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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Neil Armstrong quotes that inspire

 Beyond his famous "One small step" saying from the moon, the late astronaut offered a variety of inspirational quotes.

I was a young blade at the time of the first lunar landing and Neil Armstrong's original moonwalk.  I ran to the house from the school bus on the day of the landing.  I remember that my Father, Mother and Brother and I sat transfixed in front of the TV with the jerky figures of Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin  moving around on the surface, with the flag sticking out. I was sitting on the floor right underneath my Dad who was perched on the edge of his easy chair.

I recall Dad being very quiet and mindful of what was being described on TV.  Then when Neil Armstrong started down the ladder, I felt a tremor run through my Dad. When he made his famous speech, I felt something wet drop onto the top of my head - I turned to see  tears coming from (my otherwise stoic) father's eyes and rolling over his cheeks.  

My Dad would later say, "Even serving in the war (WWII) paled in comparison." He was never more proud of being an American than on the day we landed on the moon.

The death of Neil Armstrong over the weekend triggered a lot of memories for me as well as discussion in the media. Of course, as the first man to the walk on the moon, Armstrong is a household name, as is his famous saying: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Beyond “One small step,” Armstrong offered a number of other keepers over the years that can inspire anyone. Here are eight of them:

On hard work

“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.” – From a 2005 “60 Minutes” interview

On wonderment

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.” – From James R. Hansen’s biography of Armstrong, “First Man"

On hard work, part II

“Lunar exploration was a great deal of fun and an enormous amount of very hard work, which proves, I hope, that hard work can also be fun.”

On humility

“Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that's when something snaps up and bites you.”

On motivation

“I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul ... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”

On extending the boundaries of knowledge

“At the edges [of knowledge] it's always going to be a challenge.”

On taking chances

“There can be no great accomplishment without risk.” – His response when told that President Kennedy had been advised not to go to the moon

On going to the moon

“It's an interesting place to be. I recommend it.” – From the same 2005 “60 Minutes” interview

All the success!
Peter Mclees

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 30-Second Rule of Engagement

Social psychologists have studied "first impressions"(called the primacy effect by researchers) for decades. The research shows that positive or negative impressions between people are formed within the first thirty seconds of a conversation. People who want to make an impression that is positive and lasting can use the 30-Second Rule of engagement. This practice can be used to better engage employees, customers, family and friends.

The 30-Second Rule is a simple yet powerful communication practice. It means that within the first thirty seconds of a conversation with an employee or customer, a leader or sales associate encourages or appreciates them in same way. The 30-Second Rule gives people the Triple-A treatment: attention, affirmation, and appreciation. All people feel and do better when they are given these things in a conversation. Leaders can easily engage customers and employees by giving them their undivided attention and by showing their appreciation in the first thirty seconds of a conversation. Leaders will be surprised by how positively people respond to the Triple-A treatment.

"Everyone has an invisible sign around their neck. It says, 'Make Me Feel Important!'"
                                                                                                                                   --M. K. Ash

The 30-Second Rule In Action

The key to the 30-Second Rule is when you make contact with people to search for ways make them look good. Everyday before you meet with people, pause and think about something encouraging or affirming that you can tell them. For employees, what you say can be one of many things: You might thank them for something they've done for you or the company. You might tell others about one of their accomplishments. You might praise them for a something they've done that's above and beyond the ordinary. Or you might simply compliment their appearance. For customers, of course, what you'd say is anything you'd share with a good friend. The practice isn't complicated, but it does take some time, effort, and discipline to see what's good because it's much easier to see what isn't. The reward for practicing it is huge, because it really makes a positive impact on people.

The 30-Second Rule of Engagement Gives People Energy

Psychologist Henry H. Goddard conducted a study on energy levels in children using an instrument called an "egograph." His findings are fascinating. He discovered that when tired children were given a word of encouragement or praise, the egograph showed an immediate upward surge of energy in children. When the children were criticized or discouraged, the egograph showed their physical energy showed a sudden nosedive in energy.**

We all know this intuitively. When someone sincerely praises us (as opposed to shallow and insincere flattery) our energy goes up. Words have great power.

"Encouragement is oxygen to the soul." ----George Matthew Adams

Everyone needs motivation from time to time. Using the 30-Second Rule helps encourage people to be and do their best. Motivation makes it possible to accomplish what should be accomplished.

One side benefit of the 30-Second Rule is that it helps the leader. A leader can't help others without helping themselves. Benjamin Franklin realized this truth and he encouraged others with it. In a letter to John Paul Jones he wrote:

"Hereafter, if you should observe an occasion to give your officers and friends a little more praise than their due, and confess a little more fault than you can justly be charged with, you will only become the sooner for it, a great captain. Criticizing and censuring almost everyone you have to do with, will diminish friends, increase enemies, and thereby hurt your affairs."

The 30-Second Rule's initial impact goes a long way in making others feel connected to you.

All the success,

Peter Mclees

Empathy: An Essential Leadership Skill

A few weeks ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said: "I am not good at empathy. Will you settle for sarcasm?" The humor in the bumper sticker led me to think of the slight unease or self-conscious discomfort that many people feel when a term such as "empathy" is introduced in a business environment. Notions of "touchy-feely", spring to mind.

While empathy is a right brain activity, it is far from being a touchy-feely topic. At its core, empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly. The fact that empathy is an important component of effective relationships has been proven: In studies by Dr. Antonio Damasio (outlined in his book: "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain."), medical patients who had damage to part of the brain associated with empathy showed significant deficits in relationship skills, even though their reasoning and learning abilities remained intact.

Indeed, empathy is valued currency. It allows us to create bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, it sharpens our "people acumen" and informs our decisions.

A formal definition of Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another's situation, feelings and motives. It's our capacity to recognize the concerns other people have. Empathy means: "putting yourself in the other person's shoes" or "seeing things through someone else's eyes".

There are numerous studies that link empathy to business results. They include studies that correlate empathy with increased sales, with the performance of the best managers of product development teams and with enhanced performance in an increasingly diverse workforce. A few of these studies can be viewed on the site of The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.

Yes, increasingly, the topic of empathy is encroaching on the business world. We are now even seeing terms such as "empathy marketing" and "empathy selling". Not long ago, I came across the term "user empathy", referring to user interface.

Along those lines, in his book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Daniel Pink predicts that power will reside with those who have strong right-brain (interpersonal) qualities. He cites three forces that are causing this change: Abundance, Asia and Automation. "Abundance" refers to our increasing demand for products or services that are aesthetically pleasing; "Asia" refers to the growing trend of outsourcing; "Automation" is self-explanatory. In order to compete in the new economy market, Pink suggests six areas that are vital to our success. One of which is Empathy; the ability to imagine yourself in someone else's position, to imagine what they are feeling, to understand what makes people tick, to create relationships and to be caring of others: All of which is very difficult to outsource or automate, and yet is increasingly important to business.

Empathy is also particularly critical to leadership development in this age of young, independent, highly marketable and mobile workers. In a popular Harvard Business Review article entitled "What Makes a Leader?", Dr. Daniel Goleman isolates three reasons for why empathy is so important: the increasing use of teams, (which he refers to as "cauldrons of bubbling emotions"), the rapid pace of globalization (with cross cultural communication easily leading to misunderstandings) and the growing need to retain talent. "Leaders with empathy," states Goleman, "do more than sympathize with people around them: they use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle, but important ways." This doesn't mean that they agree with everyone's view or try to please everybody. Rather, they "thoughtfully consider employees' feelings – along with other factors – in the process of making intelligent decisions."

Empathy, then, is an ability that is well-worth cultivating. It's a soft, sometimes abstract tool in a leader's toolkit that can lead to hard, tangible results. But where does empathy come from? Is it a process of thinking or of emotion?

From my perspective, I believe that it is both: We need to use our reasoning ability to understand another person's thoughts, feelings, reactions, concerns, motives; This means truly making an effort to stop and think for a moment about the other person's perspective in order to begin to understand where they are coming from: And then we need the emotional capacity to care for that person's concern; Caring does not mean that we would always agree with the person, that we would change our position, but it does mean that we would be in tune with what that person is going through, so that we can respond in a manner that acknowledges their thoughts, feelings or concerns.

So this leads me to a question that I am sometimes asked: "Can you teach someone to be empathetic?" We all know some people who are naturally and consistently empathetic – these are the people who can easily forge positive connections with others. They are people who use empathy to engender trust and build bonds; they are catalysts who are able to create positive communities for the greater good. But even if empathy does not come naturally to some of us, I firmly believe that we can develop this capacity.

Here are a few practical tips you might consider to help you do this:

1.      Listen – truly listen to people. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Pay attention to others' body language, to their tone of voice, to the hidden emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the context.
2.      Don't interrupt people. Don't dismiss their concerns offhand. Don't rush to give advice. Don't change the subject. Allow people their moment.
3.      Tune in to non-verbal communication. This is the way that people often communicate what they think or feel, even when their verbal communication says something quite different.
4.      Practice the "93% rule". We know from a famous study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, when communicating about feelings and attitudes, words – the things we say – account for only 7% of the total message that people receive. The other 93% of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language. It's important, then, to spend some time to understand how we come across when we communicate with others about our feelings and attitudes.
5.      Use people's name. Also remember the names of people's spouse and children so that you can refer to them by name.
6.      Be fully present when you are with people. Don't check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls when a direct report drops into your office to talk to you. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss did that to you?
7.      Smile at people.
8.      Encourage people, particularly the quiet ones, when they speak up in meetings. A simple thing like an attentive nod can boost people's confidence.
9.      Give genuine recognition and praise. Pay attention to what people are doing and catch them doing the right things. When you give praise, spend a little effort to make your genuine words memorable: "You are an asset to this team because.."; "This was pure genius"; "I would have missed this if you hadn't picked it up."
10. Take a personal interest in people. Show people that you care, and genuine curiosity about their lives. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges, their families, their aspirations.

Empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger the more we use it. Try some of these suggestions and watch the reactions of those you work with. I believe you will notice some positive results.

Years ago, I had come across a saying that went something like this: the measure of a man [or woman], is how they treat someone who is of absolutely no use to them. Empathy should not be selective: It should be a daily habit. If I were to create a bumper sticker, I would say: Empathy: Don't Leave Home Without It!

All the success,

Peter Mclees

Proven ways to manage email overload

The emails you want (or need) are clogging your inbox and sapping your time. Try these techniques for taming the monster.
No matter if you're a manager, small business owner or salesperson, as technology expands email will continue to be an overwhelming presence in your day to day routine. In fact, when I conduct workshop for managers and salespeople, email overload seems to be an all too common thread.
Here are some ways to manage your inbox, save time, and conquer email overload.
·        Two-minute rule
It basically states that, if an email will take two minutes or less to answer, answer it and get it out of your inbox. If an email will take more than two minutes to answer, file it in your follow-up folder. Just be sure to follow up.
·        Email organization
One reason our inboxes become inundated with emails is that we don't have the proper organizational system in place. I have more than 20 folders for keeping track of messages. Start by creating a follow-up folder, a hold folder, and an archive folder. Having these three folders in place will help you to clear out your inbox and manage your messages more effectively. You can create a variety of folders to meet your needs.
·        Brevity
Don't worry about crafting the perfect reply; just keep your emails concise. Along with this, remember to craft a descriptive subject line that will help the individual determine what your email is about. (This will help with getting quicker replies, too.)
Example: "Question — About Advertising Prices." If you need to explain something in detail, where there could easily be a miscommunication, pick up the phone and give the individual a call. Sometimes email isn't the best tool for the job.

·        Templates
No matter what your business, there will most likely be questions that you get asked over and over again. There are a couple of ways to solve this problem. You can create a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section on your website. You can also craft a template of responses that can be easily copied and pasted into the body if an email. By taking some time on the front end, you can save yourself loads of time on the back end.
·        Slowing down to read
Often we are in such a hurry that we end up skimming emails and missing important details. Slow down, and read the email in its entirety. Many times just by taking a few extra minutes to read thoroughly, we can clear up misunderstandings, reply with a more focused answer, and save time by following directions.
·        Creating an email schedule
If you keep your email open all day long, every time you get a new email, you'll be distracted from what you're doing at the time. Letting email distract you all day long is a huge time waster, not to mention that it is controlling how you work.
·        Unsubscribing
How much time do you spend deleting unwanted emails from subscriptions that you've outgrown, no longer need, or have been automatically been signed up for? Take a minute (or 15), go through your newsletter subscriptions, and unsubscribe yourself. Most companies have made the process easy, and it takes just a few seconds. If you must keep the subscription, set up email filters so the email is placed in a reading folder for later.
With any good plan, it will take a few weeks to make these changes a habit. Once you start taking control of your email, you will notice an increase in your productivity.

All the success,

Peter Mclees