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  • feedwordpress 14:30:46 on 2018/08/07 Permalink
    Tags: business communication, , , , , ,   

    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
    Tags: business communication, ,   

    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.

     
  • feedwordpress 03:07:05 on 2018/06/04 Permalink
    Tags: business communication, , , , ,   

    Quick Tip #78: Less is More 

    To learn how to structure and become a more efficient communicator watch this video.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:32:56 on 2018/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: business communication, , , , ,   

    Leadership Lessons for Loudmouth Jerks 

    I was in line to board the plane home when I heard a man about four people behind me speaking loudly into his phone.

    “Yes, we got this deal Jim. I really put a good one together. I did this, and I did that and let me tell you more about me.”

    Well, those were not his exact words, but you get the picture. As we trekked into plane, people kept looking at him as he kept talking loud enough for anyone in line to hear him, but he didn’t seem to notice.

    I was in row 10, aisle seat when, still barking into his phone, he motioned for me to get up, so he could get through as he was also in row 10, window seat. Lucky me.

    Still talking for most seatmates to hear, he informed Jim that he had “not for publication” information. He said his company was cancelling the sales training due to financial reasons and then broadcast how much would be saved.

    The woman across the aisle looked at him, then looked at me and rolled her eyes.

    Again, he warned Jim, this is “top secret” information that only he knows. All I had to do was kick his carry on over and I could see who he worked for.  But, it’s top secret so I left his bag alone.

    As we were about to take off and he was temporarily silenced, I started to watch a movie on my iPad. Because the window shade next to loudmouth was up, it was casting a glare on my screen and I couldn’t see.

    So, I tapped him on the arm and asked if he could lower the shade just a bit. He stared at me for a second, then looked away and completely ignored me. For a moment I thought about giving him a piece of my mind but didn’t want to end up being one of those nasty airline passenger stories that makes the news.

    I waited, thinking once we got above the clouds, the sun glare wouldn’t be an issue. I was wrong.

    About fifteen minutes later, as he buried his head in his computer, I tapped him again. Nicely, I explained why I couldn’t see my screen and again asked if he would lower the shade just a little.

    “I really like looking out the window, he said. Maybe later in the flight.”

    Then he returned to his computer screen.

    Maybe. Maybe this is a guy who gets inspiration from the clouds. Perhaps the serenity of the sky helps him crystalize his vision and strategize ways to inspire others. Maybe, but not likely.

    The woman on the aisle across from me had watched the scene unfold. To make sure others could hear, she bellowed “I hate people like him”.

    Then she invited me to sit with her. She gave up her aisle seat for me and moved to the window where she slammed the shade shut. Loudmouth pretended not to notice.

    For the next two hours as I comfortably watched my movie, I glanced at him from time to time. Not once, did I see him look out the window.

    Most of us would just classify this man as a rude jerk and leave it at that. However, I believe there are some significant leadership lessons to be learned from jerks.

    Here’s a guy who is intoxicated by the sound of his own voice. He’s self-important, condescending and likely talks over others in meetings. My guess is he puts others down if he thinks it will make him look good. Like gesturing his finger at me to move over because he’s way too busy to speak, it’s doubtful he values the importance of communication.

    Leaders like this can infect entire organizations. They have little interest in what others think or say. Typically, they are so arrogant and controlling, that they don’t comprehend how toxic their behavior can be to others. Like a bad flu season that infects even the healthiest people, patronizing superior conduct can contaminate even the most positive employees.

    Research conducted by UC San Diego’s James Fowler and Harvard’s Nicholas Christakis suggests that behavior is contagious. For example, if you are friendly with someone happy, the probability that you will be happy increases by 25%. The researchers say if you have overweight friends, you are more likely to be overweight.

    In a Harvard Business Review article, writers examined how this affects leaders and found significant correlations between the behavior of managers and their direct reports. They found if you’re a good boss, you probably work for a good boss.

    After two decades of coaching and consulting leaders, I have my own take on what contributes to the success or failure of a leader. While there are multiple behaviors and circumstances, truly successful leaders have one thing in common. To them, leadership is a philosophy. They understand that leadership isn’t about being in charge; it’s about behavior.

    It’s about looking people in the eye. It’s about truly listening when someone is speaking to you. It’s about making others feel valued. It’s about providing positive reinforcement. It’s about welcoming input from others. It’s about developing people skills. Strong leaders appreciate diverse personalities and use their people skills to bring out the best in each person to maximize productivity and results.

    During some of our communication programs, we create scenarios intended to put people on the defensive. It’s an excellent exercise to assess how individuals communicate when under pressure. Typically, when challenged, they react defensively. When you push them, they often speak in negatives instead of focusing on positives. They talk about what isn’t happening, instead of what is. We teach them how to communicate more effectively to resolve problems and use the right words to avoid confusion and misinterpretation.

    As our flight came in for a landing, I thought about saying something to loudmouth, but clearly, he wouldn’t be interested in what I had to say and there was no point in wasting my energy except for my personal satisfaction of telling him off. Besides, as exited my seat, he was already on his phone loudly discussing important business that for all to hear. He was a man in charge.

    Even when coming down from the clouds, his head appeared to remain there; out of touch, in a bubble and unaware of those around him.

    Strong leaders keep their feet on the ground to cultivate relationships, seize opportunities and enlist the support of others. When you only consider yourself, you’re probably not as great as you think you are.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:26:37 on 2018/04/06 Permalink
    Tags: business communication, , , , ,   

    Are you hearing me? Listening Skills for Leaders 

    A few years ago, my husband and I bought a kitchen table from a reputable furniture company. Within a week, we noticed a few flaws in the finish. I called the help desk and was instructed to buy an extended warranty policy. They said I would get priority treatment, have a direct dial in line for assistance and would be entitled to additional maintenance past the standard time period. So, we purchased the policy.

    A repairman came to our home and touched up the flaws. A few months later, more of the finish started peeling off. I called again. Another repairman fixed the problem. It happened two or three more times. Each time, someone came to touch up the table. At that point, I should have insisted that the company replace the table, but I didn’t. About two years later, the problem re-surfaced. This time, the company said my extended maintenance contract had expired so there was nothing they could do. They advised me to go buy furniture finishing sticks.

    Fast forward to today; I use those furniture sticks often, but now the table is warping. I contacted customer service. We exchanged multiple e-mails. A representative called me. She was responsive, apologetic and said she was forwarding her notes to management and would have someone call me. She did, and it went something like this.

    “You have a problem with a table?”

    “Yes,” I said. Did you read the notes from the emails and the person I spoke with?”

    She didn’t see any notes. I described the saga again.

    “Well” she responded, “we sent people to your house and everything was fine.”

    It wasn’t fine I stated. If it was fine, I wouldn’t have kept calling back.

    “What” she asked?

    I repeated myself.

    “I’m looking at your file and everything was fine.”

    Now I was annoyed. Again, I explained the situation. Again, she told me everything was fine. “Are you listening to me?” I asked.

    “Yes, she said. I see that every time we sent someone to your house, everything was fine”.

    Tired of talking to someone who wasn’t paying attention and didn’t seem to care, I told her I would never shop at her furniture store again. She said that’s unfortunate. I said it was fine and hung up. I don’t blame this company for failing to replace a table that is out of extended warranty. I do blame their management for failure to listen to their customers. I blame them for lack of empathy. And I blame them for not making communication a priority.

    There are several ways to tell if someone is really listening to you. In person, they will maintain eye contact, so you know they’re listening. They often angle their body toward you which signals they are in the conversation. Engaged listeners typically don’t fidget, tap their fingers or shift in their seats.

    When you can’t see someone, there are verbal clues that will signal if they’re paying attention. Ask a question or ask for their opinion. If they respond with “what” or ask you to repeat yourself, they probably weren’t listening. Then ask them if they’re listening. If they’re caught off guard or continue to repeat the same thing over or over, that’s a good clue that they’re not really listening.

    At work, poor listening skills translate to poor performance, poor relationships and poor productivity. That’s why listening is such an important skill for leaders to master. It actually takes more concentration and focus than speaking. When you listen, you show interest in others and make them feel valued.

    We worked with a candy company that manufactures and sells products in more than eighty countries around the globe. Despite the enormity of running this company, several times a month the CEO joins employees for lunch in the cafeteria so he can listen and stay in touch. It’s not a complaint session because most of his employees are happy. While they talk shop, much of the conversation focuses on families, current events and what’s happening in their lives.

    Employees feel that the CEO really cares about them, because he really does. They feel their voices are heard because they are. There is a big difference between leaders saying they want to keep the lines of communication open and leaders who really do.

    An article published in the Harvard Business Review lumped listening into three categories:

    1. Internal listening which is when you are focused on your own thoughts and concerns but pretend to focus on others.

    2. Focused listening is when you focus on others but are not fully connected to them.

    3. 360 listening is what they term “the magic”. Not only are you listening to what someone else is saying, but you are paying attention to how they say it.

    Listening improves productivity in the workplace. If you are truly engaged in a conversation, it is natural to ask probing questions such as “can you elaborate” or “will you share an experience that led to your thought process” or “how can this help our team achieve their objectives?” These are questions that show you are fully present and genuinely interested in understanding and learning more.

    Over the past two decades, we have worked with hundreds of executives. Those who are sincere listeners have several traits in common. They come across as caring empathetic individuals. Employees tend to want to work harder for people that seem to care about them. Leaders who listen embrace people’s differences and try to understand how those traits can be utilized instead of trying to mold them into someone they want them to be. These leaders also tend to be open to new approaches and ideas, rather than thinking they have all the answers.

    Yet, published articles report less than 2% of all professionals have any formal training to help them understand and improve listening techniques.

    The furniture company I mentioned is a textbook example. After I hung up with the manager, I e-mailed a note of thanks to the original customer service representative who tried to help me. I said a manager did call as promised and then briefly recounted the conversation saying she was not helpful.

    The service representative e-mailed me back immediately, but to my surprise she wrote: “Thank you Karen. Did the manager resolve your problem?” At first, I thought I read it wrong. Then I realized, she didn’t read what I wrote. Chances are, her attention was challenged by multiple tasks other than my problem.

    Unfortunately, her failure to read my comments only further cemented my opinion that this company doesn’t really care about its customers. Because service representatives are the front line of many companies, they have a unique opportunity to shape reputations and forge relationships.

    Empowering employees with on-going education and training to improve listening and communication skills will surely reap great returns on your investment both inside the company and when dealing with important customers.

     
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