(5) Tips on How to Improve Communication – Either yours, or people you work with.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Almost on a daily basis I have people asking me for advice on how to improve upon either their communication skills, or how they can work with others to help improve the communication level between them, or a team they work with or manage. Since there are varying degrees of how well people communicate interpersonally, or with multiple types of people, there is typically a range of how well their information is being interpreted and whether their message is being conveyed clearly, or not. For some people, the ability to communicate well is a natural talent, but for most people, it is a skill they need to continuously work on to obtain a basic to an intermediate level of proficiency.

It is obvious when you come across someone who has mastered the art of communicating well, and you can appreciate how smoothly they are able to articulate their information to you. Conversely, we have all experienced having to communicate with others who lack basic communication skills, or who have room for improvement in this area. So, what can you do if you are challenged with your ability to communicate, or when you are dealing with people who are not at your same level of communication skills? Here are some tips you can consider putting into practice to help.

  1. (5) W’s & 1 (H) – Ask the person to cover what in journalism school is referred to as the (5) W’s and (1) H. In other words, make sure they are conveying to you in their communication Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Typically, when one of these elements is left out, it leaves room for misinterpretation and elongates the process of getting the persons message across.
  2. Time Line – When you are communicating with someone or a group of people, it is important to make sure they are aware of whether the topic you are communicating about has a time line. Not all communications have a timeline associated them in terms of “next steps”, but when they do, and this is not articulated, this is often when the communication breaks down.
  3. Methods of Communicating – Simply because you like to communicate verbally, does not mean everyone does. Some people prefer to communicate in writing, or perhaps a combination of face-to-face and in writing too. The best advice I can give you is to ask what the person or groups preferred method(s) of communication is.
  4. Formal or Informal – Depending on who you are communicating with, what the topic is about, how well you know the person, or a myriad of other factors will contribute to whether it is best to communicate in a formal or informal style with the recipient(s). It is best to lean towards formally communicating with others, and then determine during the course of communication if the recipient(s) modifies the communication style to be less formal.
  5. Don’t Make Assumptions – If you are not clear about an aspect of the communication you are having interpersonally, or with a team, it is best to ask for clarification on the aspect of the communication which is not clear. You can do this with either the entire group, or with one to two people involved in the discussion who you can ask and determine if they interpreted the information the same way you did.

I realize practicing your communication skills may not be your idea of “fun”, but the stronger you become at honing this skill, the easier it will be for you to interact with your boss, colleagues and people you generally associate with. If you are wondering what communication level you are at, ask two or three people you know well, respect and are comfortable with receiving constructive feedback from. It is important you ask them to only give you constructive feedback, and to also share with you aspects of how you communicate well. If you work on the constructive feedback communication aspects, ask them if they would be willing to re-evaluate your progress in another month. This will give you plenty of time to practice and hone the communication skills you desire to have, and focus on the opportunities you will have when you are at a higher level of being able to converse with others.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

The Value of Staying in Touch

By Kathleen E. Murphy

A wise friend of mine recently told me he was impressed with my ability to keep in touch. In full disclosure, I had lost touch with this person for a number of years, but when we recently reconnected it felt like we picked back up on our last conversation from too many years ago to mention. Since re-establishing our connection, we have benefitted conversationally from the life and professional experience we have each gained, and he has been true to his word with helping me on a request based on an email exchange we had about a month ago. The original intent of reconnecting with my friend took an entirely different turn than I expected it to, but therein lies the beauty of staying in touch.

Due to fact I have a communications background, I might have an advantage over most people as it might be slightly easier for me to keep in touch with people. Perhaps this is because I genuinely like to communicate with them. However, I also think I am personally driven to remain in touch with people because of the value they bring to enriching my life via the connection I have with them.

A few years ago, I read a book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. As you might derive from the book title, Keith’s concept about the value of staying in touch with people is fulfilled by making sure he leverages every dining opportunity, or as many as he can to remain in touch with his network or people who are in his life. He also reaches out to new people and dines with them to develop a connection with them. I like Keith’s concept, and I try myself to practice his concept, but it does take a fair amount of effort to do so, but it is absolutely worth doing so.

Another way Keith keeps in touch is to maximize his travel time in his car to either leave voice mails for people he has not been in touch with in the last three to six months, or schedules time with them to catch up on the phone if distance prohibits them from connecting in person. With vast technological improvements in our ability and ease of being able to keep in touch through both voice, video, text and social media options, there really are not any good excuses about why everyone cannot increase their ability to remain in touch. Granted there are people out there who will come up with more excuses than I could even dream up about why they are not able to stay in touch, but I am not going to buy 99% of their reasons or excuses. Whether you like it or not, I stand firm on this thinking.

For those of you who know me well, you know I love analogies. My analogy of staying in touch is like keeping your body and mind healthy. You need to work at doing this every day, and the more you work on your ability to stay in touch, the easier it becomes to do so. Take for example my Dad who purchased his first iPhone a few years ago. He uses his phone as his primary communication tool to keep in touch with his children and seven grandkids (e.g., whom he texts, sends photos, emoji’s and links to on a daily basis), and everyone should be able to also do this. My Dad has also mastered the art of this technology method to stay in touch, and I guarantee you he is older than most of the people reading this article, so there is no excuse why other people cannot do the same. As a matter of fact, my Dad’s iPhone has significantly increased his ability to remain in touch with both our family, as well as his friends, and I know he would agree he would not be as connected to others without it.

Remaining in touch has never been easier to do, so stop procrastinating and start reaching out to people you have lost touch with, have not spoken to in a while (you can define what this means), or take a more strategic approach and make a list of people you want to reconnect with and begin re-establishing a connection with them this week. Given all the “ugly news” happening lately, you can play a part in turning your communication outreaches into positive experiences which you and the recipient will both benefit from. As Nike says, “Just Do It”.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

 

Behind the scenes of a business deal – From a CEO’s perspective.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) hold the proverbial keys to the kingdom of success of a company in numerous ways. However, their company is only as strong and successful as the management team they are working with, and whether this team is fully invested in supporting their CEO. One large mistake CEO’s have been known to make is to not take the time to meet with and have a conversation with each of their management executives to find out the driving forces and motivational reasons behind why they work for them, and the company. Excluding a descent salary, there need to be other factors behind what will allow the CEO to have a high retention rate on their team. Having a high retention rate will be critical to the CEO and the Board of Directors in numerous scenarios, one of them being when the company is doing a “big deal”, and this can be a sales deal, a partner deal or perhaps ultimately selling the company.

Besides having a strong valuation on paper and revenue numbers which are attractive from an investment perspective, one of the key elements to why one company would be interested in another is what I will refer to as the “story telling” ability. Often the CEO or COO is responsible for being able to articulate and verbally paint a picture about why their company is so desirable and why their value proposition sets them apart from their competition. There is clearly an art to storytelling, and if a CEO or the person in charge of telling the “story” is not practiced and strong at doing this, their company runs the risk of being overlooked, or worse, dismissed from moving onto the next phase of where they desire to be.

When a company is jockeying for position to be sold, it is critical the CEO sheds their “selfishness cape/coat”, and thinks and takes into account how many other people contributed to getting them to the place they are. No one person is ever 100% responsible for the success or demise of a company, but the success of a company is largely dependent on having one or two people on the executive management team who can guide the CEO, particularly when they are in situations they have limited to no experience in.

The skill elements required from those who provide guidance to the CEO are numerous, but at the top of the list is being a good listener. Possessing a high emotional intelligence level, being strategic, having the ability to see the “big picture”, knowing how to guide the CEO and company via transitions and understanding the tangible and intangible aspects of the business and its valuation are also essential skills. Fully having mastered the art of hiring, motivating and managing human capital while also having mastered the science of business operations skills are critical too.

It is also imperative for the person guiding the CEO to know how to grow a small company into a mid to large size company, have the ability to wear many “hats” within the organization as required and appreciate and acknowledge the hard work and skills required by others to perform well in their roles. Additionally, it is critical to know how to motivate both the CEO and the rest of the company members – especially when they are working exceptionally hard or in phases of growth which are difficult. Helping the CEO to keep their eye on the “end game” or ultimately what would be the best outcome for both the CEO and the rest of the management team and company is also essential to the demise or success of the company.

So, when a deal of any kind is about to transpire, it is critical for the CEO to remember who helped them to get to the point they are at, especially since the people who do so are like their second family. If the CEO does not think their employees are like their second family, then they need to do some serious sole searching, as the people who work for them are not working for them simply because they like to work there. They are working either to support the CEO, the product or because of the company value proposition and mission, or some form of a combination of these.

Taking care of your “family” is always the right thing to do, so make sure this is fully understood, embraced and put into practice by the CEO. Having your “work family” to support you in times of need are critical, and having them there to celebrate with you in times of when you can be celebrating is the best feeling ever. No amount of money will ever make celebrating alone worthwhile or meaningful. Ultimately you want your employees to be well taken care of, and only the CEO has the final say of making this a reality. Don’t make the mistake of being greedy, as it will never provide you with satisfaction, and you will likely need key members of your “work family team” to help you in the future. As the old saying goes, “don’t ever burn your bridges”, especially over money matters.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

What Others Think of You – (3) Tips on How Not to Care About This.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

I learned a long time ago it really does not matter what other people think about me, as long as I am confident in myself and comfortable with the choices I make in my personal and professional life. However, I do not believe my thinking is as common as I would expect it to be with other. I also regularly have conversations with people about how they are “worried” about what others will think about what they are going to be doing, or have already done. This seems like an exhausting way to go through life, and it certainly is not productive in any way. So why do so many people care about what others think of them?

Perhaps people care about what others think about them because they lack the confidence they should have to rise above and not concern themselves with others perceptions of them. In fact, what other people think about you is really none of your business, and I almost guarantee you it is not accurate. Most people are generally not good at being self-aware let alone mastering the art of fully understanding why other people do what they do and why they do it.

Consider the last time you had some type of evaluation either by your boss, or informally by your family or your significant other. Was their opinion and recent commentary about you 100% accurate? I doubt it, and yet did you push back and ask them why they perceived you the way they did? In general, this would be considered confrontational behavior, and the majority of people do not like confrontation, but I also know plenty of people who do. My commentary on being confrontational is that if it is constructive information being shared, then it is acceptable behavior. However, if it is not, and is verbally harmful and not constructive, this is when people get into difficult communication scenarios, and when what the other person thinks of you causes problems and friction.

My advice to you if you are the type of person who is perpetually worrying about what others are thinking of you is to do these three things:

  1. Think about why you are so concerned with what the person or people are thinking about you. Ask yourself the question – Why does it matter and will it change anything if I keep thinking about this?
  2. Is this a good use of my time and energy to be concerned about what others are thinking about me? This is a rhetorical question, and the answer is “no”, so apply your time and energy towards something or someone else which is more constructive.
  3. Write down five reasons you are “awesome” and read them out loud to yourself. This will help to divert your mind from your negative thinking and worrying about what others are thinking about you, and refocus you on why it does not matter what others are thinking about you.

Simply because you think others are thinking of you does not mean they are. Have you ever considered the fact that others if they were thinking about you might actually be thinking something positively about you? Why do humans have more of a tendency to assume others are only thinking negatively about them? If people are in fact thinking negatively about you, it really should not matter to you, because it is more important for you to be spending your time and attention on not caring what others are thinking, unless it is constructive feedback or a compliment they wish to pay them. A personal example of this is when I had been seeing a woman at my gym who was clearly trying to get in better shape and health. I have seen her at the gym on a regular basis for about six months, and she has probably lost well over 50 pounds during this time. I was thinking how inspirational she has been to me on those days I do not want to go to the gym, so I walked up to her the other day and told her this, and complimented her on how fabulous she looked and told her to keep up the great work she was doing. She thanked me profusely for telling her this, and flashed a million dollar smile at me and said I made her day.

Can you stop caring about what others are thinking about you and perhaps help someone else to do so too? Think of how much better you and they will feel when you each focus your energy and thoughts on something more worth your time and attention. Seriously, now go put this into practice.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Tips on Electronic Etiquette

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Besides your license, credit card and keys, what is the one item and gadget you always have on or near you? Most people will tell you it’s their phone, or some version of an electronic device they use to keep in touch with the rest of the world (e.g., Smart Phone, iWatch, tablet, etc.). With electronic communication technology advancements, we are able to keep in touch 24/7 with virtually anyone else who is connected to a mobile communication device. There are clear advantages to this, but there is also a downside to always being “in touch”, and it is easy to lose sight of what the “unwritten rules” of electronic etiquette might be. Actually, do they really exist, and who is the “keeper” of these rules? If there are electronic etiquette rules, do you know what they are, or have you considered whether you might be breaking them on a regular basis?

In doing research on this topic, I was surprised to find that Forbes Magazine last published an article back in 2010 called Top 10 Electronic Etiquette Faux Pas This article covered a variety of electronic gadgets and the faux pas noted were reasonable and exercised common sense, but I am going to focus strictly on our Smartphones, and offer (5) tips on how not to offend others if you do any of these actions with your phone.  I know most of these will make you roll your eyes, but I guarantee you many of you have done at least one of these things in the last day or two. Don’t try to admit you are not guilty, as I have seen just about everyone breaking what I will call the Top (5) Smartphone Etiquette rules. Here is my version of the unofficial Smartphone Etiquette rules which if applied, could up the ante on our professional behavior to a whole new level of being polite and more aware and respectful of others around us.

  1. Phone in the bathroom – Talking on the toilet or anywhere inside of a public or private bathroom. Think twice before you do this, and how it could be construed as being offensive on so many levels – hygiene being one of them. I can’t tell you how many toilets I have also heard flushing during conference call meetings, and who really wants to be hearing this?
  2. Bringing your phone to your interview – whether you are the interviewer or interviewee. It seems like common sense for the interviewee not to bring their phone to the interview, and to give 100% of their attention to the interviewer, but I have also witnessed and been thoroughly disappointed by countless interviewers who have brought their phone to the interview, taken a call or two and responded to incoming texts while they were interviewing me, or someone else if it was a group interview situation. Not only is this incredible rude, it is highly disrespectful of the interviewee who deserves your full attention. Think twice about working for someone or a company who has employees who bring their phones to an interview.
  3. Taking calls or texting when you are dining with other people. Maybe they could claim they are addicted to their phone, and I have heard this is possible, but I would say most people are not addicted to their phone although they might feel like they are. The point is, when you are dining with other people, it is one of the less common times you have their full attention, so each of you should be taking full advantage of this face-to-face interaction. If you are on your phone either talking or responding to incoming messages from email or your social media feeds, you are signaling to the person or people you are dining with they are not as important as the attention you are giving to your Smartphone content. Is this really the message you want to convey to them?
  4. Your phone is not going to make you stronger when you talk on it at the gym. I am a big fan of listening to music at the gym or possibly responding to either texts or emails, but it definitely is not a place I want to be hearing other people talking on the phone. Think about this the next time you queue up a phone conversation when you are at the gym. Perhaps you didn’t notice the people glaring at you when you were doing this.
  5. Meetings – When you are scheduled to be in a meeting, the expectation is you are there to be present and to contribute your full attention during the course of the discussion. When you are constantly checking your phone for incoming emails and other alerts which come up, you are essentially indirectly telling the people you are meeting with they are not as important as your phone, or the communications which are coming in. You are also not able to devote 100% of your attention to what is being discussed, as you are in a state of distraction when you switch between your phone and the “live” or “virtual” meeting. Is this the message you are intending to send?

Yes, there are numerous other “rules” I could come up with relating to peoples use of their Smartphone in places or situations they should not, but I limited it to five to give you “food-for-thought” and good fodder for office or social conversations. The bottom line is there are a plethora of other scenarios which are likely putting you in a situation of not being socially on top of your Smartphone etiquette. Do you agree, or do you have other examples of poor Smartphone etiquette?

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.