Three Ways to Improving Remote Global Workplace Culture

September 19, 2021 by  

Companies that foster positive work cultures are more successful. A positive company culture creates loyal employees and boosts wellbeing and engagement. However, as companies build a global remote workforce, ensuring employees feel included and valued becomes more of a challenge.

When it comes to attracting top talent, culture often determines whether someone will want to join your team in the first place. In a
survey conducted by Glassdoor, half of respondents stated that company culture makes a bigger difference than salary when it comes to their ultimate job satisfaction.

The good news is that employees across the globe all care about the same things. They want to feel comfortable working with their colleagues, supported by management and encouraged to contribute as a team player. According to the Society of Human Resources Management, a positive work culture results in employees and management being much more aligned in how to respond to issues. Employees also recognize they will be rewarded for exemplifying company values.

Here are some steps to ensure your global business culture unites and supports employees around the world:

1. Recognize cultural differences
Countries have different styles of communication and work habits. It is critical to assess how people view work-life balance and how effective communication styles works in a particular country. Developing an empathetic company culture that respects differences and celebrates diversity is essential to company success.

2. Define your culture
You know who you are and you know what your company stands for. Including well-defined values in your employee handbook is a good first step. Highlighting your company culture on your website and social media platforms can help prospective employees learn more about your organization and determine if they are a good fit.

3. Hire correctly
One of the benefits of growing a business globally is having the option to hire the right people from anywhere. At the same time, it is crucial to assess whether candidates are a cultural and professional fit. The worst thing you can do to your amazing company is hurry up and just get people in the door, when in your gut you know they are not the right fit. Do yourself and your team a favor and wait for the right person – it is always worth the wait.

Though remote teams may be physically separated, you can still create a positive and connected company culture. When hiring, getting help from in-country experts is an excellent way to manage traditional HR issues, and allows you to focus on forming a strong, inclusive work culture. That local expertise paired with the right leadership can enable companies to have a harmonious workplace culture that transcends borders and time zones.

What Constitutes a Great Boss??

August 25, 2021 by  

Great bosses change us for the better. They see more in us than we see in ourselves, and they help us learn to see it too. They dream big and show us all the great things we can accomplish.

“A good boss is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but
rather the careers of those who work for him.”H. S. M. Burns

Being a great boss obviously has a tangible value other than just being liked, but how do you know if you are one? If you are not, how do you get better?

When I ask audiences to describe the best and worst bosses they have ever worked for, they inevitably ignore innate characteristics intelligence, extraversion, attractiveness, and so on and instead focus on qualities that are completely under the boss’s control, such as passion, insight, and honesty. This means that any of us can study the unique qualities of great bosses in order to learn and improve.

 Have you ever worked for an information hoarder? Some bosses seem to think that every piece of information they share reduces their power and authority. In fact, just the opposite is true: great bosses know that sharing information empowers their employees, instead of diluting their own power.

A great boss puts a lot of thought into hiring. Bad bosses think nothing of hiring a jerk with great credentials because they are only interested in how that person will perform. Great bosses think of the entire team. They recognize that their current employees are going to have to work with the new hire every single day, and they look for someone who will complement the team holistically, rather than just fill in a certain skills gap.

A great boss looks for and celebrates wins. Great bosses don’t have a “Why should I praise you for doing your job?” attitude. They look for reasons to praise their employees, both privately and publicly, and they take the time to celebrate milestones, instead of just driving everybody on to the next project or deadline. They understand that getting a paycheck doesn’t cancel out that inherent need to feel valued and appreciated.

A great boss respects your time. Great bosses don’t give you the impression that their time is more valuable than yours. They don’t keep you waiting for scheduled meetings. They show up prepared and get to the point, instead of trying to impress you. They don’t goof off on your time. It is not that they are unwilling to have fun at work, but they don’t do it at your expense, causing you extra stress or making it necessary for you to stay late to catch up.

A great boss is empathetic. Bad bosses only see their employees from the perspective of how the employees reflect on them. If their employees are doing a great job, they look good; if their employees are performing poorly, they look bad. Great bosses, on the other hand, see their employees as more than just extensions of themselves. They are able to get inside their employees’ skins and understand things from their perspective. That doesn’t mean they are pushovers, or that they just say, “Oh, sorry you are having a bad day; don’t worry about that deadline.” But it does mean that they recognize their employees are human and that they treat them as such.

A great boss is accountable. Bad bosses are quick to point the finger when something goes wrong. They will throw their employees under the proverbial bus without a second thought. Great bosses understand that a large part of their job is being accountable for the team’s performance. They know that this just goes along with accepting a managerial role. That doesn’t mean that they don’t offer the team feedback on what is going wrong, but it does mean that they take the blame publicly. Even privately, they see the team’s failure as a failure of leadership on their part, and they act quickly to correct it.

A great boss says thank you. Bad bosses think the work their employees do is something the employees owe them. After all, they are getting paychecks, right? That is true but great bosses look past work as a transactional relationship and realize that people are putting a huge part of themselves into the work they do. They say thank you, even if it is “just part of the job.”

A great boss doesn’t forget that people have lives outside of work. Bad bosses tend to see people as one-dimensional: they show up and get the work done, and the boss doesn’t have to worry about them again until the next day. Great bosses, on the other hand, never forget that work is just one facet of their employees’ lives. They never forget that they have families, friends, hobbies, and other interests and obligations outside of work, and they don’t infringe on their “real” lives by asking someone to work late, for example without a very good reason. When they do have a good reason, they acknowledge that they are asking for a sacrifice and express their gratitude accordingly.

A great boss is a great communicator. It seems like some bosses will do anything to avoid giving a straight answer. They don’t want to say something they can be held accountable for later. Other bosses just don’t want to be bothered with clear explanations and solid answers. Great bosses say what they mean and mean what they say and they say it clearly, so that people don’t have to read between the lines or try to guess their real meaning.

A great boss creates leaders. Have you ever noticed how sometimes all the promotions come from within one manager’s team? That is no accident. Great bosses pull the very best out of their people. They inspire, coach, and lean into people’s strengths, and when their employees are ready for new challenges, they gladly send them on their way.

Bringing It All Together
If you are currently a boss, is this how your employees would describe you? If not, you are leaving money, effort, and productivity lying on the table. You are also probably losing some good employees, if not to other jobs, then at least to disengagement and lack of interest.

A Gentle and Simple Method for Overcoming One’s Shyness

August 6, 2021 by  

Shyness is a common complaint, especially among school-age children. But adults can also be shy and find their shyness to be a frustrating barrier to living life to the fullest. You might believe that you were born shy, and there is some science to suggest that shyness is partially hereditary. However, you can learn to be less shy and to enjoy your life more.
You weren’t born able to walk, talk, or ride a bike, but you still learned. You can learn to be more socially comfortable, too.

Try these strategies to come out of your social shell and enjoy the company of others:
1. Imagine yourself being more social. The things you imagine vividly are indistinguishable from real experiences as far as your brain is concerned.
 Spend some time each day imagining yourself confidently and successfully navigating a variety of social situations that you would like to handle well in real life.
2. Use systematic desensitization. Start small. Very small. Walk around your local mall and do your best to make eye contact with the people walking toward you. If that is too intimidating, walk around with your head up, eyes forward, and walk confidently. Slowly ramp up the level of interaction from there.
 Make it a point to smile and say, hello to one person. On the next trip, say hello to three people.
 Ask someone for directions to a store at the other end of the mall. Or ask someone for the time.
 Have a 30-second conversation with another shopper or a store worker. Once you get used to that, start having 60-second conversations.
 Develop a fair amount of comfort with one step before moving on to the next.
3. Control your negative thoughts. You are not anxious until you begin imagining negative outcomes or engage in negative self-talk. Those are the two actions that trigger anxiety.
 Note that they are actions, meaning they are things that you have to do. They might be habits and require little to no effort to perform, but they are still under your control. Think about something positive instead.
4. Stay present. If your attention is focused on your environment or on the person you are interacting with, your anxiety will be much lower.
 When you are listening to someone speak, study their eyes or their nose. Put all of your focus on them rather than engaging with your thoughts. You will be surprised by how much this helps!
5. Use affirmations. Affirmations are one way of controlling your thoughts. Make a list of positive affirmations and use them whenever you are feeling shy.
6. Here are a few suggestions:
 People are kind and interested in getting to know me.
 People love me once they get to know me.
 I am open to confidently meeting new and interesting people.
 I am immune to the negative reactions of others.
 I am a powerful and social person.
 I love people and they love me.
7. Change your perspective. Wouldn’t you love to meet someone that was kind and friendly, even if they weren’t perfect? Everyone feels the same way. You can be the kind, friendly person that everyone wants to meet. You don’t have to be perfect or anything close to perfect. Just be kind and friendly.
 You will have more friends than you know what to do with, but you have to let people get to know you.

You can learn to be more socially bold and comfortable with practice. Be patient with yourself and start slowly. A small improvement each week in your social comfort leads to significant progress very quickly. A little effort and courage are all that is required. You can overcome your shyness and feel a greater enjoyment for life.

Develop the Important Traits Necessary to Become a Great Leader:

July 17, 2021 by  

Here are the important traits of a great leader:

1. Self-motivated. As a leader, it is important to be able to motivate yourself to take action to move forward toward your goals whether they are personal or team goals. Leaders are driven to get things done and they lead their team to do the same.
2. The ability to delegate. You can’t do it all yourself. The most effective leaders surround themselves with skilled people, define their responsibilities, and then get out of the way. A single person is quite limited, but many hands can get a lot done. Learn how to share your workload.
3. Communicate effectively. You might have a clear picture in your mind of what you’d like to see happen. Unfortunately, no one can read your mind. A leader is responsible for sharing his vision and making his desires known.
People can give you what you want when you can communicate clearly what needs to be done.
Provide status updates and keep everyone on the same page. Employees lose motivation when they don’t understand the current situation fully.
4. Develop others. Being a leader isn’t just about utilizing others to reach your goals. It’s developing those around you. From a more selfish perspective, the more skilled your employees, the more they can assist you and the company.
Share your expertise and help everyone around you to grow.
5. Be committed. You can’t expect greater commitment than you’re willing to provide. A leader sets the ceiling. Everyone else settles in somewhere below that point. Set the ceiling high and show them what true commitment looks like.
6. Inspire others. A great leader knows how to inspire others to do their best work. It’s not always easy to inspire those content to simply show up each day and collect a paycheck, but it’s possible. Show your motivation and commitment.
· Even if you are only able to inspire a few people to do their best, it will make a positive difference.
7. Have a clear focus. If you don’t know what you want, you won’t get it. Leaders are clear on their vision and readily share it with others. A clear vision serves as a roadmap. Employees can easily ask themselves if their actions are contributing to the attainment of your vision. Know your focus and communicate it effectively.
8. Show respect. Strive to treat everyone fairly and avoid playing favorites. Everyone is worthy of a basic level of respect. Ensure that you are giving it.
9. Confidence. It’s natural to be drawn to others with confidence. You are viewed as more capable and trustworthy when your confidence level is high. Be comfortable with your skills and your plan.
A lack of self-confidence will limit the ability of others to trust your vision and judgment.
10. Decisiveness. Leaders make the tough decisions fearlessly and take responsibility for the outcome. It’s easy to make quick decisions when you’re clear on your values and those of the company. If you can’t make up your mind, your leadership skills will be called into question.
Practice by making small decisions quickly and following through on them. It gets easier with practice. You’ll be surprised by how much more you accomplish when you’re able to make a clear decision.

Leaders are necessary in any organization. Great leaders share common characteristics that you can develop in yourself. Even if you don’t feel you currently possess these qualities, you can grow your capacity to be an effective leader.

5 Behaviours of Leaders Who Embrace Change

July 7, 2021 by  

Change-agile leaders demonstrate five integrated behaviours that, together, create a competitive advantage for the organization.

They do the following:

1. Share a compelling, clear purpose: Purpose is the guardrail for actions. Change agility requires an answer to the question “Why?” so that people can fight their natural instinct to resist change. The answer needs to tap into what is meaningful and important, providing an irresistible invitation to come along. If you can’t articulate a clear purpose behind the changes being made, it is unlikely that your employees will be able to implement them.

2. Look ahead and see opportunity: Most leaders view this as the role of senior executives. To infuse change agility into your culture, mid- and front-line leaders who are closest to the markets, customers, and daily operations need to be encouraged and incentified to see opportunities in what they do every day. They need to look beyond this month or this year to identify trends and take action. History is littered with market leaders who didn’t see the opportunities ahead or take action on them.

To build this behaviour into the organization, leaders should:
• Make opportunity-seeking part of the regular conversation. Simply asking questions like “What are our customers talking about? What do you think they will want a year or two from now? What new trends do you think will impact us?” sends the message that looking ahead is important.
• Provide space to experiment. When a potential opportunity is identified, allow individuals or groups to experiment with ways to take advantage of it. Minimize the need for multiple layers of sign-off as it makes the culture too risk-averse and squelches momentum.
• Advertise successes. Nothing breeds success like success. Tell the stories at company events and recognize middle and front-line leaders who are looking ahead and identifying opportunities. Show that the status quo is not enough anymore.

3. Seek out what is not working: The old adage says that bad news doesn’t travel up. During the integration of an acquisition or even in the internal merger of business units, there will be bad news that the organization needs to learn from. But for real learning to occur, people need to feel psychologically safe to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Consider this example:
Derek was leading the integration of several internal units into a merged organization. This integration created a new team of direct reports for him. Over the course of the integration, he worked on creating psychological safety for his team to discuss the challenges of working together and of the integration overall. They used a trust framework to openly talk about what they were doing to build and break down trust with each other. Individuals discussed what they brought to the team and what they needed from their fellow team members. They did pulse checks to assess their alignment and where there was work to do. They had difficult conversations. This type of open conversation and psychological safety cascaded through the new 250-person organization. It culminated in a two-day meeting for the entire organization that included open conversations about what was working well and what opportunities and challenges this new organization needed to address for its clients. The meeting also included a read-out of the employee engagement survey scores that, in the midst of the turbulence of integration, were among the highest in the company’s history.

4. Promote calculated risk-taking and experimentation: Robert Kennedy, paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, said, “There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Too often, our traditional organizations’ first response to a risk is to ask, “Why?” Change agility requires leaders to ask “why not?” and to establish opportunities for pilots, prototypes, and experimentation. Experimentation is an integral part of R&D. While an overall strategy informs the researchers’ focus, any R&D scientist will tell you that there are sometimes dozens of experiments that don’t get results and that, without the failures, they couldn’t find the successes.

5. Look for boundary-spanning partnerships: As work becomes more complex, it takes teams and cross-boundary collaborations to build products, attract customers, and achieve results. Change-agile leaders and organizations are replacing functional silos with formal and informal organizations that allow for the rapid flow of information and decision-making around a product, customer, or region. For example, Maureen is a mid-level learning and development leader at a global tech company that is growing rapidly through acquisition. Having growth and development opportunities for key talent has been critical for retention, and enhancing the employee experience is a strategic focus. Learning and development teams are dispersed across the organization, working independently to address business unit needs. Looking ahead, Maureen sensed that the company was also going to be focusing on efficiency in response to market changes and the continued integration of the acquired companies. Seeing the opportunity to improve the employee experience and create cost efficiencies across the learning organizations, she brought together her fellow learning leaders. They designed and implemented a new shared services organization that centralizes training development and vendor management. It will create standardized branding and processes, leverage tools, and create cost savings from consistently negotiated contracts. This creates a more consistent employee experience across learning functions and more efficiently addresses learning needs across the company.

These five behaviours, when used in concert with each other, create culture shifts that increase change agility. They are shifts that need to be made at all levels of leadership. They can mean the difference between success and just being an also-ran. They can also help to make sure the desired changes actually occur with everyone on-board.

Self-Efficacy: Key to Your Success

June 23, 2021 by  

Self-efficacy relates to a person’s ability to have optimistic beliefs, but it is 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 when facing stressful situations, are self-starters, and self-motivating.

Here is how it affects your 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 behaviours 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 may be 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 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. Remember, if you do not ask, you do not get, so better to ask!
3. Challenge your attributions: Attributions are the judgments we make about our own or the behaviours 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 blueprint for how to change your behaviour.
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 that 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, you will certainly be more successful in all aspects of your life.

Improve Your Leadership Skills by Focussing on Critical Thinking

June 4, 2021 by  

Highly successful leaders are exceptional critical thinkers.

Here are five ways to improve your approach to strategic problem-solving and decision-making.

As a strategic business coach, one of my core responsibilities is leveling up leadership skills on the senior team. I like to say, if you want to grow and scale a business, you have to grow and scale its leadership. One of the key skills to focus on is critical thinking.
As a business grows in size, so does the complexity and scope of its problems and challenges. Without good critical thinking skills, leaders will make poor decisions and fail to take advantage of strategic opportunities. Very often, what holds the business back from reaching its true potential is a lack of leadership’s foresight and effective problem-solving skills.

Here are five key things that to focus on when working with leaders to improve their ability to identify, analyze, solve, and implement effective problem-solving strategies.
1. Gather more and better data
The first thing to emphasize is that most teams try to make decisions with limited and poor-quality data. Good critical thinkers start by collecting as much high-quality data as possible. They don’t take things at face value. They question summaries and dig to make sure that they really understand what’s happening on the ground and maximize the raw information they have to work with.
This includes both structured and unstructured data as well as quantitative and qualitative information. It is also important to look at history and trends and to compare the data you’re looking at with other benchmarks and norms. Good thinkers don’t rely upon summaries and averages, they go back to the source and get the raw information.

2. Learn how to separate fact from inference
Once you have collected information, it is key to understand the difference between facts and inferences. Too often leaders will make assumptions about what is really true and treat them as facts when what they are really dealing with is an inference. This creates a shaky foundation for any future thinking and decision-making.
A fact is objectively observable by other people. An inference is something that includes an assumption or an opinion that may or may not be true. If you literally drive from New York to L.A and it takes 58 hours, that is a fact. If you use a map to calculate the distance and estimate an average speed to get to 58 hours, that is an inference. Don’t confuse the two.

3. Break things down to first principles
Encourage leaders and teams to think in first principles. These are the fundamental building blocks in thinking and decision-making. They are the core elements that are true regardless of situation and context.
They generally are found by asking clarifying questions, considering alternatives, and testing assumptions. Once you have a good set of first principles, you then have the elements that you need to start creating new options and new solutions that you can be confident in.
For example, the first principle in tennis is that a ball hit with topspin will fall faster than one hit with backspin. A good tennis player knows how to use this in different scenarios to create strategic effects. By combining this with other principles, an expert player can make plays that leverage their strengths and exploit their opponent’s weaknesses.

4. Develop effective models
Another tool that can be very effective for teams and leaders is thinking in terms of models or analogies. While these are an abstraction and reduction of reality, and therefore wrong at some level, they can be useful for simplifying a situation and quickly finding alternatives and strategies.
For example, economies of scale are a model for how price changes with volume. While a specific situation may not follow the model perfectly, it can help a business figure out how to gain efficiencies by increasing the volume while holding costs the same.
The trick with models is to know where and why they work and how they can fall short. Models can help you quickly generate insights and strategies, but you need to be aware of their limits and not get lulled into a false sense of security about reality.

5. Continuously challenge your assumptions
Maybe the most important thing to focus on with leaders and teams is to create ways of testing and validating their assumptions quickly. If left unchecked, an assumption can lead to poor thinking and bad decision-making. This can be avoided by quickly going out into the real world and seeing if what you are assuming holds up in the field.

By developing your critical thinking skills, you will improve your decision-making and ultimately get better outcomes and long-term results. While some of these steps may take some time and energy, they are good investments and will yield strong returns.

Memorizing Your Speech . . . Should You or Shouldn’t You?

May 17, 2021 by  

Memorizing your speech . . . should you or shouldn’t you? Here is the surprising truth about when memorization helps you nail a presentation!

What is the difference between a TED Talk and a phone call from a telemarketer?
Among other markers of quality and performance, it is this: The telemarketer usually sounds like he or she is reading from a script.  The TED speech? Well, that talk is scripted out too only the TED speaker doesn’t make it sound that way.
A key element to any successful speech is the focus.

Look into the question of whether you should memorize your speech and presentation  and virtually all of the advice you will find is the same: you shouldn’t do it. But I am not so sure. To be fair, I have said the same thing over the years to my speech coaching clients. Lately, though, I have been revisiting this matter in my mind and re-examining my own assumptions. Blame it, in part, on the fact that I am an actor.
Any actor whether performing on a stage, in a film, recording an audiobook or in a gig making sales calls prides himself or herself on the fact that it mustn’t sound like someone reading. Add to that thought this question: which type of spoken performances are generally the most dramatic, the most memorable, and the most emotionally powerful? Aside from a remarkable political speech or one addressing a historic moment, what we are talking about here is acting.

Do actors memorize their lines?  You know they do!  But their craft requires that they do it engagingly and in a way that doesn’t sound canned. So, to end this chain of logic: The problem with memorizing a speech isn’t the act of memorization. It is simply a bad performance in conveying the written material that makes it all obvious. There, as Hamlet said, is the rub.  In addition, if you get nervous, you will likely forget what you memorized and that certainly won’t be good.  Better to really know what you want to say.

As In All Public Speaking, the Key Is Performance
Again, think of actors: The whole point of a dramatic performance is to know the part line-by-line but to make it sound spontaneous and real. It is called “the illusion of the first time.” You, too, as a speaker should be giving your audience the same impression. Listeners the people who share your interest or dedication to the topic need to hear your thinking as you develop your argument, as your personality connects to what you are saying. As British director John Barton wrote, referring to acting performances, you should invent the phrase as you say it.

Obviously reading a script either literally doing so with a manuscript, or performing that action in your head isn’t going to lend your delivery that element of spontaneity and honesty. So should you just give yourself bullet points and trust that you will be able to phrase everything eloquently at the right moment?

Isn’t at least one solution to this challenge that you can memorize exactly what you want to say, and then work on making it sound natural and fresh? Believe me, you don’t have to be an actor to do this. If you learn how to develop exceptional presentation skills, you can make it happen.

So . . . Should You or Shouldn’t You?
One reason my thinking has been evolving on this issue is the fact that I have recently become a keynote speaker. When the speakers’ bureau I now work with asked me to kick off their new speakers series, I faced the issue I am discussing here. Motivational speakers don’t speak from notes. To deliver an impactful address, in precisely the amount of time a meeting or conference calls for, they need to shape their talk, know it cold, and be able to reproduce it time and time again. To do that, they memorize, as I now do my keynote speeches.

How about you? As in all things concerned with public speaking, the answer to the “memorize or not” question is contingent and situational. That is, the key considerations are the type of presentation you are giving, and whether you and your audience would be best served by a fully memorized and dynamically delivered speech. If necessity is the mother of your personal inventiveness and leads you to add this dimension to your speaking repertoire, don’t necessarily be cowed by the conventional advice.

In the end, the reason I usually do not recommend memorizing is because when one is nervous, as one often is when doing a presentation, you will likely forget what you memorized. That is why it is actually better to know your material backwards and forwards, inside out and in your sleep. PowerPoint or a similar tool is just that, a tool and serves two basic purposes, it reinforces your key points and reminds you, the speaker of the key points you want to elaborate upon. However, everything you are going to share with your audience about those keywords or short phrases should NOT be on your slides. Your audience can read your slide faster than you can speak it so better to have very few words on your slides. Besides, most people are not verbal learners, they are visual or hands-on learners. So the more interactive you can make your session and the more use of pictures or graphics, the more likely your audience will remember more of what you have told them.

Do remember to have fun, because you set the tone for the room and if you are nervous and anxious you will make your audience feel that way. However, if you are relaxed, calm and passionate about your material you have better chance of successfully engaging your audience and making sure they have fun as well.

The Voice of Authority: How to Sound Like a Leader

May 11, 2021 by  

Do you have the voice of authority and leadership when you speak? Here’s how to sound like a leader who projects power and presence!

Speaking with a figurative “leader’s voice” is one thing. Imbuing your actual voice with the sound of leadership is another matter entirely.
We often hear about the voice of a leader in terms of vision. But much depends upon your ability to actually speak in a way that compels attentiveness, trust, and respect. I’m talking about the sound of your voice and the power and presence you project.
It is possible to be weak-voiced and lead a company or organization. But in ways large and small, people will perceive you differently and be more willing to follow you when you invest the sound of your voice with the attributes of leadership.

The Dangers of Underperforming Vocally
Recently I worked with a client for whom vocal performance had become an overriding concern. She held a senior position in her company and held frequent meetings with her global team. It had become apparent to her and her boss, however, that her speaking style was undermining confidence in her leadership.
As a business coach specializing in Voice and Speech Improvement, I know this isn’t gender-specific. Both women and men may have problems achieving vocal dynamism. My current client had a “small” voice: it was underpowered and too light for someone in authority. Indeed, when I first taped her leading a simulated business meeting, she exclaimed, “I sound like a little girl!”
When I first started working as a speech coach almost thirty years ago, a consultant called me who was having problems with potential clients. They would question his level of experience in initial phone calls. “How long have you been doing this?” they would ask, and “How old are you?” When he walked into my office, I found myself facing a man in his 50s with white hair.
So there is no doubt that your voice impacts perceptions of you. Below are three ways you can attain the voice of authority if it isn’t carrying its own weight in your professional success.

1. Support Your Breath for Speaking Power
If your voice isn’t giving the impression of power, it is not entirely your fault. We live in an age where we simply don’t need to project our voices the way we once did. Few of us work outside anymore, where our voices needed to carry across distances.
It is all too easy now. Standing next to co-workers, holding a cell phone two inches from our mouths, or sitting two feet away from our webcams, we have turned into pale versions of the robust talkers we used to be. Yet our voices still need to convey our vitality as speakers.
The place to start is with supported breath that can effortlessly project the fullness of your sound. Learn how to breathe diaphragmatically. It is breath that creates the vocal energy you need to reach every part of your performance space and to sound like you mean business. You literally need energy to energize listeners, and to make essential words heard. Remember: the most important words in English usually come at the end of the phrase. Invest yourself with enough breath so you have the power to “punch” the idea or image embodied in those words.

2. Balance Your Sound to Achieve Authority
One reason my recent client, and many others I have coached, had a voice that sounded too young is that she spoke with too much “head voice.” A key distinction you should know about is the dichotomy between head voice and chest voice. If used exclusively, the former can come across as thin and lightweight; and the latter like an old stuffed chair left in the basement.
Yet each of these voices has advantages and disadvantages. A strong head voice can sound young, bright, intelligent and lively though its sound doesn’t carry well and possesses no authority. The chest-voice speaker, on the other hand, has ample supplies of that last characteristic, though he or she seems to lack spontaneity and has a “fuddy-duddy” sound.
As you might imagine, you shouldn’t speak entirely with either of these voices. You need a balance between head and chest voice. That is what I worked on with my recent client. The aim was to show her intelligence and flexibility, linked to experience and authority. She needed a more forceful voice that commanded attention.
Tape yourself, and listen to whether you are at one end of the spectrum or the other. Then work toward a happy medium.

3. Color Your Voice for Maximum Expressiveness
Finally, when you have enough breath support to power and sustain your voice, and you are speaking with a mature and balanced sound, you can go for the gold. It is time to develop a vocal style that uses the full-colour palette of emotions.
That is a metaphor I often use: colours. Too “pink” a voice, for instance, with work may begin to reveal more “burgundy” tones, reflecting maturity and fullness. Speaking in “greys” is possible, though that means there is an entire array of colouration not being used. A sad-sounding voice contains too many shades of “brown,” and so on.
Audiences need to hear the emotions behind your convictions! When you speak you are leading, and you need to tap into the subtleties and nuances that reflect your intelligence. Then, of course, there is the sheer power of the voice that supports a call to action.

To get there, practice passages from fiction and poetry, which offer the greatest range of emotions to be expressed vocally. Listen to audiobooks read by voice actors, the performers par excellence in this field. The above techniques will help lend you the voice of authority. Learn to use them and feel comfortable with them, as you inspire and influence those who look to you as a leader.

What Is Stress and How Can One Cope?

April 13, 2021 by  

Stress is mental or physical tension that results from physical, emotional or chemical causes.
In fact, physiologically everyone reacts to stress in the same way initially. You get a boost of adrenalin which speeds up your respiration, perspiration and increases your focus and energy. But only for brief periods of time. Prolonged stress causes a build-up of cortisol, a chemical that speeds up the function of your organ systems and over time can cause irreversible damage to those systems. High cortisol levels are dangerous.
As a result, one needs to have stress deflecting strategies that can be exercised when facing a lot of stress, especially if it is for along time.

Stress is also different things to different people. For example, something that stresses you might not stress me and vice versa.
Some jobs have more stress than others built into them. For example, air traffic controllers have to make sure that no planes are coming in and going out at the same time and must be aware of everything that is going on all the runways. This can be rather stressful. Now, they have great training that offers them strategies to deal with issues and must consider that training will allow them to handle any problem that might arise will on duty.

Then there is Dentistry. Dentists have the highest suicide rate of any profession. Why?? They work under very tight time constraints on nervous, anxious, stressed-out patients who believe that they go to the Dentist, he or she hurts them and then they pay. Many have had unfortunate experiences when they were young and never got over the trauma of that situation. When I was practising, I used to have parents bring in their small children before their first appointment so that I could “play with them”. I would give them a ride up and down in my chair. I would let them play with my air/water syringe in the garbage pail, I would polish a fingernail for two, I would put the suction end on their hand so they could see what it did and hear the noise. I would blow air on their teeth and put some water in their mouth & then suction it out. Then I would give them a prize. That way, they got to know me, (no parents in the room), had some fun, heard the noises, saw the equipment I would be using to clean their teeth and maybe just think going to the dentist would be fun. Sadly, I knew 3 dentists who committed suicide when I was in practice as a Dental Hygienist.

Next, there is the construction industry where there is a myriad of things that can go wrong, often do. Materials can arrive late for damaged, same with appliances and plumbing fixtures. If a problem crops up it can upset the timeline and as everything is sequential, if one job is delayed it can affect the rest and a site supervisor can lose some subcontractors because they have other commitments and scheduled you when you thought you would need them. Renovations are also difficult as one never knows exactly what one might find when a wall is removed or a floor pulled up or a ceiling opened up. Surprises can often turn into a major problem that will take much more time to adjust around.

Today, in our very technological world, change has become the new norm and humans generally do not like change as we prefer to deal with what we know and are comfortable with. Those who are not willing and able to embrace change today will get left behind and may even lose their jobs. Change is the event, the transition is the process and must be handled very well with open, honest communication addressing concerns and fears, an appropriate time frame to allow the employees to adjust and learn the new processes or equipment. In addition, upper management must model the commitment to this change and offer compelling reasons why it will be advantageous to embrace this change. Questions need to be answered honestly and quickly and management needs to be available to support and encourage everyone as they move forward.

I am sure that engineers also run into many situations that might not have been anticipated and must readjust plans in order to complete a job.

Medical personnel deal with traumatic situations day in a day out and often have to convey devastating news to family members when something terrible has occurred. Police and EMT staff face the same sort of issues seeing very traumatic things every day and that is extremely stressful for them.

Again, many jobs are stressful but here is the thing……no one’s life is a long straight smooth road. Everyone faces bumps, potholes, curves, hills, washouts, and landslides. It is really how we deal with those obstacles and challenges that we face in our lives. If one can espouse a positive, problem-solving and critical thinking attitude about whatever one faces, life will be better, less stressful, and ultimately happier. Happy people are sick less often, deal with difficulties better and that is because they are positive about life and do not let those unfortunate situations ruin their lives and keep them unhappy.

One other thing to bear in mind is this, other than the initial reaction to stress, men and women do handle stress differently. Women experience a second cascade of chemicals, including oxytocin which reduces the effects of adrenalin and slows things down for them. Estrogen also enhances the effects of oxytocin. Because of the testosterone in men, that chemical enhances the effects of the adrenalin and keeps them on “high” for longer.

The best stress deflecting strategies include the following:
1. Get regular aerobic exercise as this changes your brain chemistry and releases endorphins which give us a feeling of well being and enhance our immune system.
2. Breathe, it seems that when we are stressed we breathe in a very shallow way. This reduces the oxygen to our brains and when our brains do not have sufficient oxygen rational thought does not occur.
3. Eat healthfully with a well-balanced diet full of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein sources. If you do not know how to do that very well, consult a registered dietitian for help with this.
4. Get adequate sleep. That means at least 7 or 8 hours each night. Without enough sleep, our cognitive abilities are reduced so we perform at a lower level potential making more mistakes and forgetting things that we normally do not forget. Sleep is when our bodies repair themselves and memories become embedded in our brains so without proper sleep those functions do not occur and we can suffer healthwise and in how we function generally. This can also depress people.
5. Get fresh air…..go for a walk with your dog, hike in the woods, go for a run in a park or along a lake.
6. Socialize with friends and family doing fun things. Humans need social interaction as it is good for our well-being and mental health.
7. Sing in a choir or just sing. This also changes your brain chemistry and makes one feel happy.
8. Take up a hobby that is fun for you…..painting, pottery making, cabinetry, beading, sewing, quilting. Whatever you fancy! Even cooking and baking can be fun and you can have fun preparing dinner, lunch, or brunch for family or friends.
9. Meditate this may not be for everyone however if it works for you, do it. Yoga is good for this as well.

Whatever works for you to reduce your stress, make sure that you do it! There really are no wrong strategies, just pick something that works for you and employ it when necessary!
We all have stress in our lives, it is normal and a little bit of stress is not a bad thing as it gives us a boost of energy, great focus and allows us to get things done well. It is the prolonged stress that does not abate and is not dealt with appropriately that is harmful. It can hurt you physiologically, mentally, and emotionally so do not let that happen to you… attention to what is causing you stress and deal with it and your attitude about it. If you do that you will be happier, healthier, and more successful.

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