Can’t tell you, it’s confidential

Many of us have run into the “it’s confidential” excuse when it comes to getting or giving information. Usually it’s an “I’ve got power and you don’t” mentality that uses the confidential excuse.

Few things in any company should be confidential. Certainly the R & D departments have confidential information and other information that may create a problem if your competitors know, can create difficulties … but little else. Holding information that should be shared demonstrates the ultimate in leadership stupidity! Your people deserve to know what’s happening in their company!

I just conducted a session with frontline managers and supervisors. They were incredibly frustrated with the lack of direction and the uncertainty as to who was in charge. The response from one of the three managers:

“Their confusion over who they report to is understandable; there are only 3 people at the moment who know what the new structure internally is and two of us can’t say anything until the 3rd one (CEO) announces something.” 

The CEO was out-of-town and no announcement was scheduled. Next thing the managers will be wondering why they’re losing staff. Inadequate communication is one of the biggest impediments to employee satisfaction. Be a supervisor who shares!

Garth Roberts

Saying goodbye to procrastination

One of the excellent e-zines I get comes from Eric Albertson. Eric gratitiously shares his wisdom about procrastination in the following abridged article.

by Eric Albertson

Beating procrastination requires that you put the familiar to use. Here’s how:

Key #1: Forget the big changes whenever possible.

Keep them at regular intervals, but small.

Key #2: Build and execute simple plans.

For example, when planning your day, just set out one or two simple things you want to do. Map out two to three steps in writing to get the task done. Take it in simple chunks. Now, just commit to working 10-15 minutes without interruption, and then stop and take a break by looking out the window or getting something to drink. Repeat daily for three to four weeks. You now have a million-dollar habit that crept into familiarity in your brain.

Key #3: If you try too much, too fast, your brain will identify it as unfamiliar, and will fight like the devil incarnate. Don’t be too ambitious with this if you are committed to success.

Key #4: Let your brain begin to realize that a simple plan equals easy success. A complex plan equals failure, much of the time, unless you have developed familiarity with complex plans, of course.

Key #5: Perfection.

Another human fault that enables procrastination is the desire for perfection.

Sending a person into space might require perfection, but little else does.

Give up the perfection. Gary Halbert was probably one of the top three  copywriters of all time. One of his sayings was, “If it is worth doing well, it is worth doing poorly, at first.”

If you can just give yourself a timeline and release yourself from the responsibility of seeking perfection, you can get started, get done, and get on with life.

By the way, we know that those who go for excellence (not getting too worried about making mistakes) get far more done, and they get it done much faster than those who shoot for absolute perfection. Really.

Even though going for perfection rarely works, it is an effort that we are familiar with.

Key #6: Do the stuff you hate — first.

When you put off the stuff you hate, it often ruins doing the stuff you love. Dread of the hated task can ruin days, weeks, years, and, for some, life itself.

I hate to work out. But my work has me sitting on my butt all day, on the phone. Without a workout every day, I would have a very large butt for all that sitting and I would probably die of a massive heart attack way too early in life. I get my workout done at 5 am every day. No dread for the rest of the day. Yahoo!

Key #7: Mental conversations.

Action follows your feelings.

Feeling follows thoughts.

Thoughts are shaped by your mindset.

Your mental conversations become familiar, and form your mindset.

Procrastination is a lack of action. The formula above, maps out the fact that our actions, or lack of action, starts with a mental conversation about what is happening to us at any given moment. If we become aware of these conversations, we can usually guess where they are leading and make a choice that will lead to the actions we are committed to.

Procrastination is a choice that is made by the mental conversations we allow ourselves to have.

Key #8: Make your workspace more productive.

Keep your workplace simple.

Keep the things you need on a daily basis near at hand.

Everything else should go.

Take an hour each week to bring your space back up to standard. Your brain will love you for it.

Don’t let working in a disaster area become familiar.

Simple, clean and neat, is the secret weapon against procrastination.

Key #9: Visualization.

Finally, spend a moment or two visualizing the finished result of any task. Get it to the point that where there is some positive feeling associated with the visualization.

In some cases, you just have to visualize how happy you will be when a nasty task is behind you.

Key #10: Choices.

Procrastination, in the end, is a simple choice, or series of choices.

Get clear on your commitments, use the information above to the best of your ability, and make some choices.

There’s only one choice I hope you don’t make often: Don’t put off anything you have to do. Do it now, if it takes two minutes or less. If it will take longer than two minutes, put in on the calendar, and map out with that three-step, simple plan we discussed earlier. 

You know, the one you are familiar with, from above.

“Reprinted with permission from Eric Albertson’s Newsletter. (Copyright, 1998-2007, Eric Albertson,”

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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