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7 Simple Steps to Getting Heard in Meetings

The Apprentice in the UK has come to an end for another year. While I don’t take the programme too seriously in relation to real business, I am fascinated to observe the dynamics between the candidates and between the candidates and Lord Sugar and his panel. Having heard how Susan felt undermined due to her age, and seen Tom’s strategy of politely raising his hand in an effort to be heard, I have been giving more thought to how to get heard in meetings.

  • Are you ever in meetings where everyone is talking over you?
  • Do you feel frustrated that you aren’t getting credit for your ideas and suggestions?
  • Do you hang back like someone waiting to jump in at skipping?

Here are my quick tips for becoming a key contributor whose input is seen as invaluable:

  1. Listen – This probably isn’t what you want to hear (see what I did there? :-)) This doesn’t mean staying silent and passive. It means listening effectively so you can find ways to link your point to others. Rather than focussing on what you want to say, just make a few bullet points as notes and then turn your attention to listening to others. When you acknowledge and build on what others have contributed they are more likely to return the favour.
  2. Try holding up your hand – I know Tom from the Apprentice tried this with apparently little affect. This could have been because he did it in an eager school boy way. It doesn’t do to be reaching as high as possible, whilst still sitting on your seat and saying “me, me, me!” Okay a slight exaggeration. Try holding up your hand more like a stop signal and saying “I would like to say something”
  3. Interrupt – If the person doing the talking is long winded and moving off topic, everyone will be very grateful if you interrupt and say something like “can I stop you there and just summarise where we are up to?” Or “Can I make sure we are all clear about the point you’re making.”
  4. If they interrupt – and you aren’t the person being long winded and moving off topic, say firmly “Please let me finish.”
  5. Speak with clarity and confidence. – You will come across as having more gravitas and credibility if you slow down, think before you speak and ensure you don’t sound tentative. Others tend to dismiss people who appear to lack confidence.
  6. Ditch the language that undermines your message – If I had a pound for every time I hear someone, usually women, start their point with “This might sound silly but….” Or “This might be just me but…” Aargh! You might as well just say, don’t bother listening to what I’m about to tell you because even I don’t value it.
  7. Learn from experience – Think about the times when your communication has had the desired effect, when you have been listened to, when you have commanded attention and been acknowledged for your input. What did you do? What did you say? What was happening around you? What helped? Now just rinse and repeat! 🙂

Let me know how you get on and if there’s anything I can help you with.

Is Gender on the Agenda?

Having worked for a long time in the area of behaviour and communication at work I know there are a whole host of diverse influences on how we behave and communicate including religion, race, geographical location, class, role position, company culture, personality and… gender. If you are a man reading this, are you now about to hit the delete button? Perhaps the men didn’t get past the title. I really hope not because the point of this post is to explore whether this is on your radar or not.

When I talk to women about how it impacts them, particularly when working with male dominated work teams they quickly relate to the subject. They’re usually very aware of how it affects their working relationships, and open to understanding how they may undermine their own credibility and apparent confidence and are keen to learn how they can change it.

I recently tweeted about a talk I had given to a large group of women entitled “How to Talk So Men Listen” One man responded by asking how I help men talk so women listen. Fair point, and the question it raised for me is do men care?

Women are interested because they are usually in a minority on senior teams, can site numerous examples of when they’ve felt frustrated that they’ve not been listened to or acknowledged and can frequently see the potential implications for their personal and business success.

Do men have the same incentive to address this? If the senior team of your business has always been  male and has well established conversational norms, what’s in it for you as a man, to consider anyone joining the team, whose style of communication doesn’t fit those norms, whether that is due to gender or any of the other influences, for that matter.

I’d really value your input on this because I don’t want to approach it as purely a women’s issue. I want to learn more about your experiences and thinking.

Whilst acknowledging that none of these are absolute measures and more on a spectrum of styles, what do you think about men and women having different ways of behaving and communicating?

  • What has been your personal experience?
  • What have you noticed when men and women work together in teams?
  • What impact can these differences have?
  • What, if anything, is in it for men to acknowledge or address any differences?

Do you have the courage to stand up and be counted?

Journalists are definitely not flavour of the month here in the UK, and Johann Hari has made errors of judgement himself recently (though nothing to do with phone hacking.) However, when I saw him give this talk on 5th July, I felt compelled to share it with you as an impressive example of outstanding leadership and effective communication.

Leaders know what they stand for and aren’t afraid to stand up for it. Johann Hari makes a compelling case for freedom of speech particularly in the face of religious fundamentalism, and delivers it with courage and passion.

He also demonstrates another key leadership skill. He is not afraid to share his vulnerability by owning up to mistakes and errors of judgement even though it’s uncomfortable.

With phone hacking, super-injunctions, and twitter privacy all hitting the headlines recently this speech is particularly pertinent. I urge you to pay attention to both the content and the process and note what it evokes in you. It’s 15 mins long so take a break, grab a coffee and prepare to be moved.

If it speaks to your heart, what is it about the way Hari delivers his message that works for you? If it evokes a different reaction, why is that? What can you learn from this that will help you communicate with passion and influence in the future? I’d love to hear your comments.

Engineers are useless at business!

In a recent episode of The Apprentice, Lord Sugar said “I’ve never met an engineer that was any good at business.” Let me tell you, I’ve worked with many engineers as a leadership and management specialist, and I know different.

Engineers can make excellent managers, who produce good business results; they just need to be shown how. They’re usually bright, open to learning, work well with the right processes and aren’t afraid to experiment and adjust until they get it right. All the same qualities that makes them good engineers.

Whether you believe your engineers were born with those qualities or not, they still needed to be taught the technical skills and given the chance to practice them on the job.

My management development programmes provide the same kinds of learning opportunities and I structure them to suit how engineers prefer to learn.

How are you supporting your managers to increase profits, performance and productivity?

If you’d like to know how I can help, please email me at info@jkld.co.uk

Don’t tell me to delegate…It doesn’t work! – Part 2

At first, delegation can feel like its more trouble than it’s worth so in Part 1 we looked at the Why and the What of delegation. The bottom line is that by delegating effectively you can massively increase the amount of work you deliver.

Once you commit to delegation and are clear on what kinds of tasks are suitable to delegate, you need to select the right people, and delegate the right way.

How to choose the right person?

It’s useful to make a list of all the tasks that you are currently undertaking that it makes sense to delegate. Before putting a name alongside the task, you need to consider:

  • The level of experience, knowledge and skill the person has in relation to this specific task.
  • The existing knowledge, skills and experience they can bring from other areas of their work.
  • The need for any learning and development and whether that’s feasible.
  • The person’s goals, interests and attitude and whether these align with the task to be delegated
  • Whether they have the capacity to take this on with their current workload. Does other work need re-assigning?

Once you have identified the task and the right person to carry it out, you must ensure that you set it, and them, up for success. It means investing the time early on in order to reap the rewards in the longer term.

How to delegate effectively

  • Delegate meaningful projects that stretch people so they rise to the challenge. Giving away mundane jobs only de-motivates people.
  • Be clear about expectations, deadlines, standards and all the non negotiables. Ask the person to summarize back to you what they think the task and outcomes are. Don’t assume they’ve understood anything until they say it back to you.
  • Ensure people have enough skills and resources to complete the job: Don’t delegate too much too soon.
  • Agree how you want to work together (progress reports) Coach them on how they will go about undertaking the task. Discuss any concerns either of you have.
  • Be available to help, but resist interfering. When the person asks for help, again coach them to find their own solutions so that they always learn.
  • Ensure stakeholders know that you’ve delegated the task and the authority to carry it out, to this person, so they know who to go to.
  • Show faith and trust in the person: praise successes, and don’t undermine them.

What have been your experiences of effective and ineffective delegation?

Don’t tell me to delegate…It doesn’t work! – Part 1

When I think of which topics on management development programmes are most likely to be received with cynical looks from the learners, delegation quickly springs to mind.

Many managers don’t like to delegate, and resist it, for a number of reasons:

  • You lose direct control and that can be really stressful
  • You believe “if you want something doing well, do it yourself.” Or you feel that you have no-one that is up to the task
  • You don’t have the time to “waste” on explaining and coaching others. Much quicker to do it yourself
  • You’ve been on the receiving end of poor delegation and, remembering how that felt, you don’t want to “dump” on others

So why do we keep emphasising the need for it?

Because stakeholders and development specialists like me, know that effective delegation is essential in order to:

  • Free up your time so that you can focus on the areas of work where you add most value
  • Develop the skills of your team members, so they can become as good as you
  • Motivate them by demonstrating your trust in their ability to perform

If you’re convinced it is a good thing to delegate, you then need to decide what to delegate.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. The tasks that you did before you were promoted and are still doing. They helped you to develop, so give someone else the same opportunity. They are also easy for you to explain as you know them well.
  2. Areas in which others have more experience and expertise than you. Make the most of their strengths and skills without relinquishing responsibility. They still need to keep you informed on progress and decisions.
  3. There will always be mundane tasks that need doing. The key is to try and share these out fairly as you do with the more exciting, developmental tasks. One way to help your staff feel more motivated about taking on these tasks is to give them ownership for how they are carried out. Be clear on standards and deadlines etc. but flexible on how they chose to carry them out.

So that’s a brief run through the why and the what of delegation. Next week I’ll post my thoughts on how you should delegate and to whom.

Meanwhile, I’d love you to think about when you’ve been on the receiving end of poor delegation and share your strategies on how to be ineffective at delegating.

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