“A skilled communicator,” “A true leader,” “A creative problem solver.” Imagine how great it would be to know people talk this way about you when you’re not around. How about: “High potential” “My first choice” “A great motivator”?
What would it take to achieve this? Know-how? Definitely. Experience? Absolutely. But whether you’re a team member, individual contributor, or leader, your knowledge and expertise will take you only so far. After that, it’s the way you work with people that matters most: how you handle conflicts, how well you lead, listen and communicate, your skill at negotiation and persuasion.
Morris Communications’ seven Breakthrough Skills© equip and empower leaders and employees to work at their full potential and break through to new heights of success:
- Conflict Management: Keep cool in hot situations
- Confident Communication: Sharpen your writing and presentations
- Active Listening: Hear the possibilities
- High Possibility Thinking: Set great expectations
- Leadership and Teambuilding: Unify and motivate your team
- Practical Persuasion: Create the win-win
- Skillful Self Promotion: Boost your reputation for excellence
April 25, 2013 Featuring content from our workshop, Creative Conflict, Key to the New Productivity.
Featured Breakthrough Skill: Conflict Management
Into every life some sandpaper people must fall. These are the coworkers, employees, or customers who constantly test your patience, demand more from you than you’re willing to give, or just generally make you crazy.
Be grateful for them, because their abrasive behavior is actually helping to smooth out your own rough edges or sharpen your dull ones.
If you’re impatient by nature, being forced to diplomatically deal with a someone who operates at a slower pace softens that impulsive edge.
If you’re the laid back, wait-and-see type working with a driven, Type A person, your own muted ambition is being sharpened as you learn to keep pace with this mogul.
Each in their own way, your sandpaper people are making you stronger, more flexible, cooler, faster, more strategic, more relaxed or maybe more aggressive.
Challenge yourself to remember this when they make you want to scream, and you will take a quantum leap toward your Conflict Management breakthrough.
April 15, 2013 Featuring content from our Make Yourself Indispensable: 10 Things Successful People Do Differently Lunch & Learn program.
Featured Breakthrough Skill: High Possibility Thinking
Imagine you’ve worked hard to finish a project for one of your clients, and last week, you sent them a report of your findings. Today, you’re meeting with the client team. The only item on the agenda: your report.
You’re confident the report is solid and excited about the chance to discuss it with the team and hear their reactions. Your notepad is open to a fresh sheet of paper, and your pen is poised.
“Okay, I’ll go first,” someone says. “Here’s what I don’t like about it,” followed by a litany of complaints and criticisms of your work.
Then, it’s someone else’s turn. She begins with, “Well, in addition to what he doesn’t like, here’s what I don’t like,” and then adds to the list of criticisms.
Slowly, painfully, they make their way around the table, each taking a turn finding deficits in your report. You’re more distressed and embarrassed by the minute.
Finally, it’s over.
“Thanks,” you say numbly. “I’ll get right on those changes.”
You’ve just been the victim of a team of deficit finders. Be careful not to assume they mean harm; many of us were trained to think that finding mistakes and problems is the sign of a job well done. But this approach can backfire, as in this example where you leave the meeting knowing plenty about what they didn’t like and don’t want and nothing about what they did like and do want.
Ironically, the team may actually like what you’ve done overall, but their style of providing feedback doesn’t communicate this, and they haven’t really given you much you can use to improve your next attempt. You have the input you need to get rid of what they don’t like, but not to amplify or add to what they do like.
There is an alternative, though, and it’s within your power to bring it about. It’s asset-based feedback, or you might call it constructive feedback: helpful comments and reactions that you can build on. You can set yourself up to receive this type of feedback simply by asking asset-based questions at the start of the meeting or conversation. Here are some examples based on this scenario:
“From experience, I know the best way to decide next steps is for us to talk about what you liked in the report and what you’d like to see more of. Would you please tell me:
- Overall, what elements of my approach were most effective?
- Would you identify for me the two or three concepts or findings you liked most and then tell me why?
- What was the highlight of the report from your vantage point, the most important or valuable finding or idea?
- What new research or additional information would you like to see in the next draft?
- How can I expand on what I’ve done to give it more impact or make it
In addition to setting an upbeat tone for the meeting, we bet your deficit finders will be relieved that you’ve taken charge and helped them help you. Plus, they’ll leave the meeting feeling more positive, though they may not know exactly why.
April 3, 2013 Featuring content from our Opportunity is Knocking: How to Change Your Mind About Change Lunch & Learn program.
Hold tight to your “impossible” dreams
“Start your own business?…
“Close that huge sale?…
“Run the Marketing Department? …
“Earn a PhD?…
…do you know how hard that is?”
Sometimes it seems as if all you need to do is mention an exciting, ambitious goal, and suddenly the naysayers come out of the woodwork.
Some may have good intentions. They may be trying to save you from the disappointment and frustration of what they believe is a sure failure. They may even have personal experience with the quest you’re embarking on. Having tried it and failed, they want to help you avoid the pain and heartache they experienced.
But ask anyone who’s achieved the “impossible,” and you’ll find that a positive outlook and self-belief were as critical to their victory as any action they took. These assets gave them the unshakable confidence they needed to reach the goal.
Piero Ferrucci once wrote, “How often—even before we began—did we declare a task ‘impossible’? And how often have we construed a picture of ourselves as being inadequate? A great deal depends on the thought patterns we choose and on the persistence with which we affirm them.”
Believe in your impossible dream and be determined to do whatever it takes to reach it.
When you hear…
“No one’s ever done it before,” think: So, I’ll be the first. I’m a trailblazer!
“People have tried that and failed,” think: But I haven’t tried it yet, and I won’t fail because I will make it work.
“It can’t be done,” think: All I needed for inspiration was one example of someone who succeeded at achieving this dream to know that it can be done. And I’ve got
Maybe even more important, be sure to surround yourself with Trusted Colleagues and Mentors who will encourage and inspire you.
March 18, 2013 Enjoy this week’s Coach’s Corner featuring content from our Creative Conflict, Key to the New Productivity workshop.
Featured Breakthrough Skill: Conflict Management
A conflict-free workplace is in trouble. Something’s not right. People are biting their tongues, swallowing feelings, dismissing disappointments, or collecting all of them somewhere and setting up a breakdown or a white hot blow up.
Think of the employee who never complains about anything, week after week, month after month. No matter what gets piled on, no matter what disasters he faces, everything is “just great!” Until one day, during the team’s busiest season, he just up and leaves, with no explanation, maybe even no job waiting, perhaps taking trade secrets or business knowledge with him and leaving you in the lurch.
Or the person described as someone who “almost never gets upset, but when he does, you better run. It’s just terrifying.”
A workplace without conflict is not a highly functioning one, and may even be missing an ingredient essential for progress: creative tension between people that over time, lifts each person, each relationship, each team, and then eventually the whole business to higher ground. With the right mindset and a little skill, conflict can be a truly powerful tool for building better understanding, stronger boundaries, clearer communication, greater respect, and even closeness on a team.
That usually gets people squirming. If we’re in a workshop, there’s a whole lot of harrumphing, eye rolling, arm crossing, and “Oh please” mumbling, “You just don’t know where I work.” But that’s just the point. We’ve been at this a long time, and we’ve seen conflict in every shape and size. We’ve tussled. We’ve won. We’ve lost. We’ve bargained hard. We’ve given in. We’ve walked away.
And we’ve watched clients do all of the above too.
What all these experiences have taught us is that in the wake of conflict, there are always new possibilities, fresh starts, and progress.
Someone hits a sensitive boundary or pushes a hot button. An issue smoldering under the surface sparks to life. An event triggers an ongoing difference of opinion about how to work out a problem. A poor communication style that makes every request sound like a demand rears its head.
The process of conflict isn’t fun. But once the dust settles and you stand up, you take a look around and realize:
The confrontation gave you a deeper understanding of your coworker’s point of view.
Conflict clarified your boundaries and improved a relationship in the process.
Adversity stretched you, helping you grow and gather strength.
Conflict sparked a deep commitment to a cause or an idea that emboldened you to fight hard for what you believe is right.
Having to compromise made you more flexible and taught you patience.
Whether we’re talking about individuals, teams, or even entire companies, conflict challenges people to rise to an occasion and in the process, sharpens people’s vision, gives them strength and a new fire inside, and develops character. Breakthroughs are not far behind.
March 4, 2013 Enjoy this week’s Coach’s Corner featuring content from our Words that Work© Lunch & Learn program.
Featured Breakthrough Skill: Confident Communication
We once worked for a client—the Executive VP of a large construction and mining company—who would twirl his index finger in the air during meetings as a signal for us to move things along faster.
After this happened a few times, we noticed a pattern: he did this whenever we were describing how or why we accomplished something. If we were telling him about the process of achieving a goal, for example, how we “reviewed, designed, surveyed, visited, interviewed, met with, calculated, projected” etc., he’d get impatient, and we’d get our signal.
“Just bottom line it for me, would you?” he’d often say. So we learned that when we talked to him, we needed to tell him about results, using verbs like “improved,” “enhanced,” “built,” “achieved,” “accomplished,” “filled gaps,” or “satisfied.”
The twirling finger disappeared for good.
Lesson learned: for an executive, results trump process. Here’s what they’re thinking:
- “Don’t give me lots of detail. I want a summary and a good recommendation. Just be sure you can back it up if I need you to.”
- “Highlight only the most important information for me, and tell me why it’s important. The rest is your job.”
- “What does all this mean for our business? How does it affect us long term?”
- “How will this affect the people who keep my business running?”
- “What’s next? And what about after that?”
So get to the point when communicating with leaders: not what’s been done, but what’s been achieved; not the activity, the success.
February 18, 2013 Enjoy this week’s Coach’s Corner featuring content from our Words that Work© Lunch & Learn program.
Good Writing Matters
Featured Breakthrough Skill: Confident Communication
If you’ve ever been frustrated by a poorly written screenplay—as in, “What a waste of ten bucks!”—you know that good writing matters. Think about how much better you feel about your ten bucks when a movie is so well written that you’re transported to another time and place, and you end up really caring about the characters and the story’s outcome.
As career communicators, when we hear someone say that quality writing doesn’t matter, let’s just say we have a strong reaction. No one cares! the thinking goes. As long as you make your point, you’re fine. Don’t be a perfectionist. It slows you down! Okay, yes. Communication has gotten more casual in the last five years or so, and that’s good. It fits the faster pace, the multi-tasking, the mix of media we use to get our message across, and in general our more relaxed business style. Still, there’s a difference between causal and careless, between relaxed and rambling.
Remember how you felt about the last rambling email you got, or the last unfocused presentation you had to sit through? It could have uncovered the secret of the ages, but you’d never know. Neither would anyone else who read or listened to it, because the quality was so poor that no one paid attention. What’s worse, you probably thought of the author as an unorganized thinker who doesn’t really know his topic and who did the unthinkable: he wasted your time.
Concise, well-organized messages and presentations create the opposite impression. The author looks polished, smart, and confident, on the “fast track” and an “up and comer.”
Reader first, results based, and motivating
From the shortest note to the longest report, from a simple blog entry to a 40-page website, the best business writing is reader first, results based, and motivating. It has a purpose, it connects with people, and it convinces them to do something.
That’s important for what it says but also for what it doesn’t say. It says nothing about perfect wording or grammar. Nothing about impressing readers with brilliance or wit. Just three things: 1) put the reader first, 2) focus on results, 3) get something done. Great business writing—and really all great communication, period—is this simple.
And yes, it does matter, because something very important happens when you approach communication this way: determined to give readers a message they can sink their teeth into, facts they can rely on, and ideas they can respect and act on with confidence. Your reputation and your career get a powerful and lasting boost.