5 Ways Productive Email Dialogue Breaks Down

Productive email dialogue is not complicated if you are mindful of yourself and the people you communicating with.

Have you ever had a face-to-face conversation that seemed to only flow one-way? You just sat there as the other person talked and talked about their job or their family or their vacation… or whatever, never giving you a chance to participate.

When we write email, what we write is almost always about our needs, experiences, ideas. That makes sense of course, but that isn’t dialogue – that is telling, and if you have one simple message to tell (like Thursdays 10:30 Sales meeting agenda attached), and your audience is expecting it, then that works. But, if you need to communicate… email dialogue is more complicated and you have to think about different things.

To have a productive email dialogue, great communicators go beyond their needs to intentionally have a conversation… and this is a lot more difficult than we think. For example, an above average communicator is self-aware, they take the time to confirm their message is understood… and they constantly evaluate the emotional impact of their message (email always have an emotional impact). Writers also acknowledge that no two people are alike, so they consider the communication styles, needs and work environments of the people they email. That’s a lot to consider.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To help you do all of this, the following are 4 ways productive email dialogue breaks down so that you can avoid them.

Not Engaging The Individual

If someone is not engaged a productive email dialogue is not possible.

This may be because someone may have no interest in the subject. It may also be that their attention may be distracted by something or someone else (speaking with or listening to someone else or if they are reading your email on a smart phone).

If you know this may happen, find ways to make your email relevant to their success. Bottom-lining is one great solution (see below).

Discounting Information

When someone dismisses the information being shared.

This may be because the reader / listener doesn’t value or respect the person or the information being presented. If the reader doesn’t care about your story they are not going to read your email with their full attention.

Make sure you send your email only to the people who need to know… and use Cc: properly. Don’t automatically send to people as a way to escalate your need/request… and bottom-line your message (see below).

Misinterpreting Your Message

This happens often with email because vocal inflection and body language is not experienced.

It can also happen when the writer uses words or jargon that the reader does not know. Most readers (and listeners), will subconsciously guess / assume the intended meaning.

The result is that an email may be interpreted as bossy or the message may be misunderstood completely. This is especially true if the reader is very busy or having a bad day – something the writer likely has no control over but is just one more reason to keep your message simple, polite and considerate of their needs.

Over-detailing Email

Like the name suggests, when someone gives far too much detail his or her audience shuts off and doesn’t read anything. This happens in email, face-to-face, meetings, presentation and all other communication.

This often happens because the writer or speaker is passionate about what they are communicating but are not considering what their audience needs at that moment. Sometimes the short story is the best story.

Technology Etiquette (Tech Etiquette)

Technology etiquette is a growing challenge in business. It is about being mindful of when you should use your technology and when you should leave it alone. It’s important to be aware of how your use of technology impacts you and those around you.

Technology etiquette training focuses on the behaviours you should and should not emulate and the impression you create when you use your smartphone or tablet in the company of others, in meetings and/or when you are with or on the phone with clients. Our training looks at the ‘What’ and the ‘Why.’

Conclusion

The above are 5 email tips you should be aware of when you write and read email. You may be making assumptions that are hurting your ability to be as productive as you can be.

I want to leave you on a positive note, so here is one email tip you should always do.

Know What You Want – Then Design Your Dialogue Backwards

Most often this is called Bottom-lining or Getting To The Point.

Grab your readers’ attention by putting your action item at the top of your email. Follow your action item with your facts and logic as support information. Designing backwards to how we often write email lets your reader know the context of your support information if and when they read it… which make you and your email dialogue more relevant to them.

Happy email communication.

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How To Hire An Employee Who Will Stay More Than 12 Months.

Have you ever interviewed and hired an employee who had all the right experience but in the end were a poor fit… or quit after less than a year?

Not only is this a huge cost for your company – it’s an enormous opportunity lost in productivity. The cost to interview, hire an employee and train them is expensive. Many studies suggest an employee begins to become financially valuable only after 1 to 1.5 years. 

If you hired an employee who seemed to be the right fit but quickly became a disappointment, chances are their needs were different than what your organization could offer, and their values were never compatible with your organization. The gap between what employees want and what they get is most often not money; instead most common reasons for leaving a company include:

  • Flexible work hours/environment
  • The office is outside of their preferred geographic area
  • They felt they were overqualified vs. responsibilities
  • Clear opportunities to learn and advancement opportunities
  • Recognition of their contribution (not enough)

In most cases employees realize there is a poor fit before employers do… and as soon as they do, they begin job-hunting again.

The Old Way Of Interviewing Holds Too Much Risk

Your company wants to / needs to invest in smart, dedicated employees and too often, the old way of interviewing leads to the wrong person being hired.

PWC What Millennials Want

Study by PWC

Most interviews evaluate past experience and a candidates response to hypothetical questions like “What would you do if….” Unfortunately, this approach provides an unreliable evaluation process – especially when it comes to Millennials (1980 – 2000) and Gen Z (2001 – present) since even the oldest Millennials likely have less than 10 years work experience.

A recent study by PWC demonstrates less than 30% of Millennial employees are satisfied with their jobs (see the red line in the image). I believe this is partially because they accepted job offers that didn’t match their needs and values. A BEI Interview structure would have saved you (and the employee), time, money and opportunity.

Your organization and work structure depends on measured deliverables.
Shouldn’t your hiring practices also be based on measured deliverables?

To hire an employee who will happily embrace the work they do for more than a year, explore their needs and values based on past behaviour. A BEI job interview structure evaluates a candidate’s true core competency, values and needs by asking ‘how’ and ‘why’ a candidate has done ‘what’ they’ve done.

BEI helps you explore how they’ve managed real situations in the past. Lived experience and past behavior is a far better predictor of future behavior than exploring hypothetical situations. 

The Benefit

I’ve already discussed a few benefits, but here’s a full list. Not only will you hire the right employee, a BEI system:

  • Happens quickly (hiring decisions made more quickly because you will see quickly who is the best fit)
  • Uses an interview assessment scorecard which provides consistent, quantifiable proof
  • Is cost effectively (the right employees get up-to-speed fast, are happier, are more passionate about the job)
  • Employees produce more and make fewer mistakes
  • Happy employees stay longer and are more creative
  • The hiring decision is defendable / measurable / stands up to scrutiny
  • Gaps in skill set are identified. Gaps aren’t bad – they are places where an investment of education or mentoring will make the biggest gain. 

What If A Candidate Has A Gap In Skills But Great Values?

The beauty with a BEI is that it does a great job of uncovering all the strengths a person has, and it also lets you list all their gaps.

If a candidate is lacking one or two minor skills that may not be a problem. Values and personality traits like respect and attention to detail are difficult to learn (or fake), whereas many skills can be quickly learned by highly motivated employees. If you have identified skill gaps in a high potential new employee, you can put in place an effective education plan to teach the stills they are lacking; far better than losing the time and costs associated with re-teaching them skills they already have OR miss teaching them skills they are lacking.

Also, if you hire an employee that knows everything don’t be surprised if they get bored and quickly move on. A participant in one my recent BEI training workshops shared with the class that this recently happened to her – hence her desire to learn a new, more reliable interview system.

Conclusion:

Does your company have an approved structure for hiring people? Do you usually hire people because you like them or because they will fit in?

While many organizations struggle to increase employee loyalty – and there is lots of benefit to identifying and hiring motivated employees.

Happy communicating and business email etiquette for your office.

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How To Develop Stories For Corporate Training

What To Include In Business Stories For Corporate Training

How To Develop Stories For Corporate Training by Bruce Mayhew Consulting

I’ve written in earlier posts about how business stories are effective when you want to describe behaviors, needs and actions within case studies or sales materials… but how about using stories for corporate training events?

Unfortunately, most business stories follow a traditional story telling structure which might not work in corporate training environments. Why? Because corporate training requires a faster paced approach to keep a participants attention. So… in most of my training workshops I borrow from a relatively new short story framework developed by Dan North called, ‘Behavior-driven development (BDD).

What Is The BDD User Story Framework?

BDD is a communication and collaboration framework initially designed for software development that uses short stories to outline user behavior. (reference Wikipedia)  It’s that short – behavior focused approach that I like of BDD.

The BDD user-story framework works like this: “As a [role] I want [feature] so that [benefit].”

The idea is to share what’s important as well as why it’s important. Stories following this approach help readers/listeners tap into their compassion and empathy, therefore quickly tapping into feelings when exploring solutions.

How Short Stories For Corporate Training Work

Lets assume an employee is requesting Time Management training. The need for training can be described as follows: “As an employee I want Time Management training so that I can meet my goals, reduce my stress level and have greater work/life balance.

A story that would support this training environment would be:

As a business manager I have three days before the weekend and the start of my 2-week vacation. I have three outstanding items that should take a week to complete all three.

I want to finish all my work so that I can help my family prepare for the vacation as well as not have to work during my vacation which would disappoint my family (and myself). I am feeling pressured by work, my family and myself.

One of the best Time Management techniques is to review if 1, 2 or all 3 of the projects are Important Work or Busy Work. Of course, Important Work always takes precedent.

In this corporate training environment, an in-class discussion can quickly take place on how to approach and resolve this situation. Also, because it is a short story there are only a few variables; this helps everyone focus on the training / lesson.

Conclusion

By using BDD to develop business stories for corporate training, any example can quickly become a real, emotionally charged situation that everyone can emphatically relate to or imagine happening. Using this structure also empowers everyone to have robust, on-point conversations. 

Happy communicating and business story writing.

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Collaboration Is A Work Ethic That Needs Empathy

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt you weren’t being listened to?

Have you ever been sharing something important with someone and while you were explaining they interrupted you and said something like… “I know what you mean, you need to”  How did you feel? Truth is, the simple act of completing our own sentences is really important. When we’re interrupted we feel one or more of the following:

  • Offended
  • Undervalued
  • Discouraged
  • Controlled
  • Pressured
  • Frustrated

In this last post of this 4-part series on Empathy & Ethics I will discuss 3 practical steps to learn empathy (read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 by clicking the appropriate number).

Active listening demonstrates respect – especially when collaboration is a goal. The bonus is your client, employee and supplier relationships will grow ever stronger. Heinz Kohut, the American psychoanalyst and prolific writer best known for his development of self psychology, defines empathy as ‘the primary method of gathering data’.

At your office, what is the shared understanding around listening to each other and collaboration? Is there a common work ethic everyone aspires to? As they listen, does everyone practice empathy as a way to share, understand and collaborate?Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.09.43 AM

So much conflict and miscommunication is because two or more people haven’t understood each other; they haven’t been open or curious to learn/hear what is important or needed. Instead of being open, many of us have unknowingly become closed. Like East Germany we’ve built walls in the name of protection and efficiency, but like East Germany, if we have barriers these walls can cause our own social and economic health to suffer.

But staying open takes effort and skill. Not building walls means being present and demonstrating empathy during the difficult moments as well as the good moments. And yet I believe the difficult moments offer us the greatest learning and the opportunity to practice:

  • Active Listening
  • Patience
  • Encouragement
  • Overcoming Obstacles
  • Responding Not Reacting

Managing Conflict Using Your Work Ethics And Empathy

Sure managing conflict is difficult, however experience with active listening, empathy and ethics is what we should practice when we are faced with conflict. Collaboration requires we continue with at the conversation rather than turning from conflict or taking aggressive action. In many ways, it is these times when the greatest creativity and knowledge sharing can happen as we have to explore new places or ideas.Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.14.23 AM

When managing conflict, do not distract yourself with ideas, self talk, stories, expectations… emotional (positive or negative), actions.

  1. Notice the physical and emotional impact certain actions/conversations/experiences have.
  2. Notice your patterns of communication. Do you have a tendency to jump to conclusion, finish someone’s sentence/idea, become impatient and interrupt?
  3. Realize you have the power to choose.

Notice the times when you are being open and curious. Take pride in your efforts and ability.

Exploring Collaboration, Your Work Ethic And Empathy

Active listening is one of the most important ways you can support collaboration and demonstrate your work ethic and empathy. Friendliness and respect to others is a foundation on which we can communicate and build better relationships.

Step I: Practice Empathy And Active Listening

We all do a lot of hearing but we don’t do a lot of active listening. The essentials of active listening mean we should focus on what the other person is:

  • Saying – what words are they using… and perhaps not using?
  • Feeling – what does their words and body say that they are feeling?
  • Wanting – what are they asking for… either with words or just by sharing with you?
  • Needing – besides what they want, they may need something they don’t even realize – but you do.

Step II: Collaboration Requires Us To Be Present

To demonstrate you are an active listener, try to do a few of the following:

  • Don’t think about what you will say in response – stay in the moment.
  • Don’t judge what they are saying.
  • Don’t make assumptions validate what you understand and/or feel. Statements like the following work very well:
    • What I understand you saying is…. XYZ, is that correct?
    • I think I would feel… XYZ if that happened to me – and it seems you feel the same way.

Step III: Be Mindful

Stay focused on them by looking at them without staring. Don’t look at or play with your phone or pen. Stay aware of how you are feeling as well as how you imagine they feel and what they need. Also, don’t let your mind wander – which is harder than it sounds because you may suddenly remember something related, something you want to share with them, or something you need to do later. Mindfulness teachings say to accept that our mind wandered and then focus your attention back to the present. Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.50.42 AM

  • Look them in the eye – don’t stare at them and make them feel strange
  • Don’t look around at people walking by, out the window or at your meeting notes
  • Nod from time to time or give quiet verbal cues, this doesn’t mean you agree, only that you are following along

Conclusion

Don’t jump in with a solution or your opinion. If you do anything, validate what you are hearing / feeling. Say something like “What I hear you saying is…” or “I sense the situation made you feel like…” This confirms to the person you are listening and they will correct you if you are off-base.

Practicing mindfulness helps us investigate our feelings and motivations as well as the feelings and motivations of others – it also helps us explore the gaps – the opportunities where intuition and creativity can thrive if we give it a chance. Gentleness and curiosity uncover the opportunities; being triggered closes those opportunities and puts up barriers and potentially defensiveness. Barriers cut us off just like the Berlin Wall cut East Germany from the rest of the world.

Every conversation has something to offer. How you benefit depends on if and how you are listening.

Happy communicating, empathy building and collaboration.

I’ll enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts. If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Writing Effective Emails – Communication Skills Training

Why is Writing Effective Emails so difficult?

I’ve heard many theories about the challenges of writing effective emails including:

  • “Many of the people sending email only think about their needs – it’s all about them”
  • “They don’t know what customer service is”
  • “Everyone is just too busy – trying to do too many things”
  • “They don’t know how to write”

But could it also be that Reading Email Effectively is difficult?  When I ask about email reading, people also tell me their theories including:

  • “The people reading my email don’t listen [read] – they jump to conclusions about what I’m asking”
  • “They don’t read anything past 140 characters [a generalization… but we know what they mean]”
  • “They find my first question and answer it – then move on to their next email”
  • “Young people don’t care; they’re lazy and it’s all about them”

I Believe…

I believe… all of these writing and reading challenges are true… but not all the time and not about all people / situations.

I believe… that no matter what the reason is, with a little training everyone can become great communicators and brand ambassadors.

I believe… that as email readers we share some of the responsibility. Just like good listeners are important within a productive conversation. Otherwise – we only have two people talking AT each other… or in the email case… two people emailing AT each other.

Learning To Write Effective Emails

As email writers it’s important to learn to write in a way that engages our readers.
As email readers it’s important to give our writers the chance.

As email writers we have most of the control over our message and by extension…  our personal and corporate success, productivity and reputation.  Here’s how…

As email writers we are a supplier and our product is one email… and then another… all day long. We have seconds – perhaps minutes to create and deliver an email. And, when our email lands in front of our customers (our readers), they decide in a matter of seconds if they are going to buy our email – or in this case read AND invest in understanding it.

Oh… and we have competition… other email are arriving constantly… competing for their attention.

So, as a supplier we have to accomplish a lot in a very short timeframe; we need to do a great job of:

  • Attracting our customer’s attention
  • Keeping our customer’s attention
  • Being THE trusted supplier that helps our customers satisfy THEIR needs

This is where Communication Skills Training specific to Writing Effective Emails makes a difference.  Every time we write an email we need to know how to use our next few seconds to efficiently:

  • Get to the point
  • Have a professional tone
  • Eliminate unnecessary / filler words
  • Manage additional / background information
  • Support your personal and professional brand / reputation
  • Use a layout that focuses your reader’s attention on the main points

Conclusion to Communication Skills Training

Communication skills training provides the information and the tools needed to demonstrate confidence as we write effective email and prioritize the information that’s important to our reader. I’ve experienced that email and communication skills training also helps participants become better email readers – taking more time and not jumping to conclusions… as often.

Happy communicating, harmony and email writing training.

I’d enjoy it if you would share your thoughts on why  Writing Effective Emails so difficult in the comments section at the end of this blog post.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Does your organization think Win/Win? In most organizations their employee reward systems are hurting sales, fulfillment, profit, employee satisfaction and their brand reputation because their reward systems are designed to have employees compete against each other – not compete as a team in a Win/Win environment.

Example:

Imagine we have 10 sales people. The yearend reward system is structured as follows:

  • The Top sales person gets an all expense paid vacation. He/she feel great.
  • Next two sales people get a weekend away. Unfortunately, they still feel like they’ve lost.
  • The remaining 7 people (who still performed well), receive a standard raise, unfortunately they really feel they’ve lost.

In addition:

  • The Top sales person likely reached their goal early so stopped selling… or put off sales to help ensure they win Top prize next year.
  • Winner 2 and 3 might have also stopped selling early if they knew they could not catch the Top sales person.
  • The pride and morale of the remaining 7 has certainly taken a significant hit. In addition, they likely knew they were not going to be in the top three early on which means they stopped working on their stretch goal early on.
  • And finally… there are now between 7 and 9 people who likely feel under-valued and who might be looking for an employer who does make them feel valued (and the Top person might feel they deserve better).

There are many challenges with this all too common scenario including two often-overlooked disadvantages:

  • The company didn’t win; in fact the company lost because most if not all of their sales people held back sales or lost motivation.
  • The customers didn’t win because sales people likely delayed important sales or provided unmotivated customer service.

Imagine the benefit of a Win/Win environment where everyone wants to do their best. Imagine the success and the influence the Top 3 sales people could have had if they acted as mentors – teaching best practices to the other 7 members while utilizing their energy, excitement and creativity. Imagine the long-term benefit and brand reputation that develops when customers experience a fully integrated organization that is clearly focused on their satisfaction.

When the internal organizational structures are in place to support a Win/Win approach, personal ability and team performance are magnified. The success each individual – team – and organization experience are greater than if they were working against each other – not trusting each other.

Dimensions of a Win/Win Solution

Clearly when it’s Win/Win everyone benefits except the competition. When it’s Win/Lose there is someone who will not be 100% invested… which means employees, customers and the business are the losers while your competition benefits.

Stephen R. Covey describes the principle of a Win/Win relationship requiring 3 mutual experiences for all involved.  Those being:

Bruce Speaking On Global TV

Bruce Speaking On Global TV about Millennials

  1. Mutual Learning
  2. Mutual Influence
  3. Mutual Benefit

Stephen R. Covey also describes the principle of a Win/Win relationship needing to be supported by 3 personal / interpersonal and 2 organizational traits. I would suggest that All 5 of these foundational traits need to be nurtured by the organization… not just the last 2. Therefore, allowing room for my interpretation these Win/Win personal and organizational traits can be broken down as follows:

  • Character (Personal / Interpersonal and Organizational)
    • Integrity
    • Maturity
    • Abundance Mentality
  • Relationship (Personal / Interpersonal and Organizational)
    • Trust
    • Respect
    • Credibility
  • Agreement to Cooperate (Personal / Interpersonal and Organizational)
    • Goal
    • Guidelines
    • Resources
    • Responsibility / Accountability
    • Consequences
      • Financial
      • Psychological
      • Opportunity
      • Responsibility
  • Support Systems (Organizational)
  • Processes (Organizational)

The Win/Win paradigm believes that everyone can fulfill their dreams / goals because team success will provide enough for everyone to share.

Implementing a Win/Win Solution

One of the first steps when integrating an innovative Win/Win corporate environment is to align all internal reward and recognition systems. This is critical! Good faith and trust are paramount and can overcome previously existing structural and cultural barriers, however, if one department or Leader rewards Win/Lose (internal competition), then the whole organizational ecosystem and success is in jeopardy.

Win/Win cannot exist in an environment of internal competition

Win/Win can thrive in an environment of external competition 

External competition is good as long as it does not create competition internally – even between one team and another.  It can be used to help identify a goal – even a stretch goal for the team / organization to reach. Internal competition is not a friend of Win/Win – it undermines the trust required. One of the rare circumstances a variation of internal completion can be used would be to compete against last years results, market norms or other business / products / services in the market.

For Win/Win to work, the systems have to support it.  The training system, the planning system, the communication system, the budgeting system, the information system, the compensation system – all have to be based on the principle of Win/Win.” Stephen R. Covey.

Stephen suggests individuals / teams can align their objectives for mutual benefit by using a 4 step approach. I offer these 4 steps below – with my expanded insight:

  1. Look at the problem [assignment / situation] with an open [creative] mind [that considers what can be done – not what can’t be done.  This positive approach to thinking is called affirmative action]
  2. Identify [and agree upon] objectives
  3. Identify [and agree upon] approaches, [process, threats and resources]
  4. Identify [and agree upon] tactics to meet your objectives

In the end – living within a Win/Win paradigm requires individuals and organizations to embrace a culture of honesty, integrity, maturity and abundance. A Win/Win solution balances efforts on both the P (Production), as well as the PC (Production Capability)… caring for the output while also ensuring the process that creates the output is cared for. Stephen calls this investment ‘sharpening the saw’ in habit #3.

Conclusion

Having a business culture of Win/Win is within reach and quite inexpensive – especially when considering the financial benefits. The key ingredients of a Win/Win organizational culture and brand reputation is to design all access to information, reporting and rewards to ensure everyone when there is a win that everyone (the individuals, teams and the organization) win; hence the Win/Win paradigm.

Happy communicating, creating workplace harmony and reducing employee turnover.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Reference Material:

  • Stephen R. Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ©
  • Michael Bungay Stanier: Do More Great Work ©
  • My experience

Listening Skills: Are Yours Motivating Others To Be Their Best?

Active listening skills create feelings of respect, cooperation and care between the two or more people.

We’ve all learned to have good or bad listening skills – often from a very young age. As adults and business leaders, it’s important to recognize that these habits likely dominate our personal communication style… and that we are responsible for the consequences of those habits.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we’re not being listened to, we often begin to wonder what’s wrong with us. We can begin questioning our value, our participation and creativity. If this happens at work we become less valuable to our employer and our team. If this happens at home it can lead to communication breakdown and the end of a relationship (“He doesn’t understand me or care for me anymore”). Both are lose–lose situations.

By being open and listening to others (showing them the same courtesy you expect), we gain more respect and cooperation from coworkers, customers, and partners / families. Holding others in high regard motivates others to want to work with us. Good listening skills motivate others to be their best and to work hard to please us.

By being closed and not listening you push people away and it’s natural for the person or people we don’t listen to to get out of that space – and try not to return. If it is a work environment, this may lead us to not contributing to discussions or keep ourselves out of some projects or meetings completely. Continued feelings like self-doubt and frustration will likely also lead to quitting the department or company. An expensive proposition for the company (to lose valuable talent and to have to hire and train new talent.

How We Feel When We Aren’t Heard

When we’re not listened to (when we are not being heard), we become discouraged – deflated.  We can feel:

  • Self doubt
  • Insulted
  • Less important
  • Vulnerable
  • That something is wrong ‘with me’
  • Embarrassed
  • Exposed
  • Hurt
  • Frustrated
  • May feel that our time / our core competency isn’t valued

How do you feel when you are not being listened to?

Reasons For Poor Listening

There are many reasons we may not be listening.  Some may be workload or an urgent need, some our personal style, some may be based in generational experiences or cultural / hierarchical beliefs. For example:

  • You think you have the solution (“I know – do this.”)
  • You think you are being efficient (“Do this – get it done – move on.”)
  • You have no interest (“You or this topic bores me.”)
  • Hierarchical (“I’m senior – do as I say.”)
  • Your attention is elsewhere (“I need to finish that big project by Friday.” or “I’m upset because my friend is in the hospital.”)
  • The other persons needs / points of view are different from your own. You see this as disagreement and therefore dismiss the other person or see them as a threat. (“I don’t agree.”)
  • You feel you are being used (“Bruce is asking me to put aside my work for his – therefore he must think he is more important than me… or his work is more important than mine.”)

Conclusion

Communication is a skill and listening requires respectful encouragement. We all have to learn to be more conscious listeners – to listen with curiosity and interest and to ‘park’ the assumptions we make – even if we think we know the answer or best solution. We have to learn to recognize when we are being open (good listeners) vs. closed (poor listeners), and what both feel like – for ourselves and the people around us.

Effective listening takes practice but is well worth it – paying back our career and company revenues and our relationships.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

How To Make A New Years Resolution – That Sticks.

It’s time to make a New Years resolution or two.

Too often New Years resolutions go unfulfilled – yet they are just the things we need to feed our creativity and dreams. New Years resolutions are a step to establish your reputation and set yourself apart from the crowd. 

Because they are so important, would you like to increase your chances of success?  I can help you with that… all you have to do is create a plan, starting by breaking each New Years resolution into the following 3 parts.

  1. Make sure your New Years resolution is tied to a defined, realistic objective.
  2. Break down your New Years resolution into smaller components.
  3. Include Time Management best practices.

Poor Example:

Resolution: Increase new corporate sales by 10% or more. [Note, there is not a plan here.]

Good Example:

Resolution: Increase new corporate sales by 10% or more.

    • 1. Objective: Be top sales person & an industry known expert by end of year.
    • 2. & 3. Smaller Components & Time Management:
      1. Establish an acquisition strategy including tracking sheet, promotional materials and conversation notes (scripts), by end of 2nd week of January.
      2. Every morning (8AM to 8:30AM) identify 2 prospect clients including a note on core competencies, a contact and their contact information.
      3. Screen Shot 2012-12-25 at 11.04.28 AMEvery Thursday afternoon (2PM to 3PM), mail 10 personalized prospecting letters.
      4. Every Thursday morning (11AM to 11:30AM)– telephone follow-up.
      5. Track Success.
      6. Re-evaluate and make adjustments to process after 4 weeks (set date & allow for time).

Too often we try to accomplish too much in too little time… without much of a plan.

Identifying an objective and breaking you’re your goal into smaller components is one of the most important steps. But, you also have to include Time Management. Without it you’re leaving your resolution to chance – and because most resolutions require you to change your habits (start and / or stop something), leaving your resolutions to chance often translates into failure.

My Time Management recommendation is to schedule your New Years resolution as an immovable recurring meeting and treat it with the same respect as a meeting with your boss. You’ll find that soon your new Time Management habit will catapult your success – perhaps in ways you didn’t expect. As you do this, remember your most creative / strategic time is in the morning – so leave your routine activities for the afternoon.

Embrace ChangeScreen Shot 2012-12-25 at 9.26.28 AM

Change is what New Years resolutions are all about. With that clearly in mind, know that every New Years resolution has a reward… and something will need to be sacrificed… or I like to think of it as invested. Your investment might be a little less TV, it might mean organizing your work schedule a bit better, it might mean being more strict with your co-workers / staff about when you have ‘available time’ to help them on their projects.

You Will Have Good Days and Bad Days

Some days will be good days – some days will be bad days. Acknowledge both.

It’s wonderful to celebrate good days, but bad days have a tendency to impact us long-term.  Don’t let a bad day throw off your plans and your success. One of the worst things we can do is to become focused on what isn’t working or how we expected it to be, so sometimes we just have to be OK with letting things go.

Silly Example Of Letting Go:

We can’t turn a stone into a gold nugget – so if we let that fact be, we now have room to explore other ways to get that gold nugget.

Inspirational Quotes

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Le Proverbe au Vilain (c. 1190) 

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

Confucius

Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.

Winston Churchill 

I’ve found that luck is quite predictable.

If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.

Brian Tracy

 

Conclusion

Now is the perfect time for me to ask you… “What’s your New Years resolution and how are you going to break it down?” Start planning and succeeding today. Just remember, always pick yourself up and keep looking forward when you have a setback.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Is The Language You Use Labour-intensive. 4 Quick Email Tips.

You may see the language you use when you write business email as a labour of love or one of the unfortunate parts of your job; either way, every email you write has long-lasting impact on your personal and professional success.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following are 4 communication tips and guidelines on email etiquette.

  1. Keep the language you use simple. Getting through your message should not be like walking through a labyrinth. For example, use ‘send‘ instead of ‘disseminate‘. Doing this will make your email easier (and faster), to read.
  2. Your priorities are not your readers’ priorities. Your readers have their own job objectives, deadlines, bosses and private lives weighing on their time and attention.
    Get to the point quickly and tell the reader what’s in it for them.
  3. If you receive a message that has been sent to two or more people, be sure you need to reply… before you reply. If you don’t need to reply – don’t. The challenge is that many writers put everyone into the To… field (which means To Do) in error.
    It may be that you should have been in the CC… field (which means FYI only).
  4. If the message is sent to many people and you need to reply, ask yourself if all of the original recipients need to receive your reply. If they don’t need your reply – remove them from the To… or Cc… field.
    It’s the senders reputation that gets hurt if they over-address email – it’s your reputation that gets hurt if you hit Reply All and should not have.

In addition to the 4 communication tips above, be sensitive to your audiences schedules. I still try to give someone 24 hours to reply to my email (even if I would like it sooner).

If you really need an urgent response my best practice is to still send an email and within it let them know:

  • The matter is urgent (for you)
  • You are hoping they can spare X minutes
  • You will walk down the hall, pick up the phone or video call them in 5 minutes to clarify the issue (do this especially if it’s a complex problem – don’t spend an hour typing up an email to a complex issue – you need the flexibility of a discussion and then use email to outline the solution that came out of your meeting / call.

I hope these guidelines on email etiquette helpThe language you use may be a labour of love or be challenging… either way your business communication – and in this case your business email writing will have long-lasting impact to your personal and professional success.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Generations At Work

It’s fair to begin this blog post outlining that many Gen Xers and Boomers think Gen Yers (or Millennials as I prefer to call them):

  • Are unmotivated
  • Are selfish
  • Have sort attention spans
  • Have expanded perceptions of self-worth, expectations and entitlement
  • Are not loyal to the company

    ID-10066198

    Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All of this was reconfirmed for me recently when I was delivering a communication-training program to an audience at a large multinational client.

We were briefly discussing communication similarities & differences between Boomers and Millennials. I was pointing out how Millennials are more engaged at work when they:

  • Are rewarded regularly
  • Know the key project objectives
  • Understand how their input makes a difference
  • See how they might benefit (what they might learn for example)

While I was mid sentence a participant (Boomer), flat-out stated, ”It’s never going to happen. We don’t have time to hold their hand every step of the way. This is a job and they [Millennial] have to grow up.

It’s important you know that the next point I was going to make during this training was that Boomers are motivated by very similar things. 

I’ll be the first to agree that when anybody is at work they should be expected to exceed their goals in a harmonious, respectable way. It doesn’t matter if you see your work as something that fulfills you – or your work simply pays the bills and you find fulfillment elsewhere.

The perspective I don’t agree with is that employees should not need to know the purpose of what we are doing. I believe employees of all age should know why their work is important and meaningful – and that this knowledge will help create motivated and very loyal people. 

As often is the case, my beliefs begin by a bit of self reflection, then a review of my knowledge / experience and then lots of research.

When I look at my own behaviour, I’m much more engaged in a project and it’s outcome when I know the project objectives and why I’ve been selected to work on that project… and for the record I’m a Boomer. I see more and more evidence that every generation wants to be respected, compensated fairly and have opportunities to grow – professionally and / or personally.

Want further support from someone else?  Jennifer J. Deal, a research scientist with the Center for Creative Leadership suggests in her book called Retiring the Generation GapThe so-called generation gap is, in large part, the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding, fueled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.

I don’t have my own scientific study but I agree whole heartily… here’s why. When I had a staff at Scotiabank I was managing other Boomers and Gen Yers (most Millennials were still in school). I recognized early on that my staff were far more engaged when they:

  • Were verbally rewarded regularly
  • Knew the key project objectives
  • Understood how their input makes a difference
  • Saw how they might benefit (what they might learn)

Just like Millennials.

I also noticed that the quality of the work my staff did was highest when they were engaged this way – and it took them less time to get important work done… a great Time Management benefit.

I believe every leader needs to recognize that these traits lead to committed employees – they are not the sole needs of spoiled Millennials. This list of needs reflect most people’s behavior and desire to make a difference and be recognized for their contribution.

So, my point continues that if we hand out work as ‘tasks’ then we should not be surprised when the Boomer, Gen Yer or Millennial we gave the job to does only as much as they think needs to get done. But, when we hand out ‘work’ and important and meaningful opportunities to make a difference then we are going to see a much different level of commitment, creativity and satisfaction – and this behavior will impact job satisfaction and ultimately client satisfaction.

With clear communication all your relationships will change – professionally and personally.

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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