Avoid sounding too excited

Don’t allow your enthusiasm for a subject to undermine your authority when you speak about it. You will be more persuasive when you avoid these faults:

  • Speaking too fast. Listeners don’t trust people who talk exceptionally fast. Speak at a moderate pace to hold your listeners’ attention.
  • Being too animated. Hand gestures and inflection are important to convey your enthusiasm. However, if you look like you are trying too hard to make an impression, that will distract from your message.
  • Not taking a break. It’s easy to become caught up in offering an explanation and forget to stop for air. People are more receptive to speakers who pause naturally for breath and approach their presentations as conversations.

— Adapted from “Pause & Pitch: The Surprising Keys to Persuasive Speaking,” Rebecca Mazin, http://www.allbusiness.com.

Grammar lesson: Among vs. between

Between applies to a group of two. Example: “Let’s keep this between you and me.”

Among applies to a group of three or more. “He felt he was among friends.”

Know when to call it quits

Recognize the signs that a group brainstorming session has reached the point when further discussions would waste time. Look for the following indications that you should end the meeting:

  • The group reaches its predetermined goal. Establish a time limit or target number of ideas so participants remain motivated throughout the experience. End the session after meeting the goal, or add time if the group is still generating good ideas.
  • The rate of new ideas being generated slows to a crawl. Once the initial excitement of the experience winds down and most people stop actively participating, it’s time to pull the plug on the session.
  • The quality of ideas takes a dive. Take a break or end the session when too many ideas become repetitive or drift off target.

— Adapted from “Brainstorming Ideas—10 Signs You’re Done Brainstorming,” Mike Brown, Brainzooming, http://brainzooming.com.

When to step in

Strike a balance between micromanaging and having too much of a laissez-faire attitude toward employees’ performance. Apply the “Rule of 3” to know when to take action.

After three instances of performance problems, step in to coach or discipline the employee. Of course, in the case of egregious problems you need to act right away. The Rule of 3 applies to the types of performance issues that many managers allow to fester.

On the other hand, when an employee has showed mastery of a task three times, you should delegate more responsibility or set new goals that will build on the skills demonstrated.

— Adapted from Bring Out the Best in Every Employee, Don Brown and Bill Hawkins, McGraw-Hill, http://mhprofessional.com.

4 ways to focus on the speaker

To listen well you must resist the urge to pipe in your thoughts and experiences about the topic before the speaker finishes making his or her points. Practice following—rather than leading—the conversation with these four strategies:

  1. Encourage. Silent nods and other gestures of support indicate that you want to hear more.
  2. Inquire. Phrase questions so the speaker continues talking about the topic.
  3. Elaborate. Express your comments based on the speaker’s perspective.
  4. Redirect. Whenever possible, turn the conversation back to the speaker and away from you.

— Adapted from “Dr. Ray Guarendi on Following a Conversation,” Brainzooming, http://brainzooming.com.

4 statements you should never tell staff

You are the boss, and employees are taking note of everything you say. Avoid causing morale, productivity, attitude and engagement problems by never uttering these four phrases:

  1. “I’m the boss.” You are, but that should never be your justification for making a decision—especially an unpopular one. If employees feel they have no say because “You’re the boss,” they’ll disconnect from the work.
  2. “That customer is driving me nuts.” If you speak badly of customers, employees will too. Emphasize that every customer is important to your business—even the most challenging ones.
  3. “You are the only one having issues.” That is likely untrue; other employees just haven’t gained the courage to talk to you yet. Also, you’ll make employees feel alone and helpless. Instead, work to alleviate all employees’ pain and stress.
  4. “Don’t argue with me.” Employees should question your ideas, point out flaws and make recommendations for improvement.

— Adapted from “17 Things the Boss Should Never Say,” Dave Kerpen, http://www.linkedin.com/in/davekerpen.

What to say when … a discussion has stalled

Your team members have discussed a subject to death without reaching consensus. Break the deadlock by “polling” team members. Polling allows team members to cast a nonbinding vote based on the information they have so far.

Say: “We’ve been going over these same few points for more than 45 minutes. Let’s take a quick vote and see what everyone would do if we had to make the decision right now. If we agree, we’ll move on to the next agenda item. If not, we’ll keep talking.”

If members resume their bickering, say: “Yes, you made that point earlier. But if we had to come up with a solution today, how would you cast your vote?”