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Coaching: A Manager’s Best Tool

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Your job, as a manager, is to coordinate people and resources to get work done. Important parts of that are:

  • getting the most from your people
  • getting things done ever-more effectively and efficiently
  • developing your team’s capacity and capabilities
  • motivating people to work at their best

and so on…

One management skill has emerged as the solution to all of this. It does not stand alone, but over the last thirty years we have learned its power to enhance individual and organisational performance. That skill is coaching.

Coaching is not new

The best managers, leaders, and teachers have been doing coaching for years – hundreds and thousands of years. What is new, is that the process and techniques have been studied, systematised and turned into a thousand books, articles and training courses. This means that coaching is no longer the preserve of the few who figure it out for themselves and have a natural talent: anyone can learn it, practise it and master the skills.

At its best, coaching is a valuable conversation that lets one person figure out what they need to do to get the results they need.

The Principles of Coaching

The core principle of coaching is respect for the person you are coaching. As a coach, you need to assume that the other person can find the solution to the challenge they are working on, whether it is a workplace problem, improving under-performance, or preparing themselves for a promotion.

To support this, the fundamental skills are

Questioning – asking good questions that increase the other person’s awareness of their situation and help them perceive things in a new way

Listening – so that you can ask questions founded on exactly what they say

Patience – giving time for the other person to work out solutions for themselves

Trust – recognising that they will make mistakes, but that is a valuable part of learning

As a manager, you need to balance opportunities to learn (sometimes by making mistakes) with the need to manage risk. But the thing that surprises most new coaches is how often the coaching process finds a good solution first time – and often a better solution than the coach themself would have thought of.

The Process of Coaching

There are a lot of methodologies for coaching – many of them proprietary. Most of them offer an acronym to help remember the areas for questioning and exploration. These are:

Coaching Process

One acronym is, in some ways, the obvious one: COACH

The COACH Coaching Process

Further Reading

Coaching is one of the most discussed topics on the Pocketblog. You may also like the following Pocketblogs:

An Infinite Number of Coaching Acronyms
So you can see how different models follow the process above – and find the acronym you like best.

Keep it SIMPLE
A look at the Solution Focus approach to coaching.

Who is getting in your way?
The ideas of Timothy Gallwey who many regard as the originator of modern coaching as used in the business and management world.

Let’s sort out poor performance, Part 2: Turnaround
An example of how coaching fits into the pragmatic world of management.

The Awesome Power of Mentoring
Mentoring is often discussed in the same sentence as coaching. Find out what it is and how it can work for you, as a new manager.

Questions, Questions, Questions
…is about the art of – questions!

and

Listening
is about listening

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Delegation: Double your Capacity

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Management is not about doing things: it is about getting things done. So a large part of your responsibility is allocating work among your team and developing people to take on more demanding challenges. Delegation – getting other people to do aspects of your work – is a part both of effective working and of developing people.

Whilst there are lots of poor reasons for delegating – like off-loading unpleasant tasks, or abdicating responsibility – there are many positive benefits to you, to your team, and to your organisation.

Exercise 1: The Reasons to Delegate?

Make a list of all of the good reasons to delegate. To help you, consider the question from three perspectives:

  1. How can you benefit?
  2. How can your team members benefit?
  3. How can your organisation benefit?

Failure to delegate

The problem is that many managers constantly find excuses for not delegating; even when they know they ought to for many of the reasons you have probably identified. What are yours?

Exercise 2: Excuses for Not Delegating

Here are some excuses I commonly encounter. For each of these, how would you counter the excuse?

  • “I’d be better off doing it myself”
  • “I don’t want to overload my staff”
  • “I don’t have the time to delegate”
  • “I know exactly how I want it done”
  • “If I ask him/her to do it, he/she will be nagging me every five minutes”

How to Delegate

Some people use these excuses simply because they don’t feel comfortable with the process of delegation. Indeed, many guides either make it seem like a big deal, or they miss out an important aspect of the process, leaving people wondering why it fails. So let’s look at the basic delegation process.

Delegation

Step 1. Matching

Understand the task, its level of importance and urgency, and the risks associated with it. Then consider the people available to you, and their abilities, strengths, preferences, and their existing commitments. Also think about their development routes. Now match the task to the most suitable person.

Step 2. Briefing

Brief effectively. Taking time to do this properly is an investment that will result in fewer interruptions, a greater chance of innovation and excellence, and a reduced chance of mistakes and failures.

Step 3. Commitment

After you have briefed and answered any questions, ask if they:

  • Understand the task required
  • Can carry out the task required – do they have the ability and availability?
  • Believe the resources and time allocated are sufficient for the task required

Then ask for their commitment to do the task required. In return, offer your commitment to support and monitor the process.

Step 4. Monitoring

An important part of risk management and of developing the person you have delegated to is to monitor their performance. Monitor more or less frequently, depending on your level of confidence and certainty, and the level of risk.  Remember: when you delegate a task, you retain responsibility for it.

Step 5. Feedback

When the job is done, offer objective feedback on performance and listen to what they have to say about their experience and any concerns. Recognise the work done and contribution made, reward it with thanks and praise, and highlight what the person can learn from their experience.

Further Reading

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Feedback Mandatory

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions’

This quote is most-often attributed to Ken Blanchard, but I have been unable to source it securely.  But its meaning is clear: It is a diet of good quality feedback that helps us grow and develop into top performers.

Feedback is the perfect accompaniment to goal-setting (which we looked at last week).  The two are so inter-twined and so fundamental that the very first Pocketblog started with an important experiment by Albert Bandura and Daniel Cervone that showed the power of these two in combination.

That post was called ‘Feedback Welcome’.  This one’s title is a nod in that direction, but takes it a step further.

As a manager, you have a responsibility to the people you manage and lead.  You must develop them, you must recognise their contributions and you must reward them for their effort.  Feedback is the principal way you can do that.

Feedback can be:

  1. Judgemental (‘what you did well/badly was…’) or
    Non-judgemental (‘I notice that what you did was… and this is what happened’)
  2. Positive (‘What you did that I liked was..’) or
    Negative (‘What I would like you to improve was…’)
  3. Outcome based (‘You got a really good result with…’) or
    Process based (‘I was impressed by the way that you…’)
  4. Comparative (‘Your work exceeded the standards for…’) or
    Absolute (‘Your work was excellent’)
  5. Personal (‘I want to thank you for your excellent work’) or
    Impersonal (‘You work met the highest standards’)

Give your Feedback a BOOST

Great feedback should give your colleagues a real BOOST.

Balanced
It will not be surprising to you to learn that, on all of the five scales above, balance is key.  Sticking to one style will rarely serve the person you are developing well.  Each pairing represents a spectrum of styles and you must select where on each spectrum to place the balance, to get best effect.  At different times and in different situations, a different point of balance will be appropriate.

Observed
Provide precise feedback based on genuine observation; rather than hearsay.  The more evidence you can offer and the more precise that evidence is; the better your colleague will be able to calibrate their performance and understand the implications of their choices.

Objective
By this, I mean that it is important to give feedback on performance, rather than on the person.  Compare these to examples of feedback:

‘The analysis you gave was confused.’

‘Your thinking was confused.’

The first is something I can fix and your feedback is based on something you can observe and evaluate.  The second, even if true is harder to fix, but critical; you have no direct evidence: my thinking may be logical and rigorous, but my writing style confused – or maybe I was distracted – or maybe…  The first can motivate me to sort out my work; the second will demotivate me, as I will feel it as a personal attack.

Specific
If my analysis was confused, I can only address it if I know how and where you assess my work to be confused.  The more specific your feedback, the easier it is for me to fix my work – or the easier it is for me to understand what parts are good.

Timely
Deliver your feedback as soon as appropriate  but not before. If the situation is not suitable, or if you do not have a robust basis for observed and specific feedback, then wait.  But only wait as long as is necessary.  Don’t put feedback off, or its value will diminish and may even be lost.

Further Reading

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Setting Good Goals

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Goal setting is such a fundamental part of management, that we sometimes forget what it is for.  It has become embedded into formal processes that can distance us from what we are doing and turn good management practices into form-filling, box-ticking routines; devoid of any real meaning or purpose.

So let’s be explicit about what goal setting is for

We set goals for others so that they will know when they have achieved what we want.  We set goals for ourselves, for the same reason.  Goal setting is therefore about:

  • Giving a clear direction and reason for work
  • Giving an equally clear indication of when to stop
  • Being explicit about what triggers the reward – which may only need to be a thank-you
  • Setting a standard of achievement, on the route to mastery
  • Motivating people to achieve what is needed

SMART Goals

There are a lot of formulations of SMART goals – most typically:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

All of these are designed to remind users that good goals are explicit about what is expected, balance challenge with realism, are rooted in what is important, and have a time-scale attached.

What, Why, When, What if?

Good goals need to answer these four questions:

  1. What do you expect of me; precisely?  I need to know what you want in enough detail to be able to meet your expectations.
  2. Why are you asking it of me?  Without a sense of valuable purpose, I shan’t be motivated.
  3. When do you need it by?  So that I can schedule the work into my diary and assign it the right priority.
  4. What if things don’t go according to plan?  What resources can I draw upon, what help will you offer, what compromises are appropriate and what are not acceptable, what authority do I have to make decisions?

The key, however, to good goals is that they must be agreed between you, the manager, and the person for whom you are setting the goals.  The best way to get the commitment you need is to express the goals clearly, put them in writing and then to look your colleague in the eye, and ask: ‘do you accept this goal?’

When goal-setting becomes a formal process it loses its power.  Make good goal-setting an everyday routine – part of your day-to-day management of your team and of each individual.  Formal, annual or quarterly goal setting will then feel easy – it will set the strategic context for your day-to-day management.

Further Reading

The Performance Conversations Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

Performance Management Pocketbook

Feedback Pocketbook

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How to Manage a Challenging Conversation

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


As a manager, you will sometimes have to set up and have conversations you would really rather leave to someone else.  These challenging conversations can be about:

  • performance issues
  • personal issues
  • employment issues
  • terms and conditions
  • giving bad news
  • complaints
  • conduct issues

This is one of the least pleasant parts of your job, so it pays to prepare well and follow a process.

Exercise 1: Before You Go any Further

Take a moment to review the last module, Transactional Analysis for Managers. How does this apply to challenging conversations?  You know that an Adult state is ideal, but….

How would your being in Child state affect the way you manage a challenging conversation?

How would your being in Parent state affect the way you manage a challenging conversation?

What body language betrays Parent and Child state? How can you adjust your posture to support an Adult ego state?

Seven Steps

Let’s look at the Seven Steps for handling a challenging conversation.

Challenging Conversation

Preparation

Think through in advance how you want to conduct the conversation. Review the things you want to raise and identify those that are most important. Your conversation will be easier and more effective if you can focus it on the most substantive matters. Continually saying ‘and another thing’ can only make it harder.

Create Safety

Look for the right time and place to conduct the conversation and give the other person notice of what you want to talk about, so they can prepare, rather than react against you if they feel hijacked. Acknowledge that you and they may find the conversation difficult but express your desire to work through it openly and constructively. Demonstrate a relentless commitment to being respectful and maintain that even if the other person does not. If the emotional temperature rises to a level where you not feel emotionally or physically safe, call for a recess.

Setting-up the Conversation

If the relationship renders it appropriate to start with a short rapport building chat do so – otherwise stick to the courtesies that are standard in your culture. Too much pleasantry can come across as evasive – even manipulative.

So be honest without being blunt. Start by stating the nature of the conversation and what you want to achieve as a result.

Saying your Piece

Now say your prepared piece. Be clear, explicit and follow the facts concerned. Check understanding frequently and respond openly to questions and challenges.

If you are interrupted, listen to the interruption respectfully, deal with it and then resume where you left off – clarifying where you had got to if there was a long gap.

Listening to the Response

Listen carefully to the response, without interrupting. Note any misunderstandings and make the assumption that they are all inadvertent. Take responsibility for not explaining clearly enough and explain again, differently if possible.

Dialogue

Take responsibility for the structure and process of the dialogue, but do not try to control the other person’s responses. Listen hard when they are speaking and pause to consider your responses even if you think you know the answer immediately.

Ending the Conversation

Close the conversation by emphasising the next steps that either you have both agreed or that you can reasonably require of the other person.

Further Reading

Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook

The Problem Behaviour Pocketbook

The Resolving Conflict Pocketbook

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

Blog: Conflict: As simple as AEIOU

Blog: Resistance to Negotiation

Blog: Is This Relationship Going To Work?

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Transactional Analysis for Managers

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Have you ever had a conversation where the other person left you feeling a bit like a small child?

Or maybe you have felt like kicking yourself at the end of a meeting because you spent the whole time criticising someone.

Have you found yourself being over protective of a colleague, or perhaps you have seen someone stamp their feet and rebel against a perfectly reasonable request?

What all of these situations have in common is that you can easily understand them, spot them coming, and take control of them, when you understand a simple model of communication, called Transactional Analysis, or TA.

Transactional Analysis - Parent, Adult and Child ego states

Eric Berne developed TA and suggested we can think of all of our communication as coming from one of three ‘ego states’. When we speak, we speak as a parent does, as an adult does, or as a child does. We all encompass all three, but address others from one state at a time, depending on the relationship, how we feel, and how the other person is acting.

Parent Ego State

Parents are both worldly and experienced, and therefore speak critically of anything that does not match their learned view of the world, or they are caring and try to nurture and protect us.

Child Ego State

Children can both do what they want and rebel against any kind of authority and they can conform; adapting themselves to the wishes of those around them. Their responses are primarily driven by the emotions they are feeling.

Adult Ego State

Adults behave rationally, looking for the best outcome and trying to find the most effective way to achieve it. They think things out, rather than repeating past lessons or acting purely on emotion.

Transactions

Transactional Analysis - Parent-Child Transaction

In the workplace, Adult-Adult transactions are nearly always the ideal: both of you are speaking respectfully, looking for the best result. However, if you find yourself annoyed by something I have done, it is easy to find yourself slipping into Critical Parent ego state and addressing my Child state. If I respond accordingly – either by arguing petulantly (Free Child) or by being too obsequious and over-apologetic (Adapted Child) then we will get stuck for a time in that Parent-Child structure.

Likewise, if you feel guilty about asking me to do something so instead of asking assertively, you plead with me (Adapted Child), I will respond from Parent state, by either telling you off or reluctantly agreeing (Critical Parent) or by condescending to act in a patronising manner (Nurturing Parent) thereby taking control of the situation.

Parent-Child transactions work well in communicating, even if what they communicate is rarely healthy for a mature workplace relationship. Consequently, they can persist and become ingrained patterns that repeat over and over again, reinforcing inappropriate power balances.

Other transactions are possible too, such as:

  • Parent-Parent – let’s moan about her
  • Child-Child – let’s play a trick on him

But not all transactions are universally unhealthy:

  • Parent-Parent – let’s gossip about yesterday’s football – a healthy way of passing time in the appropriate context
  • Child-Child – let’s come up with some new ideas – the Child state is the state from which we become creative.

There is a whole lot more to TA than Parent, Adult and Child states and a whole lot more to Ego States than we have covered here. It is a rich and rewarding source of understanding for any manager.

Further Reading

Management Models Pocketbook

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The Worst Form of Communication

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


The worst form of communication, bar none, is email.

SMS is shorter and quicker, so you would think there would be more scope for misunderstandings, but I don’t. Because when you receive a text message, you know it was sent quickly and you do not expect great levels of care and precision. You expect terseness and you forgive mistakes and careless phrases.

Email is different and the problem is asymmetry: when we send emails we often dash them off, thinking of them as a quick and easy way to get a simple message across – less formal than a report, a letter or even a memo.

Yet, when we receive an email, we are not easily accepting of carelessness and poor wording. We readily take offense at a perceived slight, assuming it was intended or, at best an unintended sign of unwarranted slapdashery.

Consequently, emails cause a lot of unwanted responses from readers who get upset, angry and frustrated.

Good business email etiquette and practice

Email

Courtesies

  1. Open with a polite salutation. Choose the right level of formality for the situation.
  2. Get their name right.
  3. Plenty of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will really help.
  4. Close with a suitable thank you, best wishes, regards or yours sincerely.
  5. Include all means of contacting you in your signature and enough information for your reader to identify you, if your name is not likely to come readily to their mind.

Style

  1. Make your subject line count. A good subject line will help readers to properly prioritise your email. A starter like For Action, or Decision please, or Deadline Monday 24 June will alert readers to their need to act.
  2. Do not include several different topics in the same email. It’s better to separate them out.
  3. Keep your messages as short as possible – but never so brief as to seem curt or terse – worse still, if it is too short, it may be misinterpreted by your reader.
  4. Use capital letters only if you want to SHOUT. Be equally sparing with fancy fonts and fantastic colours. Choose a simple style that works well in plain text too.
  5. Grammar, sentences and punctuation are just as important in emails as in letters and reports.
  6. If you want action, be clear about your request.
  7. Numbered points, short paragraphs and headings all make an email easier to read.

Send to…

  1. Think carefully about who needs to get the message and who really will want a copy.  Avoid copies to everyone and cluttering up inboxes unnecessarily. Email unto others as you would wish them to email unto you.
  2. Keep spam, chain emails and unsavoury jokes to yourself. Only forward me something like that which you know I will want to read.

Before Sending

  1. Read it.  Try reading it out loud.
  2. Spell check it.
  3. Check the people it is addressed to are the people you intend will receive it.
  4. Check the attachments – and if they are big consider using a service like box.net.
  5. If it is contentious, angry or otherwise charged, save it for at least 12 hours before re-reading it and adjusting it.
  6. If it is very contentious, angry or otherwise charged, ask a trusted colleague to review it before you send it.

Further Reading

The Writing Skills Pocketbook

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Report and Proposal Writing Still Matters

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


If only you could say everything in 140 characters… how easy some aspects of management life would become.

Sadly, you still need to be able to write clear and persuasive reports and proposals, so let’s examine the basics.  There are five.

Report Planning

Exercise: Getting Ready to Write

Plan your report or proposal by answering the questions in each of these five areas.

The Message

  • What does your reader want and need to know?
  • When your readers get to the end, what do you want them to think that is different from when they start?
  • … and what do you want them to do?

The Structure

  • How will you introduce your report to give a reason to read it in the first place? Right at the start, you need to create tension.
  • How will you structure your report or proposal to keep them reading from start to finish? Your structure needs to be logical and flow, and needs to ask questions to motivate readers to read the next bit.
  • Think Dan Brown or a good thriller writer … What question can you leave in your readers’ minds at the end of each section?
  • How will you end your report or proposal? This needs to create a powerful urge in your reader to take action.

The Argument

  • What evidence will you present to your readers? What facts, figures, quotations, results will really convince?
  • How will you prepare and present that evidence to maximise its impact and minimise scope for misinterpretation?
  • How will your structure your arguments into a rational analysis?

The Punch

  • What new insights can you offer?
  • What difference does your report make?
  • How can you use the power of emotion to boost the impact of your message?
  • What is the ‘so what?’ of your report or proposal?
  • How will your readers benefit if they accept your recommendations or procure your products or services?

The Polish

  • How will you assure the quality of your work? Maybe someone else will read and review it for you; or maybe you will put it in a drawer for three days before re-reading it thoroughly.
  • What constitutes ‘good enough’? Before you start writing, list the criteria your finished report or proposal must satisfy before it is ready to go to your readers. Use this checklist rigorously after you have written the document.

 

Further Reading

The Writing Skills Pocketbook

Blog: Ten Ways to Make your Writing Digestible

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The Three Powers of Persuasion

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Can it really be true that, as a modern manager, you need to know your Aristotle?

Aristotle - ethos, logos, pathos
Well, one part of it; yes.

For Aristotle, the power of logic was supreme, but he realised that we can often be right, we can know we are right, we can make our point clearly, and yet we can still fail to persuade.  So he identified the three things that need to work together, to build a persuasive argument:

Ethos – or character
Logos – or reason
Pathos – or emotion

Exercise: Building a Persuasive Argument

Think of an argument you need to make. It might be to your boss, your customer, your supplier, your marketing, sales or production department, or to anyone. Let’s use Aristotle’s three persuaders to build your own persuasive argument, and let’s suppose you first want to persuade me.

Step 1: Ethos

Your first step must be to establish why I should listen to you in the first place.

  • What experience do you have that is relevant?
  • What credentials make you credible in this area?
  • Why should I believe and trust you?
  • Who would vouch for you?
  • How will you build my respect with everything you say?

Step 2: Logos

Next you need to build a logical argument that contains compelling reasons why I should agree with what you are saying.  The two components of a logical argument are;

  1. Hard evidence
  2. Robust analysis

So start with the first. What evidence, facts or data can you bring to bear? Examine each carefully for flaws and retain only the strongest evidence. Aim for a maximum of three powerful bases for your argument. Having too many arguments dilutes each one, creating a paradoxical weakening of your case, rather than strengthening it.

What evidence is your strongest?
Write down all the evidence you have and then review each part to find the basis for your strongest case.

Now develop your case by interpreting the evidence to make your points. Your logos will be strongest when you take care to make your analytical process as rigorous as you can, so take care not to fudge or miss a step as you work from the facts to your conclusions.

Build your arguments now, by creating a logical flow of reasoning from your evidence to the conclusion you want me to accept.

Step 3: Pathos

Whatever delusions we may hold about the rigour of our own thought processes, most of the decisions we make are made by instinct, intuition and emotional response. Only after we have made them, do we set out to justify them rationally, by selecting evidence and an interpretation to suit.

So a purely rational approach to persuasion will often fail. You need also to appeal to my feelings and intuitions and that is the purpose of pathos.  You can use pathos bluntly by yanking on my heartstrings, or powerfully by choosing to tell a compelling story. This way, the emotion is amplified yet not so evident.

What story can you tell, to weave your evidence and logic into a compelling narrative? How can you tweak this to make it easy for me to identify myself in your story and feel a real part of it? How can your ending demonstrate the positive impact of my choosing to agree with you?

Further Reading

The Influencing Pocketbook

Storytelling Pocketbook

Blog: The King of Self Help – about Dale Carnegie and Influence

Blog: Reciprocity and Expectation

Blog: Building Rapport with FROGS

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Making Meetings Work for You

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Meetings are work.  They don’t always feel that way, as you emerge from another wasted hour, and, if they habitually do achieve nothing, then they are displacing real work and you need to do something about it: speak to the chair of the meeting and suggest your time would be better spent working on something else, but ask courteously for a copy of minutes, so you can stay in touch.  In extremis, maybe even suggest that the meeting no longer serves a valuable purpose and that it is time for a re-think.

But most meetings do serve a purpose and you are there for a reason.  So let’s examine how to get the most from your meetings.

Exercise 1: Preparation

There are two things you will need to do when you are at your meeting: Get what you need from the time you spend, and contribute effectively, getting your point of view across.  These are why you should prepare: so you know what you want to get from the meeting and so that you are ready to make your point effectively.

My meeting preparation kit consists of:

  • A multipart folder so I can organise and quickly find the papers for each section of the meeting.
  • 12 Part Folder
  • A highlighter pen, so I can highlight the key passages I will want to refer to.  A top tip: don’t just read through other people’s papers; read your own contributions as well, highlighting the points you want to make when you are asked to speak.
  • A pack of sticky notes, to attach comments or create bookmarks.

Exercise 2: Being Present

Let me pass on the best piece of advice I ever got about meetings:

Be in the room, when you are in the room

That is to say, don’t let your mind wander, don’t get distracted by side conversations, and avoid looking at your phone, or writing your shopping list.  Be wholly present.  Practise good quality attentive listening and take notes that will help you to lock important points into your memory, record essential facts, and create your follow-up action list. This is even more important to focus on when the meeting is a virtual one, when distractions are multiple.

Exercise 3: Speaking up

When it is your turn to speak – whether because you are questioned, or you are called upon –  structure what you say to make maximum impact. This means taking a pause before speaking, while you organise your thoughts.  Savour its dramatic effect, then speak with assurance and precision.  When you have spoken, create a clean break and await responses.

Exercise 4: Being Influential

There are three things that will boost your levels of influence in any meeting.

  1. Focus on principles
    Principles and patterns carry far more power than details, so confine your contributions to what matters most and let others contribute the secondary ideas.
  2. Focus on process
    When the meeting gets stuck or hits confusion or conflict, you will be at your most influential when you contribute a simple process to move things on.  Don’t get involved in the confusions and stay above the conflict: just offer a constructive way forward.
  3. Silence
    It is almost impossible to overstate the power of silence.  Silence in pauses; before, during and after you speak, silence when listening, silence when nobody knows what to say.  Command the silences and you control the meeting.

Exercise 5: Follow-up

When you schedule your meeting in your diary, schedule 15 minutes after the meeting to do your follow-up, to reflect on what you have learned, or to chat with another participant.  Rushing from one meeting to your next engagement risks losing the impact of that meeting and leaves you with a load of follow-up at the end of the day.  Worse still, you don’t follow-up… and then, what was the point?

Further Reading

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