Monday, September 15, 2014

How do I manage drop-in visitors?

Do interruptions frustrate your productivity? Typically, people who work in cubicles are interrupted about six times an hour!

Ways to manage drop-in visitors: 

·         Go to their's easier to control the length of time.
·         Think ahead and try to meet outside of your office.
·         Put a sign across the entrance that reads, "Please come back at 1:00."
·         Take the visitor's chair out of your office.
·         Rearrange your furniture so your back is to the cubicle entrance.

Please note that one or two of the preceding ideas may not be appropriate in your organization.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Here's a photo of Dennis in action last night as he presented his pro bono workshop at the Legal Secretaries Incorporated Conference. Part of Dennis' talk covered having difficult conversations - specifically, using the POISE model to approach someone about a problem. 

Here's what POISE means: Before you start talking, make sure you are prepared to clearly state the following:
P - Purpose (Express your positive purpose.)
O - Observed (State your observations to minimize defensiveness; don't begin with "you".)
I - Impact (State the impact to promote problem solving; again, don't begin with "you".)
S - Situation (Ask for solutions and consider options.)
E - Evaluate (Set a date to evaluate progress.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Presentation Pitfalls: Common Presentation Blunders

Below is a list of common presentation blunders. To get the most from the list, please note:
  • They are in order of commonality and destructiveness (a combination thereof).
  • They are categorized by preparation and delivery blunders. Some blunders could go in both categories.
  • There is a related PowerPoint presentation: Presentation Pitfalls and Blunders
  • There are suggestions on how to address these pitfalls: Presentation Blunders Worksheet
Preparation Blunders

·         Not enough preparation, which leads to the rest of the items below
·         Ineffective visuals (PowerPoint or flip-charts) – hard to see (too small, poor colors), not relevant, poor resolution, distracting animation
·         Too much content for length of presentation – not enough time to cover content, too rushed
·         Inappropriate humor
·         Ignoring your audience – no objective/agenda, no visuals (no pictures or stories), no interaction
·         Ignorance about your audience – age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, education
·         Too much content per slide – symptoms include small text, crowded slides
·         Not prepared for questions
·         Not familiarizing yourself with venue and equipment
·         Too many slides
·         Full sentences instead of bullet points

Delivery Blunders

·         Speaking unclearly – Too fast or quiet or not enunciating or using jargon; anything that causes your audience to say more than two times, “What did he say?”
·         Lack of dynamism or enthusiasm
·         Reading content – reading slides or notes (the only oral presentation is reading)
·         Inappropriate dress
·         Starting or ending late
·         Fillers such as um, ah, like
·         Lack of eye contact
·         Failing to engage emotionally
·         Not using space – no hand gestures and staying in one spot
·         Avoiding vulnerability – too serious, trying to be perfect

Some other things to watch:
  • Questions end with an upward inflection and statements end with a downward inflection. Ending statements with an upward inflection sounds tentative and can kill credibility.
  • Tag lines are statements that ask for validation. “This was a good illustration, right?” “We learned something, didn’t we?” Others will perceive you as weak in confidence and conviction.
  • Modifiers are words that diminish the message and the messenger. “This is probably not important, but…” “I guess it will work.” Diminishing your ideas and apologizing tells others you don’t believe in yourself, and they won’t believe you either.
  • When some people nod, they mean “I hear you” or “I understand.” However, your clients may interpret head nodding as agreement. Too much nodding can be perceived as weakness and may send the wrong message.
  • Slang runs the risk of dating, regionalizing, or implying you’re uneducated. Use it sparingly; only when you need to accentuate a point.
  • A quiet voice can indicate insecurity or lack of confidence. Breathe from the diaphragm and project the voice so that every person at the meeting can hear. If they have to strain to listen, they will tune you out.
  • Starting with body of presentation instead of a clear agenda and set of objectives creates uncertainty about the main message. Provide the big picture or overview in the introduction and save the details for the body of the speech.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

How do I lead my team?

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell wrote, “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” So the question now becomes, “How do I influence my team?” There are many ways to influence people, but showing respect by simply listening to them is one of the most fundamental. Here’s a quick checklist to ensure you are listening to your people: 
  • "I maintain eye contact…nothing distracts me."
  • "I don’t interrupt before the speaker finishes (unless I have to)."
  • "I am able at any point to summarize what the speaker has said."
Incidentally, the last item is both a characteristic and a criterion of effective listening.
Remember, the key to leadership is influence…you cannot influence without listening…the key to listening is summarizing.

For more information about management and employee training programs visit our website at

How do I build trust?

In teams, positions of leadership, and personal relationships, trust is the glue that holds it all together. Here are three critical first steps:
  • Be proactive – Conventional thinking believes that you shouldn’t trust people until they prove themselves trustworthy. Leadership takes the initiative and sets the example of trust for the health of the organization. Others will follow your lead of trust.
  • Be vulnerable – Conventional thinking has it that we should use power and force to resolve differences or get our way. This will not achieve organizational cooperation. As leaders we must make requests rather than demand or threaten. If the request doesn’t work, explain the consequences to the organization and you personally. Coming from a position of vulnerability builds trust and reduces resistance.2
  • Be congruent – Match your words and thinking with your actions and behaviors. Internal and external congruence builds trust.
2Trust: How to Build It and Keep It” by Hyler Bracey

For more information about management and employee training programs visit our website at

How do I motivate my employees?

In trying to motivate employees, many managers implement techniques (e.g., reward, celebration, fun environment) that can be helpful, but are not as effective as the following principles: 
  • Character – Who you are as a person is much more important than the motivational techniques you implement. A manager who once noticed his team suffering from low morale suggested pizza and bowling as a celebration of their hard work. His team wanted to suggest more respect and less intimidation from the manager. 
  • Vision – Having a clear vision of your organization, communicating it to your employees, and gaining their buy-in are essential to motivating others. 
  • Culture – The organization’s norms can either support or hamper a motivating environment. Ensure that you’re creating a culture that is:
    • Consistent with your character and vision.
    • Communicative (i.e., sharing and listening).
    • Fair (i.e., consistently recognizes good performance and addresses poor performance).

  • For more information about management and employee training programs visit our website at

How do I make an ethical decision?

There are many approaches you could take when faced with a tough moral decision (conscience, utilitarianism, and deontology to name a few). The next time you’re struggling with the right thing to do, follow these steps as suggested by the reputable firm, PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers).
  1. Think before you act
    • Summarize and clarify your issue
    • Consider the options and consequences
    • Consult with others
  2. Decide on a course of action
    • Review all the relevant facts and information
    • Refer to applicable organizational policies and professional standards
    • Assess the risks and how you could reduce them
    • Call 1-888-4-ETHICS if you need someone else to talk to
  3. Test your decision
    • Ask four questions:
      1. Is it legal?
      2. How would it look in the newspapers?
      3. Can you sleep at night?
      4. Is there an alternative action that is more ethical?
    • Consult with others: enlist their opinion of your planned action
  4. Proceed with confidence

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How can I be a more strategic thinker?

If you’re like most people, visionary thinking is not one of your top strengths. More people are better at tactics and implementation than strategy and inspiration. 1 Yet, there is an increasing need for people, especially managers, to be strategic and visionary in their thinking. Here are answers to three related questions on this subject.

Question 1: Why is there an increasing need to be strategic?

Consider the following reasons for being strategic in the volatile business environment.  
  1. Creating and communicating vision is an absolute necessity for leaders who want to achieve their goals. Vision is the powerful force that not only invents, but creates what will be.
  2. Every cause, every organizational change, every project begins with a person’s vision. Without vision, there is little or no sense of purpose in leading.
  3. “The 21st century organization virtually demands visionary leadership…for an organization driven by accelerating technological change, staffed by a diverse, multicultural mix of highly intelligent knowledge workers, facing global complexity, a vast kaleidoscope of individual customer needs, and the incessant demands of multiple constituencies would simply self-destruct without a common sense of direction.” 2

Question 2: What can I do to be strategic?

This is a huge question that can’t be answered fully in the PplTips format. Listing several tools is the best way to answer it here.
Tool #1 – How to create a shared vision –
Tool #2 – Opportunity Matrix – Deep Dive 3
Tool #3 – Think Beyond the Moment 4 – Summarized below:
  1. Look around - Your organization is moving forward. Are you moving with it or are we falling behind? Look at your organization’s vision, mission, and strategic or business plan. Consider where your team will be one to two years from now.
  2. Set goals that motivate action - Help create well-defined goals that align with your organization’s values and strategic goals. Communicate the link between the day-to-day work and big-picture goals.
  3. Plan ahead - Identify the steps necessary to bring important goals to fruition. When handling a crisis, ask yourself how you might avert such crises in the future. If you hear about a coming change, anticipate how you might meet any possible challenges.
  4. Ensure outcomes - Bringing plans to fruition is rewarding and motivational. In contrast, plans that consistently go by the wayside are discouraging.

Question 3: What could get in the way of my success?

Failing to align vision/strategy with people and the environment are the two most common mistakes leaders make when working to bring their vision to fruition. Here’s what you can do to ensure success:
  1. Align with the environment by asking the following questions and implementing the answers.
    What are my team’s strengths and how can I leverage them?
    What are my team’s weaknesses and how can I minimize them?
    What external opportunities would help my team to thrive?
    What external forces threaten the future of my team?
  1. Align with people by using the following checklist to communicate my vision/strategy.
    I have communicated the vision:
    • In terms of its importance
    • In terms of its benefits
    • Every opportunity I get
    • In several different contexts (group, individual, planning)
    • In several ways (face-to-face, email, team documentation)
    • With energy and conviction
    • Using images, metaphors, examples and stories

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How do I set expectations with employees who report to me?

Setting work expectations informs staff of what is required for successful work performance. Involving employees in this process increases buy-in and clarifies how their work contributes to the goals of the organization.
The bottom line of work performance expectations: the supervisor and the employee should be able to answer the following questions in the same way:
  • What are the employee’s major responsibilities for the review period?
  • How will the responsibilities be measured for success?
  • Why is the employee doing what he/she is doing?
  • How will the supervisor and employee communicate and work together to prevent problems and overcome barriers?
Once expectations are set, meet regularly (at least once per month) in a confidential setting to review progress and offer assistance.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How do I minimize repercussions of being promoted to supervisor among peers?

Depending on the situation, several approaches could be taken, which are outlined below. In general, it is better to talk openly about a situation than to ignore it and hope everything will be fine. Open and honest communication will indicate that you are a supervisor who takes the initiative to make things better.

Close friend

When a former co-worker is a close friend, before the promotion, meet with the friend and:
  • Ask if he has any concerns about you going for the promotion.
  • Explain that if you get the promotion, you will still be friends.
  • Explain that being friends doesn’t mean you’ll treat him differently at work than the others on the team. For example, you won’t be able to show any kind of favoritism.
After the promotion, meet with the friend and:
  • Explain that you will have to be careful to keep some information confidential.
  • Discuss the fact that you will need to give feedback about his performance. You will be honest and will welcome his feedback as well.


Here are some steps to take when a former co-worker competed with you for the supervisory job. After your promotion, meet with the competitor and:
  • Explain that you want a positive relationship and you want to discuss any concerns that may interfere.
  • Recognize the person’s strengths and experience and discuss how they will benefit the team.

Strained relationship

Here are some steps to take when a former co-worker and you had negative conflict. After your promotion, meet with this person and:
  • Tell him that you have put the past behind you and will work on developing a positive relationship.
  • Have a rich discussion in which you both set mutual expectations. Discuss whether or not you are able to deliver the employee’s expectations. If not, discuss why you are not able to and resolve the issues.

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