Monday, 25 May 2009

The Fine Art of Asking Questions - Part 1

You might not have thought very much about how you ask questions. I have.

Let me share what I have found so that you too might achieve the kinds of results you seek.

Answering questions are a great opportunity to provide valuable insights, gain new understandings, etc, etc.

However, it is the Art of Asking the Question where the true conversational power lies. And of course, feedback is always good to receive - no matter how difficult it may to really hear it at the time. It is usually meant with the best of intentions, and if it isn't, then you can find ways of spotting that too.

I hope you'll keep asking more questions throughout your career because an enquiring mind is the most useful thing to have (in my humble opinion).

Now there are different types of Questions:

Questions to clarify understanding, Questions to gain agreement, Questions to unite people to a cause - Your strategy in asking the right questions to the right audience at the right time will guide your ability to get things done.

How to elicit the best response? Ask for it. Preface it with something which takes out a confrontational or controversial oppositional stance:

"Would you mind if I asked, ..."
"I hope you don't mind if I enquire, .... "
"That makes me wonder if, (whether) ...."
"I'd just like to understand exactly what you mean when you say 'xxx'. "

By all means, structure your questions so you have a meaningful conversation. From meaningful conversations, great things can happen. And when great things happen, the world is a better place.

Yes, Asking Questions, and asking them well can make or break a career.

Please pass this one on to all - because as I intimated above, an enquirying mind is the most beautiful thing to behold.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Automatic Affirmative Action Always Accelerates Achievement

Just think about that for a minute or two.

Automatic Affirmative Action Always Accelerates Achievement

Let's break it down.

Why Automatic Affirmative Action? The quick answer is that it needs to become “instinctive” – to get you “into the Zone” or “in the flow”

Why Affirmative Action?
- To focus on doing the right thing – eg something with a positive intent.

Does it really Always Accelerate Achievement?
- Well Yes - in that you get your result quicker than you would otherwise.

So, Does this mean that you don’t have to Think about it?
- “Sometimes little Grasshopper.” says the wise sage.
Other times, you need to focus on it intently to make sure your really are doing the right things to the best of your ability.

So let me leave you with this thought again –

Automatic Affirmative Action Always Accelerates Achievement

– “Repeat with will power” for best results.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Communication Impact on Productivity

Why is there such a gap in productivity when we have better technology and a much better educated workforce than ever before?

Let's start with the basics, of which communication is the key facet.

Being able to ensure that all parties take away the same meaning - developing a shared understanding from transactions in communication is the fundamental objective every time you listen to someone or seek to make yourself heard. Let's look at some facts from a survey* on bosses skills:

  • 40% - lead productive meetings
  • 41% - skilled at sharing critical information
  • 43% - knew how to motivate and inspire others

These are fundamental communication skills every manager needs to develop, and which every member of an organisation has the right to expect.

The gap between where we are today and where we need to be in order to make this world a better place is wide - yet it is not an impossible breach to navigate.

Practical skills in the art of communication are one starting point - and the journey begins with becoming self aware.

So, I recommend pulling out something which can record your voice and using it for a day. Not just for the transactions where you are conscious of speaking well - use it in those unguarded moments when you are "speaking your mind".

Put aside your initial reaction of "Do I really Sound Like THAT?" and see beyond your words and into the minds of those whom you have touched. How have you interpreted their message? How have they perceived your message? How are you both the better for having had this transaction?

Enlightenment takes time and begins with the very first insight...

So, let's start with another basic skill - How often are your key points ignore in meetings?  Please participate in our poll at:

* Survey from Speak like a CEO by Suzanne Bates

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Business / Social Networking - A Spider Thread connection an Archipelago of Talented Individuals

Using for Business and Social Networking - To Risk or Not to Risk, that is the Question.

There are a couple of factors which determine the right strategy for you when using a tool as powerful as LinkedIn. If you get an invitation from a stranger who has yet to become a friend, “shake hands” and ask what help they seek. Then you can decide whether to take this “blind date” forward.

I see myself as the spider thread connecting an archipelago of talented individualists. Some parts of this grapevine are very active. Others are too busy with the day to day stuff that they don’t visit often.

I view it as only a factor of time before one of them finds a friend they have yet to meet through me.

I encourage you to think about the picture you have of LinkedIn and networking in general. Can you compare it to an animal, bird, or insect grouping? If so, what does that mean?

Take an opportunity to paint a picture of possibilities instead of limiting in anticipation as to what you’ll want to do. Try putting yourself "out there" and see what happens... By all means, protect yourself responsibly, just consider how to let your talent get found.

Isn't it great that a tool like LinkedIn can be used in so many different ways by so many people? Gone are the straight-jackets of formalised database usage! Hooray!

For me, I love connecting islands of technologists and other professionals - many of who don't know each other because they are too busy at the coal face or inventing new things. Sure, some of them know some of their suppliers and, yes, they compete for the same clients.

And yet.... And yet some don't know whom amongst a competitor (or even in a different industry) might be able to help them produce a new product/service which would enhance both their bottom lines. The ability to “stumble upon” or initiate a relationship from a chance encounter (even if it is by design) to something more will be a direct result of your ability to take a risk, to give someone you don’t know the opportunity to get to know you.

The ability to facilitate an introduction is a function of how wide your reach is, how compelling your approach is and how willing to “pay it forward” your “thread” is to leaping from A to D (from them to you to your contact to the target).

With 40 million individuals connecting like little spider thread to make one gigantic web, trying to connect to everyone is probably beyond the realms of possibility for most people.

Make a better goal - perhaps to get to know someone with your same job function, perhaps someone you might meet at a trade show. Perhaps you can find someone with whom to bounce ideas, perhaps something more.

When viewing each Individual an Entrepreneur in charge of their own destiny, I wonder whether you see the “whole” person. Connecting with a person is an excellent opportunity to extend your own thinking, to open up the realms of possibilities.

You may wonder how wide to extend your reach - just don’t limit the realms of possibilities - new sales leads, possible partnerships, and of course contact points for investment ideas. There are very few limits put in place, however that doesn't mean you aren't "protected", reporting a transgressor flags to the authorities that something isn't right, so if you swim like a pod of dolphins attacking a shark, they will have to find another feeding ground or promise to change their behaviour.

Now, this does not mean connecting with any an all. It's simple really - it means to be open to the possibility of a chance “meeting” which may lead to something more.

Unlike cold calling, if you say “no” to them once, they can’t ask you again. So, I recommend if you get an invitation from a stranger who has yet to become a friend, “shake hands” first and ask what help they seek. Just archive it if you're not ready to "share" - it's a bit like saying no thank you to someone who asks if you'd like a cup of tea.

Whilst Answers and Groups are great forums to extend one‘s thoughts, I believe connecting and building relationships one at a time is an activity best practiced daily - or at least once a month. So make an effort to try something new. Who knows where it might lead?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Never Confuse Activity With Achievement

John Wooden's quotation "Never Confuse Activity With Achievement" is a tenet which is worth exploring.

We all have lots of things we want to do; lots of things we'd like to do.
We know we have lots of things we should do and
Lots of things we must do.

We have many things that we alone can do.

We alone can change the attitude with which all these things are undertaken.

Your energy and enthusiasm will drive the action forward.

I have found the simple technique of Taking a Moment, to Breathe, Think and Smile always helps. Then I remember to write down all the things to do so I'll remember them.

I use yellow post-it notes in my diary which it doubles as a journal complete with doodles and day dreams and the interesting things which happen along the way.