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Communicating in a Crisis: What to Say When Your Team Fears the Worst

crisis

Will the coronavirus and quarantining ever end?

Will there be (more) layoffs?

Why am I working 12-hour days from home?

Today’s reality combined with the daily flood of news is pretty grim. Those questions above… they’re on your team’s mind – even if they aren’t asking them out loud. The good news is that the coronavirus and quarantining will end eventually, our country will survive this, and you better not sell your stocks — they’re already beginning to bounce back.

Despite what you may know is an inevitable rebound, employees might not feel so optimistic right now. They may be hypervigilant: sucked into the news, pulled in like a magnet, googling updates and being caught up in the tidal wave of it all. It means they’re probably feeling a bit fearful at the moment. 

Here’s the problem with that: fear leads to stress, and stress leads to negative behaviors, which turn into negative outcomes in productivity, creativity and quality of work. 

Your words, energy and actions — whether positive or negative —  trickle down to your employees and give direction to their own thoughts and behaviors. 

So what do you say when your team fears the worst? Here are seven strategies to steady the team during a crisis. 

Embody Stability

Louder than words, our actions and the energy they give off create a powerful current. In fact, the University of Bielefeld concluded that energy is contagious, and that our mood changes as we interact with different people throughout the day.

What impact does your presence have? 

Leaders should routinely embody stability. You want team members to look at you, listen and think, “Everything is under control. We will be okay.” Be the credible, grounded authority they trust in times of chaos.

Leverage Past Successes for Reassurance

How am I so confident things will turn around? Review the past 20 years; we’ve lived through 9/11, the dot bomb, Bird Flu, the 2009 housing bubble burst. Not to mention a war in the Middle East, and multiplying natural disasters. We bounced back every time. 

To shine hope in your organization, review past facts. List hardships your team dealt with before and how they overcame obstacles. Remind everyone that they’ve prevailed through tough times before, and they will again.

Use Trust-Building Language

In times of stress, people look to those they can trust. Whether you’re talking with a team member one-on-one or sending out a company-wide email, use language that builds trust. Here are some common do’s and don’ts to pay attention to:

  • Avoid absolutes. For example, “always” and “never” are rarely accurate, so don’t use them to reinforce your message.
  • Speak clearly and to the point. Vague responses raise suspicion and confuse people, leaving them to make up their own stories – and that’s never good.   
  • Get comfortable saying, “I don’t know that answer yet.” “I don’t know” is a perfectly legitimate response to a tough question. Let people know when you might know important information and how it would be shared.

Build People’s Personal Confidence

Words of encouragement from leaders go a long way toward empowering people to believe that they will be victorious. It also helps in brightening up the mood around the virtual office; redirect everyone’s focus to what can be done to further the company’s objectives. 

Clarify Short-Term Goals and Refresh Priorities Weekly

The constant swirl of bad news and ambiguity can easily de-focus everyone and derail productivity. A leader’s job is to keep everyone on track. Your best approach in a crisis is to have a consistent communication cadence which gets people focused on small steps and near-term goals that are actionable and achievable. 

Create Open Dialogue

Plan time each week for a group huddle or “office hours” where you check-in with people less formally than a status meeting. See what others are up to and create an environment for people to share whatever is on their mind. You might be pleasantly surprised that people are doing well and want to talk about the positive things they are experiencing. 

What Matters Most 

As an executive or leader, what matters most is how you shepherd your people through the storm. When the crisis has passed, you want to have weathered this storm with the least possible wear and tear on your team and business. Exceptional communication from leaders will GREATLY reduce your team’s stress and help employees feel a sense of stability, focus and productivity. 

One final consideration: these are stressful times for everyone – including yourself. Take time to manage your own stress. Ground your thinking about how you want to navigate this situation. Then, create a strategic narrative that feels authentic, calming and empowering. 

People are looking to their leaders to shepherd them through this crisis and through intentional and productive words and interactions, we can do that.  If you are an executive struggling to lead from a distance, I am here to help. Contact me today to schedule a resiliency coaching session. 

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Is Your Presence Powerful or Powerless?

Powerful presence

It’s a fact that within the first seven (7) seconds of seeing you, people have formed a strong opinion of who you are, what you’re about and whether they want to pursue a relationship with you. Before you’ve even said a word, you have been assessed on several key factors including style, confidence, competence and friendliness. And when you do start to speak, according to a recent New York Times article, over 93% of what you communicate comes through body language. So while words matter, your presence is essential to your success. The question is: are you making a positive or a negative impact through the way you present yourself?

It’s even more important if you’re a leader in your organization. If you manage people or projects, the quality of your presence drives your ability to get this done effectively. In fact, a study conducted at MIT found that training in soft skills to boost executive presence issued a 250% return on investment. An additional study revealed that 62% of senior executives consider Presence or Gravitas the most important factor in hiring decisions. In a nutshell – a powerful presence is great for you and for the organization.

Now, if you’re thinking, “some people are just born with a powerful presence. There’s nothing I can do to change how other people perceive me.” You’re wrong. Presence is a combination of variables well within your own control. Your presence can be molded into almost anything you want it to be. A little effort spent improving your presence will make a HUGE difference in your first impression, and the result is a whole new world of possibilities. 

The million dollar question is, how do you create a powerful presence? Here are seven (7) techniques that will help you cultivate a truly impressive and powerful presence.

  1. Stand Up Straight.
    When you slouch, you start to communicate insecurity, indifference and a feeling of being powerless. Standing in a straight, upright position communicates self-confidence and builds trust among others. Practice doing so with your shoulders back and your head held high to project a powerful presence.
  2. Make Eye Contact.
    Direct eye contact is another sign of confidence and trust. When you look someone in the eye, you’re communicating poise, interest and calmness. If you tend to dart your eyes around or are constantly looking down, you’re communicating disinterest and insecurity. Neither one of those habits create a positive impression or inspire confidence. 
  3. Wear a Genuine Smile.
    When you smile, you’re able to raise your energy while also signaling confidence and approachability. This is trust-building behavior that helps magnetize opportunities your way. Frowning communicates displeasure, stress and worry, which tend to keep people away. Your smile doesn’t have to be super bright to have the desired effect; in fact, practicing “resting-smile-face,” can help shift perception about your general demeanor with very positive outcomes.
  4. Take Up Space.
    Whether you are sitting or standing, the more space you take up, the more powerful you appear. Refrain from crossing arms and legs, keep your feet shoulder width apart, keep your materials neat, yet also give them space in your area of the table. 
  5. Be Aware of Your Body Movement.
    When you move, take wider steps and keep your body positioned forward with your head neutral. Similar to the other suggestions, this communicates confidence and projects a powerful presence. If you walk with your shoulders and/or your head down, you’re showing others a lack of energy and confidence. It also helps to walk with your feet pointed forward and not inward or out to the side. Inward communicates insecurity while outward signals going in too many directions. 
  6. Dress the Part You Want to Play.
    How you dress and accessorize says a lot about your self-awareness and self-image. Your visual billboard is the first element people see and true to the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” your billboard tells people a ton about who you are and how you feel about yourself. To maximize your power, dress intentionally and pay attention to the details. Others will – even when you don’t.  
  7. Engage Others. 
    Approaching people with a welcoming expression and open gestures is a sure sign of poise and approachability. Even if you prefer introversion, it doesn’t take a ton of energy to smile and extend a hand. Yet these small gestures in the first few seconds of an encounter can make a big impact on creating positive, powerful and lasting impressions on people.

As you master these techniques, you’ll start to see a powerful presence reflected in the mirror and in the way others react to you and pull you in. The more competent and confident you are, the stronger and more talented your team will become, increasing the potential of the group. You’ll also feel more self-confident and as a result, your presence will become more magnetic and inspiring.

If you want to know more about improving your presence and optimizing your leadership effectiveness, I’d love to talk with you. I’ve opened up my schedule over the next couple of days to help motivated leaders discover their talents, understand their value, strengthen their skills and create a roadmap to executive success! 

Book a free strategy call with me and we’ll talk about your leadership and career goals, what you love to do and how we can help you accelerate your success. No strings attached! Click here to schedule your call today. I look forward to chatting soon! 

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Creating Confidence in Every Conversation

confidence

Think of a recent social or business gathering you attended. Who were the people that you were drawn to? I bet that they were the ones who exuded confidence. You probably remember them well because these people radiate a warmth and enthusiasm that magnetized others toward them. People with an authentic, confident approach are comfortable in many environments and see networking situations as expansion opportunities, while less confident people often hide in the background or stick closely to people they know.

If you are lacking authentic confidence and its showing up in your business interactions; you are not alone. We all yearn to have confidence; to feel empowered by simply being ourselves. Yet the truth is everyone can use a confidence boost every once and a while. Confidence is not something you achieve and then hold perfectly in place forever. Here are a few tips to help you cultivate and project confidence and master any conversation you’re in.

Cultivating Authentic Confidence

1. Nothing to Prove.
The moment you stop trying to prove yourself to others is the moment real confidence can begin to grow.  As people, we are all on equal footing and as you embrace the concept of nothing to prove, you will feel a release of pressure – the pressure that comes from trying to meet the expectations of others. As you embrace and build your own blend of talents, and pursue the things you love to do, others will marvel and want to know your secret.  

2. Do What You Love.
If you’re looking to build confidence, there is nothing better than doing the things that make you feel confident. Understanding and playing to your strengths is the best way to do so. Your body and your brain both LOVE IT when you indulge in the things you were designed to do. In return, they will reward you with magnetic energy and a level of competence that people can’t help but admire.

3. Have a Routine of Positive Self-Talk.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, positive affirmations can really change your presence. Give yourself positive messages that remind you of your strengths, talents and successes. Here are some simple positive self-talk tips to try.

Project Authentic Confidence

Cultivating real confidence is the goal, and yet it can be just as important to fake-it-while-you-make-it.  Here are a few easy-to-implement tips that will get you showing up with charm and poise.

1. Smile.
One trait of confident people is that they aren’t afraid to smile – with their mouth and their eyes. This act creates positive energy within you, so even when you feel nervous, it doesn’t show on your face. This, in turn, exudes confidence as you talk to others.

2. Show Interest.
People with confidence care about others. Take the focus off yourself and put it on others by asking thoughtful questions and listening with interest.

3. Be Still.
It’s common to fidget with your hands, especially when you’re nervous. However, that is a clear sign to others that you aren’t confident in what you’re saying and/or doing. To refrain from doing this, consider keeping your focus on your breathing, instead. This helps relax your overall nerves and limits any fidgeting.

New situations can make anyone feel a bit anxious and uncertain. By applying these simple tips, you will be on your way to feeling less nervous, more empowered, and more confident.

Over the years I’ve worked with thousands of leaders and have helped many to discover their unique talents and use them in their everyday work to elevate performance, improve relationships and eliminate stress. If you want to be more confident and more successful, I can help. Schedule a FREE strategy call with me and we’ll discuss the steps you need to take to show up confidently in every conversation. Click here to sign up for a time slot.

Believe It or Not, Success and Happiness Requires a “No”

commitment

Are you the kind of person who says “yes” to things before you know if you have the time and energy for them?  If so, you’re in good company. Lots (and lots) of people make commitments they probably shouldn’t. They do it for reasons that make sense in the moment…they want to help, don’t want to be a disappointment, feel the need to prove something, FOMO (fear of missing out) or just plain old fear of saying “no,” and suffering a negative consequence. Most often, we say “yes,” with good intentions, an easily delivered commitment makes us look and feel good in the moment. Yet what if it really does the opposite? What if I told you that your freely given “yes,” might actually be the thing standing in the way of your own personal success?

A “yes” is a promise – and overpromising can have negative consequences throughout your life, including limiting your career. Nobody wants to disappoint others, yet trying to do everything asked of you and please all your stakeholders all the time will lead to burnout and mediocrity. Overcommitment can also lead to deeply rooted feelings of insecurity, resent, stress and insufficiency.

Improper commitment has negative consequences. I’ve highlighted just a few examples below, yet the list is really limitless…

  • A “yes” to the wrong thing…
    • Steals time away from doing the right things.
    • Takes more energy for you to complete.
    • Creates stress and frustration.
  • A “yes” for the wrong reason can…
    • Lead to resentment that can interfere with a healthy relationship.
    • Create a situation which highlights a weakness.
    • Leave you with unmet expectations.
  • Too many “yesses” at work and…
    • Label you as tactical, not strategic – limits advancement.
    • Not enough time for self, family and friends – creates guilt, isolation and stress.
    • No ability to focus – making it difficult to deliver your commitments on time, target and budget.
    • You let people down – building a reputation as nice, yet unreliable.

Time is a resource we say we value, yet give away without regard. Let’s change that. When you begin making commitments with real consideration for all of the implications, a lot of positive things begin to happen for you. You FEEL better about your commitments, you spend more time doing the things you actually WANT to do, you have ENERGY for your tasks, you have TIME to think, your family and friends get a BETTER, less frazzled slice of your time. Over time, a steady habit of healthy promises gives your career a competitive edge, too. You become more personally confident and trustworthy to others. People trust you for important things and you become a trusted advisor to your boss, team members, clients and team.

Commitment is a good and healthy thing, you simply want to focus your commitments on the ideal activities, events and people. So the key becomes knowing what to say yes to and how to say no when you have to…or want to.

Determining what to say “no” to is the most important step. First and foremost, always give yourself time to reflect before making a commitment. It can be five minutes, five hours or five days depending on the size of the request – just build a habit of giving yourself space from the requestor – literally get out of their presence so you can process the request and respond optimally. Build up a repertoire of phrases like these:

  • Neutral –  “Let me think through that for a minute and I’ll let you know if I can commit.”
  • Positive lean – “I’d like to do that, give me time to double check my commitments and I’ll confirm whether I can or not by…X time.”
  • Negative lean – “I believe I am already booked, however let me double check my commitments and see if I can help.”

Getting clear on what constitutes an ideal “yes” may take some time at first, yet it really isn’t hard. Even better, it’s kind of fun to think of what you will say “no” to. I am a reformed over-committer, and when I started building up a better habit; I was at a point where I didn’t have a whole lot of options – and with that kind of “permission,” making the choices were really easy. About five years ago I received a cancer diagnosis and I knew immediately that a.) it was a yellow light, not a red one. And b.) I needed to make some strategic choices – fast.  As a business owner and coach, I literally couldn’t afford to take months off to get healthy. Instead, I had to genuinely value my time and make the most of it so that I could attend my responsibilities AND get healthy. It took me about 30 minutes to decide what (and who) stayed and what went. I graduated clients who didn’t need me anymore, I cluster booked the rest so that I only worked alternating weeks, I reduced all non-essential commitments and I created time for family, friends and health. As I made these changes, I wrote out the pros and cons of the decisions and made each into a permission slip – I called them my Pink Permission Slips – the things I wanted to do and the things I didn’t.  Here’s the wonderful thing: I went about executing my changes and no one pushed back, no one even asked why I was no longer as flexible or available as I once was and no one knew I had cancer.  This was a powerful lesson for me; I thought I would need to play the “cancer card,” but I didn’t.  So I am passing this jewel on to you that you may shine brightly doing the things you love — you don’t need to have cancer or be ill in order to make value-oriented decisions about your time.

“All you need is to decide what to do with the time that is given to you.” Gandalf, LOTR.

10 Tips on how to reach your goals

So, you’ve determined your vision and wrote out what you plan to achieve. Great! You’re on the right track toward reaching your goals!

You might be thinking, “What’s next?” That’s the easiest part! Wondering how? Well, now that you know what you want, you’ve got to stick to it. Consistency is always key.

Follow these Ten Tips to stay on track with your goals:

 

  1. Envision and Document! Really form what you want to achieve in life and then write it out as if you have already achieved it. Make sure your goals are significant to you. They should cause enthusiasm when you think about them. It has been proven that people who write out their goals are ten times more likely to achieve them than those who didn’t. Once you write them out, keep them out where you can see them so they serve as a reminder of what you are working toward.
  2. Expect Obstacles and Plan to Overcome Them Take some time to think about some of the obstacles you will face and write out plans for overcoming them. Studies have shown that preparing for challenges will increase your ability to stick to your goals. Then, when you hit the bumps in the road, you’ll know exactly what to do and you wont be caught off guard.
  3. Develop Positive Thinking and Feelings – Think about how you will feel when you finally accomplish your goals. Your goals need to be “wants.” Wants are something you desire. These are your goals, not somebody else’s. It will help you feel more excited for your goals if you know you are doing it for yourself, and yourself only.
  4. Visualize Success – In order for you to reach it, you need to see yourself reaching your goals. What this does it create room for the Law of Attraction to help in your success. Always keep your eye on the prize. Simply put, the LOA is the ability to attract whatever we are focusing on, into our lives. If you can see it, you can do it!
  5. Vision Board Creation – Create a vision board of what your goals may look like to you so you can be reminded of how close you are to reaching them. Even something as simple as using your computer screen as a vision board by having images that inspire you toward your goals.
  6. Get Support – Join a support group! Or, create your own group! There are even ways to enlist others to help you and report your progress. Reporting your progress to friends, or a support system, increases your odds of staying on track of, and accomplishing, your goals!
  7. Forgive Yourself and Learn to Let it Go – If you take two steps back, it is okay. It’s bound to happen from time to time. One off day, or off week, is not going ruin your success – unless you let it. Researchers call it the “What the Hell” You should always plan for obstacles and how you’ll get back on track as part of your “Expect Obstacles and Plan to Overcome Them” plan.
  8. Track Your Progress – Keep track of how you are doing. It’s important to know how far you have come to be able to see any type of progress.
  9. Routines to Help Set Yourself Up for Success– Try to stay on track with doing things that will help you reach your goal. It is best to schedule them in the first part of your day to ensure they do actually get done. If you begin to fall behind on your routines, it is okay – the important part if to get back into the rhythm of things sooner than later.
  10. Celebrate Little Successes Along the Way – Reward yourself for wins along the way. This is another good reason to track your progress! Big goals can have mini-goals or activities along the way and you should always celebrate your accomplishments. Remember, you are working toward your goals to make your life better. That’s a cause for celebration!

 

These 10 tips are available to help increase your chance of success and make the process more fun for you! Give yourself sometime to create your goals and don’t try to rush the process. Enjoy it.

Remember: slow and steady, you’ll win the race!