Monthly Archives: June, 2013

Body Language Speaks Volumes

body language chartStatistics show that 55% of the communication process involves body language.

So basically, your positive and encouraging words could be null and void if you say it while crossing your arms and avoiding eye contact.

Even though a lot of the times we portray certain body languages subconsciously, we need to be very aware—especially in the workplace—of the message we are truly sending out.

Besides the obvious, like rolling your eyes or tapping your fingers on a desk, here are some other common body language errors to avoid:

  1. Giving a weak handshake.
    It’s one of the first impressions you’re going to give. Show the person on the receiving end that you’re a strong and confident person. And ladies, no excuses because “dainty” doesn’t translate well in the corporate world.
  2. Avoiding eye contact.
    Doing this will either make you look like a liar, self-conscious, or uninterested.
  3. Staring.
    You may think this is the solution to avoiding eye contact, but it actually comes off very aggressive (and creepy).
  4. Crossing your arms.
    It’s a sign of being closed off.
  5. Fidgeting.
    It makes you look nervous and uncomfortable.
  6. Slouching.
    Maybe your grade school teacher was on to something when he/she told you not to slouch. Doing it makes you look awkward and unsure of yourself.

The common theme here is confidence! If you emit confidence, you won’t fall victim to these body language no-nos in the first place. Remember that more than half of what you communicate will be interpreted based on what your body is doing, so send the right message.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

Cutting Down on Costly Mistakes

Recently, I asked a group of about 60 leaders from a large city, “How many of your mistakes are caused by ignorance and how many are caused by ineptitude?” They estimated that 70% to 90% of their mistakes were from ineptitude, not ignorance. They knew what to do and how to do it; and most of the time, they did it correctly— but they still made mistakes.

Research tells us that they are not unique. Most of our mistakes are not from ignorance. And leadership mistakes have lasting ramifications. Feelings get hurt, projects stall, relationships sour, boards reject good ideas that might have (perhaps should have) been accepted.

What would it do to your own effectiveness if you could cut in half the number of mistakes you make? Here’s some steps that can help you do that:

  1. Use a Checklist – Don’t just develop a checklist. Use it. Every time. Here’s what the group of leaders said to me about checklists. “We all have them. We all use them—most of the time. But, it’s those times that we don’t use it, that mistakes are made.”
  2. Ask a Mentor – When I was a young leader, I would ask myself, “How would __________ handle this situation?” I often knew the answer, and I would try to emulate what I thought he would do. At other times, I would call them and ask. I can never remember a time when one of my mentors gave me input that was counterproductive. Not one time. I’ve also discovered that age doesn’t replace the need for a mentor. I still need mentors, and you probably do too.
  3. Ask a Colleague – Mentors help us see things from the perspective of experience. Colleagues are in the moment. Time is always of the essence, but a conversation with a colleague who is in a similar position could give you great insights. Don’t be afraid to learn from others.
  4. Ask a Protégé – Having a conversation with our protégés, even if it’s an imaginary one, about what we’re planning to do can often save us from colossal errors of arrogance. Skip steps? Would we advise them to do that? Never. Trust without verifying? We would tell our protégé, “That’s a recipe for disaster.” Yet sometimes, our experience tells us, “On this one, you don’t need to worry about that this time…” Inevitably, that’s the one that gets us, right? So, have a conversation and listen to yourself.

Leadership is an art, not a science, but it’s also a disciplined set of behaviors. Discipline yourself to follow them—every time. Don’t get over-confident, and don’t be afraid to ask others to help you.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

It Depends on How You Define “Flop”

Many of us do not like “outside the box” thinkers. They threaten our anchors. They push our boundaries. They introduce new ways of looking at things, and as a result must often endure criticism, insult, and refrains such as, “It will never work” and “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Richard Douglas “Dick” Fosbury was an “outside the box” thinker. Now, he is one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field; but when he began changing the traditional high jump method at the age of 16, he was ridiculed. His coaches encouraged him to continue using the straddle method, but Fosbury knew he was on to something and kept practicing his back-first technique.

In 1964, a photograph of him performing his technique was widely distributed, and was reprinted in newspapers around the world. Many writers and editors made fun of the new technique, with one newspaper captioning the photograph, “World’s Laziest High Jumper.” The technique, which involved approaching the bar diagonally, going over the bar backwards, head-first, curving his body over the bar and kicking his legs up in the air at the end of the jump, gained the name the “Fosbury Flop” after a Medford, Oregon, newspaper reporter wrote that Fosbury looked like a “fish flopping in a boat.”

In 1968, Fosbury won the NCAA title. He won the United States Olympic trials that same year then went on to take the gold medal in the Mexico City Olympic Games. As you can imagine, editors, writers, and coaches began rethinking their position. Today, the Fosbury Flop is the most popular technique in modern high jumping, from the junior high level to the Olympic Games.

What if Dick Fosbury had listened to his coaches? What if he had caved to media pressure? What if he believed what others told him and stayed in the box? He would probably still have been a great athlete, but make no mistake – he would not have been a revolutionary athlete.

Instead of shutting employees and co-workers down, consider giving them room to pursue ideas, concepts, and possibilities that are “outside the box”. If your first word is always, “No,” then maybe you are in the box-making business instead of the box-freeing business.

Set the bar high. Give people room to pursue ideas and dreams. Your “flops” might actually lead to revolutionizing the way you do business.

Happy training!

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

The 10,000 Hour Rule is Right

Just a quick observation.

There’s a lot of debate these days (just Google it) about whether or not the 10,000 hour rule is “right.” (Note: if you are not familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, read the section on it in the Wikipedia article on Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers).

Yes, there are plenty of folks who put in 10,000 hours and do not make it to the very top. They may even crash and burn. Or, they may not quite put in the “right kind” of 10,000 hours work. (You know, from the old piano teacher wisdom – It’s not “practice makes perfect”.  It’s “perfect practice makes perfect”.  Practice, with the intention of getting better; practice with the proper technique…)

And there may be a few people who do succeed “fast” without the 10,000 hours.

So, in other words, 10,000 hours guarantees you nothing.

And yes, there are exceptions, and some folks are just “born” with something akin to natural greatness and leapfrog over everybody else (e.g., this year’s Oscar for Best Actress went to Jennifer Lawrence, age 22 – beating out significantly older, more experienced nominees. She was probably not old enough to have put in those 10,000 hours yet…).

But… but… for the average mortal, the person not born with some kind of natural leap-frogging greatness, the 10,000 hour rule is still pretty much a rule. You’ve got to put in the time over the long haul, develop the skills and the “backlog” of experience, and the overflow of knowledge.

That’s what Mr. Gladwell argues. And he has plenty of examples in his book.

You want a synonym? 10,000 hours is really just another way of describing a serious, disciplined, focused work ethic.

And for most jobs done with excellence, it takes this kind of work ethic – something pretty close to 10,000 hours.

Let me ask it this way. Would you want a doctor performing surgery on someone you love who had only put in just a few hours of work preparation?

Here’s what I would most like: someone who is brilliant, naturally gifted – with a genuinely superior work ethic. But, in the first half of this formula – “brilliant, naturally gifted” – there just may not be enough of these to go around.

And here’s the thing. You can’t make yourself  “brilliant, naturally gifted.”  But you can work hard!

So…  How’s your work ethic?

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Leading in Spite of Opposition

It can be hard to lead people who aren’t really in favor of you being the leader in the first place. Perhaps they are skeptical about your abilities, or maybe they just wanted a different person to get the job. It may be that one of the existing team members applied for the job and didn’t get it. It’s not exactly like walking into the lion’s den, but then again, it’s not far from it either.

If that’s your situation, is it even possible to succeed?

There are tangible behaviors that a leader can exhibit that can neutralize and even win over people who initially oppose them. There are no guarantees in life, but if you’re facing this kind of opposition, I believe that intentionally doing these things can prove to be a game changer.

  1. Practice Two-Way Communication – It is immensely important to communicate verbally and to do so in an articulate manner, but it is also important to listen to the thoughts, perspectives, and emotions of others. And I mean really listen. Listen without formulating your response while they are still speaking. Listen without prejudice. Remember the words made famous by Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  2. Differentiate Yourself Emotionally – It’s easy to be defensive when someone seems to be against you from the beginning. Often the one who attacks us so viciously will excuse it by saying, “It’s not personal.” However, there’s a lot of uncertainty about when it’s about the issue and when it’s personal, right? Strong leaders are able to concentrate on what they have control over and to do the things that ultimately lead to success for everyone.
  3. Demonstrate Competency that Enables Others – If you can lead in a way that enables people to be successful, it’s pretty difficult for them not to support you. Develop a “culture” that is fair and respectful. Prove that you can be trusted by keeping your promises. Demonstrate goodwill toward others and keep everyone’s eye on the common goal.
  4. Share Success Willingly – I worked for a coach once whose philosophy about the spotlight was unique. He said, “If we do it and it fails—I did it. If we do it and it is successful—we did it. If we do it and it is extremely successful—you did it.” People don’t want to work as hard as they can to succeed, only to have it never be genuinely acknowledged. Share the Spotlight!

Mature leaders lead in an effective way, regardless of opposition, that brings success and goes a long way toward turning foes into friends. You can do it!  That’s why you’re the leader!

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

The Perils of the Lack of Communication

It’s a known fact that a breakdown in communication is the cause of many types of relationship failures in life—marriage, family, and yes, even workplace relationships.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”   – George Bernard Shaw

In the news industry, it’s an ongoing joke that, “Communication majors are the worst communicators.” And now that I’ve worked with people with all sorts of degrees and qualifications, I’ve found that it isn’t only a “news” problem.

out the loopHave you ever been left out of an e-mail string that you needed to be a part of? Or has someone walked up to you about a task you needed to accomplish, but you had no idea what he/she was talking about?

Those are clear signs that you’ve been left out of the loop, and it’s a very frustrating feeling.

It sounds like a “big corporation” problem, but you’ll be surprised how many small groups experience these same issues.

Fortunately, the solution to this lack of communication is pretty simple: keep everyone involved informed and don’t make assumptions. (It’s usually the simplest things that are so easy to overlook.)

Make sure everyone involved is in the know. If there are specific tasks, spell it out and make sure the assigned party is clearly defined. And if a simple e-mail or chat won’t do, set up a time to meet so that everyone can be on the same page.

Refusing to make this habit could result in bad workplace morale for employees because no one likes to feel like they’ve fallen through the cracks.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

Can I Get a Little Customer Service?

customer serviceBusinesses spend exorbitant amounts of monies on customer service. In addition, they spend hours training employees, from the frontline to executive level staff, on the importance of living out their organization’s mission, vision, and values.  These organizations know that if they do not hear the voice of the customer, and then deliver quality services or products to the customer, they will not be in business long.

Many local governments spend almost no money on customer service. Many do not train staff on how to live out vision, mission, or values. As a result, people often walk through our doors never being spoken to. Surely, we have nice websites and great posters and pamphlets, but can you imagine walking into an Apple store and having no one speak to you and no products to interact with?

You might argue “customer service” and “government” do not belong in the same sentence. How can they since governments do not have customers? I agree governments do not have “customers” in the classic sense. That doesn’t mean we should reject basic customer service principles that can help us effectively serve visitors, businesses, and residents within our communities.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Have you ever trained your staff on how to properly use a telephone? Do they know how to meet the needs of callers? Do they understand basic phone etiquette? Do they take messages properly, transfer calls successfully, and respond promptly?
  2. Does your staff know how to properly format business documents and email? Have you provided training on the difference between a memorandum and a business letter? Do they know how to properly file sensitive information and set up retention schedules on employee and/or citizen-related documents?
  3. Do you offer a friendly greeting as people arrive at your workstation? Are those who walk through your doors for the first time left to find their own way? Do you have an e-newsletter, Facebook, or Twitter feed that provides details about upcoming events, festivals, volunteer opportunities, etc.? Do you take the initiative on “next steps” or do you leave initiative in the hands of others?

Excellent customer service demands that organizations understand the needs of their customers and identify how products and services meet those needs. Growing organizations carefully and consistently scrutinize both as a means of remaining engaged and relevant.

Our “customers” are our citizens, vendors, business owners, etc. Internally, our “customers” are those we work with.

Our “product” is easy to identify. We are public servants. Put another way, we exist to serve the public. Although a handful of our citizens will never be satisfied with any decision we make or service we offer, the vast majority want better communities. By offering excellent customer service, our desires are mutually aligned.

One of the most important aspects of practicing excellent customer service is making the conscious choice to do so. We don’t just talk about making people feel welcome — we actually welcome them. We take time to problem solve with them. We pause when we offer “government speak” and explain what may sound like a foreign language to the uninitiated.

I don’t expect to see the phrase “we’re about great customer service” popping up on local government websites as a result of this article. But I do hope leaderships will embrace the concept in practical and cultural terms and equip staff to confidently and enthusiastically meet the needs of those within their circles of influence.

Happy training!

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

Getting Things Done

“When a culture adopts ‘What’s the next action?’ as a standard operating query, there’s an automatic increase in energy, productivity, clarity, and focus.”
– David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity


Every person has just so much time in a day. In fact, every person has exactly the same amount of time in each day.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t involves what they do with that time.

So…  what do you do with your time?

Who you see, who you talk to, what you fill your mind with, then what you let out of your mouth, or onto the keyboard…  call it:

Input and Output

This is what matters.

Here’s what I know. The more you let moments slip by unused, the more you let moments slip by unproductively used, the more you let moments slip by in which you were busy, but busy not doing the “right” task (the task you needed to do, intended to do, at that moment), the more difficult you have made your challenge.

  • Working with intense focus on whatever task is in front of you… this really matters.
  • Planning well enough to keep the right task in front of you in every given moment… this really matters.
  • Finishing the task in front of you… this really matters.
  • Getting right to the next task that should be in front of you… this really matters.
  • And starting every next task by getting right to the task, right away… this really matters.

One day, I had lunch with a friend in his office. He is a top-notch, scheduled-to-the-minute periodontist. I sat in his office waiting for him, lined up outside were three of his assistants. They each had a file folder open and a question ready. He walked up and said to the first assistant, “Go.”  She asked a question, he answered. Then he repeated this process to the 2nd and the 3rd assistants.

I commented on the rapidity of the exchanges. He said, I tell them good morning at the beginning of the day, good-bye at the end – and the rest of the time, it is task after task. I have surgeries to perform, consultations to give… I do not have a minute to waste.”

Not a minute to waste.  Not in what you do.  Not in what you think.  Not with what you read.

Plan your moments.

Get to the task.

Stay focused.

As close as I can tell, this is not optional for the person intent on getting more stuff done.

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Are They Talking About You?

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “We join an organization, but we leave a manager.” If you’ve had one of those kinds of managers, you know exactly what it means. For all the research and knowledge we have accumulated on Emotional Intelligence over the last twenty years, there are still a lot of managers who are sucking the life out of their team, day after day and week after week.

Sadly, it often seems that a person like that seems to be absolutely clueless about it. As one friend of mine has said, “Each manager ought to ask himself, ‘Are they talking about me?’” Leaders who fail, usually fail to see themselves as they really are. Almost every week, I receive an email, get a phone call, or hear a story about a leader whose behavior and attitude is seriously hurting the team, but the leader seems unaware.

There are four frustrations that I hear from people about their managers that seem to come up over and over. As you read these, ask yourself, “Could they be talking about me?”

  1. Hard jobs put them in a bad mood – Let’s face it: it’s called work for a reason. There are hard things about every person’s job. The people around you get that, but they don’t get why that gives you a right to be in a perpetual bad mood.
  2. They major in misplaced anger – Not only is it taxing for you to be in a bad mood most of the time, it seems unfair that you take your anger out on the people around you. They are just trying to work, too, and your anger makes it harder for them.
  3. They tell the same old (bad) stories – Everyone loves a story, especially the ones that have a proper ending. You know, something akin to “…and they all lived happily ever after.” I know not every story really ends that way, but there’s something about embittered people that causes them to magnify the bad memories, and those become the only stories to which they assign any importance. They can remember everything about that story, except that you’ve already heard it a million times. (Is this you? Do everyone a favor and dust off those old copies of Reader’s Digest and learn to tell some happy tales.)
  4. They expect to be trusted, but rarely give it to others – I often hear people say, “You have to earn trust.” I know there’s an element of truth to that. However, I’ve noticed that great leaders give trust, and paradoxically their followers turn out to be trustworthy. And who doesn’t trust a trustworthy person?

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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