Tuesday, September 29, 2009

E-mail: A Critical Communication Tool if Used Correctly

Over the weekend, I had some repairs that had to be done at home. I pulled out the trusty toolbox, and as I moved from project to project, I had to think about which tool would be most effective.

Midway through my project, I had an epiphany: How similar is what I’m doing at home to what happens at work – picking the right tool for the right activity?

Let’s say I have feedback to give a colleague or direct report. Should I see him or her, if possible; or is it OK to e-mail the person? If I have data to report, should I call the person, put it in writing, or send a quick e-mail?

If I want to thank someone for something he or she did to help me -- a much more personal type of communication – do I send a handwritten note or an e-mail?

Just because we have incredible communication tools – like e-mail – doesn’t mean we always should use them … or possibly abuse them.

E-mail shouldn’t be used for sending long messages, discussing confidential information, or distributing negative news, or sending complicated policy changes.

E-mail also shouldn’t be used in lieu of having face-to-face time.

Even if you do choose the right tool, you need to use it properly. Over the weekend, my husband was slicing potatoes using a mandolin -- a great kitchen tool.

Unfortunately, he didn’t anchor it properly, and ended up slicing his finger. Not good for a dentist!

The same is true with e-mail. It is so easy to use, that we frequently throw caution to the wind when using it.

Be sure to pay attention to both the tone and accuracy of all e-mail messages. You don’t want to appear to be abrupt or sloppy.

The cost of e-mail mistakes, abuse, and misuse, can be great.

So, just think of e-mail as one tool in your communication toolbox, and use it carefully and selectively.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Listening is More Than Hearing

So many people like to talk.

I sure do.

In fact, I do it all the time.

On the other hand, so few like to actually listen -- I will admit I am occasionally challenged to really listen or listen well.

Statistically speaking, we spend more time listening in a day than speaking, yet we don’t often do it well (just ask your family!).

Usually, it’s not on anyone’s top to-do list for training.

But, that may be changing. In the last few months we have seen a steady increase in clients asking for listening skills training.

Perhaps there were relationships, opportunities, and revenues that were lost as the result of poor listening. Maybe at the root of our relationship problems this fundamental communication skill is missing.

Last week, I got to deliver a listening workshop -- the first I personally had delivered in years.

The focus of the program was a combination of activities, skills and exercises to practice -- along with an online assessment, which profiles the individual participant’s preferred (or natural) listening style.

The district and regional sales managers in my session had so many “aha” moments that they couldn’t wait to get back and adjust their style at work -- as well as at home.

Since I also took the assessment, I, too, had some major insights. For example, at work I tend to listen purposefully -- in a very task-oriented way -- and pay less attention to the empathy factor and fail to listen for enjoyment.

It does make sense, however, that my staff needs as much empathy and appreciation as I give my clients and friends. I am committed to improving my listening with my team. You can e-mail them and see if they have noticed a difference!

So, do I think effective listening be taught?

Yes I do!

It isn’t complicated, but it does require a commitment to use more than just our ears.

If you want to see what is in our listening skills program, click here for more details.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Accountability: 5 Keys to Manage Success

Last week, I presented a program in Arizona called “Accountability: 5 Keys to Manage Success (Yours & Others).”

The audience was leadership and management professionals from a luxury, private country club.

This is a different audience than the corporate types who I typically work with. That being said, the issues are always the same.

There are people who need an attitude adjustment (one of the topics covered).

There are organizations that don’t do regular performance appraisals/discussions, which creates a disconnect with employees -- and often less than stellar results.

Behaviors impact all relationships, and your reputation.

So often, it is the smallest behavior gaffes that create problems within a team, company, or with customers.

And, in this current climate of financial uncertainty, the willingness to demonstrate courage is more critical than ever.

Finally, the willingness to put things into perspective may change how you look at life and work.

If you have thoughts on any of these five “keys” for managing your success and others – let me know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September Means Back to School Time – But, It’s Not Just for Kids

It’s back to school time.

Doesn’t the Labor Day holiday always remind you of that?

Of course, if you have children, you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief.

But, what does this time of year mean for all of us in business?

1) Four months to make our 2009 goals.

2) Planning and budgeting for 2010.

For most businesses, 2009 has been a tough year.

Many professionals have dealt with change, the unknown, and more responsibilities as their colleagues have been laid off.

What can get lost in times of workplace chaos and change?

The ongoing importance of professional and personal development.

This really is the best time to go “back to school.” Your own development cannot take a back seat.

After all, you don’t want to be left behind at the end of the year – or “expelled!”

I have no idea what the new economy will look like.

But, I do know, however, that winners don’t wait.

What do you need to do for yourself and your staff these next four months?

Fortunately, we at BRODY are still booking 2009 programs for our enlightened clients -- the ones that realize they must still provide skills training for their employees, so they will continue to excel.

If you want to do something for yourself (or your team), consider registering for our BRODY BOOST Camps being offered in San Francisco on September 24, and again in Philadelphia on October 8th.

School is never truly over!