The Deliverance of No December 19, 2011Posted by David Dirks in Communication, Confidence.
Tags: David Dirks, dirks on strategy, no, no as a strategy, the power of no
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Often one of the early words (not the first of course but not far behind) in a young child’s vocabulary is the word “no”. Of course, as we age we tend to spend more time using the word “yes” and the word “no” begins to fade from our vocabulary.
We say yes to just about everything. Surely there’s plenty of times when “yes” must be deployed. Like the time you get your first big job offer or promotion early in your career (and then a few more times after that). When your future spouse asked you to marry. When your kid asks if he or she can have that special something for their birthday. When a close friend reaches out and asks you for help. When a client has a major problem and asks you if you think you can help them resolve it. These are all great times to say “yes”.
Then again, there are many times to use the word “no” in our personal and professional lives. Here are a few of my favorite times to use the word “no”:
When someone who can afford the work asks me to work for free (or next to free).
When someone I work with makes a commitment for me without consulting me first.
When someone spams me on the phone.
When some stranger approaches me for cab fare giving me a story on why they don’t have it (it’s a scam…you’d be surprised at how many people give in to it and give money to a criminal).
When your teenager thinks you owe them a car.
When the person who just sent you an email sits in front of their computer or cell phone waiting for an immediate response.
When your cell phone rings in the middle of a meeting or conversation with anyone.
When someone asks if you received their text message on your phone.
When someone asks if your interested in serving on yet another non-profit board or taking on a “fantastic” committee opportunity.
I can think of a lot of reasons to say “no” these days. The deliverance of “no” is simple. It frees you from having to wear yourself down with a plague of insistent questions or queries. It frees you from taking on responsibilities that only bog your life down and yield little to anyone. It clears the air of constant interruptions and forced ADD.
Just try it sometime. It’s quite habit forming. And you’ll learn to enjoy the sometimes jolted look on the face of the person who fully expects (and in their minds insists) you say “yes”.
And the Winner is…High-Quality Content! March 7, 2011Posted by David Dirks in Communication, Creating Marketing Materials, Creativity.
Tags: beating a recession, best practices, David Dirks, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, strategy
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In early March of 2011 Google confirmed for all time what I contend has always been the foundation of success in any medium: high-quality content. Scrolls, books, magazines, newspapers and all other content delivery vehicles before the digital age have always lived or died based their content. All Google did was declare war on sites that deliver low quality content that offers little use for readers.
As a creator and user of information myself, I’ve always been critical of content vehicles (digital or not) that offer little or no useful information. In the digital world, the art & science (more art than anything because Google keeps its algorithm a secret), of “search engine optimization” or SEO, has created players who would rather game the system than provide you with solid content.
So it’s nice to know that the rules of the content game remain safely the same. If you want to develop content of any kind, it must be created and engineered so that people easily recognize and value it.
I’ll throw in three basic tenants for developing content that I’ve learned over many years of trial, error, and success.
Relevant: The content must be a match to the reader or user. People will search for content in any delivery vehicle (magazine, website), which is material they instantly recognize as useful in the context of their interests.
Engaging: High-quality content engages the reader by pulling their minds in directions they delightfully didn’t expect to go…but are glad they did when they get there. Content that challenges and inspires the mind on a subject has always been a jewel. High-quality content should be a great experience.
Insightful: Content, whether written, verbal, or visual has to have enough depth to allow the creator to draw out any number of valuable insights. My bias is for content to have insights that have a practical and actionable nature for the user.
Creating and sharing high-quality content is a timeless way to provide valuable information for both prospects and clients. Google’s war against low-quality content just reaffirmed what we knew all along.
Building rapport in a global environment June 20, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Building rapport, Building trust, Communication, Global leadership, Knowing your people, Leading globally, Management, Networking.
Tags: build rapport, gathering topics about people, global culture, global rapport, global team, knowing people, Leading globally, remember facts about people
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Building rapport with global team member is a daunting task for most global team leaders. The Big Dogz know that using a structured approach and a consistent information capturing tool goes a long way toward helping you be effective at building rapport over the chasms of time and distance.
In building rapport, the first thing all effective leaders focus upon is the people. What do I want to know about my team members? What information would be useful for me to customize my approach and interactions with the team member? Actually, the techniques for building rapport over time and distance are no different from building rapport face to face.
Create a list of topics that would be useful for you.
Here are some work related examples:
What job experiences do they have?
What are their career objectives?
What is their preferred communication style?
How do they like to receive feedback?
What is their favorite (most and least) work assignment?
What are their strengths?
What skills would they like to acquire?
What is the anniversary of them joining the company or your team?
Here are some personal related examples:
What is their commute?
What hobbies do they have?
What pressures do they experience outside of work?
What is their family situation?
When is theiur birthday?
Who are the people they admire?
What is their favorite television show?
Do they like sports? What teams?
Another key set of information that may be useful in a global environment is cultural data such as:
Key historical events
National sports teams
You can develop your own list of information that would be helpful to you. Try to fill in the information for each item that would be useful for you.
Acquiring this information is an art form in itself! I am not suggesting you conduct an interrogation to discover the answers to these or other questions you may have about your team members. An effective technique to help you discover both work and personal related information is to first share something about yourself. To discover someone’s hobby, you might mention that you went on a hike this weekend and enjoy hiking. They may respond that hiking is not something they do, but they prefer cycling. Or, they may not respond at all. The key is to listen for information that can help you build rapport.
Once you have acquired information that is useful to you, I suggest you put that information into a file related to this person. Sales people use this technique when acquiring information about key clients. Standard contact management software like Outlook and BlackBerry have specific places where you can store this information. I am not well known for my ability to recall information about people, so for me, this technique is quite useful. Prior to making contact with people, I frequently review my information file to allow me to customize my approach to them.
The Big Dogz also know that people are interested in them. Think about what you would want your global team members to know about you. Prepare a short introduction presentation and deliver it to any new team members. Periodically review the salient points of your introduction at team meetings. Give people an opportunity to build rapport with you.
Focus on what information is important, capture that information and use it to customize your approach to building rapport with global team members.
Communication tools for the Global Team Leader June 3, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Team basics, Uncategorized.
Tags: communication tools, Global communication, global communication tools, global team leader tools, tools for the global team leader
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The Big Dogz not only employ the most effective communication technology, they also use special techniques to facilitate the exchange of information.
One of the most perplexing problems faced by the global leader is what time of the 24 hour day do we have meetings or just interact with each other? An answer is the availability map.
This tool is used to describe your availability situation visually. Sometimes seeing the situation visually can help give insights to how best to solve your problem. First you get a copy of the world time zone map. I have attached one for your use.
First find your location on the map and draw a straight line representing your normal work day, usually 8 hours. The line starts in your time zone and goes west for 8 time zones. Next find the locations of your global team members and draw a line for each of them. Use the start of their time zone as the start of the day. When you are finished, you will have a set of parallel lines that may or may not overlap. Using this picture, figure out how you will handle the issue of availability.
I have attached a sample of a completed availability map for a widely dispersed global team. As you can see on this map, there are no easy solutions, but we now have a better definition of the problem.
If I need to talk to someone, when will they be there? Of course the hours of availability provide an excellent opportunity to communicate. For a specific time in those hours, set aside time for all communications technology to be enabled. This means:
Cell phones and pagers on
Voice mail check
Be around to answer the phone
Need to get everyone together for a quick announcement. Use the electronic huddle. Any of the group communication technologies work for the huddle. These impromptu meetings are short and focused on one topic. When your team has mastered the control to keep huddle meetings short, you can add status reporting to the list of topics. Here are some effective topics for a huddle:
Kickoff a mini project
Recognition of a team member
Identify help people need
Congratulations or greeting for a cultural event
Need a place to post announcements and to store documents? Using a free project management solution like ActiveCollab can address most of your needs to store information that is vital to the team. Or, those of you in large corporations check this out with your IT person. Most IT organizations have the capability to set up your website. Here is just some of the information that could be stored on the web:
Contact points meeting minutes
Pictures and bios of team members
Links to resources
Make sure you let everyone know when the website has been updated.
Tags: best practices, communications, global communications, Global leadership, global team, teleconference, telephone call, video conference, virtual meetings
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In this entry, I will complete discussing the best practices for the remainder of the global communications technologies.
The Big Dogz use the telephone call when there is a high interpersonal component to the message. We want to take advantage of using the tone to add value to our effectiveness in both sending and receiving messages.
- Make a plan. Sketch out how you want the conversation to proceed. What information do you need to convey or acquire.
- Practice the call. If this is a very important call, invest a few minutes in practicing what you will say.
- Use paraphrasing. Periodically, summarize what you have heard and ask the listener to summarize so you can check if you are communicating effectively.
- Have a picture of the person you are talking with in front of you. Focus on the picture while you talk; this will keep you from multi-tasking and will help you remember you are talking to a person.
- Follow up any agreements or commitments with an email. Review the email with the person before you send it to others.
The Big Dogz use teleconferencing to communicate with groups of people about complex issues.
- Publish an agenda prior to the teleconference
- Encourage people to share pictures of themselves so they can put a face to the voice
- Distribute any presentation material in advance
- Ask everyone to introduce or identify themselves when joining the call
- Have anyone who speaks to identify themselves before saying their piece
- Identify conference protocols like when to speak
- Be aware of cultural difference in telephone etiquette
- Use paraphrasing to facilitate understanding
- Take notes on key decisions, key information disclosed and any action commitments made. Send this document to the teleconference attendees for validation before sending to people outside the call
Groupware (Webex, Live Meeting, etc)
The Big Dogz use groupware to take advantage of the visual as well as the auditory cues in global communication. This medium is ideal for communication that is complex and requires a significant interpersonal interaction. All of the best practices for teleconferencing apply here as well. In addition:
- Use a webcam to show a video of yourself. It is amazing how much more attentive people are when they can see you. If possible use webcams for all the people in the meeting. Of course when you get more than three people in the meeting, it can get confusing moving all the video around.
- Have a list of all the participants and track how much they are engaged. When you see someone’s engagement get out of proportion, take corrective action to address the issue.
- Take advantage of the features of the virtual meeting service. Providing materials, setting up assessments and surveys are some of the excellent tools available. Most services allow the participants to use a chat feature. Make use of this feature to capture ideas and discussion points. Once the session is over, you can send the chat file to all the participants.
- Have a word processing document available for capturing the minutes of the meeting. Update it dynamically and at the end of the meeting, review it then send a copy to all the participants. I have attached a Word file you can use for capturing information about your virtual meeting. Please feel free to use it.
The Big Dogz use video conferencing when communicating complex information with larger groups requiring a high level of interpersonal interaction. All of the best practices for the face to face meetings apply here. In addition:
- Be aware that video technology may not appear smooth. The technology has advanced well enough to provide television quality video; however, these levels of sophistication require enormous bandwidth capabilities and may not be available at your installation.
- Use the video to focus in on the speaker so that we can take advantage of tone and non verbal cues.
- Share the time in the video close-ups.
- Remind people that unnecessary movement detracts from people’s ability to focus on the meeting.
- If your videoconferencing system has a “self view” function, use it to see how you are being seen by the people at the other end of the conference.
- Once you make the adjustments for optimum video and audio components, leave them alone. Constant changing of the focus or sound levels can be distracting.
- How you dress can be important in a videoconference. Light clothing is more effective than darker clothing.
- If snacks are being provided at some locations and not others, have them out of camera range.
The Big Dogz know that communicating effectively in a global team environment is difficult. By using these best practices, you can be one of the Big Dogz.
Voice mail best practices for the global leader May 7, 2009Posted by rickbron in Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally.
Tags: best practices, Global communication, voice mail best practices
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The next communications technology we will examine is voice mail. The Big Dogz know to use voice mail when the content is simple and we want to impart some interpersonal component like tone to communicate not just the information, but perhaps a sense of urgency with tone.
Here are some best practices around leaving voice mail:
- Plan your call
Most of the time when we call people, we get voice mail. When leaving a voice mail, you want to sound professional. Before you make that call, sketch out what you will say. I recommend you actually practice your message before making the call. Once you get voicemail, you have a short outline and will leave a professional sounding voice mail. If you get the person, you now have an outline of the discussion.
- Always leave your name and number even if this is a person you leave voice mail on a daily basis.
- Keep your messages short
- If you want the person to take action, give them enough information so they do not need to call you
- If you can not leave a short message, leave a message for them to call you.
- Speak in a pleasant voice; smiling can make a big difference.
- Speak slowly and clearly; having to replay voice mails to understand you is irritating!
- When you are leaving important information, lead with “Here is the information about the new client.” Then pause to allow the person to get something to capture the information.
- Some voice mail systems will let you replay the message you want to leave. If you are fortunate to encounter this feature, by all means use it. Sometimes we are not aware of the message our tone or language is sending. If your message is not what you want to send, erase it and leave a different message.
Here are some tips for your voice mail greeting:
- Keep your greeting short, simple and informative
- Include your name or function.
- Let the caller know that if you are out of the office , who they should call
- Let the caller know when you will return calls. I will get back to you as soon as possible is not as effective as I will return your call within one business day.
- Some people advise updating your voicemail message daily. I recommend a general greeting that applies everyday. There is an advantage to updating your message every day because it lets people know you are at business that day. Consider the options and choose what works for you.
- If your voice mail technology permits it, give the caller an early opportunity to skip to the beep.
Finally, some tips about processing voice mail:
- Set aside a specific time each day to empty your voice mail
- Take advantage of technology that will send you an email alert when you get a voice mail
- Having a voice mail inbox that is full, really irritates someone trying to reach you
E-mail best practices for the global leader April 22, 2009Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally.
Tags: best practices, communicate by email, effective email, email, email best practice, global communications, Global leadership, using email, using technology to communicatye
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The Big Dogz match their choice of communication technology to the degree of interpersonal interaction required coupled with complexity of the topic. I discussed the technology choices in my last entry. This entry looks at some best practices for using E-mail.
· Keep it short, no more that 1 scroll for the receiver. If you need more than that, it is probably too complex to use e-mail. Try a phone call instead.
· Try putting your entire message on the subject line.
· Use tags on the subject line.
Action: when you want the recipient to take action
Response: when you are responding to a request from the recipient
FYI (H,M,L): when you are just giving information to the recipient
It is amazing. When you start using these tags to send email to others, they will start using the same tags with you.
· Use the subject line to get the attention of the reader without being melodramatic.
· Consider the guideline “One e-mail, one topic.” It makes it easier for the recipient to focus.
· If you are asking for information, leave a space between each request. The recipient can put the answer in the space. Make it easy for them to respond.
· Use shared websites for large files. Sending large attachments clog the network. Just include the link.
· Forget the background scenery. It just irritates most people.
· Never send an email when you are emotional! Write your response and store it in the Draft folder for later reading. Once you have calmed down, read the email from the perspective of the receiver. A good technique is to read the e-mail aloud to make sure it is not threatening. In more sensitive situations, have a colleague read the e-mail and give you feedback. Make changes and then send.
· Using caps, colors and other fonts can help the recipient focus on what is important. Be careful of over doing it.
· If you are seeking information, use pre-defined forms to make it easy for the recipient to give you the information.
· Run spell check. Look for other non-spelling errors like the use of form when you mean from.
· Use cc and bcc sparingly. Make sure every person cc’d needs to be aware of the information. If you are using bcc too much, it may be a sign that you need to talk to the person.
· Use “Reply all” only when everyone needs to see your response.
· Stay out of flame wars. If you are the target, use the telephone to handle the situation.
· If you send two emails on the same subject and the recipient still does not understand, make an appointment to talk to them
· Using sarcasm in an e-mail will always get you into trouble. Sometimes we feel we are being cute with sarcasm, but the recipient does not think we are being sarcastic. They think we really mean it.
· Never put anything in an e-mail that you would not want read in a court of law. For some of us, this also means never put anything in an email that you would not read in front of your mother!
I have special tip I want to share for those who communicate with people who have English as a second language. Try to keep your vocabulary and content at the eighth grade level or lower. For those of you in the USA and most of Europe, this means 13-14 year olds. Now, the vocabulary of a native English speaking 13-14 year old is very impressive. I am not suggesting you speak like a 13-14 year old; just use that level vocabulary. Here is how you can check the grade level of your e-mail to your global team members with ESL.
1. Copy your e-mail and paste it into Word.
2. Click on Tools
3. Click Options
4. Click Spelling & Grammar
5. Click the box next to Show Readability Statistics
6. Click OK
7. Run spell check
At the end of the spell check, you will get a report of the readability level of the content. If you copy and paste this entry into Word, you will see I have written it at grade level 6.2.
To customize your readability to each global team member, run the readability statistics report for e-mails they send to you. You can improve the effectiveness your e-mail by using English at the same readability level.
If you have any tips or techniques for communicating more effectively using e-mail, please send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your tip.
Next, I will be looking at some best practices for communicating with voice mail.
Global communication technology April 14, 2009Posted by rickbron in 18916129, Bronder On People, Communication, Management.
Tags: communicatin technology, communicating globally, customizing global communication, effective global leadership, global communicaiton, matching technology to communication, using technology to communicate
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Communicating in a global environment is a significant challenge and can sometimes be a daunting experience. The first aspect of global communication the Big Dogz focus on is the technology. Matching the communications technology with the situation will go a long way toward making your global communications more effective.
Choosing the optimum technology starts with looking at two major dimensions of the communication.
- How much interpersonal interaction do you desire?
- How complex is the content?
Using these two dimensions, the Big Dogz can determine the optimum communication technology. Here are eight possible technology choices.
Use this technology when the interpersonal contact is low and content is the least complex. Effective uses of e-mail include specific answers to questions, announcements, quick thank you notes or conversation summaries. E-mail is the most preferred communication technology amongst global leaders. It is also the least effective communication technology relative to understanding. E-mail is widely used because it is quick, easy and can withstand time zone differences. When you select e-mail for other than simple communication, you can count on spending more time later sorting out the problems! The Big Dogz consider e-mail the technology of last resort. Use it sparingly.
Voice mail adds the power of tone to your communication. Tone is important for communicating urgency. This sense of urgency addresses the slightly higher need for interpersonal contact in the communication. Also, you can address a more complex topic with voicemail. Voicemail is a more effective choice than e-mail because of the tone factor. However, it is always a good practice to follow up with an e-mail since that is the preferred communication technology.
3. Instant message
When you have an urgent message to send and the message is simple, instant messaging is an effective technology. In recent time, IM technology advances have been spectacular, and IM has become almost indispensable for communicating when people are working at the same time. IM is quick and allows two-way communication. You can also save the content for later reference to make sure you understand what transpired. For those skilled it its use, the IM technology, in some situations, can be as effective as the next technology.
4. Telephone call
Good old fashioned talking to one another! This technology is effective for high interpersonal contact and content complexity. It is two-way communication without the non-verbal signals. The lack of non-verbal signals is a major drawback; however, most people can accommodate the difference with more emphasis on tone. The telephone allows the highly interactive paraphrasing that is the hallmark of effective communication. The Big Dogz use this technology when the topic is important or personal.
5. Telephone conference
Ahhhh, the joys of a virtual meeting! This technology is most effective when you need interpersonal contact to share information or generate solutions to complex issues. The telephone conference allows you to involve more people simultaneously and to deliver more information quickly. One of the major mistakes made in telephone conferences is that there is no validation that everyone understood the same thing! The Big Dogz know that taking some time at the end of a teleconference to verify a common understanding makes future teleconferences shorter.
In this category, the Big Dogz include tools like Microsoft Live Meeting, Webex Meeting and others for conducting virtual meetings. Using these tools adds a significant improvement to the virtual meeting. They allow anyone at the meeting to display visual representations of information. Even simple slides with bullet points are more effective than trying to explain with just spoken words. Once you conduct a global meeting with one of these tools, you will never go back to just conference calls. Of all the technologies here, I believe this one has the highest return on investment in providing communication that is more effective. One of the drawbacks to this technology is that is it same time technology and that does not address the time zone challenge. However, the Big Dogz will use this technology anytime they can! Interactive virtual meetings address a need for high interpersonal contact while allowing the global tem to discuss and resolve complex issues.
Also in this category are the tools that allow you to share stored information on the internet or within your organization’s intranet. Having a team website falls into this category. The team website is a great place to store common documents, status reports or to contain information about the people on the project. Recent major advances in website development tools have made it easier for anyone to create a website. This is no longer a request to the IT department. One big advantage of the team website is that it spans time zones.
7. Video conference
Video technology takes the virtual meeting concept to the next level. With video, you get the non-verbal component, which adds significant power to the communication process. Video conference technology is often difficult to find in any but the large corporations since it is so expensive. Again, technology has come to the rescue in the form of the webcam. This technology is very effective for one-on-one meetings between the global leader and team members. It addresses the need for high interpersonal contact and high complexity. Using webcams in regular team meetings also increase the interactivity of the team members. The good news is that webcams are relatively inexpensive and available everywhere. The no so good news is that webcams consume large quantities of internet bandwidth. The Big Dogz check to see if they can use webcams and use them whenever possible.
8. Face to face
OK, well not exactly a technology. Face to face communication is by far the most effective way to communicate. You get all three major components of a communication — the content, the tone and the non-verbal signals. This technology is most effective for building rapport and commitment. Of course, the major drawback with this technology is the cost in time and money. The Big Dogz do everything they can to get at least one face to face meeting with each member of the global team.
Choosing the optimum technology can significantly improve your capability to lead a global team successfully. The Big Dogz know that you can’t always use the technology you want, but you can make an informed decision and be aware of the potential problems that could arise from using less than optimum technology.
In my next entry, I will describe some of the best practices with each of these technologies.