How was January?

The traditional month of resolutions has passed and by now most of those resolutions have disappeared. I’m not a big resolution maker so I don’t have to feel bad about not keeping resolutions. However, this year I have put a more solid plan in place to record what I start and how I progress.

In my seminars and keynotes I stress three items: plan, communicate and follow-up. It’s easy to tell everyone else take those three steps so this year I’ve been meticulous at recording my own adherence to  my three step process. While I like to think I’ve been consistent in the past, for the first month of 2008 I know I have. I have a chat each day with the guy I see in the mirror and those little pep talks are working.

The result is quite spectacular. My success may not be any better than it was in the past but this year I have solid data to back my “feelings” up. Two other positive results have shown up in January. I tackle my tasks in a much more organized manner and I feel less pressured to work extra hours. My stress level is down. Just as a good time manager records successes and short-comings, I’m recording what I’ve accomplished and what’s left to do.

A couple of years ago I was in an accountability group with two other individuals. Each day we e-mailed our list of tasks that we started and how far along we progressed. I was amazed at how much I could do each day and, more importantly, I was amazed at how much I accomplished that I really didn’t recognize. At the end of any day it’s easy to focus on the uncompleted tasks on your list or in your daytimer while ignoring what you truly accomplished.

So, right now I’m looking for colleagues who I can mastermind with and share my thoughts, challenges, progress, opportunities and, of course, who will help keep me on a postive track. How about you? Are you in a mastermind group? How’s it working? What tips do you have you could share with the rest of us?

Have a great February,

Garth Roberts

Spam in leadership

This blog has become the target of spam artists who seem to feel it’s their right to inflict their brand of internet “marketing” on the unsuspecting masses. Fortunately this is a moderated blog so I can eliminate the spam before it’s published. The one bright side of spam intrusion is it prompted me to look at the concept of “spam leaders” in business.

Do you know of any leaders who toss out directions or advise with the same focus and accuracy as our spammers?

Unfortunately I’ve met too many leaders who “spam” their offices with mindless directions, advise, opinions and self-important pronouncements. None of which increase productivity or encourage empowerment of the rest of the office.

So, are you a leadership spammer? I certainly hope not. From my perspective the most effective way to ensure you aren’t viewed as spam is to do three little things: plan, communicate and follow-up.

In my presentations and when consulting I prod clients to spend time planning before doing anything else. I’ve had one frontline leader say, “But Garth, you don’t understand. We don’t have time to plan around here … but we do have time to do it over again tomorrow.” He had a smile on his face to suggest that he was joking, but planning wasn’t one of his leadership skills.

Think about it for a minute. If you stopped for 30-seconds to plan what you’re going to say to a boss, client or colleague, how much time would save? No confusion in what you wanted or what you expected. No other person wondering what you really meant. No repeat of a task or project. I’ve heard estimates that 1/3 to 2/3rds of what done in offices every day is redo. Even if it’s only 10%, that still a huge saving of time over a year and that time translates into money.

While it’s true that planning takes time, simple logic tells us it saves more time that it uses. So, what tools do you use to help you plan? I use Outlook to keep me on track and I supplement that with a paper daytimer for those times when my computer isn’t around. In the past few years I’ve been more consistent in my planning and have forced myself to stick to each plan, or justify to myself why I should change. Guess what, I’ve noticed a marked increase in my productivity and effectiveness.

As to the other two elements of my productivity trio – communication and follow-up – more on that in my next post.

To get them to listen, try setting a good example.

The feedback I received from a client was, “I sat for two hours and never said a word, but when I finally did speak, they listened.” The man writing tried an experiment for me. He sat with a group of his friends and didn’t say a word until there was a pause in the conversation. No pauses for two hours! Not only no pauses but continual, starting to talk before the previous person had finished!

How about you? Are you listening all the way through your client’s conversation? Or, are you saying to yourself, “I know what he’s going to say so I’ll just start talking now to share my really important stuff.”

Effective communication means planning, talking, and, completing that most difficult task, listening all the way through someone else’s speech until that person has finished. In Dr. Richard Carlson’s book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff”, he gives great advice, Breathe Before You Speak.

As Dr. Carlson reminds us, we aren’t communicating if all we’re doing is speaking and mentally deciding what we’ll say when we have a chance to interrupt. Great conversations rely on two-way communication and two-way communication requires feedback. One way communication is the kind that many teachers, parents, bosses, spouses and friends do. I’ll tell you what to do, think, say, or feel. You just do it. No questioning, no chatting, and worst of all, no checking to see if you really understand what I’ve just said.

Two-way communication relies on feedback and is 100% more effective that its one-way partner. If I get feedback I know whether you understood my words and my intention. I can give feedback with my words, my vocal tone or inflection, or with my whole body. Studies tell us that 55% of our communication is purely from non-verbal body language and it goes up to 93% when we add tone and inflection.

Don’t believe me? How many of you have stopped your spouse or child in their tracks with one stern look?

Now, pause and think, how many clients have you stopped from ordering by your continual, one-way, feature dump that never gave time for honest questions or feedback? Each of us speaks and responds based on our behavioural style. When I’m working with clients I have them complete the DiSC Behavioural Assessment tool so I know how they talk and listen, and so they learn their own strengths and weaknesses.

In the 1920s Dr. Carl Jung defined the four behavioural styles on which most of today’s assessment tools are based. Dr. Jung noted that we listened differently and talk differently from our friends, co-workers and clients. To expect them to perceive everything the same way we do is wrong. So it is with your clients. By learning some basic characteristics of the four major styles, you can communicate better … and increase your sales.

Even if you aren’t familiar with behavioural styles you can increase your chance of communication success with three easy steps. First, plan your communication. Think about the person you’re going to talk with, notice I said talk with, not talk to! Think of the characteristics of the person. Is she an outgoing person or a guarded person? An outgoing person is more open to chatting and exchanging information before you get down to business. A guarded or less bubbly person is likely to want to know what you’re there to discuss at the start of the conversation.

Actually, the more open person may require some general “get to know you chatter” before they can focus on the business. Building rapport is very important to them. The more guarded person wants to know what the conversation is about before she reveals too much information.

Next, think whether the person appears to be more of a head person or a heart person. Does Joe, down the hall, show his emotions or is he very thoughtful. If you can determine which fits Joe, you can use the correct language during your conversation. Too many times we head off to talk to Joe and our mouth starts flapping long before our brain is fully engaged. A little planning can make the conversation more appropriate, concise and fruitful.

How you talk to the individual will depend on how you feel the person needs to hear the information. Remember, you’re talking to get someone to work with you, buy from you, or do a task for you. It is all about the person, not all about you!

The completing the conversation is all about follow-up. Your success rate in any relationship will skyrocket if you learn the little-practiced art of follow-up. Before you finish you conversation determine who is doing by when and follow-up with a note or e-mail to confirm. Then take the all important step, actually do what you said you’d do. Actually, go beyond what you said you’d do and your success rate will soar.

Don’t tell me you don’t have time for the three-step process of planning, communicating and follow-up. You don’t have time not to do the three steps. I continually hear how busy everyone is and yet I know that if we’d all take the time for the three-steps, we’d reduce the re-do cycle at work. It’s estimated anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of what is done in many businesses everyday is re-do. Do it correctly the first time and you won’t be near as busy as you believe you are.

So, for the next 30-days, pause, slow down, listen, give your client a chance to think and process, follow-up … and watch your sales grow!

Garth Roberts

2007 and commitment

It’s a gorgeous New Year’s day in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Lots of bright sunshine and mild temperatures, for a winter climate. This past week I’ve spent much time putting my 2007 plan in place and setting up the processes so the plan will work. I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions!

Leaders move forward with plans, not resolutions. The plans work when the processes are put in place. The plans also work when they are shared and checked with those who will help make them work. I’m an entrepreneur so much of my work is done on my own; however, I’ve learned that I do my best work when I connect with those who can give me positive but constructive feedback.

 How are you set for 2007? Are your plans and processes working with you? I hope so.

Maybe I’ll see you this year in Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, London, Dubai, Phoenix or San Diego. Have a great 2007. We can share our progress on completing our plans and achieving our goals.

International Leadership

I have the pleasure of being the Co-chair of the International PEG (Professional Experts Group) of the National Speakers Association. Consequently I get to meet a lot of international trainers, speaker, coaches, consultants and facilitators … and I get to learn from them.  The PEG has just started a new blog that is going to allow all of us to learn from the experts. Drop by and visit at https://intlpeg@typepad.com

2006 is thunderng on

Ten months have scurried past and we’re now planning to tackle 2007. Before 2006 slips away, why not take stock of what you’ve accomplished?

 If you make your annual resolutions at the start of the new year or just, in a good business-like format, plan your year. How have you done?

Have you been the leader to set out to be on January 1st?

What percentage of your goals did you meet?

Many leaders that I’ve met will say they have been successful. I agree with some; however, with a few others I think they just have bad memories as to what they really set out to do. How about you?

My percentage is close to where I’d like it to be and I’ve very happy to say that my leadership skills have grown in 2006 so that I know why I missed on a few of my goals.