Anna Soo Wildermuth

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Here I'll give you up to date tips on developing your personal and professional image to ensure your first impression will be your best impression. Also I will blog about current image and communication blunders. Feel free to join the discussion by leaving comments, and stay updated by subscribing to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting my blog. – Anna

Change One Thing is a superb book that gives excellent advice to help jumpstart your engine." Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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Archive: Listening

Asking the question for clarity

26447en_USI_QuestionMarkRecently, a client suggested that asking questions shows ignorance.  Smart people ask questions for clarity and to connect to the issue. I like starting the question with a how or a what. The why question only works when you are establishing a reason for the issue. The challenge with beginning with why is that the conversation could go down a rabbit hole or the weeds which may be unproductive.

Can you hear me?

earMore and more folks today wear hearing aids. They are not just for the elderly any more.  Be sensitive to those who are using them. You don’t have speak loudly, just directly and succinctly. Speaking loudly makes it sometimes harder to hear. Do not act annoyed or impatient, instead, seek to understand. Wearing hearing aids can be very challenging for the new user.

Swimming with the sharks

sharksRecently, a well-known prime time news anchor tried to validate a point with a spokesperson by asking a question about a lie from the spokesperson’s team that appeared on the news. This anchor is known for integrity and has a knack for handling sensitive subjects with the guests on the show.

The spokesperson was a shark, a fast talker employing a high spin level skill at making observations and details sound like facts. The anchor, unfortunately, did not respond well even though he the truth was behind the question.

What I would recommend, is to ask the questions at least three times. Then, instead of doing the cha-cha with the guest, end the conversation on a high note by letting the other person to wallow in their own comments. Don’t swim with the sharks unless you possess some shark skills of your own!

 

Offering sympathy

earRecently the world has been hit with major tragedies. Situations arose where we have been indirectly in contact with those directly affected. It’s important to actively listen and offer sympathy with a simple “I am sorry”. Offering commentary on the event is best kept to yourself unless you have faced a similar situation. Active listening offers much more than event analysis to the person in pain.

Improv

coaching 2Improv is about making the person next to you look good. I took a year of Improv at Second City in Chicago to help me be a better speaker. It also helped me design some experiential programs for speaking to audiences about personal branding and interpersonal skills. Improv helps in networking where thinking on your feet is useful because it encourages you to begin a conversation that is inclusive and not intrusive. Improv recently was featured in the New York Times business section on how team Improv can build creativity in thinking.

A polite gesture?

coaching 2Often, after a program, an audience member will come up to ask for my card because they would like to know more about how I can help them or their organization.  I follow up with an e-mail or a call but often do not get a response even after a few tries. Maybe they are traveling or been hit by a car? The reality is that sometimes people are not really serious or life gets in their way.

My rule of thumb is to follow up immediately for a month then I do it monthly for a few months. I eventually call or email, letting them know they can contact me if they would like to meet or talk about personal or organizational needs. Then, I put their information into a file for future business. Even if those comments are just a polite gesture and not a serious request, you always want to follow-up because it is a good business practice.

A professional listener

earJoe Lacob, the majority owner of the Golden State Warriors, has worked in venture capital for three decades. This season, Lacob’s sixth as majority owner, the Warriors are on pace to break the league record of 72 wins in a season (which is just 82 games long). I’m a professional listener,” he told me. “There are a lot of smart people in the world, you know. I’m not the smartest. I’m just an integrator.” We can all learn from Joe Lacob.

The interview – wherever it happens

lipsAn interview occurs every time you are in front of someone and not just formally. In fact, most of the time interviews are informal which can be just as important. You should think of them as practice so that when you have a real interview the practice ends up paying off. Think this way so that when you are in the real deal, you will be natural and bring your best self to the table.

Probably close to 100% of the time, when you get the chance to interview, the interviewer has an idea about your background because someone already vetted you. Your role is to engage the interviewer so h/she can see you as a leader and a member of their team. In the interview process, your message is to share your experiences and say what you will bring to the table. Most of the time, when someone fails the interview, it’s because a relationship did not materialize or that the wrong kind of bonding occurred. Listening also plays a key part in making all interviews successful interactions.

 

How to be a good boss

targetThe essential element of being a good boss is leadership including mentoring, keeping your word, showing empathy, using good listening skills and continuing to show appreciation for good outcomes. Good bosses stand for the success of their employees and work diligently to ensure opportunities emerge for them to shine including exposure to senior leaders. Good managers also put employees into situations to help develop interpersonal and communication skills.

Inclusive questions are best

reject-stamp-showing-rejection-denied-or-refusalAsking intrusive ones are definitely a relationship destroyer. Recently, a colleague lost his position through a major reorganization of his firm. He had been with the company for 30 plus years. It really was his whole life and, in fact, defined him.

Instead of peers helping him manage through this life-altering loss, all they could do was ask questions like, do you have enough funds to live on, what could you have done to prevent this and have you begun to think about the future?

However, the best question would have been, how can I help? He was basically in an unwanted divorce. The next time you have a friend going through a major change, don’t add to the pain by asking intrusive questions; instead, be a comfort.