5 Powerful Keys for Good Listening

November 13, 2019 by  

Although we spend approximately 60% of our communication time listening, we only retain 15-20% of what we hear and only if we really focus. Actually, two months after a conversation, we only remember around 25% of what was said. That is no surprise considering our average eight-second attention span, which makes listening concentration so difficult to achieve.

Conscious listening is the key to understanding. When we are fully present in conversations, when we really listen, we then have a chance to reduce redundancy, disappointment, resentment, complaining and confusion. Simply put, we understand better if we actively listen If you listen well you will improve the time you spend in meetings, enhance your personal and professional relationships and have less stress in your life.

Here are 5 keys that will help you to really listen, build on conversations, and eventually communicate more effectively.
Why listening is so hard:
1. In school, we are not really taught how to listen. While acquiring reading skills is a subject in itself, listening is often neglected. The irony is that later in life we actually listen more than we read. Most often, we are under the impression that we are listening, but we are actually just hearing things, while our mind is elsewhere.
Before we get to the part where we can get better, let us not blame ourselves that much and look more closely at the things that keep us from listening.

2. Vanity
Let’s face it, sometimes we tend to get too self-involved. Although someone else may be doing the talking, we often can’t help making it all about ourselves. Our ego makes us jump in and interrupt just to give our two cents, to moralize, or to throw in a joke. We focus on promoting our self-image instead of listening and contributing to the conversation to the benefit of all the participants.
Also, when we listen for too long, we worry that we will forget what we want to say. Therefore, our attention shifts to what we have to say. When we do that, we cut short our listening, we jump in with our own perspective before we have actually processed what the other person has said. When we do that we often do not actually “hear” what they said at all.
This shift of focus can sometimes take extreme forms, which detour the interlocutor from the course of conversation. When we approach a discussion thinking only of our own agenda, “our goal is to manoeuvre and manipulate the conversation and to come out better than the other person.” We are changing the conversation so that it suits our personal agenda.

3. Distractions
With so many things that demand our attention (phones, computers, apps etc.), it is difficult not to get distracted. We live and work in noisy environments, full of sound channels that inherently prevent us from easily reaching a state of conscious, focussed listening.
In addition, sometimes we might be experiencing physical, mental or emotional distress that prevents us from paying attention as our own personal issues will supersede anything that anyone is saying to us. It is not that we don’t want to listen, we simply can’t process two conversations at once (the one in our head and the one that the person is stating). If we are not honest about it, our colleagues will most likely translate our unavailability into a lack of intent/interest.
You can’t go wrong if you tell them the truth. A reassurance such as “I know it’s important for you to share this with me, but I can’t really focus right now and I want you to have my full attention. Can we discuss this later?” This honest approach will put them at ease and help them to understand that now is not a good time for you to process what they are trying to tell you.

4. The productivity push
Today’s fast-paced work environment constantly pushes us to be more productive, efficient and creative. We are expected to get more work done in less time. So, either we don’t have the time to listen actively, or we can’t afford it because we have too much to do. We need time not only to internalize what we are being told but also to acknowledge and filter the things that are quiet and subtle. When we are under a lot of pressure it is very difficult to process more information.

5. Our thoughts outpace our words
We think much faster than we talk. In our mind, we are always way ahead. So, as much as we might refrain ourselves from talking, hence interrupting, in our mind, we often do that by allowing our personal thoughts to “depart” and build on what is being said. Have you ever been in a lecture or even just in a conversation with someone, and suddenly you realize that you have not really heard anything they have said for the past 15 or 20 minutes? That is commonly called “wool-gathering” and it happens because our brain processes information at about 800-1000 words per minute and most people speak at about 150 words per minute which just too slow for our brain and it drops out and does its own thing.
The moment we start formulating a response in our mind, we stop listening. While we are way ahead with what we want to say, we remain way behind with what we are being told. Eventually, the speaker’s message is actually missed by us.

5 Habits that will make you a better listener
Unlike in any other form of communication, concentration while listening is the hardest to achieve. However, there are habits you can create so that you can listen conscientiously and build on conversations to the benefit of all participants.
1. Lend your ear out of curiosity, not generosity.
When you listen as a favour, you are not really open to embracing new perspectives or to be proven wrong. So, you are not gaining much, except for an inflated ego maybe (since you have been so generous).
Being curious conveys genuine interest and intent, which stimulate your speaker to elaborate and share more. Asking questions not only prevents you from wild guesses and mind-reading but also builds a deeper feeling of engagement and cements the story in the minds of those in the conversation.

Grow your business faster with better team communication!
In order to do this, you should ask open-ended questions like “How did that make you feel?”. As you are requesting clarification, your listener will be more likely to express deeper attitudes that will otherwise remain silent in the background.
Also, you should make sure you ask more questions than you give answers. This implies that you pay attention to your talk/listen ratio. This is something you might find hard to observe in the beginning, but you can try marking down your interventions vs. those of your speakers on a piece of paper.

2. Repeat back, it’s called active listening.
In spite of their aim to bring clarity, conversations sometimes lead to misunderstandings. That is because people’s ability to understand accurately what someone is saying is frequently hindered by interruptions, distractions, preconceived ideas, and egos.
To put it simply, your power of understanding starts with your ability to listen. It builds on curiosity, patience, and empathy. You cannot develop these most important skills overnight; they take time, commitment, and determination. However, you can start with a simple exercise called active listening. It is pretty basic: repeat back to the person speaking what you have heard. It helps you ensure that you really heard the message that they intended. At the same time, it shows that you are truly interested in what is being said.
With a simple question like “If I understood correctly, you said that…, didn’t you?” or small request “Could you repeat that, please?” the person talking has a chance to revisit their story, reword statements, and clear confusion, while you remember better.
Active listening creates an opportunity for mutual understanding. Because you are no longer accepting assumptions, you are now dealing with certainties. Imagine how effective meetings would be if team members resorted more often to active listening.

3. Show non-verbal encouragement.
You need to show the speaker that you are actually listening.
Sometimes, asking too many questions will break the conversation, in spite of proving you are genuinely interested in what is being said. However, you can still indicate that you are paying attention through less intrusive gestures. It can be anything from maintaining eye contact to a reassuring head nod or a friendly “mmmm” or “uh-huh” or “I see” utterance.

4. First listen to the entire message, then think of your response.
As hard as you may find it, you need to let the other person finish their message before you respond. When you are already thinking of an answer while the speaker is still sharing their message, you actually stop listening and will miss out on the complete information that is being delivered.
Other than that, if you are already assuming what the other person is thinking, you are actually inclined to accept only information that confirms your preconceived opinions. It is hard not to make assumptions, but it is better to check them out loud when your speaker is finished talking.

5. Refrain from moralizing or passing judgments.
It is not easy to let the other person talk all the way through, especially when opinions and beliefs clash. But when you interrupt someone to label or to argue against what they are saying, you are shutting yourself down. When you are too attached to your knowledge and experience, you are missing important messages that might reveal a different perspective and teach you new things. You cannot learn anything when you are talking or when you are formulating your rebuttal. You can only learn when you truly listen fully.

You should also consider that some truths are hard to tell; they require effort and courage. As you cut off the speaker to openly express your surprise, shock or fear, you are inadvertently altering their message, because your poignant reactions will most likely prompt them to adjust the heart of the matter. It doesn’t matter if it is just to avoid conflict or distress, or simply to keep themselves in the comfort zone. They are likely to get emotional, to the detriment of the conversation and their own state of mind.

The outcome: they might keep essential/enlightening information from you, they might avoid talking openly to you in the future, they might resent you, and all of this could prevent from having the chance to learn something new.
As hard as you might find it to let the other person talk, show some empathy. Even if you disagree, suspend your judgment until they have walked you through their experience. Put yourself in their shoes, see things from their perspective first and then share yours. If you adopt this approach you will be surprised at the things you might learn.

A short note for the impatient…..
Every time you hear yourself more often than the others, you are not exactly making conversation. You are doing personal broadcasting. While your audience might learn something from your monologue, you will hardly gain anything from them. Because they won’t have had a chance to speak up, and information-wise you are not really accumulating much.
The imbalanced talk: listening ratio makes the exchange of experience and knowledge in solo conversations unfair. An ideal ratio is 2:1. That is what you should aim for.
On the other hand, becoming a better listener takes practice and patience. If patience is not exactly your strongest point, you can try a quick formula coined by Julian Treasure, sound consultant and author of “Sound Business.” In one of his TED Talks on sound, Treasure recommends a simple exercise that you can easily try in your conversations. It’s called RASA.
The acronym, which in Sanskrit is a word in itself and means “essence”, is the abbreviation of the following recommendations:
• “RECEIVE” – pay attention to the person talking
• “APPRECIATE” – make little noises like “hmmm’, “oh”, “OK”
• “SUMMARIZE” –give feedback so that the speaker knows that the message sent was the one received
• “ASK” – ask questions afterwards.

Listening is not inaction.
We may hear well, but we don’t always use our ears for conscientious listening. Communication, whether in business or personal relationships, depends more on the spoken word than it does on the written word.

The effectiveness of our communication is dependent not only on how we talk but more importantly on how we listen. To be good listeners, we must resort to skills that we can acquire either through experience or training.

Aside from a series of habits that you can easily create with a little practice of some of the elements mentioned in this article. It is important to see listening not as inaction because keeping silent doesn’t necessarily mean you are not doing anything. It means you are actually paying attention, or at least it should.

In fact, listening allows us to do plenty: we show empathy, we allow the conversation to progress, we encourage the speaker to share more, we strengthen relationships, and we take a big step towards understanding. The level of mutual understanding is an indicator of the effectiveness of the communication process, which in the end is something we all strive for, whether at work or in our personal lives.

4 Ways to Dazzle Your Customers

October 29, 2019 by  

4 Ways to Dazzle Your Customers

There are two main elements to a customer service strategy: basic service and the individual’s service experience.

Basic service is the basic product or service you provide to the market. Without this basic service, you do not really have a business. Clean hotel rooms, accurate financial advice, working stereo systems and reliable cable service are all examples of basic service that is certainly expected by your customers.

Interestingly, customers expect your basic service to work all the time, and when it does they are happy with your business and would give you a passing grade on your service report card. Customer loyalty is unaffected by this unless it does stay constant.
The source of customer loyalty is the service experience; dazzling a customer will get you an ‘A’ on your service report card and they will keep coming back and will also tell everyone else how wonderful you are.
The objective, then, is to deliver your basic service seamlessly and consistently so you can dazzle and amaze your customers when you do it.

How does an organization create these “gasp-worthy” experiences?
1. Hire human being lovers. Can you dazzle a customer if your front liners have a fundamental dislike for humans? Certainly not! Creating memorable experiences for customers requires employees who want to serve and take care of people. They are more likely to do this well if they feel appreciated and acknowledged for their contributions to your organization. Nonetheless, when recruiting, you should have a way of determining if the candidate has this attribute.

2. Recover: fix it and do the unexpected. Service mistakes happen in any organization; what is most critical, however, is what you do when they occur. The amazing thing is that customers are more loyal after a successful service recovery than if the mistake never happened at all! How to recover?
Fix the mistake as quickly as possible and then amaze them by surprising them with something they definitely do not expect. You can do that by asking them what would make them happy, by thanking them for bringing this issue to your attention. What you want them to take away is not the mistake that happened, but how effectively and amazingly you fixed it for them.

3. Get rid of ‘dumb rules’. Do you have policies that don’t make sense to customers? The rules, policies, and procedures that aggravate customers are probably issues that need to be modified or removed if possible. You want to do that because the last thing you want to be doing is making your customers frustrated or unhappy. Seek out those issues by asking your frontline what they have the most complaints about and then do modify or get rid of those issues entirely so that they are no longer a constant source of aggravation.Policy creation should be driven from the customer’s perspective, not internal staff groups who are constantly in the control mode.

4. Bend those rules; empower your frontline to ‘say yes’ and provide the customer with what will make them happy. You can’t dazzle customers if your frontline is enforcing rules all the time with no consideration for whether or not the outcome is making the customer satisfied. Allow them some flexibility to bend the rule when it makes sense to do what the customer wants and delight them in the process. You will have a far better chance of retaining a customer that feels they were fairly or even “royally” treated after an unfortunate incident.

Organizations that build their culture around these 4 key attributes are much more likely to have long-time loyal customers who will not only keep coming back to your business, but they will also be likely to boast about your service to others.
So if you want to build a reputation for having the best customer service in your industry follow these approaches and you just might achieve that title.

5 Essential Elements for Successful High-Performance Teams

September 28, 2019 by  

Teams, be it sales or distribution, are one of the most important entities within an organization because they are instrumental to its success.

Here are some key elements common to those successful high-performance teams.

1. Committed to a common cause: Strong teams spend time identifying their purpose, in other words collaboratively defining the common objectives that define their existence. They are committed to achieving their common goals and are responsible individually and collectively. Teamwork is the sum of individual efforts.

2. Focused on goals: Strong teams focus on what needs to be achieved. They may debate and disagree on various aspects related to the attainment of a goal but they do not lose sight of the task at hand. With the synergy of purpose, the team works collaboratively to be on track so that they can attain their predetermined aims and goals.

3. Complement each other’s skills: In order for teams to be successful, the members require good technical or functional expertise. They need to have good decision making and interpersonal skills. Strong teams understand individual strengths, leverage those to the benefit of everyone and complement each other to build on the various strengths necessary to accomplish the outcomes they desire.

4. Share interests and core values: Teams that have interests and core values that are aligned are more likely to meet their objectives than teams whose members have little in common. When team members enjoy each other, appreciate, respect and acknowledge individual contributions then the team will be successful and more likely to accomplish whatever they set out to do.

5. Possess positive energy: High-performance teams possess positive energy and excitement in whatever they do. They possess a strong sense of determination which propels them to accomplish their tasks efficiently, productively, and creatively.

A high-performance team has members who are engaged and involved with their jobs and enable others to do the same. Together, they provide positive reinforcement to each other and because of this synergy, they are able to attain their common goals and enjoy great success.  In addition they employ effective communication skills in order to work effectively and collaboratively together with clear instructions and directions between the team members.

4 Elements a Speaker Can Use To Improve Their Presentation

September 6, 2019 by  

We all want to be good speakers. We all want to feel comfortable, look credible, and mostly, have people follow our advice when we speak. After all, the reason we make presentations is to change behaviours, attitudes, or beliefs. There is no magic to improving your presentations, just time and effort. All speakers, regardless of their abilities or level of nervousness, can improve if they follow these 4 steps.

Make Time To Prepare – There is simply no way around this: it takes time to create a strong presentation. It is easy to procrastinate thinking that since you know your subject and will just be talking; you do not need to prepare. To have a strong presentation, you must allow adequate time to think, create visual aids, and practice. One of the most important keys to a successful and impactful presentation is your preparation, so practice, practice, practice.

Organize Your Presentation – A good presentation has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When it is constructed in this manner you make it clear to the audience where you are going and what you hope they will do when you are done. Taking the time to plan your talk ensures you will cover all the appropriate and necessary material while avoiding confusing and irrelevant side stories or information.

Create Compelling Visuals – While it is easy to create text-heavy slides and bulleted lists, all they compel the audience to do is space out. No one remembers bulleted lists so better to create more interesting slides with less text and more pictures. Design your PowerPoint programs so that they show the audience more images of the ideas they are hearing and explain with your words rather than inviting them to just read the slides. Besides, if all you are going to say is on your slides, what do they need you for? In fact, they can read the slides faster than you can speak them and will disengage because they will get ahead of you and be waiting for the next slide.

Involve Your Audience – Audiences want to be active participants in the conversation, not passive receivers of information. Engaging and involving the audience makes it easier for them to pay attention and retain the relevant information. Asking questions, eliciting comments, and dividing the audience into small discussion groups are effective ways to engage your audience more fully in their learning experience and it will result in a more retentive outcome as well.

The net result of doing the four items listed above is that you will feel more confident as a speaker and audiences equate confidence with credibility. The more confidence you exude as a speaker, the more relaxed the audience will be, and the more they can listen to your words. Confidence alone is not enough to carry your talk – you still need to be organized, deliver your talk well, and have good subject matter expertise.
Your presentation will be more compelling, you will feel more comfortable, look more credible, and your audience will be more likely to take the action you are suggesting. It is not magic, it is not rocket science, rather, it is just four key elements you can employ to improve your talks.

The Harassment-Free Workplace

August 17, 2019 by  

The #Me Too movement has a lot of organizations very nervous, and with good reason. In Canada, the Canadian and Provincial labour codes, as well as our Human Rights Act, stipulates that employees are entitled to a safe, comfortable, and respectful work environment. So, if an organization is not providing that, they can be at risk for a lawsuit. Not only does the leadership have to model respectful and appropriate behaviours but those behaviours must also become a part of the company’s culture so that everyone behaves in the same respectful manner. If that does not happen, and some employees feel disrespected or unfairly or inappropriately treated, they can file a complaint against the company. Besides, poisonous work environments are not very good places to work and can cause a lot of stress, turnover, sick days, underachievement, and ultimately unmet goals…..none of which is healthy for any organization.

As a result of this current fear, I have been providing a lot of Harassment Workshops for clients, educating their employees on what behaviours are acceptable and working with them on appropriate procedures to deal with situations that arise. The aim of the sessions is to make the employees more aware of what they should be paying attention to when they are with others.

I always start the session by explaining that today, one needs to be more sensitive to and aware of how what we say and do is being perceived by those around us. If we notice that someone looks or seems uncomfortable with a comment or remark, then you should ask them if you have offended them in some way so that you learn not to repeat that remark or action. If you apologize and do not repeat that behaviour, this issue is over. However, if you do continue to “harass them” you will have crossed the line and they can bring a complaint against you. Also, when someone feels disrespected, it is up to them to either tell the person how they feel, (because we are not mind-readers and may honestly not realize that we offended them) or to report the incident to the manager or HR person or whomever the company has designated as the appropriate person to speak with about such issues. It is best to do this as quickly as possible so that you remember all that happened. If anyone else witnessed the incident, perhaps they could come with you and support you.

This really speaks to emotional intelligence and common sense, however, it appears that today there does not seem to be much common sense or emotional intelligence any more and so we do need to make people more aware of the consequences of not practising these two very basic human behaviours.
In addition, every organization needs to have policies and procedures in place to deal with such situations and all employees must be aware of what they are so that they know what to do and who to contact. Finally, the process must include warnings and consequences that matter to the employees or the behaviour will not stop.

Employees need to be aware that verbal, physical, and visual forms of harassment are all dealt with in the same manner. One needs to be careful of screenshots, posters, racial or religious jokes or remarks, physical contact or gestures, and what is sent in emails as they can be seen by others or sent to others, even by mistake.
In the area where I live, for example, we probably have one of the most diverse communities in North America, maybe even the world so we have to be especially self-aware around co-workers from other cultures, religions, backgrounds and even education. The reason is this, just because something is not offensive to you or your Caucasian buddies, it is not necessarily okay with someone from another country or culture. As a result of this situation and because most of us would have no idea that we were doing or saying something offensive, that is why we need to observe the reactions of those around us in case we have done something that upset them……we need to be very observant of the non-verbals being demonstrated to know when we have possibly made a misstep.

For example, several years ago, we went on a Safari to Kenya. On our trip, we were taken to a Masai village to meet some of the local people. Our guide warned us that in their culture it was most offensive to pat small children on their heads. That is a very common practice here and likely any one of us might have done it as the kids were very cute. Not wanting to be offensive, we thanked the guide for her advice and were very careful not to touch the children. Again, we would not have known that what we were doing was something offensive if she had not warned us.

In many ways, this is probably a good thing as we have the opportunity to learn about and be more respectful to our co-workers so that everyone can enjoy a positive work environment. When people are happy they are more productive, efficient, creative, and healthy which is a win/win for everyone. I encourage everyone to employ more emotional intelligence in your daily life so that we can all get along better and be respectful of each other.

5 Reasons Why Women Make Great Entrepreneurs

August 1, 2019 by  

If you have ever doubted your ability to start a business, I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can! As a woman, you have already got several built-in qualities that will help you in starting a business and running it successfully.

Here are some reasons:
1. You Know How to Multi-task
Sure, you read articles saying that multi-tasking is bad, but that doesn’t stop entrepreneurs from doing it every day out of necessity. In addition, answering the phone, balancing the business bank account, making coffee, and meeting with clients will be a breeze after everything you already manage in your household. It is nice to know that acting as your kids’ chauffeur, serving as the family chef, and being your own maid service can come in handy elsewhere!

2. You are a Fierce Negotiator
As mothers, we have all been there: it is bedtime, you are exhausted, and your child wants to stay up just 15 more minutes. Rather than creating World War III, you compromise with 10 more minutes, if he/she folds the laundry first. Any client who thinks he is going to take advantage of you has another thing coming because you are on top of this.

3. When You are Passionate About Something, You Work Harder
Whether it is putting together Halloween costumes for the family or building a business doing what you love, you have drive when it comes to your passions. That is a quintessential characteristic of all successful entrepreneurs. After all, when the going gets tough, you need the stamina to make it through, and if you are genuinely doing what you love, that won’t be an issue. Besides, think of how much fun you will have turning that passion into a viable business.

4. You are Not Afraid of a Little Hard Work
Don’t be scared off when people tell you how much time and energy it takes to start a business. Of course, it does! As the saying goes, anything worth doing is worth doing well. You wouldn’t leave the gym halfway through your workout, or half-cook a meal. Just like with anything you do, running a business takes effort, but that won’t throw you. You are used to hard work and have no trouble exerting the necessary effort to make things happen.

5. There is No Separation Between You and What You Do
I once heard the analogy that men’s brains are like oranges. They’re able to compartmentalize every part of their lives: work, home, and friends. But women’s brains are more like a tomato: everything’s kind of jumbled together. I say that is great, especially when you are building a brand and representing it yourself. Rather than leaving the office and shutting off your mind completely from your company, you will live and breathe that brand. In addition, that will show to your customers, who will admire you for it.

We are well past thinking that women can’t do things as well as men. But you as a female need to embrace your strength and realize that if you want to start a business, the only thing holding you back is YOU!

Want to Reduce Work Stress?

July 9, 2019 by  

Letting go is not just a therapeutic lesson in healing negative emotional experiences but also an effective management skill. The ability to say ‘no’ shows that you know how to prioritize. This management skill is necessary for workplace success. While a myriad of responsibilities competes for your attention, discerning which to refuse is crucial for reducing work stress.
While it’s easy to say no to an alternative that is a bad idea or unappealing, picking between two positives is obviously more difficult. We often live in fear of the dark side to productivity: everything you accomplish comes at the expense of not accomplishing something else. If you have said yes to a great opportunity, you have also said no to whatever would have come as the consequence of refusing this opportunity.

Children learn the word ‘no’ to teach them self-control. Letting them do whatever they want without limits creates selfish, reckless adults. Saying no is a healthy practice for the development of responsible leaders who can follow through on their commitments.
Work stress happens when realities and expectations overwhelm our abilities. If you over-commit yourself, you run the danger of producing low quality work. Saying yes to everything can actually be the source of your work-related stress. When you accept every opportunity and the responsibility of managing every project, all the positives together can create a negative situation. To reduce work stress, you will have to learn how to let go.

Follow these three tips to make saying no a part of your daily routine:
1. Prioritize
Make a ranked to-do list of everything you must accomplish. This will give you a wider perspective of the demands on your time. You will be able to see which projects need the most time and where saying no is not an option. Creating a list helps you give the right value to each task and also helps prevent you from falling into the productive procrastination trap. Prioritize at the start of your day to easily discern which commitments will come at the least loss to refuse. You can also further organize your to-do list into categories of what you can delegate and what you must accomplish yourself.

2. Delegate
Sharing your responsibility is not the same as losing your authority. Delegating is actually the one time when saying no to some opportunities and tasks can still mean saying yes. You can lessen the burden of your personal demands by sharing responsibility with your hardworking team. The most effective managers delegate as much as possible. Micromanaging increases workplace stress, but careful delegating helps your company operate more smoothly. The necessary tasks will still get done but with more time for you to focus personally on what is most important.

3. Focus
Stressing over external factors is a waste of your time. The ability to let go of what you cannot control frees up your mind to focus on what you can. Effective managers recognize the specific purpose of their roles. You are a manager of something and do not bear the responsibility for everything. Even if you operate your own business with yourself as the only employee, external factors will still affect your company’s success. Relax with the knowledge that it is not always your fault when plans fail or projects derail. Focusing on what you can control gives you clarity in analyzing your success and makes productivity a tangible concept.

In the workplace, letting go means relinquishing your controlling grasp in exchange for long term success. Committing to what you know you can accomplish will reduce your stress and boost your confidence. Delegating what you cannot do alone compliments your team and reminds you that you do not have to go at it alone. Only partially completing multiple projects will not help your company move forward. Your future success will depend upon doing the best you can with every project you take on, so it is in your best interest to only commit to what you can actually accomplish.

5 Keys for Captivating Your Audience

June 25, 2019 by  

Would you like to actively engage, captivate. and motivate your audience?

If you answered yes to that question, here are 5 simple approaches for making what you say memorable to your audience.

1. Make Direct Eye Contact. If you are going to be a persuasive speaker you need to look members of your audience in the eye. When you do that they will then think that you are actually speaking directly to them and it will make you seem more honest, likeable, and believable. This means maintaining eye contact for 5-10 seconds with as many audience members as possible during your presentation.

2. Have Fun. Now I realize that sounds pretty basic, but many speakers act like what they’re doing is painful and that makes the audience uncomfortable. A speaker with passion and energy tells the audience that there is something worth listening to because look at how much the speaker is enjoying talking about it. Passion and excitement are contagious so if you show that you feel that way about your topic, the audience will likely end up feeling that way, too.  You set the tone for your audience so if you are excited and can share that successfully, they will be excited, too.

3. Smile. Smiling helps to build trust with the audience. When you smile you look like you are happy and that is a good start to building a positive relationship with your audience.

4. Energize & Project your Voice. Speakers who talk too quietly make listeners work too hard. So when you speak, you need to generate enough vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room, especially people in the back and those who are hard of hearing. The larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice.  In a very large venue, you may need a microphone to accomplish this so be sure to request one if necessary.

5. Be Aware of your Stance & Gestures. What your body is telling the audience is no less critical to your success than what your voice and words are saying. Generally, spend as much time on the content of your presentation, as practising how you look when you are speaking. If you have any annoying habits like adding “ah’s” or “ums” after many words or tugging on a ring on your finger or some other distracting habit, the audience will get uncomfortable and distracted by those behaviours because you will look uncomfortable to them. Be sure to practice either in front a mirror so you can see what you are doing, or use your phone to record your practice or if you have a friend or family member who will give you feedback, then do that, because you need to see and hear yourself as your audience will. That important process is a crucial step in knowing how to speak with enough confidence and energy to captivate your audience.

If you follow the five suggestions described above you will be much more likely to captivate your audience and enjoy your presentation.  If you enjoy it, it is very likely that your audience with also enjoy what you are sharing.

I wish you every success in your presentations and so just relax, practice ahead of time, and just have fun!

Five Tips for Impactful Messaging

May 15, 2019 by  

Getting your intended message across can often be more difficult than you might think or expect. Most of you probably think that you know how to communicate because you have been doing it for so long. However, unless you get some honest feedback from the listener you cannot be sure that the communication was received and processed as desired. In addition, if the message was not heard, you will not enjoy the expected outcome. So, unless you are a mind reader it is a good idea to ask the listener what they heard so that before you depart you are sure that the message you sent was indeed what was heard.

Here are some tips to help you be more effective in your exchanges so that you can reduce conflict, disappointment, resentment, confusion and stress.
1. Consider the needs of the person with whom you are having the conversation so that the “packaging” of the message will be enticing, as this will make it more likely that they will listen more intently and take away what you wish.

2. Clearly outline the benefits of what you wish the listener to do because if the reasons for changing behaviour or following your instructions make sense in a compelling manner to the listener/s, once again they will be much more likely to follow your directions.

3. Always tell the truth, that way you will truly be authentic, and honesty is the very best policy as your listener/s will sense your sincerity. This approach will also give you more credibility which will speak to a better chance for the generation of voluntary compliance with your wishes.

4. Have a clear goal in mind so that you can style your message appropriately to achieve that end you wish to achieve. Be able to clearly state that goal in a way that resonates with the listener so that they will be more likely to accomplish it.

5. Practice, practice, practice…new skills require the implementation of strategies and tools that will provide you with the desired outcomes, however you can only accomplish those goals when you have mastered the techniques necessary to become an impactful communicator. The most successful leaders are the most effective communicators and practice those skills all the time. Remember, the most important communication skills is Active Listening and the more you practice that skill you will certainly have fewer miscommunications and unexpected outcomes.

The most successful people are those who communicate with impact, clarity, and influence and so have fewer disappointments or unexpected results from their colleagues and co-workers……even from their family members and friends. So hone your communication skills!

3 Steps for Managers Preparing for Difficult Conversations

April 30, 2019 by  

During times of budget challenges, uncertainty in the industry, and changes in procedures or systems, supervisors might be experiencing an increase in the number of difficult conversations they need to have with their staff. These could include delivering bad news about an employee’s job, informing staff about work restructuring, describing changes to current procedures or systems or discussing other complicated and stressful work situations. In order to ensure that these exchanges are handled as well as possible and generally result in good outcomes, the following steps should be considered.
1. Prepare for the conversation
• Before opening the conversation, ask yourself several key questions. You may also want to consult with your Human Resources person, peers, or other appropriate resources to be sure you are comfortable with the answers.

Key questions include:
‐ What is the purpose of having this conversation?
‐ What do I hope to accomplish?
‐ What would be the ideal outcome?
‐ What assumptions am I making about the other person’s reaction to the conversation?
‐ What “hot buttons” could exist – for me and for the other person?
‐ How is my attitude toward the conversation contributing to the intended outcome?

Practice the conversation. You can mentally rehearse it in your mind, or practice it out loud with your supervisor, Employee Assistance Program, or Human Resources Manager. Get feedback on how they think this will play out with the approach you are using.

2. Arrange the conversation
• A successful outcome will depend on two things: what you say and how you say it. How you approach the conversation and how you behave will greatly influence what you say and how it is perceived. You must stay calm, honest, and respectful during the conversation.

• Acknowledge any emotional energy that might be fueled by the conversation. The emotional content is as important as the facts and must also be addressed.

• Keep aligned and focused on the purpose of your conversation. Don’t be distracted by side tracks.

• Suggestions for opening the conversation might include:
‐ I’d like to talk to you about. . .
‐ I want to better understand your point of view. Can we talk more about. . .
‐ I’d like to talk about ________. I think we may have different ideas on how to ______.

3. Working Toward a Successful Outcome
• Approach the conversation with an attitude of inquiry and discovery. Set aside assumptions and try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s point of view.

• Let the employee complete what they have to say without interruption. Then give them feedback to show that you respectfully listened and understood their point of view. You don’t necessarily have to agree however, you need to remain open-minded regarding their perspective. Saying “it sounds like this issue is very important to you” doesn’t mean that you have to decide the way they would like you to.

• Advocate for your position without diminishing theirs. State your position concisely and clarify points they may not have understood.

• End with problem-solving. Try to find mutual areas of agreement on solutions and identify what steps need to be taken to reach the desired outcome. If there seems to be no common ground, then return to the inquiry and ask more questions about their perspective.

If you take this honest, open and respectful approach to the difficult conversation you will be much more likely to end up with a satisfactory outcome for you and the employee.

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