Archive for the ‘Relationship Management’ Category

Three principles for really connecting in virtual meetings

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Last night as our son proudly gave us a virtual tour of  his new flat via Skype,  I realised how much virtual communication has overcome distance and become a very positive part of our lives.  People can meet without the time and cost of travel. Most of our daughter’s generation of parents have one parent working virtually so they can manage child care  more easily; all around the world, many teams can meet despite being very far away from one another; people can join stimulating international communities in their areas of interest, all through virtual meetings.

Yes, it does remove the direct human contact we all crave, but  with care, we can overcome much of this disadvantage.   If you  manage your virtual communication so that it pulls people together, you can make the most of the technology without losing the personal connect.

Three principles help:

1. Be prepared: Yes,  you need all the usual good preparatory stuff such as circulating an agenda and so on.  As well as this, establish and maintain some careful ground rules, such as insisting participants always identify themselves before they speak so everyone knows who is talking.   When you lead a face-to-face meeting, you can notice what is not being said, whereas in a virtual meeting, you have to deliberately connect into these communication gaps.  One way to do this is to allocate someone the  role of the critic (along the lines of Be Bono’s Black Hat) and then regularlyseek their critical input.  Another option is to  reward anyone who does speak up about something they disagree with.

2. Be present : Use a ground rule that no one multitasks. The human brain can’t do two things at once, it has to switch attention and the virtual discussion will miss out. Listen for the distracted tone in people’s voices and name it.   It will also help to frequently ask questions and seek opinions. Interactive survey tools can help with this. As the leader, draw a clock face with each participant’s name in a place around the dial.  Place it in front of you as the meeting starts and keep track of who is speaking most, then ask for contributions from the quieter people.

3. Be personal: Plan for a short check-in time at the beginning for people to share what is happening for them in their personal lives.  This is also a good time to share any successes since the last meeting. If there is some background noise – a dog barks or someone comes to the door, use that to create a personal connect.  It’s what makes us tick.

As the interesting  Harvard Business Review Blog says- we’re trying to connect, your virtual team will work a whole lot better if the baby crying in the background is a team baby crying!

How's your business savvy as you start 2014?

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Looks like 2014 will continue the pressure for HR managers to become more business-savvy.  The issue has been around for a while, but the challenge is still with us because often it feels hard to focus on people while focusing on the business.

In many ways though, business is all people.

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Business success is the right people doing the right things to succeed. HR skills in learning should help find answers to the key question:

‘How do we in HR find a way to get the right things done for the direction of our organisation?’

The 2012 CIPD Report on  Business Savvy: Giving HR the Edge identified four foundations for embedding business savvy. Most people-people HR Managers would say they  already had the last two foundations: 3. Connect with curiosity, purpose and impact and 4. Lead with integrity, consideration and challenge.

These two foundations are the keys to pursuing the first two:
       1. Understand the business model in depth. You can use your HR curiosity               and purpose to really develop an in-depth understanding of your                             organisation’s business model and strategy. Ask questions about it and                   keep exploring it until you really understand the  direction of the                organisation.
       2. Generate insight through evidence and data.  Rather than kidding yourself it is impossible, face the challenge of acquiring the data to prove the success or otherwise of your HR initiatives.  Without the integrity of data you won’t be able to convince the senior leaders of the value of these initiatives.
To help, look at the useful advice  at: Are you a business -savvy product manager?, and in more depth at: How can HR become more commercial?  2014 could be your business savvy year!

Want to make a change? Focus on the small ones

Monday, January 13th, 2014

How’s your success with those New Year resolutions?  It’s depressing isn’t it!  At the very moment we are resolving, in our hearts we know we won’t follow through.  One possible reason for this lack of will is that we set our sights too high. 

One of my coaching clients last year developed a smaller scale approach that she called ‘tweaking’. She figured that if she made a  small constructive change in her communication, but did it consistently, she should get some big results. It worked for her. Her particular tweak was that when team members were discussing work challenges, she would just pause quite a while before she spoke. She realised that often she was sapping team confidence by providing all the answers to challenges they faced. The vow of  silence forced her to wait rather than to leap in and often as not, the team found their own perfectly good answers to the problems.

Many highly productive tweaks are tiny.  As the article: How small changes make a big difference shows. Teams who use constructive touch such as high fives, tend to win more than those that don’t.

In communication, I’d expect the two most common valuable very simple tweaks would be:

1.  Planning conversations and meetings – even if only briefly. The success of this comes from the plan making us mindful of the purpose of the conversation.  Once we know why we’re having the conversation, the brain will focus. Without the awareness, the brain can be hi-jacked by the moment.

2. Listening more – to everyone, including ourselves! We already know what we know, listening can at least add to the information we have.

I wonder what simple tweak would alter your life?

Four sides to every story: Prepare to manage a conflict more constructively

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Recently  two of my yoga friends relayed to me a coffee conversation with a visiting yoga guru. It was interesting to see them describe a conversation with two viewpoints that were so different you would have thought they were different events. Neither could accept the other’s view of it. One talked about  the person as self-centred and uninterested in anyone else.  The other said the guru was very caring and so willing to share her knowledge with other people. Each was amazed that the other could possibly see the same conversation so differently.  I remembered a previous boss saying: ‘There are always at least four sides to every conflict’

It is very useful to access this awareness of different views, when we are emotionally involved in a conflict.   NLP provides a handy technique,   Perceptual Positions, to use as you prepare for a difficult conversation.  Using this tool, you shift you physically around the different viewpoints in a conflict and gets you to talk about the conflict from each positions’ point of view. It sounds a bit 80’s, but physically shifting certainly helps us see the different viewpoints.

Recently I’ve been re-visiting Byron Katie’s fascinating work, called, prosaically,  The Work.  She calls this shift to an alternate perception, ‘turnaround’.  Seeing it in action is very productive, confronting and yet often soothingly hilarious!  The idea is that you make a statement you believe, for example: ‘She was condescending to me’. Then you explore turning it around in various ways: ‘I was condescending to me’,  ‘She wasn’t condescending to me’, ‘I was condescending to her’ .  Then just see what happens to your approach.


The key to making a technical presentation more engaging

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Last week I was working with a client on a very technical presentation. He  had managed to lift it into something that would really communicate to any interested group, even if they didn’t have his technical background. He’d commented that he’d watched:How great leaders inspire action


The client realised that if he applied Sinek’s principles to any presentation it would lift it into something more special.  The technical content is the ‘what you communicate, the logical explanation is the ‘how’ but the real lift comes from the ‘why’ you are communicating .  So next time you are presenting material that involves reasoning, add in the heart stuff and you will improve it out of all sight.  Get your material together, then check that you have connected through your head, your hands and most importantly, your heart.  Apply a dose of Simon Sinek’s advice and watch your material come to life!

Need some excellent advice on bullying?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

On a recent flight I overheard a powerful conversation: Guy in his late forties quite quickly got into a deep conversation with a young teenage boy.  Eventually it came out that the kid was being bullied.  The man shared with him that he had the same experience when he was at school and how tough it was. The two sat in empathetic silence for a bit.  The man talked about  some ways he thinks he could have handled it looking back.  He pointed out that it would end. He also suggested that there’s choice about what to do with that experience in your life  – you can use it for positive or negative purposes. The relief I sensed in the young boy’s voice when he received this compassionate response was proof of the positive choice the guy had chosen.

Despite much greater awareness of the drastic damage created by bullying, there’s certainly still a lot of it about in the workplace, as well as the playground. The ramifications are immense, for the perpetrators as well as the victims. While we assume that bullying at work is from a manager towards a staff member.  Presumably that is the usual direction, but there’s also a surprising amount of bullying of managers by very aggressive staff.

Vital Smarts have a recent post titled: Three’s a Crowd, containing excellent advice on how to intervene when your child is being bullied. There are also very relevant comments on that post (37 at last count!) that add some more valuable ideas. This advice could be applied in adult situations as well as in the playground.

Tips for raising your profile

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Question from a current client: How do I raise my profile at work in an informal way? Recent restructuring has meant that all our executive team are based in a different city, including my immediate manager. In the past I’ve built great relationships from casual in-person contact, not from artificially cultivating people. I just don’t blow my own trumpet. Now I have to build those relationships not just for myself but for others, because I am one of the few senior people in our building. 

Here’s a useful slogan: 

‘You can get what you want by helping others get what they want.’

See what you can do by applying that principle, but here are a few suggestions as starters:

  • Work out what the others in your site need by way of interaction with more senior people, figure out with them how it could be achieved and be part of the process of creating it.  Obviously that will help the others in your workplace and you will be seen as pro-active and solution oriented.
  • Create a stimulating sense of group where you are.  You could get together with others to build interactions within your work site such as brown bag lunches, getting senior executives in to speak and social events. This will raise your profile as well as that of your branch.
  • Make your manager look good.  Find out what your manager needs to have happen to look good and make sure you are delivering that from where you are.
  • Tap into the human craving for direct interaction. When you start a new topic of communication with a senior manager, make sure that first conversation about it is voice-to-voice.  You will need to have a routine of being in frequent contact with them and it will mostly have to be by email,  but in person is memorable.  The principle of ‘Don’t start a new thread of conversation by email’ applies to all your contacts, but will be very important in this contex
  • Be part of supporting others in your profession.  Join the local branch of your professional association and take a committee role in that.  You will then be part of supporting others in your profession and will develop a higher profile for yourself.   A plus of New Zealand’s small population is that a strong  local profile will be noticed nationally as well.

There are some practical tips at How to raise your visibility at work and some broader approaches at: How to increase your visibility at work



Dealing to your self doubt

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Some years ago I led a self-confidence workshop as part of a weekend leadership programme. One of the guys on the programme stood out as confident, good at sport, good personality and, yes, a hunk too!  I was stunned when he told me that his self-confidence wasn’t good and he really needed to work on it.  The incident made me realise that often people who seem confident are probably still experiencing self-doubt.

I’ve been thinking about this because I am finishing up a year’s coaching as part of the coaching panel for an excellent women in leadership programme.  As my clients look back, it is interesting how often these very able women were grappling with self-doubt. Many of them gained a lot from realising that others in the programme experienced the same doubts.

What are some solutions to the problem?

An older and very successful friend once told me that his approach was to: ‘Take a big bite and just keep chewing’.  That fits with Maggie Thatcher’s comment that she wasn’t born strong, she just became strong.

There’s an article by Agapi Stassinoapoulos in that great resource – The Huffington Post taking a constructive angle on the challenge: Notice self-doubt in other people  and ask them how you can support them.

While you’re in the Huffington Post, you might want to look at the article with the wonderful title: Do we ever get over self-doubt? I used to doubt it, but now I’m getting over it!