Tag Archives: leadership development

No more boring presentations!

Sad to say this is often what we see after making a presentation! If people can’t stay awake or follow along, it is hard to be an effective communicator, no matter how important your message is.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany on how to design and deliver presentations after I read Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. In his landmark book, he describes a new philosophy—not a method—to help professionals create and deliver meaningful presentations.

While I highly encourage you to peruse his website or buy his book, I want to highlight one key aspect of his philosophy. Garr emphasizes that slides are only one part of a presentation. Your slides don’t have to include everything and when they do you miss an opportunity do deliver an effective message. Effective presentations have three parts.

  1. The visuals. These are the slides your audience will actually see. They only support your key message.
  2. Your notes. The content and information you need to see to help you verbally share your key messages.
  3. The handout. A document (not your slides or notes) that your audience will take away with them.

This does require more effort by you, but the outcome is worth it. People will walk away with a clear understanding of your core message and with the details they need to take action. Simplifying your visuals keeps them from being a distraction, impossible to read, or boring. Taking the time to create a full set of notes will help you rehearse and feel more confident. Developing and distributing a handout provides people with the extra details or background information they after you present.

As Garr states in his book, “Handouts can set you free!”

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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How to listen? – Don’t talk!

Simon Sinek offers a simple, yet powerful, rule for leaders to be better listeners. Refrain from sharing your opinion until everyone else has spoken! It is his “Lesson Four” for successful leaders.

Your people are super-attuned to your words and behaviors and naturally search for cues to understand what your priorities are. This human tendency can get in the way when you want to hear their opinions, ideas, insights or concerns – to truly listen to them.

Inc. magazine recently shared three tips to help leaders “talk last” to ensure that their people talk first.

  1. Listen – and do absolutely nothing else! Don’t speak verbally or non-verbally. Do your best to eliminate gestures, head nodding, comments, affirmations, or concerns until all have shared and others have commented.
  2. Ask questions like an interviewer. When you do talk start by asking “unbiased” or clarification questions. Think of yourself as an outside interviewer who just wants to better understand what you have heard – with no stake in the game! Seek to discover the “why” behind their ideas and then the “how” before you add your perspective.
  3. Disagree and commit. If you have concerns about what you are hearing, continue to explore the reason behind their ideas until you completely understand the why  – then share your ideas. If possible commit to trying their idea or search for potential alternatives that address all points of view.

I think you will be impressed by what you hear if your people have the space to speak – first!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

I just want to get the work done

Beginning this month we’ll be looking at the next set of Minnesota State leadership competencies. They are grouped under the category of Leader as Relationship Builder, and include:

  • Values diversity
  • Communicates effectively
  • Builds trust

I occasionally work with project leaders or team managers who consider these activities as “fluff” that takes time away from the “real work.”  For example, when I facilitate project team kick-off meetings we always spend a significant portion of the time getting to know each other, understanding communication preferences, and identifying the strengths each member brings to the table.  This can feel less important than digging into timelines, deliverables, and action plans.

However, I’ve learned over and over that if good working relationships are in place everything else flows quicker and smoother. Over the next few months we’ll dive into the many ways that building relationships is a key component of leadership work.

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

Don’t touch the brakes!

I may have been driving a little too fast but the snow wasn’t coming down too hard. Then I hit the bridge section, lost traction and started sliding. I had made a mistake and was heading for a crash. Luckily my dad had taught me how to not overreact and what to do when sliding on ice. Don’t touch the brakes, steer into the slide and accelerate a little to maintain traction. My heart was racing but I straightened out and avoided a crash. As a leader, how you react to mistakes is also a crucial skill to learn.

As they say, mistakes will happen and your response to your own mistakes and the mistakes made by your team will either help build trust or slowly chip away at your integrity. It is easy to list what not to do – (Don’t touch these brakes):

  • Ignore
  • Blame
  • Point fingers
  • Deny
  • Deflect
  • Minimize
  • Rationalize
  • Overreact

More difficult is to steer into the mistake. Based on my own experience, and a few ideas from Kristen Beireis, a coach who specializes in trust-building, the following actions can help you avoid turning a mistake into a crash.

  1. Acknowledge it or admit it – as hard as it may be this is the starting point to correcting any mistake.
  2. Offer to fix or make good – it may cost you money or time or prestige but often a simple offer to honor or fix a mistake will go miles.
  3. Support your people and help them find a solution – resist searching for the cause immediately and support your people and encourage them to focus on first correcting the mistake. You can work together later to search for causes.
  4. Follow through – demonstrating commitment and follow-through is crucial after any mistake. People will accept an earnest correction but will be skeptical if they don’t see true follow-through.
  5. Learn from the mistake – adopt the mindset of a scientist and use the mistake as a learning opportunity to make an improvement or minimize the chance of a similar mistake.

It is human nature to slam on your brakes and make a mistake worse. Responding with intention can help you recover and demonstrate integrity.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Truly understand by hearing everything.

To truly understand others, leaders need to listen – not talk! That may sound easy but in the day-to-day crush of work and deadlines and priorities it is a challenge. Yet the payoff is huge. In fact, one study discovered that the strongest predictor of trust is a leaders ability to listen with empathy and respond based on what they hear.

Harvard Business Review suggests that leaders focus on three crucial “behavioral sets” to improve their listening.

  1. Actively recognizing ALL verbal and nonverbal cues. People speak with much more than the words they use and listening is different than just reading a transcript of their statement. We all have “misheard” or “misread” an email. Empathic listening involves paying attention to things like tone, emphasis, energy, excitement, reticence, body movement, gestures, and facial expressions. Seeking to understand both what is being said and what isn’t being said demonstrates true listening.
  2. Processing the message or tactical listening. Sharpen your skills and use techniques or tools to help you follow along with the speaker, remember what is being said, keep track of key points, identify areas of agreement/disagreement, and capture the overall message. This can be as simple as taking notes, using summary statements and minimizing distractions. It also involves giving up control of the conversation and focusing all attention on the other person.
  3. Assuring others that genuine listening has occurred and that conversations will continue.  Only the people on your team can accurately state if they feel listened to. Leaders need to use verbal and nonverbal actions to share the message that they are listening and want to continue listening. Ideas include verbal acknowledgements, clarifying questions, summary statements, check-in’s, paraphrasing and at times even restating a point being made. Your non-verbals are also being watched so eye contact, posture, facing each other, nodding along, and mirroring body language all reinforce your empathic listening.

Learning to listen builds trust and helps you say more with less talking.

Todd Thorsgaard

It takes more than understanding

The harsh reality for leaders is that understanding without action is not enough to make a difference. In fact, a more accurate title for our January leadership competency could be – Understands Self and Others – and does something with that understanding. Kind of cumbersome but more realistic.

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie in Strengths Based Leadership, identify four essential elements that people want from their leaders and when they get them they are more engaged and committed to their work.

  1. Trust: Credibility, respect, integrity and honesty
  2. Compassion:  Caring, concern about whole person, genuine interest in whole person
  3. Stability:  Predictability, consistency, fairness and security
  4. Hope: Direction, clarity, guidance and optimism for the future

Understanding these human needs for engagement is a starting point for identifying day-to-day actions you can take to demonstrate trust, compassion, stability and hope to your people. It will look different for each of us but taking action is what is important.

A great starting point is to think back to leaders who have most inspired you and ask yourself, what specifically did they do to demonstrate trust, compassion, stability and hope?

Please share your answers and we can build a toolkit of action ideas to share among us!

Todd Thorsgaard

“Tell me more about that….”

(Click on image to expand)

To truly understand someone you need to care about them, at least a little bit. As a proud introverted leader that sounds daunting. Yet a close look at the Gallup Q12 Engagement Index shows that a “manager caring about their people” is a clear determinant of employee engagement!

How can you get to know your people while still respecting and acknowledging the natural boundaries that exist between leaders and their teams? You are busy, your people are busy, and you are their boss. Leaders can’t become best friends or confidants, but genuine caring about employees as a whole person is crucial. For most leaders the problem isn’t the genuine caring but figuring out HOW to show their interest and caring in a work setting.

A recent article in Forbes highlights “Seven Ways a Leader Can Get to Know Their Team Better” with practical ideas.

  1. Help Your People Succeed Anywhere, Not Just in Their Current Role. Remind yourself and your people that success and development in their current role will help them in their future, regardless of where they choose to go.
  2. Schedule Regular Celebrations. This isn’t a new idea but in the chaotic world of work it is easily overlooked. Taking time together and talking about non-work topics builds stronger relationships.
  3. Manage By Walking Around. Get up and informally talk with your people. Share personal anecdotes and inquire about non-work activities, milestones, and experiences.
  4. Talk Naturally During Downtimes. Take advantage of the time before meetings, in the hallway, on the elevator, or while webinars are starting to chat about anything other than work.
  5. Ask About Displayed Photos, Trinkets, Mementos, Art Work, etc. This is my favorite! I started the post with a saying I have posted on my wall and I have many stories behind it. What your people display is important to them and asking about it will help you truly connect.
  6. Make Sure to Listen! All your hard work will be for naught if you don’t actually listen. Enough said.
  7. It Requires Variety. Genuineness and caring is not one size fits all. When you open up your interactions to the whole person you need to be flexible and adaptable.

Ask about that photo and see what you learn. I bet it will be interesting.

Todd Thorsgaard