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Influence in a Matrix Environment: Use Your Personal Power! [Week 2 of 2]

Posted by on July 5, 2012

Positive Power and InfluenceLast week, we talked about the first 2 keys to influencing in a matrix environment:

  1. Stakeholders: Know who your key stakeholders are in the process.
  2. Objectives: Be very clear about your objective with each key stakeholder.

This week, we’re adding the final 2 powerful keys to your success:

3. Power

Be aware of the limitations of your positional power in a matrix. Keep in mind that when working in a matrix, there is a fair amount of stress in the system and tensions can run high. Many times our perception of what is at stake needs to be carefully managed. Of course we all would like others to see things from our perspective, however that usually isn’t the case. Tread carefully! It can be very tempting to rely on positional power for leverage in a matrix, but overuse of positional power can be fatal in an influence situation. You run the risk of coming across as high-handed and arrogant, losing credibility with others and eroding relationships that should be nurtured. Instead, you should use your personal power: your ability utilize a variety of influence techniques and approaches based on the situation and the people involved.

4. Flexibility

Influence style flexibility is the key to creating results. The most important thing you have in a matrix is your ability to persuade others with logic and create exchanges that make sense for all parties. In order to do this, you must cultivate your ability to listen carefully and build bridges with others around common interests and shared vision. Continual work on your influence skills will be required, since a well-rounded set of influence skills will help you identify conditions in each situation that will impact the style and approach you choose.

When you put all 4 of these powerful keys to success together in the training classroom, you take away an incredible set of tools you can use to improve relationships in your own “sphere” within the larger matrix environment. You’ll experience the benefits almost immediately!

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Influence in a Matrix Environment: It Can Be Done! [Week 1 of 2]

Posted by on June 27, 2012

Positive Power and InfluenceIn a matrix environment, employees report on day-to-day performance to a project or product manager whose authority flows horizontally across departmental boundaries. They also continue to report on their overall performance to the head of their department whose authority flows vertically within his or her department.*

Sound complicated? It is! This challenging environment can be fraught with conflicts of interest. For instance, perhaps your “vertical” supervisor is demanding time or resources you have already set aside for your “horizontal” supervisor’s project. One of the key skills sets that will set you apart from your colleagues is the ability to influence…across job functions, at all levels, and without positional power. Sound impossible? Since 1977, CGWA has been awakening individuals and organizations to the power of positive influence skills—skills which aren’t limited by power structures, be they traditional or unorthodox. In a matrix organization, these skills are especially important.

Not sure if you are working in a matrix organization? A few simple questions can help to clarify:

  1. Do you report to more than one person or line of business?
  2. Is your focus on more two or more functions or segments of the business?
  3. Must you focus on several factors at the same time such as functions, departments, regions or products?
  4. Do you work in teams with people from different departments and locations, in which there are no hierarchical relationships?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you are working in a matrix environment! This week, I’d like to discuss the first 2 keys to influencing in a matrix environment:

1. Stakeholders

Know who your key stakeholders are in the process. A stakeholder is a person or group that has an investment or interest in something. Consider individuals, groups, and other organizations that are affected byand also affectdecisions and actions related to the business. Using a list or “mind map,” identify the people that are key to moving the process forward. Who are they? Think about regions, functions, departments and segments of the business.

2. Objectives

Be very clear about your influence objective with each key stakeholder. The ability to articulate influence objectives can make or break an outcome. Setting a clear influence objective can help you plot an accurate course to guide you through the influence process. Without a clear influence objective, your path will become confusing. Make it easy for the person that you are trying to influence by setting a clear objective that can be met.

Stay tuned next week as we discuss more keys to influencing in a matrix environment! 

*Source: Business Dictionary

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Great Communication Skills: Listen, Listen, Listen!

Posted by on June 21, 2012

  • Have you ever “tuned out” when someone was talking to you?
  • Has anyone ever asked you, “Are you listening to me?”

If you answered yes to either or both of these questions…congratulations! You’re human.

We’ve all made the mistake of not listening, and it almost always gets us in trouble. People have an innate need to be heard, and they’re looking for feedback from you that tells them you’re listening. This is why “pretending” to listen usually doesn’t work.

Communication Skills

Real Listening

Being quiet while someone is talking does not constitute real listening! The key to real listening is wanting and intending to do one of these four things:

  • Understanding someone
  • Enjoying someone
  • Learning something
  • Giving help

When you are really listening, following through with active feedback will show the speaker you are fully engaged. When they know you are paying attention, they can relax into their message, beginning the whole conversation on a better note.

Active Listening

“Active listening” requires feedback from you so the speaker knows you’re listening. This feedback can take many forms:

  1. Eye contact
  2. Facial expression
  3. Posture
  4. Verbal responses and asking questions
  5. Actively avoiding distractions

If you’re truly listening, the first 3 items should happen automatically. Items 4 and 5 are a little harder.

Active verbal feedback consists of paraphrasing, clarifying with questions, then sharing your reactions. Make sure you hear the whole statement before making any judgments, and listen with empathy. Make sure you are aware of any mismatches between the words being said and the speaker’s tone of voice, emphasis, facial expressions, and posture. Do all these fit together? Using these techniques will help you see past the surface to the real message being conveyed.

Actively avoiding distractions means ensuring the conversation takes place in as quiet a place as possible without phone, email, or human interruptions. Easier said than done, but doing this will ease the whole interaction and allow you to absorb the message without confusion caused by interruptions. It also signifies that you respect the speaker and their message.

Blocks to Listening

As soon as you have active listening down pat, watch out! There are some common blocks to listening that we all have to deal with, and they sneak in so stealthily you may never notice:

Communication Skills

Pay attention to where your mind wanders when someone is speaking to you. When you are able to catch yourself doing these things, you can then work on correcting these tendencies and avoiding them altogether in the future. Just imagine what an outstanding listener you can become!

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Are you sabotaging yourself? Rate your Influence Skills now!

Posted by on May 30, 2012

It’s now or never. You’re standing in front of that key person—the one you need to convince. You need their help on a project, more cooperation on the team, approval for your request, or…[fill in the blank]. You plan to persuade them using the same method you always use, with everyone. Sure, it doesn’t always work, but there’s nothing you can do about that. Or is there?

Influence SkillsYou can improve your chances of a successful influence encounter today! One of the most difficult parts of improving your influence skills is evaluating how you come across to others. Where do you start? By figuring out what your best influence style is and which styles need work. The style you choose affects how others perceive you during an influence conversation, so it’s important to know where you stand.

There are 2 main influence “energies,” Push and Pull, which consist of sub-categories called Influence Styles. In order to understand where your skills lie right now, I’d like to talk a little about each style.

Push Energies

  • Persuading: proposing and reasoning
  • Asserting: stating expectations, evaluating, and using incentives and pressures

Pull Energies

  • Bridging: involving, listening, and disclosing
  • Attracting: finding common ground and sharing visions

You need to determine the style you use most of the time; the one you’re most comfortable with. But perhaps more importantly, you must determine the style you need the most help with. From this starting point, you can begin to practice your weakest style(s), and eventually alter your influence style with each person you encounter in order to achieve the best results.

In the classroom, we present participants with concepts, tools, and insights that are practiced extensively to create a better understanding of how they influence and how to approach others more effectively. We also teach how to create a positive environment by planning for these critical interactions. I can’t explain how fulfilling it is to watch people experience influence breakthroughs in the classroom and then improve their everyday interactions through the use of their newfound skills!

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Presentation Skills: Q&A is Crucial!

Posted by on May 9, 2012

Last time, we talked about your presentation conclusion. I promised I’d go into more detail about question/answer sessions in another blog, and here it is!

Presentation Skills

Many people see the great challenge as the presentation itself. When the questions begin, the presenter breathes a sigh of relief and relaxes. This is when trouble can begin. Responding to a question with an appropriate, efficient answer is the real challenge!

Preparation

The first step to successful Q&A sessions is preparation. Your audience expects you to be prepared for your talk, but they do not expect you to be prepared for the Question and Answer session. If you are, you will undoubtedly enhance the success of your entire presentation. The key to preparing for questions is to anticipate all questions that may be raised. Ask yourself:

  • What questions will my audience be likely to ask?
  • Who will be likely to ask questions?
  • Are there any provocative ideas that might threaten individuals in the audience?
  • What are the tough questions?
  • What are the questions I hope no one will ask?

Anticipation

To help you anticipate all questions, it is a good idea to review your presentation with:

  • Peers: who may be able to think of questions you overlooked.
  • Insiders: someone in the same industry as your audience will be able to think of questions from your audience’s perspective.
  • Outsiders: someone who is not in either your or your audience’s industry will be able to think of questions from a completely fresh perspective.

To assist you in anticipating questions, here is a list of commonly asked questions:

  • Do we really need this?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • What will happen to us if we don’t?
  • What will it cost?
  • Can we do it for less?
  • Is it in the budget?
  • What is the ROI?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who will do what?
  • How long will it take?
  • Will this action create new problems?

Once you have anticipated all questions, prepare answers for them as thoroughly as you prepared the presentation itself.

Remember

Q&A sessions give you an opportunity to continue making your point. The purpose of your presentation is to induce action. Be sure each answer you prepare will contain information that will help your audience take the action you want them to take. Always be sure your answers include benefits so your audience will understand what’s in it for them.

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills,Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Conclusion

Posted by on March 7, 2012

Presentation SkillsLast time, we finished up your presentation body, explaining how to piece together supporting information in a way that really speaks to your audience. Now that you’ve finished the bulk of your presentation, it’s time to address the conclusion. It is just as important as the rest of your presentation, and should be considered carefully. Remember, the conclusion is the last thought you share with your audience, and what they are most likely to remember.

Unfortunately, many presentations do not conclude—they just stop, sputter and die, or worse, ramble on and on. Many excellent presentations have been ruined by a weak conclusion. The purpose of the conclusion is to summarize and ensure that you’ve met your objective. A good strong conclusion adds the finishing touch to an excellent presentation. There are four important steps to an effective conclusion:

  • Summarize key points
  • Restate action steps
  • Ask for questions
  • Give a final conclusion

Summarizing Key Points

This is the first step when concluding. In a clear, concise manner, you must tell the audience what you just told them. When you restate the key points, you should be as brief as you were in the agenda. Do not bring in any new points! You don’t want to introduce anything new at this point in time.

Restating the Action Step

Reiterate the action request you made in the introduction. Be sure your action step is assertive and positive, such as, “I’m sure you’ll agree…” or, “As I have explained…” Restating your action step at the conclusion ensures a strong, active finish. It encourages your audience to move ahead on your request.

Asking for Questions

When you reach your conclusion, it’s important that you open up your presentation to questions from the audience. They may need clarification or more information, and it’s a great way to make them feel included. We will go into more detail on question/answer sessions in our next Presentation Skills blog post.

Final Conclusion

Yes, this whole article is about your presentation conclusion, but your final conclusion is the “end of the end.” You should restate your action request once more, and be sure to thank your audience.

Remember to have your conclusion clearly in your mind before you begin your presentation. You want to be sure you conclude as strongly as you began.

Delivery Tips for the Conclusion

Use a flip chart to summarize your key points. It will keep you and your audience well organized.

Use assertive, positive language when stating the action you want them to take, i.e., “I believe,” “I know,” “I’m confident,” “I’m sure,” not “I think,” or “I hope.”

I personally believe it is essential to get hands-on, practical training in the classroom to bring these concepts to life.

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Excuse me? Defuse tension with stellar communication skills.

Posted by on January 4, 2012

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Last time, we talked about minimizing your holiday stress with 3 key communication tips. But communication problems don’t melt away with the holiday season, do they? Improving interpersonal communication skills has been an ongoing challenge since the dawn of time.

How many times have you had a misunderstanding with a colleague that went unresolved until both of you were so angry you could hardly speak to each other? Have you ever failed to respond to someone or ignored your concerns, causing them to feel insulted or marginalized? These communication obstacles pop up all too often. Good news: You can help minimize and repair these dysfunctional interactions!

Great communication follows a process for both the sender and receiver of the message.

Senders Must:

  1. Know what it is they wish to convey.
  2. Check on whether or not they are getting their message across.
  3. Be willing and able to change their communication process or style in order to achieve their goal.

Receivers Must:

  1. Be willing to listen.
  2. Be skillful at active and passive listening.
  3. Be willing and able to change their listening style in order to understand the point of view of the sender.

Of course, this process is only the beginning of successful communication. But are you starting with a neutral, balanced communication style? Probably not; we all have our own unique approach. To understand your communication strengths and weaknesses, take our Communication Skills Self-Assessment.

In the classroom, we present participants with concepts, tools, and insights that are practiced extensively to create a better understanding of how they communicate and how to approach others more effectively. We also teach how to clarify misunderstandings and create a positive environment by planning for these critical interactions. It’s such a pleasure seeing people experience communication breakthroughs!

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Body [Part 2]

Posted by on December 13, 2011

Presentation BodyLast time we got you started on your presentation body, discussing the need for a main point and its supporting evidence. That was a good start, but since the body is the “meat” of your presentation, we still have a lot to cover. I am so excited to share my knowledge with you because I know you can take these skills with you wherever you go!

Okay, let’s get to it. Once you have decided on your point, or message, you need to present evidence to support it. But although you may know something, how do you put together supporting information in a way that speaks to your audience? Here are some specifics for each of the 5 types of evidence:

  1. Personal Experience: A specific firsthand situation in which you participated that supports or clarifies your point.
    • The personal experience should always be communicated in the first person. For example:                  I said “                       .” He said “                       .”
    • This allows you to use actual dialogue which adds an emotional dimension to the incident, makes it more interesting to the listener and is easier for you to relate. Literally relive the experience.
    • Remember, to most listeners the personal experience is the most interesting and unique form of evidence. People remember stories long after they have forgotten the storyteller.
  2. Analogy: A similarity between things or situations otherwise unlike.
    • This can be a very creative form of evidence and when presented visually, can be quite dramatic.
    • For example, to communicate the concept that we only see part of something and do not have the whole picture, the iceberg can be an effective analogy. To communicate the fact that we do not have the proper equipment, an analogy might be “like trying to keep a football field dry with a box of tissues.”
    • A good analogy allows the speaker to graphically exaggerate a point without offending the intelligence of the listener.
  3. Judgment of Expert: A statement made by a person the group will recognize as an authority on the subject.
    • The statement should be supportive in either a positive or negative manner. If the source is not readily known to the entire group, credentials, qualifications and accomplishments should be identified prior to using a quote. Some sources for judgments of experts are newspapers, journals and trade magazines.
  4. Example: A specific situation where various key factors are similar to those that support your point.
    • Examples make a presentation more interesting and help your audience understand your point.
  5. Facts/Statistics: A fact is something that already happened or a condition that exists.
    • Statistics are a quantification of a fact and are used primarily for comparison. Statistics are used to report on a past activity or to predict the results of future activity.
    • When using statistics, ask yourself:
      • What do they represent? (Results? Predictions?)
      • What do they tell the listener? (Comparison? Conclusion?)
      • How do they support or clarify my point?

It is most important to use visual aids to display statistics. Be graphically dramatic; you will be amazed at the amount of statistical information your audience is able to retain!

Delivery Tips for the Body

Use a flip chart for each key point. This will keep you organized, emphasize points to your audience and allow you to speak from the chart without looking at your notes.

What next? Oh yes, the dreaded conclusion. Let’s leave that for next time

It is essential to get hands-on, practical training in the classroom to bring these concepts to life.

Presentation Skills

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Body [Part 1]

Posted by on December 5, 2011

Presentation BodyLast time, we talked about creating your presentation introduction. Now it’s time to work on the body, which will consist of your key points and the evidence you will use to support each key point. Evidence makes your key points more interesting and helps you emphasize them more strongly. By providing evidence, you clarify and expand your point and answer any questions you anticipate your audience might have.

When developing the body of the presentation, you should use the following format:

  • State the point (the message you want your audience to receive)
  • Back up each point with evidence (information the listener needs to know about that point to understand it and take action)

To help you develop your supporting ideas, discuss each point with yourself. Keep your audience in mind and remember your objectives. Imagine yourself conversing with your audience. You know the subject. Each point will probably trigger another related point. By talking each point out, you will see in which direction your thoughts take you. Decide which thoughts you need. Look for details. Be concrete. Avoid generalities. Reinforce ideas with specifics.

Evidence can take many different forms. There are five forms of backup evidence we will cover in this program:

  1. Personal Experience
  2. Analogy
  3. Judgment of Expert
  4. Example
  5. Facts/Statistics

This is an excellent beginning to your presentation body, but there’s a lot more to it. Don’t worry…we have all the tips and tools you need! Next time, we’ll dig deeper into how to create your presentation body. Before you know it, your presentation will be ready for the real world, and you’ll be ready to shine!

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Introduction

Posted by on November 14, 2011

Your Presentation IntroductionLast time, we talked about organizing your presentation. Now you need an intro!

Your introduction can make or break your presentation. Sound drastic? It is! If your presentation introduction is good, you’ll capture your audience’s attention. If it’s weak, you could lose them in the first two minutes, and possibly never get them back. The introduction is the most critical piece in your presentation skills toolkit.

A good introduction contains the Three A’s:

  • Arouse Interest
  • Agenda
  • Action 

Arouse your audience’s interest right from the start. Make them want to listen to you. People come to your presentation with their minds on their concerns (that last phone call, the upcoming meeting). They may come in with a preconceived notion that this will be boring. You must capture their attention! Your “interest-arouser” should refer to their problems or concerns. The following list may assist you in developing an interest arouser:

  • outline an incident
  • ask for a show of hands
  • ask a question
  • make a promise
  • get them laughing
  • make a provocative statement
  • use an arresting statistic

Next, state your agenda. Audiences don’t like to be kept in the dark. It detracts from successful communication. Your agenda should be a clear, concise outline of the key points you will be making in your presentation. An agenda helps your audience listen to you because it keeps them organized.

Finally, your audience should be told what action you want them to take. Busy people become impatient with mystery stories. They want to know how the story will end before they take the time to listen. Always state your requested action (your recommendation) at the beginning of the presentation.This also helps them to be better listeners because they can evaluate what you are saying against the decision you want them to make.

Credentials are optional in an introduction. If this it the first time you are talking to this group, you should give them a brief description of your background. If you include your credentials in the introduction, you should do so right after the Interest Arouser and before the Agenda.

When you include the Three A’s in your introduction, you will have an effective introduction, one that captures your audience’s attention and tells them what you’re going to tell them.

Since the introduction is so critical to your presentation, it is recommended that you write it out word-for-word so you will know exactly what you are going to say. Once you have written it out, you can condense it into key words, or an outline. You should never read your introduction to the audience, but you should know exactly what you are going to say. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. The very beginning of your presentation is when you are the most nervous. Knowing exactly what you are going to say will alleviate some of the fear and help make you feel calmer.
  2. Initial impressions are lasting. You want the initial portion of your presentation to be outstanding.

Delivery Tips for the Introduction

Before you begin to speak, pause for three seconds. This gives you time to organize your thoughts, lets your audience get ready to listen, and makes you appear extremely confident.

  • Look down at your notes, look up and then begin to talk. Never begin talking while looking at your notes.
  • Outline your agenda on a visual aid. It helps clarify the points for your audience and keeps you and them organized.
  • Do not rush through the introduction. It is probably the first and only time your audience will hear these remarks.
  • Practice, practice, practice your introduction before the actual presentation.

Remember…good first impressions are critical to your success!

Please tune in next time to learn about Your Presentation Introduction.

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.