Month: August 2020

Not All Work Gets Done at a Desk

Not All Work Gets Done at a Desk

Leaders of high-performing remote teams hire people they can trust and invest in their success by training them, and by helping them acclimate to the team’s culture. 

They also spend time to make sure everyone on the team is in the loop and on the same page as much as possible. Avoiding miscommunication is one of the best ways to keep a team efficient and healthy. 

If you’re leading a remote team, another important thing to remember is that not all work gets done at a desk. Think about your own behavior. How many times have you solved a problem by speaking with a colleague during a coffee break or by having a quick chat in a hallway? I’m sure there have also been times when stepping away from your desk to clear your head has helped you move something forward, or in a new direction. 

Hire people you can trust, train them well, support them professionally, set expectations for availability, and then give them space to get their work done. If they are not adding value, you should be able to tell. If you can’t, then you either didn’t clearly communicate your expectations or you didn’t hire well. 

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Don't Text and Listen

Don’t Text and Listen

Texting while driving is dangerous. We all know it. Yet many people still do it. It’s hard to resist the distraction of your phone buzzing or dinging. We know that phone notifications negatively affect productivity, even if we don’t check them right away. Just knowing there is a message waiting for our attention destroys our ability to concentrate.

In my listening workshop, I teach the importance of preparing yourself to listen. It’s not as easy as you think, and the many distractions that our digital world provides are a big part of the problem.

Here are some tips to help avoid distractions when it’s time to truly listen:

Prepare to listen

From hunger to tiredness, to thinking about the argument you had with your colleague Ricardo this morning, there are a variety of things that can keep you from focusing. Do your best to put yourself into a listening state of mind, and make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.

Avoid multitasking

If you’re checking email or social media during meetings or at the dinner table, you’re not listening. If a conversation you are in is important to you, focus on it and put other tasks aside until it’s finished.

Eliminate potential distractions

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are predictable and some are not. Make sure the ones you can control are avoided. Turn your phone and smartwatch off or put them in Do Not Disturb mode. 

Take notes

Taking notes helps you remember things. It can also help you stay in the moment. The bonus is that it also nonverbally communicates that you are listening to the speaker. How nice of you! However, be careful not to let your note taking become so extensive that you stop listening.

Postpone listening if you cannot concentrate

If you can’t fully invest yourself into the conversation at hand, sometimes it’s best to postpone it until later. Wouldn’t you rather hear this instead of sitting across from someone who is not listening to you: “I’m sorry, but we have an emergency going on and if I meet with you now, I won’t be able to concentrate. Our conversation is important to me. Can we move it to 4 p.m. today?” 

Listening well takes work, and there are a lot of barriers that will naturally get in the way. From your own biases or judgement of the speaker or topic to your physical and emotional state, there are many opportunities for inefficiencies. Don’t let distractions that you can control add to the mix.

Don't Say "Like I Said…" Ever!

Like I Said…

The two phrases that make me cringe most when I observe a presenter or meeting participant fielding questions are: “Like I said…” and “As I mentioned previously…”. 

Here’s why.

If someone asks you a question that you’ve previously answered, it means one of three things:

  1. They missed the answer the first time because they were not listening.
  2. You were unclear when you reviewed the answer previously.
  3. You made them work too hard to understand and remember it.

The fact is that they missed it, and it was probably your fault. Perhaps you buried it among other complex data they were trying to decipher. Maybe it was a key point you should have covered with emphasis, and you didn’t. 

Or maybe it wasn’t your fault and they were distracted by a text message at that precise time you covered that specific point.

The bottom line is that it happened; and how you handle it makes all the difference. When you use a phrase such as, “Like I said…” you are pointing a big finger right at the questioner that says, “I covered this before, dummy. Weren’t you listening?” That’s just like being called out by your 6th grade teacher in front of the class. Nobody likes how that feels. 

Instead, kindly answer the question. Maybe even give an example or elaborate on it a bit. You might find that the question came up because the questioner simply could not think of a better way to ask you to elaborate more on the specific point.

Banish these phrases from your repertoire. Don’t even use them in email communications. Saying, “Like I said…” or “As I mentioned previously…” may make you feel better by pointing out that you covered the information already. But it’s not about you. The fact is that these phrases do nothing but hurt your effectiveness as a presenter and influencer.

Personal Branding: Storytelling (Old Style Pen)

Who’s Telling Your Story?

In business, everyone has a story to tell. In this context, I’m not talking about fairy tales or fictional stories that are simply meant to entertain. I’m talking about crafting a narrative that showcases your unique strengths, talents, and value

I’ve thought about this topic a lot after watching an interesting Ted talk by Carla Harris. She talks about finding people who can help you get ahead at work — and she makes some powerful points about how many people who are really good at what they do often have not put enough work into relationship building. Therefore, there’s nobody else fighting for them. I’ll let you watch the talk to find out what her solution is, but it made me think about a lot of brilliant, talented, and wonderful people I have known during my career who let other people control their narratives. In other words, tell their stories.

Many people think of personal storytelling, or even personal branding, as shameless promotion. That’s often because the people they’ve seen do it have been the types who happily talk about themselves while speaking over others in the room. It doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, it shouldn’t be like that at all.

Think of storytelling as a guide — one that carefully leads others along the path to understanding, and remembering, you. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, loud or quiet, passive or assertive, you can find a comfortable way to talk about yourself that showcases the right parts of you to the right people. Then, you can build stronger connections and relationships, and be remembered. 

In a recent episode of Dave Stachowiak’s podcast Coaching for Leaders, he interviewed leadership and entrepreneurship expert and professor Laura Huang about her new book, Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage. On the podcast, Laura shared this wonderful visual of how we show ourselves to others. She said to think of yourself as a diamond. Every diamond has flaws. And every diamond has many beautiful, and different, facets. There’s great power in learning to show the right facets to the right people. You’re not being inauthentic by doing so. It’s still you, but you’re tailoring the story to the audience to ensure you are guiding them in better understanding the aspects of you that matter to them. 

Whether you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, or to sell a product or service, it’s easier to influence others when your communication considers the needs of your audience, and is tailored to tell them the story that they need to hear.

And most importantly, make sure you’re in control of your story.

Photo by Art Lasovsky on Unsplash
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