.

2. If you want to move from one level to another, say something like: "We've been talking about the factual data related to the Romanian project. Would you be willing to hear some thoughts and ideas I have about this?"

They'll tell you if they need to play with the facts some more. And your question will be appreciated because it acknowledges that you've really heard them and aren't going to automatically step on their "stuff."

3. Building trust takes place at levels 3 and 4. The more time you can spend there, the closer the working relationship can become.

Share this with the people around you. It may get you out of "mix" and into "match."


 

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Communications Issue? Maybe Not.

How often are you confronted with,"We've got a communication problem!"?

That's a strong signal to start digging deeper because something else is probably going on.

Communication-breakdown Communication is a catch-all phrase. It's  generic, socially acceptable, and really indicates that someone wants to start a conversation. But it probably won't end up being about communication.

Psychologists and counselors refer to these kinds of introductory pronouncements as "presenting" problems." They're  a call for help when someone doesn't know what to do or may not even be aware of the real issue.

Unless you know the genuine issue, you can spend a lot of time creating an elegant solution for the wrong problem.

In organizations, communication is the #1  presenting problem.

The next time someone lays a "communication" issue on you, try this:

"That sounds interesting. Help me out. Describe specifically what you see happening and why it's a problem."

You may discover that the Marketing group refused to follow guidelines from Research and ended up slightly misrepresenting a product. 

Listen carefully. How many presenting problems can you shed some real light on today by digging just a little deeper?

Beware the "communication" trap!

__________________________________

Bonus, Hot Off The Press: A week's worth of learning available through the latest Leadership Development Carnival. Big hat tip to Lynn Dessert for putting together this month's edition.


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Feedback: What, Why, and How

Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket's course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay "on course" is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

Here's the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. It's our best chance at knowing whether we're on track or not.

Feedback

What Gets In The Way?

1. Let's face it: few of us enjoy hearing about those areas of worklife where we're coming up short. It's human nature. The flip side is that managers are people, too, and they have the same thoughts and feelings. So it's not exactly a peak experience being the proverbial "messenger" even though it comes with the job.

2. The term "feedback" has morphed into "Here's what you need to correct" instead of "Here's how I think we're doing."

3. Feedback has been institutionalized to the point where it is often done at yearly or semi-annual performance reviews. That's usually too far away from the actual performance for a person to make the kind of changes that will alter an outcome. So it's almost like a "Gotcha!"

4. It takes a relationship built on trust to have meaningful conversations about performance.

Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do. And if something goes wrong, one person points that out to the other. They talk about what to do differently. And they learn that, even if something does go wrong, they care enough to bring it up and do something about it. I've said this before: The people you trust the most are the people who tell you the truth--good and bad. If it's good, they offer encouragement. If it's bad, they offer ways to work with you to sort things out.

5. Lack of ongoing, natural conversation about work life gets in the way of building relationships that breed the level of trust we need to have ongoing, natural conversations. It's circular.

What You Can Do

1. Managers: Start the conversation from Day 1.

Set the tone for the future early on by asking, "How are things going with project x?" What didn't we anticipate? What's going well? What isn't going well, so we can find out how to get it on track?

Then make sure that both of you do what you say you'll do.

2. Employees: If there isn't a conversation, start one. Turn the questions in #1 into statements. For example, "Here's how project x is going." "Here's what we didn't anticipate."

Sure, maybe your boss doesn't like bad news. Here's a secret: Surprises are worse than bad news.

If you start the conversation, you have a better chance of putting your boss at ease with the whole idea of "How are we doing?"

3. Keep talking about having conversations, not feedback.

Language conveys feeling. The whole notion of feedback has degenerated to the point where the word contains more negative connotations than positive. Why? Maybe because it was never meant to be associated with the human condition in the first place.

From the time we're kids we have conversations. We talk about "What's going on" and "How are things going?"

Start having ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. Start now. 

I absolutely guarantee you that two people of goodwill can increase their combined performance and reduce their stress-inducing baggage by having regular, honest talks about their progress and the factors impacting it. These kinds of talks are the foundation of every good relationship, on and off the job.

Bonus Thought: The longer you wait, the larger the "negative" becomes and the more difficult it is to discuss. Regular, frequent conversations mean that the problem areas will be smaller and easier to talk about.

 

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The Worthy "Why?"

You and I hear messages all the time about action.

"Just do it."

"We're falling behind in our sales figures. Get out and do more."

"Don't just stand there--do something."

"We need to change the organization."

I'm big on doing stuff, too. But I've learned that being busy doesn't necessarily lead to what I want to achieve.

Why Why?

Because I didn't ask "why?"

"Why?"  can come across as a threatening question. It gets at purpose and motive. For those very reasons, it's the first question that you and I need to ask ourselves--and others--before committing time and energy to anything.

When a time commitment doesn't match your purpose and goals, then answering the "why?" question is time well spent.

What's your experience with "why?" question?

 

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Presenters: Just Have A Conversation

Presentation Tip #5

Think about it. One of the reasons you get nervous about presentations is because you give a presentation. That implies that the responsibility is completely on the presenter to make everything successful.

Yet we all have conversations every day. Long ones, short ones, animated ones, serious ones. Have you ever heard someone say, "Gee, I need to go to conversation training. I don't know how to talk to people."

Thank JFK (and Richard Nixon)

I've always believed that there was a single defining moment that showed the new direction in how  to approach presentations and "public speaking."  I believe it was the Kennedy-Nixon debates for U.S. President in 1960. Until then, we were inundated (for the most part) with talking heads behind podiums* (see comments) or desks on film clips. We seldom knew what speakers looked like from the neck down. They talked at us.

As TV grew, so did our expectations. We became used to seeing real people with real personalities talk with us on TV. They even put a hand in a pocket now and then, just like regular people. We probably weren't conscious of the change taking place---until the Kennedy-Nixon debates. The issue of conversation vs. presentation and casual vs. formal jumped out of the TV screen and into our hearts and minds. To this day, most analysts and observers agree that Nixon brought much more of a specific plan and substance to the exchange. But John Kennedy brought relationship. Viewers and voters decided that conversation and casual was what they preferred--it felt real.

041008_presidential_debate

JFK with a casual hand-in-pocket "I'm a real person" moment.

Kennedycasual

A little "casual" vs. "schoolboy" body language.

Nixoncasual

The off-camera Nixon looking relaxed and amiable.

Let's be honest: presentations can drive up our stress level and make us all look more rigid than normal. My suggestion here is the same as my suggestion to clients: Practice having a conversation, not a presentation. 

If you missed them, here are the first four "quick tips" in the series:

#1: Presentation Success: Start With a Call

#2: More Presentation Success: Who Requested It?

#3: Be A Presentation Pro: Do This

#4: Presentation Polish: The Art of the Segue

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Presentation Polish: The Art of the Segue

Presentation Tip #4

Help People Follow You: Create Transitions

"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue."

Segway_beattles How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering "How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience with you: 

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next--and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it.

________________________________________

Looking to "bump up your game" when it comes to presenting? Here are the first three articles in the series:

#1: Presentation Success: Start With a Call

#2: More Presentation Success: Who Requested It?

#3: Be A Presentation Pro: Do This

 

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Be A Presentation Pro: Do This

Presentation Tip#3:

Tell the people in the room what you expect from them.

There are at least 3 common reasons why you give a presentation:Meeting1

1. To educate in order for people to make a decision

2. To prompt action or implementation

3. To educate for the sake of knowledge

You need to tell folks staight away what you're doing and what they have to do, too. Without giving them a "mental assignment," people don't have a context in which to process the information. If they don't know what's expected of them, human nature  leads the audience into a passive mode. The burden of the presentation is entirely on you.

Do This:

1. "At the end of the meeting we'll decide on the best supply chain software for our organization. You'll  be expected to offer your rationale for the risks and benefits of each. So I expect that we'll have a lot of questions and discussion during the next hour."

2. "I'm going to lay out the steps of the product launch. Each of you will play a role in its execution. At the end of the meeting I'll ask for a commitment to a timetable from each of the managers here. As I lay out the information, be sure to speak up and discuss the pros and cons from your perspective. The deadline for the launch is 60 days from now."

3. "We've discovered a possible new opportunity as a result of R&D. My purpose is to show you what led to this so that you can understand what is evolving with the technology."

Make your audience mentally active

  • Tell them at the beginning what their role is and how to play it. 
  • They'll appreciate the direction.
  • You'll get more participation.

________________________________________________

For more presentation tips, you might want to visit: 

Presentation Tip #2: Always Go To The Source

Presentation Tip #1: Start With A Call

Photo source: meetings.org

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More Presentation Success: Who Requested It?

When you were a kid you might have played "whispering down the lane." That's the game where someone starts a brief message, whispers it to someone else, and so on down the line. By the time the last person is asked to repeat the message, it only vaguely resembles the original.

Whisper The same can be true for presentation requests. Your boss or a colleague asks you to present "something on the techno-widget account." You dutifully organize a multi-media, techno-widget extravaganza. About 20 minutes into your show the VP of Sales interrupts with "Uh, I just wanted to know how the contract talks are going and what the next steps will be." The room becomes silent. You give him what he wants in about 90 seconds. VP is now happy. You are embarrassed.

Presentation Tip #2: Always go to the source

Only the person who issued the request knows what he or she wants. You won't know the real scope of your presentation without confirming their expectations. It will save you preparation time. It will keep you focused. It will make you successful.

I was conducting a Presentations workshop for a corporate group in Pennsylvania. One of the participants mentioned that he was there specifically to work on a presentation for the company president. His immediate boss, a VP, had given him the directive and told him that the presentation topic was to be 45 minutes long. (I'll deal with the "you have ____minutes" issue in another post).

I knew the president very well. I also knew that he didn't want more than 20 minutes on anything. So I turned on the speaker phone in the conference room, called the prez, and explained what we were doing. When we asked him directly what his expectations were, he quickly responded, " I want no more than 10 minutes on the market research that we're doing for the Scandinavian venture."

Regardless of who asks you to speak, find out who actually requested youThat's who to talk with about expectations. And that's who will help make you successful.

In case you missed it, click here for  Presentation Tip #1

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Presentation Success? Start With A Call

I’ve been working with clients recently on putting together presentations with some powerful implications. Two are customer-oriented, one is financial, and one is highly technical. So, I thought it would be timely to share some tips in this area.

Ninety per cent of your success is all about what you do before the presentation, so:

Tip #1: Call the participants before the presentation.

Old-phone-call Tell them your topic. Ask them what they want to know. Ask them what they don't care about.

They'll give you the important content from their perspectives (which is the whole idea, isn't it?). Your prep time will be reduced and focused on "the right stuff."

The other benefits?

1. You will have established a relationship before they walk into the room. You'll feel more comfortable. They will, too.

2. If your presentation is intended to lead to a decision, you'll have the pulse of the group in advance.

3. You'll know who else to bring into the meeting if other support or technical/financial information is important.

4. They'll tend to be on your side. When was the last time a speaker called you and said "What do you really need from this topic?"

5. As a result of #4, participants will know you took time to prepare. Your credibility goes up. So does their willingness to "be there."

Think about it. How would you feel if someone called you and said, “Hey, I’ve been asked to speak to your group about topic x. What’s really important to you?”

 

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How You Can Be The Coach

We all have colleagues, employees, and friends with similar goals and values. You can play a coaching role by leading the other person through an insightful self-analysis and critique, resulting in some "aha!" moments. 

Try some variations of these questions:

Questioning-terrier "Do you see a problem or difficulty?

"What makes the problem worse?"

"Are you getting the results you want?" 

"What factors help the situation?"

"What needs to change, improve, or happen differently?"

"What kind of action do you need to take to make things better?"

"What kind of action do you plan to take?" "When will you start?"

"What kind of help do you need from me?"

Think about this: Making a statement keeps your mind active. Asking a question brings your listener's mind to life. 

Add value--ask the right questions.

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Leaders: Its About Competence, Not Dominance

Communication Alert: When it comes to leadership, do what is valued: build solid rapport with workers.

Everyone needs to brush up on actions that imply ability and competence (called "task cues" in the psych trade) and play down their dominance cues (actions that Kids_playing-2 imply control and threat), reports a team of psychologists headed by James E. Driskell, Ph.D.

In one study, 159 college students, male and female, listened to the pitches of task-oriented speakers and the same arguments from dominance-oriented speakers, male and female. Almost everyone thought men and women who exhibited task cues were more competent, group-oriented, and likable. Those showing dominance cues were thought of as self-oriented and disliked.

For a corporate decision-making group sitting around a table in a board meeting, poise, attitude, and approach matter more than most people realize.

Here's the rundown on which behaviors they say will earn you respect and which won't:


Task Cues

  • Rapid speech rate
  • Eye contact
  • Verbal fluency
  • Choosing the head of the table
  • Fluid gestures
  • Well-moderated voice tone

Dominance Cues

  • Loud voice
  • Angry tone
  • Finger pointing
  • Lowering eyebrows
  • Stiff posture
  • Forceful gestures

What will you do differently today?

Suggestion: If you found this helpful, I think you will learn from The Value of

 

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Speaking? Three Things Your Audience Wants

Audiences--whether 6 or 600--really want three things from you. These apply to meetings, wedding toasts, or keynote speeches:

Three fingers(1) 1. Connection. They want to feel connected to you. They've already endured too many distant, aloof presentations in their lifetimes. Give them you, not a veiled voice in the corner reciting PowerPoint bullets. In fact, to be the "real deal" and "authentic", be even more of you. Wear your enthusiasm for your topic on your sleeve, look into the eyes of participants, and have a bold, honest conversation with them.

2. We all love a bit of entertainment. No one expects you--or even wants you--to be Jimmy Kimmel or Jay Leno. You can do a quick activity that energizes people and gets them thinking more about the topic. It also gives you a break and a chance to relax. Keep it light. Stay serious about your topic but not about yourself. A funny personal story, especially if the joke was on you, can loosen people up and increase the connection. ("Wow, I thought that only happened to me.!) I watched my wife listen to a very well-known speaker/writer from Harvard. My wife has a dual Ph.D. She thought his presentation was so serious and ponderous that he came across as  self-important. He lost her, even though his information was accurate.

Note: Did you know that speakers who also sell product actually sell measurably more product when there is humor in their talk?

3. Create meaning. How does what you are saying fit into their business or organizational life?  Make the connection for them (don't assume they'll automatically do it themselves). Explain specifically how you or your idea will personally increase their satisfaction or reduce their pain. When you can synthesize the meaning of your topic to that point, you've really got something worth saying.

Connect with the people, connect with a little light humor, and connect the dots.

 

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Management Direction: Does 'Don't' Mean 'Do'?

"People learn what you teach them; not what you intend to teach them."

--B.F. Skinner

I just came back from an office building where a sign on a doorway clearly stated, "This is not an entrance." Hmm. Did that mean that I was to use the door next to it or go outside and enter through some other place? 

Don't Do It! iStock_ Here's another: "Don't prepare lengthy, time-consuming  RFPs unless it is obvious that they (the all-omniscient 'they') really want one." OK. Should I prepare a lengthy RFP if I have a template that allows me to generate one quickly?

We're all looking for clear direction in order to do a solid job. "Dont's" do not always define the "Dos." 

The human mind cannot process a negative and automatically turn it into a positive action intended by another. Period. Even if you are crystal clear about what you don't want, the people around you simply don't know what to do.

This week: Where will you take time to be crystal clear about what you do want? You'll be surprised at the increase in goal-directed activity.

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Managers: Avoid Comparing People

When we were kids, my younger brother had to put up with teachers comparing the two of us throughout his school years. He was a star athlete, I was more of an academic. He didn't like the comparisons and neither did I. Most of all, the comments Comparison did nothing to change either of our lives for the better. To this day, he doesn't care much about "A's" and I still can't kick a field goal.

Adults at work hate those kinds of comparisons, too. "When Kris was in your job, she always contacted the sales managers to get the monthly updates. I think that was a better way than how it's being done now." These kinds of remarks don't prompt positive changes or win over employees. When you get the feeling to compare one person's work with another, simply stop and think about one or more of these:

What To Do?

1. Compare performance and behavior against agreed-to goals and expectations

2. Compare performance against the standards set to earn a bonus or reward

3. Compare performance against some desired goal that your employee has expressed

"He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help."

--Abraham Lincoln

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3 Tips For Better Communication

I'm guessing that you and I both spend a lot of time in meetings and discussions at work. Here are three things you can do to make them count:

Listening! Stop the Stoppers

Yesterday I watched a manager engage another manager in a topic that was clearly important (to manager #1). I watched manager #2 respond. It went well. Why? Because of the response. 

When someone engages you in serious conversation, your reaction will either encourage the other person to keep talking or stop things dead in their tracks. (Our manager #2 wasn't a conversation killer). Here's a list of some stoppers I've seen: lecturing, interrogating, ordering, blaming, and moralizing. Don't think so? Take a moment to replay the last six unpleasant conversations you've had. 

Thank you.

Overcome Personal Bias

Become aware of your own stereotypical thinking that ultimately leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy as a result of your predictable responses. It's difficult, but there's a big payoff in learning to listen objectively. What's the payoff? Our reception to messages is unclouded and we actually learn something new. Learning organizations are listening organizations.

Off-The-Subject Subjects Are the Subject

You've heard a remark in the middle of a conversation that seems "off topic" and, therefore, irrelevant. 

Nah.

You may be hearing what is really on the other person's mind. See what happens if you pursue the new subject. You may very well be the one who helps get the real issue out on the table and resolved. 

What tips would you add from your experience?

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How You Say It Matters

"Remember the meeting time."

"Don't forget the meeting time."

Do both of those say the same thing? Not as far as your brain is concerned.

Positive Why?

The brain doesn't register the negative. So if you use the negative sentence “Don’t forget the meeting time,” your brain is ignoring the “don’t” and hearing the statement “forget the meeting time.”

If you use the positive sentence, “Remember the meeting time,” you’ll have a much better chance of seeing your participants show up on schedule.

The mind wants direction, not a sense of "lack." That's why it's important to pay attention to how you say things. If I tell you that something is "not very expensive" you'll focus on "expensive."

Try these:

  • "New" vs. "Untried"
  • "By 5 O'clock" vs. "By the end of the day"
  • "Economical" vs. "Inexpensive"

Note: This is how improvement efforts often get bogged down at the outset.

"I want us to make fewer mistakes" translates differently than, "I want to increase the accuracy of our customer service solutions by 30% before November 30."

 

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Tips To Gauge concerns

Often, when people tell us about something that's worrying them, they talk "around" the topic. It can be difficult for them to get right to the heart of the issue. If you feel that concerns aren't getting out into the open, use questions that will help bring important clues to the surface. 

Questionmark

Four Good Questions to Get You There

1. What do you consider the fundamental thing that we should be trying to achieve?

2. If you had the sole choice, what would you most like to see happen now?

3. Can you think of three areas that concern you about this issue?

4. What else is causing you to worry about this?

Questions help people clarify what may be fuzzy or difficult to discuss. Asking--then listening--will help you become a trusted colleague and interpersonal leader.


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Put Goals Before Solutions

How many times have you sat down to solve a problem and knew you had a great solution--only to find that it led to a heated debate?

Options  Here's the sticking point: When you start with solutions and one or both of you can't accept them, you could remain at odds indefinitely. 

If, on the other hand, you state only your goals and motives for the situation, you can then accept or reject the solutions as "options" and still work toward one that allows both of you to achieve (as much as possible) what you mutually set out to do.

Effective opening line for the discussion: "Let's talk about why we want to do this and what we hope to accomplishment. Then we can figure out which solutions work best."

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Watch Out For The "Presenting" Problem

How many workplace issues are introduced to you as, "We've got a communication problem?"

"Communication" Doesn't Communicate

Communication is a catch-all phrase. It's  generic, socially acceptable, and really just sends the signal that someone wants to start a conversation. But it probably won't end up being about communication.

Psychologists and counselors refer to these kinds of introductory pronouncements as "presenting" problems." They're  a call for help when someone doesn't know what to do or may not even be aware of the real issue.

Communicaion_breakdowniStock_XSmall  Unless you know the genuine issue, you can spend a lot of time creating an elegant solution for the wrong problem.

In organizations, communication is the #1 presenting problem.

The next time someone lays a communication issue on you, follow through with:

"That sounds interesting. Help me out. Describe specifically what you see happening and why it's a problem."

You may discover that the Marketing group refused to follow guidelines from Research and ended up slightly misrepresenting a product.

You don't yet know the cause. But you do know the real situation and where to focus your energy.

How many presenting problems can you uncover today?

If this was helpul, you might also learn from: Use The Right Words At Work

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Persuasion and Sales: Yes You Can

You've heard it:

"I could never be in sales."

Monitor your conversations for a day. How often are your really trying to convince someone to see things your way?

For some reason it's OK to persuade but icky to sell. (You might change your mind about the sales thing if you looked into the financial compensation of successful sales people).

Persuasion ZipKeynote.001
 Let's Talk Persuasion: 3 Different Ways

We use proprietary assessments to help people clarify their talents. One of the things we've discovered is that there are three distinct ways that people can be gifted at persuasion:

1. Negotiating. This is an above-average ability to discern the needs and desires of two people--or groups--and orchestrate agreement between them.

If this is a talent of yours, people will see you actively seeking to assist people in conflict. Those with this talent can quickly garner the credibility needed to help resolve issues.

Do you inherently "jump in" when you see the need for resolution? Are you successful more often than not?

2. Selling. This is just what it implies. People with this specific talent excel at introducing a product or concept and then going for "the close," whether it's money or a commitment.

Are you always thinking about better ways to get a commitment. . .now?!

3. Promoting. Think about someone whose enthusiasm and excitement is infectious. As a result, with multiple exposures and relationship, other people are willing to try out a new idea and look at new ways of seeing things.

The "close" is a fait accompli. There's no reason to say  "will that be cash or charge?" The organic nature of the process leads to implementation or closure.

Do people accept your ideas because of your genuine enthusiasm and willingness to spread your enthusiasm over a period of time? Do you view yourself as an educator who brings about change?

One of these is your talent

Acknowledge it, learn more about it, use it often, and don't let anyone talk you into doing it differently.

The world and the workplace need to be influenced by people with sound ideas and positive motives.

How will you exercise your persuasive talent today?

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What's Your Big Idea?

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker
 unless you can also sell what you create."  --David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy's groundbreaking work on how to convey messages to huge audiences still resonates sixty years after he began turning his clients into household names.

OgilvyHis central principle for successful advertising is what he called the “Big Idea.” It applies to presentations as well:

1. Go through your data and ideas for a subject. Then, whittle everything down to an idea that can be expressed in less  than 10 words.

2. Mold your message around those 10 words.

3. When your audience hears your presentation, what do you want them to remember above all else? Stop thinking that you are giving a presentation about a topic. You are there to achieve an objective.

That’s the Big Idea.

It creates  the core of your presentation and keeps you focused on the punch line, not the supporting data.

Really effective presentations focus only on what your audience needs to see and hear in order to be influenced. 

What's your Big Idea?

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Give Advice and Feedback That's Useful

"Asking for advice is how some people trap you into expressing an opinion
 they can disagree with." --Franklin P. Jones

Let's face it, most of us don't enjoy dishing out criticism; we do enjoy offering advice. The pinch comes in determining if "help" is really going to be helpful.

What Are Your Motives?

People give out advice or a variety of reasons: to flaunt their knowledge, boost their own egos, control someone else; or to be genuinely helpful with empathy, support, or good, timely information.

Note that some of these motives are noble while others are self-serving. Understanding your own motives at a given moment can help you decide whose interest you have at heart and whether it is really wise to serve up that "advice."

What Does The Other Person Really Want?

When people ask us for advice they aren't always clear about what they want. This doesn't mean they are being deceptive; after all, they're probably asking because they are a little confused about something. So it makes sense that the request may not be crystal clear. 

  • So, ask a few questions yourself. Does (s)he want to:
  • hear facts and critical information
  • know your opinion?
  • understand how you did something?
  • get some options to expand her thinking?
  • check his reasoning on an issue?
  • know what you've seen work successfully in similar situations?

Take time to ask some specific questions regarding what the other person really wants or needs. It'll save you time, avoid confusion, and generate a more helpful result.

Why-men-shouldnt-write-advice-columns
 

Put on Your Coaching Hat

Your most effective function may be to stimulate thought and options in a situation. Listen for missing data, tangents, fuzzy logic, and hidden dangers that the other person may not be "seeing."

Most of all, keep your friend or colleague's concerns in the forefront. When you listen using their interests as a filter, you're responses stand a much greater chance of being on target. 

__________________________________________

Speaking of good advice: I received some today in the form of a "Fix Your Factoid" email from keen-eyed Garrison Cox regarding  the homepage of www.steveroesler.com

There is a minor inconsistency in your "factoid" on your home page.  It begins:


Steve once made 59 speeches in 63 days while on a business speaking gig across the entirety of  South Africa. He fainted from exhaustion on speech #61 in front of an audience of 3,000.

But if you made only 59 speeches, you can't have been on "speech #61."  Maybe you meant "speech 59"?  At any rate, it has to be a number less than or equal to 59.

 

I'm an editor.  I can't help myself.  But it might help improve your credibility even further.

 

Regards,

Garrison

This was genuinely helpful and much appreciated. Who wants a mistake on their Home Page?! After a few email exchanges, I was equally smitten by how Garrison presents himself and his qualifications:

My "elevator pitch" is that I'm like the kid in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people:  I can see what people meant to say but did not, either by omission or commission.  Some clients pay me very well for that talent.

 For you, no charge.  But if you ever have a client with a technical piece of text that needs editing, I am a recovering lawyer with an MBA who can make anything simpler and clearer.  I also ghost write technical pieces for senior partners in Big Four accounting firms who want their names published but don't have time to write snappy articles in their areas of expertise.

 Best,

Garrison

Here's my take: After multiple online interactions with Garrison, he's the kind of guy I'd work with in a minute. He's quick-witted, sharp with the editing pen, and a very good synthesizer. If you're considering editing, tech ghost writing, or want a professional set of eyes, you can reach Garrison at garrison.cox@gmail.com

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Three Ways To Improve Your Next Presentation

One of the benefits of delivering a lot of speeches is the chance to watch others, and learn from them as well.

Here are three things that I've learned and used along the way. I hope they serve you well:

StatisticsGraphic  1. Don't Let "The Facts" Speak for Themselves

People can make facts and numbers mean almost anything. I think it was Mark Twain who noted, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

Facts need interpretation, so interpret yours. And, be prepared to cite the source and how those facts were determined. 

2. Use Two Kinds of Numbers

Exact numbers sound very credible: "The number of survey participants who said the company is communicating "very well" is 61.7 percent." The human mind processes that as "sounding exact" and, therefore, accurate.

Rounded numbers offer the appearance of an estimation. "Almost two-thirds" is easier to remember than 61.7 percent.

Which to use if you want the numbers to be credible and memorable?

Both. Use the exact number first and round it off later when you refer to it in examples.

3. Capitalize on the Legitimacy of the Printed Word.

For some--actually about 75%--having something on paper makes it official and "real." 

Think about this: Even small business owners (smart ones) print fees, prices, terms, and conditions on their official stationery. When you quote something verbally it makes it subject to negotiation. Whether you're selling a concept, a motorcycle, or a holiday cruise, put it in a written form--even if it's a picture--that someone can see, touch, and hold. 

Make it real.

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Communication: Meaning Is In The Response

"We see things not as they are, but as we are."
   --H.M Tomlinson

Meaning is in the Response You Get

We often deal with new ideas, with changing how things are done, with trying to persuade others about our point of view. The longer you've lived, the more you realize the number of obstacles to people automatically accepting and absorbing your information.

Maybe the greatest single stumbling block to real communication is the one-sided nature of speaking.

I know that you already know about this: intellectually. But let's face it:  Most of us concentrate on what to say and how to say it. In our zeal to  get our message across we forget that at the other end of our message is a real, live person with her own zeal, goals, and concerns. These may not coincide with ours, especially at the moment when we are about to start communicating our new ideas.

Inluence Blog Graphic.001

So, Do This:

1. Openly acknowledge the areas of similarity first.

2. Re-state why you are together and what you hope to accomplish.

3. List the areas of disagreement or fuzziness. Don't discuss them yet, just list them.

4. Identify and work through the items that have the least value or emotional attachment. This creates a quick track record of successes.

5. Get to the tougher ones, with this important element:

Explain why it is important to you.

It's a lot easier to work together when you understand the deeper issues involved. Without this, you aren't really operating at a human level--you are just exchanging information whose underlying realities may be much more sympatico and understandable than the statement given on the surface.

Remember: Meaning is in the response. The deeper, more honest the response, the more chance you have of understanding the truth of each other's reality.

How do you approach these kinds of situations?

_____________________________________

Leadership Carnival Alert! Thanks to Sharlyn Lauby, the Leadership Carnival Anniversary Edition is filled with advice and thoughts you won't want to miss.

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Managers: Reduce Stress by Increasing the Feedback

"Whatever is unresolved becomes a stressor"

Managers add stress to their lives by postponing important conversations and letting them build up until their heads start to feel like a balloon waiting to burst. Or, we try to submerge those thoughts until we discover that they tend to pop out in strange and often harmful ways. How many times have we received--or given--a terse comment that really was the result of some long- unspoken feeling?

Why Does Feedback Matter?

Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket's course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay "on course" is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

Here's the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. It's our best chance at knowing whether we're on track or not.

Feedback Where's Mine_600x425

So, What Gets In The Way of Giving Feedback?

1. Let's face it: few of us enjoy hearing about those areas of work life where we're coming up short. It's human nature. The flip side is that managers are people, too, and they have the same thoughts and feelings. So it's not exactly a peak experience being the proverbial "messenger" even though it comes with the job.

2. The term "feedback" has morphed into "Here's what you need to correct" instead of "Here's how I think we're doing."

3. Feedback has been institutionalized to the point where it is often done at yearly or semi-annual performance reviews. That's usually too far away from the actual performance for a person to make the kind of changes that will alter an outcome. So, it become  a "Gotcha!"

4. It takes a relationship built on trust to have meaningful conversations about performance.

Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do. And if something goes wrong, one person points that out to the other. They talk about what to do differently. And they learn that, even if something does go wrong, they care enough to bring it up and do something about it. I've said this before: The people you trust the most are the people who tell you the truth--good and bad. If it's good, they offer encouragement. If it's bad, they offer ways to work with you to sort things out.

5. Lack of ongoing, natural conversation about work life gets in the way of building relationships that breed the level of trust we need to have ongoing, natural conversations. It's circular.

What Can You Do?

1. Managers: Start the conversation from Day 1.

Set the tone for the future early on by asking, "How are things going with project x?" What didn't we anticipate? What's going well? What isn't going well, so we can find out how to get it on track? Then make sure that both of you do what you say you'll do.

2. Employees: If there isn't a conversation, start one.

Turn the questions in #1 into statements. For example, "Here's how project x is going." "Here's what we didn't anticipate." Sure, maybe your boss doesn't like bad news. Here's a secret: Surprises are worse than bad news.If you start the conversation, you have a better chance of putting your boss at ease with the whole idea of "How are we doing?"

3. Keep talking about having conversations, not feedback.

Language conveys feeling. The whole notion of feedback has degenerated to the point where the word contains more negative connotations than positive. Why? Maybe because it was never meant to be associated with the human condition in the first place. From the time we're kids we have conversations. We talk about "What's going on" and "How are things going?"

4. Start having ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. Start now.



I absolutely guarantee you that two people of goodwill can increase their combined performance and reduce their stress-inducing baggage by having regular, honest talks about their progress and the factors impacting it. These kinds of talks are the foundation of every good relationship, on and off the job.

Bonus Thought: The longer you wait, the larger the "negative" becomes and the more difficult it is to discuss. Regular, frequent conversations mean that the problem areas will be smaller and easier to talk about!

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Initiating A Change? Ponder This

Emails and company blogs and intranets are popular information channels. But if you're initiating some meaningful change, using those channels isn't communicating--it's sending information.  People want to know how you feel about new initiatives, how you feel about the future, and what you think the best path forward will be--and why. They want to hear your voice, look into your eyes, and ask whatever questions pop into mind.

There are sound psychological reasons for this:

Psychology Today's  Allison Kornet explains: (bold face indicates my emphasis)

While studying how language patterns are associated with improvements in physical health, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, also began to explore whether a person's choice of words was a sign of deception. Examining data gathered from a text analysis program, Pennebaker and SMU colleague Diane Berry, Ph.D., determined that there are certain language patterns that predict when someone is being less than honest. For example, liars tend to use fewer first person words like I or my in both speech and writing. They are also less apt to use emotional words, such as hurt or angry, cognitive words, like understand or realize, and so-called exclusive words, such as but or without, that distinguish between what is and isn't in a category.

Talking face to face And in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. and Deborah A. Kashy, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, report that frequent liars tend to be manipulative and Machiavellian, not to mention overly concerned with the impression they make on others.

In DePaulo's studies, participants (liars) described conversations in which they lied as less intimate and pleasant than truthful encounters, suggesting that people are not entirely at ease with their deceptions. That may explain why falsehoods are more likely to be told over the telephone, which provides more anonymity than a face-to-face conversation.

Lessons for Change Leaders

1. Even if you're telling the whole truth, your credibility may be diminished if you don't communicate in person. Why? Because the lack of face-to-face intimacy conveys an implicit undercurrent of deception. The listeners may not even realize it, but they know at some level that more truths get told in person than via another medium.

2. Tell people what you think and feel by using "I" and "my" vs. "Acme Widgetworks". People care how you see the reality--in detail--of the situation; and, specifically why you are hopeful about the future.

3. Changes prompt an entire range of emotions in everyone involved. That means you, too. An absence of honest emotional language sends the message that you actually don't care. People don't want a canned business speech. They want you. That means hearing the impact the changes are having and why, again, you are hopeful about the future in light of the current reality.

People can handle the truth. What they don't handle well is finding out later that they only heard part of the truth.

If you're tempted to put a little icing on the message, remember that Marie Antoinette thought it was a good idea to "let them eat cake." She didn't end up heads above her constituents.

photo source: flickr.com/photos/78436618@N00/2687568244

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Advice? Find Out What "They" Want

Be careful when you give advice--somebody might take it." Anonymous.

Most of us enjoy giving advice. If you're a manager, it may even make you feel a lot more managerial. And let's be honest, advice is a lot more fun than criticism.

What Kind of Advice Is Desired?

Advice1 Counselors know that when someone arrives for a first visit, the story that unfolds is usually the "presenting" problem. It's not necessarily a matter of deception. We may not feel comfortable "putting it all out there" quite yet. Or, we may not even be clear about what the real issue is, which is why we want to talk it through in the first place.

Advice & The Workplace

If you can't tell what your employee or boss wants by how a subject is introduced, ask a few questions. Does the person want:

  • To hear critical information and facts?
  • To know your opinion on an issue?
  • To get help with generating alternatives to a situation?
  • To know how you went about doing something?
  • To check out his or her reasoning on a decision?

It's easy to fall into the instant response trap; we all want to be helpful. Sometimes that kind of help isn't helpful at all.

Ask specifically what the other person wants. It will save you both a lot of time and lead to more satisfying results.

_________________________________

Note: I've been traveling, speaking, and delivering leadership workshops since Talent: Strengths or Weaknesses?Yes. and  Are We Educating For The Right Jobs? I want to take some time this evening to read through the comments again and jump back into the conversation. Thanks to everyone for keeping it rolling. If you haven't yet joined in, have a look; some good thinking going on there.

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