Archive | September, 2011

Stand Up for Yourself

30 Sep

We’ve all heard that communication is 70% nonverbal. Or 80%. Or even 90%.  While the actual number may vary, the message is clear: you say a whole lot through body language. Surprisingly enough, we usually overlook nonverbal communication when learning to be better communicators, even though it is often easier to improve and can yield impressive results. The most efficient way to improve body language is to do what your mother always told you: stand up straight!

Start From the Ground…

Standing upright conveys confidence clearly, yet far too many of us slouch. Poor standing posture is a by-product of the hunched stance many of us take at our computers and is characterized by a caved-in chest, slumped shoulders, and jutting neck. Those of you who read that description and realized that it describes how you’re sitting at this very moment need to straighten up! Start by sitting far back enough in your chair to support your lower back, then straighten your back until your shoulders lie directly above your hips. You might also find this posture easier to maintain if you elevate your feet six inches off the ground.

Then Stand Up

After fixing your sitting posture, optimizing your standing posture should be fairly easy. While standing, make sure your ears, shoulders, hips, and feet are aligned, and that your back is slightly concave. Your shoulders shouldn’t be pinched back, but they shouldn’t slouch forward either.  In addition to improving overall body language, correct standing posture will make breathing easier and should make you an inch or two taller.

Finally, Apply It!

This advice may sound familiar, but applying it consistently is the real challenge. You can certainly do it alone by monitoring your posture every few minutes. By simply being aware of how you stand or sit, you will automatically correct your posture, but you might also find it useful to let friends know what you’re trying to accomplish so they can help you out.  In the end, maintaining correct sitting and standing posture will make you feel and appear more confident!

by Miquel Ferrandiz

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Battle of the Sexes?: Use Technology to Help Colleagues Communicate Effectively

30 Sep

Our daily communication in the workplace is shaped by gender and stereotypes regarding how men and women should think and act.  When communicating face-to-face, pressure to conform to gender roles can lead to less open, honest, and effective communication.  If you want to ensure that your employees share their ideas and collaborate, you should promote the use of more gender-neutral forms of communication including email, internal blogs, and social media sites. This technology will allow your employees to express their ideas without being concerned that their message may not align with other people’s perceptions of how they should act.

In a study conducted in 1994, Herring found that gender roles impact how individuals communicate and express their ideas.  He found men are stereotypically more assertive, opinionated and task-oriented and use stronger language, sarcasm, and self-promotion to get their points across.  Women, on the other hand, are stereotypically more supporting of others’ ideas, tend to prevent and reduce tension, and often attend to others’ needs (1994, pp. 3-4).  So what happens when your male employees need help or want to express their uncertainty about a new business idea?  What happens when your female employees want to strongly promote their ideas or play the role of the devil’s advocate?  What happens when traditional gender roles keep people from contributing during brainstorming sessions or team projects?

Using technology to create a gender-neutral space

One of the most effective ways you can ensure that your employees share their ideas is to create a space where they can interact in a gender-neutral way.  For example, your company could create an internal blog where your employees can post their ideas and provide feedback for each other.  Alternatively, you could have brainstorming teams ask everyone to write their ideas on a slip of paper, collect them, and openly discuss all of the ideas as a group.  While these methods can help your teams generate and share ideas, they do not promote accountability or help your employees communicate effectively to resolve complex issues.  Email may be the answer because it offers a type of anonymity and provides a space between the individuals who are communicating.  This sense of separation may help your employees focus more on their ideas and message rather than worrying about how gender influences how their colleagues perceive their ideas.  For example, Bob, an assertive, self-promoting communicator may be more willing to express his feelings about a product plan in an email rather than in person because he is afraid that his colleagues would perceive him as weak.  Linda may feel more comfortable expressing her disagreement with a specific decision through email rather than in person because she does not want to appear bossy or combative.  Both Bob and Linda’s contributions are important to the business and ought to be shared.

Downsides of using technology

One of the potential downsides of promoting more gender-neutral electronic communication is that your teams may choose to use online communication when personal interaction would work more effectively.  Over-adoption of online communication could lead your teams to invest less time developing strong interpersonal relationships and therefore become more disconnected.  You can mitigate this risk by training employees how to use technology to supplement, not replace, current channels of communication.  In addition, you should invest in creating an open corporate culture where people have mutual respect for their colleagues and their ideas.  This welcoming, collaborative culture will encourage people to contribute and reduce the negative side-effects of gender stereotypes.

People are a company’s biggest asset.  In order for your businesses to succeed, find ways to promote clear, open communication and encourage employees to express their thoughts and ideas.  Technology like online blogs and email may facilitate more open and honest communication, but there are no substitutes for a corporate culture that respects individuals and values their contributions.

by Sarah McDonald

Reference:

Herring, S. (1994, June). Gender differences in computer-mediated communication: Bringing familiar baggage to the new frontier. Keynote talk at American Library Association Annual Convention. Miami, Florida .

Mark Zuckerberg Is No Steve Jobs…Or Is He?

30 Sep

Mark Zuckerberg is no Steve Jobs. Yes, they are both technological giants worth a combined $26.3 billion, a cool $18 billion of which goes to Mr. Zuckerberg. However, if I had to put any money on the better speaker, I’d put every penny on Steve Jobs. In July, rumors pointed to a potential Facebook/Skype relationship. Zuckerberg took the stage for the important announcement, and 12 minutes, 84 “ums”, and one bland presentation later, he revealed the new design and chat options. The next month, the Facebook CEO announced another addition to the site, the Timeline. Surprisingly, Zuckerberg gave a “Steve Jobs worthy presentation,” according to Forbes contributor, author, and communications coach Carmine Gallo. Gallo is not the only person to notice the difference.  Following the speech, Twitter users attributed Zuckerberg’s transformation to Gallo’s book “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.”

So what exactly did Mark Zuckerberg do to give a “Steve Jobs worthy” presentation?

Create a Twitter-friendly Headline. Be able to describe product or service in one sentence. Make the phrase memorable, make the phrase concise, and make it easy to share. For example, Zuckerberg explained Timeline on one presentation slide as “the whole story of your life on a single page.”

Stick to the Rule of Three. Divide your presentation into three “digestible chunks” or describe a product/service with three benefits or features. Our short-term memory isn’t perfect, so give your audience three easy-to-remember pieces. The Facebook Timeline is “all your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are.”

Create Visual Slides. Steve Jobs never shows a slide of only text and bullet points. Zuckerberg similarly used visual displays on his slides. Audiences process information better when presented with words and visuals. For you psych majors out there, this is called “picture superiority.” The audience isn’t busy pretending to read slides of text. Instead, they listen to the speaker to describe the visuals.

You may not be the next Steve Jobs just yet, but these presentation tips can help. Remember, not all presentations are the same. Identify the context, goals, and audience of your presentation and judge if these tips are appropriate. Do you want a memorable presentation directed at a wide audience? Take a cue from Mark Zuckerberg and boost your presentation, Steve Jobs style.

by Christian DeBettencourt

Innovative Leaders: How to Make that Idea Stick

30 Sep

Just because you are innovative doesn’t mean you can make your ideas stick. You must be able to mesmerize your audience to sell your product. A man who has done this for years is Steve Jobs. Not only has he revitalized the entire Apple brand through innovation but also created a culture through his presentation style. The book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience can be used as a template to help all students of business present more in the fashion that Steve Jobs has mastered.

Create a Story

Make sure that what you say has a purpose. Don’t give a presentation for the sake of giving a presentation. Bring out a story and let it shine. As Chip and Dan Heath point out in Made to Stick, if you are trying to explain why movie popcorn is fattening, don’t give statistics. Give reference points to similar fattening foods such as a bacon, egg and pancake breakfast. People will recognize the comparison and perhaps change a habit because you made a point that they’ll remember.

Introduce the Antagonist

Every story has villains. Highlight them and the problems they are causing. By taking this approach, you will be able to rally your audience around your hero or solution. Keep the story flowing with excitement and purpose. Show the battle between good and evil and why your solution will defeat the antagonist of the story. To use the earlier example, portray fat in a way that will make your audience truly despise fat in popcorn and want to find a way to get rid of it.

Deliver the Experience and PRACTICE!

Keep things simple so that your audience can truly engage in the experience that you deliver.  Don’t clutter your slides with words but rather use logos and symbolic images to help your audience make connections.  Also Jobs says you must practice, practice, practice. These presentations are too important to  just try to do your best. Work on the flow and craft of your story. These practices will lead to your ultimate success.

To say that we will all turn out to be like Steve Jobs would be an exaggeration, but if we could all communicate a little more like him, I am confident that we’d increase success in the business world.

by Varun Mehrotra

Kiss Your Fear of Public Speaking Goodbye!

26 Sep

I’m sure that you can recall at least one moment in your life when you had to give a presentation. If you are anything like me, the thought of presenting in front of anyone that is not the mirror is unnerving. However, it is something that we all have to do.

This advice really helps me through my experiences with public speaking:

  • “Find the friendly face in the room.” Eye contact is very important when trying to persuade someone into thinking that your idea is golden and a friendly face makes it all the easier. This is not to say to find that face and fixate upon it; rather use that face as a relief point. Let your eyes rest on each person long enough to build a connection with him/ her and whenever you feel overwhelmed, find that friendly face.
  • “Your hands say more than your mouth does.”  Hand gestures can be an instant giveaway that someone is not comfortable. Arms glued to your side can come across as tense, while elaborate hand gestures can seem as though they are compensating for something else. Keep it simple – you do not want to detract from your excellent points with your gestures. Just be natural.
  • “Relax!” The hardest, yet most effective thing to do is remain calm. Public speaking is not horrible and even if it is, all things get easier with time and practice.

So the next time you find yourself in a position where you have to present a PowerPoint or engage in any other type of public speaking and you are nervous, remember these three points. I’m sure it will go better than your last experience.

by Michelle Romney

Improve Worker Efficiency Through Compliments

26 Sep

“George, you just are not working hard enough to complete those files I gave you last week. They’d better be finished soon.” This is a perfect example of unconstructive criticism, which lacks the key ingredients to guide worker efficiency in the right direction. Such a demand seems harsh, uncaring, and unsympathetic, leaving the employee thinking, “Why is my boss such a jerk? Why do I even exert any effort at all?” These thoughts will most likely lead to greater worker inefficiency and boss resentment. Here are five tricks of the trade to get your employees producing optimal results.

Provide Two Compliments For Every Criticism

Begin the discussion by pointing out the worker’s strengths and recognize two specific examples in which he or she has accomplished a task beyond merely satisfactory standards. People tend to pay more attention to compliments than to criticism. By initiating the situation with positivity and grabbing the employee’s focus, a manager can more deeply penetrate his or her mindset through constructive criticism. An appropriate structure for such a conversation might be, “Name, you have done a fantastic job working with…and completing… With an equal effort on…I can only imagine how quickly you could get it done.” It is also never a bad idea for managers to compliment their workers on small everyday tasks, so that when it comes time to crack the whip, individuals will maintain a positive view of their superiors.

Be Specific

Using quantitative data and specific examples of tasks that employees have completely both well and poorly provides them with indisputable evidence of why change is needed. When asking a worker to accomplish more effectively, just stating that he or she could improve is unclear and lacks viability. Communicating what must change, why it must change, and how it must change will make a world of difference.

Use Assertion, Not Aggression

Assertion plays a big role when it comes to specificity. Tell the employee how he or she can make a change, not only what the problems are. Keep the person interested in potential outcomes instead of aggressively pointing out the worker’s faults. Aggression leads to employee retreat and will disable him or her from hearing and processing the information at hand.

Maintain Eye Contact

Eye contact conveys sincerity and attention. It lets the worker know that you really care about his or her work and that in addition to wanting the best for your company you also want the best for him or her.

Keep It Conversational

Allow for a discussion instead of forcing a lecture. Listen to the employee’s response to a request or criticism because listening is just as important as the manner in which you phrase the request. There are often two sides to any story; the more a manager understands his employees’ point of view, the more the employee will accomplish in the end.

by Kyle Bank

Communicating Around the World

24 Sep

People communicate in different ways around the world. What may be considered a common gesture in America may be extremely rude in Japan. Speaking in a professional setting can differ greatly from speaking in a casual conversation. I learned this the hard way this past summer through my experiences living and interning in Hangzhou, China. Here are several ideas to consider while communicating in a foreign language.

1. Be confident, even if you’re not.

Speaking with confidence isn’t easy – even in your native language! It is even more important to remember that when you communicate in a foreign one. Chances are you aren’t fluent in your second language. There will be times when your language ability gets ahold of you. Don’t panic. Remember to continue to speak clearly. Use what you know to slowly communicate your ideas. There is no need to use big words! This summer, I ran into many situations where I ended up mumbling in incomprehensible Chinese because I was not confident about what I was going to say.

2. Listen, and then learn.

There are hundreds of different dialects of spoken Chinese in existence. I spoke and understood one. How the language is spoken locally will not be the same as the way you learned it from a textbook. I assure you this. The key is to listen. Get to know the slang and jargon used in casual conversations. Listen to the word choice of your colleagues. Utilize your friends that speak the language fluently. How do they structure their sentences?

3. Don’t be naïve.

Each culture has its own set of accepted standards. You must remember that what may be accepted in your country may not be abroad.  Leave your mind open to new possibilities. Don’t jump to conclusions!

Don’t let communication hinder you from traveling the world; be confident, listen, and approach every situation with an open mind.

by Jeff Lin