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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Social Pressures at Work

This morning I attended an executive breakfast that included a presentation in team building techniques for effectiveness.

Ironically, I had just read Susan Cain's chapter, When Collaboration Kills Creativity from her book, Quiet. The gist I took from Cain's chapter is, it's okay to encourage collaboration, but add a healthy dose of individual, uninterrupted work to the mix. Yet from this morning's presentation I felt the introvert's need for quiet and focused individual work is forgotten in most work environments.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sales are not Tim's Gum

One eye-opening experience I had in first grade taught me a lesson about human nature that has stayed with me today. A fellow classmate, Tim - a timid and honest boy- had drifted off into his head, away from the lesson. Our teacher, Mrs. Showalter, noticed this. To bring him back into the moment with the rest of us, she simply called him by name.

"Tim," Mrs. Showalter said.

"Gum," was his immediate response as his face turned crimson.

"Excuse me?" Mrs. Showalter remarked, her eyes big and her mouth almost laughing.

We first-graders watched Mrs. Showalter regain her composure and stole looks at Tim as he covered his mouth, wondering whether Mrs. Showalter had discovered he was chewing gum in class before he confessed.

"Gum", Tim repeated.

"I see. You have gum in your mouth. Tim, would you please remove the gum from your mouth and throw it away? I believe it's time you pay attention again."

"Yes, ma'm."

We watched Tim slide out of his desk, pull the gum from his mouth and saunter to the wastebasket, hanging his head. Sheepishly he deposited the gum and apologized. "I'm sorry, ma'm." Whether he was sorry he brought attention to his crime or really sorry he attempted to chew gum in class, we don't know.

I have a feeling Tim was not enjoying his stick of gum, having to chew it on the sly, hoping dear Mrs. Showalter didn't discover it. That stick of gum probably lost its flavor quickly.

Here is what I learned. Whatever bothers us stays so top of mind that we cannot focus on anything but it. As a result, we teeter between being stuck in our head with or blurting out those things causing us pain.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Confidence in Asking

When I started observing jury trials to coach attorneys in confidence and influence, I enjoyed watching opposing attorney communication style and quickly learned a few key things. In general, those who were prepared - mentally and logically - demonstrated the most confidence. But I was thrown by the shift in a confident lawyer's approach when he/she switched from the prepared questions to the follow-ups.

Any good attorney will say, "never ask a question you don't know the answer to". But great ones know there are times to ask the questions you don't know the answer to. During voir dire.

Do you understand them, individually?
Like someone pitching a sale, attorneys need to use the process "Seek to understand and then to be understood" during the jury selection/deselection process. This means get the jurists, like prospects, to talk. Introverts, this is something you can be really good at. The more others talk, the less you have to.

When giving sales pitches or demonstrations with my audiences, I have failed if all I do is seek a show of hands. Equally poor is a well-placed question to a jurist without appropriate follow-up. Is it better to know or not to know someone's bias? If it's better to know, - and of course it is - then it's appropriate to dig deeply enough to uncover a bias during voir dire.

Follow your instincts. Practice asking the tough questions. Discover what's being covered up. Seek to understand those who have the power to decide your case. Introverts, if you need to take a moment to word the next question, simply state, "give me just a moment". Do not move on without asking it. Extroverts, remember your time asking questions about the jury is not about you. Seek to understand those deciding your case.

The confidence we have in asking the tough questions is proportionate to the respect and admiration onlookers will have for us. If our questions lead to uncomfortable candidate moments during voir dire, selection/deselection is that much easier. You need to know who is going to give you the best hearing.

Begin Practicing Today
So put into practice today your willingness to follow up with meaningful questions. Choose people on which to practice this process. Those close to you, who understand your career, could be ones to regularly test your skills on. Get comfortable with following your instincts and asking the deeper, more insightful questions.

The more confident you are in asking the difficult questions, the more influential you will be. Your case, and maybe your client, depends on it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pushing Forward

On this day of the week when it's common to drag ourselves slowly out of bed, into the day and into focus, I am reminded of a move I made to begin pushing my own barrier out of the way. Some of you may have read that I have been a student of the National Speaker Association's Protrack VI class in Ohio, a class that one of my classmates calls "the MBA for professional speakers".

Through the 8-month course we students have examined not only our speaker style, our message and our business strategy. We have also seen the number of ways we could step out into new territory with our business and our own professional speaking practice. This examination - common to many professionals who strive to remain purposeful - though fearful, is also motivating. So much so that I called upon one of the instructors to mentor me. And the double-edged sword answer is, he said yes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

When Pressured, Pivot

When I played high school basketball, I was very ineffective. Although I could shoot, pass and dribble, I hadn't developed the skill of responding to defenders. I never learned the art of pivoting.

Without this, I was often cornered, trapped or forced to lose the ball. I wasn't considered first string, for my ineffective handling of pressure was a contributor.

This memory comes to mind because recently someone in my network was talking about her need to pivot when handling tough situations. And I realized it is often in need in cases unfolding at trial. Attorneys may be generally good at case preparation, but if either side feels pressure, stress ensues and their influence is hampered. However, if they respond to the pressure by pivoting, they create enough time and space for themselves to resume their drive.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recognize these Witnesses?

Want a break from the usual pressures of litigation?

These witnesses you don't want to have to control...but you may like their outcome! Check out the video included in this post. I hope you enjoy it!

I have spent too many hours in the courtroom NOT to enjoy this Larry, Curly and Moe clip of antics called Disorder in the Court.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Curiosity only Kills the Cat

My yellow-haired cat, Amber, is generally the one I yell at. Caramel, Buddy and Frisbee (although their names sound suspicious) are fairly sanguine around the house. But Amber is forever searching and discovering, climbing and unearthing. She is a cat in motion.

Although this means she frequently topples things she examines, at times causing frustration, she - like the best attorneys for the defense - is fun to watch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Before you step into your courtroom

Picture this:
Your left hand is on the pully of your briefcase, your eyes scanning the floor as you navigate around jurists or observers mingling in the hallway. You look up to see the nameplate attached to the wall outside the courtroom, the name revealing the judge chambered inside. Your heart does a momentary flip as you consider who has the power, the confidence, the influence inside these walls.  As your right hand reaches the handle on the door, you smile, remembering you have the power to influence. And today you are about to prove it.

Ever feel this way? If not, it's about time you do.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Display of Confidence

It's a standoff. Two cowboys, back to back, step off away from each other, aware that the other will be soon turning around, taking aim and hitting their mark. The sun overhead is at it's height, the dusty road is wind-swept in swirls and on-lookers are poised for the action.

The cowboy displaying confidence fortells the future. Ease of manner, which comes from faith in their strengths and focus on their goal, is the survivor's attributes. Ability to think in the moment. Nimbleness in reaction. Each of these traits come from being unclouded by fear.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What, no book to read?

It is common to see me awaiting an appointment with my eyes glued to the pages of an open book. My recent choice is Susan Cain's Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. It is full of great research, stories and insight.

So when I arrived at this morning's first appointment more than 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I was anguished at forgetting to pack Cain's book in my bag. Drats! And I intended to leave this appointment to arrive early at the next, knowing I wanted more reading time. Now it wasn't going to happen.

We introverts aren't trying to avoid conversation with people when we pull out our books. It's just that we so enjoy the private moments that daily downtime creates in keeping us up in our research. I could have looked around the restaurant I was in to see who to start a conversation with, but instead I decided to play to my strengths.

I whipped out a moleskin where I jot down notes for future blog posts - stories, insights, profound expressions or ideas that come to me through the day. Writing is another activity I have grown to enjoy, as long as I have ideas in mind to work with. Through a National Speakers' Association training called Protrack I have been coached to keep a small journal - a bound moleskin is perfect - handy for these quick notes. Since I keep it with me at all times, I have my idea list ready. Jotting down notes in my moleskin kept me busy until my appointment companion arrived. Whether I use this for writing in my blog, creating new stories for my presentations or future dialogue with others, I have a ready vat of information.

So this time it was to support the post in what do you do when you have no book to read but time on your hands? Extroverts may pull out their smart phones to scan through recent updates on their family/friends profiles or accounts when they have downtime. Many of us introverts detest being idle, so if we are playing to our strengths we are either reading or writing, usually in the traditional manner. Putting pen to paper, cracking open a good read or making a list of To Do's.

What do you do with your downtime? I would enjoy seeing the results of this question. And if you don't have your first pick handy, then what? Please comment.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who would you convince?

I have one time served on a jury, which was for a civil case. An introvert who has interest in people, I usually pay attention to council communication style before I size up the evidence.

Those who work with me, who help me feel comfortable and clear with the information are who I will most readily be influenced by. Those who don't care about me or don't care that I understand their logic have just shot themselves in the foot.

And I am not alone here. I recall swaying two thirds of a jury to come full circle the other way. It took only 2 others to support my ideas before it happened.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No Need to be Caught in the Middle

I enjoyed laughing at the antics of Larry, Curley and Moe as a kid. Their physical comedy captured my breath and I often seemed to end up with the same expression on my face as the one caught in the middle. Luckily, it was them, not me, feeling the pain of the moment!

But in real life, I hate being a Stooge. Not only am I embarrassed, I regret making the choice of least resistance. Usually it has to do with not being courageous enough to speak up, especially when circumstances are between two people but one of them comes to me to do their dirty work.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Resources of note

In the past I have blogged about books that have supported my coaching business - see this. Today my focus is on videos that has expanded my thinking of presentations - how to present, effective deliveries, and great topics. For this, I turn to a few TED talks.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ease your mind - The Introvert Mantra

Today I defer to the words of others in this post. Introverts, enjoy!

All noise is waste. So cultivate quietness in your speech, in your thoughts, in your emotions. Speak habitually low. Wait for attention and then you low words will be charged with dynamite. ~Elbert Hubbard

unplug iPod
music stops abruptly
cricket song instead
~Dr. SunWolf,

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth. ~Mahatma Gandhi

God's poet is silence! His song is unspoken,
And yet so profound, so loud, and so far,
It fills you, it thrills you with measures unbroken,
And as soft, and as fair, and as far as a star.
~Joaquin Miller

Silence is a fence around wisdom. ~German Proverb

Go about your way, with quiet.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Time Out from Teams

Susan Cain, author of Quiet, has a plea to the education community - "Please give students time by themselves to think."

My introvert voice applauds her plea, knowing the refreshment that comes to us introverts when we have the time alone to reflect. We may do well with teams - although we need to accustom ourselves to them. We can play well in the sandbox. But we really prefer our own time to create, to discover, to think to ourselves. This is what I call solitude.

Many work environments are designed for pods and open space where quiet is bypassed. No wonder the work-from-home culture is so rampant. Many of us still prefer our own boundaries to get things accomplished. I do. Oh, I still enjoy times at coffee shops and public spaces for appointments or for the change of pace work, but my preference is to be isolated.

Are you an introvert? If so, take time out from teams. Find your space where you'll get the work done - meaning - think, create, strategize and do. If you need to inform your manager, find a way to address this, quietly, respectfully. They may not understand the dynamic constant teaming creates for introverts.

Do you have several appointments lined up? Good for you! Meetings, too? Of course while they are both necessary, it is also necessary to schedule your own time. Otherwise, at the day's end you'll regret not getting anything done. And if you're a teacher or can advise one, remind them of the needs to give students time out to think.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Breaking down barriers

Last week I addressed an audience I thought would be out of my range on a topic I have prepared and presented before. I had the sense this particular audience was more informed in the topic than my previous one and had concerns about my content being meaty enough.

I worked and worked and re-worked the presentation, spending much more time on it than I have on recent well-paid presentations. At length, I decided to involve them more than I had my previous audiences. That afternoon, I addressed them simply and involved them often. Still, I was preparing to hit the wall.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Turn the fuzzy into the clear

I remember the days we were all crammed into the auditorium for school levy campaign meetings. The superintendent stood near the overhead projector as he switched out one graphic for another. Did he think we all understood the tax language he used or saw what the graphics were pointing out?

"So hear we have a graphic of how the new tax levy we are seeking will affect us. I know you can't really read it, so I will point out what it says." And on the superintendent went to explain every column, every row and every detail of the complicated graphic displayed in front of us, while we squinted, we rubbed our eyes and we nodded off. Words skipped in and out of my recognition, leaving me wondering after 20 minutes of his speaking at us, what he had said.

I walked away more perplexed than when I walked in. I hadn't a clue how to explain what I had just heard.

"Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people." William Butler Yeats

How often do we confuse audiences? We assume they know what we are saying, yet we speak the jargon of our industry instead of the language of the people?

As you organize your ideas for a talk, keep in mind a few techniques:
  1.  Compare the strange with the familiar. If your audience is unfamiliar with the concept you are addressing, compare it to something in their world so they get a sense of your idea.
  2. Turn your fact into a picture. Instead of simply stating how large a state is, compare it in size to the state of your listeners (3 times the size of Ohio; it's like Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky all put together)
  3. Avoid technical terms. Put all language into the least educated listener's language. Or if teaching a term, take the time to do points 1 and 2.
  4. Use visual aides. First, if your language requires teaching, show how the word or phrase is spelled. Secondly, make comparisons and pictures through your language or through graphics or by demonstration. And be sure the graphics are simple, clear and easy to see.
Clarity is the key to communication. If it's information we are trying to share, we must speak in terms the listener understands, otherwise they will not be informed. Help them walk away knowing how to explain what they just heard.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Kids Know What Matters


One of the hardest questions to answer is the most important one to consider when we are selling, influencing and speaking.

When making the short talk to get action, as Dale Carnegie puts it, the final step in the process is to
share the reason.

Kids know this helps them weigh the value of the action. And so do we adults. If we know the value of an action, and we have good reason to influence the action, then we need to share the why.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh, the pacing....oh the pain....

Those of you who know me understand I spend lots of time watching other presenters get in front of audiences. In the spirit of observing and critiquing, this afternoon I spent some time watching a recorded version of a presentation.

It was horrendous. It lasted only 45 minutes, but just a few minutes into it I could tell this wasn't going to be enjoyable. But I pushed myself to watch it, hoping to see something I enjoyed, because I knew the people in it. Namely, the main presenter.