How to Avoid Being Misunderstood

misunderstoodDo you feel misunderstood by your direct reports or colleagues? Do they think you’re an ogre when you’re really fun and fair? Or maybe they think you’re a pushover when you’re really purposeful and committed.

There might be a disconnect between what you intend and how you’re coming across. Here are four ways avoid misunderstandings by closing any gap between your intentions and your actual impact on others.Get clear about what you want to happen. Conventional wisdom says that we are on auto-pilot about 95% of the time. Which means we are consciously thinking about or aware of what we are doing very little during the day.

  • Get clear. Know what you want to accomplish before you go into a meeting, have a conversation with a co-worker, or work on a project. Ask yourself what you want to get out your time spent.
  • State your intentions. Based on the outcome you want to create, state your intentions out loud, especially when interacting with others. By doing so when going into a meeting or conversation, you are not leaving to chance how the other person will interpret what you say or do.
  • Ask for the other person’s perspective first. As a leader, when you speak, your words carry weight, and that weight often shuts down others who are further down the food chain. Additionally, listening first will give you a chance to tune in to the other’s perspective.
  • Seek to reconcile different perspectives. With a clearly stated intention and after sharing perspectives, you will have a better understanding of how the different perspectives overlap or don’t. Revisit your intention again, and ask for how you can move forward by using what most important from each perspective.

By consciously focusing on a clear intention and being open with your perspective, you can create conditions that allow others to “see” you for who you are.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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Effective Presentations: The Foolproof Five

I had the pleasure of interviewing communications coach Beth Noymer Levine. She graciously allowed me to share the following blog post, excerpted in part from her book, Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World, www.jocktalkbook.com.

 

team; working in groups; leading groupsMore often than not, what makes people freeze before a big presentation is the nagging question, “Am I even doing this right?” and its companion, the fear of embarrassment.

I’m always taken aback when smart, successful, otherwise confident people reveal that they’re afraid to make a fool of themselves. I would never have guessed in most cases.

Trust me when I say that no one is “a natural” at speaking and presenting; even the best of the best think about it, worry, and work at it. Regardless of your style or your comfort level with public speaking, it’s wise to consider some core guiding principles for yourself as a speaker.

Below are five foolproof principles of being an effective speaker or presenter that will give you the confidence to know you’re “doing it right,” and will leave your audience quite impressed.

The five principles are:

  • Audience-centricity
  • Transparency
  • Graciousness
  • Brevity
  • Preparedness

Taken together, they send two really important messages about you to your audience:

  1. That you care about and respect them.
  2. That you’re real and therefore credible and trustworthy.
Audience-centricity

It may be a new term to you, yet it’s probably the most fundamental of the five principles. Simply put, audience-centricity is making the audience’s interests and experience a top priority in the planning and execution of a talk.

Too many speakers prepare and deliver what is important and interesting to themselves without enough careful considerations of their listeners. Being audience-centric is a mindset shift that encourages the speaker to prepare and deliver content in a way that will matter to and resonate with the audience.

Transparency

It is exactly what you think it is; it’s about being open and direct — yes, and honest, too. Transparency is critical. It contributes to the levels of sincerity and trust that are accorded to you by your audience.

Graciousness

It is the art, skill, and willingness to be kind-hearted, fair and polite. As motivators and influencers, love and peace work far better than anger and war. Speaking in positives rather than negatives leaves lasting, favorable impressions.

Brevity

Brevity is a crowd-pleaser and needs no further introduction.

Preparedness

Preparedness speaks for itself as well. The unprepared speaker is the one who is most likely to be long-winded, not to mention unfocused. While the mere thought of preparation might bring feelings of dread, the feeling of approaching the front of the room ill-prepared is far worse – and it shows.

Success is in the eye of the beholder – your audience. Show care and respect, be real, and your audience is much more likely to listen, like you, and be impressed.

 

Beth Noymer Levine

Beth Noymer Levine – Communications Coach at SmartMouth Communications

SmartMouth Founder and Principal Beth Noymer Levine is a Communications Coach who is emerging as one of the country’s leading voices on how to prepare and deliver speeches and presentations that actually work for both the audience and the speaker.

New Beginnings: How to Gain Credibility in a New Role Without Slaughtering Sacred Cows

Whether you were recently promoted to a leadership position for the first time, or you are a seasoned leader hired into a new company, stepping into a new role is exciting . . . and it can also be fraught with landmines and interpersonal dynamics you never dreamed of. If you transition to your new role thoughtfully, you increase your odds of making a great impression on others, avoiding critical errors that come from underestimating the power of corporate culture, and laying the foundation for getting results later on.

The biggest tendency is to jump right in to show how good you are, regaling others with your knowledge or solving problems that you can’t wait to address. Unfortunately, those who have been around awhile might see things different and might even take offense at all of your new-fangled ideas.

Unless you were hired into a desperate situation with the expectation that you would clean house from Day 1, you would be wise to ease in to your new role and be a bit circumspect. For the first three to six months, here are 6 things to do or keep in mind when you are the new kid on the block:

Sacred Cow

1. Take it slowly. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to “fix” everything you see that is wrong (in your eyes) all at once (unless that’s why you were hired). Let people get to know you first. Slowing down also allows you to more fully understand why things are the way they are. If you rush to make changes, you’re sure to step on toes that you can’t afford to offend.

2. Clarify what will make you “successful”. To do this, look at what would make you successful based on the role, what your boss is looking for from you, and what you want to personally accomplish long- and short-term to be successful.

3. Make your boss shine. Need I say more? It’s always good to make your boss look good, so what can you do in your new role to support your boss’s agenda?

4. Foster a relationship with each direct report. The better your team knows you as a person, the easier it is for them to put your ideas and suggestions into context. Get to know what’s important to them and for their careers. They will already have trust in you and know you have their best interests at heart.

5. Don’t risk being labeled an “outsider” from the get-go. Align with the company’s values and behavioral expectations. Figure out how things get done. Get a feel for the sacred cows, pet peeves, superstars, and outsiders. In short, adapt to your new surroundings. You can point out when and if the company doesn’t “walk its talk” later once others know and trust you.

6. Observe and uncover issues without solving them immediately. Especially in your area of responsibility, get to know other players, learn about current and on-going issues, and just listen and observe. Spot patterns, learn the history of things, and tune into where there are alliances and feuds. Quietly hypothesize about root causes and possible solutions.

Sometimes less is more, and that seems to be apt when starting a new role (and especially in a new company). Ease into your job in the first 3-6 months and let the company adjust to you before you attempt to impact the new culture. Once you are a better-known quantity and accepted as part of the group, you’ll have the credibility to voice your observations, concerns, and solutions and have them taken seriously.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman challenges leaders to lead like nobody’s business by knowing themselves, bringing alignment to their businesses, and communicating clearly and powerfully. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Daily Communication Habits Boost Leadership Presence and Impact

team; working in groups; leading groupsThe fact of the matter is that most leaders spend a tiny fraction of their time giving huge public speeches. Instead, leadership happens moment by moment, person by person, both through words and deeds. There are hundreds of moments like these every day. Each moment sends messages that can ripple throughout your company, with impact that you may or may not intend.

If  you want a better match between your intent and impact, to earn the right to lead, and to demonstrate true leadership presence, it makes sense to work on how you show up in each of these moments throughout the day.

Specifically, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What messages do I send based on HOW I spend my time?
  • What messages do I send based on the people WITH WHOM I spend my time?
  • What messages do I send based on how I allocate resources?
  • Am I authentic when I speak, or do I come across as manipulative and even dishonest?
  • Do my deeds match my words and what we say our company stands for?
  • Who get my praise? my criticism?
  • What behaviors or results am I tolerating that I shouldn’t be tolerating, and what messages am I sending as a result?

How well you present at those “big speeches” is something to consider. However, it’s not even close to what really makes a difference — when you communicate every minute of every day as a leader.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to become to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Be a Credible Leader

In last month’s blog I wrote about four areas for leadership focus.  This month I zoom in on establishing your credibility.

Over the past century or two, the expectations of what a leader is and does has shifted and that applies to how leaders established credibility.  Used to be that a leader was credible if he was “large and in charge” as set forth in the Great Man Theory.  To establish credibility in previous centuries, an individual (usually male) needed to dynamically leave his mark on the world through personal power, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom.  From the top, down, he directed, commanded, provided answers, intimidated, kicked butt and took names, and was always deferred to by everyone else.  In short, the leader sat atop the pyramid in a hierarchical paradigm borrowed from the military.

Today, a shift has and is still occurring that is questioning the heavy reliance not only on top-down hierarchy but also the traditional tough-guy leadership traits that established a leader’s credibility.  Sure. In a crisis, expediency pays.  You absolutely want a leader who can take control of the situation and go into command and control mode to alleviate a big threat quickly.  Yet on a day-to-day, non-crisis basis, the credible leader of the 21st century is one who entices others to follow through competence, transparency, inspiration, and being forward-looking.

Are you reflecting these 21st century aspects of credibility?

Competence.  In the past and for today’s leader, a large component of credibility comes from being competent. Competence is being qualified for the job.  It comes from knowing your stuff and being intelligent enough to ask the right questions if you don’t.  Increasingly, the competent 21st century leader is also emotionally competent, meaning he is aware of his emotions, can regulate them, and is aware of how others are feeling.

Being competent does not mean the individual is an expert in all things related to the business or of managing his emotions; rather, it means the individual is adequately knowledgeable and skilled and has a basic knowledge and ability with most things that come his way.  Competence is often an issue when someone is hired or promoted through political wrangling, nepotism, or favoritism.

Transparency.  People don’t like being manipulated or lied to.  That’s why leaders who are open and honest with their employees earn high marks.  Openness and honesty keeps everyone together as a unit, sharing the same experience.  It also, provides the leader an opportunity to teach employees about his thought process, including underlying assumptions.  In addition to being instructive, transparency can invite the sharing of alternate viewpoints.  The back and forth exchange of ideas that comes from such openness helps forge a stronger bond amongst the group and furthers the leader’s believability and credibility.

Inspiration.  To be inspiring, you don’t have to be Martin Luther King, Jr.  It does, however, mean that you can help others see that they are part of something bigger and can accomplish great things in concert with others.  This is about helping employees see the “big picture” and their place in helping the grand plan come to fruition.  Neurologically, by way of mirror neurons, followers’ brains light up in many different areas when they interact with a leader who can enthusiastically connect them with the big picture.  This increases the chance that employees will be open to new ideas and new emotions as they scan the business environment for options to attain a corporate goal or vision.  And that is exactly what a leader wants to inspire employees to do.

Forward-looking.  Finally, today’s leader must have the ability to scan for future trends, opportunities, and threats.  The marketplace changes so quickly that leaders must have an eye on what is coming down the pike – good, bad, different and indifferent.  This gives the organization advanced notice allowing it to adapt and stay relevant and in business. The leader who is uncomfortable with change or unaware of trends will react slowly if at all, failing to catch the next wave that will keep the business afloat.  Because followers rely on the continuation of the organization, the credible leader is in tune with what’s happening now as well as with what is likely coming in the future to ensure the longevity of the organization.

Are you credible enough to lead?  Take our assessment to find out today.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it:

Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: www.bethstrathman.com.

4 Leadership Focal Points to Guide the Way

I haven’t met a leader yet whose day is not full of information, fast-paced action and distractions.  At any given moment, you are bombarded with input from multiple directions. To appear “in control” and competent, you feel you have no other choice than to react to the situation demanding you immediate attention.  Now!  Yet, when you reflect on your day, you don’t seem to have gotten anything done.   You are exhausted.  How can this be?

The problem is failing to focus on what’s important.

Here are four tips for keeping your leadership eyes focused in the right direction:

1. Focus on making a difference with your employees.  Employees admire leaders who have a positive impact on others.  It shows that you understand that you are not the center of the universe and that you are here to serve others.  So, maximize the impact of you have on others by shedding your Superman cape.  Instead of you taking responsibility to react and solve the problem or provide an answer, coach those around you to think through possible answers or responses to the issue.  It not only shows your employees that you care enough to take the time to include them in the solution, but it builds capacity in those around you and relieves you of shouldering all responsibility.

2. Focus on being credible.  According to Kouzes and Posner, the one characteristic employees look for in their leaders is credibility.  You don’t have to be perfect, but to build and keep credibility, you must demonstrate competence, meaning you can cogently converse about what’s going on in your organization and industry and deliver on what you say.  You must be forward-looking to help your organization adapt to changing market conditions.  You must be transparent and honest, so others will believe what you say over time. Finally, you must be inspiring, meaning that you can communicate to others how they are part of something bigger than themselves and can achieve great things.

3. Focus on a common vision.  Crafting a vision for your organization takes work.  The REAL work starts when you start making that vision a reality.  Communicating the vision in ways others can relate to and support takes constant effort and stewardship.  Keeping the vision in focus for others is a daily task that leaders must do.  You must “walk the talk” and live the vision by being an example and use that vision to constantly frame the work done in your organization — everything from how a receptionist greets visitors to the principles used to make big decisions about products and services.

4. Focus on learning.  Be open to looking at things in new ways.  Be curious as you approach new technologies or even problems. Ask questions.  Always seek to improve yourself by getting feedback on how you’re doing.  And view the workplace as one, big scrimmage field where people can take chances, practice and fail, and learn from their mistakes.

So, at the end of the day, ask yourself:
Did I make a positive difference with at least one employee today?
Was I credible?
Did I further our mission and vision?
Did I learn something new today?

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: http://www.bethstrathman.com.

8 Reasons Your Employees Want to Break Up With You

February is the month we think about our relationships. While you might not go so far as to call them your “valentines”, do you have good relationships with your employees? Having good relationships with your employees increases productivity and retention of top talent. Leaders who don’t foster good relationships with employees will find themselves rejected and abandoned like a jilted lover.

Beware of these eight reasons your employees might want to break up with you:

1. You’re Incompetent. Employees want a competent leader who knows how to communicate, sets clear expectations, addresses all relevant issues (even tough ones), gets results, and holds everyone accountable. In short, they want a good leader. If you’re not at least average in these areas, you’ll see higher than average employee turnover rates for your industry as employees say, “It’s just not working for me anymore.”

2. You’re Not Credible. (Note: there is a difference between lacking credibility and being “incredible”.) Employees want a leader who says what she means, means what she says, and does what she says she’s going to do. These admired leaders have character and integrity. Employees notice when a leader’s conduct is inconsistent with her stated values and when promises are broken. In that situation, employees will dump you for someone else as soon as something better comes along.

3. You’re Not Personally Committed to the Organization’s Mission and Goals. While you ask your direct reports and other employees to give their “all” at work, do you put the effort and time into achieving your company’s goals? As a role model in your organization, you of all people should be working hard. To do this, use your time wisely and put in the planning it takes to fulfill the requirements of your leadership role. Otherwise, your employees will break it off saying, “I’m not saying it’s you; but I know it’s not me.”

4. You’re Rigid or Stuck. While “resilience” might be an over-used, trendy buzzword right now, your employees don’t want to be involved with a boss who can’t roll with the punches. Employees want a leader who can bounce back from failure, who can cope with the disappointment of an unrealized goal, while renewing their sense of hope and re-energizing them as the company gets back on track. If you can’t bounce back when you fall, your employees will break it off and find someone else they can admire on this score.

5. You Are Focused On Your Own Needs First. Do you seek personal ambition over putting the needs of the company first? When you egocentrically put your own desires and ambitions first, your employees understand that you are simply using them to enhance your own status instead of the company’s brand. Employees provide better value to customers when they feel they matter and their leaders care about their well-being. If you’re a “user”, employees will kick you (and your company) to the curb.

6. You Are Not Committed to Employee Success. Do you think your employees should just know what to do with little guidance from you? Employees want to know how they can improve. A good leader understands that talent must be continually developed for the good of the organization. Leaders who don’t, lose bench strength quickly. Without giving specific and frequent feedback and without supporting employees to gain skills, you might just miss out on some of the best employees you could have ever asked for. They will be the “ones that got away”.

7. You Don’t Admit to Your Mistakes. Can you admit when you are wrong? Or do you stubbornly insist on being right? Leaders who admit to their mistakes show humility and courage and emphasize that taking risks may not always lead to the ideal outcome – and that’s OK because you learn something along the way. Leaders who admit their mistakes teach employees that failure is a part of trying and can be more helpful than success.

8. You Need to be Liked Instead of Respected. This is the romantic equivalent of being co-dependent. These leaders curry favor with employees in the hopes of making a friend at the expense of their duty to do what’s right for the company. Of course, it’s ideal to be both liked and respected, but if you have to choose one, choose respect. Employees will see you as unbiased and consistent (fair) if you do. And you’ll respect yourself in the morning.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: www.bethstrathman.com.