Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Are You an Expert Question Asker?

Questions Are a Powerful Communication Tool

In the spirit of the 1% - one skill for sure we need to have in our professional skill portfolio is the ability to ask the right, the best question.

Why? Questions are a highly effective and necessary communication tool in many ways.

Here are just a few powerful uses of the question:
__  it stirs and speaks to the subconscious (where everything we really are is housed; especially our core truths).
__ it helps people learn how to think, process, and come to their own conclusion (very useful in persuasion).
__ it helps people consider a new line of thought
__ it's a way of building rapport
__ a way of expressing care and concern
__ it's a great way to communicate with someone who resists being "told" what to do
__ it helps quickly redirect an unpleasant conversation

Questions provoke, inspire, lead, teach, motivate to name a few - thereby making it an essential element for your personal and professional communication toolkit.

Of course how you ask a question matters as well.   For example if it's done with an "interrogating" tone...that may evoke the opposite of what you want - shutting someone down vs. opening someone up.
Tone in communication can be used very strategically.

Question Asking 101
One of the easiest ways to get started developing the skill of question asking is starting with what I call the power 6 - 6 words we learned in our elementary years: who, what, when, where, how, why. I recommend you begin practicing with these.

For some of us (those with management styles that are more directing), getting the feeling of and developing the habit of being an "asker vs. a teller" will be a very interesting and informative practice.

Additionally as you use these questions, determine what you want to accomplish with them.  Do you want to...

  • have someone consider something different?
  • teach them a lesson?
  • encourage them to learn to problem solve via developing options?
  • feel cared for

So here is our coaching question from this 1% lesson - In what area(s) do you need to enhance your communication effectiveness?  How can being a skilled question asker help you achieve that?...and ok...I can't resist - 1 more question - What are the benefits of developing this skill? you? your team?

By the way, the book this blog is based on is in the question format.  The book is designed as a coaching book - it's more of an "asking" book vs. a "telling" book. If you haven't gotten a copy yet, I recommend the workbook version - which includes the questions.  This version is also available on Kindle. - E-store  (scroll to the bottom)
Bonus Tip: Take the time to consider how your fellow team members communicate. Observe. Do you think your team or department could benefit for a communications or team building workshop? I consider the ability to work effectively with others an essential individual contributor core competency. Learn about that and employee trainings in this category.
This blog is based on this book. In it are actionable ideas on being a better manager: The 1% Edge - The Workbook - Power Strategies to Increase Your Management Effectiveness

Check out our latest releases: Brain on Fire & 15 Shifts - E-store

Friday, August 7, 2015

Thinking of a Career Change? 3 Key Considerations

Introduction: I was having our usually, wonderful collaborative conversation with long time friend and colleague Alan Allard (the guy I interviewed for the happiness series) about career concerns for his niece. I started my career coaching practice back in 1998 (phew that sounds so long ago!!) and the things I shared with him for her to consider have really held useful through-out the years.

He felt they were so valuable, he used them in his guest post at So I decided, rather than repeat myself I would curate his post and share. Enjoy!

Alan's Post
Yesterday, I received an email from someone I’ve known and respected for over a decade. Kathy* has been in middle management at a large company for the past five years, but for the past two, she's been feeling less than passionate about her work. She is contemplating a career change. When we last spoke on the phone, she said, “I’ve only told you, my husband, and one other person about this. Frankly, you’re the only one who hasn’t told me I’m nuts.”

I wasn’t surprised, but I felt for her. Most people would say that the last thing one should do in these challenging economic times is take a risk. “Hold on to what you’ve got” seems to be the popular wisdom. But guess what? Staying in a position that doesn’t challenge or fulfill you carries risks of its own. Doing so is a sure path to boredom or burnout—not to mention a missed opportunity to pursue the next grand adventure!

If you’re considering a change of direction but unsure as to what that might look like, author and career coach JoAnn Corley recommends doing three things:
  • Think in terms of function. Set aside titles and job descriptions. Instead, think about what functions you have been delivering and that might be needed in other industries. Don’t most organizations need project managers, accountants, and sales professionals? Even if you’ve spent 5-10 years in one field, your skills are likely desired elsewhere as well.
  • Look to your younger years. Take a mental trip back to childhood. What did playtime look like? A colleague of mine used to imagine hosting and interviewing guests รก la Johnny Carson (this was pre-Oprah!). Today, she has worked for more than a decade as a speaker and trainer, putting her natural bent for entertainment to use.
  • Steer clear of the classroom. Fear and uncertainty send too many viable employees back to school. Is another degree really necessary, or just an excuse to postpone the inevitable? Companies don't hire diplomas; they hire people who can perform. Your job is to convince the hiring manager that you can solve problems and uncover opportunities.
Of course, there's more to changing careers than these three bullet points, but that's plenty to mull over for now. If you have a specific question about reinventing yourself or your career, leave a comment. I'll be happy to explore the issue further.
Alan Allard, Career Coach  |  Or: you can contact me via the CONTACT TAB to the bottom right...

Check out the latest release: Organizational Strategies for the Overwhelmed - how to manage your time, space, & priorities, to work smart, get results & be happy -  Kindle - The Book - Nook - Audio Book -  The Seminar

This blog is based on this book. In it are actionable ideas on being a better manager: The 1% Edge - The Workbook - Power Strategies to Increase Your Management Effectiveness

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What Leaders Need to Know and Won't Be Told In a Typical Time Management Seminar

Time management -- it is one of the most popular topics in any professional development offering.  It’s been around for years. Franklin Covey put it on the map, made it mainstream and it’s one of the most popular professional development key word searches on Google.

In general, people are aware of it, think they should be doing it, and believe it is important.  And yet I must say, when you take a traditional time management seminar or training there are critical issues that dramatically impact it that won’t be mentioned.

As a leader or manager, why should you care? Those critical issues directly impact your company’s bottom line.

I’ve traveled across North America over the past 16 years teaching time management, getting organized, and reducing stress seminars. I teach leadership seminars and coach corporate managers and small business owners and from those experiences (and my own) have gleaned insights that are fundamental to effective time management and its connection to company profits.

To follow are a few of those insights not typically heard and I’ll suggest that without being aware of them, time management training, as we know it – will be minimally effective.  In essence you won’t really be getting what you’re paying for.

What you won’t hear in a typical time management seminar:

1. Trouble employees waste time. I don’t mean to sound heartless. Yet it’s very important that those who lead understand that more time, energy, and focus is taken up with trouble employees than with those who are productive.

A study released by the Future Foundation several years ago entitled: The Hidden Costs of Poor People Management (worth a read for sure) shared some interesting findings: U.S. managers waste an average of 34 days per year dealing with underperformance. Senior executives claim they spend seven weeks a year -- or over an hour per day -- managing badly performing employees.

Why?…well that leads to #2.

2. The lack of understanding of behavior and effective performance management wastes time. One of the major issues that managers have (as I have met thousands across the country) is that they do not know how to manage behavior – which in essence is managing people.

Couple that with the lack of company process and strategy to effectively and quickly coach folks to improve – or clearly decide it’s time for them to go and that adds up to a lot of wasted time.

Bottom line…there is a lot of time spent with employees who should be let go a lot sooner!

This situation leads to #3.

3. A lack of knowledge wastes time. There is more opportunity to train employees and managers than ever before and opportunities I might add that will not break the bank and yet, the lack of training in general for employees and particularly for managers is an epidemic and completely unnecessary.

A very doable and affordable time management strategy is to have embedded in every business growth strategy an employee and management growth strategy. I’ve seen it – as employees grow in skills and capabilities, a business grows. In our talent management practice we suggest 5 core competencies for individual employees. We suggest including them in your on-boarding and each initial performance plan. Click here to learn more

4. Managers unskilled in managing time waste the time of their staff and negatively impacts your profits.  Ok, this is self explanatory- time management training should be a fundamental offering at every company just like employee orientation.

And for the record, I want to speak out for the many workers of America (from all 50 states I might add) who’ve told me how unorganized and time inefficient some of their managers are and the incredible amount of unnecessary stress that creates.

Alrighty, I could share more, but those are compelling enough for sure.

So, consider these questions: 

  1. Is time management and time management training a part of your business execution and profit strategy? 
  2. Do you believe that the skill of managing time is fundamental to business success and a company’s bottom line?  
  3. How does your company operations reflect success in the areas mentioned above…or not?

I’ll leave you with this final thought and question: If your business could have 3 extra weeks of time for just 1 employee how would you re-direct that time to impact profits? Where can you get 3 weeks or more?

Here’s how:
After I present the managing interruption tips in my seminar, I pose this question, “How much time do you think you could recapture in a day from that one tip?”  I get a myriad of answers ranging from several hours to 15 – 20 minutes.
I then ask them to calculate the answer using numbers on the low side, so we usually use 30 minutes.  Here’s how it looks:
1 Week: 30 mins. a day recaptured x 5 days = 150 mins. (2.5 hrs.)
1 Month: 150 mins. x 4 weeks = 600 mins. (10 hrs)
1 Quarter: 10 hrs. in a month x 3 mths. = 30 hrs (3.75 days assuming 8 hrs in an average work day).
1 Year: 30 hrs x 4 quarters = 120 hrs. (15 days divided by 5 work days = 3 weeks!
Think about it for a moment - taking back 3 weeks of time for just 1 employee. Now, calculate that for an entire team. How could that impact a company’s bottom line? Conclusion?...time can be translated into profits.