Leadership

Virtual Coffee Break

Virtual Water Cooler Moments

When working remotely, the casual interactions you get around the coffee maker at an office are absent. You need to help your team create those water cooler moments.

How? If you’re using Slack or Teams for internal communication, you can create channels for these types of interactions. For example, I’ve used the following channels to encourage team interactions:

  • Random Team Chit Chat (for fun chats, silly gifs, memes, and pretty much anything that will put a smile on each other’s faces or help blow off some steam)
  • Kudos (a great reminder to give each other a virtual high five from time to time)
  • Inspirational Shares (for good quotes or little things that motivate and inspire)

Think about a few channels that your team will appreciate and enjoy.

Also consider how you can encourage your team to support each other directly when they are feeling stuck or uninspired. In an office setting, you can get up and walk 5 feet and pow wow with a colleague. When working remote, those pow wows take more effort. 

These interactions might not seem work related, but they really are. They can help keep your team happy, and healthy.

Photo by Mad Fish Digital on Unsplash
Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

Public Speaking (When You Hate Public Speaking)

One of the questions I get asked most often is how to manage nervousness or anxiety in order to make public speaking a more positive experience. The truth is that there is no quick fix for a fear of public speaking. It takes work to overcome and with practice it gets easier to manage.

I created this workshop to help people get on the path to feeling less nervous or anxious about it. However, if you are already fairly comfortable speaking in public, then my other workshop Power Presentations: Tips and Tricks for Presenting More Effectively is likely a better fit for you. 

The Curse of Knowledge in Communication

People, Perception, and the Curse of Knowledge

One of the most difficult things to combat when you are leading, presenting, or even simply having a conversation with someone new, is yourself — specifically your knowledge and experience. That’s the curse of knowledge. According to Wikipedia, “the curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.” 

In other words, it’s easy to forget that others don’t know what you know. The problem is that assuming that others share the same knowledge as you puts them at an unfair advantage when communicating with you. 

If you’re a top executive or senior leader, you need to remember that you have years of expertise tucked into that head of yours. What often happens when professionals have been immersed in their data or craft for a long time is that they aren’t able to present their ideas or data in a way that others can understand. You get the underlying meaning, but chances are that anyone who is not working closely with you will not.

Don’t let the curse of knowledge make your communications too abstract for your audiences. Take the time to think about the people you lead, or who you need to persuade or inspire, and ask yourself:

  • How can I tailor my communications to meet them where they are? 
  • How do I distill what I know down to what they need to understand me?

The first rule of communication is to know your audience. Once you’ve considered them, your job is to communicate in a way that ensures your message is not only heard, but understood.

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash
Leading Through Failure

How to Excel at Failing

As a business leader, entrepreneur, and human being I’ve had my share of failures. When I think back on the massive pile of ideas that I’ve tried to turn into businesses over the years, I’m surprised I’ve only failed several times instead of hundreds. 

Let’s see, I started a computer training school that went nowhere. I also built a customized marketing collateral portal that I pumped hundreds of hours (and many dollars) into only to find out it was not a business I could sustain without investors. Oh, and it wasn’t good enough for investors to want to invest in anyway. I’ve got 4 books started and each one I’ve failed to finish. They’re all good (I think). What else? I could go on….

Each of my failures has shaped who I am today. They taught me something about myself, about the marketplace, about technology, about finance — and I’m grateful for each. The lessons I learned by failing, even though it may have stung pretty badly each time, are lessons I never would have learned if I had never tried.

I used to let the fear of failure stop me from moving forward. I don’t do that anymore. However, here is the one thing I’ve learned through my failures that I want to share with every entrepreneur and leader:

Learn to understand when it’s time to pivot, or even let go.

I get it, that’s not always easy. But it’s critical to learn, and to do. There’s a great quote by Eloise Ristad. She said, “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” 

Failure is part of the road to success: for you, for your team, and for your family. Be flexible when you need to find another path. Be open to a new perspective. And most importantly, be honest with yourself when something is simply not working.

Think about this when you lead or manage your team. How can you make a change that will increase the likelihood of success? What can you let go of that’s holding you back? What can you do to help yourself, and others, get off the path to a truly epic fail? 

And most importantly, make sure you help them learn from their failures. As Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” 

5 Tips for More Engaging Meetings

5 Tips for More Engaging Conference Calls and Remote Meetings

A lot of my clients have been asking for tips for making their remote meetings more engaging. Here are 5 critical things to consider to ensure you make the best of your virtual meeting time.

1. Have a Clear Purpose and an Agenda

The main reason people tune out during calls is because they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Make sure you’ve invited the right stakeholders and are clear about why you’re holding the call. Also be sure everyone knows what you want to achieve during your time together.

2. Encourage Participation

A call that is interactive will naturally be more engaging than a lecture. Ask questions, seek input, and if you must talk for several minutes, check in with your group along the way to make sure they are following (or if they need any clarification). One way to do this is to deliver your messages by topic, one by one, and pause to encourage input or questions before moving to the next.

3. Skip the Video (Sometimes)

Video calls on Zoom or Teams can be exhausting because our eyes and brains have more to track than when on an audio-only call. This is especially true with numerous people on the call. Video calls certainly have their place and should be used when seeing each other makes sense. However, consider when a nice, audio-only phone call is the better option. 

4. Use Visuals

Even when you’re on an audio-only call, a good visual or two can help support your messages and engage participants. Consider opportunities to share a graphic or bring up a few slides over a screen share. 

5. Smile Before You Begin 

Even when the call is on the phone without any video, your audience can still sense your enthusiasm, or lack thereof. Run the call with positivity and enthusiasm. Reminding yourself to smile and exude positivity will help make others feel more engaged during the call. After all, if you don’t sound like you want to be there, why should they?

Leading Means Inspiring and Developing People

Be Sure You Say It

How many times have you thought about thanking someone for helping you on a project, or complimenting one of your team members on how well they handled something? Each time, did you do it? 

If you’re like most busy professionals, you didn’t. It slipped your mind. Or maybe when you had the opportunity to do so it felt like the right moment had passed. 

And when you have high-performing team members who are at the top of their games, it’s even easier to assume they don’t need extrinsic feedback. But they do. 

Everyone does. 

Almost every pivotal moment in my career has been influenced by someone else who believed in me, and who helped me see my strengths more clearly. Of course, I do a lot of work within my own head to work things out as I move along my own personal journey while blazing my unique path forward. But the kindness I’ve received from others through encouraging words, as well as constructive criticism, has shaped me in many ways. I am grateful to those who took the time to pause and tell me. 

Who can you build up today by telling them something they need to hear? Be sure to take a moment and say it.

Grow Good Leaders

Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way

You’ve probably heard the famous quote, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” It’s used a lot in business and has been attributed to several influential individuals including Lee Iacocca, Ted Turner, and even Thomas Paine. 

The quote is an either-or proposition. You either lead, you follow, or you avoid interfering with those who have stepped in line and are playing their respective roles.

But leading well also means knowing how and when to follow — and knowing when to get out of the way. 

How can you help someone you’ve trained and developed take the lead?

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash
Leadership Tips from Michael Piperno

What You’re Not Saying May Be Deafening

The most successful leaders of virtual teams understand that they have to actively facilitate communications within their teams in order to be successful.

If you’re new to virtual team leadership as a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis, here are a few tips to help:

  • Set up regular one-on-one sessions with your team members. Setting aside this regular time to touch base will keep you connected to the team’s needs while giving each individual uninterrupted access to your attention, and expertise. They need it, even if you don’t think they do.
  • Make extra effort to build connections by personalizing your interactions with your employees. You know how each of them operates and what they need to do their best work, so make sure your communications with them are crafted to be heard and understood. Also, a genuine and unexpected check-in about something personal will go a long way in sustaining healthy relationships—especially when you can’t be together face-to-face.
  • Remember that silence, and especially the no response kind, sends a very strong message. Even when you can’t respond with the full answer right away, be sure to let your team members know that you got their questions or requests, and set expectations on when you will be able to fully respond.

When we can’t be together physically, we need to slow down and spend more time to make sure our communications carry more than just words.

Leadership Quote

Take the First Step

“Trusting that there is a next step is the first step to figuring out what the next step is.” — Jennifer Williamson 

I hope you and your families are doing well both physically and emotionally during this unprecedented time.

Step by step, day by day. Do your best, and know that your best is good enough.

We’ll get through this.

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