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Why Corporate Training?

In a word: productivity.

Productivity is the key to every organization’s success. It is the golden thread that binds together all businesses regardless of their industry, corporate culture, or business model. Without productivity, everyone will fail.

And productivity is exactly what corporate training improves.

As companies fight to maintain and grow market share, they are faced with the classic problem of business: where to allocate resources. We live in a world of limited resources and every decision requires a tradeoff. There are a thousand things that would be nice to do, but what if you can only do 5?

This is where corporate training can increase your options.

Imagine a company with 100 employees that wants to increase their strategic scope. Traditional thinking says that they will need to hire a new team of, say, 5 people to handle the new work.

But what if you could increase the productivity of your existing workers instead? What if, instead of hiring 5 new employees you increased the productivity of your existing 100? If you increased each employees productivity by just 10% over the course of the year, that would equate to hiring 10 new employees.

But the reality is even better.

Think of all the things that you avoid when you choose corporate training over hiring new people.

  • You don’t need to pay taxes or health insurance
  • You don’t have anyone new to manage
  • You can fire your corporate training firm at any time

Best of all, rather than paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to assimilate your new people, you can pay a fraction of that to contract out to a training firm.

In short, corporate training firms increase your strategic options by increasing the productivity of your talent pool.

  • We can help you enter new markets by equipping you people with new skills
  • We can cut your costs by reducing waste and conflicts among your workers
  • We can increase your revenues by increasing the output of your sales staff

There’s a reason that all the Fortune 500 companies use corporate training. There are too many benefits for it to be ignored.

If you’re interested in learning how Bob Ramsey Seminars can help you, contact us. We would love to put together a training package that increases your productivity and helps you achieve your strategic imperatives.

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Leaders: Engage!

There is one critical action that every leader must do; engage their followers. One can have great skills, decades of experience, be the industry expert, and be published in all the elite journals but if they won’t engage their followers, they’re not leading well.

Engaging people is being connected to those you lead and meeting their needs.  Taking time, listening, understanding, and caring for them.  Just telling them what to do isn’t enough.  If they can do their jobs without you, they still need leadership.  People need someone to be invested in their success.  That is the essence of leadership.  That’s why mom and dad are such powerful leaders.  They generally are invested in your success.  At least you wish they were.

I think most leaders fall into 2 major categories.  The first are those who believe they’re job is to manage systems.  They use people to make those systems work well.  This group sometimes neglects people except as a means to an end.  Big mistake.  The other category are those who understand they’re job is to lead people who will work the systems.  This second group understands people are key.

Can this be learned?  Can leaders be trained to engage people more?  I think making a decision then having a system to engage people are two important steps to leading people.  Decide now to treat people better than they deserve.  Be a giver and be patient with people. If you are in a position to be a positive influence in someone’s life-do it.  Then develop a system (using a calendar) to make sure you don’t neglect people.

I was in a leadership position years ago and subtly but noticeably started giving less, especially to the “problem” people.  I just gave less than my best if I gave at all.  The results were insidious and damaging.

Decide now to be a better leader.  Absolutely be the expert about your field and on the systems.  Also know that the people on your team can make or break all your success in the future.

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High Performing Teams are like Chocolate Brownies (Kind of)

Here’s my best recipe for chocolate brownies: 3 eggs beaten, add 1/2 cup of canola oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 1/3 cup sugar and beat well. Blend in 1/2 cocoa then 1 1/4 cup flour. Mix well and add about 1/3 cup of pecan halves. Then pour into an oiled glass 9″ pie pan and bake at 350 degrees for 24 minutes. Cool slightly, dust the top with powdered sugar, and eat them warm. They’re great! (Just don’t eat too many)

How are they like teams? Well, the wonderful combination of fat, eggs, sugar, cocoa, flour, and nuts make a yummy treat that surpasses any 1 or 2 of them by themselves.  It’s the unique combination of very different foods that create something very unlike any single ingredient.  Try eating any one alone and I prove my point!

High performing teams are a wonderful combination of people with very different skills and abilities who combine to make something special.  But few teams intentionally combine people like that.  Most managers are tempted to hire people with a very narrow criteria – people like themselves.  They think they can do fine with that philosophy. The truth is they just can’t get extraordinary results when everybody is exactly like them.  They think they’re making brownies and they end up with noodles or chocolate candy or scrambled eggs!

I can’t blame them.  I’m also tempted to team up with people like myself and enjoy the comfort I have with like-minded individuals.  It’s uncomfortable to work with people who communicate and think differently than I do.  And if you’re the boss, why bother!?  Who needs the stress and miscommunications that come from hiring like that?  All we need are talented, ethical, hard-working people, right?  Who needs people who are…different?

Well, if you want good brownies you need to combine some unlike ingredients.  Cocoa doesn’t really want to blend with that egg/sugar/vanilla mixture.  It resists.  Then when adding the flour there’s more resistance.  Keep stirring!  When it heats up, don’t give up!

Have the courage and wisdom to assemble teams that combine people who are skilled but very different.  Don’t trust the results that come from just your type.  That will limit your success.  Adding different ingredients may be a difficult task, but your results will reward your patience and persistence.  Enjoy!

Bob

P.S.  If you ever want to talk about high performing teams, give me a call.  If you give me some notice, I’ll bring the brownies.

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What the CEO wants you to have:

I ask executives frequently if they want their people to have written goals.  They almost always answer “yes”.  I think most workers would assume the CEO doesn’t care about their goals.  He/she must be thinking about other, more noble (or financial) thoughts than what the average employee desires in life.  Well, they’re wrong; their goals are important to the boss.  Here’s why:

Good leaders care about the personal goals of the workforce because they know it makes them better.  Having goals gives them a reason to be their best in the workplace.  Every good boss would love a company full of people who are working on themselves and using their jobs as a tool to improve their value in the marketplace.  People without goals usually don’t make as good employees.

If you’re a boss, use this truth to raise your productivity.  Encourage your people to set goals, write them down, and work on them often.  Help them set several goals in all areas of their life and get excited with them about reaching those goals.  Give them a vision on how their job can contribute to getting what they want in life both financially and otherwise.  Remind them how ambition is frequently rewarded and how all successful people set goals.  Is this appropriate?  Yes!  If workers don’t want to go there with you, that’s ok.  It’s not part of the job description and won’t be counted against them.  But many employees would welcome this coaching from their boss.

Most CEOs realize that they’re in a relationship with the workforce.  They serve the needs of their employees and the employees serve them.  And like all relationships, investing in the other party is one great way to strengthen and get more out of that relationship.  An important part of leading people is helping them making wise decisions and them having goals benefits you both.

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Read Your Way to Success

Without a doubt, reading good books can accelerate you success as fast as anything.  The world’s greatest minds are found in books and these are relatively cheap but for the discipline to read them.  All of the greatest people now and in history have been avid readers of great literature.  Our country was founded by men who were familiar with the classics and applied what they knew to design our very resilient government.

Most of the best habits that create success are suggested by books.  Staying disciplined to make personal change can be encouraged by reading good books.  I don’t know anyone who has achieved great levels of success without reading.  “Readers are leaders”, I have heard many times and believe it true.

So what books and how many?  First, resolve what NOT to read.  Most newspapers and magazines are just printed to be entertainment and have little beneficial content.  Magazines about your field printed by professional organizations are exceptions to this and usually have very valuable articles about your profession.  Other than that, stick to proven and classic works.  As for amount, try to read every day.  30 minutes every morning would be ideal.  Remember, your mind is under attack constantly from substandard philosophies and inoculating yourself daily is a great idea.

Google “top personal improvement books” and you’ll get a fairly good list.  One of my favorites is Brian Klemmer’s “If How-To’s Where Enough, We Would All Be Skinny, Rich, and Happy” which isn’t on most lists.  Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is another one that I wish all Americans would read.  I love the Bible.  From there, ask for recommendations from well read people or your mentor.  I always take note of book recommendations during good speeches.  That usually serves me very well.

As you read, you’ll find your knowledge and wisdom grow and your world will grow too.  Your challenges will find more answers and more opportunity will appear on your horizon.  You’ll sit at the feet of the world’s top teachers and be the beneficiary to all their thoughts.  All for the discipline of reading.  Wow!

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Delegating pros and cons

Delegation, when done well by managers, produces higher productivity, higher morale, and greater workplace efficiency. However, two common situations prevent many managers from succeeding at this skill as well as they could.

First, managers usually know that the task they’re delegating will likely NOT be done as well as they could do it themselves. They will probably experience an immediate decrease in productivity by delegating that task.  Not good.  When environments are demanding, managers may feel too much pressure to take time for proper delegating.  A long view is needed to invest in employees by delegating.  Counsel them too, to deserve that investment.

Another barrier is the fear of being made irrelevant by delegating tasks central to one’s key performance. People tend to identify with their job tasks especially when they become proficient at them. Intentionally giving away those tasks, especially to someone who may eventually be better at it than you, can be intimidating. Managers need to courageously decide to do what is best and give up some of their power for the sake of the greater good.  I have talked to many managers who longed for their old tasks, long ago delegated to others.  Remember in your new role, you’re expected to go on to management tasks.

Delegation is more about growing people than it is reducing your own work load.  It communicates that you trust someone enough to give them higher responsibility for key results.  It provides a context for coaching, accountability, and training.  Learn the art and skills of wise delegation and reap the benefits of greater leadership and effectiveness.

Stay in the fight

girl boxerYears ago I was the leader of a volunteer organization that I led with all my strength.  We all really believed in the mission and worked hard to achieve our goals.  But, like most groups of people, there were a few complainers mixed in there.  And they quietly complained, and criticized every imperfection.  They worked to monopolize my time and spread their bad thinking through the group.  I fought to resolve the issues but they fought back and they wore me down.  So I retreated into safety.  I stayed at my post, but chose to disengage.  I’m ashamed to admit that I was a coward and the mission suffered.

Leaders need to stay in the fight.  Fight for what’s right.  Fight for your people and fight for margins.  Fight for the mission and profits.  Fight against ignorance and fight for fairness.  When we quit fighting, we quit leading.  It’s wearying but that’s our job.

Of course I’m not talking about actual fist fighting or even leg wrestling.  I’m saying that we need to stay away from the safe easy places of our jobs and move toward the difficult, risky places.  As leaders we need to use our power not for ourselves and our comfort but to fight for goals outside ourselves.  Higher goals than ourselves.

I’d like to encourage you to stay in that fight.  If you feel squeezed from all sides, keep fighting.  If you’re doing all the good you can but you can’t seem to move the bubble, keep fighting.  If everyone else gives up on an important initiative or person that you believe in, keep fighting.  You won’t always win.  But fight anyway.

 

Leadership isn’t easy.  It requires courage and humility.  Many of your decisions will be difficult.  Negotiations may become tense.  Hours may be long.  People will tax your patience.  These take their toll.  We become fatigued.  Didn’t Vince Lombardi tell us: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all”?

So, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Pull yourself up and get ready to fight.  Because your mission and your people are counting on your leadership.  And your leadership requires some fighting.  Bob R

Don’t Retaliate

 

retaliation

Unfortunately, people are going to hurt you.  Sometimes they will hurt you intentionally and sometimes without intention.  Co-workers, supervisors, direct reports, suppliers, even trusted advisers will do or say things that harm or abuse you and make you want to retaliate.  But don’t.  Taking the high road and just letting it go will be your best course almost every time.  I know because I’ve done it both ways.

Just this week, one very important supplier of mine backed out of our contract.  And it made me angry.  This is going to cause me lots of stress, time, and revenue.  Something inside me really wants to get even.  It almost seems righteous to retaliate because they caused me loss for their random and selfish reasons.  And my revenge wouldn’t be obvious.  I would find some way to very cleverly cause them trouble without them even knowing what happened or why.  But I would know and get some pleasure from that.  Or would I?

Actually several bad things happen every time I have chosen to retaliate.

  1. I know I have chosen the low road.  Retaliation is the action of small, petty, undisciplined people.  Strong people don’t need to get even.  And I chose to be weak.  That really disappoints me and the disappointment makes the revenge sour, not sweet.
  2. People find out.  Sometime in the future, my reputation will be tainted when someone discovers my “bad” behavior.  They might agree with my reasons for revenge or they might not know the circumstances but someone usually finds out how I reacted.  And they look at me as vulgar, not gentlemanly.
  3. Bad habits form.  Every time I choose the low road on anything, that’s the direction I’m headed.  Whether it’s anger, revenge, laziness, negativity, or any other bad action, it could become normal very easily.  I could be stuck for years in a bad habit that daily works against my success.
  4. My role as a leader would suffer.  Actually this is just restating the first 3 reasons.  People don’t respect or follow someone who gets even.  When I ask someone to do something challenging, they’re going to think…”why should I do Bob’s way, he’s no leader”  It’s hard enough to be someone worth following without giving people reason to distrust me.

The much better route is forgiveness.  Unconditional forgiveness benefits me more than it helps them.  This supplier likely won’t even know that I make that choice.  But choosing to release them of all responsibility helps me look for bigger opportunities.  It opens my mind up to think like powerful people.  I start thinking of myself as invincible.  If this supplier can’t hurt me, who can?  If all my customers reject me I can find more.  If I can control my revenge, I can control anything.

If I can forgive any rejections I have peace like a Zen master and power like a Jedi Master. And letting it go takes much less time.  I don’t have to plan an elaborate plan to make them hurt which could steal lots of my productive time.

Now here are 2 challenges that may haunt you with this “no retaliation” lifestyle”

  1. You might go it alone.  Being the only Zen Master at your organization is a real possibility.  Can you behave well when all others are throwing stones?
  2. Old habits are hard to break, new ones are hard to make.  You might retaliate so quickly now that it’s subconscious.  Can you make a decision and stick to it?

Try letting go of retaliating in all your business and personal relationships.  Be the strong person instead of weak.  And send me an email letting me know how that works for you. Bob R

Every decision is a profit decision

There are times when we know that our business decisions carry huge consequences.  Other times we think our actions are not so significant but they are.  Actually, every decision by every person in the organization affects the bottom line.  Those pennies really do make dollars.

I spoke to a CEO last week who told me they lost an existing piece of business and their profits went UP.  That’s right.  They lost revenue which made the bottom line improve.  The margins were so low on this customer and the overhead was high enough that it was a money loser for years.  Losing that business actually helped their profits.  Somebody made some poor decisions along the way.  Either the original sale had too little margin, or the costs weren’t estimated correctly, or something happened along the line to make this a money loser.  Was this done intentionally?  I doubt it.  Did they not pay attention when the deal was put together?  Maybe.  Or more likely is that the deal was marginal when it came together but the was “adjusted” for some reason to make the deal a loser.pile-of-hundreds

Those adjustments might be things like customer demands, creeping overhead, or other increased costs.  And all these explanations involved people making decisions that caused those loses. That is the point here.  All of our decisions are profit decisions.  Hiring one more person is a profit decision.  We hope to increase our profits with that one more person.  At least you should think that way.  Don’t hire someone just because you “need help”.  The project you need help with must either add to revenue or reduce costs.  If it doesn’t do that, it’s stealing from profits.  Every person you hire, every item you purchase, every piece of paper or paper clip you buy or maintain is a profit decision. Every minute that you spend at work is too.

Everyone needs to think this way.  If the business leader doesn’t constantly assess revenue versus costs, the business will soon be gone.  But if everyone in the organization keeps this in mind, we all move as a team toward good decisions that lead to profits.  We help each other make better decisions and hold each other accountable to common goals.

Sales: your sales feed our entire system.  Volume means nothing if margins are thin.  Cherish your good margin customers.  Don’t take deals if they don’t meet margin standards.

Management: Keep an eye on the numbers and watch for trends.  Your budget is a guideline which needs to be used until it’s adjusted.  Be prepared to give substantive  feedback on the present and the future.

Everyone:  Your employment here is based on your ability to bring value.  Every decision made by you and your coworkers move this organization either toward success or oblivion.

Let’s all make good, analytical, and thoughtful decisions.  That will add to profits and bring you success instead of inching you and your company toward irrelevancy.  Bob R

Optimistic AND Reliable

fishing-1

Many people have that wonderful tendency to be optimistic which makes them encouraging to be with.  It seems that often those same people have difficulty being reliable.  Others are not so optimistic, but you can take always count on them.

But where is that rare person who is both optimistic AND reliable?

Beyond doubt, both optimism and reliability are admirable qualities.  Both are great behaviors that benefit others.  Either of these makes you easier to work with, live with, and easier to follow.  Let’s examine why.

Optimism is a proven versatility function.  People who exhibit high levels of this, statistically get promoted faster, lead teams better, and coach others better.  They inspire and energize people and projects by helping others dispel fear and doubt. Of course, you can be inappropriately optimistic.  If there is bad news to deliver and it’s your job to deliver it, don’t sugar coat it.  It might not be understood.  But many other times, even in the face of disaster optimism works well.  I understand the band continued to play on the deck of the sinking Titanic.

Reliability means we can take them at their word.  When they say they’ll do it, it’s as good as done. They are a known quantity.  They keep their commitments and they might even keep commitments that other people make.  They make true the lies that others make and correct the mistakes that others make.  Their words and actions are consistent.

So why do these two behaviors rarely show up in the same person?  Are they mutually exclusive?  Well, almost.

Optimism depends on believing in conditions that doesn’t yet exist.  That’s the definition of optimism.  They might have very good reason to believe those conditions will exist and we hope they do.  But many times even though the chances are less than 100%, the optimist believes in them anyway.  I highly suggest you believe in your children.  Whether they are 3 months or 30 years old, it benefits you and them if you believe they will choose good outcomes in the future, although that’s not 100% certain.

For this reason and others, the optimist sometimes make commitments that they want to complete but don’t manage events toward that completion.  So they tell unintentional lies.

In contrast, reliable people tend toward being careful and skeptical.  They don’t risk believing in untrue conditions but are more concerned with fulfilling commitments that can be fulfilled.  They want to keep firmly rooted in reality.  Credibility is a priority.  You cannot succeed as a business leader or in a family if you don’t keep your word.

These people exhibit skepticism which looks like pessimism.  They often say they are being “realistic” not pessimistic.  And they are.  Others just don’t see it that way.  They rarely inspire and energize people.

So what’s the solution?  Well, first to recognize your own tendency.  “Know thyself” is the classic advice.  Then see what small changes you can make to improve.

If you tend towards optimism, check your facts another time and temper your excitement a little to show you do see some possible pitfalls.  Really looking for them is a great exercise.  And let them see you looking.

If you’re reliable, think about what could be.  Encourage out of the box thinking by yourself and with others.  “Act as if” in situations that aren’t life or death (most aren’t). Allow free thinking even when it runs around the bizarre.

The idea is to be optimistic and reliable.  Of course you’re going to be more one than the other – you’re human.  But adding a little of the other trait might just make a huge difference in your results.

Social Style training really addresses this.  If you’d like to discuss how please contact me.  I can help facilitate this in your company.  Thanks

Let me know.  Bob R

Speak with Variety

speaker vocal variety

Sleep is an interesting phenomenon. Our conscious awareness, our faculty of attention, shuts down for hours at a time, every day. We all do it. We all need it. But for some of us, it poses an interesting problem. In this 9-to-5 society of meetings and deadlines, it’s incredibly important to wake up in the mornings at the times we need to. But many people find this difficult. Even if the sun rises, and the noise of traffic traffic intensifies, they will keep on sleeping. These things are all too subtle to engage the sleepers’ attention and wake them up.

Enter the alarm clock industry. They started by developing jarring noises. Think of the original, mechanical alarm clocks. These work for many people. But others slept right through them. They even reported that these noises worked their way into dreams, but causing no impetus to awake. Then, in the digital age, alarm tones were specially designed to engage the conscious attention. They are loud, periodic and fluctuating in tone. These are the alarm tones that you might find today on your smart phone. But, like an arm’s race, these seemed to lose their effectiveness for some people. This ushered in a whole new breed of alarm clock. These are interactive clocks that won’t turn off until you engage with them. For example, an alarm clock with wheels will roll off of your nightstand and around your room until you get up and turn it off.  It seems like people will go to extraordinary efforts to wake up in time.

The growth of the alarm clock industry gives us an interesting insight into human nature. The whole struggle addresses an important question: what grabs our attention? But the scope of the answer reaches well-beyond the alarm clock industry. It had dramatic lessons for your speaking effectiveness. If you think about it, many audiences are in a state that closely resembles sleep. Their bodies are immobile and their conscious attention can be disengaged. To avoid this, you need to perform the function of an alarm clock. You need to get them and keep them awake.

The third unbreakable rule is to speak with variety. Your audience expects you to keep them engaged. Nothing is worse than a droning monotone speaker. Haven’t we all experienced this at one point or another? It’s an instant turn off. It disengages us and drains our energy. Our attention starts drifting around for something else, anything else, that holds our interest. Needless to say, if you produce this feeling in your audience, than your presentation is dead in the water.

Your primary concern should be to hold the attention of your audience. This is the cost of admission. If you can’t hold their attention, then you can’t communicate with them. And if you can’t communicate with them, then your whole presentation fails. Every human being has a limited attention span. We ignore things that don’t change. I once had a spot of paint on the wall of my house. I intended to paint over it, but I was so busy that the days slipped away from me. Then I forgot all about it. Until, one day, I had company over. And then someone else noticed it and made a friendly comment. And I thought, “Oh my gosh! That spot of paint put me asleep because it never changed!”

If things don’t change then people lose interest. You can call it wrong, immoral, immature and rude — and there might be some truth to that. But it’s the reality. And as a speaker, it’s a reality that you must come to terms with. (Be Kirk not Spock)

Use vocal variety. This means that you should vary your volume, tone, speed and pitch. Sometimes you should speak softly and slowly, like an intimate whisper between friends. Other times you should speak loudly and quickly, rising to a mighty crescendo of emotion. But here’s the secret: if its all whispers or all crescendo, then you risk turning off your audience. It’s got to include both. You’ve got to hit them with a whisper and then hit them with a mighty bellow. You should both laugh and cry, speaking sometimes with gravity and other times with levity. This will keep them awake, their attention focused on your presentation, and receptive to your message.

But what if you’re a not a naturally expressive person? Then be expressive within the context of your personality. In fact, you probably have many ways to express great variety, naturally, without compromising yourself. Sometimes to get the point across to an American introvert, I sometimes give the example of a Japanese citizen. Overall, the Japanese maintain a very stoic and stolid expression. But have you ever seen a Japanese person communicate with a non-English speaker? It’s a cornucopia of (non-verbal) expression. They use words with great variety, not because its their culture, but because they must use variety to communicate. And if the stoic Japanese can do this, then anybody can. You just need a sincere desire to communicate.

Remember that a speech is a performance. In fact, all social interaction is a performance. Words are tools that you can use to help you get what you want. The same is true with your tone and expression. Many people make the mistake of using words and tone dogmatically, even through it doesn’t give them what they want. A monotone speaker won’t change his speaking style, stubbornly claiming that “that’s just who I am.” But then he gets frustrated that nobody follows his recommendations. He needs to put these two things together. He needs to prioritize which is more important to him, his style of expression or the results that he seeks. If he thinks about and earnestly decides that he prefers his own style of expression, then he should become and artist or a poet. But if he wants efficacy and results, then he must change his communication style. He must accept that his speech is a performance, hopefully a sincere performance, but a performance nonetheless. And this is what we must all accept, so that we can begin making our speaking style as effective as possible.

This essay is part of our “10 Unbreakable Rules of Speaking”

Speak from memory (sort of)

post it brain

Social media has become part of the contemporary landscape. But so has it’s opposition. It’s become cliche to hear critics describe the rise in connectivity but the fall of real communication. They believe that social media has many unintended consequences that are damaging our culture. And, although they might be right, that discussion is outside of the scope of this project.

But imagine all of those critics. Imagine their tone and their personalities, and now imagine that they are protesting another another revolutionary innovation: writing. You may not realize this, but writing was initially seen as a destructive force in society. Since the beginning of mankind, people spoke in an oral tradition. They had to memorize all of their speeches and epic poems. And it was seen as absolutely fundamental to the human experience.

But once writing came along, this oral tradition was threatened. Critics were scared that people would no longer put in the effort to memorize things; if they were written down, then what was the point? They worried that robust minds of the pre-writing era would be lost and replaced with weak, mushy minds in a world where nobody needed to memorize anything, ever.

Now the interesting question is this: have their concerns come true? Let’s look at it in the realm of speaking. Now that we can write our speeches, two types of speakers become possible: 1) The person who writes a speech and simply reads it, maybe from a PowerPoint, and 2) The person who doesn’t write a speech at all, but simply scribbles a few notes and then feels prepared. Have you ever seen any speeches along these lines? If you’re like us, than you’ve probably seen hundreds. This is exactly what the critics of writing feared. And now in this world of ever increasing technology, it ever more tempting to slip towards that image of a weak, mushy mind.

The second unbreakable rule is to speak from memory, (sort of). The audience expects you to know your stuff. Have you ever been to a speech where the presenter read the speech? Was anybody impressed? Was anybody inspired to action? Probably not. In fact, it probably didn’t matter how powerful and inspiring the speech was, it probably fell a little flat. Or worse yet, have you ever experienced “death by PowerPoint?” It’s a miserable, droning affair that puts nearly everyone to sleep. It’s no more effective to read slides than to read a speech. Yet people make this mistake all of the time. Either way, it kills the audience.

Why is this? Because these presentations feel artificial. They severe the connection between the speaker and the audience. If the speaker is just going to read a speech or a set of slides, then why can’t the audience just read it on their own? In fact, if it’s just going to be read word-for-word recital, then anybody can stand up and read it! It completely removes the speaker from the communication process.  That’s highly impersonal and disengaging for an audience.

Speak from memory. This will give you confidence and poise. It increases your credibility in the eyes of your audience and positions you as an expert. But it flatters them. It shows that you respect them enough to prepare. And It also gives you the flexibility to answer audience questions. You’re not rigidly committed to a set structure, but you can flow with the audience and push the dialogue forward. Always remember that you want to speak “with” not “at” your audience. This is what we mean by having a conversational style. This can only be achieved by naturally speaking from memory. You can’t expect a your slides or a transcript to do it for you.

But this doesn’t mean that you have to memorize everything word for word. That can come off as stiffly as reading it. Instead, you want to speak extemporaneously. This means that you speak from your memory in a natural way — because you are comfortable with the concepts, not just the words. When you speak extemporaneously, you can use notes to prompt you — to keep you organized and remind you what to say. You notes can be like a checklist of sorts, reminding you of all the things you wanted to say. But once you are prompted into a story, then put your notes down and tell it from memory. This will give it a natural and genuine quality that will engage your audience.

What if you lose your place and have a blank out? That’s ok. Don’t panic. Its way better to lose yourself and come back to your notes, than to read a speech like a robot and never lose your place. Having a brief blank out is tolerable by audiences, because it humanizes you and it demonstrates your genuine nature. We all go blank from time to time. It’s part of being human. If this happens, just smile and take a deep breath. Then check your notes. Don’t apologize or explain your behavior. And at all cost refrain from a verbal pause. But if you remain calm and poised, it’s likely that no one will even notice. As we will discuss soon, pauses are welcomed by the audience and demonstrate your competence as a presenter.

To speak extemporaneously, practice is essential. You’ve got to know your stuff cold. There’s no way to fake it. So practice your stories until you can articulate them frontwards and backwards. There are no great speakers who neglect practice. The greatest lie of speaking is that you can just stand up and wing it with a stream of consciousness. This just simply isn’t true and don’t listen to anybody that says it is. But here’s what is true: with enough practice, you can make it seem like you’re winging it. And that’s the greatest complement of all because it reflects the natural, conversational style of your presentation.

So don’t neglect practice. We have an internal saying that goes, “you don’t get paid to present, you get paid to prepare.” In other words, if you prepare correctly, then everything else will take care of itself. So mentally connect your ultimate success with your rigorous preparation. This might prompt you to prepare more, which would put you in good company. Winston Churchill, the man who, through the power of his speeches all but saved Western Civilization, prepared intensely. Later in life, his private secretary said that Mr. Churchill put in an hour of preparation for every minute of speaking. Think about that. He would prepare sixty hours for a sixty minute speech. Why? Because so much was on the line and he took his speeches so seriously. He knew that if they weren’t perfect, then the war might be lost. And so he delivered some of the greatest speeches in all of all time and changed the course of human history. And here’s the most exciting thing: you can too! Nothing is off limits to you, so long as you prepare. You can change the whole history of your company, your family or nation by putting enough effort into your speeches.

So how do you prepare? There are two basic ways to prepare: writing and speaking. First off, you want to write your speech. (Later we will give you the techniques and structure to do this.) And then as you practice delivering it, you will make changes to your scripts and write new ways to express your ideas. Second, you will practice verbally. There’s no getting around it. You can start off reading it, but soon you will have to start giving the whole speech as you will ultimately give it. Give it alone and in front of a mirror when you start. But don’t neglect the benefits of feedback. Give your speech to a group of supportive friends and colleagues. Ask them what you could improve. Additionally, you can video yourself and critique it afterwards. These are standard techniques for great speakers. So don’t neglect them. Churchill wasn’t born Churchill. He made himself. And you can too.

What about mnemonic devices? They can be very helpful if you use them correctly. Here’s one of our favorites. Think about a room that is very familiar to you, like your office or living room. Then identify your major points with the major objects in the room. For example, you might associate the couch with your first major point and the piano with the second major point. This way, if you ever get lost, you can just imagine your living room and let the obvious objects prompt your next point.

This is part of our “10 unbreakable rules of speaking”

Speak between pauses

pause-button-outlineBy 2013, the drought had grown dangerous. Local Colorado residents desperately needed rain. They hoped for it, they wished for it, they organized congregational prayer sessions for it. Some even danced for it. But nothing came. And the drought grew worse by the day. But then, one summer day, something happened. The weather services started predicting rain. Finally! When the first raindrops hit the ground, Coloradans rejoiced! They were finally receiving the rain they so desperately needed. But their joy was not to last.

The rain came, but it kept coming. Day after day, the rain fell upon the drought-ridden region. It was too much. The soil could not absorb all the rainwater. And so began the worse flooding in the memory of Colorado. An estimated 144 people died and damages reached nearly $2 billion (according to CNN money). And what was the cause? According to National Geographic’s Freshwater Fellow, Sandra Postel, the droughts played a major role. “Drought tends to harden the soil, she said. When rains do come, less of the water can absorb into the ground, so it quickly runs off the land.” Had the rainfall been spread out, instead of coming all at once, then much of the flooding could have been avoided.

The same principle applies when speaking. If you let loose a torrent of ceaseless words upon your audience, then those words are just going to run off. In fact, just like in Colorado, the more desperately they need your words, the less they are able to take in at once. And if you insist on a monsoon of words and concepts, you might trigger a flash flood and end up doing more harm than good.

The fourth unbreakable rule is to speak between pauses. Your audience expects some time to digest your message. Have you ever heard a speaker who relentlessly pushes more and more information in through your ears? He might make a good point, but he plows through it so quickly that you’re not really sure what you just heard. And you don’t have time to think about it because he’s already moved on, ripping through his points like an auctioneer. This isn’t good speaking. And it isn’t an effective way to convey your message.

As a speaker, silence is your friend. You have to become extremely comfortable with silence. Silence gives you control. At any moment during your speech, you can pause your progress, step into silence and control the whole room. Very often, speakers will talk too quickly because they are nervous. They mistakenly think that talking gives them control. But the opposite is true. This frantic talking radiates insecurity. It’s like playing hot potato with your words because you aren’t strong enough to hold one and let it sink in. So you’ve got to prove to your audience how confident and secure you are. If you can hold the tension of silence longer than they can, then you are the stronger one. And, as a speaker, you should be the stronger one. You should be strong enough to command the room.

Pauses help people to comprehend your message. If you have a lot to say, and you’re passionate about it, then you may be tempted to give your audience all you possibly can. But that’s a mistake. It’s called data download and it’s hopelessly ineffective. Imagine attending the symphony orchestra and musicians only played and held constant notes. It would be exhausting, and would probably people to walk out. Why? Because its the pauses between notes that create a melody. It’s the pauses that allow you to hear and process the individual notes. It’s the same way in speaking. Your audience needs a chance to catch their breath and process your words. The brain only works so fast and you have to respect that. Research shows that short periods of silence helps people to comprehend your message. And as a speaker, this is of utmost importance.

Pauses give you audience a chance to savor your most powerful points and stories. There are two ways to eat a piece of cake. Your first choice is to eat it as quickly as possible, stuffing it into  your mouth and swallowing it in one mighty bite. Your second choice is to eat it slowly, taking small bites and fully savoring all the little flavors. Now which one do you think is the more enjoyable experience? Almost everybody answers the second, slower way. But the problem is that it requires self-control. You’ve got to resist the rush to the finish line and enjoy the process of getting there. The same is true with speaking. There’s a temptation to plow forward and give the audience all your points in one mighty bite. But you’ve got to have the self control to let them savor each of your smaller, flavorful bites. You do this through pauses. When you pauses before and/or after a powerful point/story, then you allow your audience to savor and enjoy it. And just like with the cake, this will make the it a more enjoyable experience.

But pauses are about more than pleasure, they also allow you to emphasize your important points. Think about what happens during the typical speech. Audience members hear hundreds of sentences and dozens of concepts. How are they supposed to know which of these concepts are the most important? Well, the ones they hear most often are probably important. And so are the ones that you say with a special tone or volume. But pauses offer another way to call attention to a point. Just imagine a speaker making a point and then pausing for 5 whole seconds before repeating the point in a more solemn tone. There would be little doubt that this point was worth paying attention to, remembering and (hopefully) applying.

There’s another benefit of pausing that’s worth mention. Pausing give you a chance to catch up and find your place. Sometimes you reach the end of a story and you don’t immediately remember your next point. Pausing can give you the precious moments you need to jog your memory and move forward. But how can this be, you might ask. I thought pausing was a reflection of control and composure? It is. It pulls double duty. Not only does it project control, but it allows you to regain control when you’ve lost your place. With all of these benefits, it makes you wonder why so many speakers are afraid of silence.

So how do you pause correctly? It’s simple. Just shut your mouth, stand with strong posture and stop making noise. A pause of three to five seconds is usually a good amount. The first time you try it, it will feel like a lifetime. But over time it will start to become natural. When you write your speaking notes, indicate the places where you want to pause. This will help remind you to treat the pause as a part of your speech and give it the due attention it deserves.

As a final note, let’s discuss the way not to pause. A proper pause should be silent, and if anything else comes out of your mouth, that’s a verbal pause and it’s a huge negative. Verbal pauses are extremely common in every day speech and consist of phrases such as, “like”, “ummm”, and “you know.” To be a great speaker, you must eliminate all of your verbal pauses. You must be able to be completely silent. Verbal pauses are a distraction that show your audience that you are not  a professional. Don’t let this be you. Become conscious of your verbal pauses and work diligently to eliminate them. Ask a friend to count your verbal pauses and correct you when possible. Because your use of them may have become a habit, it will probably take some time to replace. But don’t lose heart. It’s definitely worth it.

This is from our “10 Unbreakable Rules of Speaking”

http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/19/news/economy/colorado-flood-damage/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/130913-colorado-flood-boulder-climate-change-drought-fires/

Speak Loud Enough

hotel meeting room

Two men were stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific. They had no means of communication and little hope for survival. So they resolved to put a message in a bottle and send it out to sea. First they found a small piece of paper with enough room for a single sentence. Then they found an old bottle that could carry their message. So they set about to write their message. The first man wanted to write, “Stranded, please help!” The second man wanted to write, “SOS South Pacific Is!” Each thought the other’s message was too ambiguous. So they argued back and forth about what they should write.

Finally they flipped a coin, chose the first man’s message and threw the bottle out into the ocean. But nothing happened. Weeks went by and there was no sign of rescue. So the second man grew bitter. If they had used his message, then help would have arrived already. Or so he thought. So the men began to quarrel, and their quarrel turned into violence. Standing at the edge of a small cliff, the second man pushed the first one off, and he tumbled down into the rocky bay. Immediately repentant, the second man scrambled down after him in order to help. And when he reached the first man he apologized profusely. But in response he said nothing, he simply pointed to a cluster of rocks. And there the second man saw, wedged between the rocks, the bottle that they had thrown to sea months earlier. And that’s when they both realized: It doesn’t matter what your message is unless your audience can receive it.

The same is true in speaking. Many speakers struggle back and forth about the content of their message, but then when they speak, they are too quiet, too soft or too mumbly. So the audience never receives their message. And even though they give a mighty effort, there comes a point when they see their bottle trapped between rocks, having never left the island. Don’t let this happen this to you.

The first unbreakable rule is to speak loud enough. Your audience expects to hear you. If you speak quietly, you put a tremendous strain on your audience. And if you speak too quietly, then they won’t be able to hear you at all. Then it doesn’t matter what you say — it doesn’t matter how brilliant your ideas or how beneficial your solutions — if they can’t hear you, then they can’t agree with you.

Speak loud enough to control the room. Don’t be bashful and don’t be hesitant. Be bold and assert yourself. Take control of the room. If you’ve giving a presentation, then you don’t need to get anybody’s permission. You already have their permission. The audience wants you to project your voice and take control. You only need to live up to their expectations.

What if you have a shy personality? That’s ok. Some people will try to tell you that your speaking efficacy is determined by your personality. We completely disagree. We’ve known many naturally shy individuals who nevertheless command the stage with their presence. I walked into a meeting once where I didn’t really know anybody. And I saw this meek old lady sitting in the corner. She was pleasant to those around her, but she quietly stayed to herself. Then, about halfway into the meeting, she stood up and gave a presentation. My jaw dropped to the floor. She was amazing! Everybody thought she was amazing! She absolutely controlled the room and projected her voice. But she did it without sacrificing her personality. In fact, she seemed more integrated with her personality than anyone else in the room. I spoke with her afterwards and she was indeed a shy person. But she knew that a presentation is a performance. And therefore she realized that her presentation was just something that she needed to practice. And your ability to practice is not constrained by your personality

What if you have a weak voice? Unfortunately this affects many people. This means they don’t have much practice projecting your voice. Maybe as a child, you were told to be quiet and use your inside voice. So you never really developed a strong resonant voice. That’s ok. It’s never too late to start improving. The good news is that your voice is controlled by your vocal muscles. Make these muscles stronger and you will be able to project a louder voice. It can be achieved.

Don’t feel alone if you have a weak voice. One of the greatest speakers in all of history, Demosthenes, had the same problem. He lived in ancient Athens and wanted to lead his city to freedom. But he couldn’t make speeches in the assembly because he couldn’t speak above the crowd. So he would go to the beach and practicing speaking over the crashing waves. And he would put rocks in his mouth and practicing speaking over this obstacle. He practiced and practiced until, one day, his voice was strong enough. Then he entered the assembly, gave his impassioned speeches and became one of the most famous speakers in history. You can do the same.

There are many ways to strengthen your voice. One of our favorite ways is singing. This is an enjoyable way to improve yourself, and it doesn’t really feel like practice. It feels like fun. But perhaps the best way is to practice speaking on stage. Stand on the stage of a large auditorium while a friend stands against the back wall. Then try to have a conversation. If your friend can’t hear you, then increase your volume. This will help you calibrate the volume you need for your presentations. Practice this over time and you will find that you comfortably grow into your powerful stage voice.

What if you already have a pretty strong voice? Practice anyway. You might have a strong enough voice for five minutes, but not for an hour long presentation. This won’t cut it. You need both sprinting volume and marathon volume. You might lose your audience if your voice falls apart at the end of your speech, right when you make your powerful call to action. A powerful call requires a powerful voice.

So what are the basic rules? You want a clear, resonant voice that fills the room you’re in. You should be clearly understood by the people in the back of the room. You shouldn’t shout or strain your voice except as a point of emphasis. You should pronounce all your words clearly and articulately. Your voice should maintain sufficient strength for the duration of the presentation. All things being equal, it’s better to be too loud then too soft. And its better to have a pitch that’s too low versus one that’s too high.

We have several more speaking tips that I plan to post.  We call them “unbreakable rules of speaking”.  Let us know what you think of them.  Thanks! Bob R

Planning vs. Action

Pinky-and-the-Brain_article_story_large Somebody once said “Action without planning is the cause of every failure”.  What about planning without action?  Doesn’t that cause failure as well? We would think so.

Let’s look at each of these: Being impulsive and jumping into action without planning is a fools game.  Rarely can you expect success with this habit on anything more complicated than making dinner.  Even then you’re usually best to follow a recipe.  And that’s the point isn’t it?  There really is a recipe for about every action that you need to take.  If you’re tempted to “wing it” on some important endeavor, do yourself a favor and slow down.  Think.  Make a plan based on facts and reasoning.  Develop options.  List pros and cons.  Play devil’s advocate with each option.  Only then start the action that leads to results.

However, getting bogged down in endless planning is an endless loop.  This is a recipe that never gets baked,  a wonderful plan always being edited,  a beautiful building never built.  If you find yourself always wanting to “get it right” or worse; “get it perfect”, you know how much you suffer.  You need to play horseshoes more.  You do get points for getting close for almost everything.  No car, machine, system, person, or program you have right now is perfect.  They are all flawed in some way but still functioning.  They can usually be improved but that may not be the best action.  New plans are put in place regularly with imperfections right from the beginning.  We sometimes call them compromises.  There are obvious exceptions to this but not many.

The truth is that each of us tend toward one of these two temptations.  Social Style predicts and explains this phenomena. Tell assertive people tend towards acting without planning.  Ask assertive folks tend towards the opposite.  Knowing what your style is helps you diagnose your actions and become more versatile.  Higher versatility is a proven way to succeed in all areas of life; work and home.  Becoming more versatile means adjusting your planning tempo to create better results.

So let’s look at how we can improve ourselves here. Let’s pick on the perfectionist first.  You already know this is making you miserable.  The pain that experienced (older and wiser) perfectionist feel is real.  Perfectionist over plan.  They neglect decision making because it’s impossible to have all the information needed to make a complete and proper decision.  So they fail to act and fail to make progress.  Just remember that you never can be perfect.  At some point, you need to launch.

As for you impulsive types, think about all the times you’ve failed because you didn’t check, learn, ask, research, and pause.  You can be so much more successful by creating tools like check lists and systems.  Think about ways you can fail.  If you can think of 3 ways your plan can fail, you’re off to a good start.  At least you see the perils.

Learn Social Style.  If you need some training or coaching on this, give me a call or email.  I can’t think of a better model for becoming more versatile in Planning and Action.  Bob R

Ingredients of Leadership

Leadership goals 270

How people SEE you, what leadership TOOLS you have, and how your BRAIN thinks about leadership are 3 critical ingredients of leader success.  If you are growing leaders in your organization, or growing yourself as a leader, read on. People are always sizing each other up for various reasons.  One thing they look for are leadership qualities.

So the appearance of leadership is important.  I knew one woman named Karen who is a manager for a $300M company.  She wanted to be promoted but couldn’t understand why she wasn’t being perceived as a leader.  Well, everyone could see it and as her coach it was my job to tell her. People saw her poor appearance and made judgments about her leadership qualities.

Much of this is subconscious.  They often can’t give reasons for why they see another person as a leader.  Height, physical build, complexion, grooming, gender, clothing, posture, actions, words, message, voice quality, etc. all make a difference in leadership perception.  Now obviously some of these you cannot change but many you can.

Part of being a leader is playing the part.  Not being a phony but actually acting and looking like a leader. I know a leader named Mark who isn’t very tall but he acts, talks, and behaves like a leader.  His people would run throw brick walls for him and he pays careful attention to his image as a leader.  Very few leaders dress poorly.  They hold themselves very confidently and look at others with kindness and confidence.  They almost affirm people with their gaze. They display courage.  You can’t change your height but you can study and mimic how leaders look.  Makes a goal to look like someone others would want to follow.

Another thing leaders have are tools for leadership.  They have skill with people and with tasks.  They are usually experts in their field. I want my doctor and pilot to be experts in their field before I follow them into surgery or to 36,000 feet. Good leaders navigate challenges successfully because they have a mental toolbox full of ways to meet those challenges.  Sometimes this comes from experience and sometimes it comes by their personal learning.  Most leaders are enthusiastic students.  They read, take classes, get coaching, to gain more skills and more tools quickly.  I know another leader named Randy.  He is constantly reading and taking coaching to improve his leadership competence.  Leaders like him are always working on becoming better and smarter and this gives them wisdom to solve problems.  People follow leaders like that.  To increase your leadership, get all the knowledge and skills possible within your field; especially people skills.

To become a leader you must think like a leader.  And here is the #1 thing leaders think about: achieving the goal.  If it’s a business, the leader thinks about how to best create profits by serving the customer.  Church, government, sports, education, family; in every category, the leader understands what the goal is and how to achieve it.  The leader thinks about how to manage resources, motivate people, and deploy assets to win.  Employees and their happiness is not the goal.   Those are important but not the central goal.  Leaders knows that even they are another asset to be used in pursuit of the goal.  All other assets must be made subject to that.  I know another leader named Tom.  He thinks like a leader and also cares greatly for people.  He helps them understand the importance of the organization’s goals and how his people can be significant by helping achieve that goal.  People everywhere are looking for leaders like Tom to show them how to win in life by achieving team goals. Leadership is a big subject and these 3 ingredients are big when it comes to winning followers.  Make sure you have them and work on increasing them.  Then watch your leadership grow.   Bob R