Updates from October, 2018 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • feedwordpress 20:51:00 on 2018/10/14 Permalink
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    Quick Tip #82: Power of the Pause 

    The PAUSE is one of the most powerful tools in your speaking toolbox. Learning to pause when speaking can change the way you are heard and perceived.

     
  • feedwordpress 13:50:06 on 2018/09/18 Permalink
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    Impression Management 

    The client wanted me to turn eight unprofessional storytellers into professional storytellers in four hours. At completion, her company had hired a professional video crew to tape these people telling their stories in two minutes or less, based on the tips we shared with them. The plan was to show their finished video stories at a corporate meeting. The crew was available for two hours, so the client said surely, I had plenty of time.

    Realizing she didn’t understand the time frame wasn’t realistic, I offered options including bringing multiple coaches with me, so we had more time to help each individual shape, craft and practice delivering their stories.

    The client didn’t want to pay for multiple coaches.

    I suggested that we prepare over multiple days.

    The client said they didn’t have more than a day. She said when they recorded their stories on video, I would be there to coach them through, so they would be receiving professional help.

    Besides, she wondered, if eight stories are less than two minutes long, that’s sixteen minutes. She pointed out the camera crew is there for two hours, so even if it takes some longer than others, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to have everyone tape their stories. She said that’s what her boss wants.

    No matter who her boss is, it’s not realistic.

    Telling a clear, crisp concise story is not a born trait. It’s something learned, honed and practiced. With instruction, worksheets, some pre-work and a very structured session plan, I was confident I could help them tell their stories more effectively than when they first walked into the room.

    However, even seasoned professionals often need multiple takes and on-the-spot coaching requires starting and stopping. Expecting people with no real experience to sit in front of a camera and recite their stories on video to be shown at a corporate meeting is completely unrealistic.

    My client is what some would call a very ambitious worker who simply wants to know how to move a project forward in a way that gives the impression she is right on top of it. She wants to appear cutting edge.  The one who comes through. The term for this is impression management.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a great impression. Most of us try to put our best foot forward so people will like us or feel they can count on us. Impression management is very important for leaders who want others to follow. But there must be a balance between authenticity and impression.

    In this case, the client could inadvertently be setting me up to fail, which will backfire on her. Instead of nailing it and impressing her boss, if we don’t deliver exactly what she wants, she will look bad. She will blame poor outcomes on us, even though she failed to heed our advice or speak up on our behalf.

    Impression management is defined as: “a process whereby someone tries to influence the observations and opinions of others about something”. For example, a manager might attempt to control information provided by a consultant, to give their boss the most favorable impression about what they can deliver.

    Baylor University Professor John Carlson has studied this behavior in the workplace and calls it “deceptive impression”. In his research, he labels people like my client “sycophant” which typically means brown noser. Carlson calls sycophancy the most highly used form of impression deception. He says these people do not provide genuine opinions or honest feedback to their superiors, for example, enthusiastically endorsing their superior’s idea even when they don’t like it.

    Interestingly, he concludes that sycophancy, has no significant effects on the relationship between the supervisor and supervisor’s evaluation of the subordinate’s performance.

    That leads me to believe the real losers are program participants and other employees, who could be reaping far more benefits if their superiors communicated clearly.

    In a similar event earlier this year, our team was hired to provide presentation training for a senior group of leaders. The client wanted us to teach her team how to become better presenters and provide “techniques to communicate messages”. Yet, she was unavailable for planning calls, didn’t respond to e-mails and despite repeated calls, failed to provide materials to help us prepare.

    After the program she said, “this was a terrific program and we all benefited greatly”, but observed the agenda “didn’t allow enough time for new comprehensive message development to be incorporated into the training”.

    On Sunday night, the evening before the program, she sent our lead trainer a multi-page wordy document of talking points and potential messages. No direction, no context. It was lengthy, written in corporate speak and difficult to understand. Then, without informing us, she sent the same document to her team. She instructed them to read it, use it to develop and write their own messages and bring it with them the next morning.

    These are people who have no experience with message development. They came to the program confused, stating they didn’t understand what they were supposed to do.

    What the client wanted and what she communicated to us were very different. Had she explained she was after comprehensive message development and subsequent presentation of those messages, we would have advised and structured differently.

    Like storytelling, message development takes time and is critical to an organization’s branding and marketing. Trying to do everything in one day is not realistic.

    Marge Piercy wrote a poem called To be of use. In it, she talks of people who strain in the mud and muck to move things forward. She writes “The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”

    Chances are, both clients want to do well. Like many, they are probably inundated, overwhelmed and buried in more work than they can handle. Hiring you is something they were told to do. Now that they’ve checked that box, they just want you to show up and deliver so they can focus on other things.

    The key to any successful project is clear concise communication. If outcomes fall short, sometimes it’s not a reflection on the work your team is doing, which is not to say that all of us should always be open to suggestions that help us improve.

    In case you’re wondering, the storytelling program was a huge success. Given the limited amount of time to turn inexperienced communicators into great storytellers, they did exceptionally well. The client said she was happy and her boss was pleased. However, she added, this should have been spread out over several days as they really needed more time.

    As for the other client, who was also trying to do so much in so little time, we set up a call and she took our advice. She wants us to allocate more time to facilitate message development with multiple teams before trying to help them deliver.

    Go figure. Sometimes, things just work out as they should.

     
  • feedwordpress 12:28:18 on 2018/09/18 Permalink
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    Quick Tip #81: Boring to Brilliant – Use Strong Words 


    Turn boring into brilliant by eliminating weak words and replacing them with strong words to give you more command, authority and presence.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:30:46 on 2018/08/07 Permalink
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    Quick Tip #80: Mix it Up 


    Turn boring talks and presentations into brilliant ones by learning how to mix up the energy along the way!

     
  • feedwordpress 03:09:45 on 2018/08/02 Permalink
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    Staying Present in the Moment 

    It was early January and everyone in my family was sick. It was that awful coughing, sneezing, wheezing respiratory wipe you out type sick. In my case, it seemed all I could do was sleep. No matter how much sleep I got, I needed more. I would sleep twelve hours and then need to take a nap.

    I started to worry about myself, but everyone around me kept telling me to listen to my body. It had been an emotional and stressful time as my father had just died. My mother was staying with us. People were constantly in the house paying their condolences and there were a lot of details to attend to.

    I decided to heed the advice and give myself a break. So, I slept and slept and slept some more. I felt a little better, but the fatigue hung on. I told myself it would just take time.

    Fast forward to about ten days later. My husband and I were invited to a surprise birthday party for a close friend. I still wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to miss it. I said we would just stay for a little while and I would take a couple of Tylenol before we left. As I was about to pop the pills into my mouth, I burst out laughing and said to my husband “I am such an idiot”.

    Without knowing it, I had been taking Tylenol PM on and off all day every day for about ten days. Thinking it was regular Tylenol, I would simply open the bottle without looking at it and pop the medicine in my mouth.

    It made me wonder, like absentmindedly reaching for Tylenol, how often do we just go through the motions without really paying attention? Our children might chatter on about something that happened at school, but we don’t really hear them. You’re on the phone with a friend, but don’t remember what they said because you were cooking dinner or checking tomorrow’s weather forecast.

    Blame it on multi-tasking, technology or having a long to-do list that challenges our concentration. According to a Harvard University study, it’s a serious problem. The study says almost half of our waking hours are spent not living in the moment. Maybe, it’s not that big of big of a deal. After all, we all get distracted without grave consequences. But, what if I had fallen asleep at the wheel? What if paying attention to a conversation could have shed light on a serious problem that might have been prevented?

    That’s why I now think of the PM in Tylenol as an acronym for ‘present moment’. How can we be more present, so we stay more emotionally connected to others and fully appreciate the now?

    Perhaps the best lessons can be learned from mindfulness such as yoga and meditation where you focus on your senses, so you are physically, spiritually and mentally connected to the moment. While we can’t always drop everything to practice mindfulness, there are a few things we can do to become more present.

    Start with your phone. Studies say even if you turn it to silent and place it face down, it is still difficult to resist the urge to check it. If you want to be fully present with family or friends, you might want to consider putting it where you can’t see it, so you don’t use it.

    Single Task. How often do you eat while answering e-mails or run the treadmill while reviewing an important presentation you’re delivering at work later that day? I do it all the time and should stop. If we focus on one task at a time, we will begin enjoying what we’re doing that much more.

    Do nothing. When you’re working, raising a family and trying to juggle it all, it seems as if there are not enough hours in the day, so doing nothing does not seem like an option. Yet, if you take a few minutes out of your day to sit down, be silent and focus on your breathing, you will teach yourself how to slow down and savor the moment.

    Take a walk. Sometimes a change of scenery is the best medicine you can ask for. A brief break such as enjoying nature can rejuvenate you.

    Mind the music. Turn on your favorite music and close your eyes. Even immersing yourself in one song can ease tension and help you relax.

    You don’t have to be a mindfulness expert to apply these present moment tips. Think about things you like to do and focus on that one thing when you’re doing it. It might be playing tennis, reading a great book, watching a movie, writing an article or eating a hot fudge sundae. When you’re doing it, you’re not thinking about being present. You just are.

    Thanks to my Tylenol PM experience, I am trying to be more mindful of slowing down and not just going through the motions. For starters, I marked that bottle with big black letters that say PM, so I don’t make the same mistake again. Sleeping through a week of my life reminded me that when we don’t work at being present, we may inadvertently slumber some of life’s important moments.

     
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