Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lack of Communication Means Lack of Leadership

Effective leadership depends on effective communication.

Unfortunately, effective leadership is sadly lacking in all levels of our society.

A miserable, but typical, lack of leadership jumped out at me at a recent High School junior varsity football game.

And as usual, this lack of leadership involved the Number One sin of “pretend leaders” - lack of communication.

This story involved a freshman blocking back in his third JV game.

Through most of the first half, he performed his job effectively blocking for the running backs. One of those blocks actually led to his team’s only touchdown.

Near the end of the first half, as can be predicted, the “coach” called a play where the blocking back would carry the ball.

On the play, he was stripped of the ball as he was being tackled.

The opposing player who stripped the ball ran 30 yards, untouched, for a touchdown. This touchdown put them ahead by 16 points.

Remember I mentioned the running back’s team only scored one touchdown on his block.

Can you imagine the embarrassment of having an opposing player take the ball away from you and return it for a touchdown!

What would you do as that running back’s coach?

I hope you would not do what most “pretend leaders” do. Nothing.

What was more shocking about this total lack of leadership was that both coaches, the head coach and assistant coach, let this totally embarrassed player walk off the field without saying one word to him. Zero Communication.

Let’s examine the word – coach.

This was a teachable moment.

A real coach would have called the player over to console, encourage, and instruct him.

A real coach would have reminded the player that even Pro Bowl players fumble the ball once in a while.

A real coach would have shown his confidence in the player, in front of the other players. He must have had confidence in the player if he had played him at that position in the two previous games.

What’s really interesting in this sad tale of miserable leadership is that the blocking back, the night before, had run the ball once in the varsity game and gained eight yards.

I am not being fair to this “coach.”

He did communicate with player. This brilliant coach did not play him at running back the rest of the game. And, he limited his play on defense to two plays on special teams. He very effectively communicated his displeasure to the player.

A real coach would have put the player back in the game immediately and call a play allowing the running back to carry the ball again. I guarantee he would not fumble the ball this time.

Even if you know nothing about football, you know and understand the traits of a leader.

These traits include communication, vision, and risk-taking.


We suffer from a miserable lack of leadership here in the USA. Why?

Let’s extend this story about this football player out 20 years. He is now 34 years old and has received a promotion to manage a department or division.

When he gets into a situation where an employee makes a mistake, what management approach do you think he will take?

Will he take the employee aside to explain, expand by example, and encourage.
Or will he embarrass the employee in front of his co-workers?

The basic problem with our lack of leadership in America is that we lack role models.

Look at the corporate world. Look at our political “leaders.” Look at some of the doings of religious leaders.

We see models of greed, awful decision making, lying to the public, immorality, and total lack of regard for the jobs they were elected to perform.

Where does all this start?

Think about the first influences kids see – parents, family, teachers and administrators, religious leaders, police, celebrities, politicians, video games, music.

What are you doing if you are one of those influences listed above to help inspire, train, and encourage our future leaders?

Are you too wrapped up in your own world of daily pressures to think about how your behavior molds the character of the people around you?

Are you a youth “coach” trying to recapture your youth through the kids you’re supposed to be coaching? Did you forget that you made those same mistakes your kids are now making? Coach them. They are learning more than just the game you're playing. They are learning the game of life.

Has your desire for power and money blinded you to the needs of others?

Are your egotistical insecurities preventing you from thinking about how your employees might produce better if they experienced leadership rather than tyranny?

Leaders communicate. Pretenders destroy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

E-mail Etiquette...Cc or not Cc

The Cc and Bcc features of e-mail are often misused or misunderstood. Either way, the e-mail sender's time, image, and results suffer.

For an article that shows that Cc no longer means "carbon copy" in business e-mail, please visit the following link and then let me know your feelings and experiences with Cc and Bcc.

I will post responses that help people use e-mail most effectively.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Time-saving E-mail Tip

You can save time and create more effective e-mails with a few settings available in your e-mail system.

First, if you haven't already done so, set your e-mail package to automatically spell check your message before it goes out.

And, set it to suggest replacements for misspelled words.

Doing so allows you to take advantage of the full capability of this software feature.

But that's not the best part!

Now that you have these features set, you no longer need to correct your spelling in the editing or proofreading stages.

Correcting your spelling while creating, editing or proofreading your e-mail actually slows you down and could distract you.

Here's where the magic comes in.

The magic assumes two things.

First, we have to assume you actually read your e-mails before you send them.

Reading and sometimes editing your e-mails before you send them is both common sense and common courtesy.

As you proofread it for content, tone, and grammar, forget about correcting misspelled words at this point

As you proofread, you may see misspelled words. DON'T correct them while you're proofreading.

The only words you should correct before hitting the "Send" button are obvious mistakes your spell checker would not recognize.

For example, for some strange reason, every time I try to type the word "from" it comes out "form."

To the spell checker, the word is spelled correctly. Unfortunately, that's not the word I want.

Or, watch out for "your" and "you're."

Also, double check "their," they're," and "there."

Your spell check cannot read your mind.

So this is where you need to be careful.

After you have completed your proofreading stage and spotted the obvious spelling errors and the ones the spell check needs your help on, hit "Send."

Because you have already set your system to suggest spellings, any time the spell checker comes to a misspelled word, it will stop and ask you which spelling you want.

Select the spelling you want and hit okay.

Rather than taking the time to correct it in the writing and proofing stages, you let the computer do the work.

Now for a final word of caution.

I did tell you to proofread your e-mail before hitting the "Send" button. You, not your spell checker, are still responsible for your correct spellings.

I call it "The Porogram Principle."

I once thought I spelled the word "program" correctly in my word processor.

Actually, I spelled the word, "porogram."

Because I had placed the cursor after the word "porogram," the spell checker did not catch the mistake.

When I printed the document, I noticed the misspelling.

I then repeated my original mistake of not placing the cursor in the correct position and again, the spell checker accepted "porogram."

Frustrated by this, I decided to "Google" the word "porogram."

To my amazement, I discovered that Google listed 47,200 listings that contained the word, "porogram."

I checked a half dozen of the listings trying to uncover the mysterious definition of the word.

All I discovered was that 47,200 other people had misspelled the word in their documents and those documents made their way out into the world wide web.

So what does all of this mean?

1. Set your e-mail package to automatically spell check your message before it goes out.

2. Set it to suggest replacements for misspelled words

3. Select the correct spelling of the word when prompted by the spell checker rather than typing the correct word.

If you are a speed typist, this tip may not prove to save you time.

If you type as slowly as I do, you should save time.

And possibly, you could become more effective because you are concentrating on your message, rather than your spelling.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Effective Business Writing Means Getting Rid of Academic Ghosts

Improving your Business Writing may require an exorcism.

Many people struggle with and, indeed, fear and dread business writing.

Overcoming this may require remembering and ridding ourselves of academic ghosts that have long haunted our writing.

To do that, please join me in a mental time capsule that takes us
back in time - back to the fifth and sixth grades.

Back in the fifth and sixth grades, you probably went through the
school system similar to the way I did. You spent all day with
the same person; it wasn't your mother or father. You spent a big
part of your day with your elementary school teacher.

I admire elementary school teachers. They are my heroes. They
face a lot of challenges. They have to teach you science, math,
social studies, English, and geography. They sometimes concerned
themselves with eraser clapping, milk money, and PTA meetings.

One of these responsibilities is to teach you English. When they
put on their English teachers' hats, their primary responsibility
was to teach you the concept of a sentence.

Back then, in 5th and 6th grade, we were young. We were
impressionable. And, coming from authority figures we heard words


Terrifying sounding words, right?

That experience with those four terrifying words left an
everlasting impression on us.

Big People like Big Words.

What other conclusion could we come to? Our knowledge base was
very limited. We didn't know any better. We were young and very

After learning the kinds of sentences, we learned the types of

And we learned:

"This is a simple sentence."

"This is a compound sentence; it contains two independent

"This is a complex sentence which contains one dependent and one
independent clause."

"This is a compound-complex sentence and because it contains two
independent clauses and a dependent clause, it becomes a long

In our young, impressionable minds, what then became the standard
by which we thought we were going to be judged?

Long sentences!

First, we learned that big people like big words. Now, we learn
that big people like big sentences.

Those elementary school teachers took a very logical approach.

They started very simply and ended with more difficult material.
This approach showed us the various ways we speak and the various
types of sentences we could use in writing. Unfortunately, in our
young, impressionable minds, we retained only the message:

Big People Like Big Words; Big People Like Big Sentences.

Then, you entered the seventh grade. Maybe by this time, you met
a specialist - a dedicated English teacher. That dedicated
English teacher assumed that the fifth and sixth grade teachers
taught you all these neat things about sentences. Now you have to
put these sentences together into something called a "paragraph."

Think about your first encounter with paragraph writing.

I know the only two things you ever really remember about
paragraph writing. I know those two things because I ask
participants in my workshops, "What do you remember about writing
that first paragraph?" I get eight to ten different answers.
Number one and number two are always the same.

Think back to that first paragraph you had to write. Tell me what
you remember about that first paragraph. (Remember, I asked you
to play make believe.)

Go ahead, say it out loud. Or, if you're reading this in your
office or on a plane, and you don't want people to throw a net
over your head, say it to yourself. Tell me the first thing you
remember about writing that first paragraph.

Agony! Okay, what else? Say it; I know it's on the tip of your

Yes, that's right.


That's number one on the hit parade - Indent.

Of all of the things that people could remember about
writing, what sticks in their brains?


Now, many letters we receive come to us left justified, which
means many people have dropped the concept of indenting.

The second thing people tell me they remember about writing their
first paragraph is that that first paragraph had to be 100 words.
Either 100 words or a certain number of sentences.

Remember how we used to write? We looked at that blank sheet and
uttered the writer's prayer,

"Please God, let words appear"

We wrote that first sentence and then we counted the words.

"12 - yes! We're on our way."

Then we looked for the second sentence and wrote that down. Then
what did we do? We counted the words. We associated writing with
a number.

Then, we entered the 10th grade, 11th grade, or 12th grade.

What kind of writing are we doing now?

Remember those dreaded assignments - term papers, themes,
compositions, book reports?

We are no longer talking 100 words. Now we're talking ten pages!

Remember how suddenly the margins got bigger? We learned how to
play the game.

Remember how our penmanship improved? We used to write small. Ten
pages, wow! All of a sudden, our writing became larger. That's
how we got to 10 pages.

Also, back then, when we had to write that 10 page term paper, we
introduced ourselves to two items - a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Back then, we started doing bizarre things - like utilizing
"utilize" rather than using "use." We wrote the paper and it was
only eight pages long.

That will never do. So we reread the paper and found this little
word "use." That word was too small. So, we looked in the
dictionary and found the word "utilize" - the stuff
dreams are made of.

Early in our education, we learned some valuable lessons.

First, big words fill pages. What was our objective? We had to
fill pages.

Second, we learned a system for good grades. The more big
words we used, the better our grade. The better the grades, the
more big words we used. Writing became a game. We knew how to
play the game. That stuck with us.

In the fifth and sixth grade, we heard words like "declarative"
and "interrogative." When we wrote our term papers, we used words
like "utilize" and "endeavor."

Then some of us entered college.

Do you remember the horror of filling two blue books during the
final exam.

Did those blue books tell what you knew about the subject?


Did they tell how you could apply that information in real life?


All that experience showed was how well we could shovel academic

Throughout your formal education, you had a number associated
with writing, 100 words, 10 pages, two blue books.

Now you get into a business environment to find out that none of
that stuff works. It's a completely different focus.

Because we focused on getting to 100 words, 10 pages and two blue
books, the length of our sentences increased, our words got
bigger, and we used more prepositional phrases.

Because we wrote like that in school, we naturally transferred
that approach to business writing.

In business, our audience does not have time to read two-pages
when one-page will do. Our audience is not impressed by the
length of our sentences or the extent of our vocabulary.

In the past, because we focused on getting to 100 words, 10 pages
and two blue books, we increased the length of our sentences,
searched for bigger words and used more prepositional phrases.

To get better results with our business writing, we need to
reverse that process. We need to become clear, concise, correct,
complete and conversational.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Effective Listening Requires Specific Strategies

Listening does not take place in the ears. Hearing takes place in
the ears. Listening takes place between the ears.


Listening is an intellectual adventure.

We hear words and we can evaluate the meaning, importance, or urgency of what we hear.

We need to evaluate more than just the words. We need to become aware of the communicating styles, learning preferences and personalities of the people speaking. That information guides us in how we receive, accept and react to what we hear.

We need to think through how the messages affect our business and personal lives and we need to create plans for what to do with the information.

If we do not understand the words and their meanings, we need to ask questions, make comments, or seek clarification so we can make correct decisions.


Listening doesn't just involve hearing the words. We need to watch the person's body language and facial expressions to ensure the nonverbal messages match the oral ones. If we become distracted, we can miss an important clue that indicates what we
are hearing does not truly relate to reality. This is not to say the speaker is lying. What the words say and how the person delivers them might indicate uncertainty, confusion or doubt on the speaker’s part.

For example, if you ask an employee, "Do you understand?" the response might be "Yes."

However, the word "yes" might be accompanied by eye movement, a facial gesture or a shrug of the shoulders that might signal you are hearing what you want to

On the other hand, if you do not maintain eye contact while you are listening, you can send many mixed signals to the speaker.

This may indicate you are not interested in what the speaker is saying, you are distracted by your personal agenda, your don't agree with what the other person is saying, or that you flat out don't like the person. It could also signal that you feel intimidated or embarrassed by the person or the message.


listening does not involve total silence on the part of the listener. As listeners, we need to prove to the speaker that we are listening and understanding. We don't have to agree but we do have to understand the other person's position. We cannot understand it if we don't truly listen.

We listen with our voices by giving appropriate responses as the person speaks. This can be as simple as the sincere guttural sound, "Uh huh."

It could be a response like," I see," "I hear you," or I'm with you."

Or, you can display your understanding by repeating or paraphrasing the speaker’s words.


Listening is an attitude. To be a truly effective listener, "Ya gotta wanna."

That's a phrase I heard many years ago when I first started my sales career. To really listen to someone, you must think at least as much about the speaker as you do yourself. You have to adopt a mindset that whatever the speaker says may contain some value for you.

Is this always true?


But you will never be able to know this unless you truly listen carefully to what the person has to say. If you miss something, it's your fault, not the speaker's.

We all like to think we have value. When you show people you care about them, you gain their respect and their attention. Listening effectively creates a Win-Win situation that carries value way beyond a casual or even a highly structured listening encounter.

Employers who stress, model and train employees on listening skills own a competitive advantage. Employees who take responsibility for effective listening become valuable assets to a company and, generally, are the ones promoted faster and more often.

Listen between your ears. If you don't, you lose.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Business Writing Can Become Challenging

Many people struggle with business writing.

And, because of that, they waste a lot of time, become frustrated, and do not get the results they want or expect.

Let me share with you a couple of reasons why so many business professionals struggle with their business writing.

Let's talk about "how" we communicate.

We communicate in only two ways - verbally and nonverbally.

The word "verbal" means written and spoken. Many people think the word "verbal" only means spoken.

That's not true. The word "verbal" means written and spoken.

The verbal part includes the words you use and the tone you project with your words. If people do not understand those words, that communication will go nowhere. If your readers understand those words, then the tone you use - how you say it - might become more important than the words.

The nonverbal signals we send with our body language reveals much more than the actual words we use. When we slam doors with frowns on our faces and let out exasperated sighs of disgust, we are letting people know we are not happy. We don't say a word, but people get the message.

Another example of nonverbal signals is eye contact.

Have you ever walked into someone's office and said "Hey Joe. I've got a great idea."

Joe responds in a low, monotone pestered sounding voice, "Yeah, go ahead, tell me about it."

And, Joe never looks at you. He continues looking down at the pile of papers he was working on.

Or, he gets up from the desk by placing both hands flat on the desk to push himself up. Once he's up, he folds his arms behind his back (I guess that's so he doesn't hit you).

Then he starts pacing. While he paces, he checks the floor, checks the ceiling tiles, looks out the window to see if anyone stole his car, and finally checks his watch to make sure he brought it with him.

All this while, he never looks at you. Does that mean he's not listening? No!

He hears every word you say. How does that make you feel?

Right! About one inch tall.

Volumes of evidence show how nonverbals affect communication. For now, let's focus on how the nonverbal affect your writing.

When you write a letter, memo, report, or proposal, do you have the benefit of these nonverbal signals? No. We've wiped out more than half your ability to communicate.

Now do you understand why writing becomes so difficult?

We have grown so accustomed to communicating by using the nonverbal of our body language. We become frustrated when we cannot communicate as effectively on paper.

This is also why you would prefer to talk to someone, rather than write him or her a memo or letter.

In speech, you have the benefit of reading that person's nonverbals or having them read yours.

In writing, we must rely on words and tone. That's it, words and tone.

You do have some nonverbal. If you wrote an important letter to a customer in pencil, wrinkled it while putting it in the envelope, spilled coffee on it while you were writing it, misspelled the person's name, and sent it four weeks late, I think that's nonverbal.

For the most part, when you write, you do not have the benefit of nonverbal signals. That's why writing is so tough.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Three Telephone Tips Provide Exceptional Customer Service

To provide exceptional Customer Service, common sense and common courtesy should go hand in hand. The following telephone tips offer both.

First, help eliminate the biggest time waster in business communications.

When you leave a voice mail message, say your name and telephone number clearly and slowly at least two times. Depending on your message, you may want to say them three times.

If you do, you win! You will sound more professional and you will save time and get better results for yourself and the person you called.

Next, when dealing with customers on the phone, avoid multi-tasking. Yes, you are capable of doing a number of tasks while on the phone. But, to provide Exceptional Customer Service, you should use telephone time with customers as the one Exception to your multi-tasking tool box.

Exceptional Customer Service means total focus on your customers. Besides, unusual pauses, noises and comments tell the customer that you are distracted and not paying attention to them.

Finally, the telephone skill that seems to scream for common sense and common courtesy says, hang up last and gently.

For some reason, the number of customer contact people who throw, slam, or drop the telephone receiver on the cradle seems to be on the increase.

Even though we are in the age of cell phones, many businesses still use the conventional handset phone.

For this reason, customer contact people should be reminded to be sure customers hang up first. That ensures that the customers have completed their thoughts and are satisfied with the discussion.

But, as an added measure, customer contact people should return the handset to the cradle gently and softly. Slamming or dropping the handset sends a piercing sound through the wires and into the ears of customers who have not yet hung up.

The telephone is an extremely useful communication devise. Used properly, it becomes a powerful business tool.