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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Communication

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Many of us have opportunities to meet new people regularly. Whether at a conference, seminar, or simply a gym class, we may be brushing shoulders with others who could prove to be value networking connections. But oftentimes we’re either A) too timid to strike up a meaningful conversation or B) bad about following up or keeping in touch once we do make a new acquaintance.

Let’s change that pattern! It’s time to turn potential alliances into solid connections. Start by following these five steps:

1. Speak Up

So many of us miss opportunities to connect with others because we’re nervous to strike up a conversation with someone new. At a conference or workshop, it’s so much easier to stick with the group of people you already know and not venture outside your comfort zone. It’s also easier to stick your nose in your phone or laptop during breaks, and not bother to seek out new acquaintances.

I challenge you to dip a toe out of your comfort zone and start talking to strangers! It may be intimidating at first, but honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? The other person may not be receptive to your efforts…so, you move on.

2. Ask Good Questions

If you’re attending a business event, you might consider coming up with a few questions ahead of time to ask would-be connections. Go over the day’s agenda, and think of relevant questions you could ask.

Another way to engage new acquaintances is to be genuinely curious about them. Go beyond “What do you do?” Dig deeper and ask questions about their client base or how they became interested in their work in the first place. Or, connect on a more personal level and ask about their background and interests (without being too nosy, of course!). If you’re going to go this route, you probably want to offer something of yourself first. For example, “I’m thrilled about all the book recommendations we’ve been getting at the conference. Do you like to read too?”

Asking questions creates bridges between people. Just make sure you’re mostly asking open-ended questions (not ones that can be answered with yes or no), and you truly listen to the reply. You don’t want to completely miss what someone says because you’re thinking up a response.

Asking questions creates bridges between people.

3. Demonstrate Your Value

When you’re connecting with a professional acquaintance, it’s a good idea to think about how you can help them, instead of focusing on what you can gain. Make it clear that this relationship is a two-way street, and you have valuable skills and services to offer.

4. Connect Within Three Days

Be sure to follow up with new acquaintances within three days, while your interaction is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Send a short email and/or connection request on LinkedIn. You might also give a brief reminder about how you met, saying something like, “It was great talking about data collection methods at the ABC Conference on Thursday. I’d love to continue the conversation sometime…”

5. Create a Follow-Up Schedule

Designate time to follow up with new acquaintances. Set your dates and plug in a calendar reminder to make sure you follow through. Don’t be too pushy, especially if you don’t get a response from your acquaintance, but do make an effort to reach out. Consider framing your message like this:

Hi Rachel,

You crossed my mind the other day because [FILL IN A REASON]. I wanted to reach out and see how you’re doing with your XYZ business. Have you had any more issues with [FILL IN DETAILS]? If you’d like to grab a cup of coffee sometime soon, please let me know. I have some free time at the end of next week.

Take care,
Margaret

You worked hard to make your new acquaintances; don’t let them fall between the cracks! Your connections could prove to be fruitful, both for you and the people you meet.

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Light bulb with thought bubble around it
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“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Albert Einstein

If you’re like me, you enjoy brainstorming sessions. I’m energized by the creative process—tossing ideas onto a white board and seeing which ones stick. This is typical “yellow energy” behavior (see my post on the four Insights Discovery color energies to learn more). People like me enjoy spontaneous problem-solving, talking through difficulties, and offering off-the-cuff solutions. We also tend to adopt whichever solution seems like the best option, without overthinking it or plunging too deeply into the analytics.

People on the other end of the spectrum (those who tend to lead with more blue energy) are not terribly fond of this method. They like a more analytical approach…and if a solution is offered, they will examine it closely to determine whether or not it might be a viable option.

Neither method is wrong, but both are lacking something in their approach. Some experts argue that focusing too much on solutions is the wrong way to go about problem-solving in the first place. They claim that you (or your team) will ultimately arrive at a better solution if you live in the problem for a while.

The thinking behind this claim goes like this: You can’t really come up with a good solution until you understand the problem inside and out. So, instead either of tossing ideas up on a whiteboard OR getting analytical with potential solutions, this method calls for all parties to take a step back and examine the problem in front of them.

Author and Stanford professor, Tina Selig, calls this approach “frame storming.” She believes that if you want to unlock innovative solutions, you have to “fall in love with the problem.” By spending more time considering the problem, you are more likely to take into account all the factors that are at play. Who is affected? How? Does this particular problem create other problems? Would one type of solution only partially solve the problem or, perhaps, solve it for a short period of time?

Considering the problem might be a way to bring people like me (yellow energy!) together with more analytical types. This approach forces everyone to slow down and consider the dilemma in front of them, before moving to take action.

So, next time you and your team are faced with a sticky problem that requires an answer, try “frame storming.” Agree to spend more time immersed in the issue at hand before even considering moving to a solution.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Microphone with text: 4 Vocal Tricks to Be Heard
Image by 19dulce91 from Pixabay

Have you ever noticed some people have the type of voice that commands attention? When they start speaking, the room listen. People pay attention.

Even if you do not naturally have a “sit up and take notice” voice, there are still steps you can take to improve your vocal tendencies and help yourself be heard. After all, what you’re saying isn’t necessarily as important as how you say it. A study by a UCLA professor found that a full 38% of our impression of someone is formed by their vocal quality, while only 7% of our impression is formed by their message (the remaining percent has to do with body language and facial expressions).

In short, vocal tone and inflection is important. Here are 5 ways to improve yours:

1. Know Yourself

Pay attention to how you talk and how your voice might be perceived. To do this, it’s helpful to record yourself speaking (as uncomfortable as that may be!), play it back, and pay attention. Is your voice low or high? Fast or slow? How do you emphasize words? Do you include a lot of filler language such as “like” or “um?”

Knowing how you speak gives you a baseline for how to improve.

2. Lower Your Voice

According to an article by Susan Berkley in BottomLine magazine, a study revealed that a lower voice (for both men and women) makes that person seem “more competent and trustworthy than those with a raised pitch.” She goes on to say that you can work on talking at a lower pitch by placing your hand on your sternum (for women) or beneath your sternum (for men) and strive to create a vibration.

NOTE: You never want to seem inauthentic when you’re speaking, so don’t try to go too deep. Just lower your voice so it’s still within your natural range.

3. Pay Attention To Pacing

There’s a balance between talking too quickly and talking slowly. If you tend gab at a mile-a-minute, it may be difficult for people to keep up, and you’ll eventually lose them. On the other hand, if you speak too slowly, you may leave room for people to interrupt or talk over you.

Practice speaking at a comfortable pace (again, record yourself OR, if you’d really try to nail your pacing, try joining Toastmasters). Be sure to ask questions as you go, so you can gauge how engaged your audience is.

4. Practice What You Will Say

If you’d really like to be heard, it’s worth it to practice what you’re going to say before actually saying it. This way, you’ll go into the conversation with more confidence and sound more sure of yourself. When you practice, make sure to focus on eliminating filler words such as like, uh, um, or ah. Also pay attention to your pitch and pacing.

You deserve to be heard. Try putting one or two of these tips into practice and let me know how it goes! Also, if you have other tips to share, I’d love to hear them.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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4 Ways to Stop an Interrupter

Are you dealing with a chronic interrupter? Whether in the workplace or your personal life, it never feels good for someone to talk over you, ignore you, or minimize what you’re trying to say.

How can you possibly deal with the strong personality of someone who constantly interrupts? Try these 4 methods:

1. Speak to the Interrupter in Private

Instead of getting mad, posting about the interrupter on social media, or fuming to your friends or colleagues, it is worth it to have a conversation with the offender. Though it’s never easy to have tough conversations (an issue I addressed in a past newsletter), there are tactful ways to approach the person and convey your message without sounding accusatory.

Make sure you schedule a private meeting with enough time to talk things out. Then, use the D4 model to address the issue:

Data: What are the facts? What actually happened?

Depth of Feeling: How did the instance make you feel?

Dramatic Interpretation: How are you interpreting the situation? What meaning have you given it?

Do: What do you want to do? What do you want the other person to do? Focus on actions taken and actions required.

In this case, the D4 model might sound something like, “I’ve noticed that you often interrupt me when I’m speaking. That makes me feel frustrated and belittled because I get the impression that my ideas and perspectives are not valuable. I wanted you to be aware of this so we could come up with a solution together…

2. Lean On Your Allies

If you’re too nervous to confront the interrupter OR you tried speaking with this person and nothing has changed, try reaching out to others. Let them know the situation and how you’re feeling (it’s possible others are feeling the same way you are!). Then, ask them to help by sticking up for you at meetings and saying, “Now, wait a minute. I’d like to hear what [YOUR NAME] has to say.” Be sure to offer the same support to them, if they need it.

3. Call Out the Interruption

If the interrupter starts talking over you, have the confidence to call them on their bologna! Immediately counter with, “Just a sec. I wasn’t finished,” and then finish what you have to say.

Part of this technique involves being confident that what you’re saying IS valuable. Know that it is. Your voice is important and deserves to be heard.

4. Change Up Your Meetings

If things are really bad, you may want to talk with your supervisor and ask about using a meeting moderator. This is someone who is designated to run the meeting (it may be your supervisor a designated point person), call on people for their thoughts, and stamp out bad behavior, such as interruptions. Though it may feel a bit like a teacher monitoring a Kindergarten classroom, sometimes that’s what it takes!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Effective feedback with D4 Model

When you think about feedback, do you think of the old “feedback sandwich” where a piece of advice is wedged between two compliments? Do you picture an awkward conversation involving lots of fidgeting and very little eye contact? And what happens after the meeting? Is there a system in place to hold people accountable for implementing the feedback?

There’s a better way to give feedback.

Whether you’re giving appreciative feedback for a job well done, or developmental feedback to help someone improve, it’s a good idea to turn to the D4 Model. This model, created by Insights® Discovery, is set up to accommodate people of all personality types and tendencies. Whether someone is driven by data, emotions, or action, the D4 model works with the person on the other side of the table to give feedback that sticks.

What does D4 stand for?

Data

What are the facts? What actually happened?

Depth of Feeling

How did the instance make you feel?

Dramatic Interpretation

How are you interpreting the situation? What meaning have you given it?

Do

What do you want to do? What do you want the other person to do? Focus on actions taken and actions required.

 
How does the model play out in real life? If you’re giving appreciative feedback (it is Thanksgiving month, after all!), you might say something like the following:

“When you helped to organize the company fundraiser, I felt relieved that I didn’t have to do everything on my own, and that makes me think that you and I share the same commitment to a healthy office culture, and I want to say thank you and invite you to help spearhead future fundraisers.”

D4 Model, Appreciative Feedback

 If you’re giving developmental feedback, the model plays out a little differently. The action step (“Do”) calls for a strategy and a follow-up, so that action can be implemented and accounted for. Here’s an example:

Be sure to give your team plenty of constructive praise this month, using the D4 model. It is the season for gratitude and it’s always a good idea to let your staff know that they are valued and appreciated. If, however, you encounter problems this month, don’t be afraid to use the D4 model for development. It’s a great way to concisely and clearly offer candid, practical feedback.

Don’t dread evaluations this year! Just remember: Data, Depth of feeling, Dramatic interpretation, and DO.


Looking for more feedback tips? Please contact me.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Two business people talking at a table
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Do you have trouble getting what you want? Are you often overlooked or not listened to? Do you know a change needs to be made, but you’re having trouble framing your argument?

It sounds like you need to tap into the power of persuasion!

Being persuasive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being sneaky or underhanded. If you use persuasion in an honest way, it means articulating something so others can see your point of view. Sometimes, you have to be persuasive to make positive changes or advance your career.

How do you become persuasive? Try a few of the following techniques:

1. Prepare

No matter if you’re leading a meeting, having a one-on-one with your boss, or proposing a new idea around the water cooler, it’s necessary to come prepared.

Do your homework, research the ins and outs of your proposal, AND anticipate potential problems or questions others may ask. If you know your stuff, you’ll automatically be more persuasive.

2. Be Confident

When you’re speaking, don’t use words like “I believe” or “I suppose.” Be confident when making a claim. Say it boldly, and people will listen.

Research shows people are more likely to listen to someone who is confident than someone who is an actual expert. Of course, you don’t want to spread false information, but when you do have something to say, say it with confidence!

3. Frame Your Words Carefully

Consider these two sentences, and tell me which is more effective:

“I’d like to be considered for the management position because I’m interested in furthering my career.”

“I’d like to be considered for the management position because I’m interested in new opportunities and challenges.”

The second one, right? These sentences both convey someone wishing to be considered for a promotion. Yet the second sentence focuses on personal growth and a desire to learn, while the first seems to say that the person, at the end of the day, is really only in it for themselves.

Before going into a meeting, practice your phrasing in front of a mirror, until you feel comfortable delivering it.

4. Be a Mirror

When trying to persuade someone, mirroring their body language, tone of voice, and volume makes you seem empathetic. In fact, if you’re an empathetic person to begin with, you are probably doing this without realizing it! People instinctively try to form alliances whenever possible, and by copying their mannerisms (subtly, of course!), you’re signaling that you understand them and are on their side.

5. Know Your Audience

Pay attention and start noticing what matters to people in your office. Do certain topics of conversation keep coming up? Are people interested in family, football, pets, or local music? What values do they seem to have?

Getting to know the people around you is invaluable to building rapport and gaining trust. Ultimately, if others find you easy to talk to and pleasant to be around, you won’t even have to think about being persuasive—people will want to listen to what you have to say.

If you want to make a change, put forth an idea, or simply be heard, it’s a good idea to hone your personal power of persuasion. It may not come easily at first, but with practice, you’ll be a pro!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Water with text over it that says Is Transparency Part of Your Leadership Brand?
Background image by kalhh from Pixabay

When you think of a leader, what qualities do you picture? Do you picture someone who is competent, confident, and a good speaker? Do you see someone who can fire up the room and motivate their team? Or, perhaps, do you picture someone who is data-driven and brainy—someone who’s gears are always turning?

While these are all worthy leadership traits, I believe one crucial leadership component is consistently overlooked: transparency.

Without transparency, it is difficult to cultivate trust (for more on trust, read this past post!). People begin to wonder what you’re doing in the shadows, and question why decisions are made.

Being a transparent leader, means being honest. It means being yourself at all times (though sometimes you may be a more formal version of yourself, while other times you may be a more casual version). For a transparent leader, there is no room for being two-faced. I have found that people catch on quickly when someone isn’t being candid or is telling two versions of the same story to two different groups of people.

Another aspect of the transparent leader is courage. It takes a good deal of guts to be honest with your team when things are not going especially well. If performance is flagging or the company is going through growing pains, don’t hide those difficulties. Instead, engage your team and encourage them to become part of the solution.

Transparent leaders communicate. They keep an open-door policy, and welcome any feedback, thoughts, or opinions…even if some of what they hear is negative or critical. In fact, this kind of constructive feedback is exactly what an organization needs to grow and improve. Transparent leaders make others feel comfortable approaching them—they cultivate a spirit of mutual trust.

Take a moment to ask yourself: How transparent is your organization? How transparent are YOU? If your personal transparency needs a little work, take action!

  • Start talking to your co-workers. Be as candid as possible AND be a respectful listener.
  • Encourage feedback. Schedule one-on-one meetings to gain feedback and then ACT on sound suggestions or ideas.
  • Be vulnerable. You’re not perfect, and it’s okay for others to see that.
  • Facing a crisis? Don’t try to hide it. Be open about the company’s issues, and work as a team to solve them.

When you become an open and candid leader, a lot can change. You may find your relationships with team members improve, workplace culture becomes a little more open and honest, and you feel less anxious about having to hide business difficulties from your co-workers. In the long term, your transparency will hopefully encourage others to act in kind, which will eventually foster an open and communicative work environment.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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