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Listening BlocksListening Blocks Having spent more than 20 years training business people in listening skills, Richard Anstruther and his team of communication experts at HighGain, Inc., have identified five...

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The Importance of Follow-ThroughThe Importance of Follow-Through Whether you’re learning to swing a golf club, baseball bat or tennis racquet, coaches always emphasize the importance of follow-through. It’s not just hitting the ball...

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Cultivating Serenity in the Workplace and BeyondCultivating Serenity in the Workplace and Beyond The serenity prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous says that the key to serenity is accepting what you cannot change, changing what you can, and possessing the wisdom to know the...

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Speak Like a ProSpeak Like a Pro There are numerous books on public speaking, all offering valuable information and different angles on the topic. To speak like a pro, keep these tips in mind: Plan Start...

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Benefits of Laughter at WorkBenefits of Laughter at Work Stronger Connections Laughter breaks down barriers, builds relationships and allows for better communication among coworkers. People with a sense of humor often have the...

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Listening Practices: Tips and Traps

Posted on : 13-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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Have you ever noticed how GOOD it feels to be really listened to? It’s impactful, particularly when the listening goes beyond just the words you’re speaking. That kind of artful listening conveys respect and value to the speaker, and promotes positive relationships of all kinds.

And, like any art, it takes practice.

According to widely referenced statistics by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, known for his pioneering work in nonverbal communication, only 7% of communication happens through a person’s actual words (38% through tone and 55% through body language). That’s why it’s important to hone our skills to listen at deeper levels.

A good place to start is by understanding the three listening levels described in the book Co-Active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl.

Listening Levels

Level 1—Internal: We hear the other person’s words, but our focus is on what it means to us—our thoughts, feelings, judgments and conclusions. We may also be concerned with what the other person thinks of us. This level is useful for checking in with our feelings or to make decisions.

Level 2—Laser-Focused: Our attention is focused like a laser beam on the other person, with little awareness of anything else. With such strong focus, we are curious, open and have little time to pay attention to our own feelings or worry about how we are being received. Mind chatter disappears with such a sharp focus.

Level 3—Global: Our attention is spread out like an antenna with a 360-degree range. It allows us to pick up emotions, energy, body language and the environment itself. Intuition heightens as we tune into the deeper layers of what is going on around us.

All three levels are necessary. However, when we spend too much time in self-focused Level 1 listening, our communication can seriously suffer. Engaging all three levels at once, with more emphasis on Levels 2 and 3, can improve how we listen—and the impact of how we are received.

Top 10—Team Support

Posted on : 12-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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A leader’s job is to ensure that the highest level goals of the organization are realized. As long as you are committed to the success of the group, you are leading. Below are 10 ways to support your “team,” whether that is a formalized project team or an informal grouping of employees.

1. Set direction; don’t give directions. Trying to tell everyone what to do is micromanaging, not leading.

2. Ask yourself the question: “Is what I’m doing helping the group to succeed?” Ask the group, too. If the answer is no, stop!

3. Remind the group why it exists. A team’s charter can sometimes get lost.

4. Align your team. Once goals are clear, help everyone match their part of the job to the goals.

5. Ask questions. Explore with real curiosity the link between members’ actions and the team’s goals.

6. Get out of the way. Stop being dazzled by your own brilliance. Let go and trust the power of teamwork.

7. Keep an open mind. Sometimes what looks like insanity may make a great deal of sense.

8. Make it easy for team members to get their jobs done. Take out the trash or order a pizza, if necessary.

9. Choose your battles wisely. They’re a poor use of time. Issues that seem critical now often aren’t in the long run.

10. Spend time with your team. You’ll learn how to support them much better than by being aloof and alone in your office.

Tending the Mentoring Relationship

Posted on : 11-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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It’s important to be clear on your mentoring goals before proposing a mentor relationship with the person you’ve chosen. Mentors are usually interested in giving back to their community and/or they want to mentor in order to develop skills as a teacher, manager, strategist or consultant. But be considerate about your mentor’s time. In fact, be considerate, period. Remember the adage that you get what you give. Buy your mentor some tea or pick up the lunch tab. Send her information she might consider useful for a pet project or offer help or services. Say thank you. Here are some other tips for working with a mentor.

Come prepared to your meeting. Take notes, develop action steps and review both before your next meeting.

Be clear about what you’re doing and what you need. Keep to one or two specific, well-thought-out questions, and ask them clearly.

Spend most of your time listening. You’ll get the most out of your mentor if you don’t engage in “Why I can’t do that” conversations. You are not obligated to put any of your mentor’s suggestions into action, so just listen.

Be personal. Don’t spend all your time picking your mentor’s brain. Make your time with your mentor a conversation rather than a grilling. Be curious about your mentor’s life. Don’t idolize him or her.

Be real. You won’t learn a fraction of what you could if you’re trying to impress or skimming over problems.

 

Think for yourself. No mentor wants to figure everything out for you. Mentors should serve the role of guide, not parent.

Finding a Mentor

Posted on : 10-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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Though mentors do provide a valuable source of objective feedback, the mentor-protégé relationship almost always is best if it’s a non-evaluative one. Within companies, this is done by working with a mentor from a different department. And while it may work best to look within your own business, mentors don’t have to come from within a company, nor do you need to wait for an established corporate mentor program to begin benefiting from a mentor relationship. Consider this list of places to find a mentor.

Professional associations. If it’s important to you to have a mentor within your industry, look to people you meet at professional association meetings.

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). This organization has helped many an entrepreneur with solid advice from those who’ve been there.

Your community. Consider former bosses or professors, relatives, networking group contacts, friends, church groups, etc. 

Service organizations. Some groups, such as Rotary Club International, offer business mentoring programs. Look around in your city; ask at your local Chamber of Commerce.

Others you admire or respect. Make a list of possible candidates before you begin your search.

Stronger Performances Through Mentoring

Posted on : 09-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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The Information Age being what it is, there is no dearth of sources for information and expertise. We research online and offline. We listen to guest experts and watch educational programs. We read books, newsletters and magazines. We hire consultants.

But where do we go for ongoing wisdom? To whom do we turn for experienced advice to help us achieve stronger performance?

Increasingly in business, the answer is: mentors.

“Mentoring lets employees soak up character, judgment and approach,” writes Micki Holliday, in the book Coaching, Mentoring & Managing. “It is the opportunity for them to apprise situations and cultivate their own ways.”

This solution to the need for a certain flavor of guidance and learning is surprisingly ancient, having its roots in Homer’s Greece. Mentor was the name of Odysseus’ faithful friend who served as teacher and overseer for his son, Telemachus, when Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan War.

To this day, mentors continue to serve as guides and teachers, providing a good, reliable sounding board, opportunity for a second opinion and, often, emotional support. We learn from their experience, their mistakes and their successes. And we often gain access to their (usually extensive) network of decision-makers.

Working with mentors is generally not only good for individuals but good for the company, as well.

“Now more than ever, and in most industries, human assets are of greater importance than physical and financial assets,” write the editors of the Harvard Business Essentials book Coaching and Mentoring. They make the case that neither physical nor financial assets differentiates companies nor confers a long-term competitive advantage, whereas human assets are the source of innovation and value creation. “Thus, organizations have a powerful economic incentive to develop their human assets.”

10 Ways to Overcome Procrastination

Posted on : 06-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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Following are a few remedies to overcome procrastination:

1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic timetable.

2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend or co-worker or family member your plan. Ask for help when you need it.

3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.

4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule.

5. Think small. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Stay in the present and do what you are doing.

6. Break tasks into parts. The “Swiss cheese” approach to getting any major project completed is to break it apart and work on one piece at a time. Reward yourself when you complete one step.

7. Use positive self-talk.

8. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.

9. Realize there is no such thing as perfection. Begin the thing knowing it can never be done perfectly. You’ll do your best. You always do.

10. Reward yourself. Often and generously for accomplishing the smallest of tasks. Celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy your accomplishment.

Like many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The place to begin is where you are.

The time to start is now.

Procrastination—Everyone Talks About It, but Nobody Does Anything

Posted on : 05-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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Imagine the space this article fills as blank.

Imagine the time and energy it might have taken someone who procrastinates to: 1) think about doing the article, 2) put it on a list of “to dos,” 3) talk about doing it, 4) promise himself he will start it tomorrow, 5) promise himself he will definitely start it tomorrow, 6) promise…well, you get the point.

As the deadline for the article draws near (it’s midnight the night before the article is due), imagine the stress the writer must feel as he brews a pot of coffee and sets himself up for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamite opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time he’s beating himself up for waiting so long to start and telling himself he’s no good at this job anyway and the article will be a bust.

This is procrastination in full, weedy flower. Delay. Broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork and probably not as good an end product as the writer would have produced if he’d tackled the job in a timely, reasonable, professional manner.

Procrastination isn’t good for anyone, anytime. So why do so many do it? Not just around such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but with everyday tasks such as cleaning off the desk or straightening up the garage or starting a project at work.

The more difficult, inconvenient or scary the task is perceived to be, the more procrastinators procrastinate. They come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear reasonable, but in the end it’s a self-defeating behavior that causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which is stress.

Cultivating Serenity in the Workplace and Beyond

Posted on : 03-07-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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The serenity prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous says that the key to serenity is accepting what you cannot change, changing what you can, and possessing the wisdom to know the difference. The prayer is a good model that covers a lot of ground, but how do you tell the difference between what you can and cannot change? Here are some things you do have control over.

Your actions. No one can “make” you do anything. If you’re unhappy with your behavior at work or at home, change it, make amends if necessary, chart a new course.

Your words. Spoken or written, the words you choose impact your life and the lives of others. Choose your words carefully with workmates, colleagues, bosses, and clients, and quickly acknowledge any harm.

Your beliefs. If you believe that others should take care of your needs, then you will be frustrated when they don’t. If you believe things must be a certain way, you’ll surely face disappointment.

Your values. What’s important to you is your choice. No one else should tell you what to value. Spend some time clarifying your values and then aligning your work and life with them.

Your work. No one else can contribute to the world in the same way as you. Do whatever it takes to find your work.

Your friends. Those you associate with say a lot about what you think about yourself. You can choose friends who support you or those who bring you down.

Your input. You can select your sources of news and entertainment. If you feel adversely affected, turn off the computer, the TV, and/or ignore advertising. Fill downtime from work with other activities, such as leisurely walks, gardening (weeding can be especially helpful in managing anxiety), and cooking or other creative pursuits.

Your time. Though it may not always feel this way, you do choose every day how to use its 24 hours. Fill those hours with more of what you truly want, and watch your contentment rise.

Your basic health. While you can’t control your genetic make-up, you can choose to exercise, sleep enough, eat healthy food, and get routine check-ups. While you’re at it, don’t forget your mental health. Treat yourself a little better; trust a little more that things will work out for you; if you need professional help don’t let pride stop you from asking.

Your legacy. All that you choose while alive—your actions and words—will become the gift you leave when you die. What will be your legacy?

Speak Like a Pro

Posted on : 26-04-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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There are numerous books on public speaking, all offering valuable information and different angles on the topic. To speak like a pro, keep these tips in mind:

Plan

Start by knowing your audience. Who are they? What do they really want or need to know? What is their vocabulary? How much do they know already? What works with them? Be clear also on your purpose; distill that purpose into one sentence. Keep all of this in mind as you develop the structure and content of your speech and choose visuals that support—and don’t sabotage—your purpose. And don’t forget to build into your presentation ways to involve the mind and body of the audience.

Practice

The more you rehearse, the more confident you’ll feel and the more natural you’ll sound. A solid suggestion is to memorize at least the first four minutes. Tape and time yourself. Be aware of your “vocal color,” the pitch, pace, punch and passion of your delivery. Observe and analyze your posture, appearance, gestures, eye contact and energy level. The goal is not to script every movement or rise in volume, but to become aware enough in the moment to notice yourself and what you’re doing while you’re in front of your audience. Watch and listen to other speakers; see what works and what doesn’t.

Fear Not

If you would rather die than speak in front of others, remember this: Speaking is about them (your audience), not you. It’s about communicating to the people who want or need what you know. You are the channel for this information, nothing more. When you speak in service of your message, fear dissipates remarkably.

Prepare

Find techniques that work for you to help you warm up your body and voice, calm your mind and inspire your attitude. Prepare for the most difficult questions that might come up during Q&A. Above all, look and sound like you mean what you’re saying. Own the power of your knowledge, of your performance.

As Marian K. Woodall says in her book, Speaking to a Group: Mastering the Skill of Public Speaking: “Speakers have power; GREAT speakers have GREAT power.”

Mastering “Must Have” Speaking Skills

Posted on : 25-04-2012 | By : Cathy | In : Uncategorized

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Speaking well in front of an audience is no longer just a great skill to have, a “plus” in the business world. Whether you’re selling a product, submitting a progress report, presenting research results, training or motivating your team, or delivering a keynote address at a business conference, speaking skills are almost expected and are certainly an essential tool for success.

The good news is that public speaking is a measurable skill that can be mastered, not a gift doled out to only a few charismatic individuals.

And the better news is that when you master public speaking, you advance your career. That’s because speaking helps you:

•  Strengthen your leadership position.

•  Build your personal brand, gaining recognition, visibility and respect.

•  Increase your influence, as you put forth your ideas and information.

•  Enhance your ability to promote your company and its products or services.

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