Here is an article written by Mary Goodman and Rich Russakoff for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.
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(MoneyWatch) If there was just one thing you could improve upon that is guaranteed to make you more successful, would you do it? Well then listen up.
We mean it, really – listen up and listen better.
The better we listen, the more others appreciate us and, in return, the more they listen to us. By listening better, we learn more and misinterpret others less. It seems that some people are just naturally good listeners but the truth is listening is an acquired skill. One that, with any improvement, will yield great benefits.
Let’s take a look at few of the barriers or bad habits that get in the way of effective listening. See which ones you might be guilty of. (We know which ones we’re guilty of.)
• Multi-tasking – Do you ever look at your phone or check emails during a conversation? If you think you can multi-task while listening, then you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s also painfully obvious to the other person when we are distracted.
• Me, Me, Me – If your major concern is how others perceive you, or what you’ll say next, then you can’t focus on what is being said.
• Brain Speed – If our thoughts outpace the speaking style of the person we are talking with, we tend to let our mind wander. Or we interrupt the other person because we believe we know what the person is trying to say but taking too long to say it.
• What did you Say? – Hearing loss can adversely affect every conversation, from missing out on a pleasant exchange to serious safety issues. It is estimated that there are more than 35 million Americans that are hearing impaired. Less than 30% use hearing aids. If you suspect you have a hearing problem, get tested. If you know you have a hearing problem, get hearing aids. If you own hearing aids, wear them.
• Line Butting – You’re bored with the subject so you interrupt and introduce a new topic. Or worse, you start talking about yourself.
So how did you do?
If not as well as you liked, here are a few things that you can do that will dramatically improve your listening skills.
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The advice is rock-solid. Check it out by clicking here.
Rich and Mary help entrepreneurs make more money doing what they do. “We help them make it, get it and keep it.” They’re authors of Make Banks Compete To Lend You Money. To learn more, check out Bottom Line Up by clicking here. You can check out all their articles by clicking here.
I was reading this article, Is a Science Ph.D. a Waste of Time?: Don’t feel too sorry for graduate students. It’s worth it, by Daniel Lametti, and this grabbed my attention:
Even the Economist, despite its disdain for “pointless” Ph.D.s, likes to hire scientists. As the ad for their science-writing internship reads, “Our aim is more to discover writing talent in a science student or scientist than scientific aptitude in a budding journalist.”
Notice the formula: expertise 1st, then writing talent.
This says two things. Good communication skills without genuine expertise is just a little too short on substance. Genuine expertise without good communication skills is just a little too incomprehensible. Thus, the formula:
Expertise + Soft Skills (especially Communication Skills) = Path to Success.
Karl Krayer and I present training on Writing Skills and Presentation Skills (actually, we both provide the Presentation Skills sessions; Karl leads the Writing Skills sessions) for all kinds of professionals. Companies with engineers and scientists and “techies” hire us to help these folks become a little more “understandable.” The reason is obvious. Expertise that cannot be communicated is expertise that is not fully utilized.
I have no doubt that expertise is truly critical. But there is a reason that Literature and Speech are “required courses” in practically every college degree program. To be able to write clearly, and then to speak clearly, really is a job requirement, a “core competency,” in this hungry-for-good-information world. The problem is that most students promptly forget what they learned in these classes, when they are immersed in their “real jobs.” They tend to view their real jobs as the “work” they do, and they consider communicating their insight and findings as something of a “step-child,” kind of necessary “busy work,” but not critical to their job.
This is a mistake! Communicating well is part of every job. A failure to communicate leads to ripple effects that cause lost productivity, confusion… something close to “failure.”
Have you taken an inventory of your own skills? If you have genuine expertise, do you write clearly? Do you speak clearly? If not, it’s time to work on these “soft,” but absolutely necessary, skills.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Karl at 972-601-1537, and we can bring this training into your company or organization.
News item: the highest rate of unemployment in America is among the folks with the least amount of formal education
So, here is the real problem. There are jobs going unfilled because the need for specific education is so high. And, there are workers ready to work, with lower levels of formal education, and there are not enough jobs for all of these willing workers
Brookings just released an extensive research project on this: Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America. Click through to download the full paper and the data.
Here’s the key finding:
Advertised job openings in large metropolitan areas require more education than all existing jobs, and more education than the average adult has attained. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas, 43 percent of job openings typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, but just 32 percent of adults 25 and older have earned one.
Notice this line: ”more education than the average adult has attained.” This gets at the heart of the problem.
The study has specific figures for most Metropolitan areas in the country. (The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area has way too few job openings for those with only a High school diploma, or less).
So, what does this mean? It means this: the jobs that are available are for the college educated. But, the reality is that we will never see the time when everyone has a college degree. Current High School graduation rates are about 75%, and that is misleading, because we have found ways to ‘hide” some dropouts. And, I teach at the Community College Level, and I can assure you that there are a hefty number of students who simply will not earn a four year college degree.
In the 20th century, this country became an economic powerhouse because there was plenty of work to do for hard working folks who did not finish college. That work is continuing to disappear (outsourcing; automation). So, the challenge is twofold:
#1 – Get more people more fully educated (for the jobs that are available, needing workers).
#2 – Come up with new ways to employ the less-educated.
I think we are investing more of our attention on the 1st, but the 2nd should be equally important.
And a side note: let me encourage you to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s now classic book, Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America. It describes the actual work lives of the “invisible” among us. (“Invisible” is the word used by David Shipler in his excellent book The Working Poor: Invisible in America). She describes the work demands, the work ethic, of those who serve our food and clean our hotel rooms and work in the jobs that the educated have “risen above.”
Ms. Ehrenreich is a highly educated woman, but went “undercover” to wok in low-wage jobs. Here is one of my favorite, one of the most telling, paragraphs in her book:
Toward the end of my stay and after much anxious forethought, I “came out” to a few chosen coworkers. The result was always stunningly anticlimactic, my favorite response being, “Does this mean you’re not going to be back on the evening shift next week?”
Why is it so hard to accept change?! – The Story of the 19th century Navy’s Resistance to (Rejection of) the Submarine
(We flew in from Charleston late last night, and I am in “catchup” mode after vacation).
One of the many places we toured was the site of the restoration of the Hunley, the first submarine in history that successfully took down an enemy ship. It is quite a vessel. A crew of men, turning in unison from a seated, cramped position. An explosive torpedo loaded at the end of a spar. On February 17, 1864, led by Lieutenant George W. Dixon, they successfully embedded the explosive in the hull of the USS Housatonic, and she sank in a matter of minutes. The Hunley also went down (theories abound; the exact reason is unknown), and Dixon and his crew of seven volunteers perished.
So, later in the evening, after our tour, I pulled out my iPad to read about the history of submarines. Here is a submarine timeline: WORLD SUBMARINE HISTORY TIMELINE. And here is the key quote for those of us who think about the difficulty of leading change (I’ve bolded the key line):
Indiana shoemaker LODNER D. PHILLIPS built at least two submarines. The first collapsed at a depth of twenty feet. The second achieved hand- cranked underwater speeds of four knots and depths to 100 feet; Phillips offered to sell it to the U. S. Navy. The response: “No authority is known to this Bureau to purchase a submarine boat . . . the boats used by the Navy go on not under the water.”
During the Civil War, Phillips again offered his services to the U. S. Navy, again, without success.
There it is in a nutshell: “No authority is known to this Bureau to purchase a submarine boat . . . the boats used by the Navy go on not under the water.”
“This is how we do things around here; we don’t want any of your newfangled ideas; what we’ve always done has worked just fine” — “our boats go on not under the water.”
We also saw a World War II U-boat watch tower on a barrier island. It turns out that the U-Boats sank quite a few ships off of our coast, more than our government revealed at the time. And the defense against the U-Boats led to some substantial innovative breakthroughs.
The lesson is clear. What are you resisting? Why are you resisting it? Be careful, your commitment to the “way we’ve always done things” just might cause you to lose your entire ship…
I read Michael Michalko’s first book, Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, when it was published in 1998 by Ten Speed Press. According to Michalko, how best to “crack the barriers to human creativity”?
Here are his suggestions, accompanied by my annotations.
o Knowing how to see, not just look at: Beware of “the invisibility of the obvious” by being alert, very alert.
o Making a thought visible: I agree with Dan Roam that the best way is to use simple drawings.
o Thinking fluently: Part of this is “flow” as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and part is continuity and cohesion.
o Making novel combinations: That’s how liquid paper, Velcro, and Mary Kay cosmetics were “discovered.” Mary Kay Ash added a fragrance to leather softner and then….
o Connecting the unconnected: Just make certain that you are connecting the right dots so that valid causal relationships are revealed. Wet highways do NOT cause rain.
o Looking at the other side: Roger Martin calls this “integrative thinking” and it’s multi-dimensional.
Note: By far the best source on the last three is Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures.
o Looking in other worlds: Explore whatever is as yet unexplored, especially when “they” say an idea isn’t worth “bothering with.”
o Finding what you are not looking for: Never, ever underestimate the importance of the process of elimination. Marcus Aurelius reminds us that what isn’t an essence reveals more than what is.
o Awakening the collaborative spirit: The key is be respectful because that earns trust and credibility, then to acknowledge that help is needed.
If you are already convinced that you cannot think more creatively, you won’t. Henry Ford once observed that those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right.
Cracking Creativity can help you to develop the skills needed to release from within all manner of ideas, perspectives, and insights that (until now) have been suppressed. When we face an especially complicated problem or especially difficult question, Michael Michalko suggests that we ask, “What are the alternatives and options? How should each be evaluated? Where are there possible connections? Perhaps synergies?” Of course, after we think outside the box and come up with really cool stuff, we have to figure out how to get it back into the box. Perhaps that is another book he will one day write.
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To check out my interview of Michael, please click here.
He is one of the most highly acclaimed creativity experts in the world. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Michael organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics in Frankfurt, Germany, to research, collect, and categorize all known inventive-thinking methods. His team applied the methods to various NATO military, political, and social problems and produced a variety of breakthrough ideas and creative solutions to new and old problems. Michael later applied these creative-thinking techniques to problems in the corporate world with outstanding successes. The companies he worked with were thrilled with the breakthrough results they achieved, and Michael has since been in the business of developing and teaching creative-thinking workshops and seminars for corporate clients around the world.
He is the author of several best-sellers, including Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques, Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Set, a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions, and Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius that describes the common thinking strategies that creative geniuses have used in the sciences, art, and industry throughout history and shows how we can apply them to become more creative in all domains of our own lives. His most recent book is Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.
He was justifiably proud of his various achievements as an astronaut and, especially, the “moon walk” but whenever praised for it, he said that people should be judged on the basis of “what is written on the ledger of their everyday lives.”
We had lunch on the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point in Charleston a couple of days ago. There was an announcement over the speaker inviting all to lunch. It was simple:
“Now hear this. Lunch is available at the C.P.O. Mess. That is all.”
I never served in our military, but I remember this phrasing from movies – especially Mr. Roberts. ”Now hear this… That is all.” How clear, how simple, how compelling. “Now hear this-that is all” means :
“Listen to this… Ok – I’m through; you can quit listening now.”
Are your communications, your presentations, your emails this clear?
Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Mario Batali, the chef, cookbook author and television personality, has restaurants in the New York and Los Angeles areas, as well as in Las Vegas and Singapore, with his business partner Joe Bastianich. Yelling in the confines of a small kitchen, he says, simply isn’t necessary.
To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
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Bryant: When you walk into a busy kitchen in one of your restaurants, what can strike you as off-key in terms of how people are interacting?
Batali: One of the big rules for our kitchens is that if you’re not close enough to be able to touch me, you can’t talk to me. A lot of people will yell across the kitchen because it’s just easier and faster. That doesn’t work with us, so our kitchens are smaller, and you need to talk in a conversational tone. If you can’t, you have to move toward me, because if you’re yelling at me, there can be problems understanding the nature of your message.
Bryant: The whole culture of yelling seems to be celebrated in some restaurants’ kitchens.
Batali: I worked with a lot of yellers over the years. My opinion is that yelling is the result of the dismay you feel when you realize you have not done your own job. Everyone in the restaurant business knows it’s not going to be busy at 5 p.m. It’s going to be really busy between 7:30 and 9:30 or 10, and then it’s going to taper off a little bit. And it is as inevitable as Christmas. So it’s the chef’s job to prepare the staff for what will inevitably come. And it comes every night, so it’s not like, “Oh my God, what happened today?” The reason the chef yells is because the chef is expressing dissatisfaction with himself or herself for not having prepared you properly. And then, of course, the obvious scapegoat is the person who’s the least prepared.
That said, if someone isn’t learning, my strategy for changing someone’s behavior has always been a stern, relatively direct conversation, sotto voce but within earshot of their peers — not mocking them, yelling at them or calling them names — and telling them exactly what I expect them to be able to do the next time we go through this. Their peers can hear it, so the message is clear to everyone.
Bryant: Other leadership lessons you’ve learned over the course of your life?
Batali: Well, one of the most important things is realizing you’re not the most important or the most intelligent person in the room at all times. And understanding that is a crucial component of the kind of self-deprecation that makes someone really good at understanding other people, especially when they’re faced with their own limitations and they come to you for help. It’s about being able to empathize and understand and communicate, even under stress, in a way that helps them solve a problem, as opposed to becoming part of the problem. The first day that a chef believes that he or she knows everything is the first day for the rest of their life that they will be a jerk, because you can’t know everything about our field.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.
(as I wrote earlier, I am on vacation.. So, back to regular blog posting around Aug. 30).
I have read many books on leadership, but we still seem to face a real shortage of leaders. And not just individuals in leadership positions, but also “bigger arena” leaders.
My book for the September First Friday Book Synopsis is Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World by Ian Bremmer. He states the problem simply and clearly:
“For the first time in seven decades, we live in a world without global leadership.”
That’s the challenge – a G-Zero world. Every nation is for itself.