So much for the melting pot…

touching headsYou go on holiday to the quaint country of Kapistan and expect the locals to be friendly and warm on this island.

In fact, many of the inhabitants live in mountain villages, cut off from main roads until 20 years ago, they’re cold, suspicious and unhelpful.

What you don’t know is that they warm up if:

a) you express your love of the antelope;

b) you know all 20 words for rock and

c) you nod a lot.

Although this is a fictional land, the spirit of the rules – if not these particular ones – is worth knowing in an increasingly complex world, where we’re expected to already know the etiquette by sniffing it in the air. That’s not very practical so here are a few tips to see you through the multi-cultural maze.

 

What it means to you is not the same for me

Andy was infuriated with his manager, Jacques, for pointing out unsatisfactory work in front of others at a meeting.

Deciding not to make his anger known to the group, Andy resolved to approach Jacques about his behaviour. However, Jacques was confused. He couldn’t see why Andy should be upset at being reprimanded so openly.

The fact that Jacques is French and Andy was American had much to do with the conflict of management style.

In France, managers are more concerned about professional jealousy and try to mitigate against that by reproaching in public and rewarding in private.

In the States, this is reversed.

 

‘Surely we show interest in the same way’

No, we don’t: coaching a Japanese Banker in Presentations revealed an interesting difference. We were discussing how to tackle difficult questions when he said that if his particular audience of Senior Managers in their late 50’s and 60s were to start asking him any questions, he would know that he’d already lost the game. However, this may not be the case with a younger audience.

 

Collectivism versus individualism:

The collectivism more common in Spain unsettled Ferdy, from Germany, when the Engineering company to which he was seconded had a team picnic at the beach. Not only were the team there, but the families: children, partners, fiancés: even a dog turned up with the crowd.

 

Directness versus indirectness:

The Indian clients I’ve worked with have thrown up several paradoxes that can cause problems in the West.

The Indians tend to be more direct in some circumstances than, say, in Britain, but the Brits are more pointed in other ways and this can very confusing unless someone decodes the behaviour.

For example, when presenting at senior level in India, there’s a huge expectation to embellish your talk with stories and side points .   In the U.K., it’s more like ‘We’ve only got 5 minutes left. Could you make it quick?’   New York will be 5 seconds on a quiet day.

However,  Indians can be more direct when making requests, and very much so when expressing an opinion. In order not to alienate a whole team, I’ve had to teach indirect requests and embedded commands. (To check out the Indirect Requests, go here…)

 

How does your body talk?

Since so much of how we communicate is non-verbal, are you aware whether your body language is telling people to ‘get lost’ or whether it’s saying ‘OK’?

I was watching a Japanese tour guide in a restaurant, as she was organising the orders of 25 Japanese tourists in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico, with the Mexican staff.

With tourists, she kept physical distance, even though she evidently knew them quite well. However, when conversing with the Mexican staff, she was physically closer and more tactile. When I say more tactile, she wasn’t launching herself in their arms, but there’d be a short touch on the forearm and longer direct eye contact.

There was conflict between Naaz, a male Indian client from Bangalore and a female British-born Indian woman, Sandra, who complained that Naaz dismissed her decisions.   Naaz, on the other hand, claimed she never seemed committed to her opinions.

What Sandra needed to realise was that in Indian culture, where gender imbalances are so distinct, it’s often the case that a women would need to come across with ‘more steel’ than in British culture. I’ve found that to be the case from Italy to the Middle East.

Much of this comes from three non-verbal cues:

1) direct and prolonged eye contact
2) depth of voice
3) physical commitment e.g. strong gestures rather than fidgeting

However, when you’ve put your foot out of sync with culture, you won’t always know. When people do make their dissatisfaction clear, they can’t always tell you explicitly what you’ve done to so offend.

It’s your choice whether you adapt to another culture, but finding someone who can help you through the cross-cultural maze will allow you to get your message across and keep relationships bubbling away at the same time.

One of the main reasons for couples to row – and for workplace tiffs

Such is my influence that in the following video, I’ve managed to rope in Kevin Bacon, the Hank Hill family and even Clark Gable with Vivien Leigh – even though the last two are no longer with us.

All for one purpose:  to reveal one of the most common reasons that couples argue and what to do about it.

No, I haven’t gone into relationship counselling.  This issue also pops up at work but the effects are more dramatic at home.  Either way, this behaviour can be very irritating.  

Click below and my glowing supporting cast and I will help you…

 

 

2 quick tips for productive meetings

Only too often, we sit in meetings, bored to tears by the tangential conversation, the conversation hoggers and the lack of relevance to the agreed agenda.

I’ve put together two magic tips you can use in your next meetings to save your time, increase engagement and maximise productivity.

How not to leak when you speak

‘How not to leak when you speak’ isn’t  about waterworks – yours, or anyone else’s you’ll be relieved to know – but how we unintentionally make certain gestures that unwittingly betray our messages.

Watch this 3 minute clip to find out what gestures you may make and how to overcome the seepage/leakage.

Either way it sounds disgusting. It’s not, though – you’ll see what I mean…

 

Want to add something on how we can seem more convincing and confident when communicating?  Drop your comment right down there:

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How to increase your ‘Presence’

 

It's all about connection

It’s all about connection

Some people seem to find catching the attention of others effortless, be it in a job interview, presentation or a meeting.

What is it they’ve got that other people haven’t?

Charisma?

Presence?

What are the qualities that make some people more trustworthy, authoritative and persuasive?

The good news is that these qualities can be learnt…read on if you’re interested in getting other’s attention (without shouting or doing the Shimmy Shake).

Let’s imagine Eugene needs to stand in front of his business partners and persuade them to pool resources on a new venture.  He needs to appear more authoritative, trustworthy and persuasive so what qualities do you think are vital?

According to work conducted at the University of Lausanne. lead by Professor John Antonakis,  there are a set of twelve communication habits that Eugene would need to adopt.

When Antonakis was conducting the study of what would give people like Eugene that extra ‘zing’, he was actually looking at ‘charisma’.

The Latin root of ‘charisma’, ‘charis’ means ‘favour’ and the whole word therefore translates as to ‘exhort favour’.  In other words, ‘being influential’.  Not every leader or manager needs to be – or can be – ‘charismatic’ with its ‘wow the room’ implication but to be engaging is vital.

Eight of the techniques of engaging others, are verbal:

  1. using metaphors;
  2. easy-to-remember three-part lists;
  3. telling stories;
  4. drawing vivid contrasts;
  5. asking rhetorical questions;
  6. expressing moral conviction;
  7. reflecting an audience’s sentiments;
  8. and setting high but achievable goals.

The rest are non-verbal: raising and lowering your voice, letting your feelings show in face and hand gestures to reinforce what you say.

All these skills are based on Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric that can be broken down thus:

  • Ethos – establishing your credentials and building rapport;

This could be done during a presentation, by Eugene sharing his experience through anecdotes, for example, and reflecting the audience’s concerns and language.  Credibility may be established beforehand through reputation. Eugene may have a harder job if his audience think he had his hand in the pension fund, in which case, establishing credentials through colourful stories may be as productive as skiing uphill in slippers.

  •  Logos – persuading through logic

By showing cause and effect, before and after, theory next to experience, Eugene will be using logic to influence.

  • Pathos – persuasion with emotion

Try talking about something your are looking forward to in a flat, unmodulated voice with no movement. Then do this with gesture to underline points your emphasise with vocal colouring.  That is the addition of ‘pathos’.  Do be aware of cultural variations, though.  For example, more open, expressive movement would be expected in southern Europe than Northern Europe.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter,  a Professor from Harvard in her blog ‘Why you need Charisma’,  says that it’s how well you listen as opposed to being heard, that will make you influential.  For her, ‘charisma’ is the quality of silence as well as speech.

According to Professor Kanter, active listening is vital:  the questions you ask to seek understanding, reflecting back key phrases, steering a conversation through non-verbals.

Whether in a presentation or the Q and A afterwards both the verbal and non-verbal engagement will be vital.  In meetings, pitches, and interviews getting the balance between active listening and speaking in an engaging way will mean that you have presence.  Both Professors Antonakis and Kanter are spot on.

 

 

 

How to Pitch in the Middle East

Here’s a short video I’ve put together to give you:

5 Top Tips to Win Pitches in the Middle East

…after a client of mine was struggling to win business in Abu Dhabi.

Tip no. 4 came as a shock to him:  I might as well have said, “Richard (not his real name!), take your head off and throw it down the drain.”  However, he adapted and…well, you’ll hear what happened.

So ‘Hadi!’, ‘Yellah!’, Let’s go!

See you in the comments…

‘You’re a fake: you’ll go far’

Stress levels and power poses

Maddy

Strike that pose!

 

Amy Cuddy a social psychologist lecturing at Harvard Business School, has proven that you can fake it until you become it.  In experiments conducted with Dana Carney, she proved that striking ‘power poses’ for just 2 minutes before an interview, can increase the projection of self-confidence and the chances of being hired.  This is basically how the experiment went:

1)    Subjects had to prepare a 5 minute presentation about their dream job before a job interview, in which they were to be evaluated, filmed and hired on the strength of how they appeared on camera.  At this point, some people develop shingles…

2)    They then had to convince 2 evaluators why they thought they were suited to this dream job without lying or misrepresentation.  If you think this is stressful, hold on, it gets worse.

3)    The evaluators were trained to show no non-verbal expression.  This would usually spike the stress hormone, cortisol.  For many, this is like sinking in ‘social quicksand’;

4)    The interview was filmed and watched by two further evaluators who assessed the performance of the interviewees, or masochists, whichever term you find more accurate.

Interviewee Preparation:

5)    Apart from the requirement of remaining conscious throughout, the interviewees prepared the speech and were then split into two groups.  There was the control group and one that performed 2 minute ‘power posing exercises’, holding 2 such postures for a total of 180 seconds.

All exercises were performed before the interview, rather so that interviewees weren’t labelled insane…

Findings

Those that were chosen by the evaluators, who were totally unaware of the interviewee preparation and control group, were those that stuck the power poses before the meeting.  Now, that doesn’t mean that the power posers walked in like cowboys or Wonderwomen.  What happened was that they simply manifested a comfort in their own skin, and real zest.

It is these latter two factors, that further research has shown, that are the sole qualities that can win pitches.  Content matters of course, but it pales into less significance in the presence of a lack of awkwardness and the presence of enthusiasm.

What this means for your Pitches, Presentations and Interviews:

Preparing for even 2 minutes before a pitch, presentation or interview can change your behaviour.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Before an interview: stand up in the waiting room.  Moving around will help with the nerves and when you’re being fetched, you’re not peering over your I-Phone, hunched and looking up like an abandoned puppy, but you are literally and metaphorically on the same level as your interviewer, from the start.
  2. Ensuring that you do a posture check, checking that you’re shoulder are low, back straight, eyes straight ahead and torso open will make you feel more confident than when you’re hunched and looking down.
  3. Space, power and status are related:a)  in a presentation, you can control your nerves rather than have them control you simply by moving around.  This releases energy, ridding you of shaky voice, hands and legs, as well as projecting an appearance of self-assurance.  Weirdly enough, you start to feel that self-assurance.b)  in an interview, pressing yourself against the desk like in the picture below can make you feel like you’re in combat with the interviewer.

    officechairanddesk
    It can also give your the appearance of a school child hauled up in front of the head teacher.   Your breathing will also more likely to be around the chest area, which generates adrenalin, making it more difficult to control nerves and shakiness in the voice and body:

    The position below will help you to breath deeper, giving you a steadiness and confidence:officechairanddesk2You’ll also have the room to be more physically expressive, avoiding whacking the desk when you need to use gesture.  For panel interviews, simply move the chair back further from the table for the same reason and so that you don’t have to turn your head 180 degrees like some horror film puppet in order to address the panel. And lastly….

  4. Smile.  Even a fake smile, such as the one you make when you hold a pencil between your teeth, will generate serotonin, the feel-good hormone.  It also gives your voice a lift when speaking so you sound more upbeat as well.  Instant feedback to which you and others will react.

 

These small tweaks will create big changes in your behaviour, which in turn, will create different outcomes, so your body language can, in the most subtle of ways, change your life.

For more information and illustrations of power poses, see Amy Cuddy’s 17 minute video below.  At 11:11 mins, she talks about the interview experiment.

How where you sit affects your influence…

I’d been speaking to some accountants who had a disastrous client meeting.

It turned out that it was all in the seating so I’ve made this quick video so you can see how to avoid conflict and steer actions through the simple mastery of the Four Positions for Influence in Meetings.

No choreography, Kama Sutra or Yoga. These positions are much quicker to learn and won’t break your back!

Happy watching!

‘Why Aren’t They Listening To Me?’

notlisteningPicture this: you’re in a meeting and make, what you think, is a great suggestion. Everyone carries on talking. So, you repeat yourself. No response.

Twenty minutes later someone echoes your own suggestion and everyone stops as if they’ve heard the Divine Word and praises the speaker, leaving you totally flummoxed.

‘Why aren’t they listening to ME!’ cries your inner voice.

Here are a few tips to grab and maintain the attention of others: use in meetings, when managing up, down or sideways…

Use gesture

Vocal emphasis is key to speaking with enthusiasm and conviction.
Once you learn to use emphasis, your speaking will:


*look more engaging
*sound more interesting
*feel more comfortable


In order to emphasise effectively….

  1. use gesture in tandem with vocal emphasis
  2. vary vocal pitch and pause to underline important words/phrases
  3. maintain eye contact to the end of the sentence

Levels of information

Sometimes people go right for the detail when the listener wants the big picture or headlines. When there’s a mismatch in the level and quantity of information required, it can be a cause of communication frustration and is enough to flick the ‘off’ switch.

If you get too much detail, try phrases such as:

  1. ‘So, what you’re saying is…’
  2. ‘From what you’re saying, the main points are that…’
  3. ‘Right. Essentially, what I need to do is…’


If you need more information than you’re getting, use any of the following phrases:

  1. ‘Could you give me an example?’
  2. ‘Could you tell me more about……?’
  3. ‘What exactly would that be like…?’

 

‘BUT HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?’

 

 

I think the easiest way to answer this is to think about why we wouldn’t want to listen to someone before they even open their mouths.  Here’s a list of considerations:

  1. You don’t trust or like that person: you’re basing your opinion/feelings on previous contact.
  2. They physically cower, dominate, seem aggressive or passive aggressive or don’t look ‘genuine’:  how are they sitting/standing?  is there a false smile, slightly tightened jaw line or narrowed eyes?  Is there a ‘hard’ facial expression – that look in the eyes?  Does the person inappropriately mismatch the tone of the gathering, either physically or vocally?  Note, mismatching can be appropriate.  For example, if you want to energise a slumping group, you wouldn’t get very far if you slumped along with them!
  3. And…while I’m on mismatching…the pace of movement or speech seems to bother the listener.  Is it too fast and making you feel nervous?  Too slow and you feel frustrated?
  4. Vocally, they’re difficult to listen to: from the moment they open their mouths, you can’t understand the accent, hear the speech or the vocal tone is gruff or grating in some way.
  5. There’s inappropriate dress e.g. the probation officer giving a presentation as her top continued to ride up over her pregnant belly.  This slightly detracted from a serious message… or, and shall I be blunt here…?  Yes, why not…poor hygiene.  If someone has a strong personal smell, listening may be rather challenging since your sinuses are being coated with acidic aromas.
  6. You have external influences:  these could include too much noise from elsewhere distracting you; limited time; other priorities that you need to consider such as a deadlines, debt or darlings.  Or whatever – you get the picture!
  7. Physiological needs:  lack of sleep, needing the toilet or food, being too hot or cold could override anything going on around you, no matter how attention-grabbing the speaker may be.  In that case, deferring a conversation, allowing comfort breaks, breaking in food etc. will help immensely.
  8. From the speaker’s point of view belief and conviction in your message go a long way.  No matter about your posture, eye contact or voice, it’s the belief and conviction that you’ll project before you open your mouth and that can go a long way to drawing people in.