5 Reasons Why Teleconferencing is Draining Your Energy & What to Do About It

For a lot of us, the current situation we are in means we are spending a lot of time working from home and in video meetings. But why do virtual meetings seem more tiring than in person ones?

  1. We miss out on non-verbal communication. We pay attention to the facial expressions, gestures, and tone of others and respond accordingly. During in-person meetings, this processing is automatic. However, video chat requires we devote significant energy and attention to pick up on non-verbal cues.
  2. What’s going on in the background? We feel anxious about our new workspace and how it appears to our colleagues. We worry our kids, partners or parents could walk in at any moment. We also focus more of our attention on the backgrounds of others. The environment where meetings are held is also very important to our processing. We attribute certain meetings to specific rooms and adjust our behavior accordingly.
  3. No more in-passing small talk. In-person, we often meet people on the way to a meeting and have time for small talk and catching up before the meeting starts. On video, it’s all business right from the start.
  4. Watching ourselves is stressful. The heightened focus on facial cues and the ability to see ourselves has proven very stressful. Viewing negative facial expressions can intensify those feelings and emotions in ourselves and others.
  5. Silence is awkward. Silence in real-life meetings is normal and provides rhythm. However, over video, we don’t know if the other person is listening or frozen. Silence makes us anxious about technology and lagging connections.

So, how can we reduce fatigue?

Experts suggest limiting video calls to only the essentials. Additionally, turning your camera off or your screen to the side can make the call less tiring.

Restructuring meetings may also be helpful. Try introducing a shared document in addition to the video call. Make time at the beginning of the meeting for small talk and catch-ups. Check-in on the well-being of others.

Lastly, building in transition periods can help us adjust. Try stretching or doing some exercise before a video meeting. We need buffers to allow our minds to transition our focus from one thing to the next.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” -Wayne D. Dyer

12 Tips for Effective Emails

Email is a communication currency that can lose its value very quickly if not used appropriately.

We “hear” what is being said through our senses, so when we can’t see verbal cues or hear someone speak, there is a greater chance for miscommunication.  Working from home as a ‘new normal’ for many makes our email communication clarity even more critical.

To ensure your email communications are clear, we outlined the following: 

  1. Include a clear, direct subject line.   Examples include:   “New Meeting Date,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.” People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line, so ensure yours is clear what it contains.
  2. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’ Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.  IF you do copy everyone, write why you are doing so – outline why the person (s) were included. 
  3. Include your auto signature. This allows your email recipient to easily contact you, in case they want to call you in reply.
  4. Use professional salutations“Hey you guys,” “Yo,” etc .  While the email may have a relaxed tone, you should still address an email professionally.
  5. Use exclamation points sparingly.  If you choose to use an exclamation point, we recommend using one to convey excitement.  If overused, you can appear too emotional/immature.
  6. Be cautious with humor.  This is one where it can get lost in translation without the right audio tone and/or facial expression.  This is best left for in-person or videoconferences.
  7. Factor in different cultures speak and write differently.  Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.
  8. Reply to your emails.  This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. Or if you were “copied” on it, you should let them know that you are intending Cathy to respond if directed to Cathy and Cathy is better equipped to handle.    Example:  “Cathy, I will assume you will reply to Joe on this issue.”
  9. Proofread every message.  Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.  Grammarly is a free tool that helps with grammar beyond email spellchecks.
  10. Add the email address last.  It is easy to hit “send” by mistake before finishing your message.  This will save a lot of headaches as you compose and proofread your message first.
  11. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.  Pay extra attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line especially since it may autofill similar names.
  12. Nothing is confidential—so compose your emails accordingly.  Every electronic message leaves a trail.

5 Ways to Prevent Miscommunication from Infiltrating Your Team

Words matter and words can be misunderstood. You can break a heart or start a war simply based on the words you choose. We know communication is important – Especially now, as are working remote and stress levels are high.

Remember, everyone processes information differently. This gets into some pretty nutty areas of neuroscience and behavior. For those of you who use DiSC to aid your communications, attached is a refresher overview of how each style is wired.  

For those that are not familiar with DiSC, knowing someone’s DiSC style helps us communicate better with them.  For example, some people are good at active listening, while others are not. How we absorb and digest information is a factor as well. Some process information visually, while others process through sound or touch. Lastly, perception based on what we want to hear versus what’s said is also a huge factor.  

Conversations can easily be misinterpreted because of a combination of bad communication habits: people are hurried when they speak; they’re distracted and not actively listening; or they simply have a lack of understanding or context to what is being said.

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to miscommunication? Here are 5 steps:


1. Make sure everyone involved understands and realizes that misinterpretations are human nature. We’re all guilty of it. Just because you told someone something, doesn’t mean they got it. 


2. Be aware of yourself and others. The more you know about yourself and those with whom you’re communicating, the more effective you will be in disseminating information to ensure you are aligned with someone else. This is especially helpful for aligning with people who are wired differently than you or who come from a very different background where their understanding of something could have a wildly different meaning from what you meant. 


3. At the end of a conversation with someone, repeat what you heard. This allows for feedback on whether you understood the message in the way the speaker intended. You will be amazed by how many times the other person will say, “No, I didn’t mean that. I meant…”  You will save time by taking this simple step to being tactically aligned.


4. Leave a few minutes at the end of a conversation or meeting to go over next steps. Allow for questions to provide further clarity or context for those who need it. This is especially important if a lot of different topics or ideas were discussed. Context shifting is a heavy task for our brains, so the more topics, the greater chance there is for tactical dissonance.


5. Account for the digital age we live in and be mindful of how you’re delivering your message.  Email is best used to spread information, like recapping action items after a meeting or sharing attachments others need, NOT for in-depth communication. This means no debating, convincing or critiquing via email—save that for face-to-face communication.

The good news is, I truly believe that our new working environment will help us develop stronger communication skills if we slow down and use this time to focus on improving the quality of our messages.

Source Excerpts from Leadercast March 2020

Using DISC to Power and Support your Remote Team

Knowing your team’s DISC assessment results is always beneficial since you can tailor everything from assignments to workstations to match your worker’s skill sets and preferences.

For remote workers, the knowledge imparted by a DISC assessment is even more meaningful.

You’ll know how much support, attention and feedback each member will need, and even get a good idea of which of your team members can handle the sometimes-isolating aspects of remote work. Since each individual style needs different support and will value different aspects of remote work, knowing what to offer is essential if you want to have a successful remote program.

Click here for an overview of how to support your remote team based on their DiSC style.   

5 Ways to Improve Team Meetings

We’ve all sat in a meeting where we wondered what’s the purpose, why are we here and what we are supposed to accomplish. And if we are honest, we may have led meetings that didn’t meet the mark.

Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers from various industries, where 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

Here are five (5) ways to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness of team meetings:

1-Prepare a Clear Agenda

  • List the topics, outcomes and how much time will be spent on each topic.
  • Add the purpose of the meeting to the top of your agenda.
  • Distribute the agenda ahead of time. Some DiSC styles need time to process the information before responding. Give your team the courtesy of properly preparing and eliminate the “meeting after the meeting”.

2-Invite Participation

Lack of participation during meetings can cause frustration for everyone, and withholding information is a sign of team dysfunction.  Think about what could be contributing to this problem:

  • Did you invite you invite the right people to the meeting that are knowledgeable to speak on the topic?
  • Are your team members somehow communicating something with their silence?
  • Be clear you want a conversation. Ask: “What are we missing?” and “What have we not thought of?” to create an environment that welcomes different points of view.

 3-Shorten Your Meeting Time

One hour is the standard meeting time most people; however, to minimize wasting time, cap your meetings at 30 minutes or less for problem-solving. This provides laser focus for the one or two meeting items that you outlined in your agenda.  Then if you need more time, schedule the next discussion and its purpose.

 4-Speak Last

Do participants feel they need to agree with the majority or stay silent? As a leader, you will naturally have a psychological hierarchy in the team. Avoid sharing your thoughts first as it tends to set the stage for everyone else to follow. Go last and encourage your team to come up with a strong solution.

5-Improve Your Facilitation Skills

If a significant portion of your job is to lead meetings, invest in improving your facilitation skills. A well-run meeting is done so with intent and design. A good facilitator can help to maintain the flow, curtail any dominating thoughts or ideas, and create the space for team members to contribute without feeling scared or intimidated.

We each have 1440 minutes in a day. Maximize your results by improving your meetings.

The Missing Piece to Making Meetings More Effective

Meetings.  The word can solicit strong feelings about their value and level of effectiveness.  Regardless of how you feel about them, meetings are an essential part of most organizations.  Many of us practice the standard guidelines for creating a good meeting: creating a clear agenda/meeting objective, keeping time, recapping action items, inviting the right people, etc.

So how can meetings be more engaging and productive?  What’s missing? 

Knowing your audience’s personality style is often the missing piece.

 A personality assessment like EverythingDiSC® can help bridge the gap between employees and optimal workplace communication.  For example:

  • Consider that D-styles prefer meetings with minimal small talk and an agenda that everyone sticks to.
  • Allow i-styles to flourish by allowing them to express personal opinions and have open discussions with others.
  • To ensure S-styles feel comfortable, provide them with your meeting’s outline or agenda in advance so they can prepare.
  • Remember that C-styles don’t do well with making big decisions when they feel rushed or pressured.

These are some of the elements of how knowing your communication style and that of your other meeting participants can make for more effective meetings.

-Adapted from  EverythingDiSC® blog July 11, 2019

3 Key Ways to Prevent Miscommunication

A wise man once said, communication makes friends; a lack of communication makes enemies. Our words have power!  We all know communication is important, and yet effective communication can be a battle for individuals, teams, and organizations. Communication is the gateway to clarity, which ultimately gets the right things done.

As Alan Schaefer, Branding People Together states, “to ensure we have clarity, we must consider how we share and process information. Most of us have experienced a scenario where you have a meeting with one or several people. You have a robust, or at least what appears to be forward-moving, conversation. You break the metaphorical huddle and go running whatever plays you understand to be correct. You come back together and people are so off course that you have a twilight-zone moment of disbelief wondering, Was the other person in the same conversation as the rest of us?”

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to the telephone game? Below are three ways to prevent miscommunication:

  1. Use the right format –Email? Phone?  Face to face?  We tend to default to email a lot!  Email is best used to spread information, like recapping action items after a meeting or sharing attachments others need, NOT for in-depth communication. This means no debating, convincing or critiquing via email—save that for face-to-face communication.
  2. Know Yourself and Others. The more you know about yourself and those you’re communicating with, the more effective you will be. This is especially helpful with people who are wired differently than you.
  3. Repeat and Recap.  At the end of a conversation, repeat what you heard, allowing for feedback on whether you understood the message in the way the speaker intended. You will be amazed by how many times the other person will say, “No, I didn’t mean that. I meant…”   This includes recapping next steps if applicable.

The good news is, like anything else, you can build your communication skills and become a skilled communicator that’s productive and clear.  You are what you repeatedly do.

 Are you known as a skilled communicator?

5 Steps for Challenging the Status Quo

“Well, that’s just how we do things here… It’s how we’ve always done it… It’s best that you don’t rock the boat…”

Have you ever heard these dismissive responses when you or your colleagues have suggested changing things in the workplace? Change is always met with some resistance – just ask any visionary.

Anyone Can Challenge the Status Quo

Even when we know something should be different, we don’t always have the courage to take action. And when we do, we risk our ideas falling on deaf ears, or being overruled or ignored. These five approaches can help increase your chances of success when considering challenging to the status quo.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

If you keep asking yourself “why” when you’re following a process or regular course of action, you’ve likely identified something to be improved.

If that’s the case, ask yourself and other people questions, in order to fully understand why things are being done in a particular way. There may be good reasons that you’re unaware of, or maybe it is just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Listen carefully – their answers may lead to further questions, problems or solutions that you hadn’t considered.

  1. Prioritize Your Ideas

Perhaps you have a whole list of ideas that you’d like to implement. If so, it’s important to pick your battles. Being passionate about change is admirable, but rattling off new ideas every day will see people start to tune out, and your best ideas may get lost among the lesser ones.

For maximum impact, pick the ones that are most relevant and likely to succeed. Choose wisely; take time for self-reflection and factor in some personal brainstorming.

  1. Gather Allies

If you’re planning to challenge long-standing attitudes or processes, it can help to have people on your side!

Multiple perspectives can help creativity to blossom. You won’t be the only person in the office with ideas, and you might inspire others to speak up with theirs. You’ll gather allies who can support you if you meet resistance, either face-on or behind your back.

Remember, collaboration is the key to success, so it’s important to put your ego aside.

  1. Perfect Your Pitch

There’s a fine line between firm reasoning and antagonism, and change is a scary and therefore touchy subject for some people. If you’re too forceful, you risk people shutting off, and perhaps shutting down your idea before you even had the chance to sell it to them. Be sensitive to other people’s points of view. Listen to what they have to say and be clear about what’s at risk and what will be improved by your idea.

Keep your pitch short and snappy, and leave plenty of time for discussion and questions. Be sure to choose the right moment too.

  1. Keep Calm and Persevere

If you don’t succeed straight away, don’t let exhaustion, anger or stress get the better of you. It’s important not to let failures get you down. Learn from the experience and focus on turning negative emotions around. Some ideas can take a while to come to fruition.

Have you ever challenged the status quo? How did you approach it? What was the outcome? Would you do anything differently next time?

Source: Mindtools, Faye Bradshaw April 2019

An Individualized Approach to Developing Your Employees

“No matter how much success you’re having, you cannot continue working together if you can’t communicate” –James Cameron

Managers play a critical role in developing the people on their teams. Without strong leaders and a strategic management plan, people often become complacent or feel unfulfilled and “stuck” in their jobs. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. recently shared A Winning Approach to Employee Development, making it personalized to the individual by noting the following for each direct report:

  • Individualized assessments of the employee’s potential
  • Employee’s career and development goals
  • Identifying employee’s motivators. Such as do they appreciate acts of service (helping them)? Gifts (coffee cards, lunch certificates)? Quality time (regular meetings, going out to lunch together)? Words of affirmation? Etc.
  • Identifying the employee’s preferred work personality style (DiSC)

Curious about how to tailor your development approach to the employee’s preferred work styles using DiSC?  Here are some simple ways to get started:

  • For D-style employees, consider development opportunities that have the potential for impressive results, as success is typically their bottom line. Review the big picture with them and encourage them to come up with appropriate long-term goals.
  • When working with i-styles, allow them to lead small groups, as they thrive in a collaborative environment. Help them stay focused by pointing out the negative consequences of not taking enough time to develop skills with deliberate effort. 
  • For developing S-style team members, be mindful to push them gently to grow and develop—slow and steady tends to win with them. Show them that they have what it takes to work autonomously, and don’t be afraid to offer constructive feedback when necessary. 
  • With C-styles, try putting development opportunities into clear, well-organized framework. Make sure that these independent and logic-driven employees see the drawbacks of always playing it safe, and remind them to fill you in on their progress.

By communicating with our employees in the way they are wired/prefer, shows them we see and hear them – making them feel valued.  And that is a critical component to developing people.

Aha! Leadership is an authorized partner for Everything DiSC® and its tools and assessments.  If you would like to learn more about how we can help you or your employees, please email aha@ahaledership.com

Challenge: Touch Emails Only Once – 2 Easy Tips

Let’s be honest. How many times do you read the same email message over and over again?  Guess what? The information hasn’t changed. You’re just procrastinating.

I have a personal rule: I will only read each message once, then take the appropriate action. The goal is “Inbox: 0” every day. Now, honestly, I don’t do it every day.

I do it almost every day, and I always keep my emails under a hundred. But I have met people who have thousands of emails in their inbox—with hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand, unread. This is not helpful. Not only is it potentially bad for your personal brand, it also makes email far more time-consuming than it needs to be.

The key is not to get bogged down, to keep moving, to deal with each email message once and only once. The way you do this is to start by asking, is this email actionable? Does somebody expect me to do something with this email, or is it asking me to do something?

  • If no, there are three possibilities;
  • If yes, there are three different possibilities.

These are taken from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. And this summary will help you deal specifically with your email.

TIP 1: HOW TO PROCESS NON-ACTIONABLE EMAIL

If the answer to the question ‘Is this email actionable?’ is NO, then you have three options.

  • Delete it. Yes, there really is a delete key when it comes to email. My own philosophy is if it’s really important, somebody else somewhere in the world has a copy.
  • Add it to you Someday/Maybe list. If I don’t want to lose the idea but there’s nothing to do with it just yet, I can drag it into Evernote or a saved folder and return to it another time.
  • File it. When in doubt, file. Why? Because you can always get back to it if need be, and it really doesn’t take up a lot of space. Here is what’s important: I use one and only one folder for my filing. It’s called “Processed Email.” The reason I do this is because it keeps me from getting distracted and wasting time. The moment I have to start answering questions like, “Where am I going to file this? This is about Project X from Client Y, so do I file it in Project X? Or do I file it under Client Y? What if it’s about two projects? Do I make a copy and put a copy in each folder?” It can become very complex very quickly. And that means time down the drain. Instead, I just put it all in one folder and let the software do the searching when I need to find that message. I can get back to almost any message in a matter of seconds. It takes less time than me having to remember what folder I filed it in. But what if the email is actionable?

 

TIP 2: HOW TO PROCESS ACTIONABLE EMAIL

  • Just do it. Here is where I use David Allen’s two-minute rule. If you can take care of the action in two minutes or less, why even take the time to put it in your task list? You run the risk of losing it, not getting back to it, or not being as responsive as you’d like to be. So just go ahead and do it.
  • Defer it. It may need to get done, but it doesn’t need to get done now. So go ahead and put it on your calendar, create a reminder, but defer the action until a later time. You can drag the email to Processed and set a reminder in a task manager like Basecamp. You can also drag the email into Evernote or Notes and add a reminder. Email apps like Dropbox’s Mailbox let you defer emails with a swipe or place it on a todo list. However you manage it, the thing is to get it out of your email inbox.
  • Delegate it. I am preaching to myself here, by the way. I’m kind of a control freak, and I have this unspoken assumption that nobody can do it as well as I can do it. But the simple truth is that we’re not always the best person to handle every task. You probably have other people on your team more competent than you at one task or another. They may be colleagues. They could be contractors.

 

Recommended Resource: Robyn Marcotte’s note:   One of our favorite Podcasts is Michael Hyatt’s Lead to Win

Check it out here:  https://michaelhyatt.com/leadtowin/

 

Source: Excerpt From Michael Hyatt’s “How To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week”