Tag Archives: communication

How to Maintain Your Sanity in a Hectic Job or World

WEBCSI attended a webinar hosted by the World Business & Executive Coach Summit today that was aimed at coaches but provided some useful tips for anyone rushing from project to project.

The question under discussion was something like ‘how do you manage energy when you’re dealing with back-to-back meetings?

I remember those days in Corporate America when that’s how I (and most of my colleagues) spent most of my/our days. We often lamented ‘How are we to get our work done?’

The suggestions from today’s session were very helpful but still might pose a problem in implementation in that back-to-back meeting scenario.

Here are 3 ideas shared by Pam McLean and my assessments about how to implement them in a fast-paced world.

1. Preserve time before your meeting
Gather your thoughts. Invest time at least the day prior to your meeting to consider how you want to present yourself and the important points you want to make. Think about the other attendees, their concerns, aspirations and likely mindset. Notice any anxiety you might be feeling and acknowledge it . Recognize it’s there to help you prepare and be your best.

2. Remain present throughout the session
If the content of the meeting is contentious, it’s likely that emotions will get stirred. Do you best to keep breathing slowly and consiously. Draw your breathe in all the way down to your belly-button. Exhale slowly to relieve your own tension. Keep aware of any sensations you’re experiencing in your body. As you focus your attention on them and breathe, they will mellow out.

3. Create reflective space after the meeting
If you can do this immediately after the meeting, that’s ideal, but sometimes not so realistic when faced with back-to-back sessions. Even when you have breathing room, there will be the temptation to put off the reflection to later when you’re less ‘busy’. Don’t do it. Take a afew minutes and ask yourself, what did I observe about myself? What did I learn? What could I do differently? Of what am I proud?

Taking a few minutes before, during and after important interactions will help you become more aware of yourself, your interactions with others and the ways you can be more effective in presenting your ideas and influencing those around you.


The 4 Seeds of Selling & Influence

I am a lifelong learner. I’m always interested in expanding my thinking and my knowledge base. Recently, I attended a training and picked up some great nuggets on how to best connect with and influence people.

Whether you’re a corporate executive, a business owner, consultant, entry level employee, mother, spouse, neighbor or other ‘character’, you will benefit from being skilled at influencing others in an ethical manner. Being able to make it easy for people to understand your point of view will allow you to create more meaningful, productive and even profitable relationships in life.

These four ideas are simple, yet truly effective if implemented with the right (read ethical) spirit.

1. Less is best
Have you ever been bombarded by a pushy sales person who talked and talked and talked until you found yourself not even listening to them? Have you ever been guilty of that yourself? Talking too much will bore people. It will likely alienate people. It will shut them down and shut down the possibility of your idea as well. Focus on the points that are most relevant to the person with whom you are speaking.

2. Create interaction
This tip is closely aligned with the previous one. The more you can get your prospect, boss, spouse engaged in the conversation, the more they will feel like they’re a vital part of the process. Additionally, the more they talk, the more you learn. And the more you know, the better you’ll be able to appeal to ther needs.

3. Laughter leads to listening
When people are having fun, they pay more attention. Their minds are more open to what you’re proposing. They feel happier in general and more positive about you and your ideas. Sometimes the topic may not seem to warrant having fun, but if there is anything you can say that might put a smile on their face, do it. Smiling will relax and open their heart and their mind will follow.

4. Selling is not telling
Genius selling is asking. I once heard a multimillionaire business owner say that her goal is to ask so many of the right questions, that her prospects convince themselves they need to work with her.  Skillful questions capture the attention of your potential partner. They create interaction and supply you with valuable insight.

And here’s a magical concept…when you get people agreeing with you throughout the conversation, when it comes time to make your ‘pitch’ and ‘close’ them, they’re already predisposed because they’ve felt like they were in agreement with you all along!

People love to buy. They hate being sold.

So next time you have an idea, concept, project, service you’re striving to enroll someone in, remember…and implement these simple ideas.

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Terminating Turf Wars in 9 Simple Steps

Conflict is inevitable.

85% of employees say they experience conflict on the job. Even though there is no line item for it on your income statement, conflict is expensive. Managers say they spend 40 – 60% of their time dealing with conflict of some sort!

Fortunately, the negative impact of conflict can be minimized with preventative training and post-incident interventions.

This article will focus on the 9-step Terminating Turf Wars™ process which must happen in order to resolve a major conflict that has erupted.

1. Set your desired outcome
The desired outcome will vary depending on the situation and the players.  It may be a specific decision that all partied agree to support.

It may be the ‘fact’ that the groups agree to any decision (e.g. a now unknown, negotiated decision) and move forward. It may be new behaviors that must be adopted by the people involved. Without such clarity as a starting point, subsequent conversations could go off in counter-productive directions.

2. Communicate the importance of reaching a resolution
This is where the executive in charge must take a stand and tell the warring parties that they must end the war and come up with a solution. Sometimes executives stay out of the fracas and ‘allow’ the parties to duke it out themselves. This is a dangerous practice however as it could likely take much longer to resolve, further wasting precious resources (energy and time) that could be put to more productive use.

3. Identify key players
In any war, there are a handful of people who are at the core of the issue. They are likely the ones who are keeping the conflict in place and are also the ones who will likely be directly involved in the resolution of the issue. Their input, therefore, is critical. Private conversations with each of them will shed light on the history, impact, import and obstacles to solving the problem.

4. Survey and interview
Other parties may have a less involved role but their input is critical none the less. They may be able to provide some much-needed objectivity that the key waring parties can’t see.  Their perspective of the far-ranging impact of the key issues and how they are hampering day-to-day operations, may bring some additional motivation to get the issue resolved. When the key stakeholders to the conflict see how their behavior is impacting others, they may soften their positions. Anonymous surveys are great ways to get issues on the table in a more objective manner.

5. Assess data
Once the interviews and surveys are complete, they need to be compiled and analyzed by a third party, preferably one who is far outside the reach of the issues. Objectivity in this assessment process is critical, lest the parties will dismiss the data as tainted.

6. Articulate the issues
Data will point out major beliefs, trends and impacts of the issues. Sharing the results of the interviews and surveys with the group provides a great starting point for conversations about the key issues, how people feel about them and why it’s critical for the issues to get solved NOW!

7. Design an intervention
Once the data is available, a skilled facilitator will be able to design the appropriate kinds of conversations that will help the people or groups talk with each other in a constructive manner. Depending on the source of the conflict, the focus of the intervention may be on understanding personality styles, establishing communication or decision-making procedures or revamping broken processes.

8. Facilitate conversations
Designing the topics of conversations is one thing. Actually facilitating them is quite another. When tempers have flared and accusations been made, it’s often difficult for the people embroiled in the conflict to talk with each other civilly.

In one difficult situation I helped resolve, the content of the first meeting was all about creating safety for people to air their concerns. Conversations in that meeting were frequently ‘paused’ to analyze the tone and tenor of the dialog and note how that tone facilitated or impeded forward progress.

At some point, if managed well, the group will come up with a solution they can live with. It may take time. It may take removing some players, shifting roles, revising strategies, creating new procedures, learning and practicing new behaviors or adopting new rules for future decision-making. It is at this point that the executive direction really kicks in. People are often loathe to make changes in their processes or communication styles. When the top boss however says, ‘this shall be’, they will be more likely to comply.

9. Monitor and fortify the truce
Truces are delicate things. They may represent the best thinking of the entire group. They may have opened new possibilities for the company. However, people are creatures of habit and could default to their old behaviors. Periodic meetings to assess progress and work through challenges will help turn the truce into a new world order.

These 9 steps are simple. Implementing them can be tricky but will expert guidance, sufficient motivation, personal commitment and collaboration, sweeping changes can be made.

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The Power of Presence: 5 Critical Skills for Maximum Personal Effectiveness

The workplace is a web of communications between individuals and teams.

When things don’t go well, we tend to blame the other person or group.

If you’re ever tried to change anyone, you probably realize how pointless that is.

Our highest salvation and sense of peace is to work on ourselves, rise above the commotion and lead the way from a place of groundedness and authenticity.

Maintaining presence of mind in the midst of chaos is the way to accomplish that.

So, how does one maintain that presence when the world seems to be caving in on you? It is possible but takes concerted effort.

Here are the 5 skills that are critical for maximizing your effectiveness:

1. The ability to discover the things you do that other people notice but that you don’t know you do
We all have habits, patterns of behavior that seem to run themselves. We also all have blind spots. Things we do but are unaware of. Rarely do we seek them out and even less frequently, do we do anything about them

If you’re striving for maximum effectiveness in the workplace, you MUST know the impact you’re having on people. It takes courage to uncover them, but shining a light on the areas of your blindness will help you become more likeable, respected and influential.

2. The ability to calm yourself when your reptilian brain has just thrust you into Fight or Flight
When tensions mount, our instinct is to protect ourselves or annihilate the threat. Before you commit that career limiting move, take a moment to get ‘present’. That means calming yourself briefly before you lash out or duck and cover. Put your attention on your your physical body. Take a few deep breaths. Notice the pressure of your butt on the chair or your feet on the floor. Taking these few precious seconds will give you a chance to collect your more grounded thoughts and respond from a more centered place.

3. The ability to notice and objectively address the process you or a group are enmeshed in
Communication is a process which includes not just the words that are said but the underlying subtext of the conversation as well as what’s NOT being said. In a group or family, people fall into ‘roles’ they play in that community. When those roles can be brought to light in a way that is nonjudgmental the grip of the role is loosened.

For example, when a group is led by a powerful and directive boss, they may be reluctant to speak up if they have a different opinion than the one that is not being proferred. This is what triggers water-cooler conversations).

As the boss, it’s critical that you get the feedback you need in order to accomplish your goals. Notice that your staff is hesitant to be forthright with you. tell them you need their input AND THEN LISTEN AND TAKE IT INTO ACCOUNT.

As the staff member, it’s critical that you voice your perspective, not in a combative way but as another point of information that is valuable and key to moving forward on the right path.

4. The ability to quiet our inner critic
To be human is to have a voice that tries to protect us from harm. Unfortunately, it usually stops us from taking ‘risks’ that would actually be helpful to our personal growth. Notice what your inner critic or judge usually says to you. Then when it pipes up (in your head) in various situations, notice it and say ‘Thank you for pointing that out’.

Then imagine that there is a miracle awaiting you on the other side of whatever fear it raised and take some action toward bringing that miracle into fruition.

5. The ability to cultivate the Sage within you
There is another voice within us that knows what’s possible on a grander scale than what our human persona normally perceives. It is the voice of intution, Spirit, knowingness, God (or whicheve deity enlightens your world).

It whispers to us to take action. It’s suggestions sometimes scare us and that’s almost always a signal that growth or transformation is right around the corner if we go there.

Cultivating the Sage means creating quiet time and space for it to speak to us during periods of restfulness,

meditation or prayer. It means listening to the voice and honoring it by taking action on its suggestions. It’s a discipline and practice, being quite and taking acion. Ant it is a practice, that if done consistenly, will pay off in really big ways.

So, be aware then be courageous. Release the judge that condemns yourself and others. Invite the Sage to take a larger role in your life and the power of this new presence will dramatically improve your personal effectiveness.

Let me know how it works out for you!

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How to Sharpen Your Instinct for Empathy

It’s helpful to trace and understand the origin of the two words.   For a more elaborate explanation, read this article, empathy vs sympathy.

I’ll summarize here.

Empathy was brought into the English language from the German word Both are acts of feeling.  With sympathy, you feel FOR the person.  You may or may not fully understand their predicament, situation, problem or feelings.

With sympathy, you feel sorry for the person.  With empathy, you truly understand the sorrow, from their perspective and the world they endure as a result.

Empathy takes more work. It requires more imagination in that in order to empathize with a person, you must attempt to understand their thoughts: walk in their moccasins, so to speak. Empathy helps you identify with and feel closer to the other person.

While sympathy is also a tender feeling, it keeps you at a distance and sometimes even a bit above the person. Your perspective reflects that the person is somehow not only less fortunate than you but also ‘less than’ you, at least at the moment. The ‘less than’ may an assessment of their (perhaps temporary) competence or power level.

The most frequent expression of sympathy is felt when you hear that a person you know has lost someone close to them to death.  Feeling sympathy is almost an immediate reaction on our part.  Empathy would step in if you were very close to the survivor and understood, to a strong degree what the impact of that loss actually meant to them.  it might also kick in if you’ve lost someone
yourself and can actually experience that feeling of grief.

So, how does one bring empathy into existence when there is no tragedy to demand its emergence?

Here are three ways to sharpen your instinct for empathy.

1. Practice recognizing the signs that you’re about to distance yourself and dismiss the other person.
Empathy is an exercise in self-awareness and flexibility.  When you sense an arising experience of some negative emotion (disgust, sadness, anger, resentment), know that the first signal is your OWN emotion.  Once you know it’s YOUR reaction you’re trying to tame (rather than the other person’s), you’ll have more success in flexing and responding.

2. Imagine the other person’s life and try to feel what they are currently feeling.
Take into consideration not only their current life, but years past that have formed their perspective and outlook on life.  Be curious about how they have come to adopt their opinions. Ask open-ended questions that will help shine a light on their internal thoughts and help you understand them.

3. Legitimize their feelings
Even if you struggle to understand the feelings or opinions yourself, acknowledge that the perspective is a legitimate one for the person holding it. When you tell them you could see how they came to believe what they believe, it will be easier to have a meaningful dialog.  The natural tendency is to disagree with them; to dismiss them as a nut-case.  It’s hard to solve problems when you each think your ‘adversary’ is a lunatic.  Someone has to have some collaborative energy.  It might as well be you.

As Michael Jackson said, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.” If you’re always looking for someone else to change their ways, they won’t. If you keep denying their opinion, they’ll hold on to it that much stronger.  Meet them where they are.  That’s how you find common ground.