Coaching Others:Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

I’ve been preparing for my speech on February 1st called “Courageous Coaching: It’s Not Easy … It’s Your Job.” I also just finished writing a book about the same subject.

It’s interesting to note the resistance to – and excuses for – not giving ongoing coaching and feedback to employees. The major “reasons” are: fear (of reaction), lack of time, and “don’t know how.”

The reality is that problems don’t go away. People benefit from ongoing feedback and reinforcement, and the number one job of a manager is to help his/her employees be successful.

Let’s look at the first excuse for not coaching …fear.

If your feedback is specific, and delivered in a caring nature rather than attacking and accusatory, the employee might have an initial reaction (tears, defensiveness, anger), but in time see and appreciate the value of the feedback. If you (the manager) truly are looking to help, and are specific about expectations and observations, the employee may even appreciate the feedback. From my perspective as a coach, both to my employees and the executives I work with, is that although initially difficult to hear, ultimately they appreciated the feedback and coaching. Most of the time, what we feared never even occurs.

Stay tuned for a blog discussing some of the other “reasons” for not coaching others, including lack of time and “don’t know how.”

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Economy Giving You Lemons? Does Your Staff Make Lemonade or Excuses?

I had a conversation with a client today regarding the engagement level of their sales team. She said that it was hard for people to stay engaged and committed when they are worried about being laid off.

I respectfully disagreed. This is the time when people need to be the most engaged and committed.

Successful people see opportunity everywhere. If people would spend less time worrying, and more time hustling and being creative, then they would end up being more successful. Their current job might end – but if they are always connecting with others, and finding solutions to problems, they will land on their feet.

It isn’t easy today – but where was it written that life was easy or fair? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “The meek shall inherit the Earth.” My mantra is the meek get the leftovers from those who went out and made things happen. You decide.

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New Year Goal: Slow Down

Do you remember the words, “Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last?” from the Simon & Garfunkel song, “The 59th Street Bride Song” (Feeling Groovy)?

I’ve taken those words to heart – as one of my goals (note that I didn’t say resolutions) for 2012.

In my role as business owner (employer) — speaker/coach/trainer, mother, daughter, grandmother, wife, colleague and friend — I wear many hats.

I often feel like an octopus, with each arm pulled at the same time – in different directions. What can happen? Rushing to get everything done. Not being 100% present at any one time, not fully appreciating the activity (relationship, etc.), and often losing or forgetting something.

Late last year, it was leaving my computer in North Carolina, losing my good prescription glasses, and forgetting to pick up all of the ingredients I need for a recipe.

So, my mantra this year is to slow down. How’s it working so far? If you don’t count losing an airport parking receipt, or forgetting to put one bag on the TSA inspection line, it’s working pretty well. I guess I need to keep practicing.

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New Year, A New Attitude of Happiness

Happy 2012!

What kind of year will this be for you? I expect it to be fabulous.

From my experience (not to mention research on happiness and positivity), when people expect the best – they typically get it. And, of course, vice versa. I don’t mean to sound naïve, but I do believe the goal is to look for the positive. When people look for the positive, they tend to see opportunity and make more things happen.

In Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage (a great read – good ideas for rewiring the brain to be more positive), he talks about rose-tinted glasses as opposed to rose colored. 2012 is a great year to put on the rose-tinted glasses.

A great activity listed in the book: Every day, record three good things that have happened to you. They don’t have to be monumental – just positive things.

For me today, one positive is that I actually wrote this blog! No doubt, more good things will soon follow…

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Never Lose Sight of the True Task At Hand – Relationship Building

What business are you in?

It doesn’t matter what the industry is, or what your job title is … we are all in the people business.

This sounds so obvious doesn’t it? But take time to look at what usually happens at work … accomplishing various tasks or goals is paramount and emphasized by management.

Believe me, I am as task-focused as the next person, but accomplishing daily activities and “getting the job done” doesn’t negate or eliminate the importance of being respectful of the people who work with you (or for you).

Frayed tempers, lack of common courtesies, clarity of expectations, timelines are just a few things that impact relationships, and, ultimately, the quality of the task (whether it’s done right, within deadlines, or even at all).

Being people-focused ultimately helps accomplish the task more quickly – and more efficiently.

If you want to get things done – build relationships. If you want to be seen as a resource, help others. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive and successful you ultimately become.

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Relationship Building Is About Face-Time, Not Facebook & Other Computer Connections

Although I am engaged in social networking, and use often technology for connecting with people, I wonder when it became more important than face-to-face or even phone interaction?

Many work issues could be avoided if people would get up from their computers, and walk to the office (or cubicle) nearby and actually have a conversation.

I believe a person-to-person interaction beats technology any day, hands down, by a ratio of at least 10-1. If after you chat, you still need to document something, then by all means, put it in writing.

I laugh when people tell me how many “friends” or “followers” they have on Facebook and Twitter – or how LinkedIn they are.

Relationships aren’t part of a numbers game.

The goal is to go from contact to connection, to building relationships.

Your job – and your life – will be more satisfying if you focus on people and not your smart phone or computer screen.

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Leadership: Don’t Leave Dead Bodies In Your Wake

Leaving “dead bodies” is no way to lead, build relationships and reputations — or get results.

Yet, all too often,  it happens. 

Stressful situations (and that seems to happen daily in our frenzied, wired 24-7 workplace), exacerbates a situation which occasionally leads to inappropriate behaviors.

Although I coach people for a variety of reasons – leaving “dead bodies” is frequently a concern. What are some techniques to use, to avoid this?

1)      Recognize. The behaviors and identify what triggers them.

2)      Own the impact of lashing out, ordering around, insulting, etc.

3)      Catch yourself when you feel the adrenaline surge – at that point, make a decision … is it worth it?

4)      Take a deep breath, take a walk, pinch yourself. In other words, get some time, space and perspective.

5)      If you ended up lashing out before you caught yourself, go back to the person (people) and apologize.

Ultimately, leaving “dead bodies” is not a path to effective leadership or long-term success.

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Encourage Questions After Your Presentation & Engage Your Audience

Over the past few weeks, I delivered a number of Physician Speaker Training program for physicians, medical device specialists, and corporate leaders.

Of course, messaging and content delivery are critical. Where I get the most questions as a trainer and executive coach, however, is how to handle the question-and-answer session.

One of the areas I consistently noticed during all of my recent sessions, which definitely needs more attention as it’s a critical component to speaking success — is effectively handling the Q & A session.

6 ways to encourage questions

1) Let people know when you will take questions – throughout the entire presentation, at specific break points, or at the end. This manages audience expectations. Of course, you need to take timing into account. The more questions, the more time it takes.

2) Ask for questions in an open/assumptive manner. Avoid the clichéd, “Do you have any questions?” It’s much more inviting the say, “Who would like to open with the first question?” Or, “What questions do you have?” Then, be prepared to wait a minute to receive them

If, however, there are no questions …

3) Be prepared to wait up to 10 seconds before people actually ask the question. Don’t worry – they aren’t looking at you, they are thinking. Be comfortable with silence.

4) It’s always a good idea to come prepared with sample questions. You’d say something like, “A question I’m frequently asked is ….” Or “A question I first had was …. ” This gives people time to think about what they want to ask.

5) Look like you want questions. This means that you need to look at the audience members; rolling your eyes doesn’t count! Avoid closed body language (crossing your arms, for example), sighing, cleaning up your papers, or shutting down your laptop all don’t encourage participants to ask questions. Don’t gather notes, or otherwise organize/tidy up your area.

6) Get creative.  In larger groups, or groups who are uncomfortable asking questions, you can either have them write questions on a card, or break into pairs or smaller groups, and come up with questions. In the day of smart phones, you even could have them text a question.

Here’s five quick pointers for what not to do during a Q & A session, with some pointers for what I recommend:

• Compliment (if you compliment one question and not the next, you will discourage further questions)

• Over answer (provide more information that was asked or is needed)

• Jump into the answer (it’s OK to think a minute before you speak, and DO paraphrase the question)

• Say, “As I said in my presentation …”  (how demeaning is that!)

• Answer only to the person who asked it (you need to be looking at everyone)

Next week, I’ll discuss how to handle specific types of questions. Remember, if you have trouble getting questions, you need to look at your behaviors and the impact that they are having.

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The Final Step to Meeting Success: “Post-Land” Means Taking Action

So, a decision seems to have been reached – due to the good work you did in the pre-launch, launch, navigate and land stages of a meeting.

“Now what?” you may ask. Well, it’s not over yet.

Just like a well-written and delivered presentation, the meeting needs to end well and have action items acted upon.

This gets us to the final stage of meetings – the post-land phase.

Post-land has two parts – what happens at the end of the meeting, and what happens after the meeting.

Ending the meeting:

—         Review what was agreed upon

—         Discuss next steps – and get verbal agreement

  • What needs to be done
  • By when?
  • By whom?

—         Determine what gets communicated and what doesn’t, and to whom

—         Thank the group

  • Express appreciation for everyone’s participation
  • Give credit to specific individuals

—         Evaluate and measure your success

After the meeting — Here are three types of questions to help you measure meetings success:

The What

—         Did you accomplish your meeting objective?

—         Was it done correctly (meet criteria, etc.)?

—         Was it done on time?

The How

—         Was the meeting process you used efficient?

—         Was the process clear & logical?

—         Did the process make sense for the task at hand?

The Who

—         Did all team members feel valued during the meeting?

—         Did the team members feel supported?

—         Do team members trust each other?

Although meetings may differ in purpose and scope, there are always similarities. If you use the steps and tools I’ve shared over the last month or so, you will have better meeting success (and less time and money lost).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my effective meetings series, and share your best practices.

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Effective Meeting Strategy #4 – It’s Time to Land

If you’ve been using the techniques for more effective meetings that I’ve been sharing here the past few weeks (Pre-plan, launch & navigate), you probably are already seeing improvement.

The next phase, “land,” helps the group members reach an agreement and make decisions.

Here are a few techniques that you can use:

— Negative Poll: A tool used to wake people from the typical head nodding that happens in meetings, and make them think about their response. With it you are asking for those that do not agree, rather than those that do. Some examples of this technique are. . .

*Who can’t agree to strike this idea from the list?

* Who is not able to live with this solution?

— Both/And: Sometimes groups get stuck in making the final decision because they feel they must choose between two options. Using this tool, you can suggest adding two ideas together to make one, or doing both ideas rather than choosing between the two.

— Build Up/Eliminate: This tool is used to negotiate agreement when you encounter resistance from one of more participants. You ask the question, “What could I add to or take away from this idea that would make you more comfortable with it?” Often, you’ll find that small adjustments to an idea can make a huge difference in getting others to agree.

— Voting: Many groups use this as a decision-making tool. If your ultimate goal is build a collaborative environment, voting is not a tool that BRODY recommends. With voting, there are winners and there are losers. It can be a method that alienates others. However, there are times that voting can be effective, here are a few:

*When the topic being considered is not controversial

*When the need for buy-in is low

*When the group involved in the decision making is large and unwieldy (ex. political elections)

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on the Post-Land step to making meeting more effective.

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Effective Meetings Step 3 – Navigate: Clarify & Prioritize

The goal of this week’s blog is to make your time at meetings a good investment, and NOT a waste of money.

I’ve already focused on the pre-launch and launch stages of successful meetings.

Stage 3 is to navigate – which is to guide the meeting attendees to make sense of the information that came out of the idea generation stage (launch).

The navigate stage has two key objectives. The first is to clarify the ideas and information that was generated.

Here are some good questions to ask, to clarify that everyone is on the same page, include:

— What questions do you have regarding the ideas we generated and listed on the flip chart?

— Would anyone like clarification on any of these items listed?

Once the ideas have been clarified, take the opportunity to eliminate duplicates from the list before going on to stage 2 of navigation, which is to prioritize.

There are a number of tools to prioritize. Here are five that BRODY trainers use (and teach in our meeting facilitation program):

— N/3: This tool is used when you’re trying to narrow a list of brainstormed ideas. This is not voting, but rather a way of determining what ideas have the most and least support. You take the number of ideas listed (N) and divide it by 3. That’s the number of “votes” each person gets.  

— Advocating: The facilitator invites participants to take turns speaking on one of the ideas listed. Specifically, they can share their opinion on why the ideas should stay or go. This advocating is done to let anyone that wishes to, have the opportunity to have his/her opinion heard. This works best if each person is limited to 1 to 2 minutes of advocating. It can be a quick way to deepen people’s understanding of the issues. 

— Evaluating Against Criteria: Another way to narrow your list is to evaluate your list of ideas against a set of criteria.

— Pros/Cons: The facilitator invites the participants to take turns speaking about the pros and cons of the suggested solutions. This method allows the group to see the relative merits of each potential idea and lead discussion to the most favored outcome(s).

— Priority Sequence: In a round robin fashion, each participant identifies their “most favorite” idea and their “least favorite” idea from the list generated in the launching session. This technique assists in helping the group to discover the ideas that require the most attention and discussion during the navigation stage. 

These navigation tools allow for discussion and information sharing. By selecting a navigation tool, the facilitator has created a methodology that’s clear, unbiased and understood.

Let me know if you have any questions regarding the meeting navigation tools and process – and feel free to share how you implement some of these strategies for meeting success.

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Engage Attendees to Ensure Meeting Participation & Results

So you’re ready to launch the meeting – maybe you even have one already scheduled.

It would be nice to think that if the objectives of a meeting are clear — and the right people are there, and it’s facilitated well – that everyone would participate and that there would be no disruptions.

The reality is, however, that this isn’t always the case.

Here are some things the meeting leader can do (or avoid doing) to ensure participation:

— Ask open-ended questions like “What” and “How”

—  Help the quiet people, asking them specific questions, or going around the table so everyone gets a voice.

—  Never “grade” responses when you compliment some questions or ideas (ie. “good question” or “great idea”), and not others. You may well be discouraging others to participate.

— Avoid speaking too much. The job of the meeting leader is to facilitate discussion. When you keep talking, others won’t.

— Listen

— Manage participation. The meeting leader has the responsibility to keep things on track, and on time. That may mean controlling the stage hog or the other “derailers.”

Being able to stay on track and keep control, while facilitating discussion, is a critical function and skill that the meeting leader needs to demonstrate. After all, he/she is, ultimately, accountable for results.

Last week, I wrote about meeting launch tools. Next time, I’ll talk about the navigation phase of meetings.

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Effective Meetings Step 2: You’re Ready, You’re Set, Now Launch!

Last week’s blog dealt with the preparation process – it’s amazing how much smoother things go when the preparation is in place.

The second phase of the BRODY 5-step process for making meetings more effective is the Launch phase.

This is when you get the meeting off the ground and ideas flowing. When the leader opens the meeting, he/she needs to review, clarify and get agreement on the following:

— Meeting objectives

— Agenda

— Decision making

— Roles

—  Timing

—  Ground rules

This doesn’t have to take long, but without going over these things, it is easy to get off track. Also, if there needs to be any changes, this is the time to do it.

Once the meeting gets going, you can always go back to the goals, agenda, timing and ground rules to keep things on track.

Of course, in order to achieve results, it is necessary to get discussion and ideas flowing. Here are three ways to accomplish that:

1)     Present a proposal – sharing a suggestion, an idea or plan of action. Then, ask the group for feedback.

2)     Discussion/brainstorming – this begins by the leader proposing a problem or opportunity and then throwing it to the group to talk through it. Discussion/brainstorming are best when structured and linked to a specific outcome, otherwise they can lead into tangents and be ineffective.

3)     Rules of Brainstorming:

— Don’t evaluate or comment on the ideas offered.

— Quantity, not quality is the goal.

—  Record each idea exactly as offered – no rephrasing or putting into your own words.

—  Having trouble capturing what’s offered? Ask the person who offered it to restate it in 5 words or less.

—  Don’t explain or allow others to explain their ideas – there will be time for that later. Explanations slow down the flow of ideas and can lead to tangent conversations.

—  Don’t worry about duplicate ideas being offered, there will be time later to eliminate those.

If the Launch stage is done successfully, the meeting should be on course and everyone engaged.

Next week, I’ll provide additional ways to get full participation in meetings, and avoid discussion killers.

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Effective Meeting Step 1 for Positive End Results: Pre-Launch

My personal motto for success is, “Prior & proper planning, preparation and practice prevent poor performance.”

This is terrific for presentations and equally relevant (minus the practice) for planning every type of meeting.

The Pre-Launch Phase of a meeting, which I discussed in my last blog, is just that – planning the meeting so it is a good investment, and not a waste of time (or money).

There are 4 major things to determine and plan for in advance of any meeting:

1)     Have a clearly defined objective

2)     Choose which method of decision making will be used

3)     Decide key stakeholders

4)     Create and distribute an agenda

1) Have a clearly defined objective.

Meeting objectives are those things that you want to leave the meeting having created, accomplished or agreed to. They are tangible deliverables best described as nouns, not verbs.

A typical objective is: “Discuss the budget.” But, what’s the outcome?

A better objective is: “By the end of this meeting, we will have agreed on three, cost-cutting solutions to support new budget requirements.”

Along with writing the objective as a noun, make sure it is measurable and specific.

2) Choose the method of decision making.

Transparency is critical. Participants want to know if the decision has already been made, or who is making it. Clarity of their roles is important.

Ideally, consensus will be reached – the decision gets better buy-in, but also takes more time. Consensus is a decision everyone can live with and support.

Other models of decision-making include:

— Leader decides, and communicates.

— Leader gets input from individuals on the team, then decides and communicates.

— Leader gets input from entire team, then decides and communicates.

— Delegate with constraints – leader passes on decision-making to the team, and states criteria by which the decision must adhere.

3) Decide key stakeholders.

Determining who should be at the meeting (decision makers, information-givers, implementers, benefactors) and then analyzing the following:

— What’s In It For Them? (WIIFM?) – Why should they attend?

— Issues and concerns that each participant may have about attending the meeting.

— What is a “win” for each attendee? A “win” is the unspoken thing that is of value to each participant.

4) Create an agenda.

The agenda is a road map for success. Points to be included on the agenda:

— Define the objective

— Identify participants and roles

— Determine time frames

A prepared agenda can be distributed two weeks in advance of the meeting. At this point, attendees can determine if they should come, who may be missing, have time to prepare, etc.

Consider stacking the agenda if it is a long meeting. People that need to be at the whole meeting can schedule accordingly, but if others only need to be there for part of the meeting, come accordingly.

Here’s a link to a sample meeting agenda.

Although the Pre-Launch Phase appears to be time consuming, it will make the meeting run more smoothly and accomplish something which, ultimately, saves lots of time (and, therefore, money!).

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5-Step Process for Meetings That Get Results, Not Waste Money

How much time do you spend on meetings?

If there are results, then the time is worthwhile.

If, however, there are no results, it’s an incredible waste of time and resources, which result in lost dollars.

Here are statistics to ponder, from online meetings resources, regarding time and salaries in relation to meetings.

**   25-50% of our time in the corporate world is spent in meetings

**   30% of a $30,000 salary = $9,000 a year (time and cost in meetings)

**   So, 1,000 employees = $9,000,000 per year in salary

**   53% of the time, meetings are inefficient

**   $4,770,000 wasted

Assuming you are making more than $30,000, and spend more than 30% of your time in meetings, what does this mean for you in terms of lost revenue from failed meetings?

You know it is a sign of insanity to repeat the same behaviors and expect different results. Over the next few weeks, I will describe a 5-step formula to help you put together and facilitate more effective meetings.

Although the meeting leader has major responsibilities, the participants are not victims. A strong participant can make a difference. Meeting accountability needs to start somewhere – are you ready?

There are two types of meetings – informative and problem-solving/decision-making.

The first is a meeting to share information. There may be better ways, however, of sharing information than having a meeting.

Here is a checklist of questions to consider before scheduling an informative meeting, courtesy of The Facilitator’s Fieldbook (Thomas Justice and David W. Jamieson, Ph.D.) 

1) Is there any significant action to be taken now, in this meeting, as a result of the information?

2) Does the information imply that some sort of action should be taken by a majority of the participants in the near future?

3) Is a meeting the only way that participants can get this information in a timely manner?

4) Do more than two-thirds of the people in the meeting need to know this?

5) Will a significant number of participants be in some kind of trouble if they don’t get this information here, right now, in this meeting?

If you can’t say “yes” to at least two of these questions, then a meeting is NOT the best way to share the information.

If you can eliminate a small percentage of meetings by looking for other alternatives to distribute information, it will save time. Also, if you distribute information in advance, and use the meeting time to answer questions, you will again save time. Let’s never forget that time is dollars.

The second meeting type is problem-solving, and decision-making. My blog over the next few weeks will focus primarily on these types of meetings.

The 5-step approach to facilitate effective meetings:

1)  Pre-Launch – with prior and proper planning and preparation, you prevent poor performance. Never meet just to meet. There has to be a reason – the planning stage determines desired outcome, decision-making process, stakeholders and agenda.

2) Launch – In this stage, you’re getting the meeting off the ground and the ideas flowing.

* Opening or meeting start-up

* Idea generation

3) Navigate – In this stage, you’re guiding the group in making sense of the information that came out of the idea generation stage.

* Prioritizing & organizing

* Advocating

* Evaluating

4) Land – In this stage, you’re helping the group reach agreement and make decisions.

* Reaching agreement & closure

5) Post Land Evaluation/next steps

I’ll share more details about each of these steps in my next five blogs.

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Lesson from “The King’s Speech” — Effective Public Speaking Can Be Learned

Movies are a passion of mine, but rarely do I encourage others to attend those that I see.

“The King’s Speech” is an exception. It was superb.

The story line, the acting, the cinematography – all great. Of course, for me, the theme (public speaking) was not only inspiring, but also congruent with my personal mission.

For those of you who don’t know, it was a “true” story about Prince Albert who ultimately became King George VI of Britain (and was the father of present day Queen Elizabeth II).

As a child, he developed a serious stammer. This speech impediment impacted his ability to speak in public – a key role for royalty. Although he worked with many physicians, he was not able to overcome this stammer.

Ultimately, he started to work with a self-proclaimed (not academically trained) speech therapist. His non-conventional methods worked, enabling King George to inspire his nation during WWII.

Four key lessons learned from “The King’s Speech”

  • Change is possible.
  • Change takes a commitment and hard work.
  • The ability to speak is critical in all professions.
  • Coaching plays a big role in change.

I love what I do as an executive coach and professional speaker, because I can play a part in helping others improve their ability to communicate – to better connect and convince.

“The King’s Speech” was a reinforcement of the value a coach can bring, and is an inspiration to us all.

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Business Professionals Blubbering – Is it OK to Cry?

Do you remember the classic Rock song “Big Girls Don’t Cry?” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons — or for those younger than I, the new version by Fergie a few years ago?

Lately, I think the name can be amended to be “Big Girls Don’t Cry, But It’s OK for Big Boys.”

U.S. Representative John A. Boehner (R-OH), CNN commentator Glenn Beck, and other notable men of late, have been shedding their fair share of tears over a range of topics.

With Congress back in session, Representative Boehner is second in the order of Presidential succession. One blogger had this to say about Boehner: ”I’m not averse to men crying, but men crying THAT much, THAT often, in public, and 3rd in line to the presidency — not good, not good.”

Men crying has become such a hot topic, that feature articles have appeared in Women’s Health magazine, and the topic has been discussed on national TV talk shows and in blogs – including mine.

What really bugs me is the hypocrisy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cried on more than one occasion. When, as Senator, she was running for the democratic nomination for President.

Pollsters at the time had a field day pointing to the fact Clinton’s tears during a campaign appearance before the New Hampshire primary helped garner further support with women, and, ultimately, the edge in that state over then Senator Obama.

So, when women cry, it’s a sign of weakness or manipulation, But, when men cry, it’s often is taken as a “healthy” sign that they’re “in touch” with their feelings and emotions.

Unfortunately, women are still held to a different standard when it comes to showing emotion in their careers – if a woman cries at work, she is seen as losing control or being weak.

If a man gets emotional with outbursts of anger, however, it’s viewed as a sign of his strength of character and passion for the issue.

My advice RE crying, that I give when coaching corporate executives – men and women — is this: When you feel that due to frustration, anger, disappointment, sad news, or whatever the reason, tears coming on …. take a deep breath, or excuse yourself from others and take a quick break.

Crying, for the most part, makes the other person (people) uncomfortable — and that is never a good goal to achieve in the workplace.

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My Electronic Wish List for 2011: Improved Business Communication & Connections

I’ve completed my electronic wish list for 2011.

You probably are thinking she wants …

*An iPad

*A 4G iPhone

*A new Mac computer

As much as I may want all of these things, my wish list is more of a behavior list for others (OK, for me, too!).

People can exist without wires and wireless items.

When I see and hear about employees texting or e-mail each other when they very well could turn their chairs around and have a simple conversation, I think things have gone a bit too far.

So, here is my electronic wish list for 2011:

1) When you are with people – actually talk to them. That means:

*No texts, e-mails or IMs

*No talking on your cell phone, or checking your e-mails

2) When sending e-mail, try re-reading the message before you send it. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. You never know who might be reading it, and what message you are conveying. This also means checking your attachments to make sure that only the ones you want to send are sent, and only the attachments you want to be read (and stored permanently!) are sent.

3) When using your cell phone, keep your voice down – the immediate world doesn’t need to hear your message. Also, try making calls from quiet places, so you don’t annoy the person you are calling.

4) Try handwriting correspondences – thank-you notes, invitations, holiday cards, etc. Nothing replaces it! For those of you who sent me an electronic greeting card, thanks. I never had the time to open them, though. Those who sent me cards – thanks. They look nice in our office reception area, and on my mantel in my living room.

5) Be professional, even in our often truncated world. In other words, text language doesn’t translate well to all people. Pay attention to the voice-mail messages you send and leave. They reflect on you. “Yo dude, call me back” just doesn’t work.

6) Be conscious of what and where you post comments on various blogging sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and other social networking sites. If you are at all interested in a professional position, avoid insipid Facebook accounts and tweets. Your connections on LinkedIn say a lot about you.

7) Avoid e-mail signature files or account names that are questionable. They, too, speak volumes about you as a professional. Would you hire someone as a sales professional – someone who meets and calls your client base — whose e-mail address is rocbottom@____.com? I wish I could say I’m making that one up, but, sadly, I’m not.

There are many other items I could add to my electronic wish list for 2011, but this is enough to get the new year started. I’d love you to share any of your electronic wishes – or other – workplace/business wishes for 2011.

Happy connections in 2011!

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Year-End Reflection

In so many ways, 2010 has been a year of change and transition.

For us at BRODY, we moved offices, had staffing changes, and have used the “new economy” to prioritize our spend, our time and our focus.

We are excited about the changes and are entering 2011 with optimism. Our country, too, has gone through changes in the last year — certain shifts in priorities, legislators and attitude.

The bottom line is that we’re all living in a new reality. Although we can look back with nostalgia, we must learn from the mistakes and faulty assumptions made – so we’re able to adapt and not make the same mistakes again.

Will the economy boom again? I’d like to think so. But, I also hope that when that happens we’re more circumspect as to the choices we make – professionally and personally.

I wish you all a very healthy and happy holiday season and 2011!

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Professionalism Still Paramount! Office Party Etiquette

Ho Ho Ho! ‘Tis the season to be jolly ….

But when do you need to say, “No, No, No,” in order to avoid dangerous folly?

The holiday season is a time for parties and celebrations at home and work.

Although many companies have scaled down due to the economy, there still are office parties big and small happening this month.

What are some of the party pitfalls to avoid, and when do you want to say, “No”? Here’s my top five mistakes:

1)     Drinking too much alcohol. It’s always a mistake. Avoid it at all costs – even if there is an open bar! Know your limit and then cut back from there.

2)     Making party time a place to flirt. Not OK. You have to see these people the next day, and believe me, they talk!

3)     Wearing provocative or otherwise inappropriate clothing. This may work for Snooki and her “Jersey Shore” cast mates, but if your office is corporate, tone it down for the party, please. No one needs to see your new belly ring, wild tattoo or chest hair.

4)     Giving expensive or inappropriate gifts. This can put people on the spot, and be awkward. Again, be conservative when choosing your gift, and be aware of when, where and who you give gifts to. The party is not necessarily the best place to single out one or two gift recipients.

5)     Forgetting your party manners. There are five aspects of party protocol to remember:

  • RSVPing — If you RSVP “yes” to a party, show up and be on time. If you RSVP “no,” don’t come. But, most importantly, RSVP!
  • Don’t overstay your welcome
  • Mix with everyone
  • Avoid talking about business
  • After the party, write a thank-you note within a few days to the host or hostess
  • 

The goal at office parties is to have fun, and know how and when to say, “No.” So, you can look back at the event in January, and still be able to Ho, Ho, Ho about it, instead of searching for a new job.

Happy holidays!

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Social Media/Web 2.0 … Sure It’s Fun, But Are You Using It Strategically?

Daniel Lyons recently wrote an article in Newsweek titled “A cautionary tale for Web 2.0 companies.”

He said, “The basic problem is that these new media companies don’t really have customers; they have audiences.”

As a professional speaker, I like an audience. As a business owner, however, I want customers.

So, Mr. Lyons’ article struck a chord with me. Why? Because lately, it seems I rarely attend a conference or pick up a magazine that isn’t teaching how to use social media, and promoting its use.

I’m not questioning the need to do some of this type of communicating, but at what cost?

Is my time better spent making a few, direct phone calls to prospects and clients, or to write a blog or tweet? Do I spend time “friending” people on Facebook, or taking someone out to lunch?

I also wonder its impact on office productivity — and how many employees are stealing from their employers? I mean stealing time by doing social media at work, which translates into dollars. Are they using social media for the good of the company? I sincerely doubt it.

One of my friends recently boasted that he had more than 1,000 followers on Twitter. When I asked him how much business he had gotten from them, he began to stammer and stutter. “We haven’t monetized it yet,” he said.

When does that start? Not only that, but I wonder how much business my friend had lost by focusing on building his “herd” – rather than really going after business leads and opportunities?

Granted, this is all still sort of new – we are all trying to figure it out.

My only caution to everyone reading this is to value your time … and determine your objectives when it comes to social media and its use.

And, of course, if you want to book me as a speaker … remember that I said I always like an audience!

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R & R

I just got back from a week of R & R in Mexico. My brain is too “mushy” to write a high content blog (was it the sun, margaritas, or 10 hours of sleep a night?).

I do have some lessons learned and relearned.

1) You owe it to yourself to get away from work periodically. We get caught up and bogged down working day after day. A change of scene not only helps put things into perspective, it also gives time to be creative and open to new ideas. I’m not sure what got renewed the most – my mind/spirit/body.

2) Spending time in different cultures opens one’s eyes to the world. So many Americans are xenophobes. Only with exposure to other countries/people/cultures can you have a greater world view – and appreciation for the opportunities we have as U.S. citizens.

3) Loving relationships can use some time recharging. At times, I feel like my husband and I are two ships passing in the night – we are so busy. Having time alone — with no responsibilities – allows us to appreciate each other. Romance is a good thing!

4) Don’t let the media or our government scare you. If I listened to the news, I would think that every Mexican (or most nationalities) are terrorists or drug lords. Granted, there are areas that “tourists” must stay away from, but that doesn’t mean a whole country. There are areas in Philadelphia that I don’t frequent, either, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the city.

5) Life is short. Don’t put off good things, waiting for the “right time.” The right time is now!

Enjoy – I sure did. We are already planning our next get away. In the meantime, I am ready to get back to work!

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Top 4 Communication/Presentation Skills Pointers for Political Candidates

Election Day 2010 is next Tuesday, November 2, and there’s been a proliferation of debates and campaign ads in recent weeks, and they’re picking up speed (and urgency) all over the country.

While many people have already made up their minds about who they are voting for next week, what the candidates are saying is still critical. Why? Because people are listening with an ear to reinforce what they already believe to be true. So, political candidates still need to pay attention to their communication delivery and presentation style.

There are four main reasons that most politicians fail or otherwise falter when it comes to debates or during other presentations on the campaign trail – which then can impact on whether they will win or lose come Election Day.

All of these scenarios can be eliminated with careful attention to detail and practice.

1) Visual message outweighs the verbal. The bottom line is that first impressions count – so before they even utter a word, politicians need to do a quick “mirror check” and ensure that their professional packages are beyond reproach. Outward physical appearance and wardrobe are often more a topic of conversation than the message he or she is delivering. Think about it … how many times does a candidate’s hair, outfit and/or other accessories get mentioned, critiqued and/or analyzed? Unfortunately, female candidates especially have to be careful when it comes to their wardrobe choice. They are usually subject to much greater scrutiny than their male counterparts in the traditional suit and power tie.

2) Body language blunders. “Stiff” is an adjective that is often used to describe many politicians. It’s not hard to see why, after watching a random sampling of recent debates. The candidates’ bodies seem very tense when they speak, and their smiles often look forced. Political speakers shouldn’t discount the benefits of advance body warm-up exercises and stretching before they speak. As a professional speaker and executive coach, I do this myself and recommend clients do, too, before they deliver their big corporate presentations. Another bad body language tendency of political speakers is arm crossing and finger pointing. Such gestures can be perceived as hostile and antagonistic by audience members, not open-minded and all-inclusive/welcoming. Make no doubt about it, body language-related visual signals are a critical component to success on election day. 

3) Vocal delivery mistakes – The voice of some female candidates can sound shrill. This vocal tendency, while innate, can be better controlled — with practice — by better breathing from the diaphragm. Another vocal misstep relates to politicians who don’t allow for audience members’ reactions. I am referring to those political speakers (and I bet you know who are you) that jump on their own laugh lines or applause — not allowing the audience reaction to finish before moving on. This can prevent candidates from making a better connection with live and TV audiences.

My last two reasons politicians seem to fail or flounder during presentations relates only to female candidates.

4) Female candidates don’t always “own” their power. Former Governor Palin aside, most female political candidates have a tough time of owning their current (and future) positions of authority. All professional women in positions of authority are constantly aware of the need to strike a delicate balance – excelling at their chosen fields, yet not appearing aggressive in interactions with male peers or subordinates. The reality is, and it’s not often voiced, that the “b**ch” label is something never far behind when it comes to outgoing and assertive female candidates. Women shouldn’t be afraid to “own” the right to sit at the table and contribute their thoughts/issues and disagree with their male counterparts – and that message is a key one to learn for ALL professional females, in all industries.

As I watched many of the debates, heard the commentary, and read the news stories, I kept thinking how remarkably similar it all sounds to what goes on in the world of business.

If you can’t communicate your message with courage, conviction, and clarity, it will not be received as intended by the recipients — and you will not be perceived (or elected as) a leader.

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Courageous Coaching: It May Not Be Easy, But Necessary for Building Staff/Relationships

I have recently created a new presentation that focuses on courageous coaching. What is courageous coaching?

My definition of “coaching” is …

Saying the right thing and asking the right questions to the right people at the right time, in the right manner.

My view of being “courageous” is …

Offering coaching when it isn’t safe, easy or comfortable.

Coaching direct reports isn’t easy, but if you are the manager, it is your job.

Why can coaching direct reports be so hard?

When I ask managers that question, they respond:

  • Fear
  • Time
  • Assumptions
  • Don’t know how

Are these real or are they excuses?

Let’s look at each …

Fear – I call this the “I don’t want to upset people,” “I don’t want to create problems” or “I don’t want people to be mad or hurt” reaction. Then, there’s always the possible legal-related consideration that causes some managers pause. The anticipation is usually worse than the reality. For the most part, people want to improve. If what you say is phrased well, and coming from a place of good will, then, ultimately, it will be appreciated.

Time – It really is a matter of making time. After all, coaching reports isn’t easy, but it is a big part of a manager’s job. Look for ways to make the time on a regular basis, so it doesn’t seem like such a momentous project.

Also, look where you spend your time. Top performers need “the love” – they always look for ways to get better. Often, we waste too much time on the bottom 10%. At some point, they need to make the necessary changes, or it is time to let them go. These people can be draining and limiting the time you have to spend with people who want to improve – the top and the middle.

Faulty assumptions – Just because people have been with the company for awhile, doesn’t mean that they understand their current role, new products, etc. Don’t assume – get to know each person, and look for ways to help them move through their gaps.

Don’t know how – This is when training comes in — learning how to ask questions which get people thinking differently, learning how to give feedback that is really specific and honest so people can make changes.

Creating a culture of courageous coaching will enhance relationships, and, ultimately, results.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started today.

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Build & Improve Your Personal Credibility: Your #1 Invaluable Corporate Asset

PC no longer is the acronym of choice for Politically Correct, Personal Computers or Computing.

It stands for Personal Credibility – the hot topic of the moment. The problem for many professionals is that most of them don’t even realize they don’t have any PC, until it’s way too late – when a business relationship already has suffered or fallen apart.

How can you ensure that you build your own personal credibility and incorporate it into all aspects of your company and career?

I’m talking about credibility with your colleagues, direct reports, management, and clients.

How can you build your PC?

Personal credibility relates to many things. Here are my top 3 areas:

  • knowledge of the industry, client company and job role – did you come to your position with experience and knowledge, and if not, did you do any “homework?”
  • behavior in the office and with clients – do you act like the consummate professional, or do you need an business etiquette primer?
  • Honesty and integrity – do you tell the truth, make and keep promises and work commitments?

If you think our PC needs a boost, it’s possible to make improvements.

I am a huge believer in the importance of continual self-improvement and coaching – heck, I’d better be, or BRODY would be out of business! Seriously, I firmly believe that if you’re not green and growing, you are ripe and rotting. Or, as Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

How does this relate to building your personal credibility?

  • You can start by knowing your department and entire company inside and out. Read annual reports, attend all staff meetings, and seek out a mentor if possible.
  • Invest or enroll in company-sponsored training or coaching programs on site or do so in your personal time on your own dime.

Ask others whose opinions you trust and value (at work and at home) to “rate” your PC, and be open-minded to their feedback.

Make improvements where needed.

If your PC is rock solid, you will find yourself on the fast track to career and personal success.

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6 Strategies to Ensure Your E-mails Are Effective

E-mails are a way of life – much to the chagrin of the U.S. Postal Service.

While they may be “free” and so easy to send and receive, there are many common mistakes made when using e-mail to communicate.

Here are six pointers and reminders:

Grammar and punctuation still count! Take the extra moment to proofread before sending all e-mails. Be concise, and use clear subject lines.

Using all uppercase or bold fonts – Can be interpreted by the recipient as shouting.

Using all lowercase and/or no punctuation – Gives recipients the impression you value your time more than theirs, or that you are lazy, illiterate, or, worse yet, don’t care.

Flagging/marking messages as urgent! – You can get a bad reputation by always flagging e-mails as priorities or urgent, even if they truly aren’t. And, have you ever heard of the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome?

Watch out for Outlook choosing the wrong recipient – I can’t tell you how many embarrassing moments I’ve heard of where the sender of an e-mail let the not-so-handy feature of Microsoft Outlook choose who should get a message. So, if you do rely on this feature, when you type a few letters of a person’s e-mail account, and one or more pops up for you to select the right one, you’d better be 110% sure it’s the RIGHT person before you hit “Send.” You can’t recall an e-mail already sent – and it sure will make you look bad to apologize for sending the wrong person a message meant for someone else!

E-mails are never truly deleted – All e-mails are the property of your employer/company. So, remember this the next time you send a sensitive personal e-mail that can be retrieved from the hard drive (there is no true “deleting” when it comes to “trashing” an e-mail).

Like any communication tool, e-mail needs to be used effectively.

So, be brief, get to the point, and don’t send an e-mail when a quick phone call or stroll across the hallway for a face-to-face can work even better.

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Killer Sales Presentations

Last week, I spoke for the Philadelphia Business Journal. They were doing a Sales Boot Camp. My topic was “Killer Sales Presentations.”

Before discussing the 10 reasons that sales presentations fail … and how to avoid them, I first gave a series of sales presentation principles for people to keep in mind.

Here are the first 6 (of 12) … in no particular order:

· People like to buy, but they don’t want to be sold.

· People do business with those they like and trust.

· People do things for their own reasons, not yours.

· People make decisions with their hearts, and justify them with their heads.

If you don’t believe me, think about the person you married or the house you bought. Logical or emotional?

· The only way to change peoples’ minds is to help keep them open. In other words, don’t hit them with ideas that are hard for them to accept.

· Features tell; benefits sell. Spend your time explaining how the feature helps to solve the customer’s problem.

How are you doing with all of these?

Next time, I’ll give you the rest of the principles, and discuss the 10 reasons that sales presentations fail.

Keep in mind – we are always selling … if not products or services, our ideas and credibility.

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Technical Presentations Don’t Have to Be Tricky: Keep Them Simple for Success

The definition of genius is to make the complicated simple.

Of course, that isn’t really the definition. But, it is an ability that goes a long way as a leader — and also when presenting information.

We live in a complex and technical world. People need to understand what is going on around them. If you can present complex or technical ideas in a clear manner, you will become invaluable to your organization.

How can you do this? As always, know your audience. What is important to them? How deep do need to go?

The goal isn’t to show them how smart you are, but make them feel smart so they are open to your ideas.

Make sure you break down your ideas into manageable pieces. By doing so, you make the ideas easier to digest and your audience doesn’t struggle to grasp your message.

Be sure you are using lingo that everyone understands. Jargon and acronyms are a sure way to confuse your audience. You can use figures of speech (analogies, metaphors and similes) to explain your ideas. Remember to paint the picture, and tell the story.

Complicated and technical topics don’t have to be overwhelming. Just keep in mind this mantra: Make the complicated simple.

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Corporate Climate Primed for Training & Development: Time to Start Spending Now!

From all I am reading, corporate profits are increasing, and corporate spending continues to decline.

Given the overspending environment we had in the ‘90s, and early ‘00s, this is and understandable trend. But is this long-term thinking?

Where should money be spent if we are looking to the future? I suggest two primary areas:

1)     Hire expertise. Look for qualified individuals who can excel in the new business environment. This means employees who have diverse backgrounds and understand the importance of building relationships — and, of course, people who are able to communicate well.

2)     Have offerings that retain and engage current employees. What does this mean? Of course, money is always nice, but it isn’t the only option. Training and career development programs are critical. What knowledge and skills do your current employees need in order to excel? Although web-based training is less costly, it won’t replace the power of face to face. In times like these, the ability to build relationships helps the bottom line. Period.

We are seeing some of the most successful companies realize this, and are, therefore, increasing their training budgets.

Given that this is the new “normal,” companies can’t continue to wait and see what happens and still maintain the necessary edge.

It’s time to start spending, so you can measure the return!

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Don’t Get Lost in the “Twitterverse” or Facebook Fan Pages: Face-to-Face Communication Still Key for Effective Networking

You can tweet, blog, and update your status on Facebook and LinkedIn – they’re all good ways to connect with people … past, present and future.

However, let’s not assume that this “cyber connecting” will negate or replace the importance of face-to-face networking.

Unfortunately, with the increasing popularity and use of social networking sites, people are forgetting the fine art of networking.

Let me give you five pointers to ensure this doesn’t happen to you:

1) Remember, networking isn’t an event, it’s a process. You have the opportunity to meet people everywhere, every day. So be open and look for such opportunities whatever you’re doing.

2) Pay attention to how you come across to others. Some considerations – smile, be well groomed, and remember the importance of a good handshake.

3) Prepare your self-introduction. What do you say about yourself; what do you want people to know about you.

4) Be interested in others. The more you find out about others, the smarter you “look” to them in conversation.

5) Follow up. Remember to move from contact to connection. Keep in touch. Always look for ways to help your networking contacts.

Social networking is important, but it should never replace – nor come at the expense of – face-to-face connections.

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The Squeaky Speaker Voice Doesn’t Get any Audience “Grease”

What if your voice squeaks during a crucial presentation?

We know it’s not a second shot of puberty kicking in.

Typically, a speaker whose voice squeaks when he or she presents is breathing improperly – a condition often brought on by nerves.

What a surprise, a speaker who’s nervous! Yes, we all get butterflies from time to time.

But, it’s important for speakers to eliminate these squeaky moments, because they will …

* sound more credible and confident

* be easier to listen to (reducing the audience “zone out” factor)

* be taken more seriously

So, how do you eliminate these squeaks and calm your nerves?

One way to control this obvious symptom of stage fright is to learn to breathe from your diaphragm.

Below are some steps for proper abdominal breathing. You can do them right before you get up to speak.

1)      Sit upright in a chair, and place both feet flat on the floor.

2)      Rest your hands in your lap.

3)      Take a deep breath through the nose, while extending your stomach. Push your stomach out as the air comes into and fills your lungs. Your shoulders can rise, and may possibly go back a bit.

4)      Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your abdomen. Which hand rises more? If it’s the hand on your abdomen, you are breathing properly.

5)      If NOT, pull your breath deeper into your lungs. Once your lungs are full, hold the air to a count of six and then let it escape from your nose.

6)      Repeat, taking each deep breath slowly through the nose.

7)      Do this 10 times.

We are all born with vocal chords – some are longer and wider than others. It’s possible to modulate your voice so it’s a help not a hindrance when you present.

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4 Techniques for Speakers to Diffuse Hostile Questions

Just in case during your next presentation you get some hostile questions, here are four techniques you can use to diffuse the situation and emerge unscathed – helping to secure a successful presentation from start to finish.

· The Art of the Spin – when paraphrasing the hostile question, turn it around. “The real question you need to be asking is ….” Or, “You’re asking about the investment (never say “price” or “cost”) … it is only XX. And, when you consider XX, it is really priceless.”

· Leave Your “But” Out – You can acknowledge the person’s concern or point, then say, “and this is why we did that” – as opposed to saying, “Yes; that happened, but ….”  The word “but” negates everything that you said before it. Use “and” instead of “but” – in other words, leave your but out of every argument!

· Handling the Hot Potato – When challenged, don’t reply by immediately defending your point of view. Instead say, “Where did your information come from?” Or, “What part of my material do you disagree with?” In other words, throw the “hot potato” back at the questioner for further explanation before defending yourself.

· The VIPP – When the other person is visibly upset or angry, don’t even try to be rational in the beginning – that only escalates things. Instead, try the VIPP approach:

V – Let the person Vent.

I – Make an “I” statement like, “I hear what you’re saying ….” Paraphrase what the person has said, and take a stab at how he or she is feeling about the issue.

These first two steps typically ensure that the other person believes you have truly heard what he or she just said, and understand his or her feelings about the topic. At this point, you are able to appeal to reason.

P – Probe. Ask questions to get more information, so you understand logically what the real issues are.

P — Problem solve. Now you can problem solve, or you can refute the question based on the evidence and logic, not emotion.

Speakers should always anticipate what the challenging questions could be, so they can prepare not only their responses, but also in many cases, include the information within the actual presentation.

Remember, the best defense is a good offense!

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Presentation Skills Q & A Pointer: Effectively Control Stage Hogs

Today, I was teaching a presentation skills training program. Participants were most interested in how to handle an audience member who is a “stage hog.”

This type of speaking situation often occurs internally with an organization – people that can be considered stage hogs are well-known for their annoying behavior, and are typically not people with power. They are the people who like to be heard, like to interrupt, and have a need to be noticed.

The best way to deal with stage hogs is to connect with them in advance (via phone/face-to-face/e-mail).

Let them know that you look forward to the upcoming presentation, and say, “You always have an interesting approach to things. I’ll be talking about XXXX. What are your thoughts?”

Let them respond and be attentive — after all, you are picking their brains and feeding their egos! Then, say, “You have been very helpful. During the presentation, I want to answer the questions myself — you understand that, don’t you?” Of course, they will say, “Yes.” Then, quickly add, “If, however, anyone asks about XXXX, can I call on you?” You have now narrowed their area for being noticed. At the actual presentation, you can say to the audience, “I will be taking questions (throughout the presentation, at the end, etc.). If anyone has a question about XXX, John will be answering them.”

Since people probably don’t want to hear from John, because he’s a stage hog, they most likely won’t ask any questions – or at least if they do, they know John will respond.

If you think about it, this is how politicians deal with the dissenters in their audiences. They do their real work behind the scenes.

Being preemptive with the stage hog is a good technique.

Next week, I’ll share more ideas about how to deal with difficult audience members.

Until then, feel free to share some of your best practices for coping with “stage hogs” during a presentation.

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You Can’t Ace the Q & A If There Aren’t Any Questions

Last week I blogged about the ABCs of the Q & A.

As I said, handling the question-and-answer session is a critical component of successful presentations. But, you can’t master this aspect of public speaking if you can hear a pin drop when you or the moderator ask if there are any questions.

Just yesterday, I was asked by a presenter I was coaching, “How can I get people to ask questions? No one ever seems to want to ask me any after my presentations.”

It wasn’t hard to understand why. This person had his arms crossed during most of his presentation, didn’t make eye contact, had a scowl on his face, and he spoke at warp speed.

Here are my top 8 strategies for ensuring that you receive questions from audience members:

· Early on in your presentation, let the audience know that you will be taking questions and when – it could be throughout, at breaking points, or at the end. You decide.

· When you do open for questions, watch your visual presentation – do you look receptive and interested? Be sure to look at your audience members and not at your notes or slides. Open up your gestures. Walk towards people. Have a pleasant expression, and avoid rolling your eyes or sighing as if to say, “That was a stupid question.”

· When asking for questions, be assumptive. Say, “Who wants to open with the first question?” Or, “What questions do you have?” Note, I didn’t say, “Do you have any questions?”

· Once you’ve asked for questions, be comfortable with silence. Give people time to think about what types of questions they may want to ask. You may feel like they’re staring at you. But the reality is that most people are deciding what to ask, or whether to ask a question. So, give them time.

· If no one asks a question, then you need to revert to your previously prepared sample questions. You can introduce these by saying, “When I first learned this, I wondered…” Or, “A question I’m frequently asked is …”

· Avoid grading or judging any question. In other words, don’t say, “That’s a good question.” If you compliment some questions and not others, it comes across as judgmental. If you compliment all, it sounds perfunctory.

· Never embarrass the questioner. When you say things like, “I covered that in my presentation,” or, “As I said before …,” not only will it discourage the person who asked, but most likely the rest of the group as well. Just answer the question, or take it off line if it doesn’t relate.

· When answering any questions, make your reply brief. Long answers discourage more questions.

Since having questions asked is an essential part of any effective business presentation – giving presenters a chance to clarify and expand on their ideas – successful speakers need effective techniques to encourage them.

I’d love to hear from presenters if they have any other techniques that have worked well for them. I’ll share best practices.

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Presentation Skills Pointers: Ace the Q & A

I often hear eloquent presenters deliver interesting presentations.

You might say, “Marjorie, that’s great. Isn’t that what you coach people to do?”

My response, of course, is, “Yes, it is.”

The goal in all presentations (and what I teach) is to:

· Craft an effective message

· Deliver that message dynamically

· Get results

However, the presentation itself often isn’t enough.

If you can’t handle the questions (which might come throughout the presentation), then the impact of your presentation is totally diminished … along with your credibility.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to provide ideas on how to handle any questions that are asked — both during and at the end of your presentation.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when preparing your presentation:

1)     Think like audience members, and anticipate what types of questions they will ask. If you were an audience member, what would you want to know about your topic?

2)     Be prepared for all scenarios. Specifically, anticipate the worst questions audience members will ask, and the questions you don’t want to get.

3)     Remember, people ask questions to get information, hear themselves talk, and sometimes, to challenge you, the speaker. Before responding, figure out why people actually are asking.

When you anticipate the questions, you will be much better prepared – exuding confidence.

After all, there is no “prize” in surprise!

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My Free Accountability Presentation at VirtualU on May 18

It’s fair to say that we’re entering a brave new world in lots of ways.

One has to do with the shift in how training is being delivered – or at least supplemented.

There is no doubt that webinars have a place in the training mix of modalities. In fact, BRODY Professional Development delivers them quite often.

We also do webinars in advance of an instructor-led, face-to-face training program. By doing this, we can cut the lecture part of the program and focus on application and hands-on practice of the skills – not to mention coach participants through a process.

Webinar platforms have greatly improved in recent years, to allow polling, quizzes, and other types of interaction. Yet, if you are like me, you still find this format a bit boring, too easy to let yourself multi-task while attending one.

BRODY has been exploring alternatives to the standard webinar for training. Our search has led us to Digitell’s VirtualU platform – a 3D virtual universe where participants create an avatar to navigate the learning experience in virtual auditoriums and lecture halls. Participants can chat via text messages, live Twitter feeds, and via a VOIP sound connection.

VirtualU is a lot like the virtual universe, SecondLife, where I once delivered an informal “fireside chat” about one of my books to an all-female audience of varied professionals.

Mark your calendar. Tuesday, May 18 at 3 pm ET, I’ll be on Virtual U delivering my presentation “Accountability: 5 Keys to Manage Success (Yours & Others).”

So, join my VirtualU avatar – who looks a lot better than I do – as I discuss the topic of accountability.

The good news is that it’s not too late to register, and the price is right – FREE.

If you’re interested in learning more about exciting, new training and development platform – and receiving some useful content – sign up today!

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Kenexa’s Rudy Karsan Agrees: Effective Communication Reaches Your Audience

I recently read an interview with Rudy Karsan, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Kenexa, which appeared in the April 2010 issue of Smart Business Philadelphia. He was talking about leadership and communication.

Karsan said, “The single biggest mistake I see leaders making is that they view communication as a one-way street. When you are talking or writing, the question that people ask themselves is, ‘How can I say this in the best possible way?’ But, if you replace the question with, ‘How can the recipient hear this in the most effective way?’ you might have a different answer.”

He further stated, “All communication is driven by two things: a rational component and an emotional component. If you can attach both components in a bandwith that is tied into the receiver, who is receiving information in a manner that is most effective and efficient for them, then you are the most successful.”

I love it!

It’s just what I focus on when I coach leaders within organizations.

When we do our training around presentation skills, we say that speaking needs to be audience-centered to be successful.

What are some things to keep in mind in the communication process?

*What’s in it for the listener?

*How does this person take in information?

*What are the trigger words that will impact this person positively or negatively?

*What words need to be clarified?

*What tone is best to use?

*How can I initiate questions and conversation?

These are all important questions to remember — presentation skills/behaviors that be learned.

My hat is off to Rudy Karsan, and to Kenexa. No wonder it is a successful company!

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Greeting Card Conundrum: Is It Proper to Send Paper or Electronic?

Mother’s Day is approaching – a great time for the greeting card companies.

Granted, there are eCards for everything, but are they valued the same way? The answer I’ve gotten is mixed.

According to the Greeting Card Association, more than 7 billion paper cards were bought last year – even though eCards are readily available (and much cheaper, even free in some cases).

So, what is the etiquette of card sending?

For birthdays, either type of card will work – and if you forget, it’s quicker to send an eCard. Congratulations for a new job, etc., can be either type of card, too.

When it comes to expressing sympathy, celebrating anniversaries, or recognizing this upcoming Mother’s Day, however, my suggestion is to spring for the traditional paper card. If you don’t want to spend the money, nothing beats a handwritten note.

I realize that I may sound like a dinosaur in this age of electronic communication, but sometimes, you just can’t beat the old-fashioned approach.

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The Power of Presence – It Can Be Learned & Shared

For many of us, the ability to shake hands, look someone in the eye, stand tall, and at least appear confident is second nature.

But, many people feel they haven’t earned the right to appear this way – owning their achievements and exude confidence.

How sad is that?

I remember teaching a networking program at a bank several years ago. When I asked what each person’s objective was, one said, “To walk into a room as confidently as you do.” I responded to her, “How do you know how confident I am? You only know what you see, not what I am feeling.”

This same hesitance and uncertainty was evident yesterday, as I volunteered to speak at an afterschool program in an underprivileged neighborhood.

My goal was to give these 13- to 18-year-old students the confidence to shake my hand, look me in the eye, and state their point of view. It wasn’t an easy task.

Who can you help today? Who can you help unleash their own personal power?

It is a gift that will have major payoff.

Think about it.

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Manners Do Matter — in Life & Work – So, Improve Them

Do good manners still matter in our high tech, fast-paced business casual environment?

Resoundingly, yes!

Impressions and relationships are based on behavior.

A smile, a good hand shake, proper grooming, introducing others, putting people at ease, and using technology wisely all are not rocket science.

But, knowing the proper protocols and understanding the impact, requires caring about and considering others.

Etiquette (we refer to it as professional savvy) is based on logic, kindness and efficiency.

Granted, as little as 10 years ago, we weren’t teaching cell phone etiquette, and about 15 years ago, business casual wardrobe policies were unheard of.

Making others feel comfortable never has been been – or will be — out of style.

I always loved the quote that goes something like this, “Those who know, know, and those who don’t know, don’t even know they don’t know.”

Since impressions are made in a blink of an eye, it’s good to know the “rules” and to pay attention to how we treat others.

Minding your manners isn’t just some old fashioned advice that you get from your grandparents … it’s something to take into account daily in work and life.

Manners – though constantly evolving — really do matter!

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Intention & Focus Critical, But Then Take Action, Too

I am starting to prepare a presentation to be delivered this summer at a Foundation Event at the National Speakers Association Convention.

Topic: “Getting Business in These Challenging Times.” Of course, I have my ideas, but decided to tap the collective wisdom of colleagues and friends in the speaking industry.

One said, “I think about money – really think about it, and I seem to get a booking for a presentation.” He was dead serious.

At first, I laughed, then I began to think: focus, intention, putting what you want out into the universe, what you think about, you make happen. I’m not laughing so much now. Instead, I am thinking about …

I do believe that intention and focus are critical. It’s part of a visualization process. Of course, taking action usually expedites things.

What do you need to focus on? I’d love to hear about the results. Maybe I will focus on you responding to me.

I also would welcome ideas regarding getting business. The Foundation is a worthwhile cause, and the ideas could help a lot of people.

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“Relentless Exploration” – How a Speaker’s Message Can Resonate & Reach Audience Members

During a long flight, I was catching up on my reading, and came across an interesting article in Newsweek (March 29, 2010) by Jon Meacham.

The article was about Bill Clinton’s comments regarding President Obama’s oratory, and what he needed to do to be better understood.

The phrase that former President Clinton said that struck me was “relentless exploration.” He also said, “…if you explain something to me, even if I don’t entirely understand it, even if I don’t agree with you, you have nevertheless honored me.”

As an executive coach in presentation skills and Hall of Fame professional speaker, this sentiment really resonated with me.

If people don’t understand what a speaker says, how do they make good decisions?

What gets in the way of audience member understanding?

· Acronyms, jargon and buzz words

· Bombastic vocabulary

· Long sentences

· Mounds of data and statistics that go in circles and aren’t interpreted properly, or in the right context

· Eloquence without substance

Meacham’s (now adopted by me!) four rules to get your point across – and maybe even buy in for your ideas are:

“Explain relentlessly.”

  1. Create a vision – “tell us how what you are saying will lead us to a better place, and describe the place.”
  2. “Assume nothing;
  3. Repeat yourself until you are numb.”

Only after you do all of these techniques, he said, the message may begin to sink in.

Meacham also reinforces the “15- to 20-word test” when answering questions. If you can’t answer questions in 15 to 20 words, you aren’t going to get through to your audience members.

These presentation skills rules of thumb aren’t just relevant to presidents.

We can all apply them in any presentation that we deliver – to better connect with our audiences and achieve “buy in” and action for our messages.

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Fixing the “Freeze” — Effective Strategies for Making Sales Cold Calls

At BRODY Professional Development, we work with salespeople all the time – helping them improve their ability to effectively present and listen, and to ask questions to further engage and connect with their audiences.

We don’t help people with cold calling – perhaps it’s my own making-the-call-related reluctance. The good news is that I have found the “cure.”

It’s a book by Art Sobczak called Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure and Rejection from Cold Calling.

You will find out how to get the prospect’s interest in 20 seconds, turn around buyer resistance, get the gatekeeper on your side, and, perhaps most important of all — stay motivated. Wow!

I’m buying this for everyone on my staff – and so should you!

The book is less than $15 at amazon.

Click here for more details.

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Mastermind Groups: Invaluable Colleagues as Consultants & Much More

If two heads are better than one, as the old adage says, what will four to five heads create?

Synergy, ideas, creativity.

That’s what happens each time I meet with one of my two mastermind groups.

I come with problems, and walk away with a myriad of possible solutions.  Ultimately, I am accountable for the results, but I find that I (and most mere mortals), can get lost in the details or only have “silo” thinking.

What I also love about my groups is that they help me to think differently – to be creative and sometimes more honest with myself.

My family, friends, and employees are too “close” to some of the issues to be able to help me see things clearly. My mastermind buddies have a different perspective, and know that even if it is something I don’t want to hear, or face, it is critical that I do so.

I am lucky to have these people in my life.

Have you ever thought about creating your own mastermind group?

If you want more details and ideas on how to do so, drop me an e-mail, and I will answer your questions.

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A Look At Leadership: Interpersonal Communication Still Key

If you Google the phrase “leadership, definition”, you will see more than 81,500 entries.

Obviously, there isn’t one universally accepted definition for leadership, and clearly, there isn’t one right way to lead.

So, is investing in leadership development still important in our age of cutbacks and shrinking budgets? Yes.

Paula Ketter, editor of T+D magazine, reminded readers of her March 2010 column that  “experts agree enlightened leadership begets engaged employees.”

She suggests we do it right and look at what’s missing to help corporations:

Ketter stated, also in her March 2010 column, “Leadership development should be created around an organization’s culture and should mirror the values and the goals of that culture.”

She also said, “High potentials tend to have the business and technical skills needed to create successful organizational strategy, but many are lacking the interpersonal skills to motivate employees and communicate effectively.”

What so often is described as “soft skills” are the very things that are critical for moving an organization and driving hard results.

What are you doing for yourself and for your employees to enhance your interpersonal and communication skills?

There are many free tips and techniques on our website that will help you communicate with clarity and conviction. Give us a call today and we can craft a communication solution for you and your team.

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An “Achievers’ Circle” Weekend Can Build Your Business

Are you looking for ways to build your business?

I have a solution – join my mastermind group colleague Mark LeBlanc at one of his Achievers’ Circle weekends.

He will help you grow your business and put more money in your pocket.

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My “Olympic” Lesson: Presentation Training Investment Pays Off

My husband and I were hooked on the Winter Olympics – both from the sports competition aspect as well as the “back story” angle about the athletes. These Olympic athletes are all winners, whether they medaled or not.

As I watched, words that continually came to mind were: focus, dedication, coaching, practice, risk-taking, challenge, training, and more practice.

Watching also made me wonder: Why is it that some people – like the Olympic athletes — strive so hard to be the “best in class” in an event and for the related fame, while others are for the most part stuck in “short-term” thinking?

They are goal-oriented, passionate, and want to do their best. They recognize the need for – and their return on — investing time and money into training and coaching.

Shouldn’t it be the same any time we give a presentation?

Yet, it continues to amaze me that so many people – and corporations – assume that that they will “show up” focused, dedicated and results-driven … without the investment of coaching, training and lots of practice.

One presentation can make or break a huge sale. One presentation creates an impression that can lead to further advancement. One presentation can rally the troops (a much-needed call to action).

Now is the time to invest for yourself and for your employees. Don’t wait for the next big event. Use the time now to prepare.

Believe me, the gold, silver and bronze medal winners from the 2010 Winter Olympics are already creating a strategy and game plan to win even more medals four years from now in Russia.

For free “gold medal ideas” check our website, www.BrodyPro.com

So, what are you waiting for?

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A Journey Worth Taking, to Revolutionize Your Life & Career

If for any reason you are feeling depressed, unmotivated, or unfulfilled, I have the “cure” – no, it’s not taking drugs! It’s not even eating chocolate.

It’s attending a “Journey” with my mastermind group friend Dr. Alan Zimmerman. He is an expert on motivation, attitude and performance.

Click here to get more information on his 12 keys to success that will revolutionize your life and your career.

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Training’s Not Dead Yet; It’s Still a Valuable Investment

Has training died?

This past week, I got an e-mail that Nielsen Company decided to cease operations of Training magazine and Training magazine Events, responsible for producing the annual Training Leadership Summit, Training Conference & Expo, and other meetings.

Aside from the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), these were some of the biggest training gatherings in the United States, maybe even the world.

How sad is this?

In a word: Very.

What does this mean?

*No one needs training?

*No one values training?

*No one wants to invest time or dollars in training?

How short-sighted is this mindset?

Again, in a word: Very.

No matter how enamored we may be with tweeting, texting and blogging, none of it ever replaces skills practice, interaction with people and feedback.

Fear seems to be the operative word — fear of being fired, fear of spending money, fear of investing in our employees, so people are stuck.

We can all learn a lot from the attitude and example that Olympians set during the recent Winter Games – which was the very opposite mentality: Push yourself, take a risk, go a little out of control, and recognize the need in some cases for yet more training and coaching.

How else can we get the best from people?

Clearly, I have a vested interest in the world of training.

But, so should you!

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Olympic Athletes & Presenters: What It Takes for Platform Success

Have you been watching the Olympics?

I’m skiing in Stowe, Vermont, this week, and have been glued to the TV every night.

I’ve been watching the events (not just skiing), and listening to the “back stories” of the athletes.

It’s amazing what these Olympic athletes have done to earn a place on the team, and sometimes on the medals podium.

Key words that come to my mind are:

* Dedication

* Focus

* Passion

* Practice

Granted, these athletes have talent – but, so do lots of other people in their respective sports.

Is this so different from winners and others who excel from any other areas of life? For example, a musician, an actor, a singer, a dancer, a business professional?

All of these professions also require dedication, focus, passion and practice – if those in these fields are going to make it and succeed.

Why then do businesspeople assume that they can “wing” a presentation?

Knowing the subject isn’t the same as speaking about it. Giving a winning presentation requires much more.

Standing on the podium means many things. There’s a lot that speakers can learn from Olympic athletes.

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