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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: better communication

*This post was originally published in 2015 and has been modified slightly.

Clarity in Communication

Having clarity comes in two parts. You have to give clarity and ask for clarity. If you are in charge of a project or leading a team, don’t assume that everyone already knows your expectations. Make those expectations clear and leave room for others to ask questions. Put yourself in others’ shoes and anticipate the questions they might ask. Then, practice giving the answers, or at least jot out a few thoughts on how to answer the questions.

On the flip side, if you’re on the receiving end of a project or initiative, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. It is much better to make sure your idea of the project’s end state aligns with the actual anticipated end state then to muddle your way through it and hope you’re doing what’s expected of you. One good way to make sure you completely understand your assignment is to repeat back what you think you heard. Something like: “Okay, Bill. It sounds like you’re saying we need to come up with a better social media marketing strategy for product X, and we have two weeks to get you a proposal. Is that correct?”

Having Clarity is one of the chapters in my book, The Ten Minute Leadership Challenge, and I go into much more detail in those pages about how to give and ask for clarity.

I’ve also made a short video about Having Clarity based off the principles outlined in my book. Enjoy!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Confident conversations and Insights Discovery

It’s possible to have an assertive, confident conversation without seeming pushy or overbearing. When approached tactfully, your self-assured behavior can have a wholly positive effect; it can motivate others to action, resolve conflicts, and bolster your leadership.

Utilize the concepts from the Insights Discovery program (read about this cutting-edge program in a prior blog post) to effectively and confidently talk with people of all communication preferences. No matter if a person is action-oriented, social, analytical and detail-oriented, or highly empathetic, you can use the below model to discuss just about anything with confidence.

1. Present the facts

When the facts are on your side, your confidence will inevitably increase. Laying out what happened from a neutral standpoint will appeal to those who are fact-driven and methodical.

2. Add emotion

Be candid about your feelings. If a certain situation or action made you feel angry or disappointed, let the other party know. Confident people are generally open, including with their emotions. When you put everything out on the table, you intentionally make yourself vulnerable which not only gives you a measure of control over your emotions, but can also help others realize that they, too, can open up.

3. Empathize

When you can relate to others, their confidence in you grows (which, in turn, increases your confidence). While talking with others, take a moment to think about their perspective and empathize. Then, relay your understanding of the other person’s perspective. For instance: “I know your department’s been experiencing some reshuffling. Am I right in assuming that the changes have delayed your team’s project?” Be sure to utilize good listening when tapping into your empathy!

4. Take action

Concluding your conversations with a plan of attack conveys a high level of confidence and competence. Don’t bulldoze others opinions, but also don’t be afraid to make suggestions if you have thoughts or opinions you’d like to share.

A well-rounded conversation includes facts, emotion, empathy, and action. Go into a discussion feeling confident and comfortable that you’ll be able to effectively communicate with anyone, no matter their personality or communication preferences.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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The power of vocal inflection

We’d all like to think that what we say is important. When we stand up to give a presentation or if we’re talking with a friend or significant other, we hope that others are listening to what we’re saying.

But the what is not necessarily as important as the how.

How you deliver your words can matter just as much (or more!) than what you say. No matter how compelling your message, if you say it in an unenthusiastic or irritated way, others will pick up on your tone, rather than what you are saying.

Take the simple phrase “Dinner’s ready.”

Let’s say you get home from work and you decide to prepare a nice meal for yourself and your family. You cook up a couple dishes from scratch and time everything perfectly so that your entrée comes out of the oven at the same time that you’ve finished making your sides. You’re pleased as punch with how your meal turned out and you can’t wait to share it with your family.

At this point, you call out in a sing-song voice, “Dinner’s ready!”

No reply.

Your spouse, your children are upstairs doing who-knows-what. But you don’t feel like hunting them down, so you busy yourself with doing a few dishes while you wait for them to come down.

Five minutes.

Ten.

When you call for your family again, the cheeriness is out of your voice completely. It’s been replaced by a loud, curt, and semi-dangerous tone:

“DINNER IS READY.”

You’d better believe your family will come running this time!

The lesson here is that vocal inflection matters. It conveys how serious you are about something. It demonstrates your enthusiasm (or lack of). It has the power to energize a room or put everyone to sleep.

Next time you’re about to interact with someone or lead a team meeting, think about your tone of voice. Practice your speech in front of a mirror. In most cases, you’ll want to sound energized, but not over-the-top. Cheery, but authentic. The only exception is if you’re speaking about a serious issue that requires more gravity. Use common sense and let your tone match the message.

For more tips on how to be a compelling speaker, take a look at these blog posts:

https://uxlblog.com/2016/10/05/let-your-voice-be-heard/

https://uxlblog.com/2016/03/09/10-ways-to-have-a-better-conversation/

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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man distracted by cell phone

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It helps us connect people from across the country (or world) through a video conference or virtual chat. It allows us to easily create charts and map out data. It allows us to better serve our customers.

But there is a dark side to technology. It’s the side that affects our everyday interactions with people—the side that completely sucks us in and tethers us to our devices.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and noticed friends, couples, or even entire families absorbed in their smart phones? Or noticed people out for a walk, with their heads buried in their devices?

Are you guilty of this too? Do you catch yourself shooting your co-worker an email when you could just walk to her office and ask a quick question? Do you find yourself flipping through social media or the news or weather instead of engaging those around you in conversation?

Yes, technology does great things, but it’s also killing our communication skills. According to MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle, author of the book Reclaiming Conversation, our deep absorption in our devices has caused us to lose our ability to have deeper, more spontaneous conversations with others. We begin to lose our capacity for “empathy, introspection, creativity, and intimacy.”[1]

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I think about the implications this has for our relationships. Are our conversations lacking the depth they used to have? Are we missing opportunities to look others in the eye and truly connect with them?

Looking at it from another angle, are we missing opportunities at work because we’ve greatly reduced the number of face-to-face interactions we have with others? Sherry Turkle says YES. She points to many studies that indicate that when people are allowed to talk to each other, they do better—they’re more collaborative, they’re more creative, they get more done.

And what about networking? I’ve talked with many people who say that the younger generation has difficulty with face-to-face networking. It’s a skill that doesn’t come easily for them because so many of their interactions are digital. That’s troubling because, according to Hubspot, 85% of people say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences.

Face-to-face still matters!

It’s time we stop multi-tasking, set our cell phones aside, and rediscover meaningful conversation with others. Our relationships—both personal and professional—will be better for it.

[1] Suttie, J. (December 7, 2015). How Smartphones Are Killing Conversation. The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_smartphones_are_killing_conversation. Accessed 12/19/16.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Admit when you don't know

You can’t possibly know it all. Even if you’re an expert in a certain area, there will inevitably be times when you don’t know the answer. That’s OKAY.

In our modern, information-at-our-fingertips world, we might feel pressured to know anything and everything. Think about all the content you consume on a daily basis, whether through television, social media, news articles, surfing the web, or face-to-face interactions. The amount of data we’re exposed to on a regular basis is overwhelming and can also lead to unrealistic expectations from others. “Didn’t you see that article,” someone might say. Or “didn’t you hear about x, y, and z?”

It takes courage to admit when you don’t know something, but it’s much better than faking your way through a conversation. The next time someone quizzes you about a news story you haven’t read or a social media trend you haven’t heard of, speak up. Let her know that you don’t know enough about the topic to form an opinion, but you would like to hear her thoughts on it. Then, listen. Learn.

In a different context, think about job interviews. If the interviewer asks you a straightforward question such as, “Do you know how to use Adobe Photoshop,” don’t fudge your answer. Be forthright with your response. For example: “No, I’ve never used Adobe Photoshop, but I have experience with other design programs, such as Inkscape. I’ve found that I am a quick learner and pick up on new systems quickly. I am also not afraid of technology and would be happy to take a class on Adobe Photoshop if I am hired.”

This response not only shows a willingness to learn, it also conveys honesty and transparency. These are traits that companies often look for in job candidates.

Furthermore, if you admit that you don’t know something (to yourself and others), this opens up an opportunity to learn and grow. Explore the unknown subject and add something new to your knowledge bank.

Remember, you CAN’T know it all. It’s fine to admit to others when you don’t have the answer. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of integrity and candor.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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A couple months ago, I spent some time teaching the basic principles of Insights® Discovery to some people in a nonprofit leadership program. If you’re not familiar with Insights® Discovery, it’s essentially a program that helps people understand themselves better and, by extension, understand others. Insights® generally helps improve communication, team dynamics, self-confidence, and leadership.

I’ve seen some amazing transformations with inter-person communication and understanding in many organizations, including the nonprofit leadership program I mentioned earlier. When I went to their “graduation party” this past week, I was stunned. The 30 or so individuals that I coached had markedly improved their communication and teamwork and they attributed it to Insights®. In fact, the entire room was decorated with the four Insights® colors (which represent the four distinct “color energies”–more on that HERE).

When the presentation started, many references were made to Insights® and how it has helped their team work together harmoniously to achieve great things. Now, THAT is what every Insights® Licensed Practitioner (like myself) likes to hear!

Could your workplace use a little more cohesiveness and communication? It could be that Insights® Discovery is just the ticket! Let’s talk.

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Three benefits that Insights Discovery brings

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Gift bags in the color of each person’s leading color energy

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Insights-themed masks

The group!

The group!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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