December 2016: Top 10 scribblings from 2016

I’ve selected ten things that that people said were useful from the topics I’ve covered during 2016. Do post about something that you have learned this year, from here or elsewhere. It would be great to read what you’ve been thinking and trying out.

Meetings can be torture...

...and they don't have to be. To boost productivity and to keep up people’s enthusiasm be very conservative with the length of the agenda, always provide refreshments(even a simple glass of water can fix a distracting cough) and for goodness sake don’t run more than 90 minutes without a break unless everyone is being very active.

We dilute speech...

...in a number of ways – ironically most often when we want to come across strongly on an issue. Perhaps we fear over-doing things and making ourselves unpopular… one device we often use to ‘soften the blow’ is to sneak the topic in below the radar by opening with a “by the way” or “do you have a sec?” or ending with a “…just a thought…” By doing this we just sow confusion, not the intended harmony. Important messages are like gin; they only need a little tonic to make them taste just fine.

Help is a paradoxical concept.

People often seem to ask for our advice but when we give it they will often reject it out of hand. So, even when the request for assistance seems straightforward it’s worth first asking what the person really wants: “I’m happy to help. Do you want me to just listen, to discuss an idea of yours or are you looking for an idea out of me?” That way they know what they are asking for and you can decide if you’re happy to help on that basis.

Making ourselves heard...

...can be a challenge when the people around us are creating lots of noise. Shouting to match their output is often futile. If you want to grab someone’s attention it can be really effective to first listen to them until you have convinced them that they have been understood. They will often return the compliment. If they don’t you can speak at the end of one of your summaries: “You sound really keen to do abc about the xyz account – especially since they have been with us so long.” [PAUSE] “I would be worried about doing that.”

The enemy of trust is doubt – not disagreement.

So when you are communicating using technology, try to remove the ambiguities which so easily creep in when we are not face to face. Replace the tiny but significant reassurances that we send one another when we’re in the same place. Explain the tiny things that people might misunderstand: the long pause, the exchange of glances happening in the room, the hesitation in your voice, the rifling of papers. Make the person who is not there feel like they are by calling out anything that may sow doubt in the mind.

Don’t apologise...

...when you are handling a customer complaint or problem – at least not to begin with. In fact, make it the last thing that you do so that you know what you are apologising for and they will know that you’re not trying to deflect attention away from the problem or their feelings about it.

Customer service depends upon skills.

Customer care depends upon… caring. I think it’s the job of every leader to care about what happens to their customers – their own staff. If the staff feel cared for they will be able to focus upon caring about their customer in turn.

Being brief...

...when we explain important points draws attention to what we say. A few well chosen words act like a sparse meal – they leave us wanting more. Add a feeling (name yours) to let your audience know the degree to which the message is important to you.

Praise.

The problem with praise is that it doesn't look like it’s doing any good– until you stop giving it! If you really want it to stick, explain how the person has made you FEEL by doing the thing being praised.

Feedback.

The last word this blogging year has got to feedback – that holy grail of honesty. It only needs two ingredients to make it work: what you did and how I felt. If you can say that in 15 words or less then you are pretty much guaranteed success. Post your live examples below!

View all blog posts