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Words, Voice, Expression, and what?

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

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

Is there anything more to say about the famous Albert Mehrabian and his experiment that showed (or did it?) that, in conversation, our message is conveyed in words, voice and expression?

First, we need a refresher on Albert Mehrabian, because I don’t want to take your level of knowledge for granted.

Exercise: Research Albert Mehrabian

The Mehrabian Pie Chart

Mehrabian’s work is often represented as showing that our words, voice and expressions carry elements of our meaning in the ratios 7:38:55.  It doesn’t.  It shows, in just one experiment that has never been repeated, that, when our words, vocal style and expressions conflict with one another, then other people put most weight on our expressions and least on what we actually say.  I will make it easy with two excellent references:

  1. I wrote about this for Training Journal in July 2007
  2. An easier way still, to learn what Mehrabian really means is to watch the wonderful three and a half minute video by Creativity Works on YouTube.

The ‘and what?’

Without a doubt, your words, voice and expression all convey elements of your intended meaning.  But there is something very important that Mehrabian did not explore.  It often makes the difference between being understood quickly and accurately on the one hand, and being hard to understand, and even misunderstood, on the other: structure.

How you structure what you say has a profound effect on people’s attention levels, on their comprehension and, indeed, on your credibility as a speaker or writer.

Compare these two scenarios, for example:

Ami describes her insight in a rambling way, starting with what she was thinking and digressing from time to time, repeating herself and qualifying her comments.  When she finally stops, she looks up and says ‘do you follow me?’.  Most people nod, but think ‘no, sorry, I don’t’.

Bettina starts by saying ‘here is what I think’, then follows it up by saying ‘and here are three reasons why I believe this is correct’.  She gives the reasons, one after the other, then finishes by saying ‘so, to conclude, […] is well supported by the facts.’  … and she stops.

Who will be easier to follow and more persuasive?

A formula for structured responses

Persuade, convince and win arguments with clear and structured comments.

  1. This is what I noticed
  2. This is what I think
  3. This is why I think it (one, two or three reasons; maximum)
  4. Reiterate your conclusion

This is far from the only formula, but discipline in structuring what you say will not only make you more credible when you do speak, it will make people want to hear what you think.

Further Reading

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Get in Sync with Rapport

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

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

Rapport is the darling topic of NLP experts and self help gurus, going all the way back to Dale Carnegie and ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.  But what is it really, does it have the magic it is claimed to have and, if so, how can you deploy it?   We’ll take a look at these three questions.

What is Rapport?

Rapport really exists at two levels and its power come from the interplay between the two.  At the more superficial level, it is the sense that two people have, that they understand one another fully and share each other’s concerns.  At the deeper level, rapport exists when two people have a relationship based on liking of and trust for each other.

We recognise rapport in two people who are together, when we start to notice similarities in the way they dress, their behaviour, how they speak and their movements, which often become synchronised.  We say that they are ‘in tune’ with one another, they are harmonised, they are in sync.

How effective is Rapport?

Rapport is  a natural process, which has evolved to build and strengthen bonds.  The important question is not whether it is effective, but whether we can use it to our advantage in a conscious way.  The answer seems to be yes.  Used in an artful manner, rapport-building skills are effective in domains from counselling and therapy to sales and customer service.  They are also used by con artists, so beware.

There was an excellent article in The New York Times, called ‘You Remind Me of Me’ that discussed a range of experimental evidence.

How can you use Rapport?

The basic approach to creating rapport is to match the person you are speaking with.  Do what they do and echo their movements, vocal patterns and key words.  Do so subtly (but not too subtly – it feels natural and so is rarely noticed).

Adopt a similar posture and repeat back the most important aspects of what they say – using their words.  Make your movements similar to theirs in quality and quantity, but don’t just copy them.

Speak at about the same speed and repeat important gestures and expressions, like smiling and frowning.

Build it up gradually and start to notice not only how they are more open to you, but also how much more clearly you understand what they are trying to communicate.

Further Reading

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Personal Impact

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics with a return visit to our correspondence course in management.

As a manager you need to make an appropriate personal impact at all times in the workplace and when representing your organisation or business.

Here is a checklist of things to consider.  You may want to make a note in your notebook about how you propose to respond.  The best way to get things right is to look to the successful managers you meet in your organisation.  How do they carry off each of these things? What can you learn from each of them?

You will not, of course, want to copy their style, but rather, you should apply your own style, but recognise the appropriate levels of dress and appearance.

Personal Impact 1: Mental and Physical State

Start with your mental and physical state – this will profoundly affect how you come across.  If you have not done the exercises in the previous part of this course, they will be helpful to you.

Personal Impact 2: Dress and Style

Choose clothes of a quality and style that matches that of managers at your level.  If you are ambitious, look at how managers one level up from you dress and emulate them.  But be careful over-dressing to match top directors – that can be seen as presumptuous, over-ambitious or just quirky.  A personal style is fine, but make sure it is authentic to who you are and is appropriate to your environment.

Make sure that your clothes and shoes are well-cared for and use accessories to boost your impact.  A good quality, standard, off-the-peg suit need not cost much.  Add a few accessories and you will come across as far more classy.  These include your work bag, pens, tie or scarf, belt or brooch, bracelet or cuff-links.

Dress for Impact

Joke ties, cute phone covers and loud brooches are all perfect for the weekend, but if your accessories draw more attention to themselves than you can command on your own; ditch them.

It may be worth investing in a style advisor who can help you select clothes and colours that work for you.  Alternatively, if you have a trusted friend who dresses really well, ask them to help you with shopping.

Personal Impact 3: Personal Care

Don’t waste money on great clothes if you are not going to take care of basic personal grooming: hair, teeth, facial hair and fingernails are particularly important.

Further Reading

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Self Confidence

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is the first of a series of posts on management skills.

Self confidence is the starting place for any manager.  Your promotion to managerial role has probably been triggered more by your expertise in doing your previous job, your reliability, and your character, than by any specific evidence of your managerial capability.  And that’s fine, because it is the way most of your colleagues were promoted too.

But it can leave you feeling a little nervous about your suitability to manage and, when your boss tells you to ‘get on with it – I have every trust in you’ you can feel a little isolated.  Your boss leaves you to it, your new management peers don’t yet trust you, and your team are wary of how you will treat them, now you have become a manager.

Here are three exercises to help boost your self-confidence.

Exercise 1: A Reassuring Word

Write down your answers to the following sentences:

  • ‘I earned my managerial role because…
  • ‘My three most valuable managerial assets are…
  • ‘The managers I learned most from are…
  • ‘I will know I am doing a good job as manager when…
  • ‘Things will go wrong; that’s life.  If they do, the people I can go to are…

Exercise 2: Seeing Success

Imagine it is Monday morning and you are in work, ready to start the day.  In a minute, close your eyes and picture yourself there.  Picture your first few conversations and meetings going well.  Notice yourself handling the situations effectively, feeling well-prepared.  As you go through your morning, picture everything you do going as planned. At each stage, notice how good that makes you feel.  At the end of your morning, imagine how positive and confident you will feel.

Now, close your eyes and play that movie in your head for several minutes.

When you have done this, make a note in your notebook about how you felt at the end of each part of your morning.  Write down what you did to achieve your successes.

This is an exercise to repeat several times over the coming days.  Each time you do it, choose another day and either the morning or afternoon.  Every time you do it, you will increase your base level of confidence.

Exercise 3: Power Poses

One of the reasons some people feel more confident than others is simply levels of hormones in their bodies.  For example, increased testosterone levels increase confidence, whilst increased cortisol levels decrease confidence.  Perhaps it is surprising, but your gross posture affects levels of both of these hormones and, whether you are a man or a woman, you can increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol, by adopting power poses.

You can do these poses for two or three minutes before going into a stressful situation and you can maintain confidence-boosting hormone levels by maintaining upright, open postures during your day.

Power Poses

Stand upright, legs apart – slightly wider than shoulder width – and put your hands on your hips.  If there is a table, counter or a solid back of a stable chair available, place your hands firmly on it, about 70-80cm apart (wider than your shoulders) and lean forward.  Adopt these poses for two minutes or so.

If you have a chair to sit on, try sitting upright, legs apart, with feeet firmly on the floor.  Plant your hands firmly on your upper thighs, with elbows outwards.  Lean your body back a little, with head a little forward.  Or try putting your feet up on a table, leaning back in your chair, with your hands clasped behing your head, elbows splayed out.  Adopt one of these for two minutes.

If these poses remind you of a typical ‘old-school alpha-male boss’, they should.  The difference is that you will adopt these poses privately for a few minutes at most, to boost your confidence for the next meeting; rather than maintain it in the meeting to intimidate your colleagues.

Upright Postures

For all-of-the-time posture, keep to standing with feet at hip or maybe shoulder width, head upright, as if pulled by a puppet string, and arms by your sides.  This open body, coupled with upright posture, will not only make you feel more assertive, but will enhance your breathing, your vocal tone and projection and present your image as confident and authoritative.

Further Reading

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Management Secrets of Queen Elizabeth II

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

This blog is published on a Bank Holiday, so we don’t expect many people to be at work, reading it. But a diamond jubilee is a big deal – and so is Queen Elizabeth II. Over the last sixty years, she has proved herself, among much else, a great manager.  Let’s look at how.

1. Professionalism

The Queen is the consummate professional – putting in many hours of work every day (still) and, until recently, maintaining a work schedule that would make Apprentice candidates and Dragons shudder.

2. Chief Executive

She is Chief Executive of one of the nation’s oldest established, biggest and most successful family businesses.  And she has run it pretty well.  Whilst openly acknowledging the occasional wayward members of the family, and allowing the odd unsuccessful venture from some of them, she has ensured that the succession is assured with all of the major players showing signs of commitment to the business and high levels of professionalism themselves.

3. Mastering a Brief

The Queen prepares well for every engagement, famously knowing all about the people she meets, from Lord Lieutenant to Lunchtime Assistant (Dinner Lady in old money).  And she also keeps up with her red boxes (literally, red boxes in which Government papers are sent to her daily), devoting many hours each week to assimilate everything the Government sends her.

4. Brand Management

Her identity and that of her family, the House of Windsor, remains clear and, despite some setbacks, currently has not only great name recognition (“The Royal Family”) but also high levels of brand approval.  It has adapted well to modern media and the website is supplemented by YouTube, Flickr and Facebook pages, and a Twitter stream @TheBritishMonarchy.  I doubt that the Queen herself tweets – but how many CEOs do?

5. Financial Control

No longer right at the top of the Sunday Times Rich List (now at 262, with £310m), this could be argued to be a weak area, but she has reduced the scale of the civil list and, unlike some of the higher fliers, is not running a global business.

6. Coaching

The Queen’s regular meetings with her many Prime Ministers have, by many accounts, often taken the form of a non-judgemental conversation, in which she asks many probing and insightful questions.  In management, there’s a word for that style of conversation.

7. Change Management

A lot is made of the continuity of the British monarchy, but the reality is one of constant change.  The last sixty years have been no exception.  And whilst she has avoided the pitfalls that led predecessors to far more rapid change (Magna Carta, Civil War like Stephen/Matilda, Charles/Parliament, Roses etc, or reformation), she has created a highly agile institution that, whilst in no way a creature of the twenty first century, at least looks fit to continue within it.

Management Pocketbooks you might Enjoy

The Modern Monarch's Pocketbook

The Modern Monarch’s Pocketbook has been delayed, so in the meantime, if you are a UK resident and reading this on the Bank Holiday, enjoy the end of your break.

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Seven Ways to Interview Well

Going for a new job?

Maybe it’s the next step in your career ladder: maybe it’s the first.

Maybe you’ve chosen to shop around: maybe circumstances have forced you into the job market.

Whatever your circumstances, the ‘job interview’ is going to be an important stage in the process.  For some it is feared, while for others it is a chance to show off.  However you feel about job interviews, you will need to use it to your advantage and do it really well.


1. Homework is not just for school

There may have been an excuse for not knowing all about your potential employer before you arrived at the interview twenty years ago, when a trip to the library and a review of the papers came up blank; but no more.  If you have not reviewed their website, checked out key people on LinkedIn, and searched for relevant press coverage, you are just preparing yourself to be tripped up at interview.

Don’t just focus your interview practice on yourself and how you will respond: learn about the people who may be interviewing you.

2. Look good – Feel good

Interview dressing is not about being fashionable or elegant, it is about showing that you know how to present yourself appropriately in the business environment of your prospective employer.  This will be different if you want to work in a retail chain, an architect, a fashion house or a law firm.

My top tip is to hang out opposite the entrance to where you want to work, or their local branch, or one of their top competitors.  Watch the people going in and out, to get a sense of the prevailing dress code.  If in doubt, when you call to confirm your interview, ask about dress code.

3. First Impression

Nothing conveys your qualities as quickly as your very first encounter with your interviewer/s.  A good posture, eye contact, a pleasant smile and a good handshake will say: ‘I am confident and looking forward to our meeting.’ On the other hand, slouching, evasive eyes, a frown or grimace and a limp handshake will say ‘I am fearful and I don’t want to be here.’

It’s all obvious stuff, but you’d be surprised how many people fail at this step.

4. Short and Sharp

Keep your answers short and sharp – around three minutes will create a good balance between terse and wordy, and will demonstrate you are in control of your thoughts.  Practise answers to obvious questions like:

  • ‘why do you want this job?’
  • ‘why should we hire you?’
  • ‘what are your strengths?’
  • ‘… and your weaknesses?’

A god way to control your answers and show structured thinking is to apply the ‘rule of three’ that make a good speech effectively:

  • ‘There are three reasons I what this job…’
  • ‘I think there are three things that distinguish me from the other able candidates you will be speaking to…’
  • ‘My three greatest strengths are…’
  • ‘The three aspects of my professional skills I’d like to develop most are…’

Then summarise each in around a minute.

5. Telling Tales

Human beings love hearing stories: it is the most powerful rhetorical form.  And if you are wondering how or why they are relevant in a job interview, the answer is simple.  When I conducted interviews, the most important thing for me was to hear evidence for the loose assertions most candidates offer.  I wanted to hear what had really happened and also get an insight into how candidates think and deal with challenges.  Package your experiences into compelling 60-90 second stories.

6. Structured Response

You are bound to get some questions you haven’t prepared for. – despite the presence of books that seem to offer a comprehensive list.  You need to think on your feet and structure your answer to show the rigour of your thinking and the flexibility of your mind.  Try the AREA approach:

  • Give a clear Answer to the question
  • Explain your Reasons for that answer
  • Cite Evidence or Examples to support your answer
  • Reiterate the Answer before you .

7. Show you are a 3G Candidate

Research by Harvard Business School guest lecturer and founder of Peak Learning, Dr Paul Stoltz, employers are really looking for a 3G mindset.  Your job is to figure out what that means for your particular prospective employer and to find ways to demonstrate it in yourself.  A 3G mindset, according to Stoltz, combines:

  1. Global: Able to think about the ‘big picture’ and look above the detail when you need to.  To understand the connectedness between parts of the job role, the organisation and the business/social environment.
  2. Good: The desire to do good, be good and serve.  This is about integrity and sensitivity to others – colleagues, partners and customers.
  3. Grit: The resilience, tenacity, and determination to persevere and see the job through, in the face of adversity.

Some Management Pocketbooks you Might find Helpful

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A Bigger Bite

What is management without vision and inspiration?

The sad news about Steve Jobs’ untimely death has spurred more blogs than anyone has the time to read, so a shorter than usual pocketblog and a simple observation.

A bigger bite out of Apple

Making the complex seem easy and the sophisticated, a doddle to use: this is more than talent, or skill: it’s art.

Last week, for the first time in my life, I heard a major news story first, not on the radio, not on the TV, not in the press, nor even from a colleague, friend, or acquaintance.  I heard it on Twitter.

… on an iPad.

The world is a better place for everyone who is bringing us new technology and more effective communication.  Yes there are compromises and a price to pay, but who would trade it?  Very few.

Steve Jobs brought us the Mac, Pixar, the iPod, iTunes and more.  But here’s the big one for me: without him, we may still think of a mouse only as a small mammal.  Without Steve Jobs, what would the move to touch screen mean?

This image is the landing page of the Apple website, as I write this blog.  (c) Apple 2011

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In Praise of Slow Management

SLOWMy friends would say that the Slow Movement is one that I honour more in the breach than the observance; but honour it I do.  I like the idea of slow food and of taking more time to do things.


I enjoy taking the time to do things really well, and wish I could be more selective about the things I do, so that I could do less.  I first came across the idea seeing a copy of Carl Honoré’s book,In Praise of Slow.’ Typically, I flicked through it, gleaned a few ideas, and moved on.   Aarrgh: the irony is not lost on me.  It’s on my desk now…

Slow down; take some time

By the way, if you want to take some time to explore this idea, here are my favourite links:

The World Institute of Slowness is taking a thoughtful and serious approach to promoting the slow movement

The witty and wise website of the IINDM; the International Institute of Not Doing Much is not quite so serious!

Slow Planet is Carl Honoré’s website, with thoughtful blogs from a number of authors – take your time over this one!

BBC Radio 4’s wonderful Food Programme, reporting on the ultimate in slow food, and the joys of food from indigenous communities.  I just happened to catch this while driving, and really did slow down, to hear it all.

Fast Change often Fails

SLOWOne of the reasons change fails is nothing to do with getting the design wrong, nor the fact of the inevitable resistance that it faces.  After all, if resistance is inevitable (and I strongly believe it is) then it cannot alone account for the failure of some changes while others thrive.

One major reason why change fails is because we try to make the change too fast.  Then, impatient for results, we try and make more change when the first fails.

I am not saying that speed in itself is wrong.  I am a great believer in making change, calibrating it and then improving, rather than going for perfect first time.

Where we need to slow down is by taking the time to communicate better.  Make time for people and they will give you better, faster, results.  We improve our management, when we slow it down.

Some examples please, Mike

SLOWHere are four situations where taking more time can make things quicker – an approach that the emerging Slow Transport approach (‘slowth’) to urban congestion is promoting.  When you slow traffic speeds in a congested environment, journey times paradoxically reduce.


Have you ever been frustrated by the lack of progress of a colleague to whom you delegated a job?  Did you really take the time to brief them carefully?


We cannot possibly support or participate properly in what we don’t understand.  A lack of knowledge exacerbates fear, so in times of change, make time to communicate relentlessly.


Who schedules the work you need, the resources or deliveries your business is dependent upon, or even your own workload?  Let’s call this omnipotent being ‘The Scheduling Clerk’.  You will want a favour from this person from time to time, so slow down and exchange a few pleasantries whenever you speak with them.  They will appreciate it and you will win in the end.


You want to make that sale.  So take the time to listen to your potential customer.  The more you can learn from them, the easier your sale will be.  If you rush to present your goods or services, you will rarely succeed.

Multi-tasking does not work

SLOWThere is a body of evidence now that multi-tasking does not work.  There are too many people getting stressed at work – so many that we need a National Stress Awareness Day. We talk about an economic slow-down, but all it means is that we all speed up.

So here’s the deal

It’s December now.  The long break and New Year are coming up.  Maybe it is time to slow down and think about next year.  Maybe it’s time to re-think how you manage.

Some Management Pocketbooks you Might Enjoy

When you slow down, you transform not just what you achieve and how you feel, but the way that others perceive you.  Cultivate slow in the right areas of your manner, and you will also boost your personal impact, as a bonus.  Learn more in The Impact and Presence Pocketbook.

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