Monday, February 24, 2014

People Buy People

People 'buy' People.

What are they 'buying' from you?

Seriously. Think about this. What is it that people get and can expect when they interact and work with you? Is it worth the price?  If what you have to offer is not uniquely different than the person standing next to you, then why would someone choose you?

It starts to feel a little like picking sports teams in grade-school, no one wants to be the last one 'picked' for the team, but this is what happens every day in business.  When you go for an interview, when project teams are being put together, when promotions are being made, when consultants are hired.  Skills, abilities, attitudes and experiences are being bought, which means we are all in the business of selling ourselves.

How good is your sales process?

As with any product, you can't sell what you don't know.  How clear are you about your strengths?  You can't articulate and highlight what you don't know.  Ideally you want to build your brand around the key strengths you possess that are both marketable AND that you enjoy using.  An exercise that I use with clients to help them uncover these strengths is the following...
Take out a piece of paper and draw a quick chart. Down the left-hand column, create a list of your accomplishments and achievements that still instill you with pride. Pride is a key component because if you still feel good about what you achieved you likely used some talents and skills you enjoy.  
Across the top row you are going to list your abilities.  Start with the first accomplishment you listed and consider the various skills and abilities that you called upon to help you complete that task.  List them in the top row, checking each off in the row across from its associated accomplishment.  
Look at the next accomplishment you listed and check off any of the abilities you added that apply to this accomplishment.  Some may have been used while others hadn't.  Add any additional skills that you haven't yet indicated.
Continue to review each accomplishment, checking off any of the abilities you've listed that were used to complete each, while also adding any additional skills/abilities that were also used.
When completed, take a look at the abilities with the most check marks. These likely represent those skills/abilities that you call upon the most and represent your key strengths. Given that these accomplishments are pride-filled moments for you, these strengths are also likely to be things you enjoy doing and are talents that others recognise in you and turn to you for help with. These are the elements that people 'buy' from you.
Knowing what you have to sell to others is one thing, selling it is another.  People can't buy what they don't know is for sale.  What are your marketing strategies?  Doing great work, and letting it speak for you, is one strategy... but it is only one. On its own it is insufficient to ensure that your product - 'you' - stands out on the shelves.  What other strategies could you implement that help you to stand out and be seen?  Here are a couple of quick tips borrowed from our Bragging Rights program to help get you started...

  • When you have helped someone out and they thank you, don't ever respond with... 'No problem'.  Ever.  Saying 'no problem' implies that, in fact, it was no problem.  Which is rarely ever true.  Don't diminish the work you did by saying that it was no problem.  Simply saying 'you're welcome' is better, but consider letting them know you went out of your way for them by saying something along the lines of... 'I know how important it was to your project so I juggled a few things to make some room to help you out'.  It never hurts to let someone know you are willing to give a little something extra, which helps differentiate you from the rest of the crowd.
  • When you enjoy doing something, let people know... so you can get more of it!  We may be good at many things, but we really only want to work on those that we are both good at AND love doing. Others aren't likely to distinguish between the two if you don't highlight the difference for them.  
  • When you meet people that you haven't seen in a while and they ask you what you've been up to, do not... I repeat ... DO NOT simply say 'nothing much', or 'keeping busy'.  Give them some insight. This is a great opportunity to insert a little brag-bite, a short update on something, just one thing, that you have been doing that highlights a strength.  Make it short, snappy, interesting... but start getting the word out about what it is that you can do if you want people to remember it, and you, when great new projects are coming down the pipe.  
People are constantly in the market for people.  People to help bridge the gap between their personal talents and their needs.  Help them to see you as the right fit for that gap by selling yourself appropriately.  People are buying people all the time.  If they are not buying 'you' then it may be time for you to revamp your marketing strategies.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Colouring: Not Just for Pre-Schoolers!

Colour Psychology can tell us a lot about what colour to paint the office, depending upon what emotions and behaviours we want to drive. Savvy retail spaces use colour as a strategic design element to enhance the customer experience.  Most of us know a little about this and likely have intuitively used some colour psychology when selecting the paint colours for the walls in our home.  Granted, we may have consciously simply selected the colour we 'liked', but we know that our subconscious choice was based more upon how the colour made us feel than simply on how it looked.

However, few of us strategically use colour in our day-to-day business processes... but we should!  If you
are anything like other business leaders, you likely find yourself in numerous meetings each week, if not each day.  In order to keep ourselves on track we typically will take notes during each meeting, to ensure we have a record and reference of what information was shared, what actions were agreed upon etc.   Unfortunately though, we rarely go back and read through our notes and, when we do, we are overwhelmed by the volume of information and give up on making sense of it.

Research into mind-mapping though is now also indicating that we should be using colour to 'code' the notes we are taking.  It seems that not only does using colour improve our recall time but it can also save us reviewing time and serve to form some connections between ideas we might have missed otherwise.

Here's the basic premise...

  • If you are using mind-mapping techniques as your preferred note-taking style, then using different colours to separate the various 'branches' of your map will help stimulate the creative side of your brain, which helps to create a stronger visual recall of the contents.  
  • Using colour with any form of note-taking helps you to stay focused on more boring topics - longer. Adding that dash of colour serves to liven notes up, instantly making them more memorable and interesting.  Easier to find and review later.
  • Many who use colour during note-taking assign specific meanings to various colours.  For instance, Black for general information, Blue for client's comments, Red for immediate action items and Green for new ideas.
  • Lawyers have used colour-coding for their notes forever, learning the technique early-on in law school.  Rather than writing with different coloured pens, they will use highlighting to capture key information: Red for holdings of a case, Green for general law, Yellow for Facts, and so on.  This allows them to see the ways that their cases are structured and significantly enhances their recall of the case information.  Note though that you must be selective in your highlighting... colouring everything fails to offer any kind of distinction or time saving.  
I have long used colours when creating my mind maps and also use different coloured pens in my Desk-Journal - a book that I keep on my desk to jot down all of the bits and pieces of information that cross my desk (and my mind) each day.  Quotes I resonate with, small clips of information, book recommendations, fun facts, key insights, questions I want to address later... all get recorded in the journal, which I flip through periodically. All the thoughts are located in one place, avoiding them getting lost (which used to happen when I always wrote them on sticky notes!) and the journal itself serves as a great reference and motivational tool. The picture on this blog is a photo taken of one of my journal pages.

Regardless of how you intend to use them, you might want to consider adding a little colour to your life and to your notes!  Another skill learned in Kindergarten that serves you well in business.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Complexity is Killing us!

In most companies today, productivity levels at the employee-by-employee level are disappointing, despite
many of the technological advances made espousing to increase productivity.  Research finds that more people are feeling disengaged and disenfranchised at work than ever before, despite all of the leadership development initiatives, motivational attempts and reward systems created. The very complexity of our systems is killing our motivation, engagement and productivity

The issue, as described by Yves Morieux and his team, is that as companies identify new strategic initiatives and directions, they reorganize and restructure to accommodate these new directions. As much as this seems to make a logical and intuitive sense on the surface, Morieux has found that doing so simply adds a new layer of complexity over the top of existing complexity.  Every time we restructure and create new processes and systems, we serve to heighten the confusion and disillusionment of employees, leading to disengagement.

We have checkboxes, scorecards, productivity matrices... all of which are designed to supposedly make things clearer, to make it easier to understand 'what' to do and 'how' to do it.  However, we take people further from the 'why', making it impossible for them to operate outside of the structure we created. Unfortunately for the organization though,  Morieux has found that it is the cooperation between people, not their systems, that truly makes the difference. Adaptive resilience and intelligence are the key.  Whenever people cooperate they use fewer resources and they increase effectiveness. Our increased reliance on systems though, takes us further from this.

The true issue therefore is that in over-structuring our approaches, in creating systems and processes and checklists for everything, we prevent the very thing that truly would help make a difference.  People don't have the flexibility or option to cooperate.  Instead, the lack of cooperation built into our systems, requires individuals to contribute more, to work harder for no bigger gain, leading to increased stress and burnout and an overall lack of awareness of the impact of their efforts.  Which, of course, leads to that sense of disengagement.

Instead, Morieux suggests the introduction of Smart Simplicity, which starts by understanding what your colleagues actually do.

  • You must understand what their real work is, not their tasks but their purpose, in order to integrate your work with theirs more successfully.  
  • Managers should exist to assist with this integration, to help create cooperative pathways. 
  • The power to make concessions to one another, to heighten cooperation, must be pushed to the lowest levels.   
  • Feedback loops need to be created so that employees can 'see' the impact and consequences of their decisions and actions, helping them to make better and more effective choices in the future
  • You must reward those who cooperate
It appears that the key to increased employee's sense of engagement is to truly engage them and to push them to engage with others.  It occurs to me that although Morieux's suggestions are directed at the Corporate level, we also have the ability to heighten our sense of engagement in what we do each day...
  • Ask colleagues 'why' they need something from you.  Coming to understand their function and requirements not only helps you to serve them better (and perhaps more efficiently in future) but it also extends your understanding of the value you provide
  • Look for ways to streamline the integration between overlapping 'systems' to make it easier for you and your colleague to connect your needs in the future
  • Seek out feedback on how your action served the other party.  Determine what worked and what didn't in order to refine your future actions.  Look to do what works and not waste time doing those that don't, even if you thought otherwise.
  • Reward those around you for cooperating with you.  Ensure that you reward and thank those that engage in the behaviours that serve you if you want more of them in future.  In a world that fails to recognise the contributions of the 'individual', your recognition of theirs will go a long way to ensuring that you get the cooperation you need in future.
In reviewing the ideas and suggestions above, it occurs to me that this list of action steps might not just simply be a way to feel more engagement on the job, but in your life.  Despite all of the focus of people on fulfilling the needs of 'me' over the past years, it may just seem that Cooperation proves to be the best way to get more of what 'we' want after all.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Secret to a Great Spontaneous Speech

I work with many mid and senior level individuals on the Art of Delivering a great speech.  We work on
script blocking, vocal messaging, body language.  All in an effort to make their speech appear natural and seamless.  With all of the various techniques you can use and apply, the biggest secret to sounding spontaneous and conversational is... Practice!

Many of my clients err on the other side of this equation though, erroneously believing that over-rehearsing will make them sound mechanical and wooden.  Certainly, if that is what they are rehearsing then that will be the end result they achieve.  However, in order to have the confidence to let your content 'go' and to focus on the true delivery of the underlying messages you need to know your content backward and forward. Not a memorization of content, but an internalization of your content.

Great actors know this. They don't rehearse their role once or twice, they rehearse for weeks in an effort to sound and appear unscripted.  It's the rehearsal that frees your mind from its fears of forgetfulness, allowing you to be fully present in the moment, delivering your speech in a way that resonates with the audience.
"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."                                         - Mark Twain
I typically refer to the content of a speech, the actual words you use, as your primary message.  However, the delivery of it - your voice and body language - are the vehicles by which your secondary messages are delivered. It's your secondary messages that direct what you want your audience to think, feel or do as a result of what you are sharing.  It is your secondary messages that set your speech apart from all that precede or follow.  People will forget much of what you share with them, but they will long remember how you made them feel.

Think of the soundtrack to a movie.  Often, the soundtrack is operating at a more unconscious level.  We are paying more conscious attention to the action on the screen, the words the actors say.  However, the dramatic build-up of the moment the babysitter opens that basement door and begins creeping down the stairs would not have us squirming in our seats without that soundtrack.

So too with the need for you to integrate your non-verbal communication with your verbal.  You want them to operate in sync, to strengthen and clarify the messages you are delivering to your audience, thereby assuring the messages they receive.  This requires practice.  And more practice.  However, getting good at anything in life requires the same.  No one is perfect at anything right out of the gate.  Just because you have been speaking for most of your life does not mean you are automatically capable or skilled in public speaking.  Don't mistake the two.  Public speaking is an entirely different medium and the skills need to be rehearsed for us to gain any measure of competency.
"There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave."         - Dale Carnegie
Actively rehearsing, strategically and consciously working to ensure that your verbal and non-verbal cues align and work to support your key messages, is the difference between being a disaster or a master on-stage. Practice may not be the 'secret' you were hoping for, and it may sound counter-intuitive - but it is the secret of all the great speakers we admire.  Practice your Spontaneity.

(for those that would like to learn more about the above and about applying Body Language principles in other aspects of their communication, check out our Beyond Words program at