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3 Campaign Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Office


VoicePro, Communication, Leadershipby Scott Danielson



VoicePro, Leadership, Conflict ResolutionThe American political landscape has been ugly for as long as I can remember. The Republican primaries are a timely example. As the campaign continues, the candidates make cringe-worthy, preposterous statements, personally attack the president and each other, and proclaim that four years with another candidate will lead to Armageddon. All the while, they fail to seriously address the real issues facing America.

Disagreements in our own offices can have a similar tone. Differences in opinion occur, emotions run high, and once amicable individuals suddenly become mortal enemies. Core issues are disregarded, and sadly, the entire office suffers accordingly.

Don’t let your office feel like a series of attack ads. To keep workplace disagreements under control, avoid these three campaign mistakes. 

#1 Forgetting the Bigger Picture

Though viewed by many as the eventual front runner, Mitt Romney continues to fight an elitist image.  Sounds bites such as, “I’m not concerned with the very poor,” “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs,” and “Two of my friends own NFL teams,” don’t help.  Of course, Romney must be aware of this perception, which begs the question: What was he thinking? 

Simply put, he probably wasn’t. As these examples illustrate, Romney seems to be trying to appeal to a specific group of voters, the “regular” guys, and in doing so, has lost sight of the bigger picture.

When an office conflict arises, both parties tend to focus on their own short-sighted goals. This is problematic, particularly if these goals are in opposition to each other. Instead, look for a mutually beneficial goal you can both aim for. “How can we work together to solve this problem,” is a much better starting point than, “I’m going to get my proposal accepted, no matter what.”

#2 Making It Personal

In 2010, something amazing happened. Stuart Norman and Andrew Maynard, two candidates for a Senate seat in Connecticut, agreed to campaign without making personal attacks. When asked why they took this approach, the two men stated the election was about the issues and not them as individuals.

Sadly, this idea has been thrown out the window in the current Presidential election. The Republican candidates continue to insult one another, and the Obama administration has already put out attack ads of its own.

Norman and Maynard understood why personal attacks should be avoided: they cloud the issues at hand. If you use a personal attack, you guarantee an angry response from the other party. Now, any valid arguments you have is consumed by their anger and desire to prove you wrong. In his landmark book on negotiation, “Getting to Yes,” Roger Fisher writes, “Be hard on the problem, soft on the people.” Remember, Fisher’s advice. You’ll get much more done if you keep the conversation civil.

#3 Stating Opinions As Fact

Not surprisingly, the current candidates have made very strong, absolutely certain, take-this-as-a-fact statements. Newt Gingrich promises an American moon colony by his second term, Rick Santorum said socialized medicine would kill his child, and Mitt Romney said Obama would allow Iran to become a nuclear power. All of these projections are opinions, but you would never be able to tell based upon their language. They sound so very certain.

Stating an opinion during a disagreement is fine, as long as it’s phrased as an opinion. Many people fail to realize statements like, “Your proposal has a lot of problems,” is only an allegation from someone’s point of view. It may or may not be true.

Make it abundantly clear when you’re stating an opinion. Phrases like “I think,” “I feel,” or “I believe” are possible ways to position a statement from your point of view. Likewise, avoid definitive declarations like, “You are…” and “This will…”.  In the case of the proposal critique, we can change from “Your proposal has a lot of problems,” to, “I find some aspects of your proposal problematic.” This is a much better communication style and not as likely to stir up defensiveness.

“Politics as usual” is filled with spin, name calling, and a lack of factual information or ideas. Hopefully, this doesn’t describe your office conflicts. If it does, learn from the American political scene….by doing the opposite of our current candidates. Keep things in perspective, only discuss the issues, and make it clear when you’re stating an opinion. Your office and business will thank you.

For more public speaking information and tips follow us on Twitter or ask us for more information.

Image provided by MCS@flickr

3 Leadership Lessons From March Madness


VoicePro, Communication Skills, Leadership

 by Scott Danielson



VoicePro, Communication Skills, LeadershipOnce the NCAA tournament begins, workplace productivity plummets. Employees fill out brackets, check scores, and turn in money to whoever runs the office pool.  Not exactly an ideal time to be a manager.  It’s impossible to step in and stop the fun, especially when you’ve got twenty dollars riding on your own bracket.

Fighting the fascination with one of the most exciting events in sports is senseless.  Instead, think of yourself as a coach watching game footage. There’s much to learn here, because March Madness offers entertainment, excitement—and lessons in leadership.

#1 Make Every Day Matter

In the NCAA tournament, one bad game will sink the most talented team, just ask Duke. Therefore, coaches must keep their players motivated and focused if every game is to get them one step closer to the ultimate goal: a national championship.

While we don’t recommend adopting a “one-and-done” attitude, we do recommend finding ways to make every day matter. The average workday can be tedious, repetitious, and hard to get through.  But it doesn’t have to be. You can make your workplace more interesting and exciting. Celebrate victories, large and small: a target met, a contract signed, a sale finalized. Find creative ways to make everyone feel important. Give your employees challenges and reward their efforts.

#2 Take Timeouts

Timeouts are a basketball coach’s greatest asset, aside from players.  With a well-timed timeout, a coach can reorganize his offense or defense, kill negative momentum, or draw up the game-winning play.

A workplace timeout can be used for similar reasons.

Numerous studies indicate small breaks are an excellent way for employees to refresh and refocus. In fact, such breaks can increase overall productivity and prevent a decrease in work quality.  If your negotiation session is becoming strained, take a short break to regroup. A brief hiatus to relax, loosen up, and stretch will go a long way toward easing office tension.

#3 Nurture Your Leaders

Every college team has a head coach and three assistants to devise a game plan, offer advice, and give pep talks.  But who leads once the players reach the court? A successful basketball team needs players who can lead and inspire on the court. Their influence is undeniable. Kembe Walker’s late game heroics pushed UConn into the tournament and lead his team to victory in the 2011 championship game.

Who are your on-court leaders?

Leading an entire office is an impossible task to tackle alone, especially if the office is large. So, find leaders who can guide, and motivate in your absence. Don’t presume your highest performers are natural leaders. Instead, look for men and women who are helpful and challenge their colleagues without being asked. Once you’ve empowered an office leader, you will get results from your staff without the need to assert yourself into every situation.

Guiding a team through the NCAA tournament takes strong leadership skills. Each coach has to keep players motivated, make in-game adjustments, and give leaders a chance to shine. A business manager has the same responsibilities. Luckily for you, there’s more than one ultimate prize at stake and you can develop relationships for more than four years. If you want a more productive and positive office environment, learn from March Madness.

For more public speaking information and tips follow us on Twitter or ask us for more information.

Image by mvongrue

4 Communication Skills For Crises


VoicePro,Communication Skills by Scott Danielson



VoicePro, Leadership Skills, Communication SkillsThe American media loves scandal. An upcoming presidential election and a number of high profile criminal investigations certainly add fuel to the fire. With the public's eye waiting for its next hot button topic, it seems strange that many experienced public figures fail when a crisis arises. While your workplace crisis will not cost you a bid at America’s most prestigious office, there are still a number of skills that can be applied to any conflict.

#1 Pause

This skill is the most important and the hardest to master.  When emotions run high, our first reaction is instinctive. In stressful situations, the flight or fight response kicks in, adrenaline fills your body, and your body begs you to react. However our first reaction isn’t our strongest or our most reasoned. Arguments between five year olds that feature witty comebacks such as, “I’m not stupid! You are!” are prime examples. Pausing lets you process the information and control your impulse reactions. 

In Practice: Take a deep breath and stretch out your body before entering any stressful situation or conversation.

#2 Perspective

I've heard co-workers declare they were having “the worst day ever”. After imagining a tragic occurence, I typically find that someone cut them off in traffic. Unfortunately, our first reactions to stressful situations are quite similar. Because of our emotional involvement we fail to see the smaller crises for what they are: small. Take time to remind yourself that the world will not end, and you will find a solution to your problem. A dose of reality and positive thinking, will help curb your nervousness.

In Practice: When facing a crisis, remind yourself of a similar situation you handled successfully. The memory of your past success will make the current problem seem less daunting.

#3 Adaptability

In every disaster movie, there's one survior that remains dedicated to an idea that will doom everyone else. They refuse to listen to reasoned arguments from their colleagues, and come to an unfortunate end. Meanwhile, the remaining survivors discover another way to stay alive. Keeping your pride in check and being open to new ideas, can help you avoid a similar, metaphorical, fate. Your coworkers will have ideas that you don't, so ask for their opinions. Also, be sure to actually consider their ideas before reacting to them.

In Practice:  Ask for ideas before presenting your own. 

#4 Body Language/Intonation

Imagine that there’s been a serious incident somewhere in the United States. The president comes on television to speak to the American people about what occurred. How nervous would you be if the president behaved like he was frightened or unsure of how to act? We want the appearance of calm from our leaders in times of crises, and the easiest way to convey it is with positive body language and proper intonation. You may be a wreck of nerves underneath, but your co-workers will thank you for a calming presence.

In Practice: Keep an eye out for nervous ticks or a drastic change in your regular speaking voice. They will contradict any calming words you have.

For more public speaking information and tips follow us on Twitter or ask us for more information. 

Image by bottled_void

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