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July 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Creating Positive and Collaborative Communication

Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention.  She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior.  What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?  

Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Tough situation!  As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer.  Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.

It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees.  Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue.  Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential.   Offer ideas for improving team communication.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example).  You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application.  This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
  • Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has  the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
  • Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting.  If you are present in the room, be present.  This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
  • Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard.  This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
  • Agree on meeting communication norms:  no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments.  Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.

Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication.  Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.

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July 9, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Ask Mariposa – 6 Keys to Effective Delegation

James asks:  I am working long hours and am starting to feel burnt out. My manager says I am a high performing manager but I should be delegating more. So, I did.  Things are not getting done right or in a timely fashion.  I’m worried this will affect my own performance. What’s the secret to delegating effectively so as not to diminish results?

Barbara Baill, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Effective delegation is a challenge for many high performers who are responsible for managing others.  Delegation is not a simple of task of tossing an assignment to one of your people on the way to a meeting and waiting for the final product. It does take time and attention initially, but, over time, you will find your employees growing in their capabilities and feeling more challenged and empowered. Eventually, the investment will pay off for all.  Here are some key elements of effective delegation:

  1.  Choose the right person who has the skill sets for the task. Discuss with the person why s/he has been selected for the assignment.
  2. Articulate the assignment carefully any specific timelines, requirements, performance standards, checkpoints and other expectations. If you have any sample outcomes (reports, slideset, etc) from previous projects, share them. Point the delegatee to other resources that can be helpful.
  3. Solicit questions, comments and suggestions from the delegatee. Gain commitment to take on the challenge.  Ask what support he/she will need from you and others.
  4. Empower the individual by informing others that the delegatee is leading the effort.
  5. Establish and conduct regular check-ins and monitor project progress. Ensure the individual knows how much communication you need to keep you well informed and in what particular circumstance immediate contact is required. Be encouraging and offer feedback and support but don’t take back the project.
  6. Ensure the person is recognized for successful completion of the work. (Don’t inadvertently take the credit – common mistake.)

These steps can help you become a master at delegating which will help you and your people continue to grow and will magnify the output of your entire team.

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July 3, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Ask Mariposa: One Powerful Way to Reduce Stress at Work

Stuart asks: I am feeling increasingly unhappy at my job. My stress level is so high that it is affecting me physically and mentally. How do I manage my stress without burning out?

Anne Loehr, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

“Bad stress” is an ever increasing problem at work and it is essential to find ways to reduce it. “Bad stress” causes us to worry, experience fear and feel anxious. Any form of stress that makes us perform below our potential is considered bad stress. Bad stress increases the cortisol levels in our blood, which can lead to many problems such as high blood pressure, early onset diabetes, heart problems and central obesity (bulging belly).

There are many ways to reduce bad stress at work. I’m going to discuss one way now, so I don’t stress you out with too much info! 🙂

More and more people are using email, text and instant messaging as their chief communication tools for daily work life. It’s instant, it’s easy, AND it creates lots of stress! Researchers have identified three major problems:

  1. This form of communication lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode the meaning. It is the poorest form of communication because it only uses words.
  2. The prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures online communicators to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness.
  3. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over online communications makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict. Online communication is great for confirming meetings, getting an address or sharing a short piece of data. Unfortunately it is used for a lot of other communications which should be done in person.

Here are some tips:

Never argue by email. Save discussions, especially on controversial topics, for when more direct forms of communication are possible. Pick up the phone and/or set a time to discuss issues.

Keep it short. We’re talking less than 50 words. We have about 15 seconds of attention span to offer any incoming email. If you can’t get the message across in that time, either attach a separate document with all the details, or pick up the phone for the discussion. Or use the email to set the time for the discussion.

If you want to lower your stress levels, limit your email communications and switch to phone and face to face conversations for better results. It is more meaningful, more effective, and can generate new relationships in an already tense world.

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June 13, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Communication Barrier Tips

Janelle asks:  I’m experiencing communication barriers with my direct reports.  On two projects, I’ve asked them to take the lead on things but they’ve dropped the ball.  What tips can you offer to help with my communication?

Tawny Lees, COO responds:

How frustrating!  When making requests, many communication barriers can occur. When you reflect on these requests, were they posed in a direct manner, i.e.: “Will you?”, or indirect, such as “Can you please…?”  Indirect requests are not straightforward enough to solicit an immediate yes/no response.  Also make sure any request is very specific – you’d be amazed at how often they aren’t! Include:

  • Who:  will do the work
  • What:  specific action and/or result needed
  • When:  time frame
  • Why:  context/purpose

Then, make sure to listen for a true response, which should indicate a yes, no, an alternative proposal or a commitment to do it at a later time.

One final tip:  direct requests might sound strange at first, so we recommend practicing them.  Successful use comes from mastering your tone of voice, which should be firm and clear to prevent communication barriers.

For more information, we suggest:

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May 31, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Distracted Or Do I Need Listening Training?

James asks:  I’ve received feedback several times in the past that listening is one of my strengths.  However, a colleague recently suggested I attend listening training.  I have a lot going on at the moment, but is listening training the answer?

Tawny Lees, COO responds:

If you are like most of our clients, you face a great deal of pressure and demand on your time.  Perhaps you have taken on a new role or have been tasked with an important initiative. Without realizing it, you might be encountering moments of distraction that prevent you from being fully present and listening as well as you would normally. Before you pursue listening training, try these tips before your next meeting:

  • Become present.  Before your meetings, take 5-6 deep belly breaths. Take a moment to get clear on the focus areas for the discussion.
  • In the conversation, keep your focus on others as you listen. Try to match their pace, tone and energy.
  • Repeat back key words said to demonstrate you are listening.

These resources might also be helpful:

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May 21, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: How to Coach Someone Who Doesn’t Want to be Coached

Saul asks: How do you coach an employee that doesn’t want to be coached, but is part of his PDP obligation to be coached for 4 months?  What power suggestions or questions would you use in this situation to motivate behavior or start thinking about the pressure to change?

Tawny Lees, COO of Mariposa responds:

Hi Saul,

Tough situation! As a coach, you know that openness to the coaching process is a pre-requisite to it being effective. So hopefully you can enroll this employee before committing to the engagement!

I suggest you start with open questions and deep listening to truly understand the resistance. “Tell me about you…tell me about what’s going around here…tell me about this PDP plan…”

Often the resistance is fear of the unknown, and an assumption that the coach is working for “others” who have an agenda. Establish rapport and explain the coaching process/relationship (including confidentiality) using positive language like “you and I would focus on what’s most important and helpful for you” or “clients use me as an objective sounding board as they work on their goals and tackle tough problems.” Address any specific objections, questions or worries. Your objective would be to help the employee see that you are there to help him/her be successful. Period.

If/when you see an opening, you could try specific questions about goals and begin motivating. Here are some ideas:

  • “What are your toughest challenges right now?” “What would it be like if you were able to handle those with more ease?”
  • “I find most people like to continually grow and stretch themselves. Tell me about anything at which you are currently trying to get better?” “What benefits would come from getting better at ____ ?”
  • “What could we work on that would have a big impact on your career/work life?”

Good luck! Let us know if we can help further. More on rapport and assessment questions can be found in our ITM coaching model.

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May 10, 2013 / Blog / Coaching Skills / Influencing Skills

The Power of Matching

200021828-001In his book To Sell Is Human, Dan Pink writes about the importance of attunement as part of selling, whether the selling is formal (actual sales) or less formal (influence and persuasion). One approach to attunement is matching. By subtly matching body language, tone of voice and choice of words, you can create greater attunement and more trust with people you talk to. Dan points out—and there is research behind this—that people’s mannerisms automatically attune when they feel connected to each other.

If you watch friends talking over coffee, you’ll see similar movements happening at the same time. Similarly, studies have shown that if one person at a table reaches for a glass of water, it’s more likely that someone else will also reach for a glass of water—if not at the same moment, then soon after. We match each other because we are social animals, and it’s one of the ways that we stay in sync, that we feel safe and connected.

I often talk to clients about matching to build trust and communicate more effectively with diverse stakeholders. You can match in three main ways:

1.  Body language.

2.  Vocal inflection.

3.  Word choice.

Read More on Eric’s Blog

Matching is also a powerful part of Mariposa’s In-The-Moment Coaching model. For more on this model, visit our ITM Workshop and read our article on ITM Coaching in Action.

About the author:

Eric Nitzberg, is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc.

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April 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills / Strategy

Ask Mariposa: Top 4 Executive Coaching Focus Areas

ask-mariposa1

Daniel asked: Can you share the most frequent areas that you help clients improve on with coaching?

Regan Bach, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:

Great question Daniel and you are not alone in wondering what actually occurs during a coaching engagement.  There is a great deal of customizing that occurs with each client’s needs, but here are the Top 4 most frequent areas of coaching focus:

1) Vision/Strategy/Execution

Whether it be for CEOs or new managers, setting a clear vision for yourself and your team is mission critical.  From there it’s all about articulating that vision to others, identifying an “actionable” strategy to execute on the vision, mitigating roadblocks, and tweaking the roadmap/trajectory given inputs over time.  A good coach helps leaders to a) get very clear on strengths and areas of opportunity to improve, b) articulate personal/team/company vision, and c) helps identify action steps to begin executing on a trajectory for success.

2) Going Slow to Go Fast

In today’s fast paced work environments, leaders jump from task to task, project to project, and initiative to initiative.  Rarely do they take time to slow down, unplug, assess the Big Picture, and reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and what they want to do DIFFERENT moving forward.  Coaches act as a forcing function to help support leaders in unplugging, assessing themselves and their environments, and then identifying areas that need their attention.  What’s critical is helping today’s leaders not only identify where to show up, but also how to show up.

3) Influencing

This is an area where almost everyone can improve.  I have found that individuals, regardless of title, greatly underestimate (and thus under-utilize), their ability to influence others.  I spend a great deal of time working with clients to help identify effective and efficient ways to influence both vertically and horizontally throughout an organization.

4) Feedback, Communication and Relationship-Building

Organizations exist because humans create them.  Thus, many leaders continually struggle and are challenged by behavioral and/or human-centric issues.  At the core, business is all about communication and relationships.  Coaches help leaders create clear lines of communication, implement durable feedback loops into their work, and get clear on how and when they message things to others.

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April 3, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

The #1 Leadership Communication Mistake

I have come to the conclusion that there is one pretty universal communication mistake that is the most damaging and causes the most mischief for leaders.

Are you ready?  The mistake is:  not preparing well.  Yes, I know this is not very sexy, but it is incredibly ubiquitos.  People just don’t think about preparing in advance for a crucial conversation, and they typically don’t invest nearly enough time in preparing for a high-stakes presentation or Q & A session.

Think about it this way:  there are probably 5%, maybe 10% at the most, of your communications that are truly extremely important.  Situations where careers, or very large amounts of money are at stake.  My most frequent and important advice is, invest the time to prepare properly for these moments.  The more important the communication, the more time you should invest preparing for it.  More specifically:

  1. For a 1-1 meeting, decide what you will say in advance; and role play the conversation with a skilled communicator whom you trust.  Do the role play as if you were having the actual conversation–don’t just talk about what you plan to say.  Do it fully in role.  Then have them give you feedback, and role play it again.  Practice until you’ve got it down.  It will make for a better outcome, and will also greatly enhance your confidence level going into the conversation, because you have already done it!
  2. For an important Q & A session, write down the questions that you are mostly likely to be asked, and also the questions you most fear.  Then map out your answers, and practice them out loud, again with someone who can give you feedback.  Practice the same question and answer several times, until you really nail it, then move to the next question.  When you have them all, then practice answering a series of questions.
  3. For a presentation, deliver the whole presentation several times, also out loud.  Practicing it in your head is not the same as practicing it aloud, because you are not rehearsing the actual behavior you are preparing for.  And again, if possible, have someone in the room who can give you candid feedback.

About the author:

Eric Nitzberg, is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. Want to read more from Eric?  Visit his blog.

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March 14, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management

Managing Up: Stepping Into Your Boss’s Shoes

good_boss

One of the most potentially challenging communication situations is the one between manager and employee. Different perspectives can emerge due to hierarchy, accountability, and unclear expectations. Sometimes the key to finding common ground between you and your manager is to change your perspective – to step in your boss’s shoes.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if…

  • you had to always keep the whole team in mind?
  • you needed to think about the budget more carefully?
  • you had to think about managing your boss’s boss?
  • you were to remain sensitive to larger internal and external factors impacting decisions?
  • you were the person who takes the hit if things go wrong?

What would you do differently in how you manage up with this new point of view?

Now take off your boss’s shoes and step back into your own. How can you be a more effective partner with your boss? Effective communication starts with a step back and then strides forward. The better you can relate to the conditions you and your boss face, the more successful the outcomes will be for your boss, for you, and for the team.

About the author:

Patrick Reilly, M.S., is the President Resources In Action, Inc. and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. For more interesting articles and blogs by Patrick, visit www.resourcesinaction.com.

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