October 30, 2014 Leave a comment
I’ve recently created a new website, with a blog page and am writing new posts on my website.
Here’s the new blog site: http://smalltalkbigresults.com/blog/
Chit Chat Your Way to Success!
September 17, 2014 Leave a comment
Is it time for a make over?
I’m in the middle of a “brand refresh!” Since May, I’ve worked on a new demo video, a new logo, new pictures, and a new website. The new website is just in the design mock-up phase, but to give you an idea of the change here is a screen shot of my current home page next to a new website mock-up:
It’s an investment in my business. I feel that making these changes will pay off in new business.
The new video has already paid for itself many times over, and those results encouraged me to make more changes.
In 2010, as I developed my initial marketing, I did the best with the resources I had at the time. My logo was one I designed myself on PowerPoint. My first pictures were taken at a neighborhood studio for $50. I wore a jacket I had purchased for $3 at the Salvation Army. My husband recorded my demo video.
Is it time to up your game? Time to invest in yourself?
You don’t have to change everything all at once. And, your changes don’t all have to be business-related. My change catalyst was weight loss. I lost 45 pounds last year and that gave me a boost in self-esteem in part because I looked better (and bought some new clothes!), but also because I achieved a goal.
You can have your own brand refresh. Maybe you will have a life makeover. Pick something and just get started!
April 12, 2014 Leave a comment
“Treating people with respect and valuing them is a universal language. Culture trumps strategy.”—Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO
Written in an easy-to-read conversational style, this short book will inspire you to spread respect far and wide.
The book is also available in print format ($8.00).
March 12, 2014 3 Comments
It was July 30, 2010 and I sat across from Mark LeBlanc, a business consultant and former National Speaker Association National president. He looked at me with his hound dog eyes and said, “You need to write a book. And you can do it next month” It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a “demandment.”
I stared back at him, thinking: I have no time. I have no money. I have no knowledge.
I had no time. I worked two part-time jobs and had three teenagers at home, one of whom I was homeschooling.
I had no money. We had a failing technology business. Later that year we would be filing for bankruptcy.
I had no knowledge. I didn’t know the first thing about self-publishing.
So with those thoughts swirling in my head, I said: “I think I can do that.”
I don’t know where those words came from, but if Mark thought I could do it, then I believed I could.
Three months later, I had self-published my first book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success. And now, three and half years later, have a total of 5 self-published books and one co-authored book published by McGraw Hill (Diane’s Amazon Author Page). I bring in passive income of about $1000/month from Amazon sales. And, the increased credibility has led to speaking engagements (and back-of-the-room book sales) and media interviews.
I learned that I didn’t need much time because I could use content I already created. Four of my books were originally blog posts and one was curriculum for a class. After the first book, I published my books in less than a week, including both print and ebook formats. For the last book, which I published only as a Kindle ebook, the total time was about 5 hours (and that including cutting and pasting content from my newsletters, writing an introduction and a conclusion, and formatting). For that first book, I carved out time from 5:15-6:15 AM Monday-Friday, about 20 hours total, to massage blog content and add a few chapters.
I learned that I didn’t need much money. My first book cost about $800 to self publish and that included buying a block of 10 ISBN numbers for $250, and hiring out editing, formatting for both print and ebooks, and cover design. Most of the subsequent books cost $30 or less because I did everything myself.
I learned that I didn’t need much knowledge. I still haven’t read a book on self-publishing. For the first book, I googled “how to self-publish” and learned as I went along.
If I can do it, you can do it.
You don’t need a lot of time. You don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need a lot of knowledge.
I can’t do anything about your time or money situation, but I can help with the knowledge, at least to give you an orientation to self-publishing, with a focus on ebooks.
Click here for a 2-page overview “Writing and Producing Ebooks for Speakers.” (applicable to non-professional speakers, too!)
And, then . . . Just do it!
January 7, 2014 Leave a comment
(note: First draft for a stand-up comedy routine to be performed at the Humor Mill Toastmasters 9th Annual Stand Up Comedy Night on 1/16/2014. I’d like to make it funnier, so please comment with ideas)
Any empty nesters out there? Looking forward to someday being an empty nester?
After 25 years of raising kids, our last child has left the nest. Just on Monday–Air Force Basic training.
As I dropped him off at the hotel, as he walked away, the memories came flooding in and I thought . ..
“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”
No empty nest syndrome for me!
Did you know that there is an actual condition “the empty nest syndrome”?
It’s a feeling of grief and loneliness that parents feel when their children leave home.
But, I’ll admit that adjusting to an empty nest takes some time. Here’s my top 10 list of ways you know you might be suffering from the Empty Nest Syndrome:
10. You’re still surprised when you come home and the house looks the way you left it.
9. On a bad weather day, you still check the list of school closings
8. For that special “couple time” with your spouse, you still lock the bedroom door
7. You still think of eating out as going through the drive through at McDonalds.
6. You set the table for one too many people.
5. You are shocked when you get in your car and the radio is playing your station
4. You still walk around your car, checking for new damage
3. You find yourself walking into your child’s room, giving it the “sniff test.” I’ve heard of some moms going into their child’s room and smelling their children’s clothes. Gag me. I needed industrial strength cleaner to get rid of the stinky feet, old pizza and general locker-room bouquet.
2. You start having more conversations at home, especially in that cutesy baby-waby tone of voice . . . with your cat.
And the #1 reason you know you might be having trouble adjusting to an empty nest:
1. You get panic attacks that your parenting has scared your child for life. You envision your child as a failure, living on the streets, making an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.
I’ve got some advice on that last reason. In fact, I’m even thinking of writing a book on parenting called, Parenting: It Doesn’t Matter What you Do.
So, chill out and embrace your freedom. . . before they boomerang back!
October 17, 2013 Leave a comment
Corporate giant Big Cheese had been around for generations. Upstart Little Cheese was new in town.
Both companies were ramping up seasonal hiring, getting ready for the holiday influx of orders for cheese balls, cheese logs and cheese platters. Big Cheese had higher starting salaries, slightly better benefits and served wine and cheese at job fairs. But much to Big Cheese’s consternation, Little Cheese, which humbly offered prospective employees macaroni and cheese, was hiring all the top applicants. Even more troubling for Big Cheese was when some of its best employees decided to switch to Little Cheese.
Big Cheese then spent big bucks hiring a consultant to tell them what to do. The consultant designed, analyzed, and suggested programs and best practices based on an employee engagement survey and industry data. This took months to do. But nothing much changed. Big Cheese’s lackluster fourth quarter earnings created panic among the top mice in the company. Big Cheese’s CEO rallied the ranks, “Smile. Say ‘cheese!’” Managers squeaked to their groups: “Must. Work. Harder.”
Meanwhile, Little Cheese’s profits grew so much that the seasonal workers were kept on.
All of Mouseville marveled at the minor miracle of Little Cheese’s success.
Why was Big Cheese floundering and Little Cheese flourishing?
In desperation, Big Cheese’s CEO, Gorgy Zola, invited Little Cheese’s CEO, Monty Jack, to the Hole-in-the-Wall Bar.
“Monty, there’s enough mice here to support 10 cheese factories,” said Gorgy. “I don’t want to steal your business, but I’m hoping you can share some ‘best practices’ for how you have had such success in hiring and keeping your employees.”
“Best practices . . .” mused Monty. “We haven’t been in business that long! Our business has grown too fast to always be looking to the past for best practices.”
Gorgy’s whiskers drooped. “So, you don’t have any advice for me?”
“Well, Gorgy, I do, but you might not like it,” said Monty.
“It’s OK. If I keep on doing things the same, it won’t matter in a few months,” said Gorgy. “I won’t have a job.”
“It’s good that you realize you have to change,” said Monty. “Probably the biggest challenge with looking to the past to decide on the future is that you are never really present in the moment, looking at what is and what could be. Maybe you need a brand new corporate culture code. Mice, especially the younger mice, want different things now from work: purpose, meaning, flexibility, great coworkers.”
“Entitlement. That’s their attitude!” squeaked Gorgy. “In this economy, they should be grateful for a well-paying, steady job with good benefits.”
“Well, you maybe can attract some workers with those things, but you might not keep them.” Monty paused, looked Gorgy in the eye. He slowly smiled. “Plus, if money and benefits are the only reasons they’re there, they probably won’t work at their highest level.”
“What else do they want? Recognition? More training? Free lunch on Friday?” Gorgy asked. “We are pushing employee engagement, but it’s not having the results we had hoped.”
“Maybe that’s the problem, you’re pushing too much and not pulling enough,” said Monty. “You’ve been so focused on the goal of retaining and hiring workers that perhaps you have forgotten to inspire them, to energize them with your vision, and then empower them to accomplish it.”
“You know that sounds good, but I don’t know what I should do differently,” said Gorgy.
“I can hazard a guess that one of the big differences between your company and my company in terms of employee engagement is simply a matter of size,” said Monty. “You have more levels of management and bigger teams—that adds layers of communication and process that can be frustrating. Maybe Big Cheese needs to think more like a small company and have smaller teams. That’s one possibility. Why don’t you ask your people? And, why not try asking from the bottom up? Ask the maintenance mouse what he likes and doesn’t like about his job, and if he were the top mouse what he’d like done differently? You might be surprised at what you find out.”
Gorgy squinted at Monty, “Me, the CEO, chat with the maintenance mouse? What could he possibly know about running the business?”
“Just give it a try, Gorgy,” said Monty. “As you said, you have nothing to lose! Go back today, give it a shot and call me next week to let me know how it went.”
A week later, Gorgy called Monty.
“Monty,” said Gorgy, “Thanks for your advice! I actually did start with the lowest position at our company—the new intern in maintenance. She had an idea involving our factory lighting that will save us thousands of dollars in the next year and it should improve productivity to boot. And, you know what? I could tell that she felt valued that I sincerely wanted her input. I told the VP’s about the experience and they’re doing the same thing—talking with people in their departments. I can feel the increased energy throughout the company. I know it’s just a start, but it’s a good start!”
“Glad things are going better for you,” said Monty, “I guess my old-school advice on simply talking to people wasn’t cheesy!”
Gorgy laughed, “that’s a gouda one!”
August 5, 2013 Leave a comment
“Well, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!” said Tom, another project manager. “Raven [Tom's project] is with our current biggest customer. Bluebird [Dave's project] can wait.”
His lips a thin line and his jaw hard set, Dave glared at Tom across the conference table. Tom’s eyes narrowed and returned a cold, steely stare. Neither project manager was going to budge. They had locked horns over the issue of shared resources, specifically the test engineers who supported both of their projects. The company didn’t have the budget to hire more test engineers, so Tom and Dave were gridlocked in what was essentially a battle for dominance.
Their boss, who didn’t believe in micromanaging his project managers, could have been like Solomon and split the 2 test engineers, but that would have left both project managers feeling resentful, so he told them to “figure it out.”
Have you ever felt like this?
What are some ways that you can unlock the horns, stop butting heads and move from gridlock to dialogue when you face an impasse?
When people argue, or are at a frustrating gridlock, emotions can be high and cause an automatic physical stress response, the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response keeps us from danger by making us want to fight or run away. Sometimes, the threat can be so overwhelming that a “freeze response” (“deer-in-the-headlights) is triggered.
Fight, flight or freeze, you may experience increased heart rate and respiration, red or pale face, tense muscles, rapid speech, sweating, tunnel vision and more. What you won’t experience is your best quality thinking. Stress can alter and disrupt the executive function of the brain, which affects memory, problem solving and decision-making.
Stop, take a break from looking at the issue the same way, and give yourself a chance to calm down, reflect and better examine the problem.
Here are some ways to “Stop”:
Take a break. “I think we need a little break.” Depending on the circumstances, you could suggest anything from a short “bio” break (15 minutes) to a few hours, or to another day. For longer breaks, suggest that all parties do some “homework” to examine the true needs, which may involve getting more information, and considering possible alternatives.
Move on to something else. “We seem to be stuck on this issue. Let’s move on to another issue and come back to this one later.” Ideally, the issue you choose will be one that you can have more conversation. Elimination of conflict isn’t the goal, as long as the conversation is moving forward!
Reframe: Stop the trajectory. “Let’s take a look at this from a completely different angle.” Shift the direction of the gridlocked discussion. In the example of the two project engineers gridlocked over which of their projects more deserved the test engineers, Dave, might have reframed the discussion. “Let’s take a look at this from a completely different angle. How would a delay impact each of our customers?”
New Eyes. Stop trying to resolve it yourself. Get another perspective: “I think getting X’s perspective might give us some insights.” You could have a mutually agreed upon person give his or her perspective, or you could each pick someone to give a perspective. Ideally the person giving a perspective would be one the other party respects.
Listen fully, without interrupting, except to reflect back or clarify. Resist debate until you have fully understood. Most gridlock occurs because both parties feel they have needs and expectations that aren’t likely to be met if they “give in.” Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes as you listen to try to understand those needs and expectations. Realize that you don’t know everything—there may be hidden issues.
In the example above, perhaps Dave had a poor performance review and knows that effectively managing this project is critical to his career. Tom may not know this, and Dave is unlikely to tell him. However, Tom might notice from Dave’s body language, voice inflection and choice of words (“My project . . .”, “I need . . .”) that Dave is personally very invested.
Here are some ways to “Listen”:
Focus. This is not the time to be checking your email, or texting. Nor is it the time to be mentally formulating your response. Listening isn’t simply waiting for your turn to talk. Listen with your ears and eyes. Your ears hear more than words. Ears pick up tone of voice and pauses. Your eyes read facial expressions and body language, which will enhance meaning greatly (think about those times that someone has misinterpreted your email, because they couldn’t see your face or hear your tone of voice).
Limit talk. Limit interruptions to those which enhance understanding, such as reflecting back or asking clarifying questions. Don’t jump in to make a point before you have fully understood the other person’s point.
Reflect back. If you want to make sure that you understand a particular point, reflect it back (using the same words or paraphrasing), and check that this is really what was meant. Visually reflect back by nodding. Nod when you agree, but also when you understand what someone is saying. Nodding will encourage people to talk more. You can even give verbal nods of encouragement with sounds like “ahhh . . .” and “umhmm.”
Take Notes. Taking brief notes will aid your concentration, give you some points ask clarification on and make the other person feel like you are taking them seriously.
Clarification, at the most basic level, involves asking questions to gain a clear understanding.
Some ways to “Clarify:
5 W’s and One H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. The 5 W’s and One H give you a framework for question categories. For example: Who is responsible? What are the goals? When is it due? Where does it go? Why is this important? How is it used?
Clarify Scope of Issue. What’s the problem? How big is it? What does it affect? What are the likely limitations in solving the problem (time, money, resources, technology)? Is there a process?
Clarify method of Issue analysis. Are you just going to talk about the issue or will a formal format or method be used? Will you drill down by asking “Why?” repeatedly? Will you use a SWOT analysis (Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)? Lists? Mind maps? Cause and effect diagrams? Problem tree?
Clarify Criteria. What are the critical criteria for making decisions? Are there specifications to meet? A deadline? How will solution alternatives be evaluated? What is the set of required or mutually acceptable criteria?
Clarify facts vs. opinions. Facts can be checked. Opinions can be supported by facts. Do you have enough relevant facts to form well-supported opinions?
Find a point of agreement.
In gridlocked conversation, people can become so entrenched in their opposing viewpoints that they fail to see the many areas of agreement. A small point of agreement can lead to an avalanche of agreement.
Zoom off. If you can get other people saying “yes” on other issues (“move on to something else),” you not only get a break from the issue at hand, you also build positive lean-forward momentum.
Zoom out. You can zoom out of the situation and look at it more globally, finding agreement on the “big picture” or the company’s mission and values and then zoom it back in to the issue at hand.
Zoom in. If you can you can get them saying “yes” on minor points (or even points that are not in contention), you change the nature of the discussion and make it easier to come to an agreement.
You can even have a series of easy questions, that all have the answer “yes,” in order to move from gridlock to dialogue.
In the example of the 2 project managers:
Dave: “Tom, we’ve been butting heads on this issue all week” (Tom nods “yes”)
Dave: “Going ’round and ’round is getting us nowhere, right?”
Tom: “You’re right on that!” (a second “yes”)
Dave: “It seems the problem boils down to us both wanting the same resources at the same time.” (Dave goes for agreement on what the problem is)
Tom: “That about sums it up.” (a third “yes”)
Dave: “So, if we could find a way to use different resources or the same resources, but at different times, then our problem would be solved, right?” (Dave sets up for another way of thinking about the problem).
Tom: “Yeah, but I don’t see how that would happen.” (a fourth “yes,” qualified with skepticism)
At this point, Tom is opening to hear some of Dave’s ideas, which might wisely include bringing in a 3rd party perspective. Gridlock has turned to dialogue.
In a gridlocked conversation, the problem often seems to be the other person. You end up in a “You vs. Me” battle.
Win or lose, you lose.
If you win, it is a hollow victory if the other person feels resentful and vindictive towards you.
Another approach is “We vs. the Problem.” It’s not You vs. Me, it’s We vs. the Problem. This has the advantage of encouraging cooperation and is a useful mindshift. An even more productive mindshift is “We Find a Solution.”
It’s not that understanding problems isn’t important. But as humans, we have a tendency to get mired in the problems. The reason we tend to focus on problems rather than solutions is that our brains are prediction machines, continually trying to predict outcomes of actions while at the same time trying to minimize risk and maximize reward. Problems are often based on past experience, so it is easier to focus on them. Solutions lie in the uncertain future.
Here are a few ways to get started on focusing on solutions:
Simplify the situation by stating the major clear goals (don’t start with a comprehensive, detailed list).
Big Picture. Think whole to parts. Consider the big picture first and then the relevant details.
Small Steps. Act parts to whole. Solve small parts, in small steps. Consider trial solutions to gather data as to feasibility.
Minimize problems with the possible solution, at first. Give the solution a chance to grow in the imaginations before you allow people to snipe at it (“let’s focus on how this can work before we pick it apart”)
In the example with the project engineers, Dave might have proposed the following trial solution:
Dave: “Tom, would you be willing to try an idea for 3 days? Asha and Jake are willing to work overtime–up to 12 hours a day each, 6 hours for each of our projects. Actually, they both would like the extra money and are OK with working hard for a few weeks. I got the OK from John to try it for a few days, if you are agreeable. He said there would be enough money in the budget to do it for a month, if it works out. Are you willing to try it for 3 days?”
Tom: “Well, I guess we could try it. It will probably push out the schedule. But for 3 days . . . let’s do it.”
Move your conversations from gridlock to dialogue: Stop. Listen. Clarify. Agree. Focus on Solutions.
I’d love to hear what works for you!
“In solving a problem, think whole to parts, but act parts to whole.” –Diane Windingland
This post is 6th in the series 7 Principles of Making Relationships Work at Work.
This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus: How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect