Wednesday, May 12, 2021

How To Be Influential In One Minute

Here's a way to be more influential in less than one minute. Did you know that a simple comment like having a problem with parking or being late to a meeting can effect your physiology? Negative thoughts, attitudes and conversation obviously have an impact on others around you and your ability to be influential. But, it can also be physically measured in less than one (1) minute and accumulate in your body, which effects your physiology, just like bad eating can build fat. The long-term impact on your own body’s physiology is incredibly damaging, but fortunately can be changed. 

Put on a blood pressure and heart monitor and talk about a "passionate" subject like politics, or complain about something simple or frustrating like traffic and watch how the monitors respond. Even if you feel that you're being calm when making the negative comment, you'll be amazed at how the simplest comment will cause your body to increase your blood pressure or adrenalin. This physiological response continuously builds, similar to going to the gym and regularly lifting weights, or going to class and practicing a new technique. It's accumulative, just like a bad diet can build fat.

Want to change your health AND your ability to be influential in less than one minute? Then change your perspective starting with your thoughts and language. 

-Ken Sergi

(c) Ken Sergi

Note that images and graphics used in this blog are copyrighted and licensed for use to Ken Sergi. 

Your Negativity Bias Is Natural, But Good Is Expected

All of us have a natural negativity bias. It's a primal instinct. We internalize a bad experience for future reference to avoid it.  It's why the news is so successful in reporting all the bad events of the day, and why negative politics activate us and keep up engaged. They're giving us what we want. It's also why statistically you will tell a minimum of 7 people (some research says up to 20) about your bad restaurant experience, but only tell 3 people if it was good. Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good. We're more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones. It's also why it takes five positive messages to overcome one negative.

Good is expected. 

Practice Positive Pump
Athletes are great examples of "positive pump." They have consistent "can-do" messages and goals. They're forward-focused on where they're going and what they're going to achieve. What outcomes do you want for yourself? What impact do you want to have on others?

To move forward it's important to focus on where you're going and how you want it to be, versus looking to the past for references of where you have been.
A) Practice your "positive pump" consistently every day. Give yourself at least five positive messages and, when you have a problem or conflict, ask yourself "What if the opposite were true?"  
B) Describe the positive behaviors you want from employees, peers, or friends before using the bad ones as examples to avoid. Don't use bad examples of the past to define good experiences you want to have in the future.

C) End each day with gratitude. As some point sit for one minute and reflect, or write down at least 1 to 5 great things that happened today. Writing is more effective. You could put it into a journal for easy reference, get a large glass jar so you have a visual reminder. Then, pick a day, maybe around the holidays, or when you're feeling down, to open the jar and remind yourself of all the things for which you're grateful.

Our environment, language, friends and decisions will reinforce our messages and beliefs. Our body reflects the contents of our mind. If our mind is peaceful, so is our body. Peace is the gift we pass along to others. When we are activated, negative, judgmental or cluttered it is not helpful to us or others.  It will continue the cycle of negativity bias.

-Ken Sergi

(c) Ken Sergi

Mind the Gap: We Think 7x Faster Than We Speak

We speak at approximately 115 words-per-minute, but think at a approximately 825 words-per-minute. Where are you in that 710 gap between thoughts and actions when communicating?

That gap impacts your ability to be present; influential; and effective.  If you're not mentally present, then you're not paying attention to either your style and the impact that you're having, or noticing the style of your listener/receive and if you're effectively communicating in a manner that gets them to hear you. You can notice when someone isn't paying attention to you, regardless if you're on the phone, in a meeting, conducting a presentation, or talking one-on-one.

In Washington, D.C. one of the world's most famous musicians, Joshua Bell who had sold out performances at $100 per ticket just three days prior, was playing a $3.5 million violin in the subway for 45 minutes.  1,100 people passed and never stopped or noticed.  Read more here.  How much do you notice what's happening around you, or question perceptions?  

The next time you're talking, try this experiment to observe yourself and how much you are being present.  When you're listening where does your mind go?  Challenge yourself to be present before your mind wanders.  When you're speaking, how much can your listener actually hear or remember?  They may be drifting just like you.  

To be more engaging and influential; be present. Mind-The-Gap by clearing your head; practice active listening; and try turning your statements into questions.  Being present will significantly impact your ability to listen, lead, function, perform and influence.

Your personality style impacts your communication and leadership. You can be more targeted and influential when you recognize your own style and the styles of others. There are several classes and tools available to understand your personality type or communication style such as MBTI, DISC and the Enneagram for achieving it.

-Ken Sergi

Click here for a PDF version of this article.

(c) Ken Sergi.

Goals: How to Reverse Engineer to Ensure Success

Reverse Engineering to Achieve Goals
To improve or change almost anything, start by describing the OUTCOMES you want to achieve, then reverse engineer the actions to get there.  From changing an attitude to physical improvements, this is also the same process used in companies to achieve performance outcomes, such as with the SMART model.

1) Decide the outcome you want using positive terms with future orientation. Ex "More calm" versus "Less angry."
2) Describe success in detail.  How would it look and feel?
3) Why is it important?
4) What would others notice or see when you are being ___?
5) When do you want to achieve it? 
6) What practices/actions are necessary to get there?
7) What are potential obstacles or blind spots?
8) Have you seen anyone else be successful with it?
9) Is there someone who can support you?
10) What can you do to remind yourself every morning of your intention?

When describing success use detailed descriptions that manifest how it will be, look, and feel to you without any references to how it has been. "Less angry" means that you are using past references for future success. Let that go. Simply describe the success you will have. This would also mean NOT using the term "more calm" but to be "calm."

Athletes use a similar reverse engineering to achieve a goal, such as preparing for an "Iron Man" competition.  The outcome to achieve is a combination of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running a marathon for 26.2 miles without a break. Then, they reverse engineer what measurements and milestones must be achieved each week prior to the competition in order to be prepared.  The subsequent steps shown above are applied to ensure success.
Also recognize that you have a personality style that can impact your potential. Our style determines what gets our focus of attention as we navigate through each day. It can create the blind spots that derail our success.

Also see the article "How to Achieve Your Goals in One Step" on this blog.

-Ken Sergi

(c) Ken Sergi

Communication: Yellow Text on Blue Background Increases Retention

Yellow letters on a blue background have a higher impact and increased retention than black letters on a white background when doing a presentation.

How to Achieve Your Goals in One Step: Reverse Engineering

Where do you want to go this year, quarter or month, or your life? Do you have a particular goal or outcome you want to achieve?  70% of people who set goals, which is only 20% of the population, will fail to achieve them. There are many reasons, such as: failure to plan; fear of success/failure; unrealistic; no support; genuine commitment; and/or failure to accurately assess the gap. There is a valuable self-help document you can download for free to actually do this activity.
Click here for the PDF link to the worksheet.      
Click here for the Word version.

Click here for the PDF link to the worksheet.      
Click here for the Word version.

One step to ensure success is designing your outcome by "reverse engineering" it.  It's similar to using the SMART model in business, or the "power of intention" in your personal life.  What do you intend for yourself or your business?  If you already know what you want to achieve, then you can jump direct to this link on reverse engineering.  Although note that there is a "Vision Board" described below.

If you're uncertain about where you want to go, but you know that you want to achieve a change, then start by answering your vision of the future:
1) What is my vision of the future?
2) What am I passionate about?  When do I notice my energy level go up?
3) Do my actions align with my passion?  You'll get a much more truthful answer if you ask a friend for input and perspective.
Throughout the process commit to having an open heart that allows you to listen and notice your resistance without your blind spots filtering or distorting your truth.
Writing a vision statement should be descriptive and visual.  It should be written with future orientation, such as when you wake up, this is how it will be, look, feel and be noticed by others.  Write it from the perspective that an unbiased person would read it and formulate the same visual if they observed you living your vision.  Include in your vision the last time you felt this same way.  Describe what was happening, how and why it felt this way.

This is an incredibly simple activity that produces the greatest reward.  Yet it's the one thing that everyone tends to avoid.  Most people feel that writing or expressing what they are truly passion about, or how they would envision their future would violate what they believe is important for survival.  If you stay within your current paradigm to write your vision, then it won't produce the genuine outcome you desire.  Staying within the paradigm means that you describe your vision with the constraints of your current life, such as being more happy with your job, versus being more happy (period), or using language from the past to describe how you have been and how things should be.

Challenge yourself to move outside the paradigm. The experience of surfacing your inner passion for what drives you and expressing it on paper can be a transformational experience, particularly if it means letting go of safety and security nets to express it.  The feeling deep in your heart, such as believing you must keep the job to have the income that allows you to be what you envision, instead of letting that go for the purpose of this activity.

One example is a client whom I had been coaching for the past year.  He has been experiencing tremendous growth on multiple levels professionally and personally.  He's been an incredible pleasure to coach and a true example of achieving multiple levels of amazing success by intention.  With recent developments, it was time to take him through the process of creating his new vision.  As I described the assignment he expressed incredible discomfort that lasted for hours.  He said that reconnecting with his vision felt like he might have left his passion in the past, which brought tremendous sadness.  But the next day he said it was a "profound" and "life changing" experience which "opened my eyes and gave me a very concrete direction to write down my (description) and practical tools to do it properly (effectively)."   

A majority of every person and business that I coach, or do Organization Development ("OD"), tends to be so busy "running" in pursuit of what they believe to be appropriate, that there is no time to connect the dots on where they're going.  There's no time to check if the actions today support the true intention or outcomes desired for the future, regardless if it's for business, relationships, love, money, health, or peace. One step back to leap-frog forward.  Beyond believing that what you're doing, or the actions that you're taking feel right, take the time in a quiet place to design it up front and exert your intention.

Writing this down forces you to connect with your inner self, whether it's for your business, or for you personally and get it out.   Writing down your passions and what success means to you or your business will functionally translate to:

Vision & Mission - for business
Performance Objectives - for employees
Resolutions - for individuals

Then, routinely check your actions to ensure that you're giving the most power towards your intention/vision.  When you truly desire something you'll do whatever it takes to get there.  Having it written down keeps you aligned to your intention and tells your subconscious to pay attention.  Have you ever taped a new car ad or yellow sticky note to your wall as a reminder of your target objective?  Every decision you subsequently made about your time and money was aligned with that intention.  We do the same thing at work when creating performance objectives.

The more creative method that engages the subconscious is to create a VISION BOARD by cutting out words and pictures from printed sources, such as magazines.  Then tape them as a collage onto any size paper or board that you can either carry with you, create as a screen saver, or hang on the wall.  It's your visual reminder of how your vision looks, which creates the internal feeling that causes alignment and action. (Example to right courtesy of Sebastian Skinner.)

Self-reflect on your daily actions to notice what you might be doing to get in the way of your intention.  Take the time for this now and you'll experience a much better year.

Don't obsess with a form or the process.  Particularly in companies where the focus is on the methodology such as SMART objectives versus the intention.  Commit it to your intention of being extraordinary.

Also see the article "How to Reverse Engineer" on this blog.  

Click here for the private link to the valuable MS-Word document to conduct your own self-assessment and "Personal Vision Statement." 

-Ken Sergi

(c) Ken Sergi 

Note that images and graphics used in this blog are copyrighted and licensed for use to Ken Sergi. 

Business 101: A Business Plan versus Operational Plan

Operational planning is a higher predictor of long-term sustainable success over a business plan. The business plan is an essential road map to start the journey. Most business leaders create a business plan, then set it aside and get to work.  Most organizations will focus on activities that provide 80% assurance of long-term failure within five years.

How do leading companies succeed? By
 creating integrated (systemic) systems and processes that will operationalize the business plan and reinforce the organization's strategy. This is also called "Organization Development." Going beyond the business plan, you can systemically operationalize your plan to ensure that everyone is going in the same direction with replicable processes that will absolutely exceed your expectations. Then you don't have to micro-manage performance, you get to lead and empower growth.

Organization Development ("OD") deals with deliberately improving an organization's performance, effectiveness, health and viability through systemic (integrated) parts. These parts utilize methodologies and employee development to target where you want to go (strategy) and cohesively getting everyone going in the same direction. It addresses strategic planning, organizational design, core competencies, hiring, leadership development, performance management and employee development.

Thus, when a company says that "customer service is important" they create performance expectations, hire, train, measure and reward consistently on it. It doesn't show up as a contradiction where service is important, but the employees are measured on how many calls are processed. 

Communication: How to Ask Open-Ended or Clarifying Questions

Don't work so hard on your next conversation, presentation, or meeting to ensure that you're heard.  Certainly come prepared, but start by asking open-ended questions to target the needs of your listener or audience.  It allows for multiple responses in the listeners owns language. 
1st - Repeat back what you heard using similar words from what was expressed.  Then ask "Is what I said what you meant?" 
2nd - Adapt your style and response to meet their expectations.  It will encourage a meaningful response that targets results without judgment, instead of driving, strong-arming, or pushing your own agenda.  It will also demonstrate active listening skills while avoiding projecting, fixing, or telling.

Examples of open-ended or clarifying questions:
"What's the most important thing you'd like to get from me, or this meeting?"
"How would you like me to provide you with feedback or information?"
"Describe for me how you did...."
"Tell me a time when you demonstrated...."
"What would it look like if... (you tried the opposite)?"
"What if the opposite were true?"
"How can I support you?"
"What would success look like?"  
"What did you intend as the outcome?"
"Are you angry?" or "My impression is that you are angry, is that accurate?"
"Are you frustrated?" or "My impression is that you are frustrated, is that accurate?"
Try to avoid using assumptions or projections, such as "You seem to be..."

-Ken Sergi

Note that images and graphics used in this blog are copyrighted and licensed for use to Ken Sergi. 

8 Signs of an Extraordinary Boss

1) Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.
2) A company is a community, not a machine.
3) Management is a service, not control.
4) My employees are my peers, not my children.
5) Motivation comes from vision, not fear.
6) Change equals growth, not pain.
7) Technology offers empowerment, not automation.
8) Work should be fun, not mere toil.

MEETINGS: How to Conduct A Very Effective Meeting

Guaranteed tips to conduct much more effective meetings. Since everyone seems to attend either long, boring, or seemingly unnecessary meetings, here are a few tips to ensure they go significantly better.  As a presenter or participant you have a role to play.

The purpose of the meeting should decide the method, such as it being in person, teleconference, video conference, etc. Each method has it's pros and cons.

1. Arrive on time to ensure starting and ending on time;
2. Have agenda and come prepared;
3. Be concise, stay on topic (use "parking lot" items);
4. No disruptions: phone, email, text, side conversations;
5. Ask clarifying questions if you don't understand;
6. Value the strength of diverse input;
7. Demonstrate mutual respect, no negative criticism;
8. If you disagree, propose a solution;
9. Respect confidentiality;
10. Have fun / use humor.

Assign someone the task of time keeper and the "Parking lot" to ensure the meeting stays on track. The "Parking lot" is a note sheet to write down items for addressing later, either during the meeting or afterwards.  The "Parking lot" sheet can either be an easel page on the wall, or someone assigned to keep charge of parking lot items. Everyone including the presenter should respect the interruptions of the time keeper to stay on task. 
1. Recognize that you own personal (personality) style impacts what gets your focus of attention when speaking and listening.  Pay attention to "Mind the Gap" to notice your diverse audience.  Your audience is thinking 7x faster than you are speaking.  Since it might not be possible to know how each person is hearing what you expect, ask clarifying questions  or turn statements into questions.  It will keep your audience engaged and help you to ensure that everyone is hearing what you expect.  These tips are separate from developing your own presentation and communication skills.

1. Pay attention to "Mind the Gap."  Since we think 7x faster than we speak, everyone is listening and hearing through their own filters. Before you speak ask yourself if the comment is relevant to the outcome (reference "Ground Rules").  Every comment becomes a stopping point.  It will create a reaction.  If you're having an ah-ha moment, it might not be necessary to share it with everyone during the meeting. 

Click here for a print version of the "Ground Rules"

- Ken Sergi

(c) Ken Sergi

MEETINGS: Ground Rules

Use these "Ground Rules" when conducting meetings.  The image to the right is a jpg. Click it to view the larger version and download it.  

Click here for a PDF version.

Or copy the text below to insert into your own document:
1. Arrive on time to ensure starting and ending on time;
2. Have agenda and come prepared;
3. Be concise, stay on topic (use "parking lot" items);
4. No disruptions: phone, email, text, side conversations;
5. Ask clarifying questions if you don't understand;
6. Value the strength of diverse input;
7. Demonstrate mutual respect, no negative criticism;
8. If you disagree, propose a solution;
9. Respect confidentiality;
10. Have fun / use humor.

Click here for additional tips on how to conduct an effective meeting.

- Ken Sergi

Manager As Coach

Managers and leaders can easily improve performance by 70% when using a few basic coaching principles with employees instead of the traditional management or communication style.  Particularly with annual performance reviews, re-framing your conversation can also improve communication by 72%, and team effectiveness by 51%, relationships by 73%, time management by 57%, in addition to satisfaction and return on investment by 86%.  If you invest a lot of time or energy managing your employees, then the coaching approach can make your job significantly easier while simultaneously improving performance and satisfaction.

Coaching is a much more powerful conversation that helps employees create solutions through the skilled use of challenging questions and action-oriented planning.  It can be spontaneous to a specific situation or a structured long-term development plan with accountability.  Click here to read more about ‘What is Coaching?'

Although coaching is a skilled profession, there are some fundamental principles and questions you can use to elevate your competency to make your conversations much more influential and effective. 
  • The best coaching approach asks questions to facilitate the coachee solving their own problems.
  • Coaching engages active listening with a variety of questioning styles.
  • Coaching is future-oriented and positive. 
  • Coach the person, not the problem.

Regardless if your conversation is spontaneous or scheduled as part of a long-term plan, issues and goals should be solution-oriented.  The approach is how to move forward in a positive way.  A simple example:  "I want to be better organized" versus "I want to be less disorganized."  Another Example:  "I want to be more happy" versus "...less angry."

>Why did you do that?  Say instead -->  What were you hoping to gain?
>Why did you tell her that?  Say instead -->  How did that work out for you?
>Why are you going to analyze it for the third time?  Say instead -->  How will running a third analyses increase your confidence in the number?


The meeting was a disaster (blah blah blah details)

What happened?  Did you have the hand-outs?

How do you want your meetings to run?  What do you need to do differently?

I can't believe I let her get to me like that!

What did she say when you...?  Why didn't you tell her...?

How would you like it to be when she's like that?  What do you need to do to keep calm next time?

A critical competency of effective conversations is Active Listening.  It is the ability to focus completely on what the speaker is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the speaker's desires, and to support the speaker's self-expression without judgment.

"Tell me about the relationship with..."
"How are you feeling today"
"How would you define success"

"Is the relationship with your boss good?"
"Are you feeling better today?"
"Is that your final answer?"

"What are you expectations?"
"What did you mean when you said...?"
"Could you please repeat?"
"How did you know that you were being successful?"

Connecting:  "Is the text error similar to the email error?"

Leading:  "Were you at Macy's on the night of June 5th?"

Behavioral:  "Describe a time when you were successful?"

Reflective:  "I heard you say... is what I said accurate?"

"What if the opposite were true?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"What if you were able to ....(do or feel the opposite / positive)?"

These examples are from
-What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?
-What have you tried so far?
-What haven’t you tried so far?  What’s another solution/approach that may work?
-How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
-What’s the first thing you need to do to (resolve/achieve this)?
-What resources do you need? (Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you?)
-What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)?
-When should we reconnect on this to ensure you achieved the result you want?

Posted on the blog