Finding Your Voice

By: Pamela Walters, November 28, 2017

Ever been frustrated trying to convince, reason or explain to a decision maker? You understand the problem and have clear sight on the solution, but the obvious doesn’t pique the attention or action of your intended audience.  We’ve all been there.  So how do you get a fair hearing?

The answer is in finding your voice with your intended audience.  It doesn’t occur spontaneously “in the moment”; instead it takes planning and intent.  Start with being clear and succinct in what you are asking or stating.  It is crucial to build the story in the currency that matters to them such as a simply stated premise, evidence that demonstrates the value of the idea and address results. For example, “If we remain status quo, we will continue to experience X.  By doing Y we can eliminate duplication and improve the customer experience.”

Good preparation also involves examining self-doubt about the viability of the solution.  Have you considered the downside or factors that could derail its success?  Be prepared to respond to these types of questions.  Share the idea with other coworkers in advance to get feedback and a well-rounded view of how reasonable it sounds to others.

Below are four qualities that will strengthen your voice of influence:

Confidence – the poise and assurance with which you conduct the discussion, evidence of grace under pressure. Practice delivery in front of a mentor or record the conversation so that your body language matches the message you plan to convey.

Conviction – plating up new ideas involves risk.  Is it evident that you believe in your “gut” that this is the way to go and are able to articulate why?  Authenticity convinces others you are bullish about the solution and its resulting outcomes. The expressed conviction should be related to significant outcomes and should communicate openness in an alternative path to get there.

Curiosity – during the conversation, facilitate a discussion – not a presentation – where an answer is required after you finish.  The stakeholder may need time to think it over and their initial impression may not be where they eventually land.  The process may take time, several conversations and involve nuanced changes from your original idea.  Curiosity will remove defensiveness and increase your ability to influence.

Listening – tune into their optic, respond to their questions or statements to assure the stakeholder that you hear their view and respect their concerns.  Your vested interest in the idea should clearly be about helping the organization or senior management meet goals and strategic objectives.

Over the past 18 years, I have spoken with hundreds of leaders and managers who are frustrated with not being heard.  Typically we are examining competency strengths and weaknesses that give perspective to their struggle.  The coaching gave them hope and clear sight on improvements within their control. It is possible to raise your influence level with key stakeholders by understanding how you express ideas, learn to speak in their currency and be disciplined about building this skillset.

Take the long-view, every conversation can be an “ask” or advancement of solid ideas.  Are you willing to own the risk of expressing ideas that stand to make a difference in your workplace?

“DisruptHR” with Candor

By: Julie Johnson, November 8, 2017

I attended an event recently called DisruptHR.  Disrupt is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field, but really it attracts all fields, all industries and all people.  The format is 12 speakers (anyone) who want to share on a topic around people talent for five minutes with an automatically rotating PowerPoint slideshow for 15 seconds each.  It’s exhilarating to sit in the audience, watch, listen and learn what these brave speakers think is important enough to share with a roomful of 500 attendees during happy hour.  Social media was highly encouraged and rewarded; you can follow some of the conversation on Twitter by searching “#disrupthrcincy”.

This completely volunteer-run organization started in Cincinnati, OH, but is now in over 100 cities and 25 countries around the world.  #Wow!  If you’re still wrapping your head around this concept, think about a Ted Talk, but more concise.  Not everyone has a knack for this and some speakers might not be your preferred topic, style or vernacular.  However, each person in that room had to walk away learning something and connecting with new people.

My favorite was titled “Scaling a Culture of Candor” by Max Yoder, Co-Founder and CEO of Lessonly.  Lessonly started with 17 employees and has grown to 80 over just a few years.  Max was concerned that Lessonly’s culture of candor wouldn’t or couldn’t last as they necessarily hired more talent to support the growing organization.  Candor is about being open and honest.  For many of us, this is no easy task.  It requires self-awareness, self-confidence, communication skills, comfort with conflict and leaving your ego at the door.  Max shared his quick recipe for candor which is equal to vulnerability and gratitude.  I’ve learned about vulnerability recently from researcher Brene Brown who has a series of Ted Talks on the subject.  This works best in organizations when leaders share first (lead by example) and then the team feels comfortable to follow.  The best relationships come, whether work or personal, after difficult conversations.

I think it’s easy to start this journey and self-assess your workplace.  If everyone is working by themselves in their offices and only say nice things to each other, then you have a long, but achievable, road ahead.

Sometimes Less Truly Is More (In Hiring and Life)

By: Elise Lotz, October 18, 2017

New York has always been called the city that never sleeps, but it’s the world in general these days that never seems to turn off. If you’re up at 2am and want to schedule and pay for your groceries? Just open up your laptop. Need a pair of boots by the weekend? Amazon can have that to you tomorrow. The device next to you lighting up every five minutes? It’s letting you know what’s going on with anyone, anywhere at any time. These are amazing feats of technology and most are quite convenient, but is it all necessary or is it just noise? more…

How Are You Measuring Your Employees’ Inclusiveness?

By: Chris Leech, October 2, 2017

There’s increasing evidence and research to show the importance of developing a diverse and inclusive workforce, and one of the simplest arguments is found in the changing US demographics. It’s common sense that having a sales or services organization that’s in closer alignment to your customer base will prove beneficial with customer relations. more…

The Real Costs of Turnover

By: Joe Koczwara, September 18, 2017

There’s no quick fix to high turnover rates, but you probably already knew that.  We’re past the halfway mark for the year and there is no better time to sit down and evaluate your organization. How many employees have exited this year? Were they all men? All women? All from the same department? Asking these questions may be uncomfortable, but necessary if you want to create a high performing culture. Now, let’s get down to three reasons why evaluating staff turnover is imperative. more…