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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

No, Talk Ain't Cheap...Sometimes It Costs $7,875

     We've all heard about the rant that made Robert Sherman a household name these past couple of weeks among sports fans.  As a talented corner for the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks, he went off in an interview with Fox Sport's Erin Andrews after the last playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Although he had supporters, most people felt his behavior was out of control and unprofessional.  The majority of us have had at least one experience in our lives when we reacted rashly based on a situation when emotions were running high.  We've most likely regretted those words after further thought whether we apologized for our behavior or not.  Because those words aren't often well thought out, they can oftentimes cost us.  They cost us in broken relationships, lost opportunities, and even in real dollars.  Sherman found himself having to pay a $7,875 fine just for talking too much.  That's not a lot of money for a star pro athlete, but it is a waste nonetheless when you consider it didn't have to happen in the first place.
     When was the last time your words cost you?  And what did they cost you?  A job?  A date?  Your freedom?  Careless words rack up a debt that sometimes won't be paid off.  You can never take back what you've said.  You will be judged by those hurtful or irrational words regardless of how much else you accomplish.  That moment in time is frozen in the minds of some or many, and everything they think about you will be weighed against your foolish words.  Though your intent at the time may have been only to express your anger, what you rather intended won't matter.
     Let Sherman's ill-chosen behavior be a lesson to us all.  Don't speak out of anger.  Unless you want to be thought a fool, it is better to remain quiet and humble.  It's not how loud or forceful you can sound to intimidate or prove yourself.  It is the poise you maintain in a hostile situation that shows your real strength and character.
#communications #anger #seahawks #arrogance #selfcontrol

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Power of the Written Word Online

     My 12-year-old son asked me the other day why he had to learn to write well.  He wasn't asking out of curiosity.  It was more of a rhetorical question because he didn't want to do his English Language Arts writing assignment.  I was trying to encourage him to expand his vocabulary through further reading and writing.  He claims that his generation speaks in "text terms" and don't have to learn to write full words and sentences.  Thus, the challenge of educators and parents in this new age of rapid-fire information exchange and social media.
     Since writing interactively on social media is a major part of teens and tweens' lives and that of adults as well, writing effectively is even more important.  With all the shortcuts and abbreviations used in writing online, making sure the written message has clarity and appropriate tone is essential.  Understanding what a person is trying to say in written form loses some of its luster.  Unless you're a skilled writer, there's no better communication method than in person.  Social media requires lots of writing--more writing than most of us adults did in high school.  It doesn't, however, require much oversight, correction or accountability.  Therefore, people make a lot of mistakes in their written communications and that can lead to misunderstandings.  Here are a few:
  • Not proofreading what you've written is the biggest pitfall.  Take a minute to review what you've written before you post.  And really, it only takes a minute if not mere seconds.  That small amount of time could save you big headaches later on.  The comment you meant as a joke may come across sarcastic or mean if you use the wrong words or don't put enough context around it. You could tick off some folks and not know why until it's too late. 
  • Still using all caps to speak to us.  FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME, ALL CAPS SUGGEST SHOUTING!!!  Lower your voice.  Turn off the CAPS LOCK button.  Your message will come across just as strong if it's written clearly.
  • Though social media is designed for brief comments and mostly visuals, even short entries must be accurate entries.  Misspelled words, incomplete sentences--sometimes they just don't make sense. 
  • Keep what's personal to yourself.  That's why it's called "personal".  It applies primarily to you and shouldn't be shared with the rest of the world.  
  • Realize that you might like crass jokes, vile language, nudity and violence (i.e. brutal street fights) but not everyone does.  You invited yourself into someone else's world when you "friended", "linked up" or "followed" them online.  They accepted you.  As a result, you have a responsibility to them if you are going to socialize in their world.  Much like if you were standing in front of them and wouldn't say and share those things, don't do it online either.
  • Elevate your minds.  Abandon worldstarhiphop.com.  Yeah, I said it.
  • Don't argue online.  If you have beef with someone, keep it between the two of you.  Letting the rest of the world in on your battles only serves to fan the flames.  Your online drama only serves as fodder for gossipers, instigators, and people who don't otherwise have a life.  Maintain some class.
     Remember this:  what you put online says a lot about you.  People determine who you are based on what you post.  Watching a thread of communication offered by you shows a pattern in your life.  It exposes your character.  With that said, always put the best of you out in the open.  Learn to be discreet when necessary and open when appropriate.  You never know who's watching or reading.  And realize the power is in the written word (or your keyboard).  Write responsibly.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Communication Styles: Is Yours Trending?

      Being a competent communicator is essential in every aspect of life.  Whether it's a manager learning to direct his team, a wife trying to convince her husband, a salesperson trying to persuade a client or a pastor trying to inspire a congregation, knowing how to bring a meaningful message to an audience (collective or individual) is important.  Yet, most of us tend not to treat it as such.  We communicate as we do without much concern for how what we say, write or show comes across to others.  As a result, we miss the mark.  The way we miss the mark is in where the message fails.  Did it offend?  Was it unclear?  Was it inaccurate?  Was it unconvincing?  Was it misunderstood?  
     Since we communicate in a variety of ways, it is important to the communicator to help the listener hear his message clearly and without failure.  Our style dictates the success of that message hitting its target.  If one style is to be direct, then we should get to the point with precision and without offense.  If another style is to be warm and encouraging, then we should be able to make our point and be taken seriously while not being unrealistic in our optimism.  If we're looking for logic and proof as we question others, we must be aware that  not everybody thinks critically and aren't as detailed. 
     Most people will respect that the way you communicate is "just your way" good or bad.  But sometimes your "way" can get in the way of people hearing you without style hindrances.  Being blunt while being direct may cause others to feel like you are trying to control or denigrate them.  Being passive and risk-averse may lead people to believe you're weak or wishy-washy.  Your style is important.  How you show it off determines if others will follow it.  When you think of "style" and what's fashionable, it stands to reason that even when it comes to communications you have to ask, "Is my style trending?"  Would others want to emulate it or see the quality in it? 
     We are going to look at a variety of leadership styles at the new Women's Forum on Leadership on January 14th at the Capital City Club in Columbia, SC.  Women who attend will have the opportunity to receive a free assessment of their style and learn how to make that style work for them in business and at home.  They'll learn how to maximize the strengths that will make them competent communicators and earn them the respect and influence that can be theirs if they are skilled in the art of conversation.  You can be a part of it too.  Call (803) 256-2000 to register today.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Dozen Ways to Tell Your Boss No

     In basically every training class I do on communications, I get people who are reluctant to manage up.  In a few cases, the direct, decisive communicators establish early on in the relationship their boundaries and preferences to their boss.  Those bosses who can respect other people's limits tend to listen without feeling threatened or disrespected.  But generally, workers tend to treat their superiors as demigods and themselves as powerless servants who shouldn't speak up for fear that they'd be punished for having an opinion or for pushing back in areas where they are overwhelmed or uncomfortable.  I get asked, "What do I do when my manager piles all of this work on me, and I can't get it done by his unreasonable deadlines?"  Among other things like how they manage their time, I usually ask if they've had a discussion with their manager about their workload.  The common response:  "Oh noooo, I can't do that.  He's the boss.  You don't tell him anything."  Or "I've tried to tell her, but she couldn't care less."
     For those of you who are struggling with just the right words to convey to your manager about how you feel, here are a few suggestions:
  1. The quality of my work suffers when I'm trying to do too many things at once.  I'd like to finish the other three projects you've given me first before I take on any new ones.
  2. I appreciate the confidence you have in me to carry such a heavy load, but I'm currently at a tipping point.  
  3. I know someone else who is better qualified to do this.
  4. I'd be happy to help you with that if you don't need it for about three months.  I should be done with the other twelve projects by then.
  5. I could add it to my list, but it'll be task number 25 right now.
  6. Who would be your second choice to do this?  I wouldn't be offended if you made them your first.
  7. I can successfully juggle four major projects at once.  This would be number five.
  8. Taking on another task would require more attention and energy than I have available to give.
  9. The last time I over committed myself, it was a disaster.  I've learned to take on only what I can handle without compromising the quality a project/task like this deserves.
  10. For the sake of efficiency, I don't think I could complete the project in a timely manner.
  11. Regrettably, I am unable to take on anymore tasks that aren't priority.
  12. I'm sorry but I'm unable to do it at this time.  May I recommend...?
Notice you didn't say no directly in any of these.  It's all semantics.  It's all in how you communicate a negative response.  Without saying no, you essentially refused a request.  You may feel uncomfortable at first taking such a bold step, but you may find that with the right tone and context, you can say no to your boss.  Try these at your own risk, but the flip side to not saying anything is that you will ultimately turn out mediocre work, miss deadlines, and tarnish your reputation because you didn't set boundaries.  You can say no.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Words for Female Professionals--Final Word

    
The New Year is in its infancy, and so many days and months are ahead of us to get our goals realized.  It's exciting to think of the great things that are on the way, and a little unnerving to consider what struggles and trials await us for they will surely come.  Since we are intending to shape our own destiny, hopefully we can overcome our challenges without being deterred.  If we take our time and are intentional in all of our efforts to succeed, we can get those things we strive for.  It will require that we stay focused and dedicated to our personal mission.  Therefore, we need to practice perseverance.  That is your final word:  perseverance.
     You may be fired up right now early in this year to set goals and achieve them.  You might feel determined and have a clear vision of where you ultimately want to be.  Most people feel that way at the beginning of the year.  But as time moves on, the desire fades, and we fall back into life as usual.  We find reasons why we can't get to the next phase.  We make excuses why we didn't reach a milestone.  We don't go back and consult our written plan.  And we eventually give up.  By second quarter or at latest mid-year, we've pretty much abandoned our goals.  Another year will pass without us getting what we really want, and we lament by the end of the year that we didn't make it.  So we vow in the coming year to start all over again, and this can go on for years never fully realizing what we always wanted to do.  That stops now.
     If you are serious about finally hitting the mark for yourself in business and in your personal life, then you can not yield to outside forces  You can not allow obstacles, no matter how large and immovable, to get in your way.  You may get slowed down, but you can't get stopped.  Go around or over your barriers, but don't let them rob you of your achievements.  Giving up should not be an option.  Will sticking it out be hard?  Probably.  But that's no reason to quit.  Anything worth having is worth working for.  Stand strong.  Persevere.
     So now you have all five words for female professionals who want to win this year.  Be the first to write all five in the comments section of this blog.  The first person receives free attendance to the Women's Forum on Leadership to be held on January 14th from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.  The next four entries can attend at half price.  You will be empowered when you attend this series.  If you're committed to finally determining your own success and achieving it, we'll help you get there.  Register today at www.thesharpersolution.com or call (803) 256-2000.  Thanks for following.
    

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Five Words for Female Professionals--Fourth Word

     Over the past year, I had to accept the hard fact that I can't do everything in my business on my own.  I had to build connections with other people who could help me provide a greater range of services.  I can and have coached my clients, but I had to find a certified coach to relieve me and take over my coaching requests.  I needed additional help from an instructional designer in constructing a new leadership training program I'm rolling out this year.  I needed a business mentor and coach to help me consider my business model and to think strategically.  I needed to build alliances.  And that's word number four:  alliance.
     I knew dynamic women who could fulfill these needs so I contracted with them for help.  We barter services sometimes.  We negotiate discounted fees sometimes.  We support each other.  We all need to find people who we can build strategic alliances with so that we can be effective in what we do.  Women need to practice this type of collaboration more regularly.  Men in business do it all the time.  Women sabotage their success because they can be competitive in a catty kind of way.  Rather than helping another woman by offering our expertise to meet her needs, we see her as an opponent.  When we perceive other women as someone who might take what we have, we withhold information.  We don't offer to help so we both lose.  
     I've found that building alliances with other companies--not just female-owned companies--has helped my business to run more efficiently.  The quality of my output is better, and my offerings are more expansive.  One of my best clients practices this same method, and his business earned nearly $288 million in revenues last year with a pipeline of over a half billion dollars.  On an individual level, you can see similar value in how you do business with others.  Recognize their strengths so that you can complement them with yours.  Always seek ways to help someone else so that the relationship is balanced.  Be an ally.  Build an alliance.
     You can network with other women who seek to empower themselves with the knowledge my company brings.  Join them and me at the new "Women's Forum on Leadership" at the Capital City Club in Columbia, SC on January 14, 2014.  Register by calling (803) 256-2000 or by visiting www.thesharpersolution.com.  Stick around for word number five tomorrow to compete for free tuition.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Five Words for Female Professionals--Third Word

    You should be feeling bolder by now.  And your mind should be clicking through specific steps you must take to make 2014 your most strategic year yet.  Though what I share in these posts this week or specifically directed at women, men can benefit from them as well.  Men tend to be more strategic than women in their thinking as evidenced by the dominance of them running Fortune 500 companies.  They have taken the bold steps to start businesses and run businesses that are largely successful and that most of the world recognizes.  With their support, more women could run large corporations as well.  Without their help, women have to understand the power we posses in the unique ways we are wired to accomplish the same successes but in our own ways.  We have to believe we can do it.  What we can see in our mind's eye will help us to trek courageously to that end.  Therefore, the third word in the "Five Words for Female Professionals" is vision.
     Being able to see vividly where we want to be by year's end or in the next two, five or ten years is where it all begins.  We have to see ourselves in a position of leadership if that's our desire.  We have to see ourselves thinner if that's what we need.  We have to see ourselves at the finish line of the marathon if that's where we want to be.  We have to see ourselves satisfied and fulfilled in all that we do if that is what will make us happy.  But we have to envision it.  All great accomplishments started with a vision.  What's yours?
     I knew that I wanted to be a professional speaker and writer from the time I was a sophomore in high school.  I went to LSU with the vision of one day becoming a news anchor on one of the big networks.  I studied broadcast journalism and did a quick stint at a local radio station in Baton Rouge, La. after graduation.  I have no regrets that I'm not on one of the networks because I still arrived at my destination.  I am a professional speaker (I get paid to speak so I guess that makes me a professional), and I have one book under my belt and two more in the works.  I am a facilitator of leadership development in corporations and organizations where I help leaders to lead authentically.  It is my passion, and I live each day to do it.  The communications skills I gained from my education and from my previous jobs that required me to be persuasive, clear and enthusiastic in my speech have all culminated to this point in my life.  I have learned so much from so many.  But it began with a vision.  And I've not achieved the fullness of that vision yet.  I still see myself leading the multitudes in self-fulfillment, love for one another, and critical thinking.  It is my ministry.  It is my hope.
     Determine your vision.  See it clearly complete with color, sound, action and hope.  Then make it part of your strategy to go forth boldly and make it a reality.  I can help you get on that path when you join me and other professional women at our new "Women's Forum on Leadership" at the Capital City Club in Columbia, SC beginning January 14, 2014.  For more information, click on the red box on my homepage at www.thesharpersolution.com.  You will be challenged and you will be changed.  Check back tomorrow for the fourth word.  Be the first to send back all five in the comments section of this blog and attend the January session for free.  Envision your success!