Fuller Goes the Distance

27 Nov

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Would you train for a marathon but only run 25 miles come race day?  Would you host a Thanksgiving dinner but leave out the turkey? Would you buy a plane ticket from Boston to Hawaii but forget to re-board during your connection in Cincinnati?

Of course you wouldn’t.

But, that’s essentially what many companies are doing when they hire outside companies to help with internal communication issues.    They buy the ticket.  They board the plane.  They take off.   But, faced with some diversion, they hop off their flight prematurely…never reaching that final, sunny destination of communication success.

Many years ago, an employer gathered twenty-one coworkers and me in a conference room to review our outside-sourced personality tests.  I distinctly remember spending more than a few nights leading up to that meeting pouring over the assessment papers, answering questions about my life preferences, goals, and perception of my own skills and weaknesses.   Papers handed in, we gathered to await our results.

“ESFJ…ISTP…ENFP…”

It was all so fascinating to us.  I remember my own four letters to this day.  I remember how amazed we were by how accurately the documents described our own traits.   I remember how, free from the conference room, we compared assessments over the course of the day and nodded admiringly at each other’s results.

And, I remember that, within days, I promptly forgot everything about everyone else’s letters.  What was it that I was supposed to have adjusted in my communication to each of them?   Was my manager an EN with whom I should be more direct?  Or was she ES with whom my direct approach would fall flat?  Panicked, I began to wish we’d been assigned name tags with letters on them.

And therein lie the problems with some executive coaching, team-building and other outsourced assistance.  There’s no doubt that knowing our own strengths and weaknesses is helpful in the business world.  We must recognize our attributes, emphasize our best abilities and continually work to improve in the areas where we lack confidence.

But, perhaps it’s even more important to know the personalities of those around us.

The task of improving workplace communication and building a highly functional team is only half complete when we’ve just studied our own traits.  After all, we know we can talk ourselves into just about anything.   Can’t we?

We must also know our audience be they a co-worker, a manager, a sales force or a client.  We must learn what communication styles work best for them and adapt our messages accordingly.    Don’t sell ice to a penguin.  Don’t sell shoes to a snake.

Fuller Communications takes analytics to the next level.   With a patent-pending behavioral pattern chart and customized programs to meet all their client needs, Fuller Communications finishes that training marathon.  They’ll make sure your group workshops get the Thanksgiving turkey to the table.

They can’t promise it’ll be Hawaii but there’s no doubt that, after training with the best, your company will love the direction they’re flying.

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You No What I Meant

13 Nov

Ever come across a type-o in a book and wondered how it ever got past the editor’s desk? In the world of digital checkers, it seems almost unforgiveable that something as lazy and careless as a spelling error could make it into press. And yet, it happens all the time — in literature, in business, in our personnel lives. (Did you catch that?)  Here’s an example.

In July of 2011, an NBC-owned Twitter account broke news that the President would be “making a personal statement in the Rose Garden” the following afternoon. As you might imagine, speculation ran rampant. What breaking personal news could the President have to share in a Rose Garden news conference? A tragic illness? A family crisis?

Of course there was no such scenario. The tweet merely included a critical type-o. The President was, in fact, announcing a “personnel” change in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But, for nearly an hour before the error was noticed and corrected, the Twitter world was abuzz with speculation.

When releasing written statements to your audience, whoever they may be (your friends, your boss, your co-workers or even your family), keep a few tips in mind.

  1. Use spell check. If your computer doesn’t automatically notify you of errors with underlines or auto-correct, use the “tools” menu available on most office systems.
  2. Re-read your work. It’s amazing how often you will find and correct your own errors if you just give it a second look before sending.
  3. Ask someone else to read it for you. Let’s face it. Even some of the most articulate people we know, might not know a colon from a semi-colon. Forgive yourself and admit you just don’t know what’s right.  You weren’t an English major.  Your recipient, however, just might have been.

When our spelling is perfect, it’s invisible. But when it’s flawed, it prompts strong negative associations.   — Marilyn vos Savant

Hurry Up and Slow Down

2 Oct

For years now, communications in the workplace and in our personal lives have been firing on all cylinders.  Emails, texts, tweets, live video conferencing and more have led to a frenetic “now, now, now” mentality.   We receive a text and we reply immediately.   We fill even precious seconds of downtime with Outlook, Facebook, Words with Friends and Twitter.

I’ll admit it.  I see that little red dot on my Smart Phone, hovering over email and some cosmic force compels me… Must.  Click.  Button.   And, once opened, it’s difficult to sit back and leave my reply for another moment.    Instead, I shoot off a reply at the first opportunity, clearing one small task from an ever growing “to do” list.  It’s cyberspace tennis and we’re all just trying to ensure the ball lands in someone else’s court.

There’s no doubt that, at work and play, we are often blessed by this new ability to get our messages across quickly.  But, have we consequently lost the ability to provide thoughtful answers to the more important questions?   Are we putting important relationships at risk?  Do you know when to seek out a face-to-face meeting?  Do you know when to stop a text rally and pick up the telephone?

Clearly, there are times when we know to communicate more personally.   No one wants to be laid off by a boss, dumped by a girlfriend, or denied a raise over email. Email and text messages are ideal for succinct, clear, emotionless details sent between people with a mutual understanding of the relationship.   Sending a text or email allows us to focus on the “objective” of the message but not the human recipient.  There’s little room for relationship development, tone and emotional clarity in 140 characters or less.

The idea exists that showing emotion in the business world is a sign of weakness.   However, let’s keep these examples in mind.

  • Would you buy a car online?  Or, would you be more likely to buy it from a man who loved the vehicle so much that his eyes lit up when talking about a recent road trip?
  • Would you be more likely to help out a co-worker who walked into your office and humbly asked for assistance?  Or, would you help the one who asked over text message?
  • Would you be more motivated by the boss that looked you in the eye and gratefully shook your hand after a job well done?  Or, by the one who shot off an email later that night?

Think about it the next time you’re racing to get your message delivered.  There’s a time, a place and a need for speed in our lives.  But, there’s also great opportunity in taking the time to stop, think and put down the device.  Your message may not get there as quickly.  But, it might just get there more effectively.

Beyond the 3 Rs: The Future Starts With the 4 Cs

29 May

In 2010, a study by the American Management Association (AMA) concluded that senior-level executives strongly believe that the skills required of their employees have dramatically increased. The study stated that future success now requires the adoption of the following additional skills, the four Cs, if you will:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Collaborating skills
  • Creativity and innovation skills

Naturally, none of this is news to us. We’ve been training executives and employees for more than three decades to harness the power of effective communication to achieve lasting success.  We firmly believe that making the investment in skill training is the key to a competitive edge – and we’re thrilled that many in the corporate space agree!

In a recent article for Forbes, author Lisa Quast asks how companies can ensure that their employees are developing more than the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) but also the four C’s. She highlights the work of Deloitte LLP and Deloitte University, in particular, whose focus on employee training is a “critical aspect of the company’s current and future success.”

In the article, Deloitte University managing principal (and Deloitte Consulting principal) Diana O’Brien explains why the company is expanding its employee development even in a down economy. Diana says, “We recognize that funding talent programs in today’s economy has been challenging for many organizations… If we didn’t invest in the development of our professionals, it would be akin to a manufacturer not upgrading equipment, yet still expecting improved productivity.”

 

Of course not every company has the budget and infrastructure of Deloitte, but that doesn’t mean that companies of every size can’t learn from its example. At Fuller Communications, we provide fully customizable packages that meet the specific needs of companies both large and small. We believe in the value of professional development and are determined to make the investment worth far more than the price tag.

Take the time to read Lisa Quast’s article in Forbes and ask yourself the question she concludes with:

What is your company doing to invest in the future?

Day-by-Day: A Plan for Success

16 May

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Abraham Lincoln

 

After the last bits of winter melt away, my mind always turns to two things: tackling the jungle that has become my garden and preparing for bathing suit weather. Both seem equally insurmountable. Like the weeds and scattered debris that litter the yard, the extra pounds from hibernation season have also piled up.

 

Sigh. Where to begin?

 

As with any difficult task, thinking about it won’t work. Talking about it won’t work either. And diving in blindly, without garden gloves say or by suddenly cutting out all chocolate, will only lead to exhaustion, frustration and ultimately, failure.

 

The key to success is to work from a reasonable and time-tested plan and to wake each day with that plan in mind.  That might mean clearing all the downed branches one day, cutting back overgrown hedges the next.  It might mean opting for the salad or taking the dog out for two walks in one day. It definitely means doing these things day after day until the garden glows and the bathing suit fits.

 

Sticking to the plan is almost as important as the plan itself. 

 

At Fuller Communications, we have made this truism an integral part of our training philosophy. We offer a program of continuous learning that begins the very moment we create each of our customized programs. We’ve made daily follow-up easy and accessible by connecting with our clients in various ways every day. We’ve made our methods easily reinforced for even the busiest of professionals.

 

We do this because we know that nothing worthwhile is accomplished in a day, or even in a few days. Success takes committed work; success comes from daily effort to achieve a goal.

 

So, today I divide a few perennials and tomorrow, I’ll divide a few more. I’ll steer clear of the cookie aisle and add a few more sit-ups to my daily routine. I know it won’t be easy or fast, but I know its possible. Day by day.

What Great Leaders Know

13 Mar

Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them.

Start with what they know.

Build with what they have.

The best of leaders when the job is done,

when the task is accomplished,

the people will say we have done it ourselves.


Lao Tzu

 

Of the thousands of inspirational words about leaders and leadership, this stands as one of our favorites. It’s gets to the crux of what we believe as communication coaches: that true understanding of ourselves and others increases our ability to lead and perform at superior levels.

 

Natural leaders are often born. Remember the kid on the playground who easily assembled a squad for football, divided the teams, devised the rules and acted as both quarterback and referee? By the end of recess, that take-charge kid managed to turn a disparate gaggle into organized teams efficient in a mutual task. And no matter the score, the game was fun!

 

Kids like that seemed destined for the center podium and the top of the business ladder, but like many childhood skills (remember when we were all beautiful singers and artists?), even those natural born leaders need refinement. Leadership must be honed over time and it’s polish shines — with the right help.

 

There are many things leaders know instinctively, but even the greatest can’t go it alone. Communicating a vision (or a task or a goal) effectively seems easy enough, but don’t be deceived!

 

We are living in a world where disparities among generations are rampant. Often our message isn’t perceived as we intended. We live in a world where technology is both widening and shrinking our ability to effectively communicate. Our message has a tendency to get lost in a sea of thousands. Effective communication has never been more important and in some ways more difficult to achieve.

 

Great leaders know there is always room for improvement. As Emerson said, and we’re paraphrasing here, a man of force makes room for many, as society is a troop of thinkers.

 

We are part of that troop. Invite us into your “game” and allow our expertise and innovative teaching tools to help you better understand the ways people communicate and in turn, become a better communicator yourself.

Quote

Just a little…

5 Mar

“Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Art of the Apology

17 Jan

Your feelings are hurt.  You’ve been thinking about it for days.  Finally, the person who upset you approaches.

“I guess I owe you an apology,” they say.  “So, I’m sorry if what I said offended you.  I didn’t really mean it like that.  Ok?”

Ok?   “Well…not really, ” you want to say.

But, the conversation is over.  Apology given.   Do you feel better now?  Do you feel understood?

Of course not.

Let’s face it.  We all make mistakes.  It’s important to recognize, however, that an apology is an opportunity.   An opportunity to turn a simple screw up into a chance to show what you’re really made of.   An effective apology speaks volumes as to your character, your sincerity, your compassion and, ultimately, your ability to successfully do business (effective business) with others.

Remember a few simple rules when you craft your next apology.

P.   Prepare.  Don’t walk into an apology just to get it over with.  If you’ve hurt someone’s feelings or made someone mad, show them that you’ve been thinking about what you did.

R.   Recap.  It’s important that you show that you know precisely where you went wrong so that whomever you upset knows you won’t do it again.  For example, “I know that I was out of line during Monday’s meeting when I didn’t recognize your contribution to the project.   I’m sorry for doing that.”

E.    Express your desire to make amends.  If you can fix it, let them know your plans to do so.  If you can’t, let them know what you’ll do next time.  “I’d really like to make it up to you.  I plan to send an email to the team letting them know the extent of your contributions.”

S.   Skip the excuses.  Even if you were having a terrible morning that led to your mistake, it simply doesn’t matter in your apology.   Excuses only take away from your own sincerity.   Leave ‘em out.

S.   Stop.   Sit down.  Then, speak.   If you ensure that your apology is delivered one-on-one, seat-to-seat, you show that your message (and its recipient) deserve your complete attention.

As with all effective communications, there is Art to an apology.    Don’t be the kind of person that hands over a Crayola scribble.  Give ‘em a Rembrandt they’ll remember.

How Do You Rate?

11 Jan

We’re kicking off the New Year with a ramped up posting schedule featuring ideas we’ve been percolating for a while now. We’re looking forward to sharing but in the meantime, have some fun with this Interpersonal Skills Quiz (courtesy of TTI):

Rate yourself on the following items and then ask a friend to rate you. Try not to be too surprised with the answers. None of us are perfect. However, we can all improve if we understand what needs to changed…

It will be interesting to see how you compare with the way others see you:

1) Ability to interact with others in a positive manner   1  2  3  4  5

2) Ability to initiate and develop relationships with large groups in a positive way  1  2  3  4  5

3) Ability to relate easily to and successfully working with a diverse range of people  1  2  3  4  5

4) Ability to listen, to really care about what others are saying and letting them know that you care  1  2  3  4  5

5) Ability to manage conflict and achieve a satisfactory resolution  1  2  3  4  5

PERFECT: 25 (sorry, it’s not possible!)

EXCELLENT: 18 (pat yourself on the back!)

DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB: 10 (nowhere but up…)

Everything I Needed To Know About Kindergarten…

22 Sep

I Learned in Business

When I became a parent, there seemed an endless list of things that surprised and confused me about the new baby in our home. Truth be told, being the parent of a newly hatched teenager is pretty flabbergasting too! The one thing that has surprised me most, however, is the thing I least expected: the skills I learned in my career prepared me best for motherhood.

Day in and day out, parents must navigate the sometimes choppy seas of communication with children in much the same way a savvy executive navigates his or her own shark-infested waters.

Just a few examples:

Get to the point.  

Decide what you want the outcome of the conversation to be before you open your mouth.   Be they a toddler or a CFO, no one wants to feel like you’re wasting their time.  Get to the point before you lose your audience.

No toddler cares about the fat content of a potato chip — just whether or not he can have one.  No CFO cares that your client liked your shoes — just whether or not you kept the account.   Figure it out.   Spit it out.   Move on.

A Little Ice Cream Goes a Long Way.   

When my kids do something that makes me proud (or not proud, for that matter), I’ll tell them.  But in those extra special moments when they do something extraordinary, I swell with pride so deep that there’s nothing left to do but head for the ice cream shop.   My kids absolutely love those days.

As a manager, it’s important to remember the “ice cream.”  Sure, everyone is paid to do his or her job and everyone is expected to do said job well.  But there are those special moments in business, too, say for example, when someone does something above and beyond and you know they gave it their all to help your cause.   Consider an email to their supervisor.  Or a personal note with a coffee gift card.

A small gesture can really go a long way.

Take a Deep Breath and Bite Your Tongue.   

A while back, I peeled my then three year old off the floor at Whole Foods Market, abandoned my cart and walked out.  I don’t even remember exactly what set him off but it happened quickly and there was no turning back and there was no reasoning with him.

Like children can be sometimes, there are also people in the business world who just.  won’t.   listen.   No matter how hard you try.  No matter how right you know you are.   And since you can’t send a stubborn colleague to her room, it’s really just best to take a deep breath and bite your tongue.

None of us were born perfect parents, and even on good days, there is always more to learn.  Like all things in life, we all need experience, guidance, and some time-tested advice to do the job the best that we can.

Do you see similarities between your own skills as a parent and your skills as a salesperson or manager? 

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