Information, tips and tricks you can use every day!

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.


Commercial Excellence for Life Sciences: World Class Assessment Tool

Posted by on June 6, 2012

Have you done everything you can around creative pricing, value pricing, and hiring the best talent you can find—and yet you’re still looking for that competitive edge?

Commerical Excellence Sales and MarketingDid you know that CGWA has been researching commercial sales and marketing best practices in the biotech, healthcare, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries for over 20 years? Through our extensive work with top life sciences companies around the world, we have formulated our unrivaled World Class Assessment Tool (WCAT), developed in response to requests from those clients to define commercial excellence in the field.

How did it all start? In the early 1990s, one of our clients—the CEO of an industry-leading medical device company—issued this challenge to CGWA: “We have 600 people representing our company worldwide, and only about 25 know how to go to market with our products corrrectly. Your mission, CGWA, is to find out what those 25 do so well and then train the other 600 people in our organization.”

That was the beginning of a 4-year research and customized training program in which we:

  • Traveled the world conducting in-depth interviews and 1-2 day field visits with those top 25 reps and many others within the company, in cardiovascular, neurovascular, peripheral vascular, endovascular, etc.
  • Created our original WCAT based on that research
  • Designed a custom training program that included every sales and marketing rep and leader in the company, getting everyone on the same page and using the same best practices
  • Through the use of these methods and tools, we helped our client achieve significant and measurable commercial success

Since then, CGWA has continued to continued with that reserch, gathering fresh, relevant data from all branches of the life sciences industry. Companies like American Medical Systems, Boston Scientific, Cardinal Health, Cortes, Covidien, Edwards Lifesciences, Kinetic Concepts, Stryker, and many more. We now have input from more than 1,000 biotech, healthcare, medical device, and pharmaceutical leaders.

We are currently working with a leading medical device company, in the process of deploying the WCAT and implementing World Class Commercial Excellence processes for over 40,000 employees in 59 countries.

If you believe that best practices and commercial excellence gives companies a competitive edge, CGWA has the model and assessment tools to determine where your company stands in relation to those proven best practices. How will you know if your sales and marketing teams are well-aligned…or if they’re ready for a change?

Greg Wright founded CGWA in 1977 on the principle that customized, skill-based training provides the best learning experience for employees, as it incorporates a company’s culture, business trends, and “real life” situations into the structure of the training.


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.


Learning Essentials: Classroom Training!

Posted by on March 14, 2012

Over the last few months, we’ve discussed many of our workshops—expertly designed to make you a better communicator, influencer, manager, performance coach, presenter, sales rep, and more. The topics are diverse, but they all have one essential in common: classroom training.

Why not virtual training? Why not self-directed learning? Both of those methods have value, but as the famous Chinese proverb states, “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” In order for any participant to truly internalize learning, three elements are required:

  1. Face-to-face interactionClassroom Training
  2. Customized knowledge and exercises
  3. Quality feedback

Face-to-Face Interaction

Human beings are inherently social. This is why a videoconference just doesn’t feel the same as a personal meeting, and why we walk down the hall to speak to a co-worker instead of simply picking up the phone. Being physically present with a group of fellow learners is extremely valuable. In a group, you can experience new concepts, be exposed to different perspectives, and help each other reach understanding—all under the guidance of an expert instructor.

Meeting in a classroom setting, when done right, also minimizes distractions from the outside world. Emails, phone calls, and text messages can all serve to derail the training process. As an individual, it’s easy to give in to these things. But we find that groups are happy to agree to a distraction-free learning environment. This restraint is rewarded when learners leave the workshop feeling inspired, refreshed, and armed with immediately applicable skills!

Customized Knowledge and Exercises

Once a concept is presented, anyone can practice their skills using a generic case study or exercise. However, off-the-shelf material can only go so far. Building new cognitive pathways is challenging enough! You need the support of an instructor who is knowledgeable about your industry and organization, along with custom examples to practice with. Our highly educated instructors have years of real-world, industry and workplace experience, and collaborate with leadership to gain an in-depth understanding of your organization. Then they carefully design customized exercises, allowing the group—and each individual—to apply their learning in a direct and meaningful way. This is one of our secrets to achieving proven and lasting results.

Quality Feedback

Here at CGWA, we believe that real learning demands much more than a training manual and a well-presented lecture. For real learning to take place, personal feedback must follow each customized exercise, and should be given in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Peer and instructor feedback during the practice phase, including careful observation, praise, and constructive criticism, creates a complete picture for each participant. The observer must be able to see non-verbal communication, i.e. body language, and hear tone of voiceand reflect them back to those receiving feedback.

Bottom Line

When you think about all the aspects of human interaction and how they relate to learning, it seems obvious that classroom training is essential. Great leaders everywhere use this powerful tool to meet and exceed their group and organizational goals. At CGWA, we believe that classroom training should be a part of every organization’s learning and development curriculum.


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: What do I want these people to do?

Posted by on October 10, 2011

Presentation SkillsPresentations are a regular feature of our business landscape. Successful business people must have effective oral presentation skills. It is during those presentations that you explain, present, analyze and sell your ideas, plans, proposals and decisions. Successful business people realize that a presentation meets a need that a written report cannot fill. It allows your audience to see and judge you, allows questions to be answered on the spot, hastens decision making, and leads to action.

One of the difficulties of making a presentation is deciding what you want to say. What should your audience take away? What action should they take? If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there? All of us would agree this is true for an automobile trip. Clear, concise directions ensure that you will reach your final destination. This is also true of a presentation. A successful presentation begins with a clearly defined objective. A well-conceived objective will tell you “where you are going.” It’s important to write down your objective before you get started.

The first step in writing your objective is to determine what action you want your audience to take when you are finished with your presentation. Be sure to use a verb that indicates precisely what you want your audience to do. The following list may assist you in selecting the correct verb.

Action Verbs

  • to buy
  • to invite
  • to comply
  • to select
  • to introduce
  • to change
  • to use
  • to call
  • to organize
  • to monitor
  • to authorize
  • to meet with

Once you have stated the action you want your audience to take, the next step is determine why they should take that action. What’s in it for them? How will they benefit? You must have the benefits clearly defined in order to convey them to your audience.

People are more likely to follow the action you request when they see the benefit in it for them. Your objective must state the benefits as well as the action.

The final step in writing your objective is to be sure it’s realistic. If you ask for more than you can achieve in your presentation, you are just wasting everyone’s time. Be sure you’re asking for something that your audience can say “yes” to.

When you have completed your objective, put it through this check list:

  1. What action do I want my audience to take?
  2. How will my audience benefit?
  3. Is it realistic?

If your objective answers each of these questions, it is well-written and will assist you in achieving your goal. Your direction is clear, and your audience knows where you are going.

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.


Overcome your fear with top-notch Presentation Skills!

Posted by on July 18, 2011

  • Presentation SkillsDo you get nervous presenting in front of groups?
  • Not sure how to give your presentation maximum impact?
  • Want to impress your boss, team, or customers?

The key to giving a great presentation is your own comfort level. You already know the subject matter, but how do you feel about presenting it—alone—in front of a group of colleagues or customers? Don’t let nervousness or lack of organization sabotage you!

CGWA has developed a proven process for organizing, preparing and delivering your best presentation. In our Presentation Skills workshop, we combine in-depth coaching with easy-to-implement steps and tips, taking presentations from merely average to absolutely outstanding!

Here’s a sample of what our Presentation Skills participants walk away with:

  • High comfort level with all presentation situations and settings from the boardroom to the executive team or presenting in informal meetings
  • Knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses in front of any group and how to overcome them
  • Planning process for upcoming presentations where the stakes are high
  • Ability to deliver impromptu presentations with certainty and confidence
  • Techniques for capturing audience attention

Perfecting your presentation skills will not only help you in front of groups, but in everyday conversations too! Just like improving your golf or tennis stroke, mastery takes time, feedback and practice.

But we would never leave you without a little something to start you on the path to becoming a top-notch presenter…

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.