Tero Blogs - 2011 | Tero International, Inc.
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2011 Tero Blogs

Brain Food

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eat your fruits and vegetables. Don't eat all that junk food!

Most of us know the basics about eating well. At least we know how eating well affects the body from the neck down.

But what about the brain? As it turns out, your brain's function depends largely on what you eat. What's more, your brain is a picky eater. To get the best performance from your brain, you need to be aware of how your food affects it.

Here are some interesting facts:

  • A diet that is heavy in fats and skimpy on the fruits and vegetables can not only lead to heart problems and certain cancers, it has been found to be a cause of depression and aggression.
  • Too much of the wrong kinds of fat can make blood sludgy and slow. Sludgy blood moves too slow to transport an adequate supply of oxygen to your brain cells.
  • Not all fat is bad - your brain actually needs the kinds of fat found in fish, canola oil, and certain nuts.

As we close 2011 and anticipate 2012, many of us resolve to make personal health improvements that involve changing our dietary habits. As you contemplate your own resolutions for 2012, include consideration to your brain health in the mix.

Advance Prep

Monday, December 19, 2011

Priming your audience members for your presentation has been shown in study after study to enhance learning readiness. By exposing people to the material prior to your talk; assimilation, thinking and recall time are all dramatically increased.

Pre=exposure to the subject is even more powerful when the preparation is visual and colorful.

Prepare audience members before your presentation by exposing them to the information. Let them preview an agenda, read related information, talk with others about the subject to be discussed or receive handouts. Pre-work assignments, or simulations before your presentation are excellent kinesthetic primers.

Advance preparation is especially effective when the preparation ties to emotions.

Before your next presentation, think of creative ways to prepare your audience members for the experience.

The Gift that Doesn't Have to Cost Money - Giving Thanks

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving messages are timeless and at this time of Thanksgiving it seems appropriate to republish a Thanksgiving article I wrote several years ago. Below are the first few paragraphs - click on the link below for the full article. Happy Thanksgiving!

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us. At this time of year we are reminded to express gratitude for the things for which we are thankful. We are also challenged to find the silver lining in the situations for which we are not feeling particularly grateful.

Who benefits when we show our appreciation? It seems logical that the recipient of our well wishes is likely to be uplifted. Studies show that lack of appreciation is one of the top cited reasons why people leave their jobs and their domestic relationships. It follows therefore, that recognition is something that is coveted by the receiver.

Productivity and civility also increases. Think of the last time someone sincerely thanked you for a kindness. If you're like most of us, you found yourself feeling a connection with that individual. Before you know it, you're cheerfully doing all kinds of helpful things for the grateful person.

Click here for the full article

Facilitator Mood and Learning

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What effect does meeting facilitator's mood have on learning?

The emotional state and mood of a facilitator impacts the learning of the meeting or workshop participants.

Facilitators who use good facilitation techniques, incorporate humor, have a pleasant demeanor and take a genuine interest in their participants have higher performance outcomes than those who do not.

So what is the frustrated, stressed facilitator to do?

Take some time before the meeting to engage in de-stressing activities such as listening to music, taking a brisk walk or other physical activity or interact with positive, happy people.

Put yourself in a good learning state and your participants will mirror it back to you. And if all else fails, "fake it til you make it!"

Moods and Success

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) involves the following two areas:

1. Self knowledge - understanding and gaining mastery over your own emotions and related behaviors.

2. People skills - understanding the emotions of others and adapting your behavior to positively influence others.

In his book, The Other 90%, Author Robert K. Cooper, reports that emotional intelligence accounts for 75 - 96% of success in life and work. A mere 4 - 25% is due to IQ and academic or technical training.

He goes on to say that:

70% of clients are lost due to emotional intelligence-related reasons

75% of careers get derailed due to emotional intelligence-related reasons

For better or for worse, emotions affect us and must be managed. How can you control your emotions? The next time you notice your mood dropping, try one of the following:

  • Get up and move
  • Breathe and straighten your posture
  • Turn toward brighter light
  • Drink ice water
  • Find some humor
  • Try a high protein snack

Ready to lose it? To slow reaction time, shift your emotional state. Say the alphabet backwards in your mind. You'll find that it is difficult to stay anxious or angry when you are working on such a complex cognitive task.

The Amount of Time Memory is Stored

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Your brain does not store everything you experience. More than 99% of information that enters your body is filtered and deleted. There are two timeframes for memory - working memory and long-term memory.

Working memory is like the computer "desktop" of your mind. It keeps and/or recalls information to the conscious mind when it needs it (or when it is "working" on it).

Long-term memory is like the computer "hard drive" of your mind. Long-term memory stores everything that you don't think of most of the time but can remember when you need to (like what your bedroom looked like when you were little).

Memory Tip: You are more likely to remember something when you think about it repetitively. The reason for this is that the connections between brain cells are strengthened each time you recall a memory. It is similar to making a path in the grass. The more you walk the same way across the lawn, the more likely you are to eventually create a path. It will be easier to see and easier to follow. The same is true of your brain.

Communicating During Crisis

Monday, October 3, 2011

Overwhelmed by the immediate issues in a crisis, most people generally undervalue the importance of effective communication. In an environment filled with split second decisions, it is a skill that is essential to master. Consider the following factors that contribute to the success of crisis communications.

Your Communication Plan

Few events get adrenaline pumping more than a crisis. Unfortunately, too many people, energized by the effects of the adrenaline zone, are too prone to communicate before they are prepared. Advance preparation enhances your ability to handle communications more skillfully and reduces the stress level of those dealing with the crisis to allow energy to be focused on resolving the situation.

Be Sensitive to Non-Verbal Messages

The impression you make is more important than the words you actually say. By speaking to your listeners' eyes, you convey honesty, sincerity and credibility. You convey weakness or conviction, nervousness or confidence through your body movement, facial expression, volume, pace and vocal expression.

Non-verbal messages also apply to media communications. Camera crews communicate a lot of information which can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Monitor the amount and accuracy of the coverage your crisis is receiving.

Understand Your Audience

In addition to communicating the facts, be prepared to express compassion as early as possible. Doing so credibly is an uncommon skill, since crisis situations, however tragic, are often exciting. Following are some examples of good phrases to express compassion.

  • Deeply saddened
  • Our hearts go out to...
  • Our prime concern is for...

Anticipate Questions

Anticipate questions and plan credible responses. Deflect questions discussing blame until absolutely necessary by responding with "we won't know until our team has conducted a thorough investigation".

Talk to the Media

It is always wise to prepare carefully for interviews with the media. The media has been highly trained to get a newsworthy story. It doesn't matter who looks good or who looks bad, only that the story is newsworthy. Unless you're happy to be surrounded by misinformation, it is critical that you communicate with the media. Follow these guidelines:

  • Talk from the public's viewpoint, not yours.
  • If you don't want a statement quoted, don't make it.
  • State the most important information first.
  • Don't argue with the media or lose control.

It is important to recognize the important difference between truthfulness and openness. Whatever you communicate during a crisis must be 100% truthful. However, you are not obligated to be 100% open. Determine in advance how open you should be.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

More than half of executives surveyed believe employees hit peak performance on Tuesdays.

  • Monday - 21%
  • Tuesday - 54%
  • Wednesday - 15%
  • Thursday - 2%
  • Friday - 2%
  • Don't Know - 6%

We all have peaks and valleys of productivity throughout the week. Getting to know your individual productivity patterns can help you better plan your days to ensure top efficiency.

Brain research on the subject of productivity reveals that each of us experiences 90 minute cycles throughout the day during which time we hit both peak performance and low performance. For this reason, business meetings and training sessions of at least 90 minutes in length ensure reaching everyone's peak productivity at some time during the meeting.

The bottom line - if you want something done, ask on Tuesday; never ask on a Thursday or Friday.

How Long Should You Present?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

According to brain research, audience members can absorb about 18 minutes of your 20 minute presentation (90%).

When the presentation time is increased to 40 minutes, the time spent absorbing and retaining information drops to 75%.

During an 80 minute presentation, your audience is completely tuned out for 30 minutes. YIKES!

Presentations should be in the 20 minute range. Longer presentations should be designed in 20-minute modules followed by Q&A periods or audience involvement.

Interesting Observations About the English Language

Sunday, August 21, 2011

There are many words that are spelled alike but have different pronunciations or meanings. Here are a few examples. Try to read this out loud without going back over each sentence at least twice.

  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that they had to refuse more refuse.
  • The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
  • This was a good time to present the present.
  • A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does different things when the does are present.
  • They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  • Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

The Power of Color

Saturday, August 13, 2011

About 80% of the information we assimilate through our senses is with our eyes. In addition to providing us with information, color also influences our emotions.

  • Red hues can accelerate the central nervous system.
  • Bright yellow causes excessive stimulation and is the most fatiguing.
  • Pink zaps energy.
  • Blue is considered the universal color for relaxation.
  • Green is believed to be the most restful color for the human eye.
  • Black has a grounding effect.

As you choose your attire, design your PowerPoint slides, prepare marketing materials, or decorate your home, pause to consider the emotions evoked by color.

Conflict Avoidance

Monday, July 25, 2011

Avoidance is rarely a good strategy when dealing with conflict. When we avoid conflict we risk ignoring problems, our own needs and the needs of others. As a result, relationships and results suffer.

Like most things, there are exceptions. Choose to avoid or defer conflict if...

  • the issue is not important and you can drop it without harboring ill feelings.
  • the damage caused by conflict outweighs the benefits of sharing your perspective.
  • you have no power to change the situation.
  • you or the other party need time to cool down.
  • you need time to gather more information to understand the situation completely.

Ask More Questions

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Questions are an under-used and effective method of enhancing communication. Not all questions are created alike. There are several types:

1. Open-ended questions are a primary method of gathering information. Questions that begin with who, what, where, when, how or why can provide you with valuable insight into the thought processes of the other person. Research shows that the most effective interactions are characterized by twice as many open-ended questions as average interactions.

2. Closed-ended questions are a method of checking understanding. Use questions that require a brief response, such as a yes or no, when you are confirming your understanding of the other person's point.

3. Behavioral labeling is a type of closed-ended question that is designed to seek permission for what you plan to say or do next. "Can I ask a question?" and "Can I make a suggestion?" are examples of behavioral labels. The most skilled communicators among us use behavioral labels more than five times as often as average communicators, with one noteable exception - disagreement.

When disagreeing with someone, average communicators use behavioral labeling four times as often as their more highly skilled counterparts. "Can I tell you what's wrong with your idea?" is an example of a behavioral label for the purpose of disagreeing and can result in escalating unproductive emotions.

Leaders and Delegation

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What if they don't do it right? What if they mess it up?

What if they don't get it done at all?

What if the outcome is not up to my standards? What if they do it better than I do?

Delegation is an area in which many leaders struggle. It's often hard to relinquish control. Others may not do it "our way". Many times it seems more expedient (and simpler) to do the work ourselves. Rather than learning to delegate effectively, we work longer hours.

There are many advantages to delegating. When we delegate, we are able to accomplish more and shift our attention to other projects. The less time you spend on tasks that can be accomplished by others, the more time you have to focus on larger goals.

For others, the tasks and activities you delegate represent opportunities for growth and job enrichment.

By definition, leadership is about "leading" other people. The long term success of a leader is largely determined by those who follow. As a result, leaders must seek to understand what influences people, what makes them tick, how to talk to them, how to challenge them, how to motivate them and how to delegate the tasks for which they are best suited.

A Mile in the Other's Moccasins

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Native American counsel of "walking a mile in his or her moccasins" provides great insight when interacting with others.

Social psychologists have documented the difficulty most of us have in truly understanding the other person's perspective. While a solitary emphasis on our own needs and interests may produce results in the short term, overcoming this self-centered tendency is critical to effective and productive long term results and relationships.

Spend time trying to understand how the person on the other side of the table is going to sell your idea to his or her boss. Go from being a person who drives discussions from your side of the table to the person who understands and acknowledges the perspective of the other side.

Before you can change a person's mind, you have to first learn where that person's mind is. No matter how unbelievable someone's behavior appears, from their perspective it makes perfect sense. Putting yourself in the other person's shoes helps you determine the motives and emotions behind what they are doing and saying.

Memory, Recall and Learning

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memory experts stress that there is a difference between storing a memory and retrieving it. The fact that we cannot quickly retrieve memories does not mean that they are lost.

There are three types of memory

Categorical (mind) memory is the only type of memory that uses short-term memory and is the type that is most difficult to quickly retrieve. Categorical memory is the type we use in traditional classes when we are learning.

Procedural (body) memory we use when we learn kinesthetically. Experiences are recorded procedurally. For example, you first learned to ride a bike many years ago. Even if you haven't ridden your bike for many years, the moment you get onto it, your procedural memory recalls the skill as if you learned it yesterday.

Contextual (space) memory is the one you use to remember effortlessley (where you were on 9/11). Do you ever walk to a room to get something and then forget what you wanted to get? You can recall what you were doing when you retrace your steps and go back to the original space you were in when you decided to go get the object from the other room.

Conquering Fear

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. -Marie Curie

Accomplishing anything important in life involves risk and therefore, it also involves fear. When we allow our fears to dominate, we fail to take risks and as a result, we fail to achieve all that we are capable of achieving.

It is important to recognize and acknowledge your fears so that you can put them into perspective when striving to reach your goals. Fears, whether real or imagined, are major barriers to personal effectiveness. It doesn't matter if the fear is real. As long as it is real to you, it is a major barrier to your personal effectiveness.

There are many things we are afraid of and there are a lot of causes for our fears. Fears are often acquired through conditioning and may have been appropriate at one time but as we grow and develop, we must discard past fears. Many of us were taught as small children "don't talk to strangers". While these instructions served us well as children, as adults, sometimes the achievement of our goals requires the help of others - many of whom we don't yet know. Can you see where the fear of strangers must be overcome?

Examine your fears. By becoming conscious of them, they lose some power.

The Most Important Conversation You Have

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What is your attitude about yourself? What are you good at? What are you not so good at? Don't think about what others think of you. What do you think of yourself?

How you talk to yourself, your self-talk, has a powerful impact on you. Self-talk is the internal conversation you have with yourself all day long, every day. The beliefs you hold about yourself are what control the real use of your potential. Over the years you've been telling yourself a lot with your self-talk. You've been telling yourself you're shy or outgoing, a warm person or a cold person, a high performer or a low performer, a skilled presenter or a poor presenter.

Examples of negative self-talk include:

  • "This will never go well".
  • "They never agree with anything I suggest".
  • "Giving these presentations makes me stressed".

We build and change our attitude about ourselves through our self-talk. Many of our thoughts are constructive but many others are debilitating. It is often said that if a friend talked to you the way you sometimes talk to yourself then the friendship would be over in a hurry. The greater our self-image or self-esteem the easier it is to deal with new situations and new challenges.

For Every Action There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It is not enough to merely want success in your life. What are you willing to give in exchange for it? Nature frowns upon the idea of something for nothing.

It is a basic law of nature that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Consider the example of a gardener. A good gardener carefully tills and seeds the garden. During the growing season, he or she weeds the garden and waters it. In the fall the gardener enjoys a bountiful harvest. What happens if the gardener simply throws some seed packets on the ground and doesn't care for the garden? The result is a bountiful crop of weeds! You can try this over and over again and you'll always get the same results. Do the work and you'll have a wonderful garden. Just toss some seeds on the ground and you won't.

So it is with our goals. You cannot enjoy the achievement of your goals without putting forth action.

There is a story about a piano player who had just performed a concert. At the end of the concert one of the audience members said to him, "I wish I could play the piano like you can!" He answered, "Do you wish it bad enough that you would be willing to practice 8 hours a day for 20 years?" "No", replied the audience member. "Then it will always be a wish for you", replied the concert pianist. Many people wish for things, but you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to make wishes become a reality. You must set your goals and then be willing to work towards them even when the end result may take time to reach.

Competency Model in Hiring

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ability to Learn, Analytical Thinking, Communication Skills, Customer Service, Decisiveness, Detail Orientation, Efficiency, Financial Ability, Follow-up, Initiative, Innovation, Integrity, Judgment, Leadership Ability, Planning and Organization, Presentation Skills, Quality, Safety, Sales Ability, Sensitivity, Stress Tolerance, Teamwork, Technical Knowledge, Writing Skills.

These are all examples of competencies that are used in hiring.

A competency model is a tool that describes the key capabilities for performing a specific job. Managers and other employees must be able to understand the model and its relationship to the job. They also must be able to apply the model.

Since different jobs require different levels of skill, it is important to define each of the competencies. The definitions selected must be meaningful to everyone involved in the selection process.

For example, although leadership skills may be listed as a competency in several different positions, the specific definition of leadership skills may differ significantly among positions. Consider the difference in how leadership skills might be defined for a team leader versus the company's chief executive.

Selection Team

Monday, April 11, 2011

Having many people involved on the selection team is a good practice for getting a varied perspective, communicating the importance of the job and achieving more "buy-in". Involving senior people on the selection team sends a good message to candidates that the selection of people is considered to be a critical task and one that is taken seriously by everyone at every level. One of the disadvantages of having too many people involved in the interviewing process is that none of them are able to carry out an "in-depth" interview (unless the interviews went on for many days - not a good option). In the case of too many interviewers, each interviewer only has the opportunity of getting briefly acquainted with the candidate and then asking just a few (usually superficial) questions. There are three main roles for people to play on the selection team. No one individual should play more than one role.

Primary Contact/Host: This person is the primary contact for each candidate. This individual makes sure the candidate gets the information needed (schedules, prework, company or position information) and arranges for all the logistics of the interview (directions to facility, travel, hotels, meals, transportation, reimbursement of expenses). This person is also the one to follow up after the interview with a thank you note regardless of whether the candidate is selected or not. The candidate should know who the contact person is and should feel comfortable that they may call this individual whenever they have a question. This person also serves as a host during the interviews and checks in on the candidate during breaks to make sure the candidate is comfortable and everything is okay.

Interviewing Team: Usually three interviewers make up the interviewing team. All should have a stake in the person's success. One interviewer should be the position's supervisor, another should be someone familiar with the position (perhaps a coworker) and the third could be someone who this position interacts with (someone from another department or a representative from the Human Resources Department). By having three carefully selected members on the interviewing team, there will be sufficient diversity and different perspectives but not too many as to make the process too cumbersome.

Welcoming Team: Anyone else involved in the process should be on the welcoming team. The welcoming team might include senior managers, other members of the department where the position is being filled or top performing employees who happen to be available that day. It is the job of these individuals to conduct tours, answer questions, share meals or breaks with the candidates and participate in behavioral simulations (i.e., serve as an audience member for presentations).

The best selection system is one that involves many individuals from the organization while minimizing the complexity of the process. A system that puts the most accountability on the few people that have the greatest stake in the outcome is ideal.

The Role of Motivation in Hiring

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Highly motivated people often outperform individuals with greater technical qualifications or skills. Without motivation, individuals can lose their knowledge advantage through complacency. Organizations that match individuals to jobs they are not only skilled in, but also motivated to do, will thrive in the face of today's rapid changes.

People are basically emotional creatures and the emotional needs of the individual must be assessed. It is the role of the hiring manager or the interviewing team to determine if the things that are inherent in the job are also the things that interest and motivate each candidate. This is called motivational fit and a perfect fit must address the human and emotional needs as well as the job competencies.

Are all emotions good for performance? Of course not! Very strong emotions can overwhelm the brain and send a person off on an emotional tangent (which may or may not be related to your organizational goals). The key is to identify the motivational or emotional fit and stimulate productive emotions and learn how to influence non-productive emotions. Simply put; emotions have a HUGE role in human performance. Without addressing them, your selection system will not be as successful as it otherwise could be.

Tips for Selecting Top Performers

Monday, March 28, 2011

In the eighteenth century, economist Vilfredo Pareto developed what is popularly known as the 80/20 Rule, or the Pareto Principle. This rule states that 80 percent of the value of a group of activities is generally concentrated in only 20 percent of those activities.

This is certainly true of most positions in organizations. Although many, many activities can and are carried out by an individual in a job, the critical few are the ones to target in selecting top performers for your organization.

Begin the process of identifying position competencies by defining the goals/major responsibilities that the position is meant to accomplish. Remember the 80/20 rule - only the critical few!

Consider the following questions: What results are expected from this job? How does this job fit with other jobs? What changes in job requirements are anticipated? Does or could this job help develop competencies that have high value elsewhere in the organization?

Beyond technical skills, most jobs require competency in interpersonal skills as well. 80% of the people who fail at work do so because of an inability to relate well to others. Evaluating the more abstract skills of leadership, teamwork, initiative, sensitivity and problem solving is as critical as evaluating the technical skills needed for success.

Responding to Hostile Questions

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When a tough question comes your way, everyone in the audience waits to see how you will react. Presenters who skillfully handle hostile questions enhance their credibility.

Maintain a positive attitude at all times. They may not fight fair but they expect you to. Follow these three steps for dealing with a hostile questioner.

Step 1: Address the Emotions

Too often we jump in with a logical answer to an emotional statement. This only antagonizes the questioner. To put the angry questioner at ease, acknowledge their emotions. Show you understand by responding to what the person is feeling. The purpose is to show understanding not agreement. Say something like "I can see this is a concern for you and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it." Only after you have shown that you understand their emotional position will they be able to hear the logic of your response.

Step 2: Address the Issue

Neutralize the question as you rephrase it for the entire group. Don't use the questioner's negative language. For example, when asked a hostile question such as "How much money do you plan to waste on this project?" is asked, rephrase by saying "Many of you may be wondering about cost." Never change the issue in the rephrasing. Everyone will see this immediately. Save positive language such as "investment" for Step 3.

Step 3: Address the Audience

Once the questioner sees that you really understand both the feelings and the issues of the question, turn physically and move toward the whole audience, signaling the question is for everyone. Then respond.

During your presentation, you (hopefully) will have shared your eye contact with all members of the audience. While responding to the hostile question, follow the same pattern. Resist the temptation to lock eyes with the hostile questionner. Non-verbally include the other members of the audience with your eye contact. As you near the end your response, make eye contact with someone other than the questioner and invite other questions. This simple shift of eye contact will help you avoid a follow-up question or a one-on-one dialogue with the hostile questioner.

Matching Body Language

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Research has shown that people who have good relationships with each other will naturally assume a rhythm that matches the other party - in body language, cadence and movement.

To improve rapport, use matching body language, cadence and movement. Also, look for opportunities to "speak the same language". Does the individual you are negotiating with use language that would suggest they have a preference for auditory learning? Individuals with an auditory preference will use phrases such as: "I hear what you are saying", "How does this sound?"

Matching (and symmetry) also extends beyond body language and learning preference.

Recent studies have looked closely at the process by which parties engage one another. Specifically, one project carefully monitored 47 encounter groups that bring together Jews and Arabs in Israel in hopes of promoting better relationships. Many of these groups involve adults, though some involve children as young as preschoolers.

The researchers tracked the degree to which communication was balanced, as defined by how often and how long various participants spoke. Speaking time was roughly equal in many instances, a possible reflection of both the goodwill of people who chose to take part and the facilitative skill of the conveners. In some cases, however, one side dominated the conversation. That asymmetry likely exacerbated differences between groups.

Addressing Cultural Fit in Hiring

Monday, February 28, 2011

Each organization, like each country, has its own unique culture. The people who are most at home in your unique organizational culture are the individuals who will thrive and make a meaningful contribution to your business.

In addition to addressing a candidate's skills, knowledge and motivations when hiring, interviewers must answer the following question: Will this candidate thrive in our culture or will they find our culture to be so foreign to their own that their ability to make a meaningful contribution is impaired?

While it is difficult to find someone who wouldn't agree that assessing cultural fit is important when filling positions, most organizations devote precious little time to this critical part of the selection system.

Identifying the competencies that support your culture is the first step in analyzing a position. Organizational cultures are based on the shared values that are reflected in the behaviors of individuals at every level in the organization. Most organizations have two or three core competencies that are reflected in their culture. Determining these organizational competencies should be the first step to building an effective selection system, rather than the afterthought it often is in most companies.

Create the Environment

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beyond the content of your conversations, there are a variety of environmental factors that contribute to the success (or failure) of your meeting. Try some of the following techniques to help create a positive environment for your next meeting:

  • Be respectful of time. Develop a schedule and stick to it.
  • Minimize phone, electronic and personal interruptions.
  • Conduct the meeting in a comfortable room without physical barriers such as desks.
  • Sit at a 90-degree angle to the other party.
  • Offer sincere compliments.
  • Make frequent eye contact during the meeting.
  • Use non-verbal encouragement.
  • Show understanding and empathy when frustration is expressed or negative information is shared.
  • Follow-up.
  • Respond to all questions.

A little advance planning and attention to details can help set the stage for a productive meeting environment.

The Use of Irritators

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are there certain phrases or topics that irritate you? Do you have hot buttons that evoke an emotional response in you?

We all have triggers that tick us off and many of us unintentionally push someone else's hot buttons.

Here's a few common business irritators to avoid:

  • Challenge yourself to eliminate the word "should" from your vocabulary. People tend to get offended when someone tells them what they should do or what they should not do. Instead, try using questions such as "have you considered...?" or "what else have you tried?"
  • Consider the impact of the word "but" in communication. Sentences that begin with "yes" and are followed by "but" are offensive and negate the yes. In fact, "but" in any sentence negates what was said prior. The word "and" can achieve the same goal without evoking a negative reaction.
  • When someone says "to be honest" it throws into question the honesty of the rest of the interaction.

Start with Small Talk

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It has been estimated that 76% of people suffer from some form of social anxiety. New environments and new people can be intimidating. Small talk sets the stage for trust, openness and positivity. It does not have to be intensive. It can be as trivial as politely talking about the weather or a timely news or sports event.

Following are some questions that can help you initiate useful small talk during your next business meeting or social event.

General questions:

  • Where are you from originally?
  • What brought you here?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • What did you major in?
  • When you're not working so hard, what do you like to do?

Interests to ask about:

  • Sports: Favorite sports, team, player, game, stadium/venue.
  • Travel: Love, hate, favorite airport, airline, mode of travel, place.
  • Music: Genre, style, artist.
  • Kids: Ages, interests, abilities.
  • Local Events, clubs, associations.

Areas to notice:

  • Accomplishments
  • Abilities
  • Intelligence (How did you get to be so good at what you do?)

People naturally prefer places, people and things that are familiar. Consider what similarities you share with the other person and contemplate how to introduce them into discussions to create a personal connection. What do you have in common? Consider background, education, hometown, family, profession, affiliations, challenges, etc.

Building Rapport

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone and felt that you were really on the same wavelength? What caused that feeling?

Have you ever been in discussion with someone and suddenly felt that rapport was gone? Why was that?

Have you ever tried hard to get along with someone to no avail? What happened?

Do you know anyone who seems able to get along quickly with a wide variety of people? How does he or she do that?

Rapport is a feeling of comfort, trust and understanding you have with someone else. Rapport makes it easier for us to be assertive, influential, persuasive and relaxed with someone. Because rapport happens as a result of the way we interact with someone, we do not have to wait for it to happen naturally. By using the right behaviors and avoiding others, we can make it happen more quickly.

Asking questions about what was just said and summarizing or reflecting words back to others increases comfort and rapport.

Talking more than listening, interrupting and finishing sentences are examples of behaviors than can destroy rapport.

Other's Perceptions of You

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Do you remember the story of the Wizard of Oz?

The Scarecrow needed brains so the Wizard gave him a diploma and said "all smart people have diplomas, now you have one - go act like it".

The Lion needed courage so the Wizard gave him a medal and said "all brave people have medals, now you have one go act like it".

The Tin Man needed a heart so the Wizard gave him a clock that made a rhythmic sound like a heartbeat and said, "go act like it".

In that story, each individual needed something they already had. All the Wizard did was give them permission to use that which they already possessed.

There are many occasions in our lives that we look to others to sanction our value or worth. For example, a doctor is not allowed to practice medicine until he or she is awarded a medical degree. Did that person suddenly acquire the skills to practice medicine when they were handed the diploma? Or did they possess them already through their diligent studies?

The same is true for everyday activities like driving. Did you possess the skills to drive before you received the license? Of course you did.

The Wizard of Oz, the University Diploma and the Driver's License are all examples of others giving us permission in our lives. Because these people sanction our ability, we are empowered to move steadily ahead toward the accomplishment of our goals.

Sadly, there are also examples of people who provide negative permission or negative programming in our lives. People who tell us it can't be done or that we're not good enough. Watch for these destructive people and be particularly aware of the most negative permission of all - your own negative self-talk.

What is the most powerfully positive message you have been given? What is the most powerfully negative message you have ever been given? Have those messages had an effect on you? Have you let those messages define your self-esteem?

"No one can make you inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt