Check Your Communication Skills

Use the following checklist to assess your communication skills and then focus on areas that require improvement. This will help you to develop skills as a leader:

Focus

  1. Do you pay complete attention to others when they are speaking?
    (A wandering focus discourages open communication.)
  2. Do you manage your thoughts during a conversation, focusing them on understanding what the other person is saying?
    (Effective listening requires more concentration than any other form of communication. If you are thinking about anything other than what the person is saying, you are defeating your ability to understand.)
  3. Do you postpone preparing your reply until after you have heard everything the other person has to say?
    (Thinking about what you plan to say while the other person is speaking prevents you from understanding what that person is saying.)
  4. Do you ignore distractions, such as other people, ambient noise, and the surroundings?
    (Attending to distractions makes you appear uninterested, unfocused, and rude.)
  5. Do you make eye contact during a conversation?
    (Watching a person’s face shows that you are paying attention. You also gather non-verbal messages, which can convey most of the important information being conveyed to you.)

Environment

  1. Do you convey confidence, courage, and strength during your conversations?
    (A pleasant manner will encourage people to trust you and to tell you more. Negative behaviour conveys weakness, insecurity, and fear.)
  2. Do you react calmly to bad news?
    (Anger frightens people into avoiding you.)
  3. Do you encourage others to speak freely?
    (Appearing interested, asking questions, and treating others with respect encourages open communication.)
  4. Do you use a diplomatic, positive vocabulary?
    (Talking about what you want is more forceful than talking about what you do not want, will not do, or cannot do. This means that you will avoid using the word “not.”)
  5. Do you seek solutions?
    (Seeking approval, culprits, or excuses, discourages communication.)

Clarity

  1. Do you stick to the subject?
    (Introducing new unrelated issues confuses the other person and degrades the quality of your conversation.)
  2. Do you maintain a “you” focus?
    (Speak in terms of what the other person needs, wants, and understands because that enhances the impact of what you say.)
  3. Do you avoid games?
    (Asking trick questions, setting traps, and making others look bad will cause people to avoid you.)
  4. Do you use a linear, logical approach to explaining things?
    (Make it easy for others to understand what you are saying because it is more efficient.)
  5. Do you use common terms?
    (Avoid jargon and flowery speech because these impress only the person using them.)

Effective leaders answer “yes” to all of these questions and that is one of the things that makes them so successful.


9 Reasons You Should Become A Mentor

There are many roles we play in our lives. We are professionals, family members, brothers, sisters, co-workers, leaders, coaches, friends, parents, and neighbours, to name just a few. While you may not wear all of the ‘hats’, you can likely add several more that in addition to those listed! Many of these roles are a given – we don’t have much choice of having the role – as they come with being a responsible adult.

As we often find ourselves having many roles and little time, it may seem absurd to write an article that encourages taking on yet another role and adding another task to your over-booked calendar. But, despite the competition for our time and energy, being a mentor is one of the best things you can do.

There are many reasons why being a mentor is valuable to the other person. They get the value of your expertise, knowledge, and experience. They get a chance to advance more rapidly and create greater success than they would have been able to achieve without your insight and advice. While these are altruistic reasons, they don’t say anything about how you benefit. And while we all like to help others, sometimes we need to see what is in it for us as well.

There are benefits to you personally in spending your time and energy, sharing your expertise with others as a mentor. In fact, there are at least nine benefits that you might derive from being a mentor. These include:

1. You will develop a close relationship with the person you mentor. We can never have enough close relationships. And chances are the person you mentor will be someone you benefit from being around. After all, they are interested in improving themselves, care about learning, and are likely excited about the possibilities in their future.

2. You will be re-energized personally.  Get around someone enthusiastic, and you naturally become more enthusiastic yourself. Some activities sap our energy while others spark it. Being a mentor is like carrying a box of matches with you. If you want to re-energize yourself to your own possibilities, be a mentor.

3. You will increase your commitment to your own career and organization. This one applies most if you are mentoring in a business situation. You can see how this would happen – as you get more enthused, you see new ways you can contribute. You see how your ‘student’ can make a difference in the organization and this new vision will increase your commitment.

4. You will learn more by talking about and teaching things. It is funny how our brains work: when we teach something or explain something to someone else, we then understand it more clearly ourselves. As a mentor you will relive experiences, teach or share ideas and when you do this, you will learn and re-learn these concepts for yourself. Often you will find yourself “taking your own advice” to your great personal or professional benefit.

5. You will expand your impact in your organization. Not only will your personal commitment grow, but as you help others to be more successful, the organization will succeed at higher levels. Think of the satisfaction you will get from knowing you are playing a part in making that happen.

6. You will enhance your self-esteem. It just feels good to help others. You will feel better about yourself and your abilities when you share your wealth of knowledge and experience with others. Your self esteem will rise because you are doing good things for someone else.

7. You will increase your skills. As you mentor others, you will become a better mentor. The skills that make you a better mentor; empathy, listening, caring, building trust (to name just a few), make you more effective in many other parts of your life.  Being a mentor is actually great training in itself!

8. You will grow more confident. The culmination of many of these other benefits is that your confidence will increase. You will be more confident in many sorts of interpersonal relationships and conversations. You will know that you can have a positive impact and that you can make a difference.

9. You will leave a legacy. Successful athletic coaches do more than grow their teams and win lots of games. The best also create a linage of coaches that leave their staff to become head coaches as well. This is an important legacy that they leave – a statement of their influence and impact. By mentoring others with care and compassion you will be adding directly to your legacy.

What are BIG’s tips about becoming a mentor?

Take a minute now and think about yourself as a mentor. Identify what you see as being in it for you. Envision how it will feel to give back to someone else. Then go out and become a mentor – you, along with your ‘student’, will be glad that you did!


Musketeer Management

How can we create successful teams which follow the principle:  “All For One and One For All?”

There is nothing quite like being part of a great team: it creates such a feeling of worth and can make going to work a real pleasure. Unfortunately, though, for many it is a dream to be longed for rather than a daily reality. In teams that do not click, the experience is frustrating, painful, and stressful; for the organization that allows such teams to exist, there is an unproductive waste of talent.

With seven simple acts of teamwork, teams can change from being the source of our greatest anguish into being the source of our greatest joy. Here’s how.

1. Sharing

If you want to measure the strength of your team, do a sharing audit. Simply record the number of acts of team sharing in any day. That is sharing information, sharing ideas, sharing feelings, values and needs; or simply just sharing being together. Your score will tell you just how together your group is. The most important feature of team sharing is goal sharing. If your people do not even share the team goal, chances are you have a group of individuals who happen to work near each other, rather than as a team.

2. Asking for Help

Strong teams are strong because the individuals in it have different but complementary qualities. Sue’s a great detail person. John sees the big picture. Ron gets on with everyone. Jill is a loner. And so on. That means that when anyone has to do something they are not particularly gifted at, they can turn to someone else in the team for help. In strong teams, you frequently hear people asking for help. In poor teams, it is considered a sign of weakness.

3. The 3 A’s

Another audit you can perform in order to find out if you have a team or just a group of individuals, is the 3 A’s Audit. The 3 A’s stand for Appreciating, Accepting, and Acknowledging. They are the features of great teams and stand in contrast to the 3 C’s of poor teams: Criticising, Complaining, and Condemning.

Accepting means letting people know they are valued members of the team. Acknowledging means letting them know they belong. And appreciating means letting them know the team just wouldn not be the same without them.

4. Valuing Others

We all need to feel important: when we are valued, we take pride in who we are and what we do. Have you told someone in your team lately how much you value them?

5. Giving Feedback

Strong teams are defined by the amount of interaction there is between team members. When interaction is low, so is team morale. One essential type of interaction in strong teams is feedback. It can take 3 forms:

  1. Positive feedback given by anyone in the team to someone else when they do something that benefits the whole team.
  2. Constructive feedback given by anyone in the team to help someone else in the team perform better.
  3. Requested feedback from anyone in the team when they want someone to help them with their performance.

When there is a constant exchange of these kinds of feedback, given skillfully without criticism and spite, the team cannot help but grow and develop.

6. Building On Others

When management consultant Peter Honey explored the differences between teams and groups, he found that one of the key differences was that teams pick up on each others’ ideas and build, whereas groups do not. This feature is also known as convergent listening. Team members are intently interested in what others have to say. Rather than let it go by without comment, they take something from it and develop it into something worthwhile.

7. A Friendly Climate

A friendly climate is the result of team morale. Morale is a state of mind that radiates confidence in people. It happens by itself when everyone feels sure of their place in the team. Nobody is anxious to prove themselves to anyone else. Nobody shows off. Nobody seeks to be better than anyone else. When this happens, individual egos disappear, and team spirit emerges.

So there we have it – these ideas may sound like Utopia but they are definitely achievable. However, creating great teamwork is something that does have to be worked for and requires commitment from everyone in the team. That said, the results are rewarding and, whether you are a team member or team leader, the results are worth that commitment.