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Archive for April 2010

It is not what leaders say, it is how they say it

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It's not what you say, but how you say it

I still think many people in leadership positions are not even aware of the power they hold or the influence they have on others through the language they use. Sometimes, just a word or gesture from someone in a senior position can have a big impact on the people they manage.

I remember several occasions when I have been taken aback by how something I said was interpreted. There have also been times when someone who has worked with me in the past would refer to something I said and how that impacted him/her.

We are proud of ourselves when someone gives us good feedback but what about the times when we have impacted others in a negative way? It’s taken me a while to learn this and to really embrace the idea that as leaders we have a serious responsibility with regard to what we say and how we say it. And of late I have been thinking about how we as leaders could lift our game consciously to positively influence the behaviors of the people we manage merely through the language we use.

There are many studies that focus around language, influence and communication. My favorite ones stem from Neuro–Linguistic Programming (NLP) where non-verbal language is hailed as being far more impactful than words. Taking a few hints from the NLP model here are some tips of how leaders could easily impact the people in their periphery of work life.

Future pace and possibilities

This is useful when we have to get our team to buy into a vision or target. In order to fully engage the team, the leader can future pace…means taking the team on a journey into the future. A sentence like “ imagine what you will be feeling when you have achieved your target” is a future pace statement, it assumes that the person spoken to will achieve their target and it also helps to place the listener in a useful space giving this person a positive frame of reference. More than this it opens up the person’s neurology to allow for the possibility of this happening in the future.

Embedded commands

We do this unconsciously and are also often the recipient of embedded commands. People embed commands in us without our awareness. For example, when someone says, “you will never succeed at the rate you are going” is a negative embedded command. A positive and more resourceful embedded command can sound like this “You have all the resources you need to achieve this goal within you, go ahead and do it now” (embedded command in bold)

Presuppositions

This is similar to an assumption you are making, for example, when you say “When you like would to sign the contract, today or tomorrow” it is a presupposition. You are in effect assuming that this person will sign the contract!

Presuppositions can also be set up to describe values that the team can embrace, an NLP presupposition is “your map is not the territory” meaning what you perceive as your map of the world is not necessarily the complete picture of reality outside. Another useful one that I like is “embracing the opportunity to practice generosity of spirit makes us better people”.

Metaphors

Milton Erickson the father of hypnotic language made huge behavioral shifts with his patients by using metaphors. Metaphors are stories we tell. We all love stories and when a story gets told, it bypasses our conscious mind straight into our unconscious.

Studies with test groups have shown that shifts in behavior happened more readily with groups that were engaged in stories rather than groups that were given instructions. Many great leaders are also great storytellers. The person listening to the story becomes involved in the story. Metaphor can go like this “I remember working with a young man, around your age, who was very ambitious and wanted to achieve results at any cost….”

Mind reads

We all do some mind reads in some shape or form, for e.g. “I know from the way she looked at me that she did not like me” How do we know that? How specifically did she look at you?  Taken from a leadership influence point of view, the conversation might be like this “I know that you have a strong desire to out perform the targets we have set” or “ I know that you know that you have the strength to shine through this challenging time”

Tag questions

It is a question that is placed at the end of a statement to soften that statement or perhaps influence the listener to agree to what is being suggested.  A statement like “you do want to complete this project successfully, don’t you?” or “it’s always nice to have your team members appreciate your generosity of spirit, isn’t it? “

If you listen carefully to great orators and smart leaders, you will notice their language and how they engage the people they speak to, how they connect their audience to the picture they are drawing with their words. Think about why it is that you buy from someone or are willing to listen to one person versus another…did they make you feel comfortable, did you feel like you really enjoyed what they said?  Why do some leaders inspire you …Did they touch a chord in your heart?

Pay attention! The next time someone points out a great leader or negotiator to you, stop to listen to their choice words, their tonality, their intonation and they way they pause between their words because all these are clues into their language patterns.

This column is written by Lalita Nithiyanandan, executive advisor, Global Center of Excellence (CoE) for the Executive Search and Leadership Consulting practices within Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group.

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Written by Human Resources

April 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Leadership

How important is company culture?

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Leadership accountability and a focus on achieving results are some of the consistent traits seen in the corporate cultures of top companies, says Eileen Keng, engagement and culture solutions leader for Hewitt Southeast Asia.

In this two-minute video, Keng explains how culture is intertwined with employee engagement and what HR’s role is in driving company culture.

Written by Human Resources

April 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

AIA case study: Motivating employees without money

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Can something as simple as chicken rice or ice cream raise employee morale? According to Ragi Singh, head of HR for AIA Singapore,  a simple token such as buying chicken rice for employees can do wonders for employee morale during difficult times.

Speaking at the recent Human Resources Insight event on best compensation & benefits practices, Singh talked about his experiences as the head of HR for AIA Singapore, helping employees manage change and uncertainty during the crisis. He also covered pointers on what he thinks fellow HR practitioners can learn on motivating employees without the use of money.

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Written by Human Resources

April 8, 2010 at 11:22 am

Be a better speaker

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How do you ensure your audience is always listening to your every word?

1. Keep the end in mind

Half the battle is won if you first take the time to decide on the objective of your presentation. Start by deciding on your general objective. Are you speaking to inform, to influence or to inspire? Once that is decided, work on your specific objective. For your presentation to be successful, what do you want your audience to think, feel and do? Once you are clear on your end point, crafting your presentation becomes a piece of cake

2. Make your presentation about your audience

Dale Carnegie, the father of public speaking, once claimed that “You can make more friends in two months by being really interested in them than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.” Likewise, if you want to win your audience’s interest, make your presentation about them. Here’s how:

  • Help them solve their most pressing problem
  • Show them ways where they can do their job better
  • Address some of their grievances that they face at work
  • Answer their burning questions relating to your topic
  • Borrow famous quotes from people they know
  • Speak their lingo
  • Share stories and examples that they can relate to
  • Even better, share success stories about their organization that can inspire them to shoot for the stars

3. Start strong

The first 30 seconds of your presentation is the most critical. You are the most nervous and your audience is the most skeptical. To ensure success of your presentation, you must start strong. Here are 5 surefire ways to kick start your presentation:

  • Open with a humorous or emotional story that leads to your key message
  • Ask a rhetorical question that gets your audience thinking
  • Shock them with a startling fact
  • Share an expert opinion that links to your topic
  • Reference to a current event and then dovetail to your message

4. Use stories to persuade

Dr Ray Price once conducted an experiment to prove the power of stories. They provided three different groups of MBA students with exactly the same information. For the first group, they were presented with a verbal description that contains facts and figures. The second group was given the same information in the form of charts and graphs. The last group was presented with a story of a little old wine maker. Several weeks later, not only did the group who heard the story remembered more details, they also found the story more credible.

For your story to be effective, it must

  1. Make your audience think (“Can this happen to me?”)
  2. Make your audience feel (“How will I feel if this happen to me?”)
  3. Make your audience take action (“What can I do to make sure this will not happen to me?”)

Only an effective story can transport your audience from the role of a passive listener to an active participant of your story. Perhaps that is why Bill Gove – an award-winning speaker – claimed that the essence of public speaking could be summarized in six words: Tell a story, make a point.

5. Direct a Spielberg moment

Have you ever wonder why you are able to sit through a 120 minutes blockbuster movie yet you can switch off within minutes of a presentation?

The reason is simple. A typical Hollywood movie engages all your senses – visually, auditory, kinesthetically, physically, mentally and emotionally and these days, even spiritually! In your next presentation, try engaging the other senses of your audience as well:

How to engage the visual senses:

  • Props
  • Cartoons
  • Videos
  • Stock images

How to engage the auditory senses:

  • Music
  • Vocal variety

How to engage the kinesthetic and physical senses:

  • Group activities – getting your audience to break into groups and discuss an issue or explore ways to apply what you have just taught
  • Games

How to engage the mental senses:

  • Share interesting content that they have not heard before or will make a difference to them
  • Give them puzzles or problems to solve

How to engage the emotional senses:

  • Tell stories
  • Talk about issues that they care about (address their pains, frustrations, wants and desires)

6. Speak in a conversational tone

Public speaking in the 21st century is no longer a monologue. It is a dialogue between your audience and yourself. To ensure that happens, write your speech for the ear and not for the eye. In other words, type your speech as you talk.

When you rehearse, practice aloud to your colleague, while you are driving or when you are on your way home. Present as though you are speaking to just one person.

When you are presenting, train yourself to look at your audience in the eyes, one pair at a time. This will help you to moderate your tone and pace. More importantly, it will also help you strengthen your rapport with the audience.

7. Stop being speaker-centric, be audience-centric

Nervousness stems from being speaker-centric. Will they like me? What if I forget my script? Can they understand what I am saying? Will they laugh at me?

Instead, be audience-centric. This will take the pressure off you. Questions to ask include: What will the audience get out of my speech? What are three points the audience can take away today? Is this setting appropriate for my audience? By focusing on your audience’s needs, it allows you to be in control. Control gives you certainty. Certainty kills off nervousness.

Getting to know your audience beforehand also helps reduce any uncertainties you have. This includes researching about your audience before your presentation. What are the demographics of your audience, what are their needs and wants, what are the pains they are suffering from, what will they consider to be of value, what can they relate to best. Not only will this help you be more prepared, the audience will also appreciate you more!

8. It’s all about stage time

If you want to become a more confident speaker in the shortest amount time –speak in front of a live audience as often as you can. In other words, clock your stage time because 95% of your growth as a speaker comes from speaking in front of the audience!

And to ensure that you milk every speaking opportunity, remember to evaluate yourself after every presentation. One way to do that is to videotape yourself and watch the recording.

Another way is to self evaluate by asking yourself two questions: “What do they like best about your presentation?” and “What’s one area you can improve?”. Continue to leverage on your strengths and use your next speaking opportunity to overcome your weakness.

It’s never about how you good you are right now. It’s about stage time. If you speak in front of the audience today, you will get better tomorrow as a result of this experience!

This column is contributed by Eric Feng, author of the book The FAQ Book on Public Speaking. He will be conducting a workshop on presentation skills organised by SIM Membership Services at SIM Headquarters on 22 May.

Written by Human Resources

April 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Overcoming a difficult discussion

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Don't wrestle out of a difficult conversation

Contributed by  I Wharton Ong

Almost everyone wants to have better communication skills when dealing with difficult discussions, such as those relating to performance, bad news, or calling for actions beyond the call of duty.

How am I going to bring this up? How am I going to break the bad news?

A marketing director of a multinational corporation told me of a time when she asked regional distributors to increase their inventory & business forecasts. Her request did not go well, despite all her preparations and head office support – and she was not sure what the difficulty was.

As she reflected on her experience, she felt confused as the event did not go as she had expected, and helpless as to how to proceed further.

We often forget that whenever we get into a difficult discussion, feelings are inevitably involved: feelings of frustration, arrogance, indifference, anger, helplessness, anxiety etc. In her case, it is likely that the distributors were uncertain they could meet increased forecasts in the current volatile economic climate. They felt fear.

Such frustrating and time consuming outcomes occur not just at professional or business levels, they occur also in our personal lives.

Bosses often issue orders and directives in a vacuum, without making any attempt to understand how the recipients will feel about those orders and directives.

Family “discussions” often play out the same arguments over and over again, with no progress being made towards any solution – because feelings are ignored.

Feelings can be divided into three general types: happy, angry or sad. Happy makes a person feel good. Angry or sad makes a person feel upset or threatened.

When feelings get in the way of discussions, participants “solve” the problem through fright, flight or freeze. None of these is a good solution.

Our most common way of listening is not listening. We prefer to listen to our own talking, instead of other’s talking.

But even when we do listen to others, if we focus exclusively on listening to content, we will tend to miss detecting the feelings of the person speaking. Listening to and for feelings can sometimes make or break a difficult discussion, because feelings are often at the heart of the problem.

Listening to feelings releases them in the speaker. Reflecting the feelings we see and  hear in a difficult discussion helps the speaker shape what is often in disarray and confuses him or her.

A good listener can help the other person “verbalise” the issue that he or she is facing. This helps him or her clarify the issue, and become better able to move ahead with different options. A good listener will hold back on offering advice until he is clear about the other person’s feelings.

Here is a simple example:

Listener: How is work?

Speaker: Stressful and I’m overworked.

Listener: When you stressed, what happens?

Speaker: I am not able to concentrate and I face persistent conflicts with others. This has affected my ability to perform my sales functions effectively.

At this point, the listener must be careful not to hear this response as an announcement of “persistent conflict with others” and “affected my ability to perform my sales functions”. It is in reality a confession of anxiety, and perhaps fear.

The listener now has three options: ignore, confront, or acknowledge and understand.

Ignoring the response will put the other person in the dark as to what to do next. Resentment builds up, and the relationship becomes unauthentic.

Confrontation typically fails to influence the other person to change his or her action. No progress is made towards solving the problem.

The best option is to acknowledge and understand. Say: “I understand that you feel stressed by the situation. How do you think I can help you perform better?”

Remember to use the pronoun “I” often. The “I” messages show that you recognize and are affected by the other person’s feelings. It helps bring the other person on board.

American autobiographer Maya Angelou aptly sums it up: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

William Ury, author of “Getting Past No” and director of the negotiation network at Harvard University, said: “Everyone has a strong need for his or her feelings to be recognized. While factual points are important, knowing the other person’s feelings in a difficult discussion can help to create an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation.”

Summary

There is virtually no profession or business in which you are not likely to encounter difficult communication. If we handle a difficult discussion badly, everyone ends up feeling stressed and the relationship deteriorates.

When we make the simple and practical shift to listen for feelings, we change a difficult discussion into a more open and participative way of addressing the challenges we face.

This article is contributed by I.Warton Ong who will be conducting a two-day workshop on @Listen and Connect@ organised by the SIM Professional Development on 6 and 7 May.

Written by Human Resources

April 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Personal career