Talent Development 6 Electronic Communication

August 6, 2020

The very first area of personal capability in the ATD Certification Institute Content Outline is “Communication.” Within that category, the second skill area reads: “Skill in applying verbal, written, and/or nonverbal communication techniques.”

Personally, I would add the concept of electronic communication to that bullet, because we continue to communicate more through electronic means than other ways.

Years ago, I saw many professionals make critical errors when trying to communicate online. That observation caused me to write a book on the topic way back in 2006. The book was titled “Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online.” Most of the content is still valid today.

Here are a few of the key points I made in the book.

Use the right mode of communication

Every time we attempt to transfer information through communication, we have a choice of how to do it. For some topics, a “Town Hall Meeting” format will be best. Other times a phone call is the most appropriate, while for other situations an email would be the best choice.

The first rule in communication is to consider what mode to use for a particular situation. For example, if you are having an “e-grenade” battle with another person going back and forth with escalating rancor and distribution, it is a wise strategy to pick up the phone or walk down the hall to change to a less inflammatory method of communicating.

Email is not conversation

Because of the pattern of entering data and then getting a response before adding more information, we often think of email messages as if they are a conversation. But email communication is far different from conversation.

When we are face to face with another person, we have the opportunity to flex our tone, cadence, content, and message based on the real-time body language we observe on the part of the recipient.

In email, we have no ability to modify the message based on how it is being interpreted by the receiver.

We just take our whole unmodified message and put it in a box and plop in into the lap of the receiver. Never think of email as conversation. It is so much easier to get into trouble in email versus face to face communication.

Less is more in emails

To communicate at all, it is necessary for the recipient to not only open the note but to actually read the whole thing and absorb the meanings you put into it. If you have a reputation for sending long, rambling, poorly-formatted emails, you may think you are communicating, but if people just don’t bother to open your notes, then you are in error.

You probably know someone who when you see their name pop up in your inbox, you say something like, “Oh no, not him again. I don’t even want to open this note because it will be upsetting to me and take me 15 minutes to unscramble.”

You know other people who you welcome in your inbox, because you anticipate their note will be well formatted BRIEF and easy to digest. Make sure you are perceived more like the second person than the first.

I have two rules of thumb to keep out of trouble.

Rule 1 – Your email should be able to be read and interpreted in 15-30 seconds. If there is more detail necessary, consider a different form of communication or use optional attachments.

Rule 2 – Make sure that when the reader opens up your note, he or she can see the signature at the bottom of the FIRST page. The reason is that if the text of a note goes “over the horizon” to more pages to come, it puts the reader off because the person does not know how long this note is going to be.

Subject and first sentence set the tone for a note

Before a person opens your note, the only bits of information are your name and the subject. Make sure the subject is clear and unambiguous.

Then, when the person opens up the note, the very first few words will actually set the tone for the entire note. Make sure you start off on the right foot with the reader.

It is best to avoid having the first word be “You.” Reason: regardless of the content to follow, the tone of the first word puts the reader on the defensive. This is especially true if you would follow the pronoun with an absolute (eg “You always,” or “You never”).

Be cheerful but not banal. For example, “Hi George” is a good start, but if it is followed by “I trust this note finds you and your loved ones feeling well” you have lost credibility. Also, while I am on the topic of banal, please do not write at the end of your note, “and remember we will all get through this together.” It was old several months ago.

Emails are permanent documents

Once you hit the send button, you have lost control of the information. It can go to anyone else at any time in the future. When we speak to others, the half life of the information is a few days to a week, but when it is online, the information is available forever. Try to mostly praise people online but coach them verbally.

If you use electronic means to criticize other people, there will likely be significant damage control necessary, as we witness by the tweets of some famous people.

Accomplish your objective

When you communicate online, you have an objective in mind. You want to obtain a positive reaction to your note. When you proofread your note before sending it (which is always a best practice) ask yourself if this content and format is going to get the reaction you wanted.

Write when you are yourself

We have all made the mistake of flashing out to others in email when we are upset. It is sometimes difficult to hold back, but it is always wise to send out notes only when you are in good control of all your faculties.

These are just a few of the points I make in the book. They seem obvious, but in the hub bub of organizational life we sometimes forget these basic ideas. That habit works to our disadvantage.

The preceding information was adapted from the book, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders.



Leadership Barometer 41 Mentor Power

March 9, 2020

If you do not have at least one active mentor, you are missing a lot. In my experience, having a strong mentor at work made a huge difference in my career.

Also, turn the logic around and you should be mentoring at least one other person, hopefully more than one.

Even in my ripening old age, I am still gaining benefits from the lessons and ideas planted in me by my mentor when I was younger.

There are obvious benefits of having a mentor in an organization. Here are a few of them:

1. A mentor helps you learn the ropes faster
2. A mentor coaches you on what to do and especially what to avoid doing.
3. A mentor is an advocate for you in different circles from yours.
4. A mentor cleans up after you have made a mistake and helps protect your reputation.
5. A mentor pushes you when you need pushing and praises you when you need it.
6. A mentor brings wisdom born of mistakes made in the past, so you can avoid them.
7. A mentor operates as a sounding board for ideas and methods.

Many organizations have some form of mentoring program. I support the idea of fostering mentors, but the typical application has a low hit rate in the long term. That is because the mentor programs in most organizations are procedural rather than organic.

A typical mentor program couples younger professionals with more experienced managers after some sort of computerized matching process. The relationship starts out being helpful for both people, but after a few months it has degraded into a burdensome commitment of time and energy.

This aspect is accentuated if there are paperwork requirements or other check-box activities. After about six months, the interfaces are small remnants of the envisioned program.

The more productive programs seek to educate professionals on the benefits of having a mentor and encourage people to find their own match. This strategy works much better because the chemistry is right from the start, and both parties immediately see the huge gains being made by both people.

It is a mutually-supported organic system rather than an activities-based approach. It is pretty obvious how the protégé benefits in a mentor relationship, but how does the mentor gain from it?

Mentors gain significantly in the following ways:

1. The mentor focuses on helping the protégé, which is personally satisfying.
2. The mentor can gain information from a different level of the organization that may not be readily available by any other means.
3. The mentor helps find information and resources for the protégé, so there is some important learning going on. The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.
4. While pushing the protégé forward in the organization, the mentor has the ability to return some favors owed to other managers.
5. The mentor gains a reputation for nurturing people and can thus attract better people over time.
6. The mentor can enhance his or her legacy in the organization by creating an understudy.

Encourage a strong mentoring program in your organization, but steer clear of the mechanical match game and the busywork of an overdone process. Let people recognize the benefits and figure out their optimal relationships.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Body Language 69 Worried

February 28, 2020

Did you ever stop and think how you can tell if a person is worried by his or her body language? Actually, there are several gestures that are indicative of a person who is anxious or worried.

A worried person will often wring his hands together. Usually the person is not even aware he is doing it, but when you see that kind of nervous rubbing the palms together, you should look for more clues to see if the person is truly worried.

Often a worried person will bite the side of one lower lip. A person biting the center of the lower lip is usually trying to keep from speaking, but if she is biting the side of her lip, it normally means worry. She may also bite a finger as shown in the attached picture.

See if you observe a “far away” or “absent” look in the eyes. A worried person is thinking thoughts of bad things that could happen, so the focus on current activities or people is often not very strong. Also, watch the eyebrows to see if they are pulled to the center or slightly raised. Look for the appearance of two vertical lines above the bridge of the nose.

A worried person will often fidget and shift weight a lot while sitting. It is a nervous habit that takes hold involuntarily. He may massage his temples as if he is trying to focus his thoughts on a problem. He may fold his hands as if in prayer or even put his palms together and touch his lips with the tips of his fingers. All these gestures are meant to help the person focus on the problem at hand.

When you see a person exhibiting a cluster of these gestures, you can be pretty sure he or she is worried about something. You may be able to help by asking an open ended question or two. Just recognize that the person may not want to verbalize the root cause of her anxiety. In that case, the best you can do is be supportive of the person and let her know you are there for her when she wants to talk about it.

In a work setting, there are numerous triggers that can cause anxiety. The most significant trigger is worry that the person’s reputation has been damaged, which can cause all kinds of stress at work. The person may even be anxious about losing her employment.

If she is agreeable to dialog about her feelings, try to uncover the source of her anxiety. She may feel that her boss has soured on her, or it might be an interpersonal issue with another worker. It could be that she is way behind on an important project or feels she might be in danger of losing a customer.

One particularly tricky situation is when a person is anxious but has no idea why. It is just a general uneasiness that is distracting to the person. Again, if the person will chat about it, you may be able to help draw out the source. That is what friends and associates are for.

We all experience worry at certain points in our professional and personal lives. If we are aware of the physical signs pointing to this emotion, we can help each other at a critical time. We can also help ourselves by observing our own behavior and be more conscious of our emotions so we have the opportunity to take corrective measures sooner.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Leadership Barometer 24 Your In vs Out Ratio

November 11, 2019

There are lots of ways to characterize the skills of a leader. Identifying your “in versus out ratio” is a really simple one that is pretty accurate.

If your organization feels like a revolving door for the best talent, then you should consider it a sign that you need to improve your leadership.

High end leaders seem to attract the best resources to work for them. They get a reputation based on treating people the right way, and developing them to be their best.

When people are fully engaged in the work, they have more fun and tend to tell others about their good fortune.

When there is a culture of high trust, people feel highly valued and tend to stick around.

Poor leaders tend to annoy people working for them. They may be erratic, pig headed, ruthless, dull, tyrants or countless other adjectives that make people want to get away from them, if they can.

The word spreads about these leaders as well, so the poor reputation becomes a telltale warning sign for would-be employees.

If you wish to know the caliber of your own leadership, simply make note of how easily you attract and retain the best talent. If people line up to join your team there must be a reason. Word has gotten out that working for you is rewarding and even enjoyable.

That is not to say there is no turnover in the organizations of great leaders. The best leaders care about the development of their people and seek to provide growth opportunities that sometimes mean leaving the fold.

My observation was that the best leaders tended to be generous with sharing resources, while poor leaders liked to hoard their talent and milk them all they could. That trend did not stop the best talent from getting fed up and seeking a way out.

Looking at the workers under a poor leader, you typically see a revolving door where people enter all excited and get out within a year or two after experiencing the frustrations that go with the daily behaviors that trash trust and enthusiasm.

To gauge the quality of your leadership, simply keep track of this ratio and compare it with others in your organization. If your ratio is healthy, that means you are probably doing things right.

Some churn in order to develop people is a good idea, but if people are anxious to get out of your organization, then you need to improve your leadership.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.


TRUST: The New Corporate Currency

March 19, 2016

There was a seismic shift in the status of trust in corporate life that took place as a result of the recession of 2009.

Before that time, trust and transparency were seldom mentioned in the lineup of the things that are important to US Corporate reputation. After the recession, most informed adults put both trust and transparency at the very top of the list of things important for corporate reputation.

This represents an unprecedented shift in the perceived importance of trust and transparency in organizations. Let’s take a peek at some data.

In 2006, the top three items mentioned by respondents to the Edelman Trust Barometer Survey were:

1) Quality products and services 53%,
2) Attentiveness to customer needs 47%, and
3) Strong financial performance 42%.

By the 2011 survey, The top three items were:

1) Transparent and honest practices 83%,
2) Company I can Trust 83%, and
3) High Quality products or services 79%.

Note that as of 2016, financial returns are as important as they always were. It is just that Trust and Transparency show up as being far more important than they were before the recession in terms of corporate reputation.

Put another way, without Trust and Transparency, good financial returns are not going to be sustainable.

For the past decade Richard Edelman and his team have surveyed people around the world. They interview about 5000 people a year. These are college educated professionals from 25 to 65 years old in the top quartile of income and who are savvy about domestic and world events.

The data are then analyzed for trends and reported with detailed analysis. The study is about the things that are driving trust in all major countries. The focus of the survey is on three main sectors, Business, Government, and NGOs (Non-government Organizations).

For the business sector in the United States, these data ring out a signal that is loud and clear.

Edelman put it this way: “Trust, absolutely, is now a product for companies to pursue and pursue avidly. Why? Because it enables company performance and stock price to prosper. We see an interlinking of share price and trust.”

He notes a dramatic correlation between his Trust Barometer and the S&P 500 index over the past several years.

If your company is not measuring the level of trust and actively managing it, you are not focusing on the right things. Seek, through education, to understand these variables and how to obtain and maintain high trust in your organization. It is extremely powerful.

 

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.


Your Reputation: A Dozen Ways to Protect It

May 17, 2010

Few things in life are as important as your reputation. What people think and say about you when you are not present has everything to do with your level of happiness and success in this world. I think everyone knows this intuitively, yet many of us sometimes behave as if we are not cognizant of that aspect of life.

We can all improve our lot in life if we remain alert to how other people interpret our words and actions. For example, if you are known as the person who is fun to be with and work with, you will have many more opportunities in life than if your reputation is one of a cantankerous individual who is difficult to please and a general pain to be around. If the impact of one’s reputation on the quality of life is so well understood, why is it so easy to get caught up in the moment and do or say things we regret later?

I believe we just forget that there are no time outs in life, and the camera is rolling every minute. That leaves us vulnerable to lapses which are hard to erase later. A damaged reputation takes 3-4 times as much energy to repair than a good one takes to maintain.

Here are some simple ideas that can help preserve your precious reputation. All of these are common sense, but unfortunately for some people they are not common practice. It is wise to remind ourselves of these simple, but profound, rules daily.

1. Follow the Golden Rule. We all learned this simple rule in our youth. I believe it is one of the most tangible ways to demonstrate Emotional Intelligence. There is a flaw in the Golden Rule if you take it literally in every situation because some people may not appreciate being treated as I would like to be treated. I think this is a small point. Someone invented a corollary to the Golden Rule called the Platinum Rule which is, “Treat other people as they would like to be treated.” I have a bigger problem with the Platinum Rule than the Golden Rule because treating people like they would like to be treated in a business environment would mean giving out huge raises, lots of additional vacation, not very much work, and in general be detrimental to the organization. Sticking with the intent of the Golden rule is really just treating people the right way.

2. Be positive. To keep a good reputation, try to have your ratio of positive to negative remarks be as high as possible. You may not even realize when you are coming across as a negative person because the words you use to frame conversation are coming from your own paradigm, so they appear to you as affirmative statements. It is a good idea to test how you are coming across by either listening to yourself on a audio tape or reading some of your own e-mails to identify if you are habitually coming across as a positive or negative person. Believe it or not, it is hard to tell if you have not specifically checked this out. Reason: people with low Emotional Intelligence are the ones with the biggest blind spots.

3. Always do more than your share. It is curious that in most relationships both individuals believe they are constantly going more than half way toward making the relationship be successful. Yet the truth is, it is impossible for both people to consistently give more than their fair share. If you have a reputation for being generous with your time, talent, advice, caring, money, and other resources, people will gravitate toward you instinctively. You will have a reputation of a caring doer rather than a selfish slacker.

4. Admit mistakes. It is impossible to go through life without making numerous mistakes. If you are smart enough to readily admit when you have done something wrong or stupid, you will draw others to you because of your genuine nature. If you are duplicitous and try to duck any shortcomings, you will have the reputation of being phony or just plain dishonest.

5. Be kind. Individuals who have empathy for others gain a reputation for kindness that pays off in reciprocal kindness they receive from others. People do favors for other people they like.

6. Listen more than you speak. If you have the ability to hold your own tongue and sincerely appreciate the input of others, they will share many valuable ideas with you. But if you are always first to talk or a person who is constantly stating opinions as if they are hard facts, people are going to instinctively turn you off. Don’t be a bore.

7. Be humble. Nobody likes a perpetual braggart. Remember that your opinion of yourself is transparent to other people. If you put yourself on a higher pedestal than everyone else, you will have a tough time making and keeping friends in this world.

8. Be reliable. Build a track record of doing what you say you’re going to do. When you follow through with intentions precisely, you gain the stature of one who can be counted upon when things really matter. When circumstances prevent you from meeting commitments, immediately inform the other person of the delay and the new estimated due date.

9. Learn to read body language. The majority of input about how others see us does not come from the words they use when talking with us. It is the tone of voice and body language that are the telltale signs of how that person views us. It is imperative to understand the subtle facial and body position movements that allow you to read the situation and modify your behaviors if you are on thin ice.

10. Offer and ask for assistance often. By showing a willingness to help other people and also a willingness to take advice from others about yourself, you build a collegial relationship with them. By helping others, we are really helping ourselves to a great extent.

11. Operate from a sense of values. Know your own spiritual sense of what is right and follow that beacon in everything you do. It really helps if you have a set of written values for yourself. You can share these with other people, and it will let them know you operate from a solid footing in life.

12. Keep your ear to the ground. Keep attuned for evidence of how other people are viewing you. This means being alert to the subtle cues and learning to read between the lines. If you suspect there is some dirt being spread about you that is unflattering to your reputation, it is up to you to take responsible action to protect that precious element of your life.

These twelve things, when applied daily in your dealings with others, can go a long way to preserving your reputation. There are numerous other things we could add to this list. The point is that your reputation governs how successful and happy you are in the professional world. Guard it carefully using the ideas listed above.