Category Archives: communicating

Three Advantages of Being “Phone Prone”

Get a text? Call them. Get an email? Call them back? Carrier pigeon ready to go out? Call them instead.

There are three advantages to talking versus using technology:

a. You make contact with people and build relationships
b. You hear the context in the tone of their voice
c. You solve problems much more quickly

So the next time you get an e-mail, respond with “Call Me” instead of replying

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Mistakes to Avoid: 3. Face the Difficult Conversations

I do a lot of my work at ResultsCI.com, and there we often say:

“The conversations that are killing you business are the ones you’re not having.”

I was working with a client once, facilitating a discussion about what to do with a long-term, loyal, but unproductive employee. After discussing  all the internal and external workarounds put in place to support this employee, I asked “When was the last time you talked to them about this?”

Silly me. I should have asked that question first. The leadership team looked at each other a bit sheepishly and admitted that not once had they given them a clear set expectations, feedback, or an evaluation of any kind, formal or informal, in all the convulsions they had gone through to avoid firing this person.

My next question was: “What do you think would happen if you did?”

The best leaders I know have a knack of telling people things they might not want to hear in a way that preserves the relationship in a positive way, and sometimes even makes it stronger. Often the only people who will tell you when you have spinach in your teeth are your friends…

The good news is that’s there’s lots of help out there to learn this skill (it is a skill, and it can be learned.) If you need a place to start, try Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High. Then think about the conversation you’ve put off the longest, and go plan it.

 

*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.

Technology, Millennials, and Empathy

Things you need to know if you manage “the Millennials” (second half of the 30′ video). Also some good strategy about long-term thinking (first half).

The Four F’s of Feedback

[this is  a summer re-post series re-post]

Fast, Friendly, Frequent, Focused

Giving feedback sucks. For whatever reason many managers aren’t good at it. I won’t list all the reasons I’ve heard , but I’m sure you can think back to some of your own, perhaps from bitter experience.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It doesn’t have to be torturous, drown-out, or dramatic. My clients who give fast, friendly, frequent, and focused feedback to their staff  have found it doesn’t take very long to see huge changes in performance, both individually and at the team level.

Fast

10 seconds is all you need to give feedback. Longer that that you’re not getting to the point. Think about what you want to say, then say it. End of story. Don’t make a big deal about it. Giving feedback should be as natural as breathing for a leader. Treat it that way.

Friendly

Giving somebody feedback is an act of love. You’re trying to help them get better. Helping people do better is part of your job. It’s not the end of the world. If the person you’re giving feedback to treats it that way, it’s their choice, and that’s a different conversation.

Keep it friendly, keep it relaxed, keep it informal. Remember also that while positive feedback isn’t as powerful a kick in the pants as constructive feedback, it’s more likely to result in the behaviour you want. You just have to give it more often. Catch them doing something right.

Frequent

My wife was driving back from giving a presentation in small-town Saskatchewan once. It was late, it had been a long day, and she was tired. She fell asleep in one town and woke up in another 50 kilometers later when the smell of farmers burning their fields got her attention. Good thing the highways in Saskatchewan are so straight.

Usually when we’re driving we are continuously making small corrections using the steering wheel, instead of waiting just before we hit the ditch to yank on the wheel to get us back on course. Feedback is the same thing.

Start by giving feedback once a day. You’ll quickly see what difference it makes, and you’ll want to do it more often.

Focused

By focused I mean specific and actionable. Tell them what you want them to do, what behaviour you want them to change (or keep doing), or what physical, tangible action they need to take in order to improve for next time. Feedback is useless if the target of your feedback doesn’t know what to do with it.

 

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

Expectation Communication

Clear expectations simply communicated. I like it.

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Conversations That are Killing Your Business

Conversation 

It’s not the one you think it is…

Talk to Your Audience

addicted-powerpoint

I’ve sat through, as I’m sure not a few of you have, many maddening hours of reading PowerPoint presentations while ignoring the presenter. My own experience included walking a disinterested audience through a mandatory corporate template. This meant that my 0nce a month fifteen-minute opportunity in front of the company decision makers was limited to running through the required metrics and graphics before I got to the interesting stuff.

What’s Your Point?

This seems obvious, but too often presenters don’t actually talk to their audience. We turn our back on them and talk to the slides. We read them through our entire though process, justifications, side-trips, and dead-ends before getting t to our point. Some presenters don’t event get there. Instead they bury us in data but don’t give us any information.

If you’re in front of influencers and decision makers, make it easy for them. Give them the headline, tell them what you’re going to tell them. Don’t bury your recommendation / conclusion / call-to-action and expect them to figure it out. That’s why you’re presenting – to do the thinking for them, so they don’t have to. If they have to do all the thinking, then what do they need you for?

Talk to the Audience, Not the Slides

People can read. They don’t need you to do it for them. Reading from the slides gives the slides the focus. Maybe this is more comfortable than having a room full of strangers staring at you, but it betrays a lack of confidence, or sends the subtle message that you don’t care about them, or both.

PowerPoint has an outlining function, which is a great way to create a presentation. The trap many fall into is then putting it all the words up on the screen and then reading from it.

Move text to the ‘notes’ section and refer to your printed copy if you have to. Leave the main points of your persuasive arguments and conclusion. You should know the details well enough to only need to refer to it to get back on track.

Turn and face your audience. Speak directly to them. Pick a few people in the room and make eye contact with them in turn. If it’s a large audience, this is different people from different parts of the room. If there are decision makers or people you’ve chosen to build a relationship with are present, choose them.

Use Pictures and Stories

Human being are amazingly emotional and visual creatures. If your intent is to persuade and convince, use pictures. Then tell stories about those pictures. This isn’t always proper, but use it when you can. People don’t make decisions or get moved to action because of facts and figures. They do those things when you move them by your vision. The facts and figures will help support and rationalize that decision later.

For example, when working with a new client, they’ll tell me that they want to hit a certain revenue or profit target. Often stated in terms of percentage growth or EBITDA. Which is great. You need to have concrete, testable goals. The more interesting story, and the one that should come first, is “What is that money going to allow us to do?” Growth and profit is never an end to itself, it is a means to something else. Whether it’s security, or winning, or being the best at a particular thing – whatever that means for you – is the more inspirational vision.

Know what your point is and make it, talk to your audience no matter how big or small, and inspire to convince.

How Do You Say It?

https://i0.wp.com/homebasedbusinesstaxservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/o-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-facebook.jpg“Communication is what the listener does.” — Marc Hortsman

A boss once that told me “I dread reading your e-mails.” I asked him why. He told me that it took him too long to read them.

I thought I was providing the detail he needed to understand what I was thinking. Or why I was making a particular recommendation or decision. I was trying to communicate clearly. Instead I was confusing him by providing too much detail and burying the key points at the bottom or even the middle of the e-mail.

I’d forgotten it wasn’t about me. It was about getting my message to him in a way that was easiest for him. In this case putting the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) solved the problem.

For complicated issues I could still write out everything I needed to think through the problem. That’s the way I prefer to communicate and think. Then, when I was done, I’d take the last paragraph or sentance, and put it at the front of the email.

Then he could say “Got it, I don’t have to read the rest of this.” Or he could skim my supporting materials to figure out what I was trying to get across.

Usually, however, we would talk in his office. This was his preferred method of communication. He asked questions to get the clarity he needed, and go to the level of detail appropriate to him. Usually this was faster than me writing and him reading a long, drawn-out e-mail, and he was happier and better informed.

When Networking, Know What You’re Offering

Try giving first. Be clear in you’re own mind what you can offer.

A Networking Paradigm Shift: Focus on Giving, Not Taking

They Would Rather Watch Paint Dry

According to this Inc. article, your employees would rather watch paint dry, move to the Antarctic, or get a mullet haircut than got to another of your meetings. It’s an interesting infographic, and the alternatives to even having meetings are worth considering.

But…

Before you consider throwing out the baby with the bathwater, consider first if there’s anything you could be doing better, including running a more effective meeting itself. Or maybe work on the underlying trust, conflict, and commitment issues, a lá Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

17 % of Your Employees Would Rather Watch Paint Dry