Trainers: Establish Context and a Reason to Participate

January 23, 2017 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses why providing context and reason to participate is important.

 

Have you ever been sitting in a meeting, a presentation, or a training session and wondered what am I doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? Of course you have and it happens all the time. And the reason for it is because the leader of that communication event just didn’t take the time to set the context for you.

So my colleagues and I always recommend stating what may seem painfully obvious to you. Here’s an example: Hey, thanks for coming out to the meeting today. We’re going to be going over the budgeting process so that when it comes to planning for next fiscal year, you’ll understand why the leadership needs so much detailed information so early.

So as you can see, it only takes a quick moment to provide that context and reason to participate. And trust me on this, it’s time really well spent.

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Calculating the High Cost of Poor Communication

November 3, 2014 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, The Orderly Conversation

Business presentations and meetings exist for one reason: to move business forward.

And they ought to do that effective and efficiently. But do they?

As it turns out, in far too many cases, no.

Backstory
Last week I delivered a keynote address at a conference. The presentation focused on some of the ideas in our new book, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined.

The audience was made up of individual contributors, managers, and senior leaders. I asked them to think about that last business meeting or presentation that they had either led or participated in. Then I asked them, “Was it effective and efficient?”

Not a single person in that ballroom raised their hand. Not one.

The Cost in Numbers
meeting frustrationAfter the conference, I starting thinking about how much time, energy, and money are wasted every day, week, month, or year by ineffective and inefficient meetings and presentations. Then I started doing some math.

Using round numbers from Wikipedia (I know, I know…), the average household income in the US is $51,939. That’s roughly $1,000/week or $200/day. Assuming an 8-hour day, the average American is making $25/hour.

Had I only googled “average hourly rate,” I would have seen this site that says the US average hourly earnings is $24.53, so I guess my math is sound. Keep in mind this is the average of all workers across the country. I’m sure the average hourly rate for many of the people at the conference was considerably higher. But let’s stick with the average figure for the sake of this discussion.

Let’s assume that there were 8 people at a meeting you attended yesterday. The meeting lasted an hour and was led by Brad, one of your direct reports. Brad’s a great guy, but he came to the meeting unprepared. He wasn’t clear on what he wanted to accomplish. He rambled on and on, jumping from topic to topic. The other attendees were distracted and took the meeting off topic at times. At one point you stepped in to redirect the meeting back to Brad. It was a frustrating meeting and, unfortunately, typical.

Let’s assume that the meeting was important, and that Brad’s goal could have been accomplished in 30 minutes had he been prepared and had he managed the process better. So that’s 30 minutes (or .5 hours) wasted, multiplied by 8 people at the average hourly rate.

.5 hours x 8 people x $25/hour = $100 wasted yesterday.

$100 wasted x 52 weeks = $5,200 wasted per year.

$5,200 wasted x 10 business units = $52,000 wasted per year. That’s equal to the average salary of one person.

Staggering, isn’t it?

The Cost of Diminished Trust and Good Will
Now let’s look at it from a different angle. Yesterday’s meeting wasn’t unique. In fact, as you think about it, it’s status quo for Brad. You’re starting to notice that others are reluctant to attend Brad’s meetings. As a result of his inefficient meetings, he’s lost the good will of his colleagues, which is having a negative effect on his reputation.

Now, let’s say that Brad talks to you about how he’d like a promotion. In the new role Brad would have to have the skills to set direction, communicate expectations, and manage weekly status meeting with senior leadership. With his current skill set, you realize you can’t trust him to take on the new role.

Now what?
My colleagues and I believe that far too much time, energy, money, and good will are squandered through ineffective and inefficient business communication. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. People simply need to (a) understand the damage caused by poor communication, (b) rethink their current approach, and (c) get comfortable using a new set of tools.[Tweet “time, energy, money, good will are squandered by inefficient business communication”]

Learn more by picking up a copy of The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined, or by calling us to set up a skill-building workshop for your employees.

I also encourage you to do your own math; I’ll bet the cost of training your employees will be less than maintaining the status quo.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

More About When and How to Ask Questions During Your Presentations

April 1, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Meetings, Presentation, Training

The article we shared on Facebook last week, Do you really expect me to respond to that?, sparked a question from Barbara.

Hey Dale, could we have a post soon on questions that aren’t manipulative? That is, how/when to place a question that helps you gauge your audience and gather information? For example, “How many of you switched to the new software at least a year ago? Within the last six months? Haven’t switched yet?” I can see that the information could be useful to the presenter in tailoring their talking points, but I can also see it as kind of annoying. So, best practices?

Barbara’s question is a good one for anyone who has ever gathered—or attempted to gather—information from audience members during a presentation or training session. As she points out, learning more about your audience’s knowledge or perspective really does help you tailor the information you’re delivering to their needs.

The challenge is to gather information in a way that doesn’t squander the audience’s good will.dale_ludwig_hi-res_color

Before I list a few best practices for this type of interaction, let me emphasize the fundamental issue involved: when you ask your audience to take an active role in the conversation, by answering a question or participating in a discussion, you are asking them to do you a favor.

In some situations, you are also asking them to take a risk. For example, “How many of you are struggling with the new software?” may be a question people may not want to respond to in public. They may fear they are the only person struggling or maybe they have been avoiding the new software for months and would rather not admit it.

Gathering information, then, needs to be managed in a way that makes the audience feel they are participating in a safe, necessary, and fruitful discussion. They need to believe you have done your homework, there is a reason they should respond, and you respect their time and effort.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Earn the right to ask for participation. As I said in my previous post, don’t begin with a question. Create context and establish the right tone first.
  • Explain why you need information from them. Will it make the conversation better? More efficient? Quicker?
  • Acknowledge that by responding to you, the group is helping you do your job. Just because they came to the meeting doesn’t mean they are ready to respond to your questions. Make it easy for them and be genuinely appreciative.
  • Don’t condescend. If all you’re doing is fishing for the “right” answer to a question, you’re misusing the interactive process and treating adults like children. This often happens during training sessions. The questions you ask should not feel like a test. Instead, they should lead to deeper understanding. For example, instead of saying, “Okay, so we’ve gone over the four steps necessary for this process to work. Who can remind the group what they are?” it’s better to say, “Does everyone feel comfortable with these four steps? If so, we’ll move on. If not, how can I help you be more comfortable?”
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use the information you gather to shape the rest of the conversation. If you don’t, you’re not only wasting an opportunity, but you’re also disrespecting the effort the audience made to participate.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Optics Matter

October 8, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings

greg 200x300Gretchen Pisano, a consultant colleague of mine, starts many of her consulting engagements with this quote, “Be present or be absent, but don’t be both.” Learn about Gretchen here:  Sounding Board, Inc.

I love that quote.

Next time you’re in a meeting, look around. How many of your colleagues are physically in the room, but not present?

They might be staring off or checking their email. They might even be playing a game on their smart phone.

Who knows? They could actually be listening, but you wouldn’t know it. They appear disinterested and disengaged, and that sends a message to everyone else in the room.

We all know this, of course, but it’s good to be reminded once in a while:

Optics matter.

It’s not enough to be engaged. You need to look engaged too.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Wearing Two Hats: Facilitating Successful Meetings When You’re the Boss

August 19, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation

This article was originally published on MondoSpective.

Facilitating a group discussion always brings with it a unique set of challenges. Every group involves different personalities, perspectives, and needs. Facilitators have to work hard to create an environment in which a productive conversation can take place.

When the facilitator is also the boss, the process gets even more complicated. The atmosphere in the room will be affected by who you are. Inevitably, the people reporting to you will feel their response is being evaluated—even if you set up the discussion as a judgment-free brainstorming session. This will affect both how they respond and their willingness to participate.

While you can’t change who you are or your role in the organization, you can facilitate discussions with your team successfully. You just have to remind yourself that your responsibilities as facilitator are different than your responsibilities as manager.

Process vs. Content. The facilitator’s role is all about process. It’s not their job to add to or comment on that content. But it is their job to encourage participation and control the direction of the conversation. That requires two things: demonstrating trust in the individuals in the group and showing respect for their needs.

Demonstrating trust. A successful facilitator creates an environment in which information and ideas can be freely exchanged. That means that the individuals in the group need to feel their questions and comments are welcome. The level of participation from individuals in the audience will vary, of course. But what’s important is not equal participation from everyone, but equal opportunity for participation. So as a facilitator, you need to:

  • Be patient, curious, and unafraid to listen. Don’t waste the good will of the group by not listening, or glossing over nuance.
  • Demonstrate through your actions that all input can be useful. As a leader and manager, it’s often important to assess situations quickly. This is an asset in your daily responsibilities, but it can be a liability when facilitating. During a discussion it’s important to let ideas percolate a little.
  • Level the playing field by allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Remember, you’re the only person in the room who doesn’t feel a little vulnerable already.

Showing respect. The discussion you lead needs to be as efficient as possible. While the group wants to feel that they are free to contribute, they also want the conversation to achieve something. Because you are their manager, individuals might be reluctant to challenge your decisions as facilitator or point out that a topic has run its course. Here are some recommendations.

  • Do your homework. Respect the group’s time and energy by doing the work that’s required beforehand. This involves creating a framework for the conversation that communicates your goal, the problem you’re trying to solve, and what you expect from your reports during the discussion. This framework should be strong enough to keep things on track, but flexible enough to include unexpected turns in the conversation.
  • Remember that the framework exists to make participation easier for everyone. It should serve the conversation, not dominate it.
  • Appreciate the work the group is doing and the risks they’re taking.

Because you are the group’s manager as well as the meeting’s facilitator, there will be times when you’ll want to contribute to the content of the discussion as well. When you do, just acknowledge that you’ve taken your facilitator hat off. Say things like, “I can clear up that question for you, so allow me to speak now as your manager.”  When you’re finished contributing your manager perspective, put your facilitator hat back on.

Remember that the people involved in the discussion are your resource, just as they are when they’re going about their everyday responsibilities. When you’re facilitating, give them a safe, productive environment and the time they need to work through the ideas they’re sharing.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”