Thursday, March 29, 2007

Meetings, meetings, everywhere

I've written about meetings before. But I just read a survey in which 91 percent of employees confessed to having daydreamed in meetings. I think that's quite funny, but I can hardly say that I’m surprised - and I can personally confess to having taken other work into meetings as well as having fallen asleep in them too!

Here are some tips for handling meetings effectively:

  • Work out an agenda. Whether you were asked to lead the meeting or not, remember that meetings are an opportunity for you to show others how good you are. If someone else is leading the meeting and loses their way, you can speak up and get the meeting back on track.
  • Use the clock to keep people on track. Refer to the time as a way of hurrying people through the meeting if they dawdle unnecessarily. Once you have asked when people need to leave the meeting, you can make comments such as: “I’m conscious that we’ve only got another 15 minutes before Alex and Chris need to get away. Can I suggest we move on to discussing…”
  • Build on previous comments. Keep your contributions brief and try to add to build on the points of people who have already spoken. Don’t speak simply for the sake of speaking, but do speak up if you have a relevant point that has not already been raised.
  • Ask questions instead of being negative. Passing judgement on whether you think an idea is good or not is poor meeting etiquette. Saying “that won’t work” effectively implies that you know better than anyone else in the room. Instead of pointing out a problem, acknowledge the possibility and ask a question that invites others to seek a solution. For example, rather than pointing out that the team does not have the budget to do a project, ask: “That’s a great idea. How could we get the funding together for that?”
Enjoy your next meeting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Positive strokes

One of the books I'm writing (Should I Sleep with the Boss?) is on the topic of enhancing your career. And a big theme running through it is how to influence others more effectively.

Did you know that most criticism falls on deaf ears? If you tell someone about a mistake they made in their work, perhaps an errand they could have done better, or something they didn't do at home, they may pretend to listen, but much of the time they are busily justifying it to themselves.

Instead, focus on giving positive feedback instead. Rather than criticising bad behaviour, try to focus on what people did right. If you're trying to get someone to behave differently at work or home, praise what they do right. Compliment them on it sincerely and show your appreciation for their efforts - do it genuinely and you will find they do more of the right behaviour. Eventually the good behaviours will replace the bad behaviours.

It's a small but potent difference. Try it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dr Rob and the telly box

Well I've had two meetings with different TV production companies this week.

It's funny how these things go.

The meeting I had yesterday went really well. The producer seemed really interested in my ideas and asked lots of the right questions. In turn, I thought he had done his research really well. We talked for an hour without it feeling like a long time at all and the producer emailed me back straight afterwards to say that he liked a particular idea of mine and that we should speak again soon.

The meeting I had today felt really strange. We chatted for a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting but I didn't sense much chemistry. It was as if the producer had decided that he either didn't like my ideas or didn't like me. And the entire meeting only last about 20 minutes! Oh well, you can't win them all!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

CVs: Education or experience - which comes first?

Hurrah - I've finally started writing my new job hunting book, 'Should I Tell the Truth?

One of the questions a job seeker once asked me was about the layout of her CV. She wanted to know what was current advice - to put your education first or your work experience first?

Education or work experience – I'd say that the answer very much depends. One of the absolute delights of writing a CV as opposed to filling out a standard application form is that you can design your CV to highlight whatever you like. However, the key rule in deciding what should go first is to think: What would most impress the employer?

You should always choose to order the sections on your CV depending entirely on whatever you think is most likely to get you the job
. For example, if you are a recent graduate with little work experience but a first class honours degree from a top university, you might want to lead with your education first. If you have better work experience to showcase, then lead with a section entitled Employment, Career History, or Work Experience – it doesn’t really matter what you call it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Entrepreneurs: Have a business plan

it's 11.43pm on a Friday night. While the rest of you are out having fun, I'm poring over my notes and trying to write these books!

I got an email the other day from someone that I worked with. She's setting up her own business and, very sweetly, was asking when my book, The Rules of Entrepreneurship is out. She was telling me that she is writing her business plan - a task that is more complex than one might assume. But, most amazingly, a lot of would-be entrepreneurs skip this step.

I think that's foolish.

A business plan helps you to crystallise your ideas, clarify your goals, and prepare to explain it to other people. It encourages you to focus on exactly what you need to do and pushes you to think about the practicalities of founding your venture.

Writing a business plan is as much about clarifying your goals for yourself as it is to communicate your goals and persuade others. If you can’t write a plan that makes sense to yourself, how will you explain it to investors, suppliers, and customers?

But I just came across an interesting quote by a famous American humanitarian, Dr. Effie Jones:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

I just wish I'd found her quote six months ago when I was writing my book on entrepreneurship!

Talking of books, it's 11.52pm and I need to do at least another half-hour's writing before I go to bed...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mumbles and mutterings on somethin' at work

It's nearly 11 o'clock at night and I've just spent the last couple of hours working on the two new books I'm writing. Books take time to write and, on top of the day job as a coach and business psychologist, that means evenings and weekends until the end of May!

But I just found a slip of paper from when I was coaching someone who wanted to improve his impact during meetings, presentations, and even conversations. Much of the time these days, how you come across is determined as much by how you speak as what you say.

This particular person, my coachee, tended to mumble his words. He barely opened his lips and the sounds came out all... smushed.

Of course these things were not as apparent to him as they were to everyone around him.

So we used a vocal exercise to help him warm up his mouth and tongue. Very simply, it required that he repeat a set of syllables a couple of times each, pronouncing them very clearly:

  • "Puh buh" - warms up the front of the mouth and your lips;
  • "Kuh guh" - warms up the back of the mouth and the bit of your tongue nearer the throat;
  • "Tuh duh" - warms up the middle bit in between the other two, so the middle and front part of your tongue.
So if you ever want to do some vocal warm-ups before an important interview, a meeting, a presentation, try it. Simply repeat each of the phrases a handful of times each. You'll relax the muscles and your voice should come out much more clearly and confidently.