Posted by Luanne Paynick
The opportunities for face-to-face interactions are lessening. You know this from your own experience. It is a luxury to look someone in the eye and feel connected to them. One result is that your listeners, on the receiving end of the e-mails you send or respond to, are often left to judge you by only that, your e-mails – their content and timeliness. Ideally, you will leave them with a positive impression. But, unless you have a strategy in mind for how you are going to approach your e-mail communication, you may end up leaving a less than favorable impression. And, you may find that people’s desire and sense of urgency to respond leaves a lot to be desired.
It starts with you. You are in charge of you, and your behaviors. And, you have an opportunity to influence the behaviors of the people you manage, who are a reflection of you. So, how do you want your “listeners” to judge you and your team? What impression do you want to make?
Imagine what might happen if you were to . . .
Define your leader vision (how you want to be viewed by others).
With that vision in mind, you can decide how you want to manage e-mails – both sending and receiving. From our experience, when you are clear on that vision, your actions fall in alignment with it.
Work with your team to define a team vision (how they want to be viewed by others).
It is less work to hold a team accountable to the behaviors that support the vision they helped create. Not to mention, your vision will be richer, more dynamic and representative of the diversity of the team you manage.
Be a role model for your team.
Once you have defined the e-mail behaviors that support your vision – use them!!
Respond with a sense of urgency.
This is critical whether that means sending out a message that people need to receive in order to act, or responding to a message you have received. Remember, you are judged by what others see, or don’t see, on the receiving end. The general rule of thumb is to respond within 24 hours. Therefore, that is the standard others are likely to hold you accountable to. How do you want to be viewed? What do you want the standard to be for you and your team?
Know the relationships that are important to you, so that you can prioritize.
That value could be based on the role someone plays within the organization, the door they may open for you in your career, or a solid partnership with a trusted vendor. If the relationship is a valued one, then it is critical that you manage yourself to do what it takes to keep the relationship whole and positive, and respond accordingly.
Manage your e-mail responses.
Someone once said, “You cannot deliver on 100% of what you promised, but you can manage 100% of what you promised.” E-mails are similar. You may not be able to respond fully to every important e-mail you receive, but you can probably manage 100% of them. That might mean waiting 24 hours for the ones that can wait, or responding with a shorter response than what is ultimately needed. Something like the following might work:
- I’ll get back to you on this.
- How soon do you need this?
- Thanks! I’ll get you what you need by your deadline.
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Posted by Luanne Paynick
Not getting responses to your e-mails? Use the following guidelines when sending messages to encourage a quicker response:
Be specific in the description of your subject.
Subject: March 24, 2015 Meeting Update vs. Meeting Update
Subject: Questions About the Smith Project vs. Clarification Needed
Subject: Need Your Response by 5/12/2015 vs. Response Needed
Be concise and clear.
Consider using the VoicePro® PREPO model to craft your message.
The point you would like to make.
Why you feel, think, or believe your point to be important or accurate.
Supporting information for your point and reason in the way of facts, data, statistics, examples, and stories.
Restate your point (best used when verbally communicating). It can be left off for e-mail communication.
If there is an “ask” associated with the e-mail; a required action on the part receiver, this can become the Subject line.
Take a look at this Example:
To: Jim Jones
From: Luanne Paynick
Subject: Please Attend the March 25 Project Meeting
(P) We need to meet on March 25th to discuss our progress and our next steps.
(R) When we meet things tasks get accomplished faster
(E) After our last meeting we far exceeded the original dates for completion of our preliminary goals.
(P) Not needed in an e-mail.
(O) Please come prepared to share your progress and recommended next steps.
If you are not getting a response . . .
Do not keep on sending the same message to the same person over and over again, if they don't respond after a few days, send them an e-mail inquiring if they received your first email.
Image courtesy of chrisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted by Luanne Paynick
A manager can make or break a training initiative. When a manager is actively involved in the training process, the gap between the time and money spent on leadership and skill development, and on-the-job application of new skills, can be significantly reduced. The following are actions any involved manager can take to insure that training is an investment and not just an event.
Talk about training as a privilege.
- Talk with direct reports about how the training you are sending them to is an investment in them – for them, for the team and for the organization.
- Reinforce that the training opportunity is not to “fix” them, but to build their knowledge and skills.
- Make the training a priority for your direct reports by freeing up their calendar to attend, protecting their time while they are involved in the training, and honoring their need to be involved in the training process.
Connect individual training goals to the goals of the business.
- Define and create personal objectives for each of your direct reports attending training, which are in alignment with the corporation’s goals.
- Define specific objectives and expectations for the individuals based on the type of training session they are attending, the needs of the individual, and the needs of the organization.
- Discuss the new behaviors or skills you expect from the individual before they begin the training.
Play an active role in the training process.
- Participate in pre- and post-training calls set up by the training provider. If they are not offered, request a pre- and post-session call. These calls are an opportunity to share your needs, expectations and desired outcomes with the trainer(s) conducting the sessions.
- If you have an opportunity to attend the session yourself, take advantage of the opportunity. You will learn the same skills as your direct reports; increasing your ability to model and coach the desired behaviors and skills in them.
- Meet with your direct reports to discuss their training experience – what they learned, how they will use the skills, how it ties to their individual performance objectives, how you can support them, etc.
- Upon completion of the training session, by your direct reports, become an observer. Document your observations, and share what you have noticed in the way of feedback – both positive and constructive.
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Posted by Leslie Dickson
American author Seth Godin has said, “If I fail more than you, I win.” This speaks more to persistence than failure. As any professional athlete knows, it is persistence that takes you farther than others with similar talent. As any business person knows, it is that ‘never give up’ attitude which creates ultimate success.
There are a myriad of quotes attributed to this idea, including General George A. Custer’s “It's not how many times you get knocked down that count, it's how many times you get back up.” Vince Lombardi’s "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get back up," and the Japanese saying, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
This is great advice, no doubt. Yet, there are times in our lives when it is less about persistence, and more about getting it right – the first time. As Will Rogers once said, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
That is especially true in today’s fast paced business world. There are times, every day, where your actions, your knowledge, and your responses – in the moment - can elevate or decimate your credibility. Knowing that credibility can take years to develop, but only moments to crumble, it is critical that you know how to gain control of yourself and appear cool, calm, and in control – even though on the inside, you may feel like you are falling apart. This skill is a critical key to executive presence.
Here are 3 tools that you can conjure up within moments to quickly put you in executive presence mode:
Jump Out of Self-Focus
Focusing on yourself is one of the most damaging things you can do. When you are self-focused, that negative chatter in your head takes over – This isn’t going well. I know I didn’t prepare enough. They really don’t like this (or me). When you are focused on the negative, it is like water going down a drain…it starts slowly and then circles faster and faster and faster. Before you know it, not only are your thoughts negative, but so are your emotions.
The beauty of being your own problem is that you can also be your own solution. The solution is to re-focus your attention on the other person or people you are with. Ask yourself – Why are they here? What information do they need? How can I make a positive difference in their world?
When you begin to focus on your listener instead of the negative voice in your head, you can increase your effectiveness and your credibility.
Did you know that 5 deep breaths can actually “reboot” your physiology? Think about it…when someone is really stressing out, what is the first thing you tell them to do? That’s right, “take a deep breath.”
Why? When your breath is rapid and shallow, your brain’s interpretation is that you are in danger. When you shift your breath so that it is frequent and deep, it is an automatic signal to your brain that you are safe.
Not only will your breath keep your body relaxed, but it will ensure your brain is receiving the oxygen it needs for clarity of your thoughts and responses.
Find Something to Get Excited About
Let’s face it, if you don’t care about what you are talking about, nobody else will either. When you are bored, tired or lacking energy, so is your audience. If you are wondering why your team or your supervisors or your customers are not “jumping on board,” this is often the reason why.
It all changes when you show enthusiasm and passion surrounding an idea, project, problem or solution. Your passion and enthusiasm equate to energy. It’s all about energy, and your energy is contagious.
You may have to dig deep when it comes to finding your passion or enthusiasm for a topic – especially if it is someone else’s passion and they have asked you to talk about it. Ask yourself – What about this is important to me? How does this support what I value and believe? What is the difference it could make for the people it impacts, and how is this important to me?
Once you connect with your true passion for the topic at hand, it will be conveyed in your voice and in your face. You will “light up” and so will the people around you.
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Posted By Leslie Dickson
We live in a world that is telling us to constantly be “learning” things. If you stop learning, so says the world, you stop growing, stop leading, and stop living. You “fall behind” or “start deteriorating” or, as author Tom Clancy shares with us, "Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die."
The irony of this whole “learning” thing is that, what we often call ‘learning’ is much more about ‘unlearning.’ Now, this is not to negate the fact that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. That is a fact. Education is all about how you manage risk. When you couple integrity with knowledge, you know something and you do something. More often than not, this is how success is born.
However, the things that often create roadblocks to success are little – often even miniscule. If you let something small get in the way of you doing something big, you end up with ‘broken dreams,’ ‘missed opportunities,’ and a lot of ‘should haves.’ These things, often referred to by many as “failures,” are not fatal. However, failure to change them might be.
Big changes are typically not necessary. In fact, it is often just a little shift, which has the biggest impact. It is perfectly okay to give something up if it is getting in the way. So, what’s the big deal? Giving yourself permission to make the shift.
Get ready to open your toolboxes! Follow these three easy methods to ‘unlearn’ something that is getting in your way. All of these are tools that can be used immediately and will have an instant impact for you:
Stand and sit up tall
The amount of time we spend these days slouching over a keyboard is amazing. What is more amazing is that the slouching has become a learned habit. It shows up in all areas of our lives. So, why unlearn this habit? Not only for the obvious reasons of posture, but also because of how it looks from a perception stand-point.
Think about it – when you are slouching or constantly leaning forward, what others might see as non-verbal communication may be tired or bored, anxious or worn down, not interested or stressed. None of these might be true, but that is what you are communicating without even opening your mouth to speak.
It has been said that the difference between reacting and responding is one breath. Our learned habit is to react. Why? We live in a society where (right or wrong, true or false), we feel that if we do not respond immediately to anything directed to us, that we might look like we do not have the answer. This could not be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, our credibility often goes down when we ‘jump right in’ and ramble a poorly thought out answer.
Unlearning this “jump right in” habit and taking a moment to simply pause and take a breath gives you time to collect your thoughts (you don’t need much), creates a perception of confidence (it doesn’t take much), and stabilizes your voice so that, when you begin to speak, you sound like you know what you are talking about!
Use the “f” word more (FOCUS!)
Have you ever been driving somewhere that you have driven dozens of times before, only to get there and not actually remember having driven there? Scary, isn’t it? But we do these kinds of things all the time. Why? Because in our minds, we are scattered everywhere…except in the present moment. We are too busy thinking about the meeting at 3:00pm that afternoon, or the comment that was made in the meeting yesterday that you are still upset about today.
This mental time traveling has become a learned habit. Unlearning this habit is all about focus. What you focus on in life determines what you get. If you are routinely finding problems, I can pretty much guarantee you are looking for problems. If you are consistently finding solutions, I can pretty much guarantee you are looking for solutions. It sounds so simple…and guess what? It is! It is common sense, but not common practice.
Unlearning “time traveling” and getting back into focus “in the moment” will allow you to quickly see much of what you have been seeking (pssssttttttt…it is sometimes sitting right next to you).
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Posted by Carolyn Dickson
Getting feedback can be painful. It’s bad enough to hear something negative about yourself you didn’t know was there. It’s even worse when you haven’t a clue what to do about it.
A critic’s role is to deliver both the bad and the good, but criticism has long thought to be nothing but negative. Then we began to talk about constructive criticism, thinking that would take the sting out of it. But to no avail. So now we give feedback, which is supposed to make everything better. Yeah, right.
One of the biggest problems with feedback is that it’s so vague the receivers misinterpret the message, and in trying to make something better they only make it worse. Here’s the case of Pete (not his real name).
When Pete walked into class, he took over the room. A big guy, strong and muscular, he had been told over and over that he intimidated people. So Pete concocted his own solution; he changed his voice and spoke with a tiny, high-pitched sound that was so weak he could hardly be heard. When we began to work with Pete, we soon realized the problem wasn’t with his natural voice, which was actually deep and rich and quite appealing. In his attempts to be more professional and controlled, his muscles had tightened and he had become more and more rigid and unyielding. This in turn led to a scowl that would turn anybody off.
Here’s another example.
Ajit’s feedback had been that he wasn’t clear, and he came to class determined to get rid of the Indian in his accent. But his accent was fine. His problem was that he spoke with no emotion, he repeated himself endlessly, and he talked theory until everyone wanted to scream, without ever giving any practical advice. “No one’s ever told me this,” he commented. “They just said they couldn’t understand me.”
So what do you do?
The key to good feedback is proper diagnosis. Take eye contact. Lack of eye contact is a huge issue with people who have trouble communicating. But there are a number of reasons why people don’t make eye contact, and you can’t deal with them all in the same way, which is what usually happens.
Some speakers are so involved in their content—what they want to say—that they don’t pay attention at all to the people listening to them. This is true in formal presentations as well as one-on-one conversation. For many speakers it’s fear—fear of making mistakes, fear of not looking professional, fear of appearing vulnerable (which can scare presenters to death). Some speakers have been given the wrong advice in other workshops and are using little tricks, like looking at the wall or imagining their audience naked.
In most corporate settings, people giving feedback lack the diagnostic skills to work at the level I have just described. It takes a coach with an outside perspective, someone who’s been trained in the diagnostic skills needed to get to the heart of the matter and deal with causes, not just surface symptoms.
So, whether you call it criticism, constructive criticism, or plain ol’ feedback, the key is finding a coach who can help fix problems at their deepest level. This will take the danger out of feedback and turn it into a valuable management tool.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Posted by Luanne Paynick
I just got off of the phone from having a heartwarming conversation, with a client I have known for years. At this point I’d say we are friends— which is comforting in this era of uncertainty, change, and technology. I also just finished reading an article in the Elephant Journal Entitled “10 Ways to Feel ‘Sane', Even When We Feel Crazy”. After reading the article I also felt comforted.
There is a thread or a theme that binds these two events, and makes them stand out for me. It is connection— to myself (a connection to my feelings, my body and my thoughts) and to others (an emotional connection). With either connection there is a grounding effect, especially in the midst of chaos – when I need it the most. It doesn’t matter where the “craziness” is coming from. It can be from the chaotic world around me, the stories I am telling myself, the overwhelm of technology, or the never-ending litany of stuff I am in the midst of (tasks, tasks and more tasks). Connecting never fails to bring me back to center. And when I am centered the world around me (and inside me) has a less chaotic, out of control feel to it.
I’ve also learned that connection doesn’t have to be a random occurrence— the result of a phone call or reading an article. I can reach out for the few tried and true practices that provide that connection and centeredness I am striving for. And, you can too.
Notice your body
What does it feel like? How are you sitting or standing. Where are you holding your tension? Where are you the most relaxed? It never fails, when you are “in your body,” you are “out of your head”— the never ending stream of negative thoughts (at worst) or just that voice that doesn’t seem to stop talking, and reminding you of what needs to be done next.
Notice your breath. Sit for just one minute (two is even better), and notice your breath. Breathe out. Breathe in. Just follow your breath for one minute— for a mini-vacation.
Focus on the person you are talking with
What do they need? How can you help them? What difference can you offer? Look them in the eye. Connect on a human level. It will feel wonderful for them and for you— human being to human being.
Speak kindly to yourself – like you would a dear friend
Focus on what is positive. Say, “Thank you” to yourself for the value you bring and the difference you make to the world. Say, “I forgive you” to yourself for the mistakes you have made and the ones you are sure to make in the future. With this practice, it is amazing how not only your positive energy will increase, but others will “catch” it with each interaction.
When you are connected, to yourself and to others, you can find a bit of calm in the storm – a break from the chaos of your world.
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Posted by Leslie Dickson
I have just returned from a conference in Argentina. This meeting was for the international Entrepreneurial Organization (EO), and 450 members attended from all over the world. The goal was to offer outstanding speakers, learning events and networking, and to fully experience our host city, Buenos Aries.
At one event, I sat next to a fellow EO’er, and we got to talking about our businesses. When he heard what I do, he said to me, “You know what entrepreneurs want in a speaker, right? They either want to be inspired or to have significant take-aways.”
I have been thinking about this a lot since that conversation. So often I find myself leaving presentations feeling disappointed. No, it’s worse than that…I feel as if my time has been wasted. Now granted, I do suffer from the VoicePro® curse. It’s not that I am hyper-critical of the presenter. It’s more like I see inside a presenter, and know instinctively how and why speakers say and do what they say and do.
So, here’s the thing – it’s not either inspiration or education – it’s both. Think about it. Why not accomplish both of these outcomes? You start with a good, inspirational story and use it to give something of value to the audience. It is not complicated or difficult.
Here are some tips for you to try:
- First, know your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? What do they need from you? The more you know about the group, the more you can spin your message, talk their language, and apply your message to their lives. When you do this, they will feel the connection. It’s as simple as that.
- Challenge your audience to do something with the information you are giving them. What action do you want them to take? Without a call to action, you will not persuade anyone to do anything. At the conference, one speaker who got high marks from me told the story of her entrepreneurial husband, who was bigger than life—and who died at 51 of prostate cancer. Not only did she inspire us with her story (there was not a dry eye in the packed house), but she offered a very specific take-away. She wanted all of us to put our health first. She said to the men in the room, “Bend over and take it like a man!”
- Tell your story. This doesn’t mean that you have to overcome a significant life challenge to make a good story. It just means that you have to tell YOUR unique story. If it is real, it will inspire them. The significance comes when you connect your story to the action you want people to take.
My challenge to all of you is: Don’t settle. You can’t necessarily impact the presentations others give. You can, however, do it better yourself. You can choose to make sure you don’t waste other people’s time.
Inspire AND add value. Not either/or but both. When you heed these tips, your audience—whether 10 or 20 or 450 in number—will stand up and cheer.
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Posted by Lesllie Dickson
Have you ever gotten feedback from someone at work that sounded something like this?
You ramble or get off point
I can’t understand you
You come across as too aggressive
You don’t convey confidence
I need you to be stronger
I can’t understand your accent
You said “ah” or “um” fifty times in five minutes
Have you been inclined to argue with this feedback? Guess what…you are both right!
There is a built-in dilemma when it comes to communication. We evaluate ourselves based on our intent – our intention is to be professional, knowledgeable, confident, persuasive, etc.
However, others evaluate us based on our outward behavior. If we demonstrate behavior that conveys nervousness, hesitancy, timidness, aggression, and so on – we will get feedback similar to what is listed above.
Seems complicated, doesn’t it? Well, the solution is easier than you might imagine. You need to first understand where you are starting from. You’ve heard it before – it all starts with self-awareness. This is just about seeing you the way others see you. You have the capability to do this at any time. You have a smartphone, right? Turn it on to video mode, and hit play. Record yourself talking about a business issue, and then watch it.
What do you see?
Most people just see the bad stuff. This is what you will notice first – almost blocking anything positive that you are doing. It is important to notice the good things that you are doing too. Remember, you are good at what you do, which is why you are in the role you are in. Be sure to note the good and the not-so-good.
Then as you identify the not-so-good areas, you simply talk with a coach. Your coach needs to supply you with new behaviors that will bring your intent into alignment with the behaviors you exhibit to others.
So, for example:
If you ramble – you may need a model to help organize your thoughts better.
If you need to convey confidence – this may show up in your posture or even the strength and quality of your voice.
If your accent is getting in the way – it may not really be your accent. It may be that you need to enunciate your words more clearly, or simply pause longer to let people process what you are saying.
The bottom line is – the feedback you are getting is a gift. Without it, you would blindly go along not even realizing there is a problem. Let’s face it, we all have areas to work on. Stay open, appreciative and be sure to say, “thank you.”
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted by Carolyn Dickson
The Federal Government is a mess. We know it. They know it. Everyone knows it, and yet Congress is at an impasse, with no one seemingly able to do anything about it.
As I read the newspapers and watch the news on TV, I’m reminded of a game posed by mathematicians at the Rand Corporation in the 1950s that’s come to be known as "The Prisoner’s Dilemma". I played this game at seminars during the early days of VoicePro® and think it might be a good idea to revive it. Here’s how it works.
Two criminals (A and B) occupy adjacent cells, where they can neither see nor hear the other. They are told if they both confess, they will each be sentenced to two years in prison. If A rats on B and B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve three years. And vice versa. But if they both remain silent, there’s not enough evidence to convict, and they will both go free.
You can see the dilemma. If I’m A and I rat on B, I’ll walk, but my colleague will pay a higher penalty. If he rats and I don’t, I’m the one who suffers. If I stay silent, we may both be okay. But will he stay silent, too? Or not? I have to make my decision not knowing this important piece of information.
Right now in in the Congress of the United States, we’re seeing The Prisoner’s Dilemma operating at its absolute worst. Self-interest has taken precedence over the common good at almost every turn. One side is always ratting on the other side. If one side is for “it”, the other side is against “it.” If one side prevails, it’s quick to claim victory and gloat over the vanquished. And everyone has lost sight of the fact that if they work together, both sides—and the country—win.
When originally setting forth "The Prisoner’s Dilemma", its authors were hoping to show that people have an instinctive inclination to cooperate. But right now our society seems to be moving in the opposite direction. The result is we are all the lesser for it.
How can we avoid The Prisoner’s Dilemma in our own lives? Here are three things to think about.
The overarching goal, or strategy, or purpose must be crystal clear. If everyone is on the same page, it’s much easier to make decisions. If a political party’s goal is to create jobs, then shutting down the government, putting people out of work and costing us all billions of dollars doesn’t make any sense. I am on the Board of a not-for-profit organization where every decision made by Board and staff alike ties directly back to the mission of the organization. For years we have all worked together without conflict, we have done great things, and the organization thrives.
It’s all about communication! This means being open, vulnerable and leaving your personal agendas at the door. Deep down in your ancient, reptilian brain lies the amygdala, an almond-shaped mass of nuclei that helps you survive by triggering your flight-or-fight response. Instinctively, you’re all about survival, and that’s not a bad thing. It does make it too easy, however, to have a personal agenda that benefits you and leaves others out. If you’re open about your own interests and needs, state them without prejudice, and don’t make demands on others without giving something back, you’ll be able to teach those guys in Washington a thing or two.
Leaders need to lead with an agenda that benefits the greater good. We don’t care if our national representatives get re-elected or not. That really should not be their primary goal (hard to believe, isn’t it?). For a team leader, the team is important; for a corporate leader, it must be the company. Leaders forget this at their peril.
To win their freedom, the prisoners in the adjacent cells must both stay silent. If they do, they’ll both walk. But if they insist on winning at all costs, including sacrificing their colleague, then who knows, they might even be able to run for Congress.
Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net