Taking Your Stage Blog  
  Helping you improve the communication skills of the leaders and teams in your organization.  

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15 items from October 2013


The Communication “Stage” Workshop Series, Next Workshop: November 6th

IStock_000018251209_webWhether you like it or not, you are on “stage” every day.  You are always communicating, and your level of success in projects, change initiatives, daily work life, strategy execution, and career are largely dependent on the foundation of excellent communication.  The Communication “Stage” is Hippo Solutions’ comprehensive workshop series with live actors that provides you with the opportunity to learn communication skills, put them into practice, and receive personal coaching.  If you are serious about raising your communication skills to the next level, register for our next workshop today!

Learn more and register




Do You Mean It? Three Things to Monitor to Build Authenticity and Believability in Your Communications

IStock_000015629440_webYou have probably observed an actor on screen or on stage whose performance was simply not believable.  You could not buy-in to the scene or the script, and were perhaps even distracted by the actor.  On the other hand, you have probably been moved by an actor that was so good that they seemed to literally pull you into the performance.

Guess what?  Everyone around you has the same reaction to your communication skills.  Are you believable...authentic...transparent?  Can they trust you?  Follow you?  Often times, the way they make those judgments are not by the words you use, but through all of your non-verbal cues. Stated another way, does your body language match your message?  For example, you tell your team that "I am really excited about this new project and its implications" while you sit back in your chair with your arms crossed, talking quietly.  Are you believable...authentic?  No.

Here are three things that you (just like an actor) need to monitor as you are communicating with others:

  1. Body.  What is your body doing?  Is it sitting back (disinterested) or forward (engaged)?  Are you crossing your arms (bored, apathetic, arrogant)?  Or open?  Are you pacing (nervous)?  Moving your limbs around a lot (confused, unsure of yourself)?
  2. Voice.  What is the inflection and volume of your voice?  Are you talking softly (uninspired, thoughtful) or louder (engaged, emotional, passionate)?  Monotone (bored, uninspiring) or with varied expression (interested, authentic, passionate, authority)?
  3. Face.  Are you maintaining eye contact (telling the truth, interested) or looking away (not trustworthy, disinterested)?  Do you have bland facial expressions or varied expressions that match your intent?

Those are the tip of the iceberg.  The key point is that you shouldn't do some of these things.  It is appropriate at times to speak louder or softer.  The key point is that your body language needs to match your message to be seen as authentic and believable.  Many times it doesn't, not necessarily because our intent is not good, but because we get into ruts.  For example, we always speak the same way, we lean back all the time, or we consistently cross our arms.

How you communicate has a tremendous impact on your life and career.  Ask a couple of trusted people what your body language is conveying to them.  Chances are that your "performance" could be improved by fixing a couple of simple things of which you are probably not even aware.




Communication Quote of the Day

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.

--Margaret Millar




Communication Quote of the Day

Language has three important uses--it expresses thought, conceals thought, and takes the place of thought. --Unknown




What Does "Make Them Look Good" Look Like?

IStock_000011451512_webIn our last post I provided a tool used by improv that can improve our business communication and foster trust.  What does that look like?  How do I "make someone look good?"  I wanted to offer a practical way of doing this and that is:

Communicate the information to them that will help them do a great job.

Don't communicate information to them because you have to, or because you need something, but to help them do a great job.  For example, "our group is on track to complete our task on Friday so that your group can take over, but I am a little concerned that a problem with one of our customers is going to throw a wrench into things this week.  I'll keep you up to date so that you can know what is likely to happen."  There are many examples of this - I am giving them what they need to plan, be prepared, and knock it out of the park in their group.

When they reciprocate we become a well-oiled machine...and it is actually fun to work together.





Make Them Look Good, Establish Trust

IStock_000003273134_web2Trust is a critical component of leadership and good communication culture.  The lack of trust is evident when people are afraid to speak up, communication does not flow freely, honest feedback is not given, and turnover is high.  As leaders (and everyone is a leader in some way) we establish trust as we communicate.

Improv provides us with another tool to establish trust as we communicate.  And is...to make everyone else around you look good.  If you ever find yourself doing an improv routine you would discover that part of your job is to focus on your partners.  Same thing on your teams.  You set them up.  You make it easy for them to continue the "scene" and look good.  If they drop the ball, you pick it up and help them.  Your entire focus is not on what you can say to look good yourself, but what you can communicate to make them look good.

Over time, they trust you.  They know you have their back.  And guess what is the result when their focus is to make you look good?

  • A highly effective team that...
  • Trusts each other with...
  • Free-flowing communication that...
  • Makes everyone look good and...
  • Immensely enjoy what they are doing

It starts with you.  Be accountable in your communication to focus on everyone else and make them look good.



Communication Quote of the Day

The world is NOT of course, a stage -- but the crucial ways in which it isn't are difficult to specify. - Erving Goffman




How to Communicate On Your Feet in Business

Stick_present_smallCommunication skills are vitally important in business and teams - they determine the effectiveness of a leader and the results achieved from one-on-one discussions and team meetings.  If you are like me, you know this but there is one glaring problem: give me time to analyze the situation and think through what I want to say and I'm good.  Throw something at me that I wasn't expecting and...not so much.  That's probably why I love presenting in front of a room full of people over navigating the dynamics of more intimate groups.

But Improv provides a great tool to help communicate on your feet (improv means to perform spontaneously).  You may have seen an Improv routine or a show like "Who's Line Is It Anyway?".  You probably thought, "there is NO WAY that I could do that."  Surprisingly there are a few tools that actors use to keep the scene moving along that simplifies the process.

One such tool is called "Yes, and...".  When someone makes a statement, you say "yes, and...".  Instead of stopping the flow of the conversation, it is a simple tool that enables you to do two things:

  1. Acknowledge what was said.
  2. Move the conversation to a new place.

Here are some examples:

Person A: "The project is doomed, all of our processes are in trouble, and we have way too much work."

You: "Yes, and what is one thing we can do this week to take a step in the right direction."


Person A: "I don't agree with the decision.  I think we should choose option B."

You: "Yes, and sometimes we have to do things we don't agree with so that we always function as a team."

It is not a magic bullet, but it is amazing how that one little tool helps focus the brain on what to say next as well as provides a nice way to steer the conversation.





Communication Quote of the Day

The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven't thought of yet.

--Ann Landers




5 Ingredients to Working with Difficult People

IStock_000017265087_webA while back I was working with a person acting as a project manager with a large client of ours.  I soon discovered that no one liked this person which was affecting buy-in for the whole project.  Everyone felt this person was dictatorial and didn't listen to other ideas for doing things.  Over time, I was able to work well with this person and develop relationships with the people around the organization to foster buy-in.  You have probably been in a similar situation - it's not a matter of having extraordinary communication ability, you simply have to learn to work with difficult people.  You find a way.  I thought through that experience and while there are specific techniques that we can use with difficult people, I came up with five key ingredients we must have first when dealing with difficult people.

Our motive...peace.  Fostering a peaceful relationship (that gets the job done), not proving ourselves right.

Our tactic...service.  Sincerely seeking ways to help the difficult person, not focusing on what's wrong and unreasonable.

Our strategy...perseverance.  We go the extra mile if that's what it takes to win over the person and create a productive, peaceful relationship.

Our approach...soft and silent.  We speak softly and say as few words as possible when someone is angry and unreasonable.  We don't match their tone, volume, and word count which quickly escalates into a no-win situation.

Our super power ingredient...humility.  We don't mind if someone else gets the credit, instead of insisting that we come out looking good.

While there is no guaranteed 1-2-3 process to work with difficult people (they are people after all), it is amazing how often those key ingredients have worked to create productive peace and reduce strife.