How to Get Your Team to Speak Up | BridgeBetween.com

How to Get Your Team to Speak Up

We’ve all seen it: that shy employee who has a tremendous amount of knowledge and ability but can’t seem to bring themselves to speak up in groups, meetings or in front of an audience.

It’s a loss for the team as a whole when one member doesn’t feel comfortable talking and contributing. Remember that old saying about a team being as strong as its weakest link?

Being shy — or worried about appearances, lacking in self-confidence, or being the ‘keep your head down’ kind of employee — doesn’t make a team member bad at their job, but it does make it more difficult to coordinate efforts and get the most out of everyone’s abilities.

There are a couple of tools in the toolbox that will help get everyone on the team to participate!

Model the behavior you want to see

Like most any situation where you are dealing with human behavior, if you want a certain action from your team, you need to model it.

In other words, if you expect them to speak up and risk looking ‘wrong’ or ‘silly’, you have to be willing to do it, too. Address the elephant in the room, whatever that may be. Take a risk in your speaking. If they see you willing to do it, they will be more willing to do it too. Make it clear that meetings are interactive, not one-sided speeches.

Request feedback and thank them

In order to get people to speak up, you may have to invite questions. This isn’t about singling out the shy person, like a teacher picking on the kid who never raises his hand. This is about making sure that people have a chance to have a voice. Invite questions, feedback, and comments and keep control of any judgment.

If there are people in the group who are prone to shutting down comments from others that they don’t agree with, you need to deal with those people because they just became your weakest link. Give credit where credit is due, when someone has the gumption to put something ‘out there’.

Engage with other options

A good way to get a reluctant participant to open up is to leverage a medium that they can get behind first. Example? Ask them to provide a written memo or report on what they are working on and to circulate it in advance to the rest of the team.

This gives other team members a chance to approach the writer one on one or in a smaller setting and ask questions, rather than having the shy person approach everyone else directly for feedback.

Figure out why there is silence

If the silence isn’t limited to one or two people, there is something else going on. Has there been judgment in the past by members of the group? Are suggestions given routinely ignored, despite being requested?

Find out why people are holding back by asking them in a more conducive setting, one to one, with the clear statement that they will not be ‘punished’ in any way for honesty. You need to get past any major blocks like this, as they are really not conducive to a team effort and can signal other issues within the group.

Give advance notice of meetings/informational requirements

If people feel prepared for a meeting, they’re more likely to participate. That might seem basic but expecting people to have the information you’re looking for at the drop of a hat might not be realistic and, in fact, might be detrimental to getting people to fight the very natural tendency to keep what they know closer to their chest, rather than sharing it with the group.

Speaking up and sharing information is at the basis of any good team, but the lack of ability to do so shouldn’t disqualify someone from their role. The ability to speak up can be taught, as long as the environment is one that welcomes it. That has to come from the leadership level, so make it a priority!

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

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Leadership Traits to Avoid | BridgeBetween.com

5 Leadership Traits to Avoid

There is a lot of information out there about ideal leadership qualities, but talking about leadership traits to avoid is important, too.

Have you ever had a toxic manager? Someone who poisoned the workspace with their negativity or domineering attitude? It’s not uncommon, and as much as we talk about all the qualities of a good leader, it’s important to understand and acknowledge the negative leadership traits that should be avoided at all costs.

After all, an ostrich doesn’t really survive by burying his head in the sand, and neither should leaders who want to succeed!

5 Leadership Traits to Avoid

1. Talk the talk but don’t walk the walk

A leader who can talk a good game about attitude and work tasks but then does the very opposite in action is a leader who won’t be trusted by his or her team.

Taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions and modeling the behavior you expect to see from others are essential to gain and keep trust and loyalty. Creating a culture of trust, fairness and good work being noticed is what makes a difference.

2. Conflict resolution, ostrich style

A leader who can’t deal with conflict is not leading.

In the hopes that a problem will simply go away, a bad leader will miscommunicate their feelings or intentions, being purposely vague and leaving everyone in the dark as to what they really want and how they want to deal with the issue.

But like a throbbing tooth, problems and conflict in the workplace don’t usually ‘self-resolve’. Team members are looking for their leader to deal with it, or pull the tooth, as it were. Hiding behind a closed door and ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

3. Communication is a one-way street

A leader who is forever pontificating on one topic or another, without censoring their words, and is not open to input from team members, is a concern.

This kind of ‘leader’ will typically surround themselves with sycophantic ‘yes-people’ who will in no way challenge their authority. As if having an opinion in a team environment was a threat! This is a leader who exerts control in many ways and one of them is to control the ‘conversation’ so it isn’t based on two-way communication.

4. Learning is for sissies

A leader who is closed to learning and self-growth can’t lead.

Admitting flaws, faults and mistakes IS true leadership, not a sign of weakness. Acting like you have it all under control when the wheels have effectively just fallen off the bus? Not so much. A good leader can ask for help, even from subordinates and still have confidence in themselves.

5. It’s all about ego

A leader who doesn’t have the greatest self-esteem, which is usually accompanied by an ego the size of Texas, can’t be a great leader.

Sometimes it’s not entirely their fault: by a series of strange events, they find themselves in a role that they can’t cope with but don’t want to admit that to anyone.

Ultimately, a person who is working with ego isn’t thinking about the good of the team or the greater good of the organization as a whole: they’re thinking about themselves and how the decisions will affect them.

It’s not an accident that performing companies have excellent leadership. One follows from the other, like flowers from well-maintained earth.

Leadership isn’t innate: you can be taught to be a great leader, you can learn the skills you need. Equally important, however, is to learn what traits that will bring you, and your organization, down.

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Public Speaking | BridgeBetween.com

Why Public Speaking Helps to Build Leadership Skills

Public speaking ability is among the most critical, yet also the most feared, skills. But the lack of it can really impact your ability to lead a group effectively.

Public speaking allows you, as a leader, to show your team what you are thinking and what direction you want to take: they will see you as not only an actual leader, but as a thought leader, helping to motivate them to the action that you are seeking from them.

A leader isn’t just someone who states what they want done and waits for people to do it. A leader is someone who motivates positive action, who inspires innovation and growth, who sets a set of goals for a group of people and helps them to find the path to their mutual success.

There’s no question that the only way that any of these ideals get accomplished is through clear communication—both as an active listener and speaker.

But as I said before, while it is critical, public speaking is often the most feared skill that a person acquires in their quest to lead. So what can you do to improve your public speaking skills, and by extension, your leadership skills?

Speak like a leader

A leader of a Fortune 500 company is probably not going to drop an F-bomb every few sentences and for good reason. A conversational tone is perfectly acceptable, particularly when you’re trying to reach a large group of people and still make them feel like you are talking directly to each and every one of them; but conversational doesn’t mean crude or inappropriate.

That can only cause discomfort for some or all of your audience; they will ignore the message and then you will have lost an opportunity.

You need to be focused on your message and on your audience and find ways to connect your message to them in a way that makes sense and is absorbed. Storytelling, anecdotes, examples are far more effective transmitters of the message than just the message by itself.

Focus on Your body language

Just as important as your actual voice is how you present yourself to your audience. Having an open, relaxed stance, and using eye contact where you can, has the same effect as the appropriate tone, mentioned in the previous point. Your body language will offer a lot in terms of engagement, for the audience.

Speak at a level that matches your audience

If you’re a scientist but you are speaking to a group of non-scientific laypersons, match your language to their knowledge and abilities. If they aren’t familiar with the vernacular of the area you are speaking about, including acronyms, you will lose them.

Similarly, if you’re a business leader and you’re talking to a group of CEOs, you don’t need to talk down to them and explain basic concepts of economics. Not matching your speaking level to the audience in question can result in you confusing them and losing the message.

Practice, practice, practice!

If you’re new to public speaking, the best thing you can do is practice.

It’s best if you can deliver your speech without detailed notes and leverage some points from reference cards instead. But this takes some preparation.

Why is it best?

Because you’ll engage more effectively with the audience if you’re not looking down at pages of notes the whole time you’re speaking. Your voice will project better and you’ll be able to read nonverbal cues as to whether or not your words are making a connecting (nodding of heads, open, relaxed faces, etc.)

If you can, record yourself on video. You’ll never hear or see the things you do that are distracting if you don’t literally hear and see yourself. The incessant ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that some people insert into their speaking are distracting for the audience and detract from the overall effect of the words. Similarly, nervous laughter or over excited arm movements and gestures can overwhelm the audience.

Final Thoughts

Speaking well gives a person authority, a quality that is not just handed over simply because you have a title. It’s this authority that is among the more difficult to pinpoint aspects of quality leadership.

That said, when a person has it, the audience knows it and responds accordingly, whether that set of people is a small team or an assembly of four hundred investors. Master public speaking and you’ve mastered a vital skill for leadership.

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Productivity Tips for Leaders | BridgeBetween.com

Essential Productivity Tips for Leaders

Working your way toward sustained success.

You were not born productive or with a manual filled with productivity tips for leaders. If anything, most of us spent the better part of our youths being the opposite. Productivity is learned and if it’s a skill that you haven’t quite mastered yet, it’s not a hopeless ideal!

There are some essential things you can do to be more productive in your day to day and as a leader, modeling the kind of attitude and behavior that you’ll no doubt want to see in your team.

After all, the old saying: “Time is money” has a ring of truth to it, doesn’t it? Wasting time ultimately wastes money, along with other resources along the way, so eliminating as much waste as you can is essential.

Have clear goals

This can’t be overstated: if you don’t have a clear vision as to what the end goal is, you will not be able to find a productive path to get there. Once your vision is clear, you can establish the tasks that need to be taken to achieve said goal.

It might seem redundant to say that you need to prioritize your tasks, in addition to knowing your end goal, but it bears repeating. Team members and leaders alike can end up dithering and flailing around in a multi-tasking quagmire, and ultimately not being very productive, if they aren’t sure where to begin.

Don’t forget, too, that short term (weekly/daily) goal planning is just as important: it will help you with prioritizing the tasks at hand.

In line with clear goals is the ability to refuse tasks. You have to say no sometimes. If you are constantly taking on meetings, speaking engagements and in general tasks that aren’t related to the goals you’ve set out, your productivity will get bogged down from going in too many directions at once.
 

L.I.F.E. @ A GLANCE PLANNER: Organize your priorities and invest your time wisely.

 

Productivity isn’t about time in the chair

Most leaders who have understood the principles of effective team management have long gone past the point where they equate time in the chair with productivity, in evaluating their team members.

The same applies to you, as a leader. Being the first into the office and the last to leave does not make you productive and it doesn’t really serve to show your team members an effective method to achieve productivity.

A good way to maximize your time is to block off time where you can’t be reached. Notifiers can become the ultimate distraction. Turn the phone to ‘do not disturb’, block the time on your calendar for everyone else to see… disconnect. As a leader, you can’t get away with it everyday, but once in awhile, it’s a great way to get on top of a runaway list of tasks.

Know yourself

Are you more productive in the early morning? Late at night? Right around noon? Do you think better after a workout? Make sure you block off time in your schedule during those productive times, so that you can get the work done that requires a lot of intensive thinking.

Schedule the more routine tasks—like answering emails—for when you’re at a lower point on your productivity scale. A lot of people find that to be middle of the afternoon but to each their own!

TIP: Many high level executives avoid email first thing in the morning. You can get really bogged down in the details of things that you actually don’t even need to be involved in, losing out on what is a highly productive time for most people.

Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need it: slogging through tasks when you’re overtired and undernourished isn’t going to result in good work. This too is a good behavior to model for your team members: if you feel okay taking a break now and again, they will be too.

Choose the tools—and team—that work for you

Some people swear by their phone calendars or apps designed to remind you about everything. Others like to kick it old school and rely on pen and paper (hint: I’m more the latter!) Use what tools work for you, not what’s ‘in’ or ‘trending’!

Having the right team is a major factor in personal productivity as a leader. It’s not about having people who can run with the job without even talking to you: it’s about trust. If you know they can get something done, you will feel comfortable relinquishing the task to them, instead of micromanaging it and losing out on productivity. It’s a win-win too because a team member who feels nurtured but not hovered over will respond with outstanding effort.

Confront the task you hate the most first

Getting rid of the most daunting task first sets the tone for the rest of your day. You can envision it being smoother and more productive if you get rid of the one thing that’s been bugging you or dragging on for a while. A lot about being productive is about mindset. Free your mind from something that was getting between you and creativity and you will see your productivity levels skyrocket!

 

An essential element to productivity is knowing what’s happening today, tomorrow and in the not so distant future. It’s easier to prioritize if you know what’s coming down the pipeline, and a tool like the L.I.F.E. @ a Glance Planner will help you drive your tasks towards your end goal by “Living In Focus Everyday”.

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team communication

Team Communication: How to Speak So Your Team Will Listen

Not only listen, but take action, too.

Team communication should be very important to all leaders. Whether speaking to a large group or a small team, there are ways you can engage with your ‘audience’ so that they will not just hear you but actively listen and even take action on what you’re telling them. It’s an art form, really.

Motivating positive reactions versus acting from a place of fear, or worse, disdain. It’s an important skill for leaders to master in order to be effective with their team.

Be genuine and be present

No matter the size of the group, if you speak to all them as if you were speaking to one of them, you’re more likely to get a positive response. It’s not an easy thing to do at first, and will require some practice, but doing it will reap many rewards.

Appearing genuine and human is essential for people to want to take in what you’re saying and, further, act on it. That really only comes if each person in the audience feels as though you are speaking directly to them. Putting on the ‘big shot’ persona isn’t appealing and doesn’t invite others to act on your words. Be real.

Being present is also important: eye contact for smaller groups, body language that is open and receptive, focusing on what is happening in the moment and not fidgeting, fussing or, worst, looking at a phone. The audience needs to feel that, in that moment, you are 100% there for the message and for them.

Listen—actually listen—to the feedback

Feedback isn’t always verbal. Take non-verbal cues from your audience into account when you are speaking with them. You need to be able to adjust what you’re saying on the fly, so that you don’t lose the audience and you remain connected to them.

Someone who feels they need to say everything they had on their agenda, regardless of how it’s received, simply to ‘make their point’, isn’t communicating effectively. If you’re looking for feedback or an actual dialogue on the subject, you’ll know that you’re not reaching your audience when they tune you out or don’t ask any meaningful questions.

Further to the last point, you should always be looking to create that dialogue. Communicating to create action is not a one way street: it’s not command it, and it will happen. People simply don’t respond to that kind of demagogue like speechmaking.

Focus on the WHY, not the WHAT

When you want people to act on what you’re saying, you have to give them the motivation and, to some extent, that feeling is more important than the acts themselves. Look at it like storytelling: if you tell a group WHY you’re passionate about a new process that you want to put in place, and not just THAT you want to put it in place, you will develop buy in from your audience far more quickly and effectively.

If you start with just the fact of a change that you want them to engage in, you’re putting walls and barriers for those who might be reluctant followers before you’ve even begun. If you start with the why, your motivation, your passion… you will get far more people nodding along with you, understanding your thought process and wanting to run with it on your behalf.

The reality is, most people aren’t born communicators. The skills needed to reach an audience and compel them to action are learned. It’s a major effort for most people but it’s worth every moment spent acquiring the skills and practicing them because communication and leadership are synonymous. You really can’t have one without the other.

 

With that in mind, executive coaching might be just what you need to take your communications, and your leadership, to the next level. Contact us today for more information.

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