Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

Whenever possible avoid using a Lectern when speaking in public. I know that it's a great place to hold your notes but it also serves as a barrier between you and your audience, which can make you appear more distanced and separate from them.

Additionally, since it blocks the view of much of your body, your audience is unable to 'read' much of your body language, making it far more difficult for them to determine your credibility and, therefore, the believability of your message.

The more open you appear the more they will come to trust the message you are delivering. This is a lesson Nixon learned (belatedly) in his first on-air debate with Kennedy, but one you can begin using immediately to up your presence whenever you speak in public.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tip Thursday - Learning

The very best way to learn new information is using a technique called 'Distributed Practice', also known as Spaced Repetition. Rather than trying to learn all you can in one big session it is far more effective to segment your learning into smaller sessions or chunks.

This is not necessarily how our school systems are designed, but all research supports this as being the far most effective way to learn. This outstrips the more popular methods of learning like cramming, highlighting, re-reading, or summarising.

So, the next time you have a lot of new information to learn, consider switching things up and studying more frequently over a larger period of time rather than intense study the night before. You will learn the material better and retain it far longer if you do!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Choose Your Mood

How often have we sought to excuse our behaviour with the explanation of "Sorry, but I'm in a bit of a mood today', as though we had no option?

Being 'in' a mood implies that the mood itself has control over our behaviours and actions. Think about how often people will allow a 'mood' to determine the course of their day, colouring the nature of all their interactions. Telling ourselves that we're happy, sad, tired, depressed, angry, frustrated... becomes the glasses through which we view the remainder of our day. We allow our 'mood' to have free reign over our feelings and behaviours.

However, we create our reality with our thoughts. Unfortunately, roughly 80% of most people's thoughts are negative. Given that we typically have between 35,000 and 90,000 thoughts a day we can be priming our beliefs with a lot of negative messaging.

We know that we are mentally wired into what science refers to as a Negativity Bias. This bias served us well when we were primitives seeking only to survive, when every rustle in the bushes was likely to be something trying to eat us. We needed the negativity bias to keep us on the defensive. However, it does not serve us nearly as well today.

Our negative thoughts take only 90 seconds to travel through our brains and trigger a physiological response. Cortisol, the stress hormone, and Adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, get released into our systems causing us now to physically experience a reaction to the negative thought resulting is us now 'feeling' as bad as we thought we would. What's important to note though is that it was our thoughts that drove the response; we did indeed create our reality with our thoughts.

If so, then could we not learn to think differently? Respond differently? Choose different?

Life is nothing if not all about choices. We choose what to eat, what to wear, what to drive, where to live. But we also choose how to react to situations. We choose how we let others affect us. We choose to be in a good or a bad mood. We can choose to be controlled by our moods or to instead control our moods. Rather than being controlled by our moods we need to recast them into something we need, something we can use, something that serves us.

Start each day by setting a firm intention for how you will approach that day, allowing it to seep into your unconscious mind. Drive the attitude and mood you want to experience. Your brain will react to the thoughts you implant the same as they would an unconscious one. Use your conscious mind to override your negative biases and programming by driving what you want to experience each day.

Given a choice I would always want to choose happy over sad, energetic over tired, strong over weak, empowered over ineffectual. Your choices are your own, of course, but if choosing differently than this you might want to question why.

The level of success you enjoy will ultimately be determined by the choices you make.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tip Thursday - Time Management

Beware the impact on your time of the Energy Vampires. These are the people that will suck up all of your time with little return. They will often disguise their needs as 'urgent' in a desire for you to drop what you're doing and come to their aid.

Stop reinforcing their behaviour by setting time aside for them. If their request is not an urgent company-critical issue then offer a polite - "I'm under a tight deadline right now and can't help out this week".

Don't allow these people to compromise your schedule and your needs. Their time consumption can be insatiable. Become more conscious of putting your needs first and let the Vampires Beware!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Girls Just Want to Have Fun... Or Do They?

According to a Robert Half International survey, of Vice-Presidents and Personnel Directors at 100 of America's largest corporations, 84% of respondents said they thought that employees with a sense of humour did a better job than those with little or no 'sense of fun'. In a similar survey of CEO's, by Hodge-Cronin & Associates, 98% of respondents stated a definitive preference for job candidates with a good sense of humour.

Great!  Don't we all want to work with people that are positive and upbeat? But wait... research conducted by Connie Glaser (of 'Swim with the Dolphins' fame) showed that CEO's indicated that one of the key qualities they felt prevented women from getting ahead on the job was a LACK of a sense of humour.

So... research is saying that a sense of humour is a requirement for advancement into the senior ranks AND that most CEO's feel that women lack one.

How can this be? When I'm out with a group of my girlfriends for an evening we are often doing 'mascara-checks' on each other after laughing so hard we were crying... and these women are all highly successful business women. It can't just be me that has downright funny female friends... can it?

The catch phrase in my description of my evening out though is that I was out for an evening 'with the girls'. There were no men there. Does this have an impact? Yes, absolutely.

As young girls women are often led to believe that they shouldn't (or can't) tell jokes. Therefore, social conditioning begins working on us, leading us to suppress our sense of humour. Many women, when questioned, say that they will often hold back on the humour at work because it's unladylike or because people won't take them seriously if they are seen as being funny. The third reason often given is that men don't seem to get their jokes!

There are really two parallel issues running here. First, that women tend to hold back on the humour because they work too hard to be taken seriously to jeopardize it for the sake of a laugh and, secondly, that men often don't realize 'when' women are being funny because the humour is feminine, not masculine, in nature.

The challenge for women becomes immediately apparent though when reviewing what the first two surveys described above tell us. Men don't see or appreciate women's humour and therefore women may not be promoted as fast or as far as a result. What then is a woman who wants to be viewed as a professional, and be taken seriously around the boardroom table, to do?

First of all, women need to learn the fine art of tightrope walking. Unfortunately the world of work is still predominantly masculine directed, meaning that the most commonly understood communicative style is male. Therefore it will usually prove easier for a woman to adapt her style to match.* This does not mean abandoning all sense of self in the process but it does mean making some concessions to the male sense of what's funny.

The key strategy? Laugh. Recognise that laughing has less to do with the actual joke telling (lots of men can't tell jokes either) but it has everything to do with building camaraderie and a feeling of connection.

The good news is that because of the strong stereotypical belief that women (as a whole) aren't funny, you don't have to go for the big belly laugh to be seen as having a sense of humour. Even if you aren't great at telling a funny story (personally I never remember the punchline to jokes) relaxing enough to share in someone else's ability to do so, and responding positively to it, will go a long way to helping lighten your perception and profile.

*please note that I said that it is often 'easier' for a woman to adapt her style, not that I agree it is right, fair or just for her to have to do so in an effort to be promoted.  This is a different issue!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

A quick little sign to watch for when conversing with someone is the Lip Pull, which is when a person not only purses their lips but pulls them quickly off to one side of the face. This is a quite dramatic facial gesture, readily seen by others.

Typically this is a quick gesture that lasts for just an instant, though it could be held a couple of seconds. The lip pull tends to mean that the person dislikes or disagrees with what is happening or being said. It can therefore be a very telling gesture, letting you know when someone is unhappy, even when they are trying to hide it from you!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Establishing your Leadership Credibility

In order to be offered a role as a leader you must first be seen by others to BE a leader. You must
demonstrate leadership capability before others are likely to entrust a leadership role to you. However, it may sometimes feel like a chicken and egg situation - How can I demonstrate my skills as a leader if I don't have people to lead?

Think instead of establishing your credibility as a potential leader by demonstrating the key qualities and characteristics that have universal appeal in our leaders. Ask what you would look for in a leader and ensure that you demonstrate those same traits.

There is always a leap of faith in the promotional process, assumptions that are being made regarding capabilities that are extrapolated from observed behaviour. Increase your odds by being more strategic about the behaviours your audience observes in you.

When it comes to building your leadership credibility note that consistency is key. It is the behaviours that others observe over and over again that they will come to trust are representative of 'you'. Doing something once, no matter how great, could be viewed as an exception, not the rule. When it comes to your credibility and reputation it is therefore the every-day consistent behaviours that carry the greatest weight.

Take a look at what your behaviours, demonstrated each day, say about you and your leadership potential. If they are not telling the story you want told it is time to start re-writing. To help get you past any writer's block you may experience, here are 5 leadership behaviours you may want to ensure are in evidence...

  1. Walk Your Talk.  Think carefully about what your expectations would be of your direct reports and ensure that you are modelling those behaviours. People are far more likely to trust in leaders who lead by example. Ensure that you are setting the example you would want others to follow.
  2. Deliver on your Promises. Make your word your bond. Over-deliver, don't over-promise. Big words have no meaning in the long run if they are not backed up by the promised results. People will come to trust and believe in you if you ensure that you always live up to your agreements.  Under promising and over delivering is a sure-fired way of building customer loyalty.
  3. Engage Others. Working as a lone wolf may serve to highlight your personal capabilities but it does nothing to demonstrate your ability to lead. Successful leaders can't lead from a bubble. They interact, they engage, they motivate. Show others your ability to engage and get work done through others to highlight your leadership potential.
  4. Listen.  Don't make the mistake of thinking that you must be the most-heard voice around the table to be seen as a leader. A critical skill of successful leaders is their ability to listen to the opinions and expertise of those around them. Listening is a critical skill of leaders and a skill that seems to be in short supply in the work world of today. Cultivate your listening skills today to strengthen your leadership skills of tomorrow.
  5. Take a stand. Leaders need to make decisions. This means that they need to be able to take a stand on issues and stay the course when needed. Decision making is not always easy but the one guarantee I have for you is that it gets no easier as you move up the ladder. The decisions get more complicated and the potential impact far greater. If no one sees you taking a stand on issues today they are not going to believe that you will be any more likely to do so in the future. 
Your credibility is built over time, which means there is no time like the present to begin building yours. Like any structure, it is built one brick or board at a time. Anything you do that supports the leadership message adds to your building, anything you do that works against it takes away. How quickly your building and message come together is dependent upon the consistency of your positive behaviours. 

As much as the list I provided above highlights behaviours we would like our leaders to demonstrate it is likely is also a list of behaviours that would serve us all. Walk our talk, live up to our agreements, be respectful of those around us, listen to what people have to say and be prepared to take a stand on things that matter. Certainly a recipe for success, but not a bad recipe for living.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tip Thursday - Time Management

Generally speaking, you can tell how much money a person makes by observing how they respect their time. If you want to increase your earning potential then you need to follow the 3 P's of Time Management... Protect your time, Preserve your time, Prioritize your time.

It is important to become outcome driven, understanding what you want to get out of the time you are investing in an activity. The clearer you are about this, the less likely you are to get pulled off track by someone else's needs. This doesn't mean you never offer help and support to others, but you need to be prepared to make a clear distinction about what you have time for. You will never have enough time for everybody, but you will always have time for somebody. Prioritize yours.