Five Customer Service Skills Essential for Employee

January 12, 2021 by  

Great customer service is essential in virtually every industry. From the dentist office to the furniture store, customers have more choice than ever before. This freedom allows them to quickly dismiss companies that don’t treat them as they’d like. When competition is this fierce, customer service is often the only thing separating you from your business rivals.
Since even the smallest of mistakes can cost you a customer, there is not much margin for error, especially in the time of COVID-19. It is imperative to have skilled, well-rounded, and highly-trained employees as the face of your company.

If you are hoping to up your customer service game, make sure everyone on your team has these five valuable skills:

Patience
They say patience is a virtue, and that is never more true in a customer service setting. It is a challenging skill to master, but once your employees have learned to be patient, the results can be remarkable. When customers stop by or call in with a question, concern, or frustration, it is up to your team to meet them where they are. Waiting while they explain the issue even if they include irrelevant details is truly an art, not a science.
Customer service is about quality, not speed. While your team can certainly take a fast approach to problem-solving, treating your customers like a chore to be checked off your to-do list is never a good idea. Instead, coach your employees to roll up their sleeves and dig into each customer’s concerns. Rush through and you could miss important details that are vital to solving the issue at hand, while also indicating to customers that they are not worth your time.
In times of uncertainty, like during the spread of COVID-19, patience becomes even more important. We are all contending with the reality of each new headline and what it means for our families and careers. Callers may feel out of sorts and craving control in any form possible. This often manifests as a particularly contagious form of anxiety. It is up to patient employees to relieve tension whenever confronted with this kind of anxiety in customers.

Communication
To get to the heart of any request or problem, you have got to understand it thoroughly. Clear communication between customer and employee is essential to success. Miscommunication can seriously derail even the most well-intentioned of folks, so train your team to clearly and carefully explain options to their customers.
Mastering communication skills can take a lifetime, but you and your colleagues can easily improve your abilities with just a few key strategies. Here is one to try: the next time you are deep in conversation with a customer, try taking notes. Even jotting down main bullet points can improve communication efforts and make it easy to ensure the customer feels heard.
The Coronavirus has changed the way many businesses operate. Policies and procedures may be different than what customers are used to. It’s important to be upfront about any differences in how you are handling things as a company. Communicate those nuances and you will likely be met with understanding and a willingness to go with the flow. People know that a pandemic throws a wrench in things and that we are all just trying to do the best we can.

Active Listening
Speaking of feeling heard, active listening is an incredibly important aspect of customer service. Unfortunately, it is not as widely taught to employees as it probably should be. Most people like to think of themselves as good listeners. In reality, many of us are simply waiting for our turn to talk. To ensure you are actively listening, take time to review what the person has said to you.
While it may seem redundant, repeating back the customer’s concerns in a succinct manner shows that they have indeed captured your full attention. Mirroring what they have said also gives the customer a chance to clarify details or add information they had left out when explaining. Ultimately, active listening can help solve problems more quickly while simultaneously ensuring customers that you’re completely engaged in the conversation.

Product/Service Knowledge
It is hard to sell a product or service without knowing much about them. The same goes for providing customer service for what your company offers. With that in mind, take time to train each of your employees on your offerings. The idea is hardly any good orientation program should include an overview of the products and services you sell. Still, you would be surprised at how many employees shrug off this initial introduction to the company. Make product education an ongoing part of employee development, and it will pay off in spades.

Encourage your team to study the policies, procedures, services and products any time they are not helping customers. Pop quizzes with small prizes are a good way to boost morale while prioritizing this important customer service skill. When it comes time to answer questions and address customer concerns, employees will be ready for anything.

Empathy
Perhaps the most challenging of all customer service skills, empathy doesn’t always come naturally to employees. When your team is feeling overworked or underappreciated, their frustrations will show up in their conversations with customers. The good news? Empathy is contagious. If you manage from a place of empathy, that same sentiment can trickle down.
An easy way to encourage employees to practise empathy is to have them imagine the customer as a friend or loved one. Helping a frustrated elderly customer with an order is easier when you imagine your grandma or grandpa in their shoes. Assisting a scatterbrained mom who cannot find her wallet is made much more tolerable when picturing your best friend in a similar situation after all, each of your customers is someone’s grandparent, mother, or friend!

Empathy is especially important during times of crisis. Each person brings a new set of experiences and perspectives to the conversation. Amidst the spread of COVID-19, employees must wear their empathy like a badge of honour. A little kindness during customer service interactions can go a long way to relieving anxieties and winning repeat business at the same time.

First-hand experience can go a long way in honing your customer service skills. While reading, training and careful preparation can be helpful, there is nothing like the real thing. Practice when you can, but do not be afraid to try out your customer service skills as soon as possible.


Top Five Leadership Challenges: How to Overcome Them

December 23, 2020 by  

There are many challenges that all managers face. Whilst these challenges can arise at any point in a manager’s career, they can be particularly prevalent for newer or first-time managers. Here is a handy list of these challenges with tips on how to combat them, become the best manager possible, and support your team on their way to success.

1. Adjusting to the role
First-time managers often find it difficult to adapt to taking ownership of their role. It can be particularly difficult managing those who you are used to working closely with and perhaps have personal relationships with. It is important to keep these personal relationships separate from workplace practices. You can do this by positioning yourself as an approachable and supportive manager and ensuring that the tough conversations still take place. Remember that giving constructive feedback shouldn’t be seen negatively, but instead be seen as a way that you can help your team perform at their full potential.

2. Over managing
Whilst it is undeniably important to be there for your team, and coach them to make sure you are getting the best out of them: there is a fine line between managing a team well and not letting people take on their work in their own way. Your role is to support, so make sure your team has the space to complete their assignments and have some autonomy, whilst helping them make progress as individuals and take ownership of their development. Whether the people you are mentoring are older, younger, or no matter how long they have been in the field, if you are able to guide them through hardships, lead them in the right direction and help them progress in their role or career, then you are succeeding as a mentor and as a manager.

3. Not giving enough guidance
Whilst over managing people and not providing the space to work can be an issue, the other end of the spectrum is not giving people enough input or guidance. Much as your team likely know what they are working on, as the manager it is up to you to ensure everyone is fully aware of what is expected of them and how their work aligns and contributes to the wider company goals. If managers are unable to communicate clear guidelines and expectations for their team members, they will, of course, be unable to take ownership of their work and ultimately will be less productive. They will also have less motivation and drive to work towards their goals if they are unaware of the impact their work has on the company.

4. Keep the conversation open
No matter how things are going, it is key to keep communication frequent and open. Providing constructive feedback is not always the easiest task, but it is an essential way to ensure your team can develop and really progress within their role. It is equally important, however, that you also celebrate people’s successes, however big or small. Giving positive feedback to your team when things have gone well or particular team members have shined is key to letting people know they are valued. It will increase engagement; people will know that their work is recognized and that they are appreciated. Introducing or optimizing the use of 360-feedback is also a great practice to really keep communication open and useful for everyone.

5. Embrace upward feedback
Giving feedback aside, it can be difficult, particularly as a newer manager, to receive constructive feedback: it is not always the easiest to handle, particularly when still adjusting to your managerial responsibilities. But it is important to see such feedback as positive; something which will help you develop in your career and become the best, most supportive and efficient manager possible. It is not only key to receive this upward feedback with an open mind, but also to ensure you act upon it appropriately. Following up feedback either by discussing with your team what the next steps are and how they feel things could improve or by taking the next steps based on people’s feedback really shows your team that you value their input. This will build trust and respect for you and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.

What to share?
Transparency is something greatly appreciated by modern workforces. An employee engagement survey from Harvard Business Review actually found that 70% of those asked said they were most engaged when managers shared continuous updates and insights into company strategy. With many organizations adopting a flatter, less hierarchical approach, and employees taking more ownership of their roles, it is not so much a case of management being the only ones in the know. Many employees now value transparency and candidness over more traditional practices. With an increasing amount of companies taking transparency even further, with salaries made public knowledge, and other less traditional information being disclosed to employees, it is clear that people like to be aware of what is happening in the company. To be a manager that people trust and feel comfortable with, don’t close yourself off instead keep your employees in the loop.

Ways to Improve Leadership Development

December 10, 2020 by  

Your company needs effective leaders to not only survive during this crisis, but to thrive in the midst of new challenges. Leadership development was already struggling before this crisis with ineffective classroom experiences, theoretical discussions, and no real way to apply or track the desired leadership behaviors endorsed by the organization. And moving your content online is not proving any more effective than a traditional classroom.
You need a better solution than simply turning leadership training into a video course and using learning data to try and make the case for a return on the investment. You need to actually improve leadership behaviors that happen in the flow of work with real leadership analytics that identify gaps between your leaders, the execution of critical business strategy, and critical metrics of healthy motivation and engagement.

For years, leadership development programs failed because they relied on outdated practices, were poorly executed, and did not align with the need for business results. Training has been disconnected from the way work is done, deployed without business context, and has been mashed together with ad hoc curricula. In the end, they may provide leadership tips and approaches, but they fail to impact organizational goals. Worse yet, they typically do not provide a road map for execution — leaving it up to managers to figure out if and how they will apply the leadership theory.
If leadership development doesn’t improve an organization’s bottom line, it is categorically a failed business investment. Today’s investors in leadership development need an integrated approach that provides leadership training in the flow of work. Because leadership happens at every level of an organization, the most active place leadership happens is in the execution of strategy across the organization.

Consider these five principles to create an integrated, goal-aligned leadership development program.
1. One Common Language to Guide Leadership
A common leadership language across the organization is critical to the long-term success of leadership development. While context around execution and specific skill sets is important, the core leadership concepts at the executive level should be similar to the fundamentals of a manager or that of an individual leader. Why? Because leaders in the modern organization speak the same language and have the same mindset in any context of leadership. A common set of practices can leverage terms that are easily understood regardless of context or who is stepping in to lead even if it requires a different set of micro-skills based on the context you are leading in. A common leadership language will help guide the curriculum and create a consistent foundation. Having a common language that everyone understands helps all leadership across an organization get rowing in the same direction.

2. Develop Leaders at Every Level of Your Organization
When leadership development fails, it often does so because it focuses too narrowly on a small set of people such as department managers or upper executives. Often, there are key leaders in an organization without management titles. The reality is that leadership happens at every level of an organization; therefore, you need to train leaders at every level. Leadership development is not a one-size-fits-all event. While some practices are fundamental to great leadership, skills may vary depending on the amount of people you lead and the context of the role you lead them in. Effective leadership development programs have a common set of macro-leadership practices that complement subsets of micro-leadership skills adapted to the context in which your leaders lead. This approach to leadership development ensures that all leaders speak a common language and are held accountable to core leadership attributes, while being most effective while leading in an individual, managerial, team, or organizational context.

3. Develop Leaders in the Flow of Work
Similar to how leadership happens in a variety of contexts, leadership also happens in the moment-to-moment activities of day-to-day business. That means it requires a complex, integrated approach that adapts to context and skills needed in the moment. Every great leadership program is rooted in elevating performance, so why do we take leaders away from the moment-to-moment needs of performance to train them how to lead? Truth is, we can’t afford to now. Make sure your leadership development program develops leaders at every level through the execution of real work and business strategy.

4. Continually Build Complementary Leadership Skills                                                                                                                                                                          We often think about the soft skills that effective leaders should possess to complement core leadership competencies. Given the need for leaders to influence employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and the retention of high-performing employees, we are asking our leaders to execute on a lot of initiatives while juggling their primary function of leading teams and driving results. A really large toolbox is a mandate for today’s leaders. Many learning experts believe we are living in a reskilling or upskilling revolution that is putting soft skills front and center. Considering the varied skills we need from leadership training such as goal-setting, listening, problem-solving, change management, or emotional intelligence we definitely need a layered approach that brings in soft skills development alongside the core competencies. Each of those micro-skills trainings should build upon core leadership skills.

5. Establish Leadership Analytics
Our collective expectations are higher for data, dashboards, and accompanying analytics that report our progress or problem areas. In our daily lives, we get sports analytics, social media analytics, or analytics on how much we have used our phones. In business, we want to evaluate the effectiveness of our investments and want to know if a solution is affecting the bottom line. Ideally, leadership analytics should align with imperatives such as attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent.
But because many organizations lack the expertise or bandwidth to explore analytics, they often lack an analytics strategy. Even when analytics are introduced, they claim “data-driven” approaches even though they fail to align with organizational goals. That is why leadership development, with a common language regardless of complexities, requires more than the typical engagement survey or qualitative data approach. The best leadership development data pinpoints and charts certain leadership behaviours, primarily through performance and collaboration software your organization is already using or should be using. Performance and leadership practices that begin with clear goals are focused on communicating, pivoting, and evaluating not just employee performance, but leadership practices in relation to those organizational goals.

Leaders Keep Organizations Competitive
Using a consistent, practical, and common framework built for any context of leadership within the organization, you can directly correlate your investment in leadership development to critical business indicators. Organizations that are thriving in 2020 are moving boldly into the future of leadership by investing in an integrated approach to leadership and talent development by supporting their people at every level and across every team.

If you adopt and follow the suggestions above your leadership development program will be consistent and effective to help your organization be successful and long lasting.

Learn the Lost Art of Active Listening

November 24, 2020 by  

With all the modern technology that we have for communicating with each other even across the world, it seems that most people have forgotten how to with someone who is standing right next to them. In particular, listening has become a lost art.
That is too bad, too, because knowing how to listen effectively can bring you a lot of benefits. It can strengthen both personal and professional relationships. It can help your marriage and boost your career.

Consider using these listening techniques the next time someone wants to talk with you:
• Give them your undivided attention. Your other activities during a conversation show the other person how important they are to you. When you pay attention only to them, not only does it uplift them, but you are also more likely to fully understand whatever they are saying and prevent miscommunications.
 Stop whatever else you are doing.
 Put away your phone.
 Turn off other distractions, such as the TV.
 Stay in the present moment, which is listening to what they are saying. Avoid the temptation to let your mind wander to other things (like what you will eat for supper) or move forward to formulate what you will say next.

• Make eye contact. Failure to keep eye contact can make it seem as though you aren’t paying any attention to the conversation. One trick to help you maintain eye contact is to focus on just one of the person’s eyes at a time.
 You can look away momentarily from time to time, so it won’t appear as though you are staring at them. Once you look away, though, bring your focus back to them quickly so that you won’t get distracted by something else. Also, this cues them that you are still listening.

• When they stop talking, first summarize what you just heard them say. This will help you clarify their meaning. Let them agree with your summary or make changes if they need to. It will then be possible for you to add your own perspective, thoughts, or any questions you may have.

• Ask questions. Instead of trying to read someone’s mind, if you don’t understand what is being said, simply ask for clarification. This will ensure that no assumptions are made, and misunderstandings are avoided.
 Asking appropriate questions also lets them know that you were listening intently and trying to understand their perspective.

• Avoid interrupting. However, tempting it is to jump in with comments or solutions, keep quiet until they stop speaking and it is your turn.

 Sometimes people are just looking to vent and get their issues off their chest. Let them finish. They will appreciate you and it may help them relieve their stress about the issue. By saying nothing, you can help them feel better!

Remember, others won’t always be able to recall everything you say in a conversation, but they will likely remember how you made them feel.

You can uplift those around you, avoid misunderstandings, and strengthen your relationships by practicing these easy listening techniques each day.

Your partner, friends, boss, and clients will be impressed. So do reap the benefits of knowing the lost art of listening!

Be Accountable So You Can Be in Control of Your Actions

November 2, 2020 by  

The story of George Washing confessing to cutting down the cherry tree has also been useful for generations of parents as an example of taking accountability. As a child, you may have learned that it is more honourable to own up to your actions rather than blame others or make excuses about why it is the tree’s fault.
On the other hand, holding ourselves responsible can feel risky. Admitting our faults may threaten our self-image and open us up to criticism from others. It may seem safer to focus on external circumstances instead of looking at our own actions.
The truth is that you could be missing out on more happiness and success by trying to evade responsibility.

Learn more about the importance of developing personal accountability.

The Benefits of Accountability:
1. Build confidence. True self-esteem requires having the courage to take an honest look at yourself. Accept your weaknesses and missteps, as well as your strengths and accomplishments.
2. Make positive changes. Taking responsibility puts you in control of your life. You can learn and grow. You will show yourself that you are capable of adapting to change and handling the consequences of your actions. You can take action to resolve negative circumstances.
3. Strengthen your relationships. Earn trust by living up to your commitments. You will deepen your connection with family, friends, and coworkers.
4. Reduce stress. In the long run, facing the truth usually creates less anxiety than trying to cover it up. Being responsible allows you to enjoy greater peace of mind.

Tips for Being Accountable:
1. Evaluate your performance. Make it a habit to assess your role in any situation. While external events do matter, focusing on what you can control is more productive.
2. Monitor yourself. Pay attention to your behaviour even when there are no other witnesses around. Assume equal responsibility for successes and setbacks.
3. Set realistic goals. Do you sometimes excuse your conduct because you are trying to juggle too many activities? Respect your limits and shorten your to-do list. Creating priorities will help you to accomplish more.
4. Listen carefully. It is difficult to hear what others are saying when you are on the defensive. Listen with an open mind, so you can understand their position even if you disagree.
5. Apologize skillfully. Express regret promptly and sincerely when you let someone down. If possible, try to make amends and avoid repeating your mistakes.
6. Consider others. If you need another reason to work on accountability, think about your impact on others. Remember how you feel when a business or a loved one harms you and refuses to take responsibility.

Tips for Fostering Accountability:
1. Communicate clearly. Encouraging a more accountable culture makes it easier to assume responsibility. Start by clarifying your expectations and the consequences for not meeting them. Ensure that you understand what others expect of you as well.
2. Be forgiving. Help others to be truthful. Respond with mercy rather than anger. You are bound to need a second chance sometime too.
3. Exchange constructive feedback. Talk with others about how to make progress moving forward. Share specific observations, praise, and criticism. Be grateful for any insights they give you.
4. Provide a role model. By assuming more accountability, you can automatically have a positive impact on others. You will be teaching your children an important life lesson and contributing to a healthier workplace and society.

Accountability is a skill that grows stronger with practice. Take charge of your life by assuming responsibility for your actions. You will empower yourself to build the future you really want if you are accountable for your actions and generally take responsibility for everything you do.






The “FRESH” Method: 5 Things All Employees Want From Performance Reviews

October 6, 2020 by  

Managers and leaders need to be effective when conducting performance reviews so that employees gain from them not fear them. They should also allow for input and comments from the employees as well during the meeting.  Yes, issues that are a problem need to be raised however, good outcomes and can also be praised at the same time.

Fairness – When I was coming up the ranks this was the most important thing for me. I just wanted to be treated fairly.
For the manager, that means balance. Deliver tough, candid feedback when it is warranted and individualized praise when it is earned. Don’t sugarcoat things, and definitely, do not set impossible expectations as this is harder than we all think.

Rapport – Study after study tells us the connection between a manager and employee is second only to your relationship with family and close friends. We crave strong, professional and rewarding interactions with our boss. It is the deciding factor on whether we stay loyal to a company and meet performance targets.
The annual performance review is a major event in this dynamic. Handled poorly even once can lead to a tenuous situation that results in an undesired break-up.

Expectedness – No Surprises!
Rarely, if ever should the annual appraisal raise issues that have not been discussed during the year. The employee should know what they have done well and what they need to improve on in most cases by the time of their review.
This may be the single biggest cause of blow-ups and disagreements in face-to-face reviews. There is a proven way to avoid this that we outline in this Blueprint.

Specifics – You know those archaic rating scales companies force managers to use? Employees hate them! No human being wants their efforts trivialized down to a random number on a subjective scale.
Rather, they want specific work praised. Specific problems detailed when getting constructive feedback. Specific performance targets to aim for. THIS is a major element to performance-enhancing reviews employees appreciate.

Helpfulness – Do you know the #1 mistake of performance reviews?
Focusing entirely on the past. You can’t change that. You need to assess and address it, of course. But don’t dwell on it.
Instead, you use it to guide where you and the employee will go. What specific training will be delivered to improve skills in the next 30 days? How can the employee have the most impact in the next quarter? What activities should they take to get there?

That is being helpful. All good employees will respond positively when it is delivered effectively.
This all sounds simple and in many ways the concepts are.
But success is measured by executing concepts well, consistently. As well as having hard-won guidance and tips to help you along the way. That is where things get tough.


How COVID-19 Is Affecting Mental Health in the Workplace

September 24, 2020 by  

Since the pandemic outbreak earlier this year, life looks very different. Every aspect has been subject to change, from daily routines and habits to socializing and work. Understandably, stress and anxiety have been present throughout, from people worrying about their friends, their families, and their own health, through to financial or workplace stresses.

Work is a huge part of our lives, so it is no surprise that working lives have also been put under strain throughout the last six months. A recent survey about burnout in the workplace found that almost half (47%) of American employees are concerned about how the current health crisis will affect their long term health. At least half also said that frustration (50%), stress (51%), and anxiety (53%) at work had got worse throughout the pandemic.
Worse still, are the statistics around how businesses have dealt with the crisis. 37% of the workforce feel their organization isn’t doing enough to support them through the pandemic. Despite reports of employees experiencing depression, fatigue, and exhaustion being at an all-time high, 30% say they feel pressure from management to avoid taking time off.
These symptoms all contribute to employee burnout, which can drastically affect the productivity, satisfaction, and career motivation of employees. Ultimately, this can lead to a business losing staff, resulting in money spent on recruitment and training of new employees. At a time when finances are tighter than ever, employee retention is crucial.

While matters relating to COVID-19 are largely out of employers’ control, businesses need to pay attention to issues within the workplace and offer the right measures to help retain staff throughout the crisis and in the months following.

4 Ways Your Workplace Can Avoid Employee Burnout
As well as looking into the effects of the pandemic on employee burnout, the survey also looked at solutions, asking employees what support they would like to see from their organizations. These are the top 4 ways employers can support their staff through this difficult time:


1. Create a culture that supports work/life balance
We all know how important a work/life balance is when it comes to employee happiness and satisfaction. If you have a workplace largely working from home, maintaining this balance is even more vital.
Flexibility is key when it comes to work/life balance, particularly throughout unprecedented times. You may have some employees who are isolating, some who are looking out for elderly relatives, or some who are facing issues with childcare. Allowing a degree of flexibility means employees can find what works best for them. If possible for your business, this could mean bringing in flexible working hours. If not, it could simply be encouraging employees to use vacation days when they need to.

2. Increase communication and mental health support
Communication is key, especially if you are now dealing with a remote workforce. Managers should schedule in regular catch-ups and one-on-one’s with their team, so any issues can be brought to their attention and tackled before they become a bigger problem.
Mental health support is also a must. Having staff trained in mental health support is a huge bonus, but if this isn’t feasible for your business you should ensure you have resources and information in place and available to staff, so any who are struggling can get the support they need.


3. Provide consistent feedback
Along the same vein as communication, feedback is also a must for making sure colleagues feel valued and that they have a clear direction at work. In a stressful situation such as a pandemic, and particularly if your business is working remotely, it can be easy for employees to feel like they are no longer receiving recognition for their work.
Regular, consistent feedback helps staff understand which areas they are succeeding in and where any improvements need to be made. This helps keep staff feeling valued, engaged with your business, and working towards goals ultimately ensuring they are more committed to their jobs.


4. Help employees with mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness in the workplace can help improve concentration, happiness, focus, and energy levels. If this is something your business is missing, now is the ideal time to begin promoting mindfulness.
Guided meditations and online classes are a great resource to offer employees who are interested in practicing mindfulness techniques. Even simpler still, you should encourage staff to take regular breaks away from their desk and detach completely from work. Even taking a fifteen-minute break to practice breathing exercises or go for a quick walk can leave employees feeling refreshed, relaxed, and refocused.

The current pandemic is undoubtedly affecting workplaces and changing the way we approach work. Ensuring staff retention by working to keep your staff engaged, focused, and happy at work gives your business the best chance to thrive over the coming months.

How to Make Your Message Clear and Powerful

September 1, 2020 by  

Got what you want to say down pat?

Think again!

Here is a surprisingly easy yet effective way to make your message clear and powerful.

One of the hallmarks of studying anything for a long period of time is understanding that you still know a lot less about it than you think. This should always be a happy conclusion. It means that you can basically spend a lifetime pursuing something you love.
Public speaking is like that. So, for that matter, is coaching and training people how to do it well.
For instance, at some point during the last 19 years as a speech coach, I came to a conclusion I couldn’t have anticipated. It has to do with strengthening and solidifying one’s message. Best of all, it is usually my client who discovers exactly how to do so.

First, Prepare for Your Presentation the Right Way
Chances are, though, you won’t travel that road yourself unless you set yourself up for the journey. What I mean by that is, by preparing for your presentation in the right way.
How do most of us prepare? Well, I think the process goes like this: we have some thoughts about a topic, and immediately begin jotting down our ideas. Then we edit and polish our content and perhaps spend a lot of time on our slide deck until we think the material is where it needs to be. Then, maybe, we practice out loud (if we have the time).
The result often is that we are flying blind where the audience is concerned. We invested all our energy in making out content perfect. In the process, we left out two hugely important factors: our audience’s needs and preferences, and our specific purpose in giving the speech.
Best, then, to rearrange the order of things. Your initial effort should always involve an audience analysis. You need to understand your listeners as closely as possible! That may be easy if you will be speaking to your team at a weekly meeting, or much more involved if the listeners will consist of a group you don’t know. From knowing your audience, emerges the purpose for which you’ll be speaking to these people. And here is the payoff: knowing exactly what you are trying to achieve helps you bring in precisely the content that will allow you to achieve that purpose. You have now prepared the right way.

Now Go One Step Beyond That . . . for Greatness!
At this point, it is critically important that you practice your material out loud. You need to hear whether your spoken performance is right for this audience: in terms of language, tone, comprehensibility, and most important: listeners’ level of understanding.
Here is where you may surprise yourself. When I am working with a client and we have videotaped (or these days, screen recorded) a talk, I often ask this question: “What are you really trying to say here?” It is usually easy for the client to respond. But here is the interesting thing: very often, that response will be much clearer, and more in-depth, than what he or she said in the actual presentation. My follow-up question is even easier: “Why don’t you say that?”
It is often in this debriefing exercise, you see, that the speaker reveals the true heart of the message. I suspect that maybe because they are trying to fashion a commendable presentation, rather than tapping into the raw power of what they are trying to say.

So if you are not debriefing with a speech coach, perform some self-discovery. Practice your talk, record it, and then ask yourself: “What am I really trying to say?” I would bet that your response is different in some large or small way than the actual content of your talk. The next step is obvious: Go back into your content, and make your message clearer and more powerful.


What To Do To Stop Bullying In The Workplace

August 21, 2020 by  

In workplaces of every size, there can be differences of opinion and personality. In some organizations, banter can quickly turn to insulting behaviour. Robust management styles can be seen as an abuse of power. A strong personality might be construed as intimidation.
So, what exactly is workplace bullying? Traditionally it is described as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”

Such actions can include:
• Being constantly criticized
• Shouting, aggressive behaviour
• Ignored, victimized, left out
• Picking on, regularly undermining someone
• Misuse of power such as threats about job safety, or denying training or promotion opportunities
• Mocking, being made to be the butt of all the jokes
• Unwelcome sexual advances

There is a notable lack of a legal standard for bullying – however, any harassment linked to a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010 is illegal and can form part of a legal case against an employer that does not act against such behaviour.
If bullying becomes an issue in your work environment, it can lead to problems for everyone involved. These can include low morale and poor employee relations, poor performance and lost productivity, absences and resignations, loss of respect for management and damage to company reputation. In extreme circumstances, tribunals and court cases can follow however it is simple to take action to ensure that your workplace remains a safe, friendly place to work.

So, what can employers do to prevent this from becoming an issue in your workplace?
Firstly, you need a robust workplace policy in place, which has a clear statement regarding how bullying and harassment will be dealt with. This might include examples of unacceptable behaviour, with investigation procedures and timelines. It should always include what steps need to be taken to address this, from approaching managers and HR, right through to formal grievance procedures.
To make this policy most effective, it is always good practice to consult with employees about what they want to be included. With open and honest discussion, managers and employers are setting a good example for colleagues working together to make all employees safe from harassment.
As part of this policy, you may want to set standards of behaviour. This might involve guidance booklets, training sessions and seminars, extra training for management and HR, and even contracting external counsellors, trainers and mediators.

The most important thing that any manager or employer can do is take any complaint of workplace bullying or harassment seriously. All complaints need to be dealt with fairly, confidentially and sensitively. Any person that feels that they are being bullied needs to be listened to and the issue needs to be investigated.
There is an obvious advantage to dealing with any bullying informally, to begin with, if this is appropriate. It could be that people don’t realize that their behaviour is a problem, and a quick one-on-one discussion is all it takes to nip it in the bud. If this isn’t the answer, then you might consider counselling and this can be someone from within your organization that has received special training, or you might have an Employee Assistance Program in place where they offer counselling and mediating services that, as a third party, ensure that all issues are dealt with objectively.
If the bullying or harassment merits a formal grievance, disciplinary procedures may need to be started. This might include formal meetings, suspension or transfer but it must be objective, fair, confidential and dealt with promptly. Any disciplinary actions must be based on a formal procedure that is transparent with designated timelines for each outcome.

How to Reduce Anxiety When You Begin Your Presentation

August 11, 2020 by  

Do you need to calm your nerves during the first moments of public speaking? Here is how to reduce anxiety when you begin your presentation.

If there is one problem we all share as public speakers, it is being just a little nervous at the start of a presentation. For some people, of course, fear of public speaking is more serious than that. But even for the confident among us, the opening moments of a speech are a challenge.
We may experience the Imposter Syndrome—which tells us, “It is only a matter of time before everyone realizes you don’t know what you are talking about.” Or it may be the scary thought that you are going to forget what you are here to discuss. Or it might just be the (false) conviction that that is a serious collection of unfriendly faces out there.
Interestingly, these opening jitters are usually a much less serious condition than deep-seated speech anxiety. The “awful first two minutes” does in fact disappear, and before we know it we are discussing our slides or first important point. True fear of speaking, on the other hand, may already have been making you miserable over this speech for months, if you didn’t give way to speech phobia outright and found a way to avoid the speaking situation altogether.

So what can you tell yourself to gain the boost in confidence to slay this particular dragon?

You Already Know How to Be a Dynamic Speaker!
Recently, I discussed this beginning-a-speech-dread with a client. She is highly accomplished in her field and works at one of the leading organizations in her industry. I can almost hear the follow-up thought that she probably has as she looks out at an audience: “So what?” 
Actually, the “so what” can and should be the basis of her confidence and that of others just like her. Does that include you? It all has to do with having faith in yourself. And I don’t mean the religious kind.  When you know your material, not by heart but because you are passionate about it and are very familiar with the elements and concepts you are about to offer, you will actually forget to be nervous.  Once you get into your delivery you will be in your element and you will carry your audience with you.

The reason we get wrapped in anxiety when we are about to start our speech has to do with an over-focus on our performance. And that is usually closely intertwined with the information we will be delivering. We see our challenge as being some kind of superhero at a professional presentation. Precisely because of our accomplishments, we believe everyone will think less of us if we don’t perform at the level that’s appropriate for our position.
But audiences really aren’t scoping out your performance, in fact, they usually couldn’t care less. They are there to get something they don’t yet have, whether that’s information or insight or inspiration. And only you can give that to them. A collection of slides can’t do that, however solid the data on them is. Nor can a slick speaker who is light on actual knowledge. Those aren’t the ways to captivate an audience.
As I tell clients, you could leave your laptop in the cab on the way in from the airport, and still speak incisively for an hour on your topic. Who you are is the reason you have been tasked with giving this speech. So in the end, it doesn’t matter if you don’t follow the script perfectly in the first couple of minutes. You will absolutely still be delivering the value expected of you. Of course, you will! That is what I mean by having faith in yourself.
Why put up with the jitters or freezing on stage? Wouldn’t you rather learn how to love public speaking? Just try to enjoy yourself and if you do your audience will also enjoy your presentation.

When Memorization Can Help You in Public Speaking
Here is another, more practical way of ensuring that you hit the ground running: memorize the first minute of your talk. And actually, do the same with your conclusion.
Despite the negative press memorizing for public speaking has received, there are some solid reasons why committing your introduction to memory can help you. Obviously, doing so has the advantage of keeping you from stumbling through your opening remarks. Since you will only be committing a minute or so to memory, there is not much risk that you will leave out anything.

Just as important: the first 60 seconds is critical to launching your speech successfully. Judgments about you, and decisions about whether to accept what you are saying, are formed during this period. That is why it is necessary to grab or hook listeners’ attention and engage them right from the start.
There is nothing wrong and in terms of effectiveness, a lot right with strutting your best stuff when everyone is paying maximum attention. Why leave it to chance? Convince the audience they are in good hands. If the thought of doing that reduces your anxiety well, it should!


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