Make a name for yourself

Here is a great little book that I discovered – Make a name for yourself. 55 Strategies to Fast-Track Your Professional Prowess, by Scott Ginsberg.

The author, Scott Ginsberg is quite a remarkable person. He has been wearing a name badge for the last 7 years, and this has resulted in several books, and how is now a professional speaker, author and trainer.

Scott describes himself as “that guy who wears a nametag 24-7 to make people friendlier”. It started as an experiment over 7 years ago, and he has been doing so ever since. He has turned his idea of wearing a nametag all the time into a business, whereby he helps people to connect and to achieve professional success.

The book is very simply written, and it provides some wonderful ideas on how to understand who you are, and how to make the best use of your resource to achieve success.

“In 2002, unsure of how to approach starting my own company, I sought out as many success resources as possible. From reading books to scouring the Internet to interviewing; successful people, I was determined to learn the patterns that enabled so many others to make a name for themselves.”

I have no doubt that by following his ideas, you will make a difference to yourself. Some of his ideas are:

  • Get up an hour earlier
  • Keep daily appointments with yourself
  • More books, less TV
  • It’s not what you know
  • Speak up or get shut down

And my personal favorite – the Best Swimmers are always in the Pool. In this chapter, he speaks about learning by doing, and best of all – It was given to him by a Toastmaster (thanks for the punt)!

I was very interested to see that while he is selling the book, you can also get it for free. I would love to see what the response to this approach it (and yes, I have download the book and I am going to buy it, it really is a gem)

You can get the book in three ways:
1) buy it from Amazon
2) buy it from his website
3) download it for free from his website!

Enjoy!

No time to prepare – how to speak off the cuff

Why do I need to practice speaking off the cuff. The answer is simple, because we do it all the time. Impromptu Speaking is one of the most important yet least practiced skill of verbal communicating. A few situations in which we speak in an impromptu manner are:

  • Speaking in a meeting at work
  • Speaking on the telephone
  • Introducing yourself to a new acquaintance
  • Being asked for your opinion on a topic
  • Unexpectedly being asked to say a few words at a dinner

Here are a few simple strategies that can be used to help you to speak off the cuff in an intelligent and informative manner. These strategies (or variations of them) can be used in most impromptu situations.

Past, present and future

In past, present and future, you tell it how it was, how it is now, and how it will be in the future. Not only does it give you three main points to speak about, but it helps you to structure what you are saying into a coherent and logical manner. Eg: When speaking at a wedding:

  • I first met John and Sue about 10 years ago.. (the past)
  • Today, they look great together. (the present)
  • I am sure they are going to have many good years ahead (the future)

Express an opinion

State an opinion and then justify with supporting facts. Eg:

  • Sugar is bad for you because the rise in obesity correlates with increased sugar consumption

Address cause and effect

State the situation; discuss the causes and the eventual consequences. This is a strategy that politicians are extremely good at using. Eg:

  • The lack of ability of the opposition to perform is delaying the decision making process…

Break the Topic into components

Break the topic into a few simple components and discuss them individually. This approach can be a combination of the above approaches. So you could speak about something that happened in the past, discuss the implications for the present, and express an opinion as to the best strategy in the future.

A few tips when speaking off the cuff:

  • Listen to what the other person said. If you are unsure, ask them to repeat.
  • Pause before answering. This gives your time to formulate and structure your answer.
  • Say what you want to say, and nothing else.
  • Stop talking when you are finished. You dont need to ramble on and on.

During the table topics session at a Toastmasters meeting, members of the club are called to the lectern by the topics master, and are asked to speak for between 1-2 minutes on an unprepared topic. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice impromptu meetings, and to listen to how others do it.

The best way to improve your impromptu speaking is to practice. Seize every opportunity to do so, practice. and listen to yourself become a more effective communicator.

The GROW model

The GROW model is a coaching model that describes a very simply process that can be followed to help you work towards and to achieve your goals.

GOAL

The first step is to understand what your goal is. Understanding your goal gives you a concrete objective towards which you can work, and the freedom to start doing so.
Make your goals SMART – goals that are Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based. This removes the pie-in-the- sky aspect of goal setting, and turns them into something that you can actually achieve. Having a goal such as ?I would like to lose weight? is difficult to measure and hence difficult to achieve. How about changing it to ?I would like to lose 5 kg by December 2007??

Without goals comes a lack of focus, and with no focus it is very easy to drift through life – just living from day to day, wondering why you are not achieving anything in life. How much harder is it to move forward without understanding where you are going?

REALITY

The next step is to look at the current reality. Where are you in relation to your goal? Have you almost achieved your goal? Are you a long way away? Do you need to break the goal into smaller, more achievable goals?
It may require a detailed and honest analysis of where you are, But having a deep understanding of where you are provides a very solid foundation of understanding what needs to happen.

OPTIONS

Once you understand your goal and your reality, the task is to find out how to start to move the reality towards the goal. At this stage in the process, you examine what options are available to you. This is where the planning takes place.
There may be a single course of action, or there may be multiple options from which to choose. This is a good opportunity to go into some creative brainstorming, or to perform a SWOT analysis on the various options that are available to you.
Remember that at this stage you are not deciding which are the best options – that is for later. You are simply deciding on what the possible options are.

WHAT

At this stage, we have examined the goal, we know where we are in respect to the goal, and we have examined the various options that we can follow to reach the goal.
The final step is to examine the options, and to decide what the best option is to reach your goal. Note that you are not looking at the easiest option, but the best option. IE: which option is going to move you closest towards your goal?

WORKING THE PLAN

Working throught the GROW model provides a very simple yet powerful framework to support you in achieving your goals. However, the work really happens not in the planning, but in the working of your plan.

While working your plan, keep in mind how you are progressing towards your goal. Keeping examining what is and is not working in your plan. What might have seemed as a great option (the WHAT) might not have been the best choice . So try to have the flexibility to make  adjustments when it becomes necessary.

WHERE TO USE GROW

The GROW model can be used in almost any aspect of your personal or business life, including health, wealth, team goals and career aspirations. Basically, GROW will work anywhere in your life that you are working towards a goal.

Good luck, and continue to GROW.

Historical note: There is a lot of uncertainty as to the origins of the GROW model. Several sources cite several different authors. To the best of my knowledge, it was created by Graham Alexander and brought to the fore by Sir John Whitmore.

21 tips for email etiquette

Email_1Email has become a primary communications medium for many of us. It is (generally) reliable, allows for mass communication, and it lets you respond in your own time.

However, many of these messages are poorly composed, difficult to read, and unclear as to the purpose. Of course, this makes it very difficult to manage the volume of email.

So, here is my list of 21 tips for email etiquette. By following them you should make both your life and the recipient’s life easier, and make the volume of email a little easier to manage.

1.    Be concise and to the point.
Do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be. Remember that reading an e-mail is harder than reading printed communications and a long e-mail can be very discouraging to read.

Make sure that all recipients know exactly why they are receiving the message. Is it for their info, are they expected to respond, if so by when etc. It is very annoying to receive an email when you are unsure what you are supposed to about it.

3.    If you are expected to respond to an email, please do
It is very annoying sending a message to people that need to respond, and none of them do. You don’t know if they received the message, or if they have received it, and have just not got around to replying. If you are asked to respond, please do so, even if it is just a "I am too busy to get you the info now – will do later…", or a "got it!" response. At least the sender then knows that you have received it.

4.    Answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions.
An email reply should answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions – if you do not answer all the questions in the original email, you may well receive further e-mails regarding the unanswered questions, which will not only waste your and the other person’s time, but it will cause considerable frustration.

Moreover, if you are able to pre-empt relevant questions, your will save considerable time for you and the recipient.

Imagine for instance that a customer sends you an email asking which credit cards you accept. Instead of just listing the credit card types, you can guess that their next question will be about how they can order, so you also include some order information and a URL to your order page.

5.    Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation.
Improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression, and does not convey the message properly. E-mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. Use the built-in spell checker in your email program.

6.    Make it personal.
Not only should the e-mail be personally addressed, it should also include personal content.

7.    Use proper structure & layout.
Since reading from a screen is more difficult than reading from paper, the structure and lay out is very important for e-mail messages. Use short paragraphs and blank lines between each paragraph. When making points, number them or mark each point as separate to keep the overview.

8.    Do not write in CAPITALS.
IF YOU WRITE IN CAPITALS IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING. This can be highly annoying and might trigger an unwanted response in the form of a flame mail. Therefore, try not to send any email text in capitals.

9.    Read the email before you send it.
A lot of people don’t bother to read an email before they send it out, as can be seen from the many spelling and grammar mistakes contained in emails. Apart from this, reading your email through the eyes of the recipient will help you send a more effective message and avoid misunderstandings and inappropriate comments.

01email10.    Use a meaningful subject.
Use a subject that is meaningful to the recipient as well as yourself. For instance, when you send an email to a company requesting information about a product, it is better to mention the actual name of the product, e.g. ‘Product A information’ than to just say ‘product information’ or the company’s name in the subject.

11.    Do not attach unnecessary (or large) files.
By sending large attachments you can annoy people and can even bring down their e-mail system. Wherever possible try to compress attachments and only send attachments when they are productive. Moreover, you need to have a good virus scanner in place since people will not be very happy if you send them documents full of viruses!

If you really do need to send a large attachment, check beforehand if that will be ok.

12.    Never have more than a few people in the to: field
When sending an email mailing, some people place all the email addresses in the To: field. There are two drawbacks to this practice: (1) many mail services block these messages as spam, and (2) you are publicizing someone else’s email address without their permission. One way to get round this is to place all addresses in the Bcc: field.

13.    Do not overuse Reply to All.
Only use Reply to All if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message. Rather use the Reply button.

14.    Do not copy a message or attachment without permission.
Do not copy a message or attachment belonging to another user without permission of the originator. If you do not ask permission first, you might be infringing on copyright laws.

15.    Do not use email to discuss confidential information.
Sending an email is like sending a postcard. If you don’t want your email to be displayed on a bulletin board, don’t send it. Moreover, never make any libelous, sexist or racially discriminating comments in emails, even if they are meant to be a joke.

16.    Don’t open an attachment unless you know it and the sender.
Ever!

17.    Don’t forward virus hoaxes and chain letters.
Do not forward chain letters. We can safely say that all of them are hoaxes. Just delete the letters as soon as you receive them.

If you receive an email message warning you of a new unstoppable virus that will immediately delete everything from your computer, this is most probably a hoax. By forwarding hoaxes you use valuable bandwidth and sometimes virus hoaxes contain viruses themselves, by attaching a so-called file that will stop the dangerous virus.

The same goes for chain letters that promise incredible riches or ask your help for a charitable cause. Even if the content seems to be bona fide, the senders are usually not. Since it is impossible to find out whether a chain letter is real or not, the best place for it is the recycle bin. If you are unsure – check the subject line on Google.

18.    Don’t reply to spam.
By replying to spam or by unsubscribing, you are confirming that your email address is ‘live’. Confirming this will only generate even more spam. Therefore, just hit the delete button or use email software to remove spam automatically.

19.    Sometimes a phone call is better.
If you have many points or a very complex point to discuss, it may be quicker to simply pick up the phone and speak to the person. One phone call is sometimes as effective as 20 email messages bouncing between two people. This is particularly relevant when you may be discussing a sensitive topic.

20.    Pause before sending a sensitive or aggressive email
Sometimes you receive an email that makes you angry, and the instinct is to react in an angry manner. When this happens, rather wait a few minutes before replying to the email, go and have a cup of coffee or something before sending the message. Often once you have calmed down, you may feel very differently about the response. If you are still angry, it may be better to respond via telephone as per the above point.

21.    Keep the subject relevant
When two people have replied to a single email message many times, sometimes the original subject is completely different to the new subject. Keep the subject relevant, and remember to remove unnecessary clutter at the bottom of the message. It is never read, and just makes the message longer.

Source:
http://www.emailreplies.com/
http://www.learnthenet.com/english/html/65mailet.htm

Anyone Can Learn to Be Funnier!

Here is a very interesting article by Dave Firzgerald, who was Darren LaCroix’s comedy mentor. Darren won the World Champion of Public Speaking in 2001. You can contact Darren on his website. He has loads of great books, tapes and CD’s available there.

Thanks to Darren for reprint permission!

Anyone Can Learn to Be Funnier!By Dave Fitzgerald (Darren’s comedy mentor)

Most people watching a good professional comedian on stage are truly impressed and usually a little bit envious… and rightfully so!  Who doesn’t want to be funnier, if not all the time, at least some of the time?

What makes the comedian so funny? Some of it is “natural talent” to be sure, a certain twisted outlook or a peculiar way of speaking that just grips us from the first minute. But if you ask any real pro how he manages to look so smooth and confident “up there,” the honest answer will be “STAGE TIME.”  It is “STAGE TIME” that helps the comic develop his  on stage persona and, equally as important, (maybe more so) his material!

By the time you see a “comedy routine ” performed on national television, it has been done in front of live audiences several hundreds, if not thousands of times. This is a daunting task and few people are willing and able to do what it takes to get to that level of success in Stand Up Comedy. The point is nobody is getting up there and just spewing out incredibly funny ideas – one right after the other!  It takes hard work which means practice-practice- practice!  Jay Leno still goes to comedy clubs to work out his material for the upcoming week’s monologues!  When I made my first national television appearance on  “EVENING AT THE IMPROV,” I had been doing the bulk of the material for at least two years and had worked on that exact 7 minute set every night for two weeks!

But what about the professional business person who doesn’t need to be funny all the time, but knows that humor is an incredibly powerful and attractive asset?  Whether you use humor in a presentation to a large audience or at a one-on-one lunch date…people remember who made them laugh… and why wouldn’t they!   Nothing else in life feels so good that is free, legal and can be done anywhere with your clothes on!…. and what about with clothes off?…  For most of us that’s an even bigger laugh!!

The main point here is that anyone can learn to be funnier!  It is  NOT one of those things that “you either have it or you don’t.”   Just how funny can you become?  Everyone is different and some people will have to work harder than others but everyone can be funnier than they are right now!

Hope you enjoyed it!-Darren

Is lack of communication killing us?

A few days ago a colleague of mine committed suicide. It was completely out of the blue, leaving many people very shaken at what happened. He had a good job, a nice house, a brand new car, and seemed to have so much going for him.

I find it really difficult to understand why somebody who was doing so well for himself decided to end it all. What was happening? Did he have nobody to turn to? Of all his friends, family and associates, was there nobody that he felt he could speak to, to share his problems with?

There must have been things going on in his head that were not showing on the outside. Things that he was bottling inside of him, until he could no longer take the pressure, and exploded in a very tragic manner.

I wonder what would have happened if he had somebody ? just one person ? that he could share his worries with. Would he still be here, or would we still be saying goodbye?

I find it very sad that in this modern world of instant messaging, emails, cell phones and sms we still are failing to communicate with each other. Is it that we are forgetting how to communicate to such an extent that when we really need it, we are unable to do so. Is the modern technology and modern lifestyle making it easier to communicate, or are we forgetting how to communicate to such an extent that when we need to, we simply cannot?

This is one of the reasons that I am so passionate about helping people to communicate ? because we are forgetting how to do so when we most need to be to do so.

The 10 Lies Software Developers Tell

Program_code1) My code is better that yours. Writing code is very much like writing a song or painting a picture. Artists and song-writers have different styles of painting or song writing. Writing code is similar, different software engineers have different coding styles. So, unless your code is really badly written, my code is no better than yours, it is simply different to yours. If my code works and does not require any enhancements, leave it alone, no matter how different to yours it is.

2) It works on my machine…well, if it works on your machine and not mine, then clearly it is not a robust application, or your installation procedure does not work very well. Remember that you wrote it on your machine, so of course it works on your machine. Now get it to work everywhere else.

3) I’ll comment the code at the end. The end of any development cycle is always chaotic, that is a simple fact of software engineering. So, if you have not got time to comment your code while you are writing it, how are you going to have the time at the end? Besides, if it is a large project with a long development time, are you going to remember what some of the earlier written (uncommented) code does!

4) I’ll add the error handing at the end. Error-handling is part of the basic design of a system, not something you slap on at the end when you have time.

5) The programme is complete – but I just need to quickly finish off…..This is a very common one. The development is not complete until you have finished writing all of the code. If you have a single line of code to write, it is not complete, and not ready for testing.

6) It is a small bug – it will only take 5 minutes to fix. By the time you have load the development environment, identified the bug, fixed, tested and rolled out the change to production, it will be much longer that 5 minutes. There is no such thing as a 5 minute to fix bug.

7) I only have to change one line of code to fix the bug. To the customer, it does not matter weather it is one line of code, or one hundred lines of  code. All the customer cares about is that the application is not working. Fix it!

8) It’s not my problem. If your application is not working – it is your problem. It does not matter if RightFax is down and you cannot print faxes, or you cannot connect to the FTP server. The fact is that if your application is not doing what it should be doing, you had better find out what the cause is, and resolve it.  While different people may have ownership of different portions of a software system, you are ALL responsible to ensure that everything is working.

9) The application works fine with my test data. Yes it might, work with the test data, but the live system does not run on test data. It runs on live data. Best you get your application to work with live data.

10) It’s a user error. If the user is clever (or stupid) enough to break your application, it is not robust enough. You need to anticipate all user inputs, and cater for them. If at a later stage you find another user error, modify your code and test cases to check for it.

And a bonus lie…

11) Of course I test my own code. Do you? Really? Promise? Ok, then let me try to break your application.

Radio Shack Employees laid-offs by email

EmailfiredAccording to Manager Tools, Radio Shack recently laid off 400 employees via email. Is this a sign that we live in a time that it is acceptable to terminate employment via email, or is it a case of poor judgment?

I think the latter. How can you possibly justify such weak leadership and lack of integrity? Were they too afraid to face 400 employees and tell them that their services were no longer required, or were they too afraid to deal with the issue face-to-face?

I am sure that the author of the above cartoon was being tongue-in-cheek about our modern world, and how email has become core to our ability to communicate, but how sad it is that the author was so close to the truth.

Imagine arriving at work, switching your PC on and checking your email, only to find an email effectively telling you to clear your desk. Being laid off is a frightening experience for many people, but it does very little for your ego that they didn’t even bother saying so face to face.

I have to ask what sort of example you are setting for the employees that remain behind. What sort of respect or faith will they have in their managers (or dare I say it, leaders).

Radio Shack have broken several of the key rules of leadership, namely to act with honesty, respect and integrity towards your employees.

Be honest as to what is happening.

Treat the employees with respect, and like human beings. It is a very difficult time for them, and they need to be treated respectfully and with dignity. Explain what is happening and why. Give them an opportunity to respond, and explain what the future options are.

According to Encarta, integrity means "the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards". In other words, act professionally and treat everybody like people, and not machines.

I hope that this is a once-off occurrence, and is not an indication of things to come.

In closing, I have to wonder what poor management decisions from the past have led to Radio Shack having to lay off the employees in the first place.