Virtuelle Meetings: Dos and Don’ts

Stellen Sie sicher, dass Ihre virtuellen Meetings produktiv sind

Virtuelle Meetings können manchmal knifflig sein. Sind sie eher wie ein Telefonat oder ein persönliches Treffen? Nun, sie sind eine Kombination aus beidem und sollten unterschiedlich behandelt werden. Hier sind einige schnelle und einfache “Dos and Don’ts” für virtuelle Meetings.

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Virtuelle Meetings: “Dos”

  • Stellen Sie sicher, dass alle Beteiligten, die für die Erreichung der Ziele von wesentlicher Bedeutung sind, anwesend sind – ansonsten vereinbaren Sie einen neuen Termin.
  • Seien Sie flexibel mit der Besprechungszeit damit Mitarbeiter in anderen Zeitzonen ebenfalls teilnehmen können.
  • Erstellen Sie eine Agenda, die die Ziele des Meetings beschreibt.
  • Stellen Sie sicher, dass die Besprechungspunkte/Prioritäten/Zeiten mit den Besprechungszielen übereinstimmen.
  • Sagen Sie ein regelmäßig stattfindendes Meeting ab, wenn Sie der Meinung sind, dass die Zeit besser anderweitig genutzt werden könnte.
  • Senden Sie mindestens drei Tage vor dem Meeting eine Erinnerung mit der Tagesordnung, den benötigten Materialien und Informationen über die zu verwendende Technologie.
  • Stellen Sie sicher, dass alle am Meeting teilnehmen und mitwirken
  • Eliminieren Sie Ablenkungen: Schalten Sie alle Smartphones aus und vermeiden Sie E-Mails und Instant Messaging während des Meetings.
  • Machen Sie Nebengespräche über ein Thema zur offiziellen Funktion des Treffens.
  • Entscheidungen und weitere Schritte dokumentieren

Virtuelle Meetings “Don’ts”

  • Halten Sie keine Besprechung ab, wenn Sie die Frage “Was ist der Zweck und das erwartete Ergebnis?” nicht eindeutig beantworten können.
  • Treffen nicht zur “Gewohnheit” werden lassen
  • Versuchen Sie nicht, mehr als fünf spezifische Punkte pro Sitzung abzudecken.
  • Lassen Sie weder Nebensächlichkeiten, “Experten” oder Muttersprachler das Meeting dominieren.
  • Halten Sie keine Sitzung, wenn die für die Ziele der Sitzung wesentlichen Interessengruppen nicht teilnehmen können.
  • Nehmen Sie nicht an, dass die Teammitglieder sich über ihre Rolle und die Ziele des Meetings im Klaren sind.
  • Halten Sie keine kontinuierlichen “Marathon”-Sitzungen ohne Brainstorming oder Pausen in kleinen Gruppen
  • Behandeln Sie kritische Themen nicht zu Beginn des Meetings
  • Lassen Sie die Besprechung nicht aus dem Ruder laufen, indem Sie die Details einer Aktion besprechen, die für die Ziele der Besprechung nicht relevant sind.
  • Fangen Sie nicht später an

Mehr Tipps zu virtuellen Teams?

Diese Dos and Don’ts sind nur eine kleine Auswahl der Tipps in unserem neuesten Ebook: The ultimate book of Virtual Teams checklists. Stellen Sie sicher, dass Sie eine Kopie herunterladen, wenn Sie daran interessiert sind, die Wirkung Ihres virtuellen Teams zu maximieren. Viel Spaß beim Lesen und…. lassen Sie uns wissen, was für Ihr virtuelles Team funktioniert!!

Elvis, Statistiken und virtuelle Teams

Zum Zeitpunkt von Elvis’ Tod gab es schätzungsweise 170 Elvis-Imitatoren in der Welt. Heute gibt es mindestens 85.000 Elvis auf der ganzen Welt. Bei dieser Wachstumsrate wird “statistisch gesehen” jeder Dritte der Weltbevölkerung bis 2019 ein Elvis-Imitator sein.

Ich teile dies aus zwei Gründen. Erstens bin ich immer misstrauisch, wie man mit Hilfe von Statistiken eine Aussage machen kann – in diesem Fall eine absurde, wenn auch humorvolle. Zweitens können uns Statistiken helfen zu verstehen, was um uns herum geschieht. Es gibt viel mehr Elvis-Imitatoren auf der Welt als früher, und die Zahl steigt weiter an.

Virtuelle Teamstatistiken

“”Was hat das mit virtuellen Teams zu tun?”, höre ich Sie sagen. Verbringen Sie 10 Minuten im Internet, und Sie können zahlreiche Statistiken über virtuelle Teams finden. Hier ist eine Auswahl…

  • 66% der multinationalen Unternehmen nutzen in großem Umfang virtuelle Teams, d.h. Projektteams, Managementteams, Serviceteams
  • 7 von 10 Managern glauben, dass sich virtuelle Teams in Zukunft immer mehr durchsetzen werden.
  • Zwischen 49% und 52% sind der Meinung, dass Zeitunterschiede den Erfolg des Teams beeinflussen – wobei die Standardlösung darin besteht, dass die Mitarbeiter viel länger arbeiten, um ihre Verfügbarkeit für Teambesprechungen sicherzustellen.
  • 15%-28% der Teammitglieder sind der Meinung, dass ein Mangel an Bewusstsein über die Arbeitsbelastung anderer Teammitglieder ein wiederkehrendes Problem ist. Virtuelle Teamleiter empfinden das Problem als größer.
  • Irgendwo zwischen 51% – 79% der virtuellen Teammitglieder glauben, dass der Mangel an persönlichen Beziehungen innerhalb des Teams Probleme verursacht
  • Ineffektive Führungsstile wirken sich negativ auf die Leistung eines virtuellen Teams aus (25 % bis 71 %).
  • 55% bis 73% der virtuellen Teamleiter glauben, dass die Entscheidungsfindung zu langsam ist.
  • 71% der Teams sind der Meinung, dass es an aktiver Teilnahme unter den Teammitgliedern mangelt.
  • Zwischen 10% und 47% der internationalen virtuellen Teams sind der Meinung, dass unzureichende Englischkenntnisse die Ergebnisse des Teams negativ beeinflussen.
  • Unterschiede in den kulturellen Normen stellen auch Herausforderungen an die Kommunikation, Entscheidungsfindung und den Aufbau von Beziehungen innerhalb des virtuellen Teams dar (26 % -49 %).
  • 81% sind der Meinung, dass schlechte Kommunikation und unangemessener Informationsaustausch (zu viel oder zu wenig) zwischen den Teammitgliedern den Erfolg des Teams beeinflussen.
  • Nicht zu wissen, wie man die vorhandene Technologie effektiv nutzt, ist ein Problem für mindestens 1 von 5 virtuellen Teams.
  • Nur 16% der Teams haben ein Training zur Arbeit in virtuellen Teams absolviert.

Was hat das zu bedeuten?

Zurück zu den beiden oben genannten Gründen – ja, wir verwenden Statistiken, um einen Punkt über virtuelle Teams zu machen. Wir sind ein Ausbildungsbetrieb, und ja, wir möchten, dass Sie in das Training investieren. Die obigen Statistiken helfen uns jedoch zu sehen, was passiert. So wie es heute weit mehr Elvis-Imitatoren gibt als 1977, ist es klar, dass virtuelle Teams da sind, um zu bleiben, dass die Herausforderungen bekannt sind und dass wir anfangen müssen, diese Barrieren anzugehen und zu überwinden, wenn wir wirklich effektiv arbeiten wollen.

Natürlich kann kein Trainingsprogramm das Problem des zeitzonenübergreifenden Arbeitens lösen, aber praktisches Training spielt bei vielen anderen Herausforderungen, mit denen virtuelle Teams konfrontiert sind, eine Rolle. Ein aufgabenspezifisches Business-Englisch-Training kann die durch Sprachbarrieren verursachten Grundprobleme verringern, und wenn Sie ein interkulturelles Element in Ihr Training integrieren, können Sie das Bewusstsein für die Auswirkungen der Kultur auf Geschäftsbeziehungen und Kommunikation schärfen. Soft Skills Training kann virtuelle Teamleiter viel entspannter und effektiver machen, wenn sie Teams führen. Dies wiederum wird Herausforderungen wie langsame Entscheidungsfindung, Umgang mit Konflikten und aktive Teambeteiligung ansprechen. Und was die Technologie betrifft: sie ist nicht so anspruchsvoll. Es geht vielmehr darum, Ihre Werkzeuge effektiv einzusetzen und Ihre Kommunikation und Teamdynamik entsprechend anzupassen.

Eine Vorab-Investition in Trainingseinheiten kann und wird Ihren virtuellen Teams langfristig greifbare Vorteile bringen. Aber jetzt genug davon: Strassanzug und Perücke anziehen und los singen.

 

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THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF VIRTUAL TEAMS CHECKLISTSVTchecklists

CHECKLIST – ARE YOU AN EFFECTIVE VIRTUAL TEAM MEMBER?

Buchbesprechung: 5 tolle Bücher zur Leistungssteigerung Ihrer virtuellen Teams

Wie wir von vielen unserer Teilnehmer in unseren virtuellen Teamseminaren gehört haben, sind die Herausforderungen von virtuellen Teams ähnlich wie die von Face-to-Face-Teams, nur  nochmal vergrößert. Hinzu kommen neue Herausforderungen, wie z.B. die Auswirkungen des fehlenden sozialen Kontakts, der die Teams zusammenhält, oder die Anpassung der richtigen Technologie an die richtige Aufgabe. Die unten aufgeführten Quellen helfen uns weiterhin, uns auf praktische Lösungen für die realen Probleme und Möglichkeiten virtueller Teams zu konzentrieren. Wir hoffen, dass sie Ihnen auch in einer virtuellen Umgebung zum Erfolg verhelfen.

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Virtual Team Success

von Darleen Derosa & Richard Lepsinger

Dieses forschungsbasierte Buch ist eine Zusammenstellung von praktischen Ansätzen für virtuelles Teaming. Das Buch enthält eine Reihe hilfreicher Checklisten und Best Practices, die als Leitfaden für virtuelle Teamleiter und Teilnehmer dienen können. Der Verhaltensfokus von Virtual Team Success wird Ihnen helfen, Probleme zu überwinden, bevor sie auftreten, und zwar mit einer sachlichen Beratung, die auf echtem Erfolg basiert. Wenn Sie die Investition von Zeit, Energie und Ressourcen zur Verbesserung Ihrer virtuellen Teams rechtfertigen müssen, hilft Ihnen dieses Buch dabei. Die Prozesse zur Lösung gemeinsamer Probleme in virtuellen Teams sind ein Highlight.

Mastering Virtual Teams: Strategies Tools and Techniques that Succeed

von Deborah Duarte & Nancy Snyder

Die Autoren von Mastering Virtual Teams haben Best Practices, Tools und Techniken aus der Teamtheorie und dem Informations- und Wissensmanagement auf die Herausforderungen virtueller Teams angewandt. Sie haben die Informationen in drei leicht verständliche Bereiche gegliedert: Virtuelle Teams verstehen, erstellen und beherrschen. Ihre große praktische Erfahrung als Professoren, Berater und Wirtschaftsführer prägen den “how to”-Ansatz des Buches. Das Buch bietet ein Toolkit für Teilnehmer, Führungskräfte und Manager virtueller Teams. Praktische Werkzeuge, Übungen, Einsichten und Beispiele aus der Praxis helfen Ihnen, die Dynamik der virtuellen Teambeteiligung mit Richtlinien, Strategien und Best Practices für interkulturelles und funktionsübergreifendes Arbeiten zu meistern. Statt einfach nur “Vertrauen aufbauen” zu sagen, geben uns die Autoren beispielsweise drei allgemeine Richtlinien für den Aufbau von Vertrauen in einer virtuellen Umgebung an. Kein Wunder, dass diese Faktoren auch in zusammengesetzten Teams funktionieren. Sie haben eine CD-Rom mit der dritten Ausgabe beigefügt – eine einfache Möglichkeit, die Checklisten und hilfreichen Dokumente aus dem Buch auszudrucken.

Where in the World is My Team: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace

von Terrence Brake

Where in the World is My Team: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace folgt den Heldentaten von Will Williams, der seinen Weg in einen virtuellen Arbeitsplatz und das Leben eines jungen Berufstätigen in London geht. Als Erzählung, die die Best Practices virtueller Organisationen und Teams verwebt, hilft das Buch dem Leser, Schritt für Schritte, Seite für Seite mitzugehen und Where in the World is My Team: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace nicht nur als Ressourcendokument zu verwenden. Das Buch ist weit mehr als nur ein unterhaltsamer Blick auf das digitale Leben. Der sehr detaillierte Anhang des Buches bietet recherchierte Unterstützung für die in der Geschichte hervorgehobenen virtuellen Strukturen und Werkzeuge. Die 6 C’s der globalen Zusammenarbeit von Brake bieten einen logischen Rahmen für die Bedürfnisse effektiver virtueller Teams.

Leading Virtual Teams

Harvard Business School Publishing

Leading Virtual Teams ist eine schnelle und einfache Anleitung für diejenigen, die nicht überzeugt werden müssen, ihre virtuellen Teams zu verbessern, sonder lediglich Tipps dafür brauchen. Das Buch behandelt die Grundlagen für diejenigen, die ihre ersten Erfahrungen mit führenden virtuellen Teams machen. Es gibt Hinweise auf verwandte Harvard Business Publikationen, eine Erwähnung des Harvard Erweiterungskurses zum Thema Managing Virtual Teams, der virtuell unterrichtet wird, und einen kurzen Test als Check-on-Learning.

The Big Book of Virtual Team Building Games

von Mary Scannell & Michael Abrams

The Big Book of Virtual Team Building Games füllt einen aktuellen Entwicklungsbedarf für viele virtuelle Teams mit Spielen, die den Aufbau von Beziehungen, die Lösung von Problemen und Teamfähigkeiten fördern. Die Spiele sind so konzipiert, dass sie mit verschiedenen virtuellen Teamplattformen gespielt werden können und sind geschickt nach Tuckmans Stadien der Teamentwicklung – forming, storming, norming, performing, sowie dem zusätzlichen Stadium transforming – angeordnet. Jedes Spiel wird ausführlich mit der ungefähren Zeit für die Fertigstellung beschrieben. Beachten Sie, dass Teams mit Mitgliedern, die eine Nicht-Muttersprache verwenden, etwas länger dauern können, als vorhergesagt.

 

Effektive E-Mail-Etikette für virtuelle Teams

E-Mail ist nach wie vor eines der häufigsten Kommunikationskanäle in virtuellen Teams – und das kann durchaus zu Spannungen führen.  Die proaktive Bewältigung potenzieller Probleme ist der Schlüssel zum erfolgreichen Start eines virtuellen Teams – deshalb diskutieren wir in unseren Präsenz- und Online-Seminaren mit virtuellen Teamleitern die Erwartungen.  Natürlich kommt dabei die Kommunikation ins Spiel und die Zeit, die für die Erstellung eines Kommunikationsplans aufgewendet wird, ist immer gut investiert. Wie Jochen, ein deutscher Projektleiter, sagte: “Es klingt so offensichtlich, dass wir nicht daran gedacht haben, es zu tun – und jetzt, wo wir es haben, kann ich schon sagen, dass wir einige echte Hindernisse gelöst haben”.

Erstellung eines Kommunikationsplans beim Start Ihres virtuellen Teams

Ein Kommunikationsplan beschreibt, welche Kommunikationsmittel Sie verwenden werden und wie Sie diese nutzen werden.  Zum Beispiel “wir benutzen Webex für Brainstorming und Problemlösung, wir benutzen Hipster zum Chatten und Teilen von Links und wir benutzen Email für….”

Bei der Erstellung des Plans geht es darum, Ansätze und Erwartungen zu diskutieren – und durch das Durchsprechen dieser Erwartungen können Sie verschiedene Einstellungen aufdecken und mit ihnen umgehen.  Ein Beispiel, auf das wir oft stoßen, wenn wir mit multikulturellen virtuellen Teams arbeiten, ist, dass ein Teammitglied erwartet, dass die Leute ein höfliches “Danke für die Nachricht” zurückschreiben, ein anderes kann dies jedoch als Zeitverschwendung – und sogar als lästig! – empfinden. Und weil E-Mail immer noch so allgegenwärtig ist, haben wir gesehen, dass die meisten Frustrationen von der Art und Weise herrühren, wie Menschen E-Mails nutzen (oder nicht nutzen). Damit Sie mit Ihrer Planung beginnen können, teilen wir Ihnen hier eine Liste von E-Mail-Verpflichtungen mit, denen einer unserer Kunden zugestimmt hat (natürlich mit deren Erlaubnis).

E-Mail-Verpflichtungen eines Software-Entwicklungsteams, das virtuell in 3 Ländern arbeitet

  1. Wir werden unsere E-Mails mindestens alle 3 Stunden überprüfen.
  2. Wir checken keine E-Mails, wenn wir in Meetings sind.
  3. Wir benutzen das Telefon und hinterlassen eine Nachricht, wenn etwas wirklich zeitkritisch ist.
  4. Wir schreiben E-Mail-Betreffzeilen, die sofort erklären, worum es in der E-Mail geht.
  5. Wir werden Schlüsselwörter wie “Erledigen bis zum XX” oder “zu Ihrer Information” in den Titeln verwenden.
  6. Wir gehen davon aus, dass jemand, der in eine E-Mail kopiert wird (cc), nicht antworten muss.
  7. Wir werden es vermeiden, “Antwort an alle” zu verwenden, wenn nicht jeder die Informationen unbedingt benötigt.
  8. Wir benutzen das Telefon, wenn 3 E-Mails zu einem Thema geschickt wurden.
  9. Wir akzeptieren, dass E-Mails, die von Handys gesendet werden, gelegentlich Tippfehler enthalten.
  10. Wir erwarten, dass größere E-Mails gut geschrieben sind.
  11. Wir verwenden keine BLOCKSCHRIFT (CAPITALS) und wir benutzen normalerweise keine Farben, es sei denn, etwas ist kritisch und wichtig.
  12. Wir verwenden fett, um dabei zu helfen, nach wichtigen Informationen zu scannen.
  13. Wir schenken den Personen im Zweifel immer das Vertrauen, wenn etwas auf zwei Arten verstanden werden kann.
  14. Wenn wir eine E-Mail in einem emotionalen Zustand schreiben, sind wir uns alle einig, dass wir sie speichern werden – und am nächsten Tag darauf zurückkommen. Und trotzdem wird ein Anruf von allen bevorzugt.
  15. Wenn wir zwischenmenschliche Probleme haben, verwenden wir keine E-Mails – wir benutzen das Telefon oder nutzen Skype für Unternehmen.
  16. Wir werden diese Liste jedes 4. Skype-Meeting überprüfen. Halten wir uns noch alle daran?

Die obige Liste ist klar und übersichtlich. Sie wurde in einer 30-minütigen Diskussion aufgebaut und sie funktioniert. Wir werben nicht dafür, dass Ihr sie wörtlich nehmt – aber warum nicht als Sprungbrett nutzen, um das Verhalten Ihres eigenen Teams zu diskutieren? Der Aufbau eines gemeinsamen Verständnisses im Vorfeld hilft Ihrem virtuellen Team, reibungslos und sicher zu kommunizieren.

Und wenn Sie mehr lesen wollen

Hier ist ein nützliches Dokument (auf Englisch) mit Tipps und Redewendungen für eine effektive Kommunikation zwischen verschiedene Kulturen.

Virtuell Feedback geben

Müssen Sie manchmal Ihr Feedback virtuell geben?

Geben Sie Ihren Lieferanten, Kunden und Mitarbeitern effektives Feedback – sowohl positiv als auch konstruktiv (negativ)? Gutes, rechtzeitiges, konstruktives und umsetzbares Feedback zu geben, ist etwas, wofür die meisten von uns viel Arbeit investieren müssen. Loben wir die richtigen Dinge? Wenn wir konstruktives Feedback geben, machen wir dann positive Vorschläge? Denken wir immer daran, das Thema anzusprechen, nicht die Person?VTchecklists

Feedback zu geben allein ist schon nicht einfach. Aber in einer immer virtueller werdenden Geschäftswelt gutes Feedback zu geben, kann eine echte Herausforderung sein. Wenn wir ein paar der Komplexitäten hinzufügen, die sich aus der virtuellen Interaktion ergeben, müssen wir eine noch schwierigere Aufgabe bewältigen. Einige dieser Herausforderungen sind Timing, Lesereaktionen, Spezifität und Ton. Wenn Sie virtuell, z.B. per E-Mail, Feedback geben, finden Sie hier einige Vorschläge und Tipps, die Ihnen helfen sollen, Ihre Arbeit besser zu machen.

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5 Tipps für das virtuelle Feedback

 1.  Stellen Sie sicher, dass das Timing stimmt – vor allem, wenn Ihr Feedback negativ ist. Denken Sie daran, wie ein Kind oder ein Haustier aufgezogen wird: Ihnen drei Tage später zu sagen, dass sie etwas falsch gemacht haben, ist kontraproduktiv!

2.  Sorgen Sie dafür, dass der Leser sofort versteht, worum es in der E-Mail geht:

  • Verwenden Sie eine Betreffzeile wie: “Feedback zu Ihrem Vorschlag”
  • Sagen Sie im ersten Satz, warum Sie eine E-Mail schreiben: “Ich schreibe Ihnen ein Feedback zu dem Vorschlag, den Sie mir am 4. Januar geschickt haben.”
  • Sagen Sie, welches Feedback enthalten ist: “Ich habe einige Rückmeldungen bezüglich der Preisgestaltung und des Zahlungsprozesses.”

3.  Brechen Sie Ihr Feedback auf. Wenn Sie gesagt haben, dass Sie eine Rückmeldung über den Preis und den Zahlungsprozess haben, sollten dies zwei völlig getrennte Absätze sein. Geben Sie ihnen Überschriften, wenn Sie wollen.

4.  Versuchen Sie konkret zu sein und begründen Sie Ihre Aussagen. Zum Beispiel:

  • “Wir mochten Ihren Vorschlag.” Vor allem die zweite Seite, auf der Sie erwähnt haben, dass sich das Training auf unsere Unternehmenswerte konzentrieren würde. Das passt wirklich zu unserer Firmenphilosophie.”
  • “Leider können wir dem Punkt 3 in Abschnitt 2, der sich auf die Zahlungsmöglichkeiten bezieht, nicht zustimmen. Das steht nicht im Einklang mit unseren Compliance-Richtlinien.”

5.  Wenn Sie einen Vorschlag ablehnen, versuchen Sie, einen Gegenvorschlag zu machen. Zum Beispiel:

  • “Wir können Punkt 3 in Abschnitt 2 nicht zustimmen. Aber wir könnten uns einigen, wenn die Zahlungsfrist auf 60 Tage verlängert würde.”
  • “Mir gefällt es nicht, wie Sie den Bericht formatiert haben. Könnten Sie es nächstes Mal anhand des beigefügten Beispiels versuchen oder kommen Sie einfach zu mir, um meine Anforderungen genauer zu besprechen.”

Natürlich gibt es noch viele andere Dinge, die helfen können, das virtuelles Feedback effektiver zu gestalten. Bitte zögern Sie nicht, Ihre zusätzlichen Ideen in den Kommentaren unten einzutragen. Besuchen Sie auch unser Seminar “Effektiv in virtuellen Teams arbeiten“, um die Leistung Ihres virtuellen Teams zu verbessern.

 

 

Virtuelle Team-Meetings: Empathie und Rapport aufbauen

How are your Virtual Team meetings?

More and more meetings are being held virtually. Virtual team meetings are a trend that is bound to continue as it is far cheaper than getting everyone together. But it isn’t the same, is it? Unless you use webcams, you can’t pick up on any nonverbal communication going on. You can’t see people’s faces. You can’t see what they are thinking. To be honest, you don’t know what they’re actually even doing. You also, and this point bothers me the most, can’t have that cup of coffee together at the beginning where you exchange a few words often unrelated to business.

Why is the social aspect so important?

You completely miss out on the opportunity to establish any empathy or rapport with the people you are working with. Imagine for example that you are having a virtual team meeting to discuss solving a problem you have. If you don’t have any form of relationship with these people, how can you expect them to help? Isn’t it easier to request help from someone you know a little about? If you don’t know them at all, how can you choose the right way of talking to them to win them over? Of course, the need for empathy building will vary from culture to culture. Some will take an order as an order and just do it, but not that many. And what happens if you have a multi-cultural team?

What can you do to establish virtual empathy and rapport?

It is doubtful as to whether empathy can actually be taught. But there are techniques which help to develop it. Here are a few:

  • Begin the webmeeting on time, with a quick round of self introductions. It is important to hear everyone’s voice and know who is present. Remind participants that each time they speak, they should identify themselves again.
  • Log in early and encourage small talk while waiting for everyone to join in and at the beginning of the meeting itself – have that cup of coffee virtually. This will help to make a connection between people and give them a bit of character. In a remote meeting you often feel distant from each other, and this can make it difficult to interact. This feeling of distance happens, because the participants are in different places and often can’t see each other. Small talk helps to ‘bridge the distances’. Small talk also helps you to get to know each other and each other’s voices, so you know who is speaking and when. This will help communication later on in the meeting.VTchecklists

What can you talk about and what should you say?

Small talk can also give you valuable information about the other participants which could be important to the success of the meeting. What mood are they in? Are they having computer problems? Are they calling from a quiet location? Here are some topics we recommend using and some language to get you started. There are literally hundreds of things you could say, but it can be helpful to have a few prepared. You’ll see that some of these are particular to virtual meetings:

Ort

  • F: Von wo aus sprechen Sie gerade?
  • A: Ich bin an meinem Schreibtisch. Wie ist es bei Ihnen?

Wetter

  • F: Wie ist das Wetter bei Ihnen? Bei uns ist es ziemlich düster!
  • A: Wir haben blauen Himmel und Sonnenschein. Hoffentlich kommt das bald zu Ihnen rüber!

Einloggen

  • F: Wie haben Sie sich eingeloggt? Ich hatte ein paar Probleme.
  • A: Es hat gut geklappt. Welche Probleme hatten Sie?

Tonqualität

  • F: Können Sie mich gut hören?
  • A: Tut mir leid, es ist etwas leise. Könnten Sie lauter sprechen?

Verbindungsqualität

  • F: Ich kämpfe hier mit einer ernsthaften Verzögerung. Wie ist es bei Ihnen?
  • A: Bei mir klappt es gut. Vielleicht ist es Ihre Internetverbindung?

Arbeit

  • F: Wie läuft es momentan im Marketing?
  • A: Ach, Sie wissen doch, beschäftigt wie immer. Wie sieht es in Ihrer Abteilung aus?

If you give lots of information in your answers, it makes it easier for the other person to ask more questions and keep the conversation going. If you just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it will stop the conversation. If you’re asking questions, remember to use open questions so that they can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”.

More on this topic can be found in our Using Collaborative Technologies Seminar. Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how to build empathy and rapport in your virtual team meetings? Let us know in the comments area below.

 

Linking and building to successfully influence others

In today’s business world of cross-functional initiatives, matrix structures and virtual teams, the ability to influence others is becoming even more essential if you want to succeed. And no matter what your influencing style is, to effectively influence somebody you need to connect with them. If you’re trying to influence somebody it means that you have differing opinions and ideas. One of the simplest ways to influence somebody is by “linking and building”: Find and focus on the agreement … and then build on this. Most people are open to sharing and discussing their opinions and ideas – and most of us are aware that our ideas are not the only ones valid. What we want is to be taken seriously and feel listened to.  This is where “linking” comes in – if you link your ideas to their ideas it clearly shows you have listened to and understood their thoughts and feelings.  And when you build on somebody’s ideas it means you are validating their contributions.  This builds rapport and relationships WHICH then makes the process of influencing so much easier...
The big (free) eBook of negotiations language

 

 5 things to keep in mind

1. Is the link already there?

Do you just need to draw their attention to it? Or will you need to build the link step by step? If so you need to find some common ground – this could be a shared goal, a previous experience or perhaps the two of you are seeing the same current challenges?  Open questions like “Where do you think we need to go?” or “What are your thoughts?” work well here …

2. When you find your “link”, be explicit about what you like / share about their views, opinion, drives etc.

For example. “It’s clear to me that we both want to make sure any changes we make don’t cost people more time” or “What I really like about your approach is that you’re considering the end-user first. I feel the same way”

3. Focus on positives and use positive language.

Most people are very rarely completely wrong, just as you are very rarely completely right.  Understanding this means that it is always possible to approach something by looking for the “right” ideas e.g. “What I like about your suggestion is …” thereby creating a positive spiral and rapport – as opposed to focusing on what you don’t like e.g. “ I can’t imagine this working” thereby creating a downwards negative spiral (source – George Prince – The Practice of Creativity).

4. There are going to be differences.

If there weren’t you wouldn’t be trying to influence each other! But make an effort to delay focusing on differences until some bridges have been built. When you turn to them, link back to the shared elements you’ve found and be explicit about your reasons. “It seems that we agree on the causes of the problem and we have different ideas about what needs doing. Why do you think this is?” Don’t assume the everything is obvious!

5. As you progress do continually clarify.

Use language like “So what you’re saying is …” and “Let me just check I’m understanding you … “. This shows your understanding of their views, ideas and thoughts AND actually ensures you do actually understand. Build your bridge on concrete foundations.

Linking and building is just one of many practical techniques from our influencing seminars that can help you successfully influence others. And it starts with getting all parties to face in the same direction. Please contact if you’d like to know more.

 

Quick tips on editing your own work

In an ideal situation, one of your colleagues, an internal editor, or proofreader (or InCorporate Trainer) will help you perfect your written masterpiece before you unleash it onto the world. But let’s say you’re left to edit your own work and said work is a lengthy document, or one with sensitive information in places. For one reason or another, your document needs to a final check. I don’t mean a spellcheck. But definitely do one of those as well.



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Edit your work after you’ve finished writing

Writing and editing belong to two separate phases of the writing process. When the editing work begins, you are no longer the author. An editor is not emotionally attached to the words. He/she will mercilessly cut out the most poetic of phrases and well thought out sentences if they interfere with the readability (for example).

  • Cut long sentences in two
  • Replace negatives with positives
  • Use simple language
  • Reduce prepositions
  • Don’t use words you don’t need

More editing tips behind this link. Or if you’re editing an English document, here’s a good post with examples of wimpy words and feeble phrases, and much more.

Take a break first

If you begin the editing process immediately after you finish writing, it can be difficult to catch errors, especially the very small ones. Have a coffee, take a walk around the block or, better yet, leave your writing for a day or two and then come back to it with a fresh perspective.

Edit your work in a different format

You might be surprised how helpful it can be to transfer your work to another format for proofreading. Some possible ideas: print your work on paper, view it on your tablet, project it on the wall or temporarily change the font of your entire document.

Start big

Rather than worrying about spelling, commas and full stops at the beginning of editing, start with a broad overview. Do you need to add or cut a section? Did you forget to include important information? After reading your work, did you realize that you need to re-write something? If yes, do it at this first stage of your edit. Otherwise, you might end up proofreading material that you cut later. Does your document still need:

  • Paragraph headers
  • A summary or a conclusion
  • Links to sources/resources
  • Graphics

Slice and dice

When you’re satisfied with the format and overall structure of your document, it still needs further fine-tuning. This is the time to reduce the number of words in your document and search for shorter, more concise ways to communicate what your audience needs to know. Look out for:

Read your document aloud

You could say “the fact of the matter is that editing is essential”, or you could say “editing is essential”. Readers have little patience for verbose writing. In addition to helping you spot errors with spelling and pronunciation, reading aloud will help you get a feel for the rhythm and tone of your document. Do you get tongue-tied trying to read one sentence? Re-write it so it flows more smoothly. Look out for:

Tell yourself, “It’s finished.”

Leonardo Da Vinci said that a work of art is never finished, merely abandoned. Even if you don’t consider your document a work of art, you will probably never be 100% satisfied. However, after you’ve edited your document as much as possible, call it a day and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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We offer a variety of writing skills seminars:

TED talks on motivation and leadership

This week’s post was meant to be about customer service skills. Once I had my initial ideas on virtual paper, I started searching online resources. Very quickly and inevitably I ended up on TED.com and almost an hour later, I was still watching videos, no longer anything to do with customer service. My post was about what customer service professionals can do to stay motivated, with an array of some not so nice customers contacting them. It was inspired by one of my not so very motivated participants. He said: I don’t care if they’re nice or not. I don’t care if they think I’m nice or not. I still get paid for taking the call. Being motivated to do a good job has very little to do with having ‘nice’ customers – ultimately. That was one of the points of my post. Perhaps I will finish the post, it was an interesting training session. This post is instead about everyday leadership, feeling good and staying motivated.
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What makes us feel good about our work

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely starts his TED talk ‘What makes us feel good about our work‘ with a mountain climbing example. “…If you read books of people who climb mountains, difficult mountains, do you think that those books are full of moments of joy and happiness? No, they are full of misery. In fact, it’s all about frostbite and having difficulty walking, and difficulty breathing — cold, challenging circumstances. And if people were just trying to be happy, the moment they would get to the top, they would say, “This was a terrible mistake. I’ll never do it again.”

Everyday leadership

This very personal TED talk from Drew Dudley is easily transferable to a business context. ‘Everyday leadership‘ starts with a clear message. “…I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us; something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. We’ve taken this title of “leader” and treat it as something that one day we’re going to deserve. But to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do, that we’ve convinced ourselves those are the only things worth celebrating. We start to devalue the things we can do every day. We take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, or feel good about it.”

The happy secret to better work

Shawn Achor’s very funny talk ‘The happy secret to better work‘ is definitely worth watching. “… One of the first things we teach people in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit? Which is fantastic if I’m trying to find out how many Advil the average person should be taking — two. But if I’m interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we’re creating the cult of the average with science. If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. If you fall below the average, then psychologists get thrilled, because that means you’re depressed or have a disorder, or hopefully both.”

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Not bored of videos yet? This playlist contains 7 talks on loving what you do. Also recommended, here are a few customer service posts from our blog. Our new and very much improved Boost your Business English blog is online.

The best training course I have ever been on (or why wanting to be there made all the difference)

Most of my working life I have worked independently in or with small organisations, where training has often been on the job and learning by doing (the “70%”), or learning from and copying colleagues (the “20%”) And to be clear I’m not complaining –I’ve worked with and learnt from a long list of inspiring individuals. So a big thank you to Jörg, Wilfried, Wolfgang, George, Danny, Richard, Mac, Piers, Niven and many many others. Indeed the best “training” I have ever experienced was the 20% of the 70/20/10 model – and the best training course I have ever been on was one I really wanted to join. Here’s what made it such a great experience.

Professional and personal benefit

I’ve never been “sent to training.” Any seminar I’ve attended has been self-financed, and I’ve therefore always been choosy. Earlier in my career I attended seminars that could provide a hard benefit for my own work – but the best seminar I’ve ever attended benefited not just my work but me personally. The seminar was an introduction to the Ennegram. It was run by the Enneagram Institute of Greece and took place in a small hotel on Naxos, an idyllic Greek island.




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Inspiring trainers

The Enneagram unfortunately does not appear often on the radar screen of the HR departments of most German corporations – it seems at first glance to be too wacky and esoteric, but as a trainer who has worked with DISC, SDI and the MBTI I’ve found it to be powerful and challenging. The seminar was delivered by two inspirational Ennegram experts, Russ Hudson and Don Riso. Don and Russ had together developed the Enneagram away from the esoteric and mystic and made it into a robust psychometric tool, although the word tool does not do it justice. To cover the content of the seminar in a paragraph would be to invite ridicule. Suffice to say it covered applied psychology, history, mathematics, anthropology, theology. We explored the 9 types and took them to a deeper level.

The five day workshop provided space and opportunity for self-reflection. It was a „selfish” learning programme, in a positive sense. There was a refreshing shift away from learning a couple of tips and techniques for the day to day work – and a rewarding focus was on what are my motivations, how can I develop and how can I avoid the downward spiral into the darker side of my personality.

Location, location, location

The location was paradise. Imagine arriving at Athens’ airport, a short bus ride to the port of Rafina, staying overnight and eating seafood, catching the morning ferry to the Cyclades, a three hour sail to Naxos, disembarking, lunch in the harbour tavern, finding one of the island’s few taxis then to the hotel with its own beach surrounded by endless blue sky and water.

Motivated participants

The other participants were diverse, motivated and engaged – even the more sceptical among us. We learnt together and from each other, and from Russ and Don. Our only mystery was our selves. There were long lunches with time to swim and sleep; but we worked late into the night (Mediterranean time rhythm). The room was small, crowded and hot and it did not matter. Technical support was non-existent and not needed: the view was breath-taking and more motivating than a PowerPoint screen.

To summarize

Like Hans Castorp in the Magic Mountain I re-entered the real world five days later, enriched and motivated. Here are the factors that made the training so fantastic.

  • It was not a “have to join” seminar but a “want to join” seminar.
  • The course presenters were inspirational.
  • The other participants were diverse professionally and culturally and I made some good friends.
  • Learning from each other is powerful.
  • It was a great location – I doubted it would have had the same impact in a business hotel at an airport.
  • The content was intellectually stimulating and challenging
  • There was ample time and process for self-reflection
  • And as a bonus I could transfer what I learnt to my private and business life.

I believe looking at the list above there are clear parallels and transferable to dos to the corporate world of organizing training. Do you see them too?

What does Blended Learning really mean?

Blended Learning (BL) is one of those terms that is kicked around freely in the world of training and development. The only problem is that there are so many different interpretations of what it actually means. For some people it is virtual training, for some it is e-learning, others might think it is e-learning with a mixture of classroom time, and so on. A great starting point is to think about the meaning of the word “blend”. The chances are, you have a blender in your kitchen. What do you do with your blender? Usually you pick the ingredients you want to make your smoothie, soup, marinade or whatever else you might be making. You pick those ingredients in the quantities that you like, and you hit the blend button to get the result you are looking for. That’s what blended learning is: choose your ingredients, adjust the quantities, blend, and you’ve got your result.

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Why should you consider adopting a blended approach to learning in your organization?

Research by the National Training Laboratory (World Bank) shows that the amount of new information trainees retain depends on how the information is presented. The graph below shows the retention rates for the six most common methods of teaching new information:

retention graph Logically then, one mode of delivery is not sufficient to achieve the intended results from training programs. The more you blend, the better the results. And consequently, the better your return on investment is.  Blending is therefore not really a training option,it’s a must.

What can you put in your BL toolbox?

The different ways of training (training modalities) are important to understand. Your 5 main choices are:

  • Face-to-face training (seminars, classes, workshops, peer coaching)
  • On-the-job training
  • Wikis and community learning
  • Webinars / Virtual classrooms
  • Web-based Training (WBTs)

At the most basic level, blended learning could be that you set home work after a training intervention and follow up on it, BUT you can do much better than that!  In this mobile age, there are literally hundreds of tools out there you can choose from. You’ll need to take a look at them, evaluate them, and figure out which ones are best for you and your organization. And if you’re not happy with any of them, there are easy-to-use platforms that allow you to develop your own.

How can you get that perfect blend for your training program?

Deciding which elements to use when isn’t easy, but there are tools out there. You need to decide which tools are best suited to each step along the learning journey you are designing. Try using a decision tree to help you with this.

What are the main obstacles?

The 5 main obstacles we’ve seen clients face are:

  1. When are you asking your participants to do the elements which are not face-to-face? In a lot of cases, this has to happen after work and within their own time. Your staff have to complete certain elements, but they need to be given time and space to do this. This means a higher investment of course, but you can then expect that the participants will work through these blended elements. The level of motivation will also be much higher, and that will mean that the participants are actually likely to learn more.
  2. The fear of technology. Blended Learning does not actually have to involve a technology based part, but invariably these days it will. Some people are easily able to take on new IT tools, while others find this more challenging, and ultimately scary.
  3. Getting and sustaining true virtual engagement. I speak from experience as a participant. I have joined an online course with chat functions to help interaction between the participants and tutor. For the first few modules I’ve been full of energy and assigned time for the training, but after that practical realities and operational issues have got in the way, and the training has slipped further down my to-do list (especially when there are no time constraints on the training). That’s a big shame, but it is a reality, and one that I’m not alone in facing.
  4. Disconnected content. Successful Blended Learning involves teaching and deepening the same content using different modalities and a range of tools. In several programs I’ve seen there has been little connection between the content of the face-to-face training and the virtual elements. Rather than building on knowledge, new input is being given in each setting. This may be because there is so much input, but the result will be that a lot has been covered, but little has been learnt.
  5. Unrealistic expectations. Just because a participant has attended a webinar, it does not mean that they actually know the content. You need to have seen facts several times and be able to relate them to a relevant context in order to learn them. It’s only when you need the information in reality that you will see how successful this has been. If no opportunity arises over the months following this training element, then it is likely that participants will not remember much of the session. Blended Learning can help by offering further tools to aid retention outside the training room – but application is essential!

Blended Learning is finding the right blend of training tools to suit your individual organizational needs. Finding this blend will help improve learning retention as well as providing resources that participants can refer to outside face-to-face training. On the flip side, if you’re investing in or designing a Blended Learning program for your organization, then you need to make sure that the expectations and outcomes set are realistic. For the training to be motivational, participants need to have time, space and the necessary technical equipment. If you have all that in place, then the chances are you’ll see success.

Book review: How to win friends and influence people

I’m sure a number of you have either heard of, or read, Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  It has been in circulation since 1936 and there is good reason for that. I know a lot of people say “Ah, that’s too American rah! rah! for me.” or “That is a bunch of self-help nonsense and should only be read by depressed salespeople!”  The fact is that the book is rather “human”. A lot of what is said applies to basic, human interaction and feelings that we all experience each day. That is the main reason this book has been around for so long as it relates to those both inside and outside of the business world.  Sure, there are some points made that are a bit of a stretch, and some that aren’t universally applicable, but once you sift through those there are a lot of great ideas from which business people can benefit.

Some interesting points from the book

There are many other great points in the book that relate to daily business situations. Here are just a few. (In this “Secret to Success” download, there’s a full overview of Dale Carnegie’s 30 principles from “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, and the principles from “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”.)

Talk in terms of other people’s interests

People love to talk about themselves.  Ask a few questions to get people talking about what they like, attentively listen, and then you will be surprised at how much they like you.  Do a little research on what the other person you are trying to influence likes and show some genuine interest before diving into the business issue.

Don’t criticize

It is easy to immediately tell someone they are wrong when they make a mistake.  This may lead to resentment or possibly hatred towards you.  Next time, take a minute to try to understand where they are coming from and why they see things the way they do.  Don’t point out your colleagues mistakes each time, but ask some questions and allow the person to come to the conclusion that it could be a bit better on their own.

Say a person’s name

Everyone likes to hear their name. Take time to learn people’s names and remember them no matter how “unimportant” they may seem to your immediate needs.  By knowing people’s names and saying hello in your client’s office, it could help you close the big deal as you would be surprised how valuable the opinions of others in a company are.

Smile

I know, you don’t want to walk around smiling all the time because you will feel fake and uncomfortable.  But try it a few more times a day when you normally wouldn’t and see how others respond.  You may be surprised.

Begin in a friendly way

Many times we start a discussion, call, or email with the issue we are trying to solve.  Take some time and make some small talk or say something complimentary before conducting business.  It will take people off the defensive and make it easier to have difficult conversations.  Next time you want to file a complaint or negotiate a lower price, reiterate the positives you have experienced with that company before asking for something.  Many people will be happy to help someone they perceive as being friendly and not aggressive.

Admit if you are wrong quickly

This is hard to do at times, but it goes a long way in getting the other person to see where you are coming from and then softening their stance when it comes to a disagreement.  If you know your boss is angry about a mistake you made, don’t try to come up with excuses but instead come right out and admit the fault and what you should have done.  They will respect you for it and most likely be less hard on you.

 

 

 

16 jargon-busting learning terms you need to be familiar with (if you work in L&D)

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Thousands of new words are created each year. Not surprisingly, some of those words are related to learning and L&D. Here – in no particular order – are the top 16 learning terms we think you need to be familiar with in 2016.

1. Blended Learning

Blended learning is about finding the right blend for an individual training solution. Think of a training toolbox, which can include face-to-face and online training solutions. You and the trainer can pick the best options from the toolbox at each stage of your learning journey. There is not one truly successful blended learning course that looks the same – it depends entirely on the needs of the participants and the organization.

2. Flipped Learning

Flipped learning simply means that all the face-to-face time in training is dedicated to productive learning. All other elements of training are done in preparation for and as a follow-up to the face-to-face training sessions.

3. Bite-sized Learning

These day people don’t have a lot of time for training. And they don’t have long attention spans. Training should therefore come in small doses, or bite-sized chunks. As well as slotting easily into busy schedules, training needs to be available from everywhere. The Training Journal blog puts bite-sized learning as the top learning trend for 2016.

4. mLearning

mLearning (mobile learning) means that you can access and use learning resources e.g. apps, videos, links from your smartphone or tablet wherever you are.

5. eLearning

eLearning involves the use of specific online courses and apps. There is typically no face-to-face element. There will often be a facilitator who runs the course, gives feedback and ensures that collaboration is taking place.

6. Business-centric Learning

In this model, the needs of the business take priority. All L&D is aligned to the business’, not the learners’ needs.  Success is then measured based on the impact that the training outcome has on the needs of the business.

7. Web-based Training (WBT) /Virtual classrooms

Web-based training is the same as face-to-face learning – just delivered virtually. Using tools like Skype for Business or Webex, the trainer can connect with participants anywhere in the world and train them in the same way as they would in a face-to-face environment. This learning space is called a virtual classroom.

8. Social Learning

This type of learning means that people learn from each other. This happens through collaboration and working together. This can be face-to-face or on, for example, intranet / internet platforms. This is really what the 20 in the 70:20:10 approach is about. We learn a lot from other people, the situation, and what is around us.

9. On the job Learning

And this is what the 70 in the 70:20:10 approach is all about. This is the amount you learn when you are actually working on the job. If 70% of learning is on the job, and 20% is social learning, then only 10% of training needs to be through formal instruction.

10. Gamification

Gamification, is as the name suggests, a way of turning learning into an enjoyable, memorable and interactive experience. It is often so enjoyable that participants don’t actually realize that it is training.

11. Informal Learning

This is the learning which happens in an unplanned way when people interact with each other. There is no control from above as to what will be learnt.

12. Experiential Learning

This kind of learning is all about the experience. Take, for example, virtual teams training. There is plenty of information openly available about how we should be working in a virtual team. A trainer can also share this information. We can read an article, nod, think “mm, that’s right, I’ll try that next time”, but if we don’t experience the event, and receive feedback on what we’re doing, then there is little chance that we will actually change our behavior.

13. Independent / Self-directed Learning

This kind of learning is completely up to the participant. Management has no control over this. In contrast, the learner has total control. Choosing what interests you, means that you are more likely to remember what you learn and be motivated to pursue your learning further. There are endless tools, apps, and websites available which mean that learners can work at their own pace and at times that suit them.

14. Self-paced Learning

In this kind of learning it is the learner who decides how fast they want to move through the course.

15. Ongoing coaching and mentoring

Telling people something once generally isn’t enough. Ongoing coaching and mentoring is key to ensuring that messages and content have been understood, digested, and are being put into practice. This approach means that individual training goals can be set and reached.

16. Prescriptive Learning

If you’re sick, you go to the doctor’s. The doctor gives you a prescription to fix the problem. In the same way, prescriptive learning programs are designed to fix the skills gap and get the individual from where they are now, to where you and your organization want them to be.

For more information

  • These are just some of the learning terms that are in use at the moment. They will of course change. There are some really useful glossaries around which are updated on a regular basis. Here’s one we like
  • To keep up-to-date with trends in the industry, follow our Flipboard magazine: On Target with L&D

Writing audit reports, the four-eyes principle, and the danger of “red pen mania”

When writing audit reports the “four-eyes principle” can add value. A second set of eyes provides an element of security. The 2nd reader catches looks at the complete audit report with fresh eyes, spots things the report writer may have missed, and picks up on structural, stylistic and language issues.  However “red pen mania” (also known by some as “correction compulsion disorder”) can give the four-eyes principle a bad name. Give a manager a red pen (in other words the organisational authority to check someone else’s written work), and you may get more than you bargained for!

The other day I had the good fortune to interview a French client who is a senior compliance officer working at a regulatory organisation overseeing the financial institutions in a European country.

What does a typical audit report look like and how strict are the guidelines?

The format is dictated by the subject matter. The biggest difference in approach and contact would be between internal reports and reports for recipients outside the organisation, our clients if you will.

How do you go about drafting an audit report?

I would describe the approach as “forensic”. There is a lot of detailed research, fact gathering and analysis. I stress again, we have to be absolutely sure of our facts.

And who is the primary recipient of the report?

Internal reports as a rule are addressed to senior management. External reports are read by the CEOs of banks and other financial institutions, so we have to be sure of our facts. Remember, if we discover a compliance failure, the company will be spending a lot of money to put it right. We have to be sure of our facts.

Is there a 4 eyes principle?

4 eyes? How about 6, 8 or even 10 eyes principle?

How does this work in practice?

The responsible manager and his or her team drafts the first report and this is fine-tuned at a junior level, before being submitted to the next level of management. Ideally the accuracy and completeness of facts should be the first priority. Language style and grammar should be done when the accuracy of facts has been achieved.

Are suggestions for improvement open to discussion?

Interesting point. When a more senior manager makes a suggestion, it is more than a suggestion. Of course, as the compliance officer responsible I have to ensure the facts are correct and complete. What often happens is that a senior manager, does not dispute the facts, but asks what exactly does this mean or you need more information on this point. This feedback is always welcome and is an important part of the 4 eyes system.

What about language and style?

Accuracy (facts) and style (language) are both important and, as I said, getting the facts straight is not an issue. Neither are suggestions on wording. Remember what we point out as an action area incurs big costs We have to be careful not give the impression we “ordered” a particular course of action, otherwise our “client” can blame us, if a particular course of action does not work or, even worse, leads to financial loss. We would tend to pinpoint the problem and encourage the client to develop an appropriate remedy. Once again, 4 eyes feedback is here is invaluable.

I have the impression there is an area of 4 eyes feedback that is problematic. Would you care to elaborate?

You’re right. Case officers are generally intelligent and literate and do not write gibberish. In any case there is a language clarity check at a junior level. Style is a problem. Style or phrasing is often a personal preference. Unfortunately some senior managers, even if the facts are fine, feel obliged to fine tune the language – even when it does not need fine tuning. So then the red pen comes out and “we considered” becomes “it was considered that”; or “the problem I am alluding to” becomes the “problem to which I am alluding”. And if the senior manager does not like or understand alluding, then expect talking about, the rationale being plain English.

So what was the worst case of red pen mania you ever came across?

Bearing in mind an average report goes through 30 plus drafts, the world record in my experience was 55 drafts. After 36 drafts I just accepted all corrections (using the word correction tool, so it was quick and painless). Amazingly the reports kept coming back. One manager started correcting his own corrections! In my opinion, there are three things going on here. First the natural need to show power. Second the problem of insecurity and competence. And last but not least a problem peculiar to governmental bureaucracies. They do not have the cost discipline, and therefore the time discipline, that would nip this in the bud. I have worked in the private sector. I am by no means a neo-liberal market fanatic, but this would not happen in the private sector. Yet government organisations have too much slack and can afford this self-indulgent waste of resources.

Thank you for your insights. We respectfully ask all audit managers to remove all red pens from their desks. And by the way, what do you do with junior managers who have difficulties writing clearly and concisely with completeness of facts?

[laughs] They are sent on a report writing course. For example at Target Training. So keep offering your seminars on writing audit reports and we’ll keep sending our employees!

Evaluating existing training suppliers

Once a decision has been made for a training supplier and the first delivery has been checked for quality and suitability, we usually move on to other things. In reality, this can mean that a training provider delivers the same training measure again and again over years, without its contents being updated to current business needs or checking that the agreed contents are still being used by the selected trainer. Use the following topics to structure how you evaluate your existing training suppliers.

How up-to-date are you?

Evaluating your existing training provider starts in your own office. As you are responsible for the training measure(s) that your provider is delivering, you should have up-to-date information on the latest participant evaluations, seminar documentation and hand-outs. The older your own documentation is, the quicker you need to evaluate your training provider:

  • When did you last have a status meeting with your training provider? What was decided?
  • What can you learn if you compare participants’ evaluations over time?
  • If you don´t have a copy of the seminar documentation on your server, how quickly does your training provider hand out a copy to you?

How do you check the quality of existing training measures?

Regular quality management should be one of the key tasks of HR development but, unfortunately, everyday operational topics regularly push this to the bottom of the list. On the other hand, evaluating the quality of training measures ensures that you´re spending money on relevant training measures that support your business:

  • Does the seminar documentation (key messages about leadership and teamwork, cultural focus, takeaways, etc.) still reflect the current business climate and needs in your organisation? What needs to be updated?
  • Learn from the participants: What expectations does a participant have going into a training event? How are these expectations met after the training? What takeaways are still present 4-6 weeks later?
  • Observe (or participate in) a training event: Is the seminar documentation relevant? Are the key messages suitable for your business reality? Is the trainer still motivated?
  • Talk to your trainer: How does he/she suggest incorporating into the training content what they learn from the participants about your business environment?

How reliable is your current training provider?

A good training provider understands your business and provides a training event that fits your organisation’s culture and industry. In addition, you can rely on them to keep you up-to-date on critical topics arising in their trainings, or to provide you with interesting ideas that synergise with your business:

  • Does your training provider keep you up-to-date with what is new on the market? Do they actively come up with new ideas which benefit your business?
  • Does your training provider shy away from the idea of working with another provider (or with an internal trainer) at your request to deliver a customised training measure?
  • Do you get enough training dates from your training provider? Does he/she keep these dates and/or offer back-up trainers or alternative dates?

Is your contract up to date?

Once signed, companies rarely update contracts with training providers even though a discussion of training fees seems to be a regular event. Nonetheless, important factors such as travel expenses or secondary costs need to be checked on a regular basis. Also, legal requirements, e.g. confidentiality or data protection, change over time and need to be adhered to:

  • Do the agreed payment terms still fit current purchasing standards in your company?
  • Do the training rates meet market standards? Does the number of training measures provided justify a re-negotiation of fees?
  • How dependent are you on your training provider to deliver this training measure? Does this fit with your HR strategy or should you have a wider pool of providers?
  • Do you have an up-to-date confidentiality agreement with your training provider?
  • Does your training provider charge you separately for materials? Is the seminar documentation relevant or can you send key documents via email to save costs?

Download our eBook to learn more

There are thousands of training providers out there and many promise great things. But how can you really find out if they are the right fit? After all, it’s essential that you don’t risk wasting your employees’ working time or your hard-won training budget! Download the eBook.

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com

Qualifying potential training providers

The key to assessing potential training providers is to find out how well they fit to what you want to achieve with the training. It’s important to get to the point quickly and here are a few questions that can help you decide if the people you’re talking to are ‘right’ for your company.

 

eBook: The definitive checklist for qualifying training providers hbspt.cta.load(455190, ‘0377217d-6395-4d26-a5fc-d32a69e484a5’, {});

Are they prepared?

Before you present your company and situation to them, let the training provider describe what he/she already knows about your organisation. At the very least, they should have done their homework by reading the homepage. The most impressive of providers will already have incorporated your internal company language into their (written or oral) presentation:

  • If you sent them information prior to the meeting, are they referring to its content correctly?
  • Have they picked up any company brochures while they were waiting for you in the lobby?
  • Do you have to repeat yourself or are they listening to you describe your organisation attentively? (taking notes, rephrasing what you said, using company language)
  • Does their presentation reflect what you are looking for?

What kind of business do they have?

You need to know whether you´re dealing with a one-man-show (flexible to your needs but limited in scope) or a training company (offers standard content but can provide wider services). Additionally, you need to know how their business model fits your company and whether their training approach is compatible with the leadership culture in your organisation:

  • How many people work there?
  • Can they provide you with trainer profiles?
  • Who would you work with on the actual design of training content and why is he/she the most qualified?
  • What kind of international work have they done in the past?
  • What is their policy should a trainer drop out at the last minute? (replacement, back-up)
  • Which institutions do they cooperate with? (business schools, leadership think tanks)

How do they approach designing training content for new clients?

You can buy standardised content from any reliable provider, or you can ask a provider to customise training content to your situation and needs. If you choose the customized training option, you can ask:

  • How do they normally go about creating a new design for a first-time client? (design phases, milestones, client approval, dry runs)
  • What do they suggest they need to get to know your organisation in order to be able to create a suitable design? (discovery interviews with stakeholders, plant visits)
  • What level of customisation are they willing to provide? (adoption of company-internal language/abbreviations, integration of company goals/competences/principles into training content, incorporation of internal specialists in training programmes)

What methods of quality management do they apply?

No training measure should be an individual, stand-alone event. Any professional training provider should have a variety of methods to ensure the applicability of training content to the business and the transfer of learning to the workplace. For longer-term or repetitive measures, they should suggest methods to maintain high-quality content and to review and update these contents to your changing business environment:

  • Other than the typical “happy sheets”, what kind of evaluation methods do they offer?
  • What methods have they used successfully in the past to ensure an effective learning transfer? (also ask about negative experiences and their underlying causes)
  • What is their approach towards blended learning? If you have an online learning platform, how could the training contents be linked back to it?
  • What certifications do they possess? (industry certificates like ISO or individual certification like personality diagnostics)

What are their expectations regarding contracting?

Most companies have internal standards about contracting external suppliers, whether it be about payment terms or travel regulations. Most training providers do not like to have to accommodate their contracting terms but, as the customer, you should ensure that the contract details suit your business:

  • What are their daily rates? (beware of different rates for design, preparation and delivery)
  • What kind of payment terms do they suggest? (timing of invoices, listing of travel expenses, payment of instalments)
  • If they create materials customised to your organisation, what are the intellectual property considerations? (ideally, you should be able to use this material internally for other purposes)

What references can they provide?

Ultimately, you need to check the references of any training provider before contracting them. Be aware, however, that some references given may be outdated or refer to projects not applicable to what you require for your business:

  • What other similar clients have they worked for in the recent past? (same industry, similar size, similar business model)
  • What other similar projects have they successfully run in the recent past? (focus of contents, hierarchy level of participants, scope of measures)
  • Can they give you the name/contact details of reference clients? (a good provider will want to check with that client first!)

By Fiona Higginson

Fiona’s corporate career in human resources started in 1997, and is characterized by her focus on the design and/or delivery of high-quality HRD measures and instruments.She’s worked in multinational corporations in both manufacturing and service industries, from DAX – 30 listed global players to medium-sized organizations. Fiona is a certified trainer and coach and
has degrees in Developmental Learning and International Affairsfrom Ireland, Germany and the UK. She speaks fluent English and German, as well as Spanish and French. She recently
established her own consultancy: www.fionahigginson.com

4 TEDs on Increasing Work Productivity

When learning a foreign language, it’s definitely beneficial to vary techniques and shock the brain so that it becomes more alert and is more apt retain information such as new vocabulary. In this vein, listening to native speakers is one of the best ways to learn. The learner can hear how the language is used in a variety of situations as well as intonation and pronunciation. This technique works best when the learner has interest in the topic being discussed; otherwise, the learner loses interest and stops listening. TED Talks are a great place to find interesting topics. TED means Technology, Entertainment and Design, but the talks now cover just about any topic you can think of. One great thing about the videos is that you can choose subtitles (English, please!) or follow along with the interactive transcript if you want. These are helpful tools for understanding an unknown word. I recently perused the website and found a few videos of varying length on the topic of increasing office productivity that I would like to share.

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How sweet are your emails?

writing emails free ebook

How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings

David Grady shares with us his ideas on How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings in his talk where he uses the analogy of office furniture theft to explain how and why the listener can and should bring order back to their daily work schedules by avoiding unnecessary meetings. After watching, you can learn how to avoid MAS, too!

Why work doesn’t happen at work

Jason Fried details three suggestions on how to improve productivity in the workplace in his talk on Why work doesn’t happen at work. In it, he explores where people feel more productive and what causes involuntary distractions at the workplace. He compares work to sleep phases where you need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get work done. What is the longest you can go at work without getting interrupted by managers or meetings?

Got a meeting? Take a walk

In her short talk, Nilofer Merchant advises the listener Got a meeting? Take a walk. Not only is this idea good for the health, it also allows you to get out of the office and see things a bit differently. As she says, fresh air drives fresh thinking!

As work gets more complex, 6 steps to simplify

Sometimes work gets unnecessarily a bit too complicated. Yves Morieux has thought about this and came up with six ways towards streamlining in his talk As work gets more complex, 6 steps to simplify. He looks to answer the questions why productivity is so disappointing, why there is so little engagement at work and what this has to do with the increasing complexities faced by businesses today. His answers just might surprise you!

If you found these talks interesting, I suggest you explore other TED talks on a topic that intrigues you. There are many compelling talks available, and the more engaged you are with the topic, the more likely you are to retain any new vocabulary you pick up whilst listening. Not only that, but you can also use the talks to train your ear for understanding foreign accents such as Yves’ wonderful French accent. Let us know what interesting talks you discover!

Negotiation tactics – Why silence is golden

A few weeks ago I was chatting to a purchaser who worked in the automotive industry. The conversation drifted to the topic of negotiating and we began to compare countries and styles. The purchaser, a Norwegian, said half in jest but seriously enough, “You English cannot handle silence”. As a full-blooded Brit I can only agree. Many cultures, especially Scandinavians, are more comfortable with silence than others. But why is this? The impact of culture on how we communicate is certainly a factor. When I lived in Sweden I had the impression Swedes and Finns took a long time to thaw out and small talk consisted of a “Jaaaah”.  The English, on the other hand, feel uncomfortable with silence and will often fill the air with meaningless chatter.

The big (free) eBook of negotiations language

hbspt.cta.load(455190, ‘eac6a883-282f-4df0-a3a5-3bdfa9851c56’, {});

“A Finn and a Swede go into a sauna.  After 30 minutes the Swede says “It’s hot in here”.  The Finn replies “You Swedes – you talk too much.”

Why am I sharing this? If, like me, you’re from a culture where communication is direct, silence is a hard skill to master. But whether it’s a cultural norm, a question of personality, or even a trained skill, being comfortable with silence when negotiating is essential if you want to reach your goals.  When used in a subtle and careful manner, silence can reshape negotiations and extract surprising amounts of information while leaving your counterpart feeling they are in charge of the conversation.

Value added question + silence = insight

A good negotiator, no matter what nationality, will probably be assertive but charming, have good questioning skills, and handle pressure well. Questioning skills are a must – and here silence plays a role. Silence can prompt your counterpart to share more than they planned to – verbally or non-verbally.

Poor negotiators will often answer their own question: “What price were you thinking of? I was going to suggest something in the region of € 105 per unit.”. Poor negotiators do not ask enough value added questions – a value added question being one that makes the other party pause and consider, e.g. “How did you arrive at that figure?” “What are the consequences for your clients?” “How can we help you sell this concept inside your organisation?” Answering value added questions needs time. Use the silence to observe your partner.

You have the right to be silent

Let’s assume you have asked a good question and the other party is taking his/her time to answer. A few seconds is not a problem, but after ten it can become tense. Learn to look serene and confident, smile at the other party, look at your notes and scribble something. Stay connected to the other party with body language and eye contact. At some point the other party may buy time and say “I’ll get back to you.” Alternatively you can also suggest moving on to another point. But give silence a chance.

And if the roles are reversed you have the right to be silent. Do not shoot from the hip with a half-baked, badly thought through answer. Learn to be comfortable with silence. “I’m thinking this through”, “I’d like to explore this idea, give me a minute” or “I’ll get back to you.” will buy you time.

Learning to use silence in negotiations – the role of training and practice

Silence has to be practised and refined in training or coaching. Training helps you become aware of your relationship to silence; then develop the skills to use it subtly and effectively through role plays, real plays and critical incidents. Training goves you the opportunity to repeat situations and develop awareness, confidence and mechanisms for handling silence. You can practice asking the right questions, leaving room for the other party to develop a sensible answer, practice NOT shooting from the hip, and practice behavioural strategies that make the silence comfortable for both you and your opposite number.

And remember – when negotiating silence is not a threat; silence is golden.

Powerful Communication – The Power of the Purpose Pyramid

listening skills target trainingThe purpose pyramid is one of the simplest and yet effective communication models for introducing a presentation, opening a meeting or organizing your thoughts that there is. It is so simple, in fact, that no one seems to take credit for it though you will find it in the work of many communications gurus. The four questions in the pyramid aren’t special by themselves, but together they offer a powerful way to connect what you want to do with the goals and needs of your organization, no matter what business you are in or function you perform. Why? + What? + How? + Who? = Alignment. The Purpose Pyramid makes it easy for you to structure your communication – in any situation.

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pyramid

Why?

Why is where you share or remind your team about the deeper meaning and purpose of the organization. This is the reason that energizes you and your colleagues as well as your customers. What’s your why? Your purpose is best when it brings the energy of your team together and they can all see themselves in it. It should also attract internal and external customers to your work.

A band plays music, by definition – but wouldn’t you rather see a band whose purpose is to give you high energy and a memorable musical experience?

At a more nuts and bolts level, you can also apply the why to day-to-day interactions and situations. An example could be to state the purpose (why) of a meeting on the agenda for everyone to see. If there is a question about being on track, the team can refer to the mutually agreed purpose of the team.

What?

What refers to the tasks you and your team need to get done to contribute to making your purpose a reality. At their best these tasks are things you can track and observe easily so all can know when it is accomplished. For example, to have better meetings is not a clear task. Having everyone contribute to the meeting is a clear task. The SMART principle is a great model to use, just remember they should in some way contribute to achieving your purpose.

An example could be to make task identification a two-step process. Instead of automatically identifying who should complete a task at the same time as identifying the task, outline just the tasks first. Going through the how before identifying who will help team members to know what they are committing to.

How?

How is where you turn to your method, approach or process, How will you get your tasks accomplished? For example, sticking with the “better meetings” example, if my task is to have everyone contribute to a meeting, I could tell the team members I expect them to contribute and hope for the best or I could use a polling technique in the meeting to give each attendee the space to speak uninterrupted.

If a task is complex, the “how” could be a process or procedure that helps to complete the task effectively and efficiently. If you have standard operating procedures in place, this is the time to stress their use.

An example could be to identify the resources and process necessary to complete a task before asking who will do it. Leaders get a chance to offer support to the team and may encourage team members to accept a stretch task because they know how they will be supported.

Who?

Who refers to the individual and collective commitments or expectations that match your team to the tasks at hand. In most meetings the who stage tells how well we’ve done the other stages. If team members recognize and connect with their purpose, the necessity of a task and the process and resources to get it done, it’s a lot easier to agree to do them. With the clarity you’ve built earlier, it is easier for you to ask for what you want while committing to do what is necessary to support your team. A great question at the end of a meeting is “what have we agreed to do?” to check agreements without sounding like a task master.

Browse our blog for more tips and tricks

And/or let me know of any other useful communication tools that always work for you. I look forward to hearing from you!