5 Tips for Preparing an Engaging Presentation

September 13, 2018 by  

Here are 5 tips for preparing your presentation so that you can enjoy better audience engagement and even get more enjoyment yourself from presenting to your audience.  If you are having fun and passionate about your material, your audience will feel that and it can be contagious!

1. Start with the end in mind. To end your session try to define the key messages or concepts you want your audience to take away. By reinforcing those keys you will more likely to help your attendees remember them. Also, try to keep those key messages at 3-5, especially if your presentation is short. If you are giving a longer presentation you can increase the number but do not expect your audience to recall a large number of new ideas.

2. Limit the amount of detail to only what the audience truly needs to know….”less is more”. This is particularly true of technical material. Understand the level of information necessary for the audience and try to keep it simple, to the point, and well-illustrated with stories, pictures and or examples that will resonate with your audience.

3. Never memorize your presentation because, as many people are somewhat nervous when starting to speak to a new audience you could simply forget what you learned and then you will be in real trouble. Besides, memorized material tends to sound robotic in delivery which will not engage your audience and once you lose them you will be done! Better to truly know your material deeply, be comfortable with it, and truly understand clearly everything you plan on sharing with your attendees. You can use PowerPoint, a flip chart, cue cards, or other tools to support your presentation and help you to remember which points you wish to make. However, be careful not to put too much text up for your audience as they will be able to read it faster than you can speak it so again will disengage. In addition, you want to be natural and authentic in your presentation style and that can only be achieved when you are passionate and deeply knowledgeable about your topic.

4. Develop stories and examples that are interesting around each point you wish to make. The stories will help to anchor the key messages in your presentation and because everyone likes stories, it will help them to remember the key concepts you are sharing with them. Just be sure that the anecdotes and examples you use resonate with your audience as this aids retentive learning. Also remember that most people are visual learners so pictures that help to tell the story and illustrate the point will also be more memorable for your audience.

5. Whenever possible, know your audience and what their needs are. Speak to those specific needs whenever possible, in other words, it is best to tailor your delivery and content to their expectations and for their benefit. This will also increase the chance for better retention.

If you follow these tips you will enjoy more success with your presentations and even find you enjoy making them more, as well.  Remember, you set the tone for the audience, so if you are enjoying yourself, they will likely feel the same way…..have fun!!

Self-Efficacy as a Key to Your Success

August 25, 2018 by  

Self-efficacy relates to a person’s ability to have optimistic beliefs, but it’s more than just optimism, perceived self-efficacy explicitly refers to the belief in our ability to deal with challenging encounters. Thus it is one’s belief that they have the capacity to organize and execute the necessary course of action in order to manage situations as they occur.

Self perceptions of self-efficacy affect us in many ways: in our thought patterns, our actions and our physical and emotional states of arousal. People with low self- efficacy experience anxiety, hopelessness, and anger. They find it harder to bounce back after adversity. Those with high self-efficacy experience fulfillment and feelings of calmness that accompany decisiveness and certainty. They are resilient with stressful situations, self-starters, and self-motivating.

Here is how it affects our rate of success:
Self-efficacy provides the foundation for human motivation, well being and personal accomplishments. The more we believe we can do, the more we invest, and thus the greater likelihood we will accomplish what we set out to do.
Empirical research has shown that a belief in one’s ability to cope is a stronger predictor of success than objectively possessing the knowledge and operations skills necessary to get the task done. This is because how we perceive our abilities impacts how we choose to utilize those tools in such a significant way, that it’s more valuable to the outcome than the quality and quantity of the tools themselves.
In our daily lives we make decisions about not only what course of action to pursue but how long to continue the behaviors we have undertaken. Self-efficacy affects how much effort and energy we invest in the decisions we make.
Therefore a positive outcome is not necessarily a matter of what is objectively true regarding the knowledge or the skills possessed at the time of the dilemma, but rather a matter of one’s attitude since self-perception is more likely to influence behaviour.
That is why talented people can be plagued with self doubt while someone who is less talented will put themselves out there and get the task done. Along the way, the less talented person may experience some setbacks but they generally just ignore or discount them and maintain their perseverance toward their goal.

How to build self-efficacy:
As humans we have self regulatory mechanisms that provide us with the potential for self directed changes in our behaviour.
The manner and degree to which people self-regulate their actions are based on the ACCURACY and CONSISTENCY of self observation. The ability to appropriately self-monitor and make judgments regarding one’s own choices needs to be developed and sustained.

Here is how to start:
1. Be mindful of your own emotions– Ask yourself what primary emotions you are feeling and how likely they are to influence your behaviour.
2. An Assumption Detective– Get in touch with your underlying attitudes and the assumptions of individual decisions or hesitations (things you are avoiding) and investigate how truthful they are. Use simple tasks to help develop the necessary skill. For example, if you decide to take a cab versus the train, the assumption may be that you will arrive sooner. But is that necessarily true? Ask yourself what could have happened if you had done the opposite? Then apply that approach to the things you are avoiding: if you don’t ask your boss for a raise is it because the assumption is that he will definitely say “No”. If you are not certain, then investigate before you let assumptions rule your actions.
3. Challenge your attributions: Attributions are the judgments we make about our own or the behaviors of others. Look for specific, situational causes to events rather than global or personal points of view to explain things. This will give you a better blue print for how to change your behavior.
4. Focus on Intent Vs Outcome: Set Tangible & Measurable Behaviour Goals vs Subjective/ Outcome goals: Self-motivators set personal behaviour goals that encourage them to work in self directed ways. This involves measuring success by an objective means that focuses on intent versus outcome. For example, setting a goal of eating 1500 calories a day versus losing 5lbs or “trying to stay on your diet”. This is especially important since the most influential source of one’s self-efficacy is the interpreted results of one’s previous performance.
5. Watch & Mimic an Expert Model: Through vicarious learning opportunities we can feel confident that we are making the right decision simply because we have witnessed others being successful using similar strategies.
6. Avoid too much negative feedback & Surround yourself with Positivity: Social persuasion through feedback from others, including verbal judgments, constructive criticism, and praise, has a significant impact on how we rate our efforts. For the most part, negative feedback can have a stronger impact than positive ones, therefore try to focus your attention on strategies that utilize your strengths, cope with your weaknesses, and avoid conversations or mental thoughts that involve berating yourself.
7. Meditate & Breath: Learn to calm Body Sensations and Emotional States- People have a tendency to gauge the degree of confidence by their emotional state when they contemplate a particular action. Thus, when we are anxious and hopeless we look to escape, convincing ourselves we should throw in the towel sooner, because we think ” Why bother it is not going to work, so what is the point? Such a defeatist attitude will not help you to succeed, better to take a more positive approach and figure you can do it!

The famous Roman poet Virgil wrote:
“We are who we think we are-”. And one thing is certain, if we give up we definitely won’t win!
So, if you adopt a positive attitude, decide, no matter what you are not going to give up until you accomplish your goals no matter what, you will certainly be more successful in all aspects of your life.

5 Lessons to Align Your Team and Achieve Incredible Results

August 1, 2018 by  

Imagine a flock of birds flying in a V-formation, travelling thousands of miles together against the resistance of the wind. Have you ever wondered why they do this and how this could possibly be relevant to your business?
Alignment is the most efficient way to fly, and a strategy your team can also employ as it tackles challenges. However, unfortunately, teams sometimes get out of alignment; infighting develops, frustrations flare, and projects get derailed.
The brilliance of the V-formation is that synchronized movements allow each bird to ride the windbreak of the other birds in front of them. Or in the case of your team, people work together, leveraging each individual’s unique skills, to move efficiently towards a common goal.

Here are five strategies you can learn from the birds to get your disgruntled teams back in alignment.
1) Find each person’s sweet spot.
When birds fly in formation, they intrinsically know the sweet spot to occupy behind another bird as it flaps its wings. They use this uplift to travel more efficiently, and exponentially increase their flying range while using less energy than if each bird flew alone.
To do our most effective work, we must uplift each other by offering encouragement. This happens when managers empower employees to live in their zones of genius, using their unique talents, strengths, and skills. Just as an individual bird flying out of formation gets exhausted, employees that try to “do it all” will struggle and eventually fail. Take stock of each person’s individual strengths, then create a plan to leverage these strengths to help the entire team reach their common goals.
Maybe one person is great at big picture thinking, while someone else is more comfortable creating deliverables, and another person is great at keeping people on task in meetings. When individuals are working doing the work for which they are best suited, teams definitely achieve more and are more efficient and productive.

2) Share leadership responsibilities.
In a 5,000 mile round-trip migration, every bird takes its turn leading the front of the V to take the brunt of the wind and carry the flock towards their destination so no one burns out. And so every member of a team should have the opportunity to take a leadership role when it is appropriate to their skills and that particular point in the project.
People often confuse titles with leadership, but the qualities of true leadership can be found anywhere in an organization. Managers should take stock of their employees and spot the leaders among their teams. These key employees take initiative, inspire and encourage others, and positively impact productivity and morale.
Take time to acknowledge the leadership skills of these employees, asking how you can support them. Also, make sure their leadership skills don’t come across as bossy or top-down, because that will have a negative impact on the team. In addition, remember to encourage everyone to lead in the areas they are most successful. The birds figured out shared leadership a long time ago. Adopting a similar culture in the office creates a positive enthusiasm among teams that leads to solid results.

3) Clearly communicate objectives.
Humans, of course, don’t understand what birds are saying to each other when they squawk and chirp in flight, but we know these sounds help them to remain in communication with one another throughout the trip. To choreograph their movements and to fly efficiently as a group, each bird must monitor subtle changes in their wing-mates’ flight patterns, altering their own strokes accordingly. Making sounds likely helps birds with these continual adjustments.
To assimilate this tip from the birds, teams need to communicate effectively and constantly to stay on course, not just once a quarter during ‘reviews’. Checking in with each other via email, an employee feedback platform, and/or in person, is paramount to staying aligned on goals. Continual communications helps individuals understand where they fit into the big picture, and helps them to prioritize tasks that line up with the company’s greater mission.
Of course, communication is also essential to deliver encouragement and coaching. Positive reinforcement inspires everyone to work towards a common goal such as delivering a product, solving a sticky customer issue, or finalizing a plan. Who knows, maybe all those birds are calling out the equivalent of: “I believe in you! We can do this!”

4) Build trust when times get tough.
Something beautiful happens in a migrating flock when a bird is sick or wounded: two of the birds drop out of formation to assist, aid, and protect their fellow member until the bird can fly again. They are a team, all in it together. A team is a formation of trusted relationships, fostering natural accountability. This is the basis of success.
Unfortunately, many work teams don’t function like this. If one person is struggling, people sometimes gang up on that person because they feel “let down” that he/she is not pulling their weight. They complain about this person to management, and feel burdened to have to take on more of their work.
Instead, when situations arise when one team member is struggling, managers should take time to find out what is happening and why. When people fall short, think of it as an opportunity to build trust and inspire better work. Ask the person what is going on and together discover ways to improve performance. That might mean shifting the person’s role or inspiring that person to take on more of a leadership role. Working through hardships together builds stronger teams.

5) Rally around shared values.
One thing perfectly clear about migrating birds is they are all flying in the same direction. Teams are most effective when people are purpose-driven and feel they share a common mission. Beyond this shared end-goal, the best teams have the same vision of how to get to this end-point. In other words, they are aligned at every step of the way.
To align your team around common goals, it helps to create core values for your company. For example, our core values include supporting health and vitality; a commitment to customer success and delight; keeping things simple; embracing freedom and flexibility; holding one another accountable; and committing to constant learning and growth.

This might seem like overkill, but every value flows together into one main premise: we believe in supporting each individual to achieve his or her unique greatness. Embracing this approach, our teams are aligned on not just their goals, but on how to achieve them.
Productive teams work together through effective communication, alignment, and trust. They leverage the power of the collective to be greater than the sum of their parts. These strategies aren’t just for the birds, so the next time your teams get stuck, take a lesson from the experts in flight and create alignment for long-term success.

5 Skills for a Successful Salesperson

July 20, 2018 by  

Effective salesmanship can be achieved by learning and implementing the skills required to retain and increase sales targets. So combine your energy and talents with these key skills and enjoy the outcomes.

Here are five skills to develop:
1. Be authentic and honest about your product/service
Having confidence in your self is crucial. If you are honest, clear, and simple in explaining the product you believe in you will be more likely to draw in your prospect. You need to have the persistence to gently relate the needs and/or concerns of your prospect by showing how you can fulfil his/her needs or solve their problems. If you fail to do this, you will not be closing many sales.

2. Employ Active Listening
No doubt a salesman is required to be a good speaker, so that they can explain what they have to offer, however, listening will offer you a far better chance to discover what the prospect is looking for and then you can “spin your pitch” to fill that need. Ask relevant questions so that you can get to know the prospect by being a good, focused, and engaged listener. When you do this you establish trust, respect, and rapport, the cornerstones of long-lasting and meaningful relationships and the key to every successful salesperson.

3. Perseverance
Do not turn away at the first no. Perhaps your prospect was not ready, or busy with something more pressing. Try to find out when would be a good time to call again. Benefits of a product or services are always more effective and enticing to a prospect than the features. So be sure to do your homework and know your prospect and their potential needs so that you can tweak your pitch accordingly.

4. Build an Appropriate Network
Building a strong, wide-reaching network is essential for a salesperson so that they can extend their reach to a larger possible market. Networking regularly and effectively helps to build, nurture, and maintain those important relationships and well and gaining new ones.

5. Keep Learning New Sales Skills
Embrace a positive attitude toward learning new things. Be open to new ideas and theories as this will surely open new doors for you. Continue to take sales training to help you develop, improve, and expand your sales skills.
It is never too late to gain new knowledge….if you lack a particular skill, you can always study it, practice it and then make it part of your strategies. Your most important asset is your attitude….keep it positive and you will be able to accomplish your goals!

To be an effective salesperson takes commitment, perseverance and a lot of preparation….follow the 5 suggestions above and then you can expect great results!

Seven Time Management Skills That Will Help Improve Your Productivity

July 4, 2018 by  

Everyone gets the same twenty-four hours each day, however, making productive use of that time can mean the difference between getting things done or simply scrambling to keep up. The following time management tips will help you streamline your day, get more done, and ultimately give you more time do the things you really want.

1. Do a time audit of a typical day.
At the end of your workday do you wonder where the time went? Maybe you wish you could have managed to accomplish much more than you did? You could be wasting more time than you realize and they could well be a discrepancy between how you think you spend your time and how you actually spend it. That is why doing a time audit of your day could be very helpful in determining where you can improve the use of your time.

This is a simple method for conducting a time audit.
• Use a timer that you can set to go off every thirty minutes. (The alarm app on your phone could do the trick.)
• Begin the timer and proceed to go about your day but try not to think about the timer, rather just let it run.
• When the timer goes off, write down what you are doing at that very moment no matter what it is.
• Set the timer for another thirty minutes and repeat the process until the end of your day.
• Then, review how you have spent your time and how truly productive you were or not.
• Try conducting this audit every day for a week in order to get a true overview of how you are actually spending your time. You can decide to vary the time between check-ins so that you don’t begin to anticipate the alarm going off every thirty minutes, instead do it for 40 or 45 minutes. You may discover that you have been spending too much time checking emails, scrolling through your social media feeds, or chatting with co-workers. In the end, you will know where you have to make adjustments and how to better schedule some of those tasks throughout your day in order to be more efficient and productive.

2. Develop a means to block out distractions.
Now that you have a better idea of what’s distracting you, you can develop some strategies to get rid of at least some of those distractions. For example, if social media is your downfall, you can try using a productivity app that blocks online distractions. If you are working on a writing project, try going into fullscreen mode to prevent yourself from opening tabs or answering desktop notifications. You can also turn off your notifications and turn off the sound on your computer, too as you really do not need to know every time a new email arrives or you are contacted on social media. Instead, you can set aside a specific time frame to check those new additions, once the key things you have to deal with have been taken care of.

3. Set up a schedule for yourself.
Instead of worrying about how you will be able to fit all your tasks into the average workday, if you plan and prioritize the pieces you will be more efficient and productive instead of feeling stressed and having to work overtime to stay ahead of timelines. Once you have chunked up your projects and prioritized the chunks according to importance, your stress will disappear and you will be able to much more easily meet your deadlines. Just make sure your to-do lists are not overwhelming as you can only accomplish so much in a day and will only frustrate yourself if you make the lists unreasonable. Every email does not need to be answered as soon as it arrives, this is another area where prioritizing can help you. Having a good plan for your day will make much better use of your workday as you will be able to spend time on the elements that are key to moving you faster toward your goals.

4. Avoid multitasking, it is a myth.
You may think you are a good multitasker, but here is the thing, multitasking is a myth because your brain takes 15-20 minutes to line up the necessary neurons to do any task at a high level of performance. Every time you are distracted by another job, you are pulling away some of those necessary neurons to set up for the next task. Therefore, by the time you are doing three or four or more things at once, you are actually doing none of them very well which is not efficient or productive as you will have to revisit most of them to “fix them” because they were not done very well. Hence, it is much more efficient to focus your efforts on one task at a time. Do it well and then move on to the next one. Or, you can group similar tasks so that you can use the right neurons that you have already lined up. Perhaps you can keep a small notebook handy and if you suddenly remember another task you need to do, write it down and then you can get to it when you are done with the current job.

5. Insist that others respect your time.
If you have decided that there are certain things that you have to complete this morning, then let your colleagues know that between 9:00 and 11:00 am you will be unavailable for phone calls, meetings or emails but will attend to them after 11:00 am. For example, if you have a “chatty colleague” just let them know, respectfully, that right now you cannot chat, however, you would be happy to speak with them over lunch after 12 today or over coffee at 3:00 pm. If a meeting is scheduled that you really do not need to attend, then let them know that you will be working on a pressing and current task so can get a summary from one of the attendees later. There is nothing wrong with letting people know that you need certain blocks of time to uninterrupted so that you can accomplish what you need to in order to be productive and meet your deadlines.

6. Keep your “call to action” in mind.
If you want to be productive with your time, be sure you are clear on what you want to accomplish with that meeting or phone call before you embark upon it. Decide ahead of time what outcome you wish to achieve so that you can be prepared for the encounter and get what you need from it.

7. Be sure to fit in sufficient downtime and rest.
There have been studies that show that lack of sleep causes more mistakes and impeded productivity and cognitive functions are negatively affected when you are sleep-deprived. That means that you need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you get that you will feel more refreshed and better able to concentrate so you will be more productive, make fewer mistakes and be able to focus more effectively. In addition, vacations are also beneficial as taking time to relax, disconnect from technology and spend time with family and friends also helps our focus and concentration. Following a wonderful vacation, you come back refreshed, renewed and ready to get back to work in a creative and meaningful way.

So try to follow the suggestions described above and you will be better able to make more productive use of your time and be more successful in all aspects of your life.

5 Great Tips for Effective Teaching Outcomes

June 20, 2018 by  

Just because you know how to do something or have extensive knowledge on a particular topic does not mean that you know how to teach it to others. Try these tips for imparting that knowledge and experience in an effective manner.
Pretty much everyone has to teach something to someone at some point. You might need to train your team, instruct or mentor a colleague or even help your child with homework or to solve a problem. As a soft skills consultant and trainer, I teach regularly. I have discovered that each topic requires a variety of approaches and activities in order to engage the audience and provide them with an atmosphere conducive to retentive learning. Most people are not verbal learners, rather they are visual or hands-on learners. In addition, most individuals, even if they try to focus will only retain about 20% of what they hear and two weeks later will likely only remember about half of that information. However, most people retain up to 90% of what they do and say. In other words, the more interactive the learning experience the more retentive the outcome.
If you have something important to teach you should give the process as much consideration as the topic and information. I actually continually search for new sorts of exercises that I can use in various workshops so that the material will resonate more for the learners and interject more fun and meaning into my sessions

Here are some tips that will help you do just that.
1. Consider your audience.
As I already mentioned, people learn differently. Some love to read while many others are more experiential. Millennials, for example, have a different approach to knowledge and information than Baby Boomers. Before you start delivering a program it is helpful to know who will be attending and if possible how they like to learn. Then you can adjust your approach to suit your audience’s learning style and perhaps, if you learn enough about them, even what they are expecting to take away from your presentation. This will help you with both content and structure.

2. Chunk up the content.
Most people can’t absorb a large amount of information all at once. They usually do better with smaller amounts. In addition, if you offer them the opportunity to the new strategies or information immediately it will be more likely to stick and become something they will use in future situations. To that end, it is a good idea to consider separating the key aspects of your topic into multiple shorter sessions. This will give you the opportunity to better flesh out those key elements and make them into more powerful segments so that the attendees can have those so important “aha moments”. Be sure to include appropriate stories, examples or even pictures to illustrate your points and reinforce your content. Besides, the more fun they are having the more likely they will look forward to subsequent sessions as well as be more likely to remember what you are sharing.

3. Simplify your delivery.
Do not complicate your points or ramble on and on when providing information to your audience. Use technology such as PowerPoint, Prezi or other delivery systems to reinforce your points but do not belabour them with too much text or be too wordy. Communicate your concepts in simple ways such as using short videos, animation, or appropriate pictures or graphics. Do not put everything you plan to say into your slides. PowerPoint serves two main purposes: Firstly, it focuses the audience on the key points you wish to impart and secondly, it reminds the speaker of the key points they wish to speak about. However,
how you are going to describe those elements should not be on the slides as your audience can read the slides faster than you can speak them so will get ahead of you and disengage. In other words, they will start to think that they do not need you and that you did not prepare very well if you need to read your slides. Instead, try to make your presentation so easy and simple that even an incredibly busy and distracted person could understand and get it right away.

4. Be entertaining.
So much training is just dull and boring, so if you are going to be successful in providing a good ROI for your audience and want them to actually take away some beneficial ideas and use them, you need to “spice up” your presentation with things that are memorable and fun. You can interject short videos, humorous stories, and funny graphics. Basically, you need to come up with creative ways to delight and entertain the attendees so that you keep them engaged and leave them happy.

5. Provide them with actionable takeaways.
People retain information more effectively when they can apply the new knowledge to situations that make sense to them right away. Therefore, it is a good idea to offer them the chance to try out what they have learned in a typical scenario familiar to them or to try out something with a partner or even to have them fill out a questionnaire and then debrief it together. When you do this, the attendees will be more likely to recall what they have learned the next time an appropriate situation arises.

If you follow these suggestions you will be able to create sessions that will be more successful for both you and your audience. Besides, both you and your audience will also have more fun and feel more satisfied with the time they have spent with you. So have some fun with your materials but keep it simple!

Effective Strategies for Defusing Anger

June 8, 2018 by  

Occasionally, you may be approached by a person who in such a state of anger or frustration, that it is first necessary to calm them down or defuse their anger to some degree before you decide how to effectively address their needs. Note that this is not always going to be possible and, at some point, it should be considered whether alternative interventions might need to be applied (e.g., contacting the police or a counseling service). Below is some general information regarding anger, with specific recommendations on how you might try reducing anger in others.

Key Issues to Consider:
Anger and aggression are often the product of frustration and a feeling of powerlessness. Efforts to resist physically or verbally are counterproductive and put the aggressor in an even more defensive position. In addition, never just tell them to “calm down” as this will only inflame their anger further.
Active Listening is the most important skill you can employ to defuse anger. There is no point in attempting to reason with a person in the midst of irrational anger, better to just listening carefully to what their problem is and then you can try to assist them with a solution.
Rather than trying to resist a person’s anger, it is better to redirect their verbal aggression into a non-threatening form of discussion that can bring about a cooperative, problem-solving approach.

Here are 6 Approaches for Defusing Anger:
 – Communicate Respect
 – Cooperate
-  Active Listening
-  Reframe the problem
 – Assertiveness
 – Disengage from the situation

1. Communicate Respect: Demonstrating respect is a primary means of de-escalating hostility. You can communicate respect by utilizing active listening skills and non-aggressive body language. When you respectfully listen and show the person that you have actually heard what is troubling them you will likely help them to realize that you actually have an interest in helping them to resolve the issue they are dealing with or the needs they are seeking. At the same time, you are also demonstrating an acknowledgement of the importance of their concern. It is also key to refrain from openly judging his/her behaviour. Better to remain non-judgmental and supportive.

2. Cooperate: By cooperating with the angry person, you are showing that you understand that they are upset and are willing to help them. Just be sure that you are not putting yourself or anyone else in harm’s way when you do this. It is also important to refrain from pointing out reasons why the person should not be angry. In addition, try not to disagree, instead, focus on communicating with empathy for the person’s feelings. In other words, your objective here is not to cure the anger but rather to simply avoid making the situation worse.

3. Active Listening: Employing Active Listening is your most powerful and effective tool for defusing anger. When attempting to defuse anger, you must shift the focus from getting your point across to understanding the needs of the angry person, and work with them toward achieving a common goal that will be beneficial. Everyone wants to be truly listened to and to feel understood. People often become angry or aggressive when they have not felt acknowledged or appreciated. Do not give in to the temptation to interrupt or correct the angry person as rational arguments may only provoke their hostility. Better to let them rant and when they are done, then you can make suggestions as to how they might like to proceed. When people are under stress associated with conflict or feelings of insecurity, the potential for misinterpretation is greatly increased, therefore it is extremely important to paraphrase or summarize what you heard, then clarify, and finally gather further information as necessary. When you do all of this you are validating the person’s experience. You do not necessarily have to agree with them, you just have to show them that have truly listened to them and now understand why they might be feeling the way they do. You can use ‘open-ended’ questions to get a clearer idea of how they do feel. Be cognizant of your reactions, and be curious rather than judgmental in your responses. If possible, try to match, then lower the person’s intensity. Be sure to pay attention to your nonverbal communication because if this does not reinforce and support your verbal communication, it will likely obliterate it and you will not achieve a win/win outcome. Standing at an angle (sideways), rather than directly opposing someone, can help keep a situation calm and non-adversarial. Remember not to talk too much, and whenever possible to use the person’s name, as that also shows respect.

4. Reframe the Problem: It is up to you to redirect the aggression into a non-threatening discussion of the person’s specific needs. When you are faced with hostility, it is only natural to want to push back. Reframing is a good way to change direction and move the problem forward as it reflects an understanding of the person’s issue but helps to change the emphasis to common ground and towards a more positive solution. When you provide a reframe of what the person clearly values, you are demonstrating an understanding of where they are coming from and they will then see you as honest and fair.

5. Assertiveness: Sometimes you will need to clearly assert yourself regarding your own needs in order to effectively manage the situation and actually be able to help the angry person. It is important to set clear, firm boundaries, and expectations for appropriate behaviour. You will need to be ‘hard’ on the issues, but ‘soft’ on the person. In order to do that you should use ‘I’ statements because ‘You’ statements tend to raise the level of tension as they often sound accusatory.                      For example, “I feel anxious when you pound on the desk…and it makes it hard for me to listen to you effectively.” Try very hard not to use the word “but” as it is very confrontational, substitute and, therefore, etc. as but is known as the ‘verbal eraser that tends to discount whatever preceded it in a statement. Assertive requests may not always be appropriate just make sure you are sending a message of cooperation, not a threatening one.

6. Disengaging from the Situation: If it becomes apparent that your personal safety is threatened, you will need to remove yourself from the situation when active listening and other methods are failing to reduce the threat. You should also disengage when you are feeling angry, as you will not be effective in that state of mind. Explain the need for a break or ‘time-out,’ and also offer a commitment for you (or someone else) to return to the matter shortly. You might offer food or a beverage, if available and appropriate. You may wish to request the assistance from a supervisor, co-worker, or police if things are really going off the rails. I would be a good idea to debrief your experience with someone you trust.

If Someone Shows Signs of Losing Control
Get help before trouble starts.     Use a prearranged warning signal to alert others.   Stay calm. This will help keep the person calm.  Talk slowly and calmly.   Use a firm, confident tone. Don’t threaten, but inform them of the consequences of inappropriate behaviour.    Try to leave yourself an escape route. Seek safety at your first opportunity.   Later you can take time to debrief the situation with colleagues and supervisors.

Keys to Achieving Excellence in Customer Service

May 16, 2018 by  

Customer satisfaction is essential to the building of a successful, growing, and long-lasting business, so what can you do to ensure that your company is providing good customer service?

Here are 4 elements to consider when establishing or improving the customer service within your business:
1) the Customer Desires & Needs
Everyone makes daily purchasing decisions, therefore, everyone is actually a potential customer. Understanding the desires, concerns, and needs of your customers prepares your customer service representatives with the necessary information to assist in the most effective manner. In fact, this knowledge gives them the ability to provide whatever your customer needs to be a happy, contented and then a returning customer.  In order to learn those important issues you mush train your employees to practice Active Listening.

2) Your Service Culture
Customer service is an important aspect of every employee’s job. Each and every customer service contact has the potential to gain repeat business or drive it away. Therefore, selecting the best people to deal with your customers is extremely important. Every organization wants to avoid negative publicity, especially today with social media able to make issues go viral in a matter of minutes! If that happens, it can easily and quickly damage your business reputation. Being cognizant of this issue can help you to avoid this issue as it can be difficult to recover from that sort of attack.

3) Trust & Loyalty
Your biggest source of business is repeat customers and it costs much more to acquire a new one. So, it is essential to institute practices that help to maintain your existing ones. Customers like to feel special and can be easily lost if they sense that you don’t care much about them. A single negative experience can cost you a customer. In both good times and bad, the long-term value of a customer is much greater than a series of single transactions from one-time customers. Here is one other important thing to remember…..if something does go wrong, that is when you have to do something outstanding to fix it so that the customer will be more likely to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. In addition, if what happened was something that you were not aware of, such as a failure of a product, you should also thank the customer for bringing this issue to your attention.

4) Customer Service Employees
Frontline employees are the ones who portray the image of your company in the eyes of the consumer. Not all employees necessarily value the importance of excellent and consistent customer service. Therefore, it is extremely important to evaluate the behaviors, attitudes, and skills of the individuals who work for you to determine who is the most capable of holding a customer-facing position and then invest in appropriate training for those people. A single customer poor encounter with an employee can make or break a sale. In addition, if your culture is one that appreciates, supports and encourages your employees, they will be more likely to treat your customers with the same respect and courtesy.

In the end, meeting your customers’ expectations can lead to customer satisfaction; however, in today’s competitive marketplace going above and beyond expectations will ensure customer satisfaction. Companies with poor customer service risk losing current and potential customers. However, acknowledging and focusing on the key elements described above will enable your business to develop a good plan that will provide your business with excellent, consistent, and memorable customer service.

Tips for Stress Deflection

April 30, 2018 by  

Stress is mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional, or chemical causes. In today’s ever-changing world of technology and strife, stress seems to increase and decrease in waves but never ceases. Changes in our world due to technology, the expectation of multi-tasking, the breakdown of the traditional family and other issues have shifted the nature and pattern of stress-inducing events.
Having said that, when stressors are relatively acute but infrequent, our bodies can recover. In fact, small doses of stress are actually beneficial to humans as they serve as a catalyst propelling us to higher achievement. However, prolonged exposure to stress does not give our bodies a chance to recover so we cannot fight or flee! In addition, that prolonged stress can cause irreversible physiological damage to our bodies and affect our cognitive abilities as well.
All these factors indicate that today we must have strategies to deflect and reduce our stress so that we can function effectively and stay healthy. In addition, we must find the fortitude to actually employ those strategies when necessary.

So what are some stress-busting ideas?
Here are some approaches you may wish to consider:
1. Breathe! Usually, the first thing that happens when we are stressed out, is we quit breathing appropriately thus reducing the oxygen levels to our brains which lowers our problem-solving abilities and rational thought.

2. Practice Active Listening……why? Because, just giving instructions or directions to someone does not guarantee that you will get what you expect unless you get some concrete feedback from the listener which proves that they received your message as sent, processed the information as necessary and so concluded what you expect to have happen. If you do not get this feedback, unless you are a mind reader, you actually have no idea what this person heard, how they computed the information and what they will actually do with that message. When we do not get what we expect we experience disappointment, resentment, complaining, confusion and of course, misinformation…….all of which cause stress!

3. Be Accountable…….that means taking responsibility for what you do and the mistakes that you make. If you do that you will learn from those errors and become a better problem solver.

4. Do not delay Problem Solving Techniques……… here is why, most problems will not disappear by themselves, in other words, you need to resolve issues and problems before they get worse and ignoring them or hoping they will fix themselves will not work!

5. Be Assertive……..if you have an issue with someone or a situation, it is best to address it but in an honest, calm and respectful manner. Allowing behavior that is inappropriate, disrespectful or even harassing, you enable it because we get the behavior we tolerate. Yes, it is often difficult to confront someone in such situations, however, if you don’t the problem will not go away by itself.

6. Get Regular Exercise……. Exercise helps to change your brain chemistry so that it releases more endorphins which give a feeling of wellbeing. In addition, you will have more energy to cope with your daily challenges if you are fit. This does not mean you need to run a marathon or develop the muscles of a weightlifter. Rather you can do whatever you enjoy that will get you moving. Take a dance or pilates class, take a drumming class, walk your dog a couple of times a day, do yoga, even learn to meditate. Whatever interests you and moves you will be good.

7. Eat Healthfully……..that means employing balance, moderation, and variety in your meals by eating from the four basic food groups, controlling your portions and enjoying a variety of different foods and styles of preparation. Your body needs proper nourishment to function well and you will feel better and stay healthier if you practice healthy eating. If you do not know how to do that, consider consulting a registered dietitian for some tips.

8. Get Adequate Rest…….most people today get less than 6 hours of sleep/night and that is truly not enough rest. Your body rejuvenates when you sleep and your memories become better embedded when you sleep. So, if you are not getting ample sleep neither of those functions is going to be happening, meaning you will likely not function effectively, make more mistakes and that will increase your stress.

9. Think Positively………..the only thing in your life that you have total control over is your attitude. One who thinks negatively, always sees the glass as half full and the bad in all situations is certainly not going to be a very happy person and will likely experience much more stress than a positive person. The positive attitude will bring solutions to challenges, find the good in any situation and will also experience far less stress because they will be too busy being happy!

10.Be Flexible…..in other words, go with the flow in any situation as some things you just cannot control and maybe you don’t have to control everything.

11.Laugh……..laughter is another thing that changes our brain chemistry and releases endorphins for a feeling of wellbeing. In fact, laughter helps us to heal so be sure to have some fun in your life on a very regular basis!

12.Believe in Yourself……self confidence and good self-esteem can help us to achieve more and at a higher level of performance. It does not mean that you need to become an egotist, it just means that you can believe that you can deal with pretty much whatever gets thrown at you.

13. List 5 Things that Make You Happy…….make that list and put in somewhere that you can see it often to remind yourself that your life is good!

14. Take a Vacation…..getting away from time to time is a great way to destress and it does not need to be anything exotic or far away. It can be just making sure you have some occasional “me time”. However, it can also add some fun to your life and your relationships.

15. Be sure you have a Good Life/Work Balance…..be sure to schedule in some time to spend with your loved ones and friends as that is just as important as being effective, efficient and creative and work.

In the end, remember that first of all, stress is different things to different people and that depends on their coping abilities, lifestyle, situation and even personality type.

However, for all of us, stress is rather like a violin…..

  • If you bow too hard on the strings the sound is very screechy.
  • If you do bow hard enough, very little sound comes out at all.
  • So your bowing technique needs to have just the right amount of pressure in order for the sound to be lovely.

So it is with stress……if you have no stress in your life, you likely do not have much of a life as stress is partly what makes us grow and change. However, too much stress is very harmful. So one must find a nice balance of occasional bouts of short stress and the ability to deflect enough stress so that it does not get out of hand and become harmful to our bodies, our minds, and our immune systems.

Seven Strategies for Keeping Angry Customers

April 4, 2018 by  

I believe you can salvage a relationship with an angry customer and turn them into a happy one depending on how you handle the situation.  Probably the most important key here is to practice Active Listening so that you can be sure that you clearly understand what the problem is before trying to make them happy.

Here are 7 ways to keep angry customers from storming out of your business and never returning:

1. Realize the customer’s time is valuable. If you put the customer on hold and transfer them three different times, you are going to make them angrier with each transfer. If that is what happens often you need to fix this system. It is better to solve the problem quickly and efficiently or direct the customer to someone who can. This can only be done if all your employees understand the chain of command and are empowered to solve problems. Employees should also know exactly who to refer problem customers to if it is beyond their scope and abilities.

2. Never outsource your customer service. Your customers want to be helped by people with good language skills so that they feel understood and that their issue will be handled effectively and efficiently. This, unfortunately, is not likely if the person is not even in the country and if English is not their first language.

3. Show empathy. Of course you must stay calm, however, you must sincerely show empathy for their situation and be ready and able to assist them quickly and effectively because they feel that they are in crisis and you need to fix it! In addition, never tell the customer to calm down as that will only escalate the exchange. Remember, this is not about you, it is about them!

4. Be Present on Social Media. Today, you must monitor your business on social media or you could be missing a big opportunity. Most people today find everything on the internet and consult social media for many of their needs. In addition, if they are unhappy about something they can also state that on social media. You need to have someone in your company actively updating your company profiles, website, and the information you post there. You should also be watching for comments good and bad about your business to see if you need to emphasize or change anything and then post that on the sites.

5. Over deliver, if possible. Once you have angered a customer, you need to do something outstanding in order to fix the relationship. You want the customer to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. However, do not promise something you cannot deliver!

6. Don’t just say you will get back to the customer. Broken promises will only make the customer angrier. If you say you will get back to them this afternoon or tomorrow morning, make sure that you or whoever can fix the situation, does so. There is nothing worse than an unfulfilled expectation, especially after there has been some sort of issue that needed to be resolved.

7. Fix unreasonable policies. You can avoid angry customers in the first place if you figure out what is wrong with your process. Every organization needs to have policies and procedures, however, in some situations, the customer service people need to be given some flexibility with those policies, especially if they do not make sense in a particular situation. You, of course, cannot keep giving away the store, however, you do want to ask what will make them happy and try your best to deliver as much of what they are seeking as is reasonably possible.

So, you have an angry customer you might want to consider the above-described approaches to make sure that you can resolve their issue in a way that will allow you to keep them as a customer rather than chase them away. In today’s very competitive business world you want to make sure that your organization has the skills and strategies to deal effectively with problems of any sort with a win/win outcome.

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