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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It’s Not Rocket Science! 10 Ways to Connect and Engage With People

Lately, I have worked with a number of people with outstanding technical skills whose career growth has been limited by their inability to connect with others.  They were referred to me for coaching to provide them with the necessary skills to engage successfully with coworkers, bosses, and customers/clients.

People want to hire, work with, promote and do business with others whom they know and like. If you were not born with the “gift of gab,” and many people weren't, you can still learn the skills to connect with others. Here are 10 actions that will help you to be more approachable, and to engage more easily with others in your workplace.

 1. Put your phone away.  Yes, you read that correctly. Keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” This also applies to the Bluetooth device in your ear, or what I like to refer to as “the cockroach in the ear.”  (Yes, I do have strong feelings about this!)

2. Don’t walk into a building or down a hall while talking on your phone. It is easy to ignore people when you are on the phone. You want to greet and acknowledge people. The person to whom you say “hello” on the way to the meeting may be the person sitting next to you during the meeting – and by acknowledging that person in the hall, you have established minor rapport.

For those of you thinking about using Google Glass in the workplace, remember that it can make people feel uncomfortable. I suggest you read a New York Times article, Google Offers a Guide to Not Being a ‘Creepy’ Google Glass Owner.  



3. Convey interest through your body language. Look at the person with whom you are interacting. Maintain a pleasant facial expression and nod occasionally when others are speaking. Additional information on verbal and nonverbal communication can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

4. Call people. Don’t communicate via email and text exclusively. Calling people on the phone when appropriate creates a more personal connection. Also remember to sound pleasant and enthusiastic.

5. Avoid the “Are you there?” syndrome. If the other person on the phone with you doesn't occasionally use verbal reassurances (such as “Oh,” “I see,” “really,” “okay”), you may be tempted to believe that person isn't listening to you, and feel compelled to say, “Are you there?”  Verbal prompts also can be used when talking face-to-face, though less frequently, since your use of body language, as mentioned above, should also convey that you are listening.

6. Take notes with pen and paper. If you use a laptop to take notes, it draws your attention away from the other person. Plus, the raised back cover of the computer becomes a barrier between the two of you. An iPad or tablet can be less intrusive, and pen and paper still work well.

7. Prepare small talk. Knowing a little about topics that are important to your customers and colleagues will make it easier to make conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but learn enough to allow you to participate.

8. Remember “The Blue Cord.” You want to use language that your colleagues/customers will understand. Using a big word that someone doesn't recognize when a simpler one is available can distance you from the other person. Some people understand what an “ethernet cord” is, for instance, but others need to be told, “It’s the blue cord.”  In my last newsletter, I discussed using the latter phrase to remind yourself to adjust your choice of words for your audience.

9. Mingle with the participants before a meeting or presentation begins. Many people just take a seat and don’t talk to anyone. Be proactive. Go up to people, greet them, shake hands and make conversation.

10. Be social, the old-fashioned way. Go to lunch with people. It’s an opportunity to get to know someone outside of the business environment. Get involved in company activities. You will meet more people, and, depending on the activity—such as a company food drive--possibly help others.

These are not the only ways to connect, but they are important ones. As you go through your day, remind yourself of the value of connecting. Soon these actions will become second nature to you.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on communication, business etiquette and professional image.  For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Bossy' or Not…Part 2: How You Speak – and Stand – Can Hurt You

Last week, I talked about “Ban Bossy,” a campaign launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to persuade society to stop calling assertive young girls bossy, as it discourages them from becoming leaders. Similar behavior in boys, she points out, is applauded as leadership material.

But it’s not always outside influences that can handicap women’s careers. As I discussed last week, I came across one of my old newsletter articles that listed 25 behaviors women exhibit in the workplace that cause them to lose power and visibility. Unfortunately, many women still practice those behavioral traits today, and by doing so they handicap their own careers.

Part one of my blog about these behaviors talked about the first 11 items on that list, including how to present yourself in meetings and how to promote your achievements. The comments I received in response, from both men and women, were terrific, including “interesting,” “fascinating,” and “good stuff.” The analytics from the posting showed that many people forwarded the blog to colleagues, and others posted it on their Facebook pages or tweeted it to their followers.

I believe that this week’s discussion will be equally helpful. Part two offers suggestions (below) about several other areas in which you can increase your visibility and power, and help your own career.

SPEAK WITH POWER:
12. Don’t say, “I don’t know,” when you do know. These are the three little words that many women use towards the end of their comments that wipe out their credibility.  A woman may outline her thoughts on a topic and then say, “Oh, I don’t know,” or “But I don’t know. What do you think?”

13. Watch out for “I think.”  If you say “I think,” you are indicating that you are unsure or don’t know. If that is true, then the use of “I think” is okay.  But women have a tendency to use “I think” when they know. One vice president wanted to persuade a client that her company could meet the client’s deadline. During her presentation, she said, “I think we will meet your deadline.” The client went elsewhere.

14. Use direct statements instead of questions. When you use a question instead of a statement, you are giving the other person the opportunity to say “no.” Instead of giving away your power by asking, “Can I add something?” say, “I’d like to add to that.” Instead of asking, “Could you clarify that statement?” say, “I need additional information.”  More information on assertiveness can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.

15. Speak loudly. If I could say just one thing to women after 20 years of helping them to get and maintain the visibility they deserve, it would be: “Speak up!”  Women often speak too softly, and make it easy for others to tune them out.  

16. Eliminate the giggle. Many women giggle at the end of their sentences, and often don’t realize it. It makes them sound like little girls, and that’s a real power drain. Ask a trusted friend or colleague if you have this tendency, or try to listen to yourself. One woman found out she had this habit when she heard her twin sister giggling at the end of her sentences.

ESTABLISH RAPPORT WITH OTHERS:
17. Greet and acknowledge others. As you walk around, say hello to people – the ones you know and those you don’t know. Many employees judge the effectiveness of their managers on whether they greet and acknowledge others.

18. Enter a room confidently. Walk into a room as though you belong there.  Keep your head up and your shoulders back. Have a deliberate stride.

19. Make small talk. I hear lots of reasons from women why they don’t want to make small talk. Some women say it’s not their personality. Others say if they make small talk with men, the men will think they are flirting. Think again!  Small talk is an important business tool.  It breaks the ice with people, establishes common ground, and allows people to get to know one another better. And you can talk to men without your intentions being misunderstood. Just keep the talk professional and not too personal.

20. Be proactive.  Go up to people at professional gatherings. Don’t just wait for people to come to you. Introduce yourself with a line like, “Hello, I’m Barbara Pachter. I’m one of the speakers for the meeting. And you are…?” Shake hands, also.

ESTABLISH YOUR PROFESSIONAL IMAGE:
21. Pay attention to your body language. Don’t cross your ankles while standing. An amazing number of women still do this. It makes them look awkward and nervous. Stand assertively – no slouching, and feet shoulder-width apart. Don’t wring your hands or play with rubber bands, paperclips, or your hair. If you do, you are telling people you are nervous.
 
22. Shake hands correctly.  Many women weren't taught to shake hands. Others are under the impression that women don’t have to shake hands. Wrong! And a limp handshake is almost worse than no handshake. To shake hands correctly, touch thumb joint to thumb joint. Your grip should be firm but not bone-breaking.

23. Stand up when shaking hands. Many women also were taught that they do not need to stand. I disagree. Women do need to stand, otherwise they are sending the message: “I’m not as important.” You are on more equal footing when you stand up.  When I shake hands with the participants in my seminars, only 35% of the women stand; 75% percent of the men stand.

24. Dress appropriately.  A very bright and competent woman was told she wasn’t promoted because of her sexy dressing habits. In a professional situation, you don’t want to wear clothing that’s too low, too short, too sexy, or too anything. Think about the message you are sending when you wear short skirts. You’re not saying, “Look at me because I know what I’m doing.” You’re saying, “Look at me because I have great legs.”  Additional information on business and business casual dress can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.  

25. Don’t become the “mother.” Your role is not to “take care of” or “baby” others. After a coaching session with me, a woman cleared the table as we were leaving my office.  When I asked her why she did this, she said, “I guess I feel like it’s my responsibility to clean up messes.”  

Regardless of whether young girls hear the word “bossy” applied to them, women who want successful careers can, and should, take a look at their own behavior in the workplace to make sure that they aren’t holding themselves back.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on communication, business etiquette and professional image.  For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

'Bossy' or Not, Business Women Can Handicap Their Careers

There has been a lot of media focus lately on Sheryl Sandberg’s new campaign for empowering girls, Ban Bossy. The campaign’s website, www.banbossy.com, states that “words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys – a trend that continues into adulthood.”

Sandberg is Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer and the author of Lean In, a book about corporate leadership for women, so her words carry a lot of weight.

But whether you agree with the program or not, and some do not (Sheryl Sandberg wrong on 'bossy' ban, declared an opinion column on CNN), there are specific behaviors that women exhibit in the workplace that can cause them to lose visibility and power. These verbal and non-verbal actions send the message: “It’s OK to discount me,” “Don’t listen to me,” and “Don’t take me as seriously as that man on the other side of the table.”  

Recently I came across one of my old newsletter articles that encouraged women to tune in and pay attention to their visibility and power factors. The promotion-hindering behaviors described in 25 items in that article are still occurring, and still limiting women’s careers.

One extra point. I could apologize that this blog is longer than most of mine, but I won’t. As a female in the business world, I, like many women, have had to learn not to apologize when there is nothing to apologize for….  But to make it easier for the reader to absorb, I have split the information into two blogs. Here are the first 11 points:

IN MEETINGS:
1. Contribute – even if it’s a stretch. Women tell me that contributing in meetings can be difficult, especially if they are of lower rank than the other participants, or the only woman present. Get over it! You need to contribute, or your visibility factor goes to zero. Men tend to contribute more, so their ideas are adopted more often. Be prepared. Before a meeting, consider what you might be asked or what you can contribute. Speak early – ask a question or make an observation or statement. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to build up your nerve to speak.  

2. Don’t ask permission to talk. Women often ask, “May I say something?” Others raise a hand to “request” permission to speak.  One high-level corporate lawyer was shocked when she realized she was the only person in the meeting raising her hand. Instead, say something like, “The question remaining is…” or just start talking to add your point.

3. Interrupt. Interrupting can be an annoying speaking habit, but sometimes it’s vital for women to put aside the niceties to create an opportunity to speak. When interrupting, you can say, “To build on what you are saying…” or “We also need to discuss….”

4. Be assertive if interrupted.  When a man interrupts a woman, she often will stop talking. When I was teaching in Oman, a woman pointed out that she had noticed that American men interrupt American women on our TV shows. That’s a reflection of reality in our culture, so women have to resist the impulse to give up the floor automatically to men. Don’t ask permission to continue, such as “Can I finish?” Jump right back in with a polite and powerful comment such as, “Hold that thought…,” “I wasn't finished…,” or “I’ll talk about that in just a second….”

5. Stand when appropriate to present your ideas. Women stay seated much too often. Standing is a more powerful position, because it forces others to look up to you.

6. Don’t take notes. A woman told me she was the only person in the room taking notes when others spoke. The men just listened. As a result, she appeared to be the administrative assistant.

7. Know when to stop talking. Women tend to give too much detail. If you go on and on, others will tune you out. Make your point succinctly, and then stop talking!

BECOME A SELF-PROMOTER:
8. Toot your own horn. You don’t want to be obnoxious, but you must learn to speak well of yourself. You can weave your accomplishments into a story or illustration, as if you are offering the information for the other person’s benefit.  An example of this is the Oman story described in item 4 above.  You now know that I have taught in the Middle East.

9. Give formal presentations. Giving presentations increases your visibility within your company/department. As a bonus, it can help you become known as an expert.  If public speaking makes you nervous, take a class on presentation skills. Giving effective presentations is a skill that can be mastered, with training and practice. Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette. 

10. Accept compliments.  Women often discount themselves when given a compliment.  If someone tells you, “Great job,” don’t say, “Oh, it was nothing,” or “Anyone could have done it.”  Accept that compliment by saying, “Thank you,” and then shut your mouth!

11. Eliminate self-discounting language. Self-discounting words include: kinda, sorta, maybe, perhaps, probably, just, and actually. These are the extra words that, when added to sentences, discount what the speaker is saying.  If you say, “Maybe we have to look at all the possibilities,” others will think, “Well, should we or shouldn't we?” If you say, “It’s kinda a problem and perhaps we should…” the other person could dismiss the whole idea as wishy-washy.

Next week: Part two will cover speaking with power, establishing rapport, and professional image.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on communication, business etiquette and professional image.  For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

6 Tips To Remember When Evaluating Feedback

What do these three examples have in common?

• A young woman was told by an instructor that her giggle during her presentation was cute, and fit her personality.

 • A woman’s husband, after she asked him if her skirt was too short for an important business meeting, responded “No, your legs look great. Keep it short!”

 • A young man was told by a colleague to chew gum to help him overcome his nervousness when presenting.

I believe the above business professionals all received feedback that was flawed.

It is important to receive feedback, because it helps us to grow. After 20 years of giving seminars, I still pay attention to the comments I receive from my participants. But how do you decide which suggestions really can help you to grow as a professional, and which ones to ignore? I suggest asking yourself these 6 questions:

1.  Who is giving the feedback? Is the person an expert? If so, the feedback is a gift, and I would seriously consider following the person’s suggestions. If the person is not an expert, I would put the comments on the back burner. But remember, when customers make suggestions, it is a good idea to implement them where appropriate.

2.  Do you perceive a pattern in the feedback you get? A solitary criticism or observation may be just one person’s opinion, but if you notice a lot of similar comments, chances are there is some truth to the feedback – positive or negative.

3.  Have you learned as much as you can about the comment? Engage with the person giving the feedback. You can paraphrase what you have heard. Saying something like, “You’re suggesting that…” and putting the feedback into your own words will ensure that you have grasped the person’s points.  The woman who was told it was okay to giggle could have asked, “Are you saying that it will be professional for me to giggle in the business world?” (The answer is no.)

4.  Is the feedback emphasizing your sexuality?  Workplace feedback should address your competency, not your sexuality. The woman’s husband in my example was flattering his wife, but not taking into consideration her corporate environment. He didn’t understand that “sexy is not a corporate look.” He’s not alone. Based on the attire of some newscasters, or the actors portraying professionals on television shows, it’s not surprising that many people come to believe that it is okay to dress provocatively in business situations. Occasionally, even some people writing about dress guidelines on the web fall into this trap. One blog post I read suggested that showing cleavage is the new “power tie” for women. (Yes, I am serious!) It isn’t.

5.  Have you checked with other seasoned and successful professionals? The young man who was told to chew gum did check with another professional, who pointed out that the gum chewing would create another problem – his audience would be distracted. She then gave him other suggestions to overcome his nervousness, such as practicing out loud and telling yourself positive things. Additional suggestions can be found in my new book: The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

6. Have you done research on your own? Read books on the topic. Read articles on the web. The Internet makes it very easy to research any topic.  Just make sure the authors of the articles are experts in whatever topic you are researching.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette, presentation skills and communication. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Presentation Panic — Take These Steps To Avoid Running Off The Stage!

A few weeks ago, movie director Michael Bay made headlines when he abruptly left the stage during his presentation for Samsung at CES 2014, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The video of his (very short) talk and sudden exit went viral.

Since public speaking is often the number one fear that people experience, Bay’s very public meltdown when his teleprompter failed could discourage others from making presentations.

Yet, there are steps you can take that will allow you to continue with your presentation regardless of whether your teleprompter fails, your mind goes blank, or other difficulties occur. And then you can walk off the stage with your head held high, mission accomplished.

The most important response to an unexpected situation is to take charge. If you are not bothered by the mishaps that can and do occur, your audience will not be bothered, either. It is when you get upset that your audience gets upset.

Here are additional tips to help you maintain control of yourself and your audience:
1. Prepare well in advance.
--Practice your presentation out loud. Be familiar with what you want to say. Don’t just rely on a teleprompter.
--Take notes with you. You don’t have to use them, but knowing they are there will help calm you.
--Check your equipment ahead of time.
--Bring backups of any material or slides. (When I was speaking at a conference for 1,000 women, the organizers wanted my slides ahead of time. I sent them and they acknowledged receipt of them. When I arrived at the conference, however, I discovered they had lost my slides. I could have panicked, but I had numerous backups with me! )

2. Mingle before the presentation. When you can, go up to people, shake hands, introduce yourself, and welcome these individuals to the presentation. This rapport-building helps people connect with you, and allows you to feel more comfortable with them. Journalist Lesley Stahl of the TV show 60 Minutes interviewed singer Taylor Swift, and reported: “It’s Taylor’s tireless courting of her fans that may be the key to her success. Remarkably, she spends an hour before every show, meeting and greeting and charming.”                                                                  
3. Remember The 92 Percent Rule. This basic principle of mine reminds people that they don’t have to be perfect. Whew. Take the pressure off!  When you do give yourself some leeway, it’s a lot easier to shrug off any mishaps that occur. Being a little less than perfect, say 92 percent, means you are still very effective – and in most classes that would earn you an A.

4. Acknowledge the technical difficulties and give the audience an alternative. You could say something like, “I will take questions from you until the teleprompter is working again.” Or, “Since the teleprompter has stopped working, I will be using notes for a while.” Or, “I will be using the flipchart since the computer has stopped working.”

5. Use a standard line. Anticipate any difficult situations that you may encounter and figure out what you will say if one of those situations occurs. You are less likely to panic if you have something to say. One speaker, when he forgets what he wants to say, will ask the audience, “If anyone has heard me speak before, what am I trying to say?” This line gives him a couple of seconds to get back on track.  Another speaker’s standard line, when asked a question for which she doesn’t know the answer, is: “I don’t know. I will find out and get back to you.”

6. Make presentations. The more presentations you make, the more comfortable you become. And they don't have to be work presentations – any community or volunteer presentation will be good practice for you.

Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my new book The Essentials of Business EtiquettePachter & Associates provides training and coaching on presentation skills and communication. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141  

Friday, January 17, 2014

What’s in an Email Address? A lot!

“I haven’t opened emails that later turned out to be from people I do business with because I thought the emails were spam – based on their addresses. I missed some important information.”

A director of a national organization expressed the above frustration after my talk on etiquette at a recent conference.

Your email address is important. It can convey a lot of information about you, including your name and where you work, and even your age range – think about the difference in your responses to those who use gmail.com (mostly millennials) versus people using aol.com (probably boomers).

The goal of a good address is to identify you to the recipient and to have that person open your email promptly.

If you are employed by a company, you will use its address format for work. But most people have additional email accounts that they use for personal communication and certain work-related business, such as a job search. Other individuals may be in business for themselves, or they may be recent graduates who need a professional address to connect with the world.  Take note of these 6 tips before choosing your email address:

1. Use your name in your email address. People will know immediately who has sent the email. Use either your full name or your first initial and last name (bpachter@pachter.com). Avoid using just initials. People may not recognize that “BHP” stands for “Barbara Hope Pachter.”

2. Do not use a cutesy name in business. Yes, there may be exceptions if you are in marketing or an unusual field, but in most business situations, using something like “sexydiva109@” sends an unprofessional message.  

3. Get creative if your name is already taken. You may need to add your middle name, middle initial, or a number to your name.

4. Be consistent with your address. Some people have multiple addresses, using myriad variations of their names in them. It can be confusing to others if one day you are sjones@ and the next SusanJonesSmith@.  Also, if you are no longer a student, it’s time to replace your university address. You want to be recognized, and your new or potential colleagues may not know that you are abc@xyzuniversity.edu.

5. Have your own domain. If you are in business for yourself, consider using your business name as your domain.  For example: Tom.Jones@xyzconsulting.com.  It lends substance to your business.

6. Let people know if your email address changes. Send an email to everyone on your mailing list. Also update your social media sites.

Additional information about email can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. (www.pachter.com)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Survival of Business Cards: 6 Tips to Update Them in a Social Media World

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

In a recent Boston Globe story headlined Among Tech Crowd, the Paper Business Card Endures, reporter Callum Borchers discusses, in what may be a surprise to some, that business cards haven’t been replaced by technology. He writes: “Of the many things swept away in the outgoing tide of an increasingly digitized economy, the lowly business card has been an odd and unlikely survivor.”

Business cards have always served as a shorthand way to tell people what you do, and provide information for them to contact you. They still do that, easily and efficiently. But because social media has changed the way we connect with our customers, clients, colleagues and prospective employers, your card may need to be updated.

When I gave my revised card to a potential client, she commented that since my Facebook business page (www.facebook.com/pachtertraining) was on the card, it would be easy for her to review the site.

You will have to decide how much to include on your card, and how to do so without overloading it. To help you make that decision, ask yourself these 6 questions:

1.   Have I included the necessary information? Think about the majority of your potential clients and customers, and include the information they will need. Usually this means your name, your title, company name/logo, address, phone number, and email and web addresses.

2.   What can I eliminate? Is the information on the card easy to read? Make sure your card is visually appealing. Can you eliminate your fax number? Do you need both your business and cell phone numbers? If you have a lot to include, use the back for the less-essential information.

3.   Which social media addresses do I use for business? Include the social media addresses that help you stay in contact with your customers, clients, etc. If adding all your links overwhelms the card, place them on the back. When you hand your card to someone, you can point this out by saying, “If you want to connect with me by social media, my addresses are on the back.”

4.   Should I include a quick response (QR) code? These are bar codes that can be scanned by Smartphones to provide a link to your websites, LinkedIn profile, or other pertinent material. If you find using a QR code useful in your field, it usually is best placed on the back of the card.

5.  Is a photograph necessary? Most corporate cards do not include photographs, but you may want to include a photograph if you use your card for marketing purposes. If you do so, make sure to use a photograph that looks like you now, and not some unrecognizable version of a younger you. Speakers will often have photographs of themselves on their cards. Information on giving out your cards can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

6.   Will an unusual card be helpful? If you use an out-of-the ordinary card—one with an uncommon shape or design—make sure it is appropriate for your field or industry.

One last thing: Always carry your cards with you. You never know when you may encounter someone to whom you want to give your updated card.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.