Leadership Strategies: Target Your Message to the Right Sense

5 senses


People were created with five senses, although a few may claim they have a sixth sense. If you’re blessed with this intuitive sixth, you may not need read any further since you’ve probably already put into practice the concept to follow. For those who rely mostly on their core five, you may achieve greater influence if you tailor and direct your message toward the sense your intended receiver relies on most.

Leadership is about influence, and in many cases, influencing means getting people to see your point of view, do specific things, change behaviors, and think in different ways. Communication can be in the form of written, dialogue, and immersion into a situation to gain firsthand information. What many leaders may not realize is that each person has a preferred method by which want to receive information, usually because they process it more effectively in that format.

Although these preferences are individualistic, in my experience there also appears to be preferences by generational cohorts. Millennials seem to prefer visual communication based on how they learned via video technology. GenX, who grew up using PowerPoint as a primary business tool, typically prefer written communication to read over and digest. The Baby Boomers and older prefer to talk in person, or if necessary, have a conversation over the phone. They remember the days when a 20-ft telephone cord helped them stay connected with friends and family dinners/conversations were mandatory seven nights a week.

Regardless whether people fit their generational cohort, they typically give clues in how they prefer to receive information based on the words they use to start their responds. When people responds with “see” and “looks” as in “I see why” or “It looks good,” most likely they prefer to receive information visually.  Even if they heard the information, they will tend to respond with “It looks good.”

People who prefer auditory will likely respond, “I hear you.” Then there are those who say, “I feel…” as they weigh how people will feel about the decision. More women than men typically say “I feel…” when expressing their opinion, with men preferring to opt for “I think…” or “I believe…” If you provide information in the format that the receiver prefers, you may be more influential in your message.  What’s your preferred sense?


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She coaches individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Improve How You Communicate at Work

Sandra Dillon: May 13, 2018


CommunicationMen and women generally have different styles of communication, and when one appreciates and works with these language differentiators, they can help lead their teams to higher performance levels. Across all relationships, men tend to use their words to work through and solve problems; whereas, women are more likely than men to share their feelings to feel better about their problems and build connection. Women tend to talk out their process, while men think out their process before sharing with a group. Not surprisingly, studies show women use about 3 times more words than men do in a given day—20,000 versus 7,000. Statistics may highlight how differently men and women communicate, but they don’t capture how these differences can result in biased judgment. Sometimes judgment can lead to unintentional discrimination in the forms of exclusion from teams and projects as well as subjective performance evaluations based on behaviors that don’t resonate with the evaluator.

Hedging Language Undermines the Message

Did you know that women are interrupted 3 times more than men? Why is that? Ideally everyone should be respectful in allowing others to finish sharing their thoughts, but this isn’t always the case. I believe women tend to undermine their own success in the workplace, when they use hedging language—setups that do not offend or words that soften their position. People who use hedging language find themselves routinely starting their sentences with:

  • I think, but I’m not sure…
  • I hope you can see my point of….
  • I could be wrong, but…

Some men also use this type of language and suffer the same consequences. However, women tend use hedging language more, because they have been culturalized since childhood to be relationship builders. Another expression of the hedger is saying “I’m sorry” when “excuse me” is more appropriate for the situation. These “starters” and “phrases” don’t set people up for success in the work environment, because they discount the idea that follows.

Who Needs to Change?

Most people prefer that others communicate in the style they do; however, I propose that every employee has an obligation to communicate in a way that honors the company’s culture and colleagues without violating their own values. Employees should assess the work landscape and intentionally adjust their natural communication style to support the success of the company, business, or team. So how can men and women adjust to accommodate their differences?

I suggest that women minimize using those undermining prefaces, assert their ideas and opinions, and chose not to get offended. Men should share more about how they arrived at their ideas. They should also be more patient and not interrupt a woman until she has has completed her thoughts. Focus on generating white space—the pause between speakers. While women and men try to bridge their communication styles, both should suspend judgment in how the other communicates.

A Mentor Can Help

I’m an advocate for mentoring and coaching because of the benefits I see mentorees and coachees achieve. Sometimes even the most experienced and successful people need a coach to help them see and navigate the blind spots they’ve developed over time. Understandably, many people are more comfortable seeking mentors of the same sex. If you have the opportunity to have two mentors, or a coach and mentor, I would encourage you to seek one of each gender. I believe there will be at least a few instances where you will get a different perspective that proves invaluable.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and life coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

5 Words to Eliminate from Your Sales Conversations

words out of mouth


Communication is a powerful tool used in selling and developing business. Studies show that communication is composed of body language (55%), tone of voice (38%), and words (7%). However, the contribution of your chosen words to the meaning of your message shouldn’t be underestimated.

Watch out for These Words or Expressions

There are several words or phrases sales people should be sensitive to, because they subtly diminish the impression left customers. When you reflect on your past conversations do you find yourself using any of the following?

  • No problem: These two words have become today’s standard response for a “thank you.” Does “no problem” presume the customer’s request would be a problem, and the seller was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t? Better to express a simple “you’re welcome” or an affirming statement such as “my pleasure” [the standard at a Chick-Fil-A near you].
  • Small: Many organizations label and promote themselves as a “small” business. Don’t minimize your business in your customers’ minds. Better to use more neutral, and even better, more positive language. Substitute “small” with “growing” or “intimate.”
  • We: Avoid “we” as much as you can when pitching your services or products. If you want to establish brand recognition, say and write the company’s name. Notice the difference when you speak, “Shine Crossings is offering first time clients 50% off their first coaching session,” as opposed to “We are offering first time clients 50% off their first coaching session.”
  • Just and Only: Sometimes sellers use these qualifiers to imply a bargain price: “This product is only $20.” These words make you sound less confident in what you’re asking for, which can then make a customer wonder how low you will go.  Try removing the qualifier by saying “This product is $20,” and then promote its benefits. Do you notice the subtle change in confidence conveyed about the product’s value?

Words are powerful, so be mindful of which ones you choose in order to reap the rewards of greater sales success.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and life coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

Leadership: How to Influence People and Outcomes

Sandra Dillon: January 25, 2018


leadership is influenceThere’s a reason why Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People has been in print for over 80 years. Its longevity owes itself to the timeless understanding of what drives human behavior. With leadership synonymous with influence, leaders should embrace Carnegie’s (1964) principles in how to (1) handle people, (2) make people like you, and (3) win people to your way of thinking.

In my experience, 20% of business success can be attributed to knowledge with the balance to a person’s skill in implementing Carnegie’s techniques—meaning 80% of business success comes from how you lead yourself and engage with others. Many of these learnings come from Carnegie asking himself three questions after every encounter:

  1. What mistakes did I make?
  2. What did I do that was right, and in what way could I have improved?
  3. What lessons can I learn and apply in the future?

If you’re able to master Carnegie’s key principles, you’ll likely find yourself in the top 5% of those who can influence people and their circumstances. Below is my winning summary of Carnegie’s best.

Techniques in How to Handle People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. Instead try to understand people and why they do what they do. Humans naturally have prejudices and are motivated by pride and occasionally vanity in their words and actions. Criticism only puts a person on the defensive, incurs resentment, and causes him* to justify himself.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation. A strong human need is the desire to feel important which is why people crave appreciation, especially from their superiors and those whom they respect. Be careful with flattery—otherwise known as counterfeit appreciation—which comes across as insincere.
  3. Focus on what the other person wants and show him how to get it. Unselfishly serving others brings enormous advantages to the relationship.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people as opposed to trying to get people interested in you. Help others in ways that require your time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness.
  2. Smile, smile, and smile. Your smile is a messenger of what’s inside you, and it has the power to brighten someone’s life by conveying “I like you” or “I’m glad to see you.”
  3. Remember a person’s name. A person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound to him. Use it generously, and spell it correctly.
  4. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. Ask people a lot of questions and validate the stories and words they share in conversation.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Talk about the things the other person treasures most.
  6. Make the other person feel important. When people believe you sincerely think of them as important and appreciate them, they will respond positively to you. Reflect on something you can genuinely admire and then recognize them for it.

Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. Avoid an argument. You can’t win an argument, because if you lose it, you lost it, and if you win it, you lost it. Why? Because someone who has lost an argument feels inferior, has his pride hurt, and will ultimately resent the triumph. The only successful way to change someone’s mind is to help him come to that conclusion himself. It’s better to manage a disagreement by trying to see the other person’s viewpoint, look for areas of agreement, and encourage him to think over your ideas.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions and never tell them, “You’re wrong. You cannot change opinions when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings.  When you hurt someone, they’re not receptive in listening to anything you have to say.
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it clearly and quickly. Stating those words clears the air of defensiveness and helps solve problems.
  4. Begin any controversial conversation in a friendly way. As the old saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
  5. Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately. Begin a conversation by emphasizing the things in which you agree. Several initial “yes” responses keep the listener moving in an affirmative direction.
  6. Let the other person do most of the talking. Think the 80/20 rule—the other person talks 80% of the time and you only 20%. Let them talk themselves into what you want them to do. [Note: This one is difficult for the extrovert.]
  7. Let others feel that the idea is theirs. Suggest, suggest, and suggest. Then let the other person think about it so much that he thinks it’s his idea.
  8. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view even if the other person is wrong and doesn’t think so. By validating the other person’s viewpoint, he will likely have a open mind to hear your ideas. [Note: Validating is not agreeing.]
  9. Be sympathetic to the other person’s desires. Validating someone even if you don’t agree will go a long way in keeping emotions in check and leaving them with a positive feeling towards you.
  10. Assume the other person operates with noble motives. People will react favorably toward you when they believe you consider them honest, upright and fair.
  11. Dramatize your ideas. Stating the simple truth may not be good enough. You may have to make the truth vivid, interesting, and dramatic in order to get the other person’s attention.
  12. Throw down a challenge. People have a competitive spirit. If you want to get things done, stimulate some competition and tap into to people’s desire to excel and prove their worth.

Practice Makes Perfect

A leader’s job often includes setting people up for success by helping them change their attitudes and behaviors. Carnegie’s (1964) suggestions to accomplish this are simply stated:

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
  5. Let the other person save face
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement
  7. Compliment the very trait in a person that you want him to live up to
  8. Use encouragement and make any fault seems easy to correct
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

With over 30 recommended behaviors, a person may feel overwhelmed on where to start. I would suggest rating yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how well you perform on each behavior. Select three behaviors that you are committed to improve upon and brainstorm specific approaches or words that will produce a more favorable outcome. Changing behaviors can be difficult at first, but repetitiveness turns new behaviors into old habits.

In my opinion one of the most impactful behavioral changes you can make is to remove one word from your vocabulary. What word? The word “but.” “But” negates everything that was said before it and closes down the conversation. If you replace “but” with the word “and,” you’ll see a dramatic difference in where the conversation goes. Don’t be discouraged when you realize how difficult it can be to remove that conjunction from your sentence structure. New habits are right around the corner.

Reference

Carnegie, D. (1964). How to Win Friends & Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success. New York, NY: Gallery Books.

*He and him also refers to she and her. He is used as opposed to he or she to make it easier for the reader.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

Leadership: How to Help Curb iPhone Distractions During Meetings

iphones.jpgAs a leadership coach, I hear clients express annoyance that they cannot lead an hour-long business meeting without attendees looking at emails, texts, or other information sourced on their iPhones.  Some senior leaders even resort to posting a sign on the conference room door that reads “no iPhones, this meeting” or “check your iPhones.”  In my opinion, those leaders are putting a Band-Aid on wound instead of addressing its cause.  You may be thinking, “We can’t take away our employees’ iPhones.”  I agree, however, what I am proposing is that leaders pause and question what they are contributing to the problem.

Spend a few moments and reflect over the past month on the meetings you attended and did not lead.  After the meeting concluded, how many times did you say to yourself at least one of the following statements:

  • “That was a non-value-add meeting.”
  • “I’m not sure what the point was of that meeting.”
  • “We hardly accomplished anything.”
  • “We could have taken half the time to discuss what we did.”
  • “Wish we could have a meeting where we don’t get off topic.”
  • “I don’t know why I was invited to that meeting.”

My guess would be that at least half the meetings you attended had some elements of the above ineffectiveness.  In these meetings, were you bored, sneaking peaks at Facebook and returning emails and texts? If so, what did these meetings have in common?  I would propose they lacked one or more of the following:

  • A defined or succinct purpose
  • An upfront definition of what decisions, if any, needed to be made before leaving the meeting
  • An agenda and topics clearly mapped to scheduled time

When leaders have not clearly defined the purpose and the decisions that need to be made during their meetings, they typically invite more people than required as a means of covering all bases.  When a leader does not prepare well, invite the right people, or conduct the meeting effectively, attendees will naturally disengage.  It is the leader’s responsibility to prepare and lead a meeting in a way that the right attendees will choose to participate.

How can a leader lead an effective meeting?  Consider the following:

  1. Define and clearly articulate the purpose of the meeting (i.e. information, brainstorming, or decision-making).
  2. State at the beginning of the meeting what decisions need to be made by the group before the meeting adjourns.
  3. Issue an agenda with items #1 an #2 at the top as well as the topics that will be discussed, who will lead them, and how much time has been allocated to each activity. When possible, issue the agenda several days in advance, so attendees can prepare and ask any questions.

When leaders develop and clearly communicate their meetings’ purpose and decision requirements, they can more easily determine who needs to attend.  Distributing an agenda in advance helps to set expectations and gives attendees time to prepare. Assigned prereading can reduce meeting time as attendees are current on the topic. Meeting time can then be productively used to answer questions, debate, and build consensus.

I acknowledge that some employees’ technology addiction can undermine even the leader’s best meeting management. These cases warrant a conversation outside of the meeting.  Strong leaders are comfortable in respectfully addressing meeting behaviors that undermine team performance.  Strong leaders also welcome feedback.  One of the best closing questions a leader can ask before dismissing the group: “How could this meeting have been more effective?”


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ specific business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Workplace Leadership: Bridging the Generational Cohorts

Leadership generational gapsGender inequality in wages and promotional opportunities used to be the hot topic in HR meetings and workplace chatter, but this issue has been overshadowed by the office talk about the Millennials (Gen Y) and how to manage their job expectations and performance.  With Millennials accounting for ~ 50% of the American workforce today and growing to 75% by 2025, businesses are wrestling with how to assimilate Gen Y with older employees who span several generational cohorts (Maturists, Baby Boomers, and Gen X).  Instead of focusing on gender inequities, many office conversations and Facebook posts make fun of the Millennials.  Might this be a broad form of cyber bullying?  Do these pokes help to bridge the gap or do they solidify what we believe to be true and allow us to vent some frustration?

Leaders should be asking themselves, “How can our company help our employees build stronger and more productive relationships across generational cohorts?”   I propose the first step is for all employees to understand the workplace landscape and appreciate what each generation brings to the team.  Questions that should be answered are: (1) what are the different generational cohorts at play within the organization, (2) what are these cohort characteristics, strengths, motivators, needs, values, and preferences, (3) what can each generation recognize as value-add from another, and (4) how can work and communication be constructed that honors and values all contributions.  A leadership coach can facilitate constructive conversation that starts the process; whereby, each employee becomes educated about the generational dynamics and actively looks for ways to productively engage the other generations.

Personal judgment should be suspended of other cohorts’ attitudes and behaviors, because good/bad or right/wrong are only relative assessments. People are products of their culture, and each generation, including Gen Z entering the workforce today, has been raised within their own unique global experiences and technology platforms.  For example, Maturists (born pre-1945), who grew up during the Depression and WW II, lacked many basic necessities and a sense of security.  As a result, Maturists drove toward the preference of “jobs for life.”

The dynamics of the generational cohorts have been compared to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where Maturists entered the workforce at the first levels with the expectations that jobs served to meet their physiological and safety needs.  On the other hand, Gen Y has been culturized during a time of American abundance and within families where children were given a priority in the family structure.  Gen Y’s parents raised them with a strong sense of love/belonging and provided activities and rewards to build esteem. Having had the first four levels of Maslow’s needs met, it should come as no surprise that Millennials entered the workforce looking to achieve the next level—self-actualization. A need for self-actualization would easily translate into the need for a job that provides meaning and a higher purpose rather than just to collect a paycheck.

Debating the fairness or reasonableness of what each generation expects from work drives wedges among cohorts rather than fostering the conversation in how to bring the generations together. Businesses need to openly talk and act constructively in bridging the generations, because each cohort has a unique ability to offer value.  Leadership coaches can help businesses facilitate these conversations.   A company cannot mandate a bridge be built, but it can encourage and provide a coach, who can help employees design and build the bridge they all want to walk across.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ specific business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations engaged all its employees to their fullest potential.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

Communication Intelligence: How Would You Rate Your Listening Skills?

listening 3The media is flooded with research and articles on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EI/EQ), and their role in personal life success.  On the contrary, few studies have mentioned the importance of Communication Quotient/Intelligence (CQ/I).  Whereas IQ measures mental capacity to learn and EQ the use of emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, CI reflects the ability to communicate effectively.  Communication intelligence is a complex concept encompassing both effective speaking and listening skills.

In American culture, extroversion is valued more than introversion and speaking is emphasized over listening.  For those who may not have thought about this concept, I would ask, “When was the last time you were complimented for being a good listener?”  Perhaps the only time you can recall was as a child, when your parent thanked you for listening and doing what you were asked after behavior to the contrary.  More likely than not, you have complimented colleagues and friends on a giving a powerful speech or presentation and leading a great discussion.  Have you complimented a peer for listening well?  Whether the environment is school, work, or home, there are few rewards for listening well and in contrast typically punishments or negative repercussions.

Listening TableNot only are people not rewarded for good listening, they are generally not highly skilled at it.  Why? I would propose, because effective listening is rarely taught.  Burley-Allen (1995) compared four communication modes with their percentage of time used and formal years of training.  Although the majority of communication (40%) is spent in listening mode, the American education system spends a fraction of the time teaching effective listening skills. Instead, most of our learning is modeled by our parents in early childhood and reflected in our reward and punishment patterns.  Our communication intelligence is built on the socialization process started in our families.

Listening is a skill that everyone can improve upon.  You first need to understand where you are on the listening effectiveness continuum.  Step one is gaining self-knowledge: being aware of your listening abilities and evaluating their effectiveness.  We can all benefit by reflecting on our predispositions and assumptions brought into our conversations and what filters we use to interpret messages.  Burley-Allen (1995) describes filters such as memories, values, strong beliefs, expectations, attitudes, past experiences, prejudices, assumptions, and feelings.

We should all be conscious of our filters and how they are affecting our ability to listen well.  Partnering with a coach can help you develop a plan to improve your listening abilities and communication effectiveness.  The reward?  Building listening capacity and skill proficiency increases personal success in relationships and leadership influence.

Reference

Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

 

Have You Taken A Conversation Pause Today?

Extroverts have a tendency to interrupt people with their own ideas, opinions, and suggestions, before others have had the chance to finish speaking their thoughts. Extroverts honor the conversation and build stronger relationships, when they give others the space to fully express their message. When people feel they have been fully heard, they are more inclined to respectfully listen in return. Challenge yourself today to be more conscientious of how often you want to or do interrupt others, before they have finished expressing themselves.  As an extrovert, I find it is harder than I thought!



Conversation pause


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  

 

Are You Listening? What Did You Hear?

Attentively ListeningEffective listening is one of the most demanding components of any communication exchange, because it involves a mental process that requires self-discipline and demands tremendous amounts of focused energy.  As a life coach, my profession requires that I demonstrate a high proficiency in effective listening, and I must admit, I have to continually work at maintaining this skill.  Without continued practice, it is easy to slip into old and more comfortable listening habits.  The good news?  Effective listening is not an innate skill but one that everyone can learn and master.

What is effective listening?  Burley-Allen (1995) defines specific elements of effective listening which include (1) taking in information while remaining empathetic and nonjudgmental, (2) acknowledging the speaker in a way that invites the conversation to continue, and (3) providing encouraging feedback that carries the other person’s idea one step further.   Effective listening is harder than you might think to practice, because it involves not just tuning into the other person but tuning into oneself.  Have you had the chance to listen carefully to what you said and how you said it?  Have you ever recorded one of your serious or passionate conversations?  If you have, were you surprised in how you came across in the conversation?  Try it!  Next time you plan to have an important discussion, consider using effective listening techniques, record your conversation, and review the recording.  The feedback may surprise you, while providing you with valuable information in self-awareness and self-reflection.

Reference

Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Email: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com