Winning strategies to improve your communication skills 

Winning strategies to improve your communication skills 

Communication skills are key in the workplace. They help you get your points across, build strong relationships, and create a positive workplace culture. If you want to improve your communication skills, or simply brush up on them, here are some tips that can help you get there. 

Be interested

  • Give your full attention to the conversation at hand and demonstrate empathy. 
  • Don’t look at your devices while the other person is speaking.

Ask questions

  • Ask closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are those that require a short, simple answer and don’t lead to the back and forth that makes for a two-way dialogue.
  • Ask specific questions: Specificity helps avoid misunderstandings between parties.

Don’t rush

  • Don’t rush through your talking points.
  • Don’t rush through your answers.
  • Don’t rush through your emails.
  • Don’t rush through meetings and presentations.

Practice active listening

  • Give your full attention to the conversation.
  • Don’t think about your next comment while the speaker is talking.
  • Make eye contact with the speaker in order to show that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
  • Nod your head occasionally as a way of showing that you’re listening and understanding what’s being said.
  • Ask questions if there is something that you don’t understand or need clarification on (e.g., “What do you mean?” or “Could you explain that again?”).

Think before your speak

Most of the time we don’t think before we speak, especially in meetings and conversations — which is when most —misunderstandings occur. Before speaking make sure that what you have to say is relevant and adds value to the conversation.

See things from the other person’s perspective

Follow the old saying: Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging.

These are just a few of the ways you can improve your communication skills. Remember, practice makes perfect!  There is no better way to improve your communication skills than practice — practice to become both a better speaker and listener. The more often you try these strategies and incorporate them into your daily interactions, they will become second nature. You’ll find that people begin to open up more around you because they know they’re being heard and understood.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Will Your New Hire’s First Day Be Amazing?

Will Your New Hire’s First Day Be Amazing?

When you bring on a new employee, it’s exciting for both the future employee and you. You’ve found the perfect person for the job, and you can’t wait to get him or her started. At work as in life, first impressions matter. Plan ahead to make the onboarding process a welcoming, memorable, and positive experience.

Onboarding Your New Employee Starts Before the First Day of Work

Contact your new hire before their first day with introductions and information. If you have multiple people who will be involved in their onboarding process, for example, a human resources person as well as a direct manager, send an email introducing everyone.

If you want the employee to fill out forms before their first day, be sure to provide a direct contact who can answer any questions that might arise.

Initiate an invitation to connect with your new hire on Linkedin. New employees want to announce to their connections they are starting a new position. You can post a welcoming reply to their announcement. 

Plan a Day One Agenda in Advance

Share the agenda with the new hire before the first day. Start with introductions to other employees and a tour of your workplace. Consider planning a catered lunch so the new hire can meet people informally. 

Your email should also include logistic details such as expected time of arrival, parking, where they should enter the building (if there are multiple entrances), who they should ask to see upon arrival at your workplace, appropriate business attire, where they can find food or coffee and any other details that will help them navigate their first day.  

Set Up the New Hire’s Workspace and Email Before Day One

Help your new hire hit the ground running by arranging a workspace and stocking it with everything they will need in the way of office/work supplies. Set up an email address on your business account, so the new hire can log in on the first day. You can make the day extra special by providing a small welcome gift such as a company-branded promotional item or a book that is meaningful to the business.

Explain Rules of  Your Workplace

Set aside time on day one to give your new hire an employee handbook and discuss workplace rules. 

Set Expectations

The first day is the best time for the new employee to sit down with his or her boss and review a plan for the coming days, weeks, and months. Clearly communicate responsibilities and goals and set daily touch bases for at least the first week, but possibly longer depending on the position, to check on how things are going.

Designate a Mentor

This gives them a go-to person in case they have questions, comments, or concerns. Make sure the mentor demonstrates leadership skills.

By planning your new hire’s first day as best you can, you’re setting the groundwork for successful outcomes, a good working relationship, and a good fit with your team.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Request and Leverage Customer Reviews

How to Request and Leverage Customer Reviews

In the current marketing environment, few marketing strategies are as effective as positive customer reviews for your business. According to a study, 85% of people surveyed trust online reviews as much as they trust a recommendation from a personal acquaintance – and personal recommendations rank higher than any other type of business advertising.

To take advantage of the enormous influence positive peer recommendations have on potential new customers, here are tips to help you prompt customer reviews and use them to their full potential to attract new business.

Encourage happy customers to leave a review

Don’t assume your customers know that you’d love to have them leave online reviews about your business, or even that they know where to leave a review.

Some of the more mainstream sites that publish customer reviews are Google My Business and Yelp. Your Facebook business page also provides online locations for reviews. Your industry may also have specialized review sites. You can create links to these review sites on your website homepage where they are most visible to online customers.

An upbeat, friendly request lets customers know how valuable positive reviews are to your business and how easy it would be for them to help your business thrive. If you meet customers in person, ask if they’d like to review their purchase. For sales, you might follow up with a repeat customer by sending an email that invites them to review their purchase–and provides a direct link to the review site.

Make it easy for people to leave a review.

One of the biggest reasons customers don’t leave reviews is that they’re too busy to take the time. You can remove that obstacle by providing a direct link to your review pages; for example, on Google, Yelp, etc. Provide instructions and examples of how to write a review and upload it to these sites. Be sure to state reviewing their purchase will only take a few minutes of their time.

You can communicate this information via an email campaign or in a note with invoices or receipts. If you send online receipts, you can add a link directly to the review site where you’d like them to contribute.

If customers engage with your business at a physical location, print small cards with your review request and leave them by the check-out counter.

Respond to your reviews.

A good way to encourage customers to leave reviews is for you to respond with gratitude and appreciation for their praise of your business.

Use social media posts to prompt informal reviews

If you have an active customer community on Facebook or Instagram, your posts can engage your customers and their comments serve as indirect recommendations for your business. Here’s an example of how a custom cake baker gets unsolicited endorsements. She posts images of her personalized cakes and tags the customer. Often the customer will comment on how beautiful and delicious it was.  Since the baker is posting nearly every day, potential customers who view her Instagram account will find abundant “social proof” that this baker offers a superb product.

Don’t get defensive when you receive a critical review.

Monitor your social channels so you know what customers are saying about your business. There are many reasons people leave negative reviews, and some of those may be outside your control. However, some negative reviews can be an opportunity for improvement.  If you find a negative review on a platform that allows you to respond to the review, take the high road and ask that the reviewer contact your business directly so you can work to resolve their issue offline. Don’t get into a long explanation online.

Surface positive reviews.

Once you have received positive reviews, you’ll need to make them visible wherever customers engage with your business they will see your positive reviews. For example, if your business gets a review on Google, quote that review in an ad, social media post, on your website, or in an email campaign.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Connecting with Values to Inspire a Sense of Belonging for Your Team

Connecting with Values to Inspire a Sense of Belonging for Your Team

Values are a powerful driver of a positive culture in the workplace. Many experts, authors, and studies have explored how values inform a clear sense of purpose, make work meaningful for employees, establish trust, and inspire loyalty. Values also set expectations for employee behavior. They emphasize what your team has in common over differences that can lead to friction. When everyone aligns with the company values, the result is improved overall performance.

As the leader of your business, you champion values for your team. To the extent you make your values a real, integral part of your company culture and not just pay your values lip service, your employees will come to share and live these values at work.

Bring values into conversations

The key to shaping a values-driven business is to be authentic and aspirational. Let your team know these aren’t random business values but have personal meaning for you and your business goals.

Here’s an example of how I talk about values for my business. About a year ago, I redesigned my website, and one of the new content areas I included is a page titled “Reflecting on My Why.” Here I share not just what I value, but why these are my values. These are unique, heartfelt reflections that give visitors a sense of who I am and reasons to trust me.

Use storytelling to discuss with employees how your values inform your business activities and actions. For example, share examples of how your business helped make a difference in the life of a customer or supported the community. Shining a light on examples of your values in action makes them real, builds greater trust, and inspires a shared sense of pride among your team members.

Make your values visible

Consider ways you can incorporate your values into your workplace. Wall posters, screensavers, wallet cards, and fun promotional items provide visual reminders and inspiration to your employees. You also may be able to incorporate your values in public-facing marketing materials.

Celebrate values-driven achievements

Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate the company values at work. This positive reinforcement will inspire other employees to work towards similar achievements.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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The Power of Checklists

The Power of Checklists

Aviation and medical professionals have at least one thing in common: they rely on checklists to ensure consistent, positive outcomes. In these professions, too many lives are at stake to rely on a single person’s memory, so they require systematic use of checklists, including verbal confirmation by a second person that each step has been carried out.

Checklists are ideal for routine work processes that have many steps; require the same steps in every identical situation; and/or have steps that must take place in a specific sequence. For a checklist to work effectively, there must be a way to physically document – check the box – that each step has been completed. If the team conducting the process gets interrupted or distracted, they can quickly identify where they left off by reviewing what boxes they have already checked. This process ensures that nothing gets overlooked.

There is a famous story that the rock band Van Halen inserted a clause in their performance contracts with music promotors that stipulated the backstage area had to have a bowl of M&Ms – but no brown M&Ms. This clause was buried in a long series of clauses that ensured the safety of the band on stage. The band didn’t care about M&Ms – they wanted to know definitively that the promoter checked off each item on their safety list. If there were brown M&Ms in a bowl backstage, they knew the concert promoter had not complied with every item on their list.

Another benefit of checklists is that they are great onboarding tools. A new employee has to take in a lot of new information at one time; breaking down complicated processes into clear, repeatable steps will accelerate learning.

Think about where you might use checklists in your business to ensure consistent, positive results. This simple tool will make work easier for you and your employees.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Avoid Being a Bad Boss

How to Avoid Being a Bad Boss

Not everyone is born with leadership skills. In fact, research shows that only 10% of people are natural leaders. Everyone else needs to work at it.

The good news is people can learn to become great leaders. Whether you want to boost your own leadership qualities or help team members grow into managerial roles, self-directed learning together with professional coaching can boost performance in these five key areas for improvement.

Team first mindset – Recognize that your team is more important to your business growth than your individual contributions and invest your time and resources in putting together and developing a team that succeeds without you.

Active listening – Leaders are fully present when interacting with employees. Active listening shows respect and builds trust.

Empathy – Demonstrating the ability to understand challenges others face helps leaders relate to employees, win their confidence and inspire loyalty.

Communication – Being a good business storyteller enables leaders to engage employees and inspires them to embrace the business’s goals.

Time management – Getting out of the weeds allows leaders to remain focused on the future vision and prioritize activities.

If you want to maximize your leadership skills and those of your team members, I can guide you to achieving high levels of excellence. My approach targets both personal and professional development for lasting results.

Learn more about how leadership coaching might apply to your business:

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Mistakes Are Opportunities for Improvements

Mistakes Are Opportunities for Improvements

As the speed of change continues to increase, it gets more and more challenging for us as small business owners to keep up with new ideas and innovations related to our work, let alone implement and master all these new things. We already have so much on our minds that striving to keep up-to-date and adopt new trends is bound to feel overwhelming. 

While it’s important to be aware of new ideas and embrace new ways of doing things, you don’t have to master everything. “Don’t let perfectionism be the enemy of good,” advised the French philosopher Voltaire. I take his advice even further: if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning anything new. If everything is always perfect, you’re probably doing the same things over and over again.

There are many things going on in the world that are new to me or that I find confusing, but I’m committed to learning. I give myself permission to make mistakes, because I know I’ll follow up my mistakes with learning how to improve.

How perfectionism inhibits growth

You may not think of yourself as a perfectionist, but it’s a tendency that sneaks up on us and influences decisions. Here are some ways perfectionism can inhibit growth: 

  • Discourages creativity, experimentation, and originality
  • Fosters procrastination
  • Reinforces rigidity
  • Eliminates excitement of discovery
  • Establishes unattainable goals

Being willing to make mistakes in the service of innovation can require patience and a thick skin. You may get frustrated with yourself or even criticized by others new things don’t work as planned. Actively adopting a more flexible and open mindset, and practicing empathy towards yourself and others, will help to create a work environment where things may not always be perfect, but they’re always getting better.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Keep Your Business Top of Mind

How to Keep Your Business Top of Mind

No matter what kind of business you own, it’s important to have a strategy to keep your company top of mind. Even when your customers are not actively engaged with your business, you want to ensure they always think of you as their first choice. You can achieve this through regular interactions with them, reminding them of the unique value of your products or services, and offering them something special that your competitors aren’t providing.
The key to ongoing relationships is to figure out how you can be of value to your customers. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • What do my customers need?
  • What do my customers care about?
  • How can we help them meet that need more efficiently?
  • Why reasons do I give customers to prefer my business over others?

Here are some ideas for keeping your business top of mind after the sale.

Send a personalized message

A handwritten thank-you note that acknowledges how much you appreciate their business provides them with your contact information to help them stay in touch with you.

Follow-up calls

Checking in to see that your customers are happy with their purchase provides that extra value and keeps that conversation going. Your follow-up confirms for the customer that they made the right choice and demonstrates that you’re there for them after the sale has been completed.

Surprise and delight your customers

Celebrate a holiday or a milestone anniversary with a special gift or experience to thank your customers for their loyalty. There are many events you can celebrate – the anniversary of the customer’s first purchase; the anniversary of the start of your business; your customer’s birthday; mainstream holidays, fun or silly holidays (think Groundhog Day) to name a few occasions that might provide a reason to offer something special to loyal customers.

Offer more information

Send your customers something relevant to their buying decision, like an ebook or a webinar invitation, that educates them on getting more value from their purchase.

Membership club or rewards program

A free product or service is one of the most powerful incentives you can offer to customers to return to your business.

Product/service lifecycle prompts

If your product or service has a lifecycle that requires repeat service or sales, such as parts replacement or contract renewals, offer your customers a reminder service so they know when it’s time to schedule a service visit, replace a battery or renew an agreement.

Be sure to consider all aspects of the experience when creating your interactions with customers. If you’re sending a message, design it so it looks inviting and appealing. If you’re offering a gift, wrap it up with a bow to make it extra special. These gestures make your customers feel valued, special, and important. They may be small acts, but they can yield big results.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Offer Choices to Retain Top Employees

Offer Choices to Retain Top Employees

One of the most attractive incentives a business owner can offer to job candidates and employees today is flexibility. Money is not the sole motivational factor. Employees are more likely to accept offers and stay with a company that gives them choices and a sense of control over their job satisfaction and quality of life.

Flexibility means different things to different people. Let’s take a look at some typical areas where employees may be able to make choices that fit their values and lives. 

Work schedule

For employees working in person, commute times can be an issue that just gets worse and worse with time. Commute times also can be a dealbreaker for a highly qualified candidate. These individuals will appreciate a schedule that allows them to beat the traffic by starting and leaving work earlier.
Another scheduling issue is childcare. Offering in-person work hours that allow a parent to be home after school for their children can help you retain a valued employee or gain a new one in this competitive labor market.

Remote working

Some people who were introduced to remote work at the start of the pandemic got used to it and are reluctant to give it up. For these people, a hybrid compromise might be a win-win solution. Some studies show an ideal ratio is two days in the office and three days remote working, but this depends of course on your business operations.

Floating holidays

Not everyone wants to take off every standard U.S. holiday as a paid day off; for example, some people may prefer to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving if that means they can take off the day of Christmas Eve. Floating holidays also allow employees to observe religious holidays that are not mainstream U.S. paid days off, without sacrificing any pay. A policy that recognizes individual differences demonstrates the business respects its employees and reinforces employee loyalty.

Recognition rewards

One size rarely fits all when it comes to selecting recognition rewards for your employees. For some types of milestones, some recognition activities make sense as company rituals, part of your culture. An example of this kind of tradition might be posting a photo on your business social media account when an employee achieves a milestone work anniversary. On the other hand, if a recognition award is involved, providing a choice ensures the employee feels valued and appreciated and that the positive reaction reflects back on the business.

Employee benefit plans

Check with your benefits advisor to explore what choices you can afford to offer your employees.

As a business owner, you want to ensure your top employees feel confident they can take care of their personal needs and those of their families. A flexible plan for benefits and rewards demonstrates you respect and value them as individuals.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Support Your Team: Three Tips for Leaders

How to Support Your Team: Three Tips for Leaders

As a business owner, your employees are your greatest asset. That’s why it’s important to know how to get the best out of them — and in turn, help them get the best out of themselves. 

But being a great leader is about more than boosting productivity and efficiency.  Effective leaders create a supportive environment that allows individual team members to feel confident they are prepared to deliver outstanding work. Here are three tips for supporting your team members to succeed individually and as a team.

1) Support growth

Encourage employees to gain new skills and increase their expertise. Give them increased opportunities to engage with other employees, customers, vendors, or partners. If you have a new project, look beyond the usual suspects and see if you can appoint someone else who doesn’t usually volunteer. Pay close attention to elevating quality employees with introverted personalities who are ready to contribute on a higher level.

2) Get to know your team as individuals

Take time to connect regularly with individual employees on a “human” level and show you care about them. Learn about your employees’ interests, ambitions, and accomplishments. Make it a two-way conversation: share your passions and hobbies as well. Use this valuable time to learn what’s working and what’s not so you can reduce friction and tension before they evolve into bigger problems.

3) Recognize and reward

Celebrating achievements and acknowledging the impact made by individual employees as well as the team is a great way to instill pride in a job and reinforce relationships at work. Find meaningful ways to demonstrate appreciation for your employees’ dedication and contributions to your business’s success. 

Building a high-performing team takes time and hard work. By practicing these three tips, you can create a culture of support and excellence that empowers your employees to become leaders in their own right.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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