Monday, 30 June 2008

Top Tips for Improving Your Briefing and Presentation Skills

Briefing teams and presenting to others might be a key management task, but is it is also one of the most disliked responsibilities. If you struggle to present your views clearly to others try using the following tips to improve your briefing and presentation skills.

1. Watch TV’s weather forecasters. Examine how they present themselves, the body language and the words they use. What can you learn and copy from them?

2. Make a video of yourself presenting to others. How do you compare? Is your body language congruent with your words? For example do you come across as believable and enthusiastic?

3. Before presenting, ensure that you understand as much about your audience as possible (what is their knowledge of the topic, what is their background, what will they be expecting?). Once understood, determine the approach you will take (what information to provide, what questions the presentation should answer, what tone should be adopted etc.). What questions might they ask?

4. Outline your presentation or briefing by writing down all of the key points and in what order they should be presented.

5. Never write down what you are going to say – always dictate it. The spoken word and written word are very different.

6. To present opinions forcefully and directly, avoid phrases like ‘it seems to me’ or ‘it is likely that’. Use strong, ‘punchy’ verbs.

7. Illustrate key points of your presentation with real life examples that your audience will understand.

8. When asked a tough question, pause and think, do not shoot from the hip.

9. Remember the 5 Ps rule…preparation and practice prevents poor performance. Use a mirror or video to check whether you use appropriate expressions and gestures.

10. Learn to read the reaction/body language of the audience. Are they attentive throughout, do any look bored? Learn to change tack for example by asking a question to regain their attention.

Hopefully these tips will help you to improve your skills and abilities as a presenter. However, it is important to remember that presenting is essentially about confidence. In other words, the more you do it the more confident you will become in your abilities. Therefore, seek as many opportunities as you can to give speeches/briefings both at work and outside work with community or service organisations.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

How effective are your communication skills?

Communication is probably the most important skill a manager can have, but sadly many fail to recognise the impact their poor communication skills have on their team and colleagues. If you or someone you know needs to improve their communication skills, ask them to try the following tips to improve their interactions with others.

1. Always seek to understand others views and opinions first. When listening to someone always follow the order 1) listen, 2) understand, 3) interpret, and 4) respond. Resist the temptation to jump from listening to responding without making sure you understand.

2. Remember the basics of human interactions – if you want someone to listen to your more then you must first listen to them more!

3. Ask a trusted colleague/friend for feedback on your listening skills. For example, at meetings how often do you interrupt, misinterpret, look bored, become distracted, complete others sentences?

4. Remember over 50% of what we communicated is signalled by our body language. Develop your awareness of non verbal communication (body language) so that you can understand the true meaning of what others say to you.

5. Ask someone to critically examine your body language – does it work for you or against you?

6. To demonstrate you are listening, sit squarely facing the other person and maintain good eye contact (without staring).

7. Paraphrase what others have said to you to clarify meaning.

8. To present opinions forcefully and directly, avoid phrases like ‘it seems to me’ or ‘it is likely that’. Use strong, ‘punchy’ verbs.

9. Learn to make your points clearly and succinctly. Practice by taking articles from journals or trade magazines and produce a one page summary.

10. Ensure you use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation in your written communications. If you are unsure, The Little English Handbook - Choices and Conventions 8th Ed. 1998 (Corbett and Finkle) will help.

Ultimately, the key to effective communication is to ensure that you are able to give people your full time and attention. If you do not have enough time then reschedule a time when you have do. By doing this you will also demonstrate the importance of your relationship with them.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Making Our Personality Work For Us In Our Coaching.

Inevitably we take our personality along with us into any coaching relationship. We cannot avoid this unless we decide to behave or act in a way that is fundamentally different fro our core personality.

I recognise that in preparing for and particularly when conducting coaching sessions then some of my senses and behaviours are heightened. I will actively listen more. I will really think about the coachee’s response, what it might mean and where to go next with the conversation. I will ask them the very best questions that I assess will help them think more deeply and clearly. I will carefully observe their body language for signs that indicate how they are thinking and feeling. I will work hard to suspend my judgement, remain open minded and block out thoughts about my own world and situation. In short I will “give them a good listening to” as someone once described it back to me.

I will also be direct and honest with any feedback to them or responses to their questions of me. I will not infer things or drop hints in the hope that they will “get it” and work it out for themselves. I will also admit it if and when I have got lost in the discussion or when I am unsure about an answer to a question. I sometimes admit that and come back later with a more considered opinion.

However I will not suspend or deny my own personality. I will express things as I normally would and use plain language. I will react, laugh smile or look quizzical in my normal way. I will bring my natural personality “to the coaching party” and act in an authentic way. I do this because it is me, it demonstrates integrity and because I would not be comfortable doing it in any other way. After all we expect our coachees to be honest with themselves and with us so we should be modelling and demonstrating the way for them.

If my natural approach and personality does not work for someone and they don’t understand or appreciate my approach then I am not the coach for them. This is regrettable but fine by me and I explain this to them at the initial coaching meeting and I invite them to consider my appropriateness as a coach for them. I would rather that they opted out at this early stage if they feel that I am wrong for them than to soldier on through a number of sessions when they have not bought in to me and my approach. In practice this has rarely but occasionally happens.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

What benefits can I expect from developing my managers?

Ultimately the answer to the question ‘what benefits can I expect from developing my managers?’ lies in the answer to two other questions:

1) What is the business/organization striving to achieve?

2) How do managers need to think and act for the organization to achieve its goals?

Management development can only help to improve an organization’s performance if the development activities are directed in the right way and aimed at achieving a measurable change. For example, the outcomes required from the development activities may be around:

· Developing managers with more impact and influence to increase sales revenues.

· Improving the performance management skills of managers to improve the productivity of staff to increase capacity or reduce costs.

It should also be remembered that there are a range of less tangible business benefits associated with development activities. For example, investment in training and development is often seen by individuals as a sign of being valued by the company as well helping to create a positive business and professional image. Businesses that are seen to invest in staff development will not only find it easier to recruit quality personnel, but also enjoy lower rates of staff turnover.

However, it is important to recognize that individual development is not just about going on a course. While training courses will enable a manager to address a specific skills gap, there are other alternatives to consider, for example:

· Secondments into other roles within other teams or departments can also improve business understanding and team focus.

· Coaching.

· Mentoring

· Project work

· Research

· Networking

· Reading (this list is not exhaustive!)

Whatever the reason for investing in management development, the impact on individual performance and the company's bottom line should always be measured and evaluated to ensure that the investment has been worthwhile and the full benefits gained.

The 3 P's in Business & Management

There is an acronym that all businesses and organisations should remember – the 3P’s. People before Product (or service) before Profit (or performance). In other words, if you ensure your that your people are skilled, capable and motivated, they will in turn produce a sound product (or service), which will lead to a successful, high performing and ultimately profitable business. But how many businesses and organisations think in this way? Many have too much ‘top down’ thinking, they strive for profit and performance without thinking about whether they have the right people engaged doing the right things. Some organisations pay huge salaries and big bonuses to focus staff on what needs to be achieved, and while bonuses can act as an ‘extrinsic motivator’, in reality they only provide a short term ‘Hawthorn’ effect and are soon forgotten. Others organise staff parties, off site team building events and regular social gatherings to reward their staff but for those that already work long hours they can take them further way from their family and home life. So what does putting your People before Product and Profit mean? Organisations who truly put their people first have a number of characteristics. For example, they: · Support their managers and staff to develop skills that will make them more effective as well as enable them to be more transferable. · Are clear about what they expect from their managers and staff. · Trust their people to do their job and give them the freedom to make their own decisions (within guidelines). · Involve their staff in decisions that affect them. · Listen and pay attention to what their staff say, their concerns, and ideas for improvement, and ACT on them. · Respond flexibly to the needs of their staff. In addition, they recognise that the organisations culture is dictated by the behaviour of their leaders and managers, and work hard to support them to develop the necessary behaviours to enable them to act as excellent role models. Any organisation that really wishes to improve their performance must start with their people, their skills, capabilities and motivation. After all, no one ever won the football Premiership with a team of players from League One.

What is talent?

There is a big difference between having a talent, for example, being able to do mental arithmetic and being considered as “talent” by an organisation. This is because the definition of talent has two aspects to it. Firstly, a talented employee can only be talented if they apply their “talents” in a useful way, and secondly talent has to be considered in the context of an organisation. For example, a doctor may be a talented surgeon but put him/her in a garage and they will probably struggle to repair a vehicle that has broken down.

Context is therefore a key part of defining and subsequently identifying talent. Some organisations use the criteria “being capable of working at two grades above their current role” as a simple means of defining and identifying talent, while others use more complex means.

Whatever definition an organisation chooses to use, it is vital that it has a system in place to identify and develop talented staff for its own future success. With declining birth rates, there will be a huge shortage of people to replace current management roles within the next 20 years. To protect themselves, organisations must have a clear strategy of finding and developing the replacements for their key managers. Those that fail to do this will ultimately not survive.