Are You Assertive or Aggressive?

February 21, 2018 by  

There is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive and it depends upon your approach.
Aggressive behavior will not usually get you what you want as it offends others. Aggressive people are the blaming finger pointers who insult and aggravate others by demeaning them in nasty ways. This usually does not result in a good outcome and often exacerbates the situation.
It is better when you feel that you have been offended or disrespected, that you do it in an assertive manner……meaning have the difficult conversation in an honest, calm, and respectful way. That does not mean that the person will easily accept what you have to say, as you are criticizing them, however, you will have a much better chance for a win/win outcome with this strategy.

Is it hard to have such confrontational conversations……however, unless they are a mind reader, the person who offended you may have no idea that they did so and anyway, you are the one walking around with the stomach ache. Therefore it is your responsibility to try to rectify the situation by having that difficult conversation. In addition, you must also realize that having that conversation once may not solve the issue and you may have to screw up your courage more than once in order to obtain a change in behavior. Nonetheless, if you do not tell them you are enabling that behavior and they will very likely continue it. This sort of issue could also be when a colleague does not follow directions or comply with the company policy, which could be having an effect on the productivity of the project the team is working on.
In addition, remember it is not a good idea to confront the person immediately after the event occurs as you will not likely be able to remain calm and respectful. It is better to calm yourself down and make a plan for what you will say, how you will answer to their retorts while keeping your cool and try to anticipate what might happen so you can prepare yourself for how you will react. However, if you wait too long, because it was something that bothered you and not the person who did it, they will likely not recall the incident. So try to prepare to speak with them in a day or so, if you can.

Here is a simple format you can use for this difficult conversation:
1. Describe:
Describe the situation objectively, without using judgment words.
2. Result:
Explain what happens because of that behavior.
3. Request:
Make a polite, specific request as to what you would prefer to happen.

Realize that the person may not be happy with what you are saying and may argue or get nasty. If that happens you should just say you understand why they may feel that way, however, you brought this up as you do work together and wanted to make sure that you could continue to do that in comfort. You might also let them know that it is affecting others and that you are sure that was not their intention. If they stay angry or later give you the cold shoulder, you should let them know that you were sincerely hoping that this could be solved amicably so that you could maintain a cordial relationship. In the end, we cannot make people do things they do not want to do and if a person does not want to change their behavior there may not be much we can do other than this…….if you wish to offer a consequence, such as…..”I really do not want to go to the HR manager or our manager about this as I was hoping we could just work it out ourselves. However, if that is not going to work, I guess I will have to escalate this to them. Then, if you must do that, do it!

This is definitely not an easy thing to do, and many people will do almost anything to avoid having a difficult conversation, nonetheless, conflict does not disappear on its own and if it is not dealt with it can erode morale in a workplace, so better to “bite the bullet” and deal with it.
In the end, remember to stay positive, polite, calm, and honest whenever having such an exchange and be very aware of your body language. In other words, pay attention to your tone of voice, the volume of your voice, your stance, the look on your face as well as your gestures. Because if these do not match and reinforce the respectful words you are using, they will likely obliterate them and the person will feel that you are attacking them and they will very likely just want to attack you back.
Being assertive is not an easy task, however, if you practice it you will get better at it and have less conflict and stress in your life.

What Makes an Effective Manager?

February 2, 2018 by  

Developing effective management skills to deal with the challenges and problems of any organization is certainly important for many businesses and organizations in the current globally competitive environment, especially with the rapidly changing technology we face. Every organization should develop an appropriate managerial training program so that when they elevate someone to that position, they will be sure that the individual will be able to be effective in this role.
Effective Management Skills” help people to be successful in leading their team so that they can help each person to fulfill their potential which will benefit both the person and the entire organization. Proper management is vital in today’s complex environment. The quality of effective management styles can help to determine the culture of the organization, the productivity of its staff, and, ultimately, the success or failure of an organization. A manager should have the ability to direct, supervise, encourage, inspire, support, and co-ordinate. They should also be able to embrace and guide changes in a manner that gets others onboard. Managers need to develop their own leadership qualities as well as those of others. Management requires planning, problem- solving, organizational, and communications skills. These skills are key to successful leadership. In addition, a good manager should exhibit qualities such as integrity, honesty, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, determination, compassion, and sensitivity.

An effective manager should have the following skills:
I. Creative Problem-Solving Skills.:
(1) Ability to describe and analyze a problem.
(2) Ability to identify the causes of the problem.
(3) Ability to develop creative options and to choose the best course of action.
(4) Ability to implement and evaluate an effective and efficient decision.

II. Effective Communication Skills:
(1) Practice active listening.
(2) Employ effective presentation skills.
(3) Use supportive feedback Skills.
(4) Have excellent report writing skills.

III. Conflict Management Skills:
(1) Ability to identify the sources of conflict, both for functional and dysfunctional conflicts.
(2) Ability to understand the personal styles of conflict resolution.
(3) Ability to choose the best strategy for dealing with a conflict.
(4) Be able to develop the skills to promote constructive conflicts in the organization and the team, as not all conflict is bad, in some cases, it gives us a chance to learn a new approach or perspective.

IV. Negotiation Skills
(1) Ability to distinguish between distributive and integrative negotiations, the various positions one should take, and the principle negotiations necessary to be able to resolve the issue appropriately.
(2) Ability to identifying the common mistakes in negotiation and employ ways to avoid them.
(3) Ability to develop rational thinking when negotiating.
(4) Ability to develop the effective skills for negotiation that benefit all parties involved.

V. Self-Awareness and Improvement:
(1) Having a clear understanding of the concept of self-management. This is emotional intelligence.
(2) Ability to evaluate the effectiveness of self-management.
(3) Ability to use creative and holistic thinking.
(4) Having a clear understanding of self-motivation.
(5) Ability to effectively manage self-learning and change.

In addition, there are other qualities that would be essential for a manager to be able to successfully manage his/her staff.
1. Organizer:
A Manager has to take a long-term view; while a team member will be working towards known and established goals, the manager must be a strategic thinker so that these goals are selected wisely and appropriately. Using longterm strategic planning, the manager should select the optimal plan for the team and implement it. The manager ensures that work is completed in a timely manner with as few mistakes as possible, deals with problems as quickly as possible, and ensures that the necessary resources are allocated and made available.

2. Protector:
In any company, there can be issues, which can impact the workforce. The manager should be aware, guard against these issues, and protect the team wherever and whenever possible. If someone in the team suggests a good plan, the manager must ensure that it receives a fair hearing and that the team knows and understands the outcome. If someone on the team has a problem, the manager should try to help resolve it and the team should know that he/she is there for them.

3. Visionary:
An effective manager should have a vision of where the team is going, the ability to articulate that vision, and the ability to get others onboard collaboratively.

4. Good Communicator:
The ability to effectively communicate with people is the most important skill for every manager. The Manager is also the team’s link to the larger organization, so must have the ability to effectively negotiate and persuade when necessary to ensure the success of the team and their projects.

5. “Cheer Leader”:
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. If a manager espouses a positive, can-do attitude others will tend to follow that lead. Usually, positive people are more committed to their goals and tend to also be more optimistic. No one wants to be around a negative person and it is up to the manager to set the tone for the team.

6. Competent:
Managers should be chosen based on their ability to successfully lead others rather than on technical expertise or having been with the company a long time. Expertise in effective management is another aspect of competence and usually needs to be learned. The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model, and encourage must be demonstrated if managers are to be seen as capable and effective.

7. Effective Delegator:
Trust is an essential element in the relationship between the manager and his or her team. Your trust in others is demonstrated through your actions. Giving team members autonomy to do their jobs as they see fit is empowering. As long as the parameters and timelines are understood, micromanaging is very detrimental so just let them “do their thing”. Just be sure to delegate the right tasks to the right person.

8. Cool Under Pressure:
In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget, and with no major problems or obstacles. A leader with a positive attitude will deal with challenges in a timely and appropriate manner. When leaders encounter stressful issues, they are prepared to take them in stride, resolve them, and move on. When this is modeled for the team, they will be more likely to handle things in a similar fashion or come to the manager for suggestions.

9. Team-Builder:
A team builder is essentially a strong, capable person who provides the “glue” that holds the team together so that they can work toward their common goals. In order for a team to become a single cohesive unit, the team leader must understand the process and dynamics necessary for this transformation. He or she must also exercise the appropriate leadership style for each stage of team development. The leader must understand the different team player styles and how to leverage each person’s gifts at the proper time for the proper task.

10.Forward Thinker:
If you want your employees to work hard and be committed to the business, you have to keep them in the loop. Open, honest, clear communication helps foster loyalty and gives employees a sense of pride. It helps them understand how their work contributes to the company’s success and how it fits into the “big picture” that you have laid out for them.

11.Goal Setter: Setting deadlines and goals helps keep employees focused, occupied, and motivated them to do their work. Make sure employees understand their professional growth path in the company and help them to do the things necessary to achieve those goals.

12. Active Observer: It is impossible to know about personality conflicts, lagging productivity, or other problems in the office if you are not paying attention to what is going on. If you notice a change in an employee’s work habits or attitude, try to get to the root of the problem before it starts affecting the rest of your staff. If there are conflicts occurring, they will not go away by themselves, intervention is necessary and it usually falls to the manager to get them straightened out.
The first step in dealing with a problem employee is to identify the source of the trouble. Often, a simple, honest talk with the employee will resolve issues such as occasional tardiness or minor attitude problems. Coaching requires a manager to work one-on-one with problem employees or to assign another employee to work with the employee to overcome their shortcomings. The mentor should provide the employee with feedback as well as solutions for improving their performance. Coaching requires patience and a substantial time investment, but it can help modify an employee’s behavior and ultimately enhance the outcome for the team.
Poor performance is not always due to a lack of skills; rather, the employee may simply be disorganized or sloppy. These habits can usually be corrected with proper guidance if the employee is willing to learn new habits. If performance difficulties relate to a lack of skills, then you will need to consider coaching or additional training.

In some cases, an employee becomes a problem because their skills aren´t compatible with their assigned tasks or regular duties. In such situations, offering the employee additional training or assigning them a different set of tasks is usually the most appropriate course of action.
When you notice that, an employee has made some errors, calmly point out the mistakes to the employee, ask them how they think that happened, how they think the unwanted outcome can be remedied and what other option should they consider if this issue appears again. Then encourage them to go ahead and fix the problem and offer support if they need it. Remember to remain positive and focus on how important the employee’s contribution is to the organization and how their efforts help the team.

13.Active Listener: Employee feedback is critical when managing change. Therefore, holding focus groups with employees is a great way to gauge reactions and monitor the progress of how they are accepting and adapting to the change. You also can encourage employees to provide feedback through email or the company intranet. Communication is the cornerstone to successful change management. Talking to your employees is not a one-time event, and you need to reinforce your message by communicating early and often. In addition, if you listen respectfully to them, they will be more likely to come to you with issues and will listen to you when you are speaking with them.

To be an effective manager you must know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, as well as those of the people around you. You must know your objectives and have a clear plan for how you will achieve them. You must build a team of people that share your commitment to achieving those objectives, and you must help each team member to fulfill their potential. When everyone works together toward the common goals they will be more likely to be accomplished.
As the manager, you model the way for your team, so the more positive, calm, and competent you are, and the better you are at effectively communicating with your team, the more success you will all enjoy!

Email Etiquette: Are there rules?

January 20, 2018 by  

Email is currently one of the most used forms of business communication. As many of you know, it is sometimes abused. The importance of email, therefore, should not be undermined, rather it should be utilized in an appropriate and respectful manner. So, it is certainly necessary to observe certain rules of business email etiquette.

Here are some basic rules to be observed when using this means of communication:

Rule No. 1:
Before sending an email, you may want to consider all the options available to you for the communication. With the variety offered by technology today, you have many other options such as text messaging, WhatsApp, Instagram, chatroom, even Skype messaging. Thus, it would behoove you to choose the one which is most appropriate for the subject you are dealing with as well as for the receiver with whom you are communicating.

Rule No. 2:
Sometimes you may be sending a sensitive message. Whenever conflicting statements are being made, it is necessary to be very careful. In those situations, you may find it useful to print the message before sending it or at least review and edit it very carefully before sending it off. You might even consider using a grammar tool such as Grammarly, which is free to download and can help you to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation of any document you create. You might also consider making yourself a hard copy so that you have a permanent record of the correspondence as you might need it if the conflict escalates into something more significant.

Rule No. 3:
Whenever you send an important email, it is truly crucial to read it more than once and check for spelling, content, logic, syntax, etc. You may need to improve the wording, clarity, or other aspects of the missive to be sure that it will be convincing, and clear to the reader. Your extra efforts of editing will pay off in the long run.

Rule No. 4:
Always maintain an up to date address book. It is not a good idea to delete names as you never know when you might need that address at some future time. Organizing your address book will make you more efficient. In other words, you may wish to separate your friends and colleagues from your business contacts and you may wish to arrange your business addresses according to certain groups by industry or relationship. This will make you more efficient as it will be easier to find the address you need more quickly.

Rule No. 5:
In business, in spite your best efforts, it can be difficult to maintain equanimity. It is not a good idea to send an email when you are not a good mood or upset by something as it is more difficult to keep that emotion out of the communication. Furthermore, when you are exhausted, you do not think clearly so this is also not a great time for sending messages. An email should be a spontaneous expression of your thoughts and ideas so you do not want other issues to influence the content your email.

Rule No. 6:
Do not try to make a business process simple, in other words, if a face to face meeting will better serve a particular situation, then make the appointment and have that meeting. Making it more convenient, just to suit you, could harm the relationship and the outcome of the exchange. Remember, an email message is never a good replacement for an important personal contact.

Rule No. 7:
Always remember the order for important business contacts. In many situations, a face to face meeting always comes first when trying to convince and influence a prospect. Sometimes that may not be possible, so your next option is to have a telephone conversation. Be sure to put a smile your face before you even say hello, as it will affect the sound of your voice and how your words are interpreted by the person on the other end of the receiver. Prepare the basics for your conversation before the call, you can even have some notes, as they cannot see what you are doing and that way you can be sure to cover all the key points you wish to impart. Lastly, you could leave a voicemail message, however, that is usually not the best of options as it can easily be ignored and it is hard to get much across in a short voicemail message but at least it is personal. When the previous three are not possible you can then use email and sure remember to follow the first 6 rules of etiquette so that your message will be well received and you will be more likely to receive a reply.

Again, technology can be a great advantage and convenience when used well, however, do remember that direct, face to face meetings are usually the best way to establish and maintain important longterm relationships in business or actually in any aspect of your life.

5 Keys to Building & Maintaining a Culture of Innovation

January 3, 2018 by  

In today’s fast-moving world of technology, businesses need to find a way to keep up and even move ahead of the crowd. In order to do that, the leadership needs to create and commit to establishing and maintaining a culture that invites and encourages innovation. In order to do that, employees must feel that they are appreciated, supported, and encouraged as well as listened to respectfully. When that is well known, individuals can be free to think in creative and innovative ways thus being able to freely develop new ideas, processes, and products. When allowed to do that the organization will have engaged, challenged, high-performing, and productive teams. All of which are beneficial to the success and longevity of any organization.

In order to do this the following elements should be considered:

1. The leadership must demonstrate their intention and desire to innovate:
Many business leaders pay only lip service to innovation. Many opportunities are lost if companies stop innovating. Intentional innovation involves not only announcing a company’s plan to ‘innovate’ but also requires the creation of avenues for that innovation to actually occur throughout the entire company. Intentional innovation provides legitimate and meaningful opportunities that allow everyone in the company to be able to bring forth their ideas. This also means that the leadership must have the strength and be willing to make the changes necessary to actually move the new ideas forward.

2. Unstructured and experimenting time must be scheduled:
You cannot develop a strong team overnight and the same is true for great innovation. Your organization has to develop a real and respected place to germinate and develop new ideas. Time and resources must be made available as the best creations come from a mind free from routine. You need to allow for individuals to have some limited latitude beyond the normal confines of the office, such as retreats, outdoor activities, and even just walks at any time, which can all be conducive to creative thought.

3. Permit mistakes as they are opportunities to learn:
Any company ramping up their authentic innovation efforts needs to allow for errors and inefficiencies. Innovation does not always yield its benefits according to preset timelines and costs. We would not have the technological advances, aerial options or even electricity if the inventors had not made mistakes and learned from them. It is not always about profits and accounting processes. Better to give your people the opportunity to just be creative, experience a few bumps, but keep moving forward and experimenting until something viable is developed.

4. Determine ways to effectively measure innovative impact:
One of the keys to nurturing impactful innovative efforts is to have determined just how you will measure their impact and the resulting successes. The key metrics to consider include new additions to your revenue, profit margins, penetration into new markets, a reduction in costs, absenteeism or turnover. All of which generally occur when employees feel appreciated, supported, and encouraged because when that is present so is engagement. Engaged employees are more self-motivated, generally work at a higher level of performance, and are going to be likely to stay with the company because they are happy there.

5. Find ways to motivate in a meaningful way:
Innovation generally changes the way people work, and what they work on. Leaders need to ensure that everyone affected by the changes understands the impact of the innovative efforts and can actually see the benefits for themselves and their departments. This may mean more skills development, promotional opportunities, job diversity, or bonuses, nonetheless, it needs to be seen as important to each employee so that they will all buy into its success. Keeping everyone in the loop about the project will go a long way to getting and keeping everyone on board with the new project. In addition, it demonstrates that the leadership is committed to its success.

Building this internal architecture of innovation is no simple task, it takes patience, dedication, and commitment by the leadership. However, if you are strongly behind it and can demonstrate that support in meaningful ways you will very likely be able to develop and maintain that desired culture and reap its benefits.

Stress: Is it Harmful or Beneficial?

December 6, 2017 by  

Stress is different things to different people and depends upon a person’s perception of a situation and is based on their life experiences.
The initial stress reaction is the same for everyone, it involves a burst of adrenaline that increases one’s heart rate, respiration, perspiration, and energy level…..but only for a brief period. It is caused by mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes. In addition, it is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demand exceeds the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.

Stress never seems to go away and is often beyond our control, so having effective strategies that you can exercise when necessary is essential to your well-being. That may mean getting regular aerobic exercise, walking your dog, meditating, singing, dancing, shopping, having a relaxing glass of wine, laughing with friends……it really does not matter, as long as you do something that reduces the effects of the stress situation for you.
When stress occurs for short or even moderate lengths of time, there is the opportunity for your body to recover from the stress reaction. In fact, in truth, short-term stress is actually beneficial as it gives you focus, extra energy, and spurs you to higher levels of performance….but only for a short period of time.
On the other hand, if stress goes on for long periods of time, your body does not recover, in fact, it “thinks” that your organ systems need to be sustained at a high level of operation so releases another chemical: cortisol, which keeps your organs on “high alert” and actually overworks them which can cause irreversible damage. So, long periods of stress can be harmful.

Here is another factor to consider… and women actually react to stress a little differently. The initial reaction is the same, however, shortly thereafter, women get a second cascade of chemicals which counteract the adrenalin rush with estrogen and oxytocin. These two chemicals slow down your heart rate and respiration so that you can begin to consider how to problem solve and your nurturing side is released. In men, however, testosterone, enhances the adrenalin rush and keeps you on “high alert” for longer. This difference may be one of the reasons that women tend to live longer than men as their organ systems have experienced less overwork. In addition, women tend to build strong support systems with their women friends and in times of stress, turn to them for needed support and assistance. Men, do have friendships, of course, but tend not to seek help as often or rely on their friends as women do because society has taught them to be “strong” and self-sufficient.

So if we go back to the initial premise: is stress harmful or beneficial……it is both. It just depends on how long it lasts. If you experience short stressful periods, you can actually leverage those high energy periods to your benefit by getting more done and doing it better. However, if you are in a situation that causes long-term stress, and if you do nothing to deflect or reduce it, you will sustain irreversible physiological damage which could result in disease or various physiological harm, panic attacks, other behavioural symptoms, cognitive deficiencies, communication problems, and perception issues. None of which are good for you and which have not allowed your body to recover.

It does not matter what works for you as a stress reducer, it just matters that when you find yourself suffering, that you definitely employ those strategies so that your body can recover. Unfortunately, stress is a part of life and often occurs from situations that were not in your control, that is why you must be able to deal with it effectively so that it can be used beneficially rather than cause you harm.

How to Develop New Blog Ideas

November 18, 2017 by  

Continually coming up with new ideas for your blog can become pretty onerous. Especially if you blog on more than one site.

Here are some ideas you may want to consider when you have time to write more blogs for your site.
1. Invite Others to Offer Blogs: Even though you may be the key expert in your area of expertise, there are likely others who may also have some valuable information that you could share on a particular topic so you ask them to guest blog for you. Contributions from others could ease your load and reduce your burn out time. You can even consider asking other members of your team or colleagues to contribute their ideas or pieces. New input and perspectives will keep your blog fresh.

2. Create a Different Perspective to Another Blog: Some content ideas can be sparked from reading other blogs. So if you follow other industry blogs, you may find one that speaks about an issue or element that you could elaborate upon. You might even disagree with that blogger’s point of view and could write about yours instead.

3. Follow Your Industry’s News: Industry news sources can certainly be a great resource for new blogs. If you explore what other bloggers in your industry are writing about, it might give you an idea for your next article. Sometimes a particularly relevant or interesting news story might provide you with the necessary inspiration for a new piece. It is also a good idea to consider what your readers might be looking for and then use that as your next topic. Finally, be sure to include beneficial elements, tips, or takeaways so that your followers will continue to read your blogs.

4. Combine Concepts: Sometimes when you put two entirely different concepts together an entirely new approach can be developed. This connection could prove to be both valuable and innovative which makes it worthy of consideration.

5. Inspiration Can Pop up from Any Source: Sometimes ideas just pop into your mind from an experience or a situation. When you are doing your regular exercise routine, taking in some local musical event or an art show, or even doing something that relaxes you can actually generate an idea for a new blog. Don’t be afraid to go with the flow!

6. Keep it Simple: Sometimes the most outstanding, creative pieces are the simplest ones. Don’t discount a simple, obvious blog idea, even if you have used the topic before. A new, simple, basic approach could actually become one of your most popular blogs. Contemplate writing a how-to piece that clearly and succinctly explains specifically how to do something that your readers might normally find complicated or difficult. Write it from the perspective of those who have no background in this area.

7. Never Hurts to Revisit a Topic: If you’ve been blogging for a while, you have likely written about every topic in which you have expertise. That does not mean that you cannot write on a particular topic again, this time taking it in another direction or talking about aspects that were not included in the original blog. You can always shine some new light on a topic using a different approach or focussing on a new aspect not elaborated upon before.

8. Include a Variety of Content Formats: Your blog doesn’t have to be just text-based, you can include relevant graphs, charts, pictures, cartoons, even a short video or PowerPoint deck can add interesting content and better illustrate your points in a more visual manner. Be creative, it can make blogging more interesting and fun for you and your readers!

Remember….enjoy what you do, share what you have passion for and it will show in your blog posts!

3 Simple Tips for Impactful Business Communications

November 3, 2017 by  

In business, you need to provide beneficial information to your listeners. In order to achieve that, you must use your voice to persuade and influence. In order for the message to be effective, you must pay close attention to the quality, warmth, tone, and volume of your voice as this is your most important means for effective  communication.

Here are 3 simple tips to employ:

1. Your voice is your agent of intention and expression. When combined with your facial expression, your voice sends more of your message than the words themselves and both must match and reinforce your verbal message. So use it to your best advantage.

2. To gain the greatest advantage from your voice, you must create a calm and pleasant sound which can only be created with proper breathing techniques. The fullness of the sound comes from the “belly” or by using diaphragmatic breathing, this deep breathing softens the voice, helping to make it sound soft, calm, and confident. Conversely, shallow breathing results in a thin, harsh sound which makes you seem hurried and which can also tire both your audience and yourself.

3. If you wish to have your audience engaged and comfortable you must appear and sound relaxed. Your voice reflects your state of mind and the audience will “hear” that in your voice. Therefore, if you are tense, nervous, distracted, or anxious you will make your listeners feel the same way; and that will make it difficult for them to stay focused on your message. Remember, you set the tone in the room for your presentation, if you look and sound confident, relaxed, and focused, the audience will respond accordingly. And, the opposite is also true!

Prepare, practice, and time your presentation, get honest feedback, record your presentation, or at least talk it through in front of a mirror so you can watch how you appear. Even better, get a couple of friends and or family members to give you some honest feedback on how you are doing.

Your voice is the most valuable and important tool for your presentation and for your business communications.   It must be honed, oxygenated, and tuned to be strong and effective. Create an emotional investment that is positive, energetic, confident, welcoming, and responsive, if you do this, you will reap huge dividends!

How to Turn Fear into Fun When Making a Presentation

October 19, 2017 by  

If the thought of speaking in public strikes fear in your heart you are likely in the majority. If you do have to make a presentation and would like to actually enjoy the experience, the following tips will help you to do just that.

1. Preparation is the key to any excellent presentation. That means researching your topic online, in a library, or even by speaking with some experts in the field. Once you have gathered sufficient information, then you have to decide which pieces you will include in your presentation. Be sure to only keep the interesting elements and try to be specific and simple. Now you can easily analyze your content, design your presentation, decide on how you will deliver the content and ultimately will be able to gauge how you were received.

2. Practice, practice, practice. You need to know your material inside out, backwards, and in your sleep….do not memorize the presentation as when you are nervous, you will forget what you want to say. However, if you truly know your material, have passion for it, and know how you want to deliver it, the adrenalin boost your body will give you when you begin, will actually give you focus and clarity and once you get into your presentation, you will forget to be nervous as you will be too busy sharing your knowledge and expertise in interesting and engaging ways.

3. Attitude is everything! Decide that you are going to have fun and enjoy giving this presentation and then you will as it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for you. When you are positive, prepared, and well-versed in your materials you will be great! Remember, you set the tone for the room if you appear relaxed, confident and happy, you will put your audience at ease and so it will be easier to engage them and hold their attention.

4. Play “what if” before your presentation. Try to imagine what might happen during your presentation, what questions might be asked and then you can prepare what you will do in various situations and how you will answer any questions asked of you. Now, you may not come up with every eventuality, but you are human and no one expects you to be perfect, but you will feel more confident if you have gone over your ‘what ifs’ ahead of time. Even decide what you will do if you are asked a question for which you do not know the answer. Here is what I do: I ask the audience if anyone knows the answer….if no one helps me, I tell them that I do not know either, but anyone who wants to know can bring me their email address either at the break or at the end and will be happy to share what learn about that issue. Being honest is always the best policy and no one will fault you for not knowing but never “fudge” on an issue as someone will know the answer even if they do not tell you in front of their colleagues so do not make something up and you will lose credibility with your audience.

5. Arrive early. In this way, you can get set up and iron out any technical issues before you start. In addition, you will then have some time to “meet and greet” some of the attendees so that you will no longer be speaking to a room full of ‘strangers’. Rather you will now have spoken to several attendees so they now are more familiar with you and will likely be easier to engage and you can even bring some of your conversation into the session, which will also tie you more closely to the attendees.

6. Create an engaging start to your presentation. You only have about 2 minutes to grab the attention of your audience and if you do not do that you will be chasing them throughout your entire presentation. Use a good story, some shocking or interesting details, or a challenge to start off your session, this should make them sit up and take notice.

7. Finally, choose some meaningful way to end your presentation. You can have the attendees tell you what they are taking away, or what they liked best or you can provide a short summary of the key takeaways. Personally, I like to end with a short story or poem that relates to the content.

So, if you wish you have fun with your presentation instead of fearing to speak in front of an audience, try out the tips offered here and I think you will be so successful that you actually will enjoy speaking in public.

Remember, practice makes perfect!!

Life/Work Balance…..Are you managing this?

September 26, 2017 by  

I am sure that no one will disagree that today you are living in very hectic times. Everywhere there seems to be a sense of urgency that things must get done NOW! Between technology and a shrinking, competitive world, you are constantly pressed to do more, work faster, and speed up our bodies and lives. As a result, most of you have very full plates and are experiencing “time poverty” because there is simply too much to do but too little time to do it all.
This current culture, as exciting as it may be, doesn’t always feel very good. As a matter of fact, most of you, if you are truly honest with yourselves, would agree that this fast-paced tempo of life is far from satisfying and comfortable. Yet you often feel unproductive if you are not working at full speed. You may even admit that you aren’t living the life that you truly desire because you lack a quality balance in work/life.

“Juggling” suggests that you must keep “all the balls in the air,” or if you don’t, you feel inadequate. “Balance” means that your work and personal life must be equal. As you know, sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not. That is okay, as long as the periods of when it is not well balanced are short so that you do not miss out on spending sufficient time with your loved ones and friends, or even with yourself.
On the other hand, the term “balancing” connotes the ongoing process you all go through as you attempt to make a living and make a life. Each person’s process is as unique as their fingerprint. The journey to understand what will work involves a commitment for reflection and experimentation. In addition, you need to be flexible as you adjust to the flow of external responsibilities and internal choices.

Knowing how to effectively manage tasks and activities becomes even more challenging as people find themselves on overload. It’s hard to decide where your time and energy should be spent in order to advance in your career and still remain a caring, loving parent, and family member. When you don’t pay attention to the pressures in life and don’t make adjustments, you often experience stress-related symptoms. Typically when your well-being is challenged, life becomes less satisfying and more difficult to manage.

The following reasons contribute to people feeling so frazzled:
 – Working long hours.
 – Developing a mentality that emphasizes “work hard or lose out.”
 – Two out of three couples with children under 18 years old have both parents working for pay.
 – Not all workplaces have adopted flexible work arrangements.
 – There is greater competition in the global marketplace.
 – With shifts in the economy, your jobs are less predictable and/or more demanding (some employees due to downsizing have the work of more than one person)
 – Life can be very unpredictable and challenging.
 – There can be a conflict between society’s expectations about work and personal life and an individual’s beliefs about what success means.

Your life is a work in progress, that means that you are continually balancing your needs and demands in three spheres: your work, your family, and your personal life. It is important to create a full, rich life rather than to try to “balance” or even out what already is your life. What constitutes this view of life is different for each person. Nevertheless, for all of you, it is really about reducing the clutter in your mind and the stuff in your home and workplace. It is about making tough choices to satisfy your needs and wants.

Creating a rich, full life means honouring three spheres or areas of your life. Sigmund Freud, the great psychoanalyst, once said that there are two components of a person:

Work: which gives a sense of mastery. It offers focus and a place to contribute. This is the “workplace sphere.”
Love: which is about relationships with your family and friends. It offers a sense of belonging and support. This is the “social sphere.”

I am going to add another important sphere: your “unique self.” This sphere is the one that reflects your interests, talents, self-care, and ongoing education.

You need all three spheres to feel fulfilled and whole. These three create the person you are. So when you speak about balance, you are talking about honouring these three roles and paying attention to them.

These spheres are not always equal. Sometimes the “work sphere” is larger, especially when you need to spend extra time on important projects, have business travel, or take on more responsibility. Sometimes the “social sphere” is larger if you have added family responsibilities, such as a new baby, an ill older relative, a child who is having a problem, etc. The sphere that often gets short-shifted is the “self.” It’s important to make sure that that doesn’t happen. If you aren’t vigilant about that sphere, you may not be strong enough to manage the other two. In addition, the “self-sphere” is critical for professional and personal development.

People who are successful at navigating the pitfalls of their lives likely demonstrate the following skills and traits:
 – Espouse a positive attitude
 – Make sure you have time for yourself
 – Delegate what you can and set limits for yourself
 – Be well organized
 – Plan well, and prioritize tasks so that you achieve the most for their efforts and are moving toward achieving your goals
 – Set specific goals
 – Communicate effectively in all spheres of your life

In order to manage that balance well it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about the following:
- Your values and principles and how you will live by them
 -Creating and sustaining those important relationships in your life
 -Your organization’s and team’s mission and strategic plans
 –How to create and sustain important relationships (co-workers, customers, family members, friends, community people, etc.)
 -Goals for your job, family, and personal development
 -Strategic plans and actions steps to achieve those goals
 -Ways to restore yourself
Goals are important because they give you purpose, direction, and focus. They help channel your energy into meaningful action and allow you to take charge of your life. If you don’t have goals, you will most likely be in conflict, feel uncertain about what you want out of life, and find that you are just going through the motions of life without having an objective in mind.

Simplifying your life is a process that requires slow changes so here is how you can get started:
1. Adopt a “less-is-more” mindset. When you de-clutter your environment, activities, and thoughts, you free up your mind and life, and you experience considerably less pressure. Think about the activities and tasks that you could eliminate so that you can have time and energy for those that truly matter to you.

2. Buy less. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself, “Do I want or need this item?” Ask yourself if you already own something that does what that item does. Think carefully before you buy more stuff.
When you make choices, you have control. Every day you have the opportunity to make choices about how you spend your time, about the people you want to be with, about the tasks you want or need to accomplish, things to buy, and so forth. Even your work offers an opportunity of choice. Even your attitude is a choice, make it positive!

3. Create boundaries, and say “no.”
A TIME/CNN poll indicated that almost 65 percent of Americans spend our leisure time doing things we’d rather not do. Some people have difficulty making choices, especially when it comes to setting limits and saying “no” to activities or tasks they prefer not to do. There are, of course, tasks that we must do because they are part of our job. People who commit to balancing work and family life realize that they need to say “no” in order to say “yes” to themselves and the priorities in their lives.
When it comes to requests outside of the work arena, it is helpful to ask yourself some key questions that clarify your investment of energy and time:
 Which of the options that I face will help me go from urgency to ease and become the best person I can be?
 Is the activity one that will enhance my life – is it something that I really want to get involved with?
 Will the relationship help me become more of the person I want to be?

4. Enlist the help of family members, colleagues, and friends.
Because it is impossible for you to do everything on your endless to-do list, it is important to use the fine art of delegation. Like others, you may have trouble delegating as it can be difficult to ask for help. In addition, it can be hard to give up control, especially if you like to do things your way. However, when there is a lot on your plate, it is important to figure out how to get some items off it. Once you learn an effective method for delegating and practice it, you will get better at it.

5. Be grateful.
There certainly is a lot that you can complain about! However, the more you complain, the more dissatisfied and agitated you can become. Also, it can mean that we will alienate others more. Research has demonstrated that an Attitude of Gratitude can increase your personal happiness by 25%!

6. Be positive.
Try not taking yourself so seriously. As many wise people have said, “Life is too important to take too seriously.” Make sure that laughter and fun are part of your daily life. When feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself that you have a rich, full life. You are managing a job in which you are fully committed to doing your best. You are being a loving, caring parent, partner, family member, and friend. When situations become especially trying, remind yourself that this, too, will pass.

7. Set reasonable expectations.
When you have high expectations for achievement that are unreasonable, you often experience conflict, overload, and exhaustion. When you place unreasonable demands on yourself, you become like a sponge that cannot absorb any more water. Then your effectiveness is compromised and so is your satisfaction.

So, if you want to enjoy a great life/work balance try to employ some of the strategies offered here and I think you find that you will have a fuller, richer experience in all three spheres of your life.

Being Assertive in the Workplace

September 15, 2017 by  

  • How often have you heard the phrase, “It is a jungle out there!” These days, lifestyle coaches and corporate trainers are training professionals to become more assertive. “Stop being a pushover,” they say. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
    So how important is it to learn to be assertive at work?
  • Is this any different from being assertive outside of work, in your personal life, when for example you have trouble saying “no” to family or friends, partners, or salesmen?
  • What exactly does it mean to be assertive anyway? And does it mean the same irrespective of gender?
  • And, do class or culture count?
    These are important questions to consider for anyone who feels somewhat shy or intimidated, and feels that they are being held back by their inability to speak up.

To start with, what exactly does it mean to be assertive?
Assertiveness means knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner. It is being able to stand up for yourself and your ideas, for what you believe to be right and for what you know to be fair. It is not about simply getting your own way. It does not mean disrespecting others but rather respecting yourself. It means having the self-confidence to speak up when you have a point to make. It also means the ability to say “no” or “I don’t think so” when the situation demands it.
Assertiveness is not simply a behavioral change, something outward and superficial. It has to start from your inner conviction, from having good self-esteem. People who lack confidence or who let others walk all over them worry about the effect of their own words and actions on others. They feel a lack in themselves, be it confidence or self-worth. But as Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly put it, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Assertiveness should not be confused with aggression, as it is a positive trait. It comes with the right tone of voice, the right body language, and the right attitude.

Contextual Considerations
However, there are some important considerations, like gender and cultural context for anyone looking to make these changes in their personality and behavior. Cultural differences, in particular, should not be overlooked in our diverse and very global society. For instance, there is a much more vertical hierarchy in Asian business environments than in the western world. What may seem friendly and personal may come across as aggressive and “in your face.” The “cards on the table” attitude of one culture can puzzle or even offend another. Suit your tone of voice and non-verbal communication so you do not alienate others when you are meaning to connect. There is a fine line dividing assertive and aggressive behavior. It is easier to get your voice heard if you can build better professional and personal relationships based on trust, respect, and rapport rather than domination.

Ultimately, assertiveness is more about you as a person, whether in a personal or a professional capacity. If you can develop self-confidence, self-belief, self-esteem, and self-worth, you will find it easier to look someone in the eye and calmly but firmly get your point across. The good news is, these personality traits can be learned, as long as you commit to changing how you deal with others and practice those strategies when the opportunity arises, you will get better at being assertive.

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