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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Is your communication style turning people green?

Here’s a weird question for a Tuesday morning…

When you communicate with someone, which part of their body do you affect the most?

The easiest way to answer this – and, in doing so, understand the impact of your communications – is to imagine these body parts turning bright green.

For example, your weekly Update Meeting. Lots of people swapping lots of information. At the end, everyone is updated. In other words, they’re now cleverer than they were prior to the meeting. Their brains are bigger. So, they leave the room with big, green heads

… which often quickly revert to normal skin colour when they get back to their desk and forget/de-prioritise everything they’ve just heard

Another example: the Motivational Talk. It could be a fancy conference keynote, or a Manager’s pep talk to her team. These cause people to love their job/life more than they did before… so big, green hearts

… which often quickly revert to normal in a day or so – sometimes sooner, especially if they receive an obnoxious email from a stressed-out colleague

Other examples:

  • ‘FYI’ emails inform people – green heads
  • Team building events often get people excited – green hearts
  • Pointless, boring meetings that everyone hates – green… well, nothing

Green Head and Green Heart Communications like these do have their place. After all, we all know we’re supposed to win hearts and minds.

But, the most impactful communications cause Green Hands – they motivate people to do something:

  • Update Meetings that trigger new ideas for people to try next week
  • Motivational talks that cause people to change behaviours
  • Emails that persuade recipients to take immediate action
  • Team building events which include the group agreeing how they’ll take their new teamwork and excitement back into the workplace
  • Meetings that generate actions, not just things to discuss

Much more useful. Green hands everywhere. Imagine if everyone in your company communicated like this. You’d sure get a lot more done.

These Tuesday Business Corner posts  are written using a Green Hands Communication format. That’s why they always have an Action Point at the end. Of course, I want them to help you think differently (Green Head). And I want you to enjoy them (Green Heart).

But most importantly, my aim is that they help you do things differently. And so…

Action Point

…for your next communication today, what part of their body will turn green?

And what tweaks can you make, so their hands also turn green - so they actually do something as a result. 

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :-)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How to create the perfect business document in less than 10 steps

Improving documents is important.

Improving documents quickly even more so.

As you’d expect, people often give me documents to review. Here’s the order I go through things:

  1. Professional look and feel. Does it look the part? Good formatting, page layout etc?
  2. Agreed upfront. Did the writer ask the reader upfront what content she wanted in the document? If so, does the document contain this information? If not, can the writer contact the reader now, to have a quick chat about content, and make any necessary changes before sending? 
  3. A clear Call To Action. Is there one? If so, is it easy for them to do it? Is it clear what the first step should be? If there isn’t one, what should it be? (remember: unless you ask them to do something, they won’t)
  4. A good title. The first page must engage. Does it show why the document is important to the reader? Is there a benefit in there – in the title and/or subtitle?
  5. An interesting contents page. Are the sections’ titles interesting? Do they draw the reader in? Are they framed from the reader’s point of view, or the writer’s? Does the order/structure make sense?
  6. Easy to read. Are paragraphs short? Sentences one line max? Is there lots of light space? Also, column width: our eyes don’t like sweeping across wide columns of text – we miss things (that’s why newspapers’ columns are so narrow). So, is the document in portrait? Or, if landscape, subdivided into columns?
  7. Engaging top lines. When people skim-read, they pay most attention to the top lines of paragraphs. So, do your top lines engage? Or, are your main points in the bottom half of paragraphs? If so, either swap the order of your sentences; or press “return” more often, so you have more paragraphs
  8. Good visuals. Are there some? Are they clear, easy to read? Do they look professional?
  9. Short as possible. Does it look like the document could be shorter? Maybe some of the detail could go in the appendix? There’s always something that can be removed – what is it?

I find this list picks up most things pretty quickly. It isn’t exhaustive, of course. Your list would no doubt look different. But it’s important you do have a list. A five-minute review can make all the difference… and takes a lot less time than all the chasing you need to do if the document doesn’t work.

The great thing about lists like this is you only have to think it through once (to create the list). It’s then just a case of having the discipline to use it all the time. So…

Action Point

Create a short Review List – either use mine or build your own. Apply it to a document today. Then, put the list somewhere visible – don’t do the usual thing of putting notes in a special drawer that you forget about, only to discover again by accident six months from now!

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The 5 styles of selling! Which one are you and which is best?

The Sales Executive Council (SEC) found that salespeople behave in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Here’s what they found

(As you read this, ask yourself two questions - “Which am I?” and “Which is best?”)

The relationship builder
  • Gets along with everyone
  • Builds strong advocates in organisations
  • Is generous in giving time to others

The reactive problem solver
  • Reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders
  • Ensures that all problems are solved
  • Detail-orientated

The lone wolf
  • A bit of a maverick – follows their own instincts
  • Self-assured
  • Can be difficult to control

The hard worker
  • Always willing to go the extra mile
  • Doesn’t give up easily
  • Self-motivated
  • Interested in feedback and development

The challenger
  • Has a different view on the world
  • Understands the customer’s business
  • Loves to debate, often creating “positive tension” with the customer to help arrive at the best outcome

The two questions again:
  1. Which are you?
  2. Which is best?

The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that, the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you. 

But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers. In other words, those who provoke customers’ thinking.

So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship; the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution (The rationale: customers doesn’t always know what’s best for them. As Henry Ford famously said “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”)

The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think “Well I’d never thought of it like that”. When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them, and for you.

A final question for you:

Have you found this post useful? 

Well, I guess you will have…

… if you thought “well I’d never thought of it like that”. 

Action Point

Who’s the most important person to impress today? And what can you teach them, so they think “well I’d never thought of it like that?” 

Challenge their thinking (in an engaging way - don’t annoy them!). See if the two of you can come up with a better solution. You’ll both be delighted you did. 

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :-)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How leaders win the hearts and minds of their people with these 3 simple steps

Persuading people to follow your vision is an essential skill to master.

Do it well, so they follow it well… you’ve got a great chance of success.

But if you don’t know how to win hearts and minds, they won’t go the extra mile for you.

You’ve probably experienced this many times. And, when people don’t do exactly what you want, it’s – at best – irritating. It can be career-limiting. You won’t want to experience it happening again too many times.

But imagine if you knew how to do it well. Such that every time you presented your vision, people jumped on board and busted guts to help. Imagine the benefits if you could achieve this.

Fortunately, it’s easier to do so than many people think. It involves focusing on three critical steps. And these steps work – often, very fast. I’ve seen it hundreds of times…

Step #1: Why it’s needed

Be crystal clear why change is needed. Do so in a way that resonates with them, by showing how the current situation isn’t giving them the outputs they want. Make the problem as big as you can – ‘and if this continues for the next few months, it could mean xyz'.

You want them to think ‘yes, we need to change’.

Step #2: State your future vision

Once they realise change is essential, show them the ‘happy future place’ you want to get to. Explain how your vision will give them more of what they want and/or less of what they don’t.

You want them to think ‘yes, I’d love it to be like that’.

Step #3: clarify immediate actions

Be clear what each of them must do immediately, to start the journey towards the vision. This might be new things for them to start; and/or current things for them to stop. You might tell them what to do, suggest options they can choose from, or give them guidance and ask them to choose.

You want them to think ‘and I know exactly what to do right now’.

So, a very brief summary:

  • Why it’s needed, so they think ‘yes, we need to change’
  • State your future vision, so they think ‘yes, I’d love it to be like that’
  • Clarify immediate actions, so they think ‘and I know exactly what to do right now’

Want an example? Check out the structure of this Tip…

… and so, let’s finish with the immediate action:

Action point

As you close this e-mail, look at today’s diary, and identify a situation where you want somebody to change their approach to something. Then, create your communication using the three simple steps mentioned above.

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :-)

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

More people open your emails when you apply this simple technique!

Just a quick email to ask…

…what email titles do you tend to use?

The reason I ask: the only aim of an email’s title is to entice someone to open it.

But most titles don’t, do they? When you check your inbox in a minute, you’ll see what I mean. I imagine you’ll see some of these beauties in there:
  • FYI
  • Update
  • Misc
  • RE
  • [blank]

So, what’s better?

Well, anything that works.

Here are some that get quick responses:
  • ‘Just a quick email to ask…’ – this almost always works. It did with you today!
  • ‘Just a quick question about [topic X]…’ – add the topic if it will encourage the reader to open it
  • ‘As requested, here’s [content]’ – adding the word “requested” tells the reader they asked for it. So they’re more likely to open it
  • ‘A quick favour’ – people like to be asked to help
  • ‘Some advice? – they also like to be asked to give advice. And, if needed, you can add the topic – ‘Some advice about [X]?’
  • Where your email contains a benefit to the reader, include the benefit in the title – ‘Helping ensure you get paid this month’; ‘Let’s get [X] off our To Do Lists. How about this…?’
  • ‘Topic X – content Y’ – ideal for emails that you/the reader might want to refer to again later. For example: ‘New sales initiative – actions arising from our meeting on 15 March’

Or, of course, you could just ring them up. It’s amazing how often that works better than an email ever could.

Action point

You know the email you’re about to send now you’ve finished reading this Tip? Well, change its title, so it gets opened immediately.

You’ll be surprised how this simple technique makes a huge difference.

Know people who'd enjoy reading this post? Please forward it on, and introduce them to our Blog :-)

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