Tag Archive: communication plan

Why Success is More Likely with Active Listening

Listening includes a lot more than just hearing words. Frequently, we need to interpret or infer a deeper or underlying message beyond the spoken word. We deploy many of our senses to detect non-verbal cues and assimilate our life experiences with the verbal message when we actively listen.

Usually, the objective of a conversation is to expand the listener’s knowledge, perspective or sensitivity to a topic that impacts behavior or beliefs. In the workplace, managing projects can implode due to poor communications. These can result in missing a critical deadline, budget overages, decreased sales, and in some cases, costly lawsuits.

The most effective communication takes place when both parties are actively listening. So what is “active listening” and how do we do this?

Your active listening is apparent to the other party through your audible or visible signals. This can include something as subtle as raising our eyebrows, leaning towards the speaker, or using certain gestures (like a thumbs up, high five, etc.) Tilting our heads when we listen, on the same angle as the speaker, generally reflects a subconscious agreement  Uttering sounds like “uh huh” or “hmm” also tell the speaker that you’re paying attention. In America, making eye contact is considered a must in showing that you are listening, although this does vary in some cultures.

Of course asking good questions is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are listening.
If you don’t have any questions (perhaps, because the message is crystal clear to you) then paraphrase the speaker’s message. You can preface your restated summary by saying something like: “Ok, now, if I understand what you’re telling me, you’d like to … (paraphrased summary of speaker’s objective).”

It is important to be authentic, too! In your effort to make it evident that you genuinely hear the speaker’s message, do not diminish your own persona or credibility. Be sure to phrase your introduction to your rephrased statement in a style that is consistent with the way you speak.

Why not find out if you’re as good a listener as you think you are? If you haven’t taken this insightful (and free) listening assessment yet, you can right now – or later when you have about 45 minutes and no distractions. When you’re ready, take the Active Listening Assessment here. Upon completion, you will receive an explanatory report along with tips and techniques that you can use to become a better active listener and communicator.

If you or your staff would benefit from mastering effective communications, improving active listening and learning “meaning-centered communication”, we can help. Please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

NOTE: PMPs: This assessment qualifies for one PDU and you will receive a certificate.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/why-success-is-more-likely-with-active-listening/

Crossfit Training; Your Body and Your Mind

The start of a new year brings with it many changes, professionally as well as personally. Many of us choose to start the New Year by making goals and resolutions, whether resolving to stick to a budget, or picking up a new hobby. Mine? I’m in the majority of the population: lose weight. To help me achieve my resolution I’ve started an exercise program called CrossFit training.

What is CrossFit training? The CrossFit training program, as explained by its founder Greg Glassman, is a system of performing functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that optimizes physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains: Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

Glowing_ManThe CrossFit program was developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Athletes are trained to perform at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges. This type of fitness is demanded of military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring overall physical prowess.

CrossFit training benefits the body by training your individual muscles over time to work together to provide an overall greater level of personal fitness than can be achieved by only conditioning one set of muscles at a time. This got me thinking: are there other areas in my life where I can use this approach? How can I “crossfit” my skills to become better at my job? How can I crossfit new learning opportunities to become a more valuable employee?

How can CrossFit training the body carry over to crossfit training your mind? If we consider our skills, hobbies, and responsibilities in our careers as muscles, we can make the analogy that those skills are muscles needing exercise. Some muscles are used more than others; some are barely used at all. All too often in our jobs, there is a set way of doing things that is like performing a repetitive workout. However, the brain is a muscle that like all muscles must be exercised to be kept in peak condition.

Modern cognitive psychology has demonstrated that the brain is not a static entity. Rather, the brain is continually and constantly developing and pruning pathways across skillsets, linking new knowledge to existing knowledge, or destroying old pathways which aren’t utilized to make room for new synaptic links. You can take advantage of this process by crossfit training your brain with a new skill or area of knowledge, which is seemingly unrelated to your existing career or job responsibilities.

people teaching each otherHow can crossfit training your mind benefit you in your workplace? Cross-functional training has many benefits for organizations as well as employees. At an organizational level, cross training skillsets help safeguard the organization against widening skills gaps. Organizations that cross-train employees across a range of functions put themselves in a good position to prevent sudden shortfalls and manage surges in specific areas when there is a spike in demand. On an individual level, cross training enables employees to explore and assess alternative interests and abilities. It also enables managers to identify and nurture employees who show exceptional talent in a particular function. Cross-training yourself to learn new skills, can increase your employability and enable you to stay relevant.

A few examples …learning the components of Strategic Leadership as a Project Manager (PM) can help reduce the probability of failure by sharpening leadership skills that enable the PM to better understand, motivate and build consensus with other members of a project team.  Or, learning to identify the role emotions and subconscious biases play in the decision making process can enable an individual to make more effective decisions. Learning Risk Management skills can enable a Human Resources manager to better anticipate potential problems and know how to create effective solutions before a problem arises.

In 2016, give consideration to learning things outside the scope of your role or responsibilities. Even if learning new skills may not seem directly related to your current work position, you will be increasing your value. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without these new skills.

If you are seeking to reduce your organization’s gaps in skills, improve cooperation and productivity through better communications and decision-making knowledge, or provide some morale-improving, team-building workshops, let’s talk. With a wide variety of courses, delivery techniques and a highly skilled training team, we will help you achieve your training goals for 2016 and beyond.

Contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or at jwynne@meritcd.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/crossfit-training-your-body-and-your-mind/

Do You Know Your WHY?

Most people know what they do. Some understand how they do it. Few people take the time to understand why they do what they do. (And no, the answer is not to make money!) As an organization committed to inspiring others to enrich their career, the team at Merit Career Development conducted a “Why” exercise at our annual planning session.

 

In order to better understand “why” we, the Merit team, we began by reviewing the TedTalk of Simon Sinek, on “Start With Why.” We then tasked each member of our team to consider three important questions:

 

  1. Why do we do what we do?
  2. How do we do what we do?
  3. What do we do?

 

The results were simultaneously surprising and unsurprising because we were all quite precise and remarkably similar in our expressed thoughts. We agreed…

Why we do our work at Merit:

  • Education changes the world.
  • Education empowers people to take control of their lives.
  • We are improving people’s lives through education.
  • We can and do make a difference in people’s lives through education.

How we do our work:

…by designing and delivering engaging and interactive courses that center around techniques that increase retention.  Using proven research grounded in adult education theory, our courses are designed for people to experience the learning in a hands-on, practical, and engaging medium so they can immediately put the knowledge they learn into practice.

What we do:

With a very talented, highly educated team, we design and deliver relevant professional education and training using engaging and memorable techniques.

 

Merit Career Development hopes to have the opportunity to work with your organization in 2016. We believe that we can make a difference in your life and in your organization.

 

Contact Us

 

Enjoy the Simon Sinek TedTalk by clicking here: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/do-you-know-your-why/

3 tips for creating a successful communication plan

3 tips for creating a successful communication planA communication plan is an essential tool for project managers to plan for resources, establish deadlines and reduce the likelihood of costly surprises. Project managers can use communication plans to create goals, set expectations, allow room for criticism and enable a dialogue for all stakeholders.

Although communication plans are important, not all project management training focuses enough on the critical skill of creating a reliable plan. Improve your effective communication skills and follow these three tips next time you develop a plan for a major project.

1. Identify all stakeholders and their influence levels

When you establish a communication plan, the first step is to assemble your stakeholder team and assess what members’ roles will be and how they can be most effective. Because stakeholder teams are made up of people from various departments or even separate companies, there are numerous barriers to communication. An effective plan removes these barriers, establishing clear lines for discussion among project members.

In order to make more effective use of time and resources, analyze the influence level of each stakeholder and plan accordingly. For example, a meeting without a decision maker present may end up wasting resources and the time of those who attend. Conversely, meetings should not be set for high-level stakeholders when only minor details are discussed and their presence is unnecessary.

2. Select an appropriate method of communication for all stakeholders 

A common cause of miscommunication is the multiple channels used in today’s workplace. Business communication can take place via email, over the phone, through texts or on video chats. When you create your plan, set a clear mode of communication so that no records are lost and key stakeholders aren’t left out of conversations. Video chats are often the best for keeping remote stakeholders engaged with the rest of the team, but email can help by providing a clear record. Help your team decide on the modes that work best for them.

3. Establish the frequency and level of detail 

A communication plan should plainly and unequivocally lay out the times and dates that members are expected to meet, talk or present data. Meetings held too often may lead to reduced attendance, while meetings held too infrequently may create gaps in communication and loss of productivity.

The level of detail required for each should be established beforehand, so that everyone is on the same page and prepared, leading to less wasted time. Regis College also points out that communication plans that improve productivity also contribute to lower resource costs because work is more efficient.

And don’t forget the project’s executive when building your communication plan. Make sure to include opportunities for the executive to communicate expectations, changes or even kudos.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/3-tips-for-creating-a-successful-communication-plan/

To Manage Your Stakeholders Effectively, Start with a Communications Plan

The difference in project plan outcomes with and without a good communication plan is a real eye-opener for managers. When well-executed, the workflow of a project can advance seamlessly among stakeholders and break down departmental communication silos. Managing project stakeholders is critical to the success of every project. The first step to developing an efficient and effective communications plan is to assess the individuals on the team to determine who are the most essential team members for the project.

Building the grid

Throughout their training and certification, project managers learn about the communication plan process and the role it plays in effective project management. Without a plan, communications can be disjointed and fractured, creating the potential for conflict and miscommunication. Because stakeholders often consist of contributors from different disciplines and functions, managers should conduct a thorough analysis of their team to determine the right talent for each aspect of the communication plan. Stakeholder gridOne technique is to build a plotted grid that conveys each stakeholder’s relationship to the project. Doing so facilitates the categorization of individual employees, determining where his or her efforts will be most effective for the project. In the grid, the X axis identifies the level of interest, or how much the stakeholder will be affected by the outcome, and the Y axis signifies influence, or how much he or she can impact the finished project. Each quadrant, measured from low to high, would help measure the specific value of each project team member and develop the framework for the communication plan. Using the grid, leaders measure how much members of a team will contribute to the success of the project. Employees with high levels of interest and power would be more effective than members with lower levels of these attributes, while those with mixed levels can still positively influence the assignment. From there, managers must decide who will be included in the project.

Managing stakeholder expectations

Stakeholders can vary in terms of influence and interests. While the team assignment itself could drive completion, many factors can impact the project’s success. Several warning signs can point to project management trouble, such as missed deadlines and conflicts among stakeholders. To combat these challenges and break down communication silos, project managers must actively follow their communication plans to the end. It is the only way to keep stakeholders in check and ensure that the project’s needs are met in an efficient manner. Regular meetings—both virtual and in-person—can keep everyone up to speed on progress and serve to better manage stakeholders’ expectations.

Learning from experienced professionals

At Merit Career Development, courses are customized to provide flexibility and meet an organization’s needs. In its experience running effective project management training, Merit has found that many managers were not creating a communication plan, endangering the success of their projects. To illustrate the impact ineffective communication plans can make, Merit had managers run a simulation of a stakeholders meeting without a communication strategy in place. The inefficiencies of this non-strategy were apparent from the start. Merit then had the managers run through the same scenario with a communication plan in place. The differences were dramatic. There was a marked improvement in performance as managers realized the indispensable benefits of effectual planning and were able to better coordinate efforts among the team. Teaching project managers the essentials of developing effective communications plans has become an important component of Merit’s project management training. Merit actively looks to turn on the light bulb for project managers so that the value of efficient communication is crystal clear for them. The solution lies in getting the participants to struggle in the first hour of training in order to understand the benefits of the second hour and the importance of a plan. This can help save time and reduce errors, repetition and confusion among stakeholders and lead to better financial gains for the business. To learn more, review Merit’s course list or contact Merit today.

Click here to find out more about Merit's Stakeholder Management Course


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/to-manage-your-stakeholders-effectively-start-with-a-communications-plan/