Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why Your Presentations Suck -- and How to Make Them Much Better

Michael Baldwin says we’ve been in a “downward spiral” since the first “spectacular” presentations were made with cave drawings 32,000 years ago.
Since then, we’ve been subjected to boring slides cluttered with too much information and confusing or irrelevant graphics delivered by someone who is clueless as to why the audience appears to be sleeping with their eyes open.
Now Baldwin, a former executive with Ogilvy & Mather New York and winner of numerous copywriting awards, is providing a blueprint of how even the most technical or complicated information can be delivered so it grabs an audience’s attention –and boosts the presenter’s career.
“When you’ve got a lot of data or information to present, don’t feed it to the audience with a firehose. You have to allow them to get their head around things,” he says.

That means you can’t cram information on a slide and then just read it to the audience. The slide is supposed to enhance the presentation, which means you shouldn’t use boring stock photos or charts that fail to convey a message clearly and quickly, he says.
In his new book, “Just Add Water,” Baldwin gives suggestions on how to provide more simple, compelling presentations.
The key, he says, is to start with what you’re going to do to drive your audience from point “A” to point “B.” That means you’ve got to look at things from the audience’s perspective and then determine where you want to take them.
It all begins with what he calls a “crystal clear objective,” such as convincing the CIO that putting citizen development into play will help IT cut its application backlog, or your boss that your department deserves new equipment.
To accomplish that, you need to focus on:
  1. A story.  As a presenter, you may get anxious when it comes to making a presentation. But Baldwin says that by sharing the things you’re passionate about, you can eliminate nervousness and help make a strong connection to the audience. “Stories have the power to plant situations, scenes, characters and images in people’s minds that they’ll never forget,” he says. If you don’t have a personal story that applies to your presentation, Baldwin suggests talking about subjects that you’re passionate about.  (One of Baldwin’s clients, a World War II history buff, used a battle story to illustrate a point.)
  2. Ensuring the logic flows. Slides must flow logically from one to the next, each building upon the one before it. Baldwin suggests beginning with index cards, and until that’s done, “don’t go anywhere near a computer” and try (read the rest here)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Research Proves Your Reputation Matters with New Colleagues

If your grandmother always told you that your reputation matters a great deal in this world, she wasn't just offering some old-fashioned advice that doesn't matter anymore.

According to a new study by Stanford GSB professor Adina D. Sterling, it appears that if you start a new job with well-regarded qualifications and credentials, then your ability to form a network within that organization is going to be high. Further, you'll build an even stronger network if you've got someone inside the new organization who knows you and is singing your praises.

This contact who is willing to vouch for you is very important, as the study finds that his or her endorsement can sway others even if you don't have a lauded reputation coming into the new company.

Still, the study found that if you have have poor work reputation, no inside endorsement is going to do you much good. Further, the contact you know at a company may even try to dodge much interaction with you since they don't want to tarnish their reputation by helping you.

When you're really going to face an uphill battle at a new company is when you not only don't have a reputation coming into a new job -- but you also don't know anyone within the new company that can speak for your talents, the study finds.

The research suggests that the old saying “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” isn’t always true, Sterling says. “There are real times when it matters how good you are and whether people know it,” she says.

The moral of the story is this: Your professional reputation and network always matter. That's why you need to:

  • Keep your LinkedIn profile current. Don't let a week go by that you haven't posted a comment in a group discussion, or refined your profile to showcase new talents or even highlight volunteer activities.
  • Post helpful content online. Through your own blog, through Facebook or even through Twitter, post content that others in your professional world will find valuable.Answer questions when you can from others in your industry, or direct contacts to helpful sources.
  • Grow your skills. No matter where you are in your career, always challenge yourself. If you continue to self-educate, your reputation for learning and self-improvement will help alleviate any missteps you make along the way.
  • Work on relationships. Social media is a great way to make initial contact with others, but you have to reach out through phone calls, emails or face-to-face meetings to take a relationship to the next level. If you want others to vouch for you, you're going to have to invest time in the relationship.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How to Spur Employees Into Being More Loyal and Productive

You might remember a time when you knew not only the names of everyone in your department or company, but details about their likes and and dislikes. You knew who hated coffee, who played in a jazz band and who was training for a marathon.
Nowadays, however, you’re lucky to remember an employee’s last name. Your department or company is growing and that means there are a lot more people on the payroll. You don’t have time to sit around chit-chatting with every employee, and why should you? Isn’t your time better spent ensuring the business is successful so they all have jobs?
The problem is that as you grow more distant, so do your workers. They begin to feel like you don’t care about them, so why should they care about you or the company? That soon leads to productivity slowing, competitiveness dwindling – and employees leaving.
“In order to get loyalty, you must give it,” says Dov Baron, a leadership expert and author of “Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.” “The biggest mistake companies make is not understanding that.”
Current statistics show that employees are now changing careers every four years and the average millennial worker is staying put only 1.2 to 2.4 years. Baron says that when leaders can show more loyalty to their workers, employees are more likely to stay around for up to eight years. Since it can cost up to two times what a departing employee earns annually to replace him or her, it can add up to significant savings if employees stick around longer.
Baron says it’s possible to develop “fiercely loyal” teams that are more productive and competitive when scaling a business, but first it begins with dispelling the notion that a paycheck or bonuses are enough to keep workers loyal and focused on helping you grow the business. That loyalty, he emphasizes, comes from showing they’re more than a commodity that can be gotten rid of just as easily as tossing out the garbage.
Of course, many start-ups and even large companies argue they would never do such a thing, and claim they value every worker. They may hang posters on the workplace walls, proclaiming the company’s culture is focused on breaking down silos and valuing input from everyone. The truth, however, is that the leadership doesn’t really follow through, so silos still exist. It’s no surprise, Baron says, that employees aren’t loyal, get frustrated and leave.
If you’re starting to see greater turnover – and realize that in scaling the business you’ve lost touch with who employees really are – then it’s time to make some changes. While it may seem overwhelming to add one more thing to your “to do” list, Baron says it’s not that difficult to get started. For example, if you want to make a change this week, here’s what you need to do:
  1. Sit down. That’s right – take a load off. Disconnect from whatever devices are nearby and instead just connect with yourself. Why are you in the business? Why are you a leader? Why does this job or this company matter to you? This is where you think deeply about the real purpose behind why you do what you do.
  2. Think about challenges. What obstacles (read more here)

Monday, September 21, 2015

10 Ways to Improve Interpersonal Communications at Work

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about how we all need to take more responsibility for writing better emails.

Now I think it's time to look at a more difficult problem -- interpersonal communications. You know, when two or more human beings actually talk to one another?

In his book, "The 27 Challenges Managers Face," author Bruce Tulgan gives a "code of conduct" that sets a standard for interpersonal communications.

If you do nothing else today, print this out and post it on your office wall, and get others to do the same.

Here's what we all need to do:

1. Listen twice as much as you talk.

2. Never interrupt  or let your mind wander when others are speaking. When it's your turn, ask open-ended questions first and then increasingly focused questions to show you understand what the other person has said.

3. Empathize. Always try to imagine yourself in the other person's position.

4. Exhibit respect, kindness, courtesy and good manners.

5. Always prepare in advance so you are brief, direct and clear.

6. Before trumpeting a problem, try to think of at least one potential solution.

7. Take personal responsibility for everything you say and do.

8. Don't make excuses when you make a mistake; just apologize and make every effort to fix it.

9. Don't take yourself too seriously, but always take your commitments and responsibilities seriously.

10. Always give people credit for their achievements, no matter how small.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are You Offering Too Much -- or Too Little -- Praise to Your Team?

There has been a lot written about the Millennial generation that grew up hearing “good job!” for nearly every achievement in their lives, whether it was coloring within the lines or winning a Nobel prize.
The result is that many of us pepper our speech with “good job!” at work, feeling that as a leader we must continually offer affirmation to everyone we see in a day. While we may believe that this is much better than being stingy with praise, the result is often the same: Workers are not motivated.
The key, experts say, is thinking about how and when is the best time to give praise. Time it right, they say, and you’ll reap the rewards of a more productive and engaged workforce. Do it wrong, and you could eventually drive team members into looking for another job.
Specifically, research results from more than 200,000 participants used in “The Carrot Principle” found that managers who were seen as giving effective recognition had lower turnover, achieved better organizational results and were seen as stronger in goal setting and accountability. Further, employees who worked for managers they believed gave them the proper recognition had better morale than those who didn’t give their managers such high marks.
Dale Carnegie Training suggests that the praise must be genuine in order to be effective. As a leader you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really worth making a big deal out of someone simply completing a task — or is offering praise simply a way for you to tick it off your to-do list?
At the same time, offering praise that is too generalized can backfire, and may even seem insulting to the employee because you don’t seem to truly notice what he does. Avoid saying “good job” in passing and instead offer something like, “Thank you for helping us out; you were a major factor in the success of this ______,” the training center suggests.
In “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” authors Gary Chapman and Paul White say there are different ways that people feel appreciated, such as:
  • Words of affirmation. Employees who value such words feel on top of the world when they are verbally praised for an achievement or accomplishment. “The more you can ‘catch’ a staff person doing a task in the way you want and you call attention to that specific task or behavior, the more likely that behavior is going to occur again,” the authors write. They also explain that you can focus on positive personality traits that will help such workers play to their strengths. “One of the things I admire about you is that you’re always optimistic,” is a way to show appreciation to an employee.
  • Quality time. These employees feel the most appreciated when you stop by and say, “Tell me how things are going.” While some managers (read more here)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Why People Don't Like Your E-mails

Writing emails during a workday is about as common as breathing. We often do it without thinking, firing off a missive and hitting "send" as quickly as possible so we can get onto the next email.

The problem is that our emails often cause more problems than they solve. If they're not clear and concise, you can pretty much guarantee a)it's going to require five more emails to help the receiver understand what you want; b) the receiver will ignore the message because it's so confusing; c) the wrong information will be sent by the receiver because he or she is just taking a guess at what you need.

If you would like to eliminate the time you spend on emails, then the solution starts with you. You have to take responsibility for sending clearer messages that will eliminate confusion and inefficiency.

Here are some ways you can start sending better emails today:

1. Remember that it's not a kitchen sink. Don't include lots of diverse information in one email, or request information on several different subjects. It's better to have one clear path in your email. Your subject line should be specific, and so should your email message.
2. Tell them why they should care. Always let your receivers know as soon as possible why they should care about the message. (If you can't provide the reason, maybe you shouldn't be sending the message, hmmm?) Once you clearly outline how it affects them, they're much more likely to read the message and take required action.
3. Use the inverted pyramid. Begin with the most important information first, with the thought that many readers will quit before the end. The least important information should be at the bottom in any email. This will help ensure that your reader absorbs the critical information first.
4. Edit, edit, edit. Never send an email that you haven't proofed. Look for ways you can shorten sentences, make requests clearer and cut unnecessary jargon.

What are some other ways to send better emails?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Get Better Opportunities at Work

No one sits at work and says to anyone who will listen: "Please give me the worst assignments you can think of. Make sure to dump your boring work on me, and don't forget to make sure I miss any new opportunities."

Yet, that's what happens to many workers. One day they look around and realize that other people are working on exciting -- or at least interesting -- projects. They're not stuck in an endless loop of mundane projects and inane assignments. They wonder how their job became such a dead end.

If you feel some changes need to be made to improve your job and get more interesting work, you need to:

  • Get out of your comfort zone. You may have gotten stuck with boring tasks or bad assignments simply because you're, well, physically stuck. You don't get out of your chair or leave your work station unless it's to visit the bathroom or vending machine. It's time you started walking around, hand delivering messages to colleagues or chatting with someone in another department when you see them in the hallway. Start asking questions about their work, since this is one of the best ways to spot a new project that may be headed to your department. The networking will pay off in other ways, as your friendlier attitude gives others a chance to learn of your skills and enthusiasm for various work. When it comes time to pass out assignments, your name is more likely to come up.
  • Break out of your rut. Another way to find more exciting work is by learning a new skill, such as a new software program. Work can become boring when it's not interspersed with something that offers you a challenge. At the same time, your willingness to learn new things on your own signals to leaders that you're up for new challenges. Don't forget to let your boss and colleagues know that you've developed new skills -- and are willing to use your new abilities to help them.
  • Pitch in. Don't just sit by and wait for someone to offer you better assignments. Offer to help a colleague who is working on a great project, even if it means doing some more mundane tasks in the beginning. The point is for others to see you as someone they can count on and a great team member. Your willingness to help a colleague may help that person mention you for the next great project.
Even though you may not be able to get out of all the tasks you don't like, the more you are proactively seeking to excel in other areas, the more others will see that your talents are better used elsewhere.

Photo: linkedin

Monday, September 7, 2015

How to Keep Your Best Employees From Leaving

It seems like nearly every day a new lawsuit is launched by a company accusing another employer of poaching workers. The valued employees have walked out of the door, lawsuits charge, and taken  company knowledge to the competitor.
While the courts will decide whether any laws have been broken in these instances, it should be a wake- up call for any employer, no matter how big or small.
That’s because companies that don’t work to get their employees to stay may just see them go. So not only do they risk losing key information to a competitor, they lose the time and talents of workers who are costly to replace – often up to 20% of that person’s salary.
In a new book, “The Stay Interview,” author Richard P. Finnegan says that any company that wants to hang onto its talent needs to ask one question: “What can I do to make your job better?”
Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics, a company specializing in engagement and retention, says that once this question is asked, it can get the ball rolling. An employee may address how he or she would like to work on more interesting projects, for example. On the other hand, the manager may also get a blank stare, a shoulder shrug and an “I don’t know,” response.
Whatever the reply, managers need to probe deeper as they begin this retention process, he says.
“Even if the person doesn’t seem to have an answer, say you want to talk again in three days,” he advises. “What you’re trying to do is the get the person to trust you, and it’s a process.”
That means bosses can’t send an email requesting an answer to the question or be impersonal. “This is a conversation,” he says.
Finnegan is aware that many managers will balk at having such conversations, and he’s heard many of the excuses before. From “I don’t have time,” to “to “We already collect employee data.”
But that won’t wash, and many managers know it. If they’re asked what really matters most to Bob or Heather, they’re likely to give superficial answers and be unable to offer specifics because they’re relying only on surveys or analytics. The deeper probing through listening sessions is never attempted by such managers.
Until a leader spends the time asking individual employees what will keep them engaged and productive in their jobs, they’re only making educated guesses on what engages their workers. That’s why having such a conversation is key, Finnegan says, so that you can track which employees are in danger of walking, and which ones are thriving and productive.
Finnegan says that managers can begin stay interviews by asking questions such as:
  1. When you come to work each day, what (read more here)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

5 Reasons Your Team Hates Data -- and How to Get Them to Love It

When leaders start to talk about data to non-technical employees, reactions can vary.
Some employees will immediately break eye contact, thinking about how to fake an aneurism to get out of the room. Others will nod agreeably, but seem to have a glazed look in their eyes as if they’ve just entered a parallel universe. Still others will get agitated or angry, sort of like 5-year-olds who have just been told they will now only get broccoli for dessert.
Still, it’s how leaders react that will make the biggest difference when it comes to using data in today’s workplace. If leaders choose to ignore warning signs from employees showing they clearly only think of data as painful, then they will be wasting time and resources.
But, if leaders do their homework and are ready to make a clear-cut and easy-to-understand case about why data can truly help employees do their jobs better and easier, then they’re going to make important headway.
So, here are some of the reasons why employees dislike data and how to change their minds and get more business insights and value out of it:
  1. It’s not accessible to everyone.  Some employees may have had experiences that required them to learn a new tool or system and then – poof! – that changes and they can no longer access key information. So, they start doing things manually, which is always slower and adds to the potential for mistakes. But if leaders can offer data that are easily refreshed and approachable for everyone, then those with lesser skills are no longer locked out and employees feel comfortable abandoning their manual processes. They trust the data will be user-friendly and accessible when they need it.
  2. They don’t understand the strategy behind it. If you want employees to embrace data – and be happy about it – then you need to explain why it’s important. Help them understand it means  their commissions will be paid in a timely (read more here)

Photo: steamfeed