Archive for February, 2007

Can a Nap at Work Save Your Life?

Posted on February 28, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Staff selection |

I don’t know, but I sure like the idea! This article at states that the jury is still out. I love naps, but I don’t get enough of them. The article says couch potatoes should avoid napping, but “energetic and active” people should nap. Hmmm. I think the reason I can’t nap is because I am energetic and active. I’m pretty much always in motion or doing something.

Heck, I’ve been feeling kind of nap-ish today. And I thought to myself: Hey, I work at home. If I want to take a nap, I can. Then I looked at my desk clock. It’s almost 5 p.m. now, and napping would mean I’d miss the news. Plus I still have to cook dinner for hubby and me. And the tax person is coming over tonight …

Alas, I’m a busy and active person. I could use a nap. But I don’t get them because I’m busy and active. Couch potatoes, you may be on to something!

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Shut Up!

Posted on February 22, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

I was in a conversation the other day that was really frustrating. The person asked me what I thought about an issue that had been raised. Since he asked, I assumed he really wanted me to tell him what I thought. However, as soon as I started to relay my point of view he interrupted me to explain what he’d meant and to explain what I meant. I realized at that point he wasn’t interested in what I thought; he was interested in monopolizing the conversation.

These types of “conversations” really bug me because they aren’t conversations at all! Rather they come across as opportunities that have been engineered by the other person for the other person to talk ad nauseum on a topic of which they feel themselves experts. Not. And even if they were experts, their habit of monopolizing the conversation is so repellent no one would want to ask their opinion anyway!

Okay, I’ve said it. Now, what do we do about it? I’m big on the self-awareness component of responsible communication. We must monitor ourselves to see if we are the person described in the paragraphs above. Sure, each of us has topics upon which we could discourse for hours–because they interest us and because we have lots of information about them. But just because we could doesn’t mean we should! Assess your conversation partner’s level of interest in your topic:

  • If they aren’t asking questions or giving their point of view, most likely they are wishing they were somewhere else.
  • If they are backing away from you while you are talking, most likely they are trying to move somewhere else!
  • If they are looking at their watch, they are hoping it’s time to be somewhere else.
  • If they are speaking in one-word answers or giving clipped responses, they are trying to disengage so they can do something else.

Let’s be honest: we rarely think we are the ones who are the irritating conversation partners. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume we are. Let’s make a conscious choice to be less irritating and more engaging. Pay attention to the clues and adjust the conversation–for the sake of their sanity as well as our own!

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Tip #2: Listen Actively

Posted on February 21, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

Most of us think we’re pretty good listeners when in fact we’re simply good hearers. That means we hear what the other person is saying, but while we’re hearing them we’re busy formulating our own responses. Instead, when we really listen to what is being said … and not being said … we convey a sense of caring and respect for the speaker of the message.

Have you heard the saying: we have two ears and one mouth; therefore, we should listen twice as much as we talk? I think that’s a pretty good formula. Nothing can make a person feel more important, more valued, and more respected than to really listen to what they are saying. And in the process of listening we just might learn something.

Listen actively by concentrating on what the person is saying. Here are some strategies you can use to improve your active listening skills:

  • Hold your own thoughts at bay and focus on what they are really saying.
  • Ask them questions to help draw out their opinions and ideas.
  • When you do ask questions, really listen to the answers rather than just using the questions to give yourself a place to jump in.
  • Avoid interrupting them when they do answer your questions.
  • Pause before responding. This pause will convey the sense that you actually listened to them while they were talking.
  • Pay attention to their body language. Note areas where they might be uncomfortable or where they express joy. Use those clues to ask questions and draw out more information.
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Your Values are Showing!

Posted on February 13, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Staff selection |

Special thanks to members of Soroptimist International of Truckee Meadows (SITM). This organization, whose mission is improving the lives of women and girls in local communities and around the world, gave me the opportunity to show them how their values influence their decision making and relationships–personally and at work.

“Your Values are Showing” is an assessment-based program that is esssential to understanding 1) why we make the decisions we do, 2) how those decisions influence our behavior, and 3) how to improve our relationships with others. The key to understanding others is understanding the values that drive their decision making.

Target Training International’s (TTI) research-driven assessment tools are the basis for this workshop. Over 40 years of research in values and behaviors has led TTI to creating industry-leading, validated assessment products designed to:

  • Understand what the job requires
  • Get the right person in the right job
  • Grow that person to their highest potential

Far too often, hiring decisions are made on personality and individual appeal rather than on the true requirements of the job. Job benchmarking–the key to understanding what the job requires–identifies the true requirements of the job without taking personality or preference into consideration.

One component of the job benchmarking process is helping managers and staff understand one another so that:

  • Conflicts are kept to a minimum
  • Lines of communication are kept open and active

Understanding values is key to this process. And members of SITM now have a greater understanding of the values that drive their own behavior and strategies for understanding those in their work environments.

Contact me to find out more about the “Your Values are Showing” workshop and the job benchmarking process.

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They just don’t get it

Posted on February 11, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development, Technical writing |

Good writers, you know what I’m talking about. The people who write the worst are the ones who don’t realize just how bad their writing is! We try to show them how to improve their writing, but they just don’t get it. They don’t see the value of paying attention to the details or trying to say things in a different way–a way that takes the reader into consideration, a way that draws the reader into the document and persuades.

At the start of my writing programs, I see two kinds of faces in the room: the faces of those who are thrilled to be spending a day talking about writing and learning ways to improve their craft; contrast those with the faces of those who are there because “my boss signed me up for this course.” This second group is the one who stand to gain the most from my program. That group has the most potential of making some huge strides toward improving the quality of their work. This group also has the potential for making those same huge strides in the course of their careers–if they just understood the importance of good writing to career progression.

Usually, though, it’s the people who are already competent writers that are the most engaged, the most curious, and the most likely to leave the program armed with an arsenal of strategies to be even better. I love having these people in the course!

The ones who are there because the boss made them come are not hopeless. While at the beginning of the program they may be resentful, within just a few minutes they recognize the point of the program and generally see why they were sent to the program. It’s what they do with what they learn that will make the difference in the long run. After all, no matter what the topic it’s up to us to apply what we’ve learned.

The writers who come into the course with some competency for writing generally apply what they’ve learned faster and more systematically. The ones who need the most help may pick an item or two to work on, but without a commitment to improving the quality of their work those things usually fade away. The good news is, though, that they’ll never completely lose what they learned. It’s in there, and someday they’ll pull the information back out and apply it.

In the mean time, I’ll relish the enthusiasm, energy, and curiosity of the competent writers in my programs. I do believe their enthusiasm is contagious; I’ve seen them “infect” the so-so writers. When that happens, the so-so writers begin to show a little excitement about the potential to improve their work as they see the impact good writing can make in their lives and their careers. Some of the do get it after all.

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Tip #1: Say “I’m Sorry”

Posted on February 10, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

This is the first in a series of 25 posts based on my book Talking Points: 25 Tips for Clear, Credible Communication. This book is a simple tool with great reminders of some of the key communication points that are easily overlooked in our too-busy lives. Enjoy the tips, and send me some feedback as you use them.

Tip #1: Say “I’m Sorry”

One of the most powerful strategies for demonstrating responsibility to others is accepting it ourselves. We can diffuse other people’s anger and our own defensiveness simply by apologizing immediately when we’ve done something wrong.

Too frequently, rather than apologize our defensive tendencies crop up. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve witnessed someone make an obvious mistake and then spend the next 10 minutes to 10 days defending their choice! What a waste of time.

I learned many years ago that it’s easier for me to move on and course-correct if I’ll acknowledge the mistakes I make and offer a simple apology. People will forget the blunder if we acknowledge it and move on. But they’ll remember it for years if we foolishly try to cover it up or justify it.

When we acknowledge our own errors, we demonstrate to others that they can do the same thing. Rather than doing a bunch of posturing pretending that we’re all infallible (when each of us knows that’s not true), we can instead set the example of honesty and openness that allows for mistakes … and corrections.

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Business Writing at Butte Community Bank

Posted on February 9, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development, Technical writing |

A special Shout Out to Butte Community Bank: thank you for having me back to conduct another “Business Writing” workshop! This repeat workshop is a great opportunity for me to get to know each of you and a great chance for each of you to get personalized feedback on your writing.

I love organizations like Butte Community Bank (BCB): this company values its employees and gives them the training they need to do the very best they can in their work for the company. The staff members I’ve worked with at BCB have all had outstanding positive attitudes and shown a true desire to be the best they can be for the company. That tells me they feel valued at work!

Writing is one of the toughest jobs we have to do in the course of our daily career tasks. For some of us, our customers only know us by our voices on the phone and the emails and letters we send them. For people who work in behind-the-scenes roles, the impressions others form is based solely on the quality of the written and oral communication they receive. Those behind-the-scene workers rarely get a chance to have a face-to-face conversation with a customer, so they have to be especially cognizant of the impression they are delivering on the phone and in writing.

BCB employees understand this and seek out opportunities to improve the quality and effectiveness of their written documents. The writing programs I hold at the bank are energized and exciting. The participants in the program come armed with writing samples and questions. Their goal is to take back with them the tools they need to improve their ability to give excellent customer service. My thanks to each and every BCB member I’ve had the pleasure to work with. You are a great team!

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Getting it Right the First Time: Solving your staffing issues

Posted on February 2, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Staff selection |

In this week’s Workforce Development ezine, the question once again arises about outsourcing human resource functions. I like the diplomatic responses the authors of Workforce Development give—they never come right out and say, “You idiot, you still have to know what you want in an employee. You can’t just outsource and expect magic to happen!”

No, the authors instead provide long, detailed responses that inspire the questioner to think beyond the issue and to make a decision about outsourcing they won’t regret.

Outsourcing human resource activities seems like a good idea … on the surface. But the fact remains that you and your company must know exactly what you want in an employee for the HR firm to bring you viable prospects. If you can’t create a specific list of attributes, they can’t narrow the playing field.

Job Benchmarking is key to narrowing that playing field. In this process, stakeholders for the position you want to fill identify the attributes, activities, responsibilities, and desires the person in the vacant position should have. We do this without a particular candidate in mind. Rather, we look at the position from an objective perspective and come up with a list of specific, measurable, tangible accountabilities for the person who holds that job. Then we use assessment tools to generate a report identifying the skills and abilities our candidate must have.

Clients who use the benchmarking process report: longer retention, better qualified employees, and greater satisfaction—both from the manager/peer side as well as from the employee side. Overall, these clients—because of benchmarking the jobs—are getting the right people into the right jobs the first time.

To find out more about job benchmarking, click on the Assessments and Benchmarking tab … or call me to find out more: Tracy (775)544-8479.

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