Communicating with Impact

By | Communication | No Comments

In this global economy that many organisations call home, communicating with impact is becoming more and more complex. Far gone are the days when we only had to deal with the ‘big personalities’ that would high-jack the meeting. NOW interacting across global communities and locations adds many challenges beyond personalities. Challenges range from technology, to time zones, to culture.

Geert Hofstede describes 6 key cultural dimensions where cultures can be very different or quite similar. From P. Christopher Earley and Soon Ang we learn about Cultural intelligence. The most important aspect of creating understanding between cultures, and people, is keeping an open mind. So don’t be bound by your own assumptions and cultural standards. Give your team time to shine.

Whether you are a fledgling start-up or a global multi-national, setting your team up for cross-location and cross-cultural success is as important as having the correct technology in place. If your company is to truly thrive, follow these 3 simple rules to stay on track with your multi-location meetings.

1. Consider Approach, Aptitude & Attitude

Educate your team about the importance of learning about other cultures. Challenge them to question their own beliefs and assumptions. It is not enough to just keep an open mind, you must communicate it.

  • Remind your team that you are open to suggestions and questions.
  • Encourage everyone to engage in the conversation by building pauses into your speech patterns.
  • Be sensitive to others’ reactions to your comments and questions. Even if you can’t see the person at the other end of the phone, you can learn a lot from the tone of, and inflection in, their voice.
  • Listen actively and openly and continue to learn new ways of conversing with your team.

To communicate with impact, allow others to speak their mind and be part of the conversation. As well as celebrating improvements and successes in your team, consider setting times to talk about what communication style works best. Have 1-to-1 conversation about preferred interaction style. Then follow it up with a team discussion. This signals that you are prepared to follow through with engaging and empowering each person on your team.

 2. Pollinate Across Cultures

One of the most effective ways to open communication is to share personal stories. Whether they are about your experiences in other parts of the world, or observations from working and living in different locations, each story creates a connection. And each connection links you more closely to your team, and to your shared experiences. The principle for cross-cultural pollination is simple:

  • Be mindful & friendly: assume everyone has answers, not just you
  • Be kind & respectful: acknowledge the importance of cultural history and experience
  • Be interested & inclusive: virtually everyone on the planet wants to be part of a team. Make sure they know that they are included!
  • Encourage discussion & disagreement: when someone disagrees with you, be joyful!! You are sure to learn something!

3. Simplify Your Language

Simplicity is a great confidence booster. The simpler the words used in the message, the easier it is to understand. Especially when communicating with a multi-language team!

  • Consider the main objective you wish to accomplish.
  • Take time to reflect upon your message.
  • Keep it simple; 1 to 3 key (bullet) points are easier to understand than several narrative paragraphs.

Especially if you are communicating remotely, remember it takes 1 or 2 seconds for someone to ‘tune in’ to your voice. Whether the message is written or spoke, follow a standard format that incorporates key phrases. This will make it easier for the reader or listener to recognise and understand your message over time.

During Conversation In Correspondence
The purpose of this meeting is to …

The action we require is ….

Please [respond, complete, etc.] by [ date / time]

Use headings and bullet points:

  • Purpose
  • Action Required
  • Follow-up
  • Completion Time

Standardised phrases allow people to ‘tune in’ gracefully. And, if your whole team begins to use the same patterns and phrases, it becomes easier and easier to understand and connect across cultures.

Last of all, remember to keep your sense of humour. Of course, there will be misunderstandings and mis-communication, but a little humour will demonstrate that your intent to to ensure the best conversation possible, and that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

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References

Download this Post  |  Herrman, Social Cognition |  Earley/Mosakowski: Curltural Intelligence    |  Earley / Ang: Cultural Intelligence   |  Including Team   |   Communicating with Teams

Sales Savvy: Know Your Customer

By | Sales | No Comments

We, in sales, talk about market segmentation a lot, but could we be more savvy by knowing our specific customers better?  If we focus too much on the ‘big picture’ do we lose the customer connection that makes the sale?

Peter Drucker certainly had some sales savvy when he said that ‘the purpose of a business is to create a customer’* and that we should ‘know and understand our customers so well the product/service fits them and sells itself.’

Here is an exercise that every sales person can do to tune into to their ‘ideal buyer’. Take a few minutes to think about your best customer (or buyer). Think about a real person; the one who gives you lots of business and supports you when your company brings out a new line of products, etc. Draw an illustration of that buyer; where they work; who their customers are, or who they work for or with; what they do to build business and what they do outside of business. Don’t worry if you have absolutely no talent for drawing, you don’t have to show your illustration to anyone. Just drawing will active both your right and left hemispheres so you can see your customer with fresh eyes!!

Try to create a well-rounded illustration of that person, and once you have, store it somewhere close at hand. As you think of new aspects of the person, add them to the illustration.

This exercise does two things, it allows you to attune to specific characteristics that you see in your ‘best buyer’ which could be a marker for another fantastic customer. Once you are on the lookout for these characteristics, you will spot prospects who carry these markers more easily – thus allowing you to shorten the sales cycle and gather ‘best buyers’ to you. You will also begin to understand the drivers of those best customers (buyers), to connect with, and understand them more fully. The outcome? Better long-term relationships with your preferred buyer and more business along the way.  Win-Win!!

The Practice of Management New York,: Harper, 1st ed. 1954 ; Routledge, 2012

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Better Plans

By | Org Health | No Comments

Building Better Business Plans

Imagine the best book you ever read. Think about the opening sentence that enticed you into the book, the twists and turns of the plot that surprised you and enticed you to read on, the aspirational nature of the hero which made you root for their success. That happy, satisfied feeling you experience when you complete the book, when all the loose ends are tied up and you know that everything has turned out well for a reason is the same as the one your reader should experience when they read your business plan.

Confidence Booster

Your plan tells a story; the story of your dreams. It contains the fabric of your aspiration that are not captured in your Business Canvas, and each section paints a picture of your business idea in more and more detail. Considering the high failure rate and gender imbalance of start-ups, your business plan may also become your primary confidence booster, as it provides the ‘numbers behind the story’; financial worksheets & the marketing plan to back up your claims and ideas. And certainly, as you move forward to develop your business, your plan will be the reminder of the great things to come when you are struggling with the challenges that always accompany a new and/or growing business.

With more and more women choosing to leave corporate life due to gender balance disconnects, the business plan can become the primary tool for making that jump – and for women especially, this is important. In 2013, Forbes highlighted the confidence gap between women and men. The findings were a bit shocking; women typically start with less cash, find their money through ‘alternative financing’ and are twice as likely to discontinue their business as men[i]. The business plan is a way to build confidence and to put the right foot forward.

The descriptions of your company, offering and management of main element, help tell your story and form the body of the business plan. Although many believe that the main rationale for most business plans is to obtain funding, every start-up, no matter what size should write a business plan. It helps you clarify you value-add, and understand what makes you unique. It allows you to appreciate how much effort and money it really takes to start a business. It will also help prevent costly mistakes and act as a roadmap for your growth and expansion. Just like a book, your business plan will require several passes to flesh out and to ensure there is good flow and a consistent feel to the plan. Once you think your plan is complete, give it to at least one expert, or someone with experience in that industry, to review.  This review is very important, especially if you are using your business plan to apply for loans or to seek out other forms of capital.

Get Support

There is much support for startups here in Luxembourg. Writing a business plan forces you to do your homework, get advice, test your ideas and to consider important details. It also helps women overcome some of our natural biases and face societal barriers that are challenges to their success[ii]. Remember to think about your audience before you begin writing your plan. Your business plan will be influenced by the type of assistance you want. And check your sources – many organisations have a specific template that you must follow if you want to apply for funding or other assistance like mentoring. You don’t have to build your business plan from front to back. You can choose one section, for example, your offering, and work on that ‘chapter’ until it gives a clear picture of the customer, the value and points of differentiation from your competitors.

Think Big! Think Long-term!!

Currently, in Luxembourg, there is much emphasis on supporting startups but remember, start-ups don’t drive economic growth. Growing companies do. Until your company is big enough to employ 10, 20 or 50 people, you will probably struggle and you will probably not be able to impact the economy in any meaningful or sustainable manner. When it comes down to it, there is lots of support for startups here, but your plan is the best first step to starting effectively, so start with the end in mind! Think big and long-term for your plan.

References

Download Guide | Download Blog pdf

Forbes: Business Ideas | Forbes: Startup Failure | HBR: Women Starting Businesses | Women Owned Business in the 21st Century | Wharton: Entrepreneurs: Male vs Female | Luxembourg Seed fund for Startups | Luxembourg Entrepreneur Support | Luxembourg: Start a Startup | Luxembourg: Fit for Start | Luxembourg: Support for Innovation | Luxembourg CoC: Mentoring

[i] Pofeldt, Elaine, The Confidence Gap And Women Entrepreneurs, Forbes Entrepreneurs, 2013-05-28, accessed 2016-11-03

[ii] Women Owned Business in the 21st Century, US Department of Commerce, Economics & Statistics Administration, 2010-10, Accessed 2016-11-03

Create Your Story – For Telling

By | Storytelling | 2 Comments

Ever wondered what special talent you need to be able to create those beautiful corporate stories that stick in your mind and tug, just a bit, at your soul? Although I’ve met some individuals who just had storytelling in their DNA, I’ve met many more who have learned a process for developing their story, that works just as well.

Corporate stories are created to connect people with the product, service or spirit of the company or organisation. Following a clean process will allow you to develop an elegant and memorable story that gets your point across. Here are the steps that I use with my clients:

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Changing Behaviour with Storytelling

By | Storytelling | 2 Comments

There are three important differences between corporate storytelling and the stories you tell around the campfire or read for entertainment. Corporate stories are created to serve a purpose. Although they can be very entertaining, they are not just meant to entertain. Although they can be riveting, they should not have a ‘surprise ending’. And above all, although they are fashioned to be memorable and repeatable, they must also be designed to put specific focus on an important behavioural or aspirational element of an organisation.

By now, we have all heard at least some of the research that confirms that there is little difference between hearing a story and living it. Most of us have also read that we are all hardwired to remember a good story. But corporate storytellers must go a step further and a bit deeper. Corporate storytelling inspires customers but more than this, it provides guidance and alignment for your team to build exceptional results and connection to the organisation’s purpose.

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