Management Success Tip #52: The Truth Game: Body Language Trumps Words Every Time!

If a stranger approaches you in the street, a scowl on his face, eyes lidded, hands curled into fists, you don’t wait to hear what he has to say, you skedaddle out of there as fast as you can. If you happen to wait to hear what he has to say, and without changing his expression he says, “You’re the nicest person,” you don’t believe a word of it. You hear his words as a threat, not a compliment.

Why? Because body language is always believed over words. This is a necessary survival skill, a throwback from when the wolf came charging out of the forest. It was unhealthy to stick around to find out if the wolf was merely playing. Better run first!

It’s no different in the workplace. For example: your new hire has been goofing off, and you have to give them a poor review. Wanting to sweeten the pill, you smile as you give them the bad news. Your employee is in a pickle. If your employee believes the smile, he or she will think you’re not serious about your rebuke, and will continue to goof off. Or, as is more likely, your employee sees the smile, but hears a message that doesn’t go with the smile, your employee will be confused and not trust what you say—even if he or she no longer goofs off. And trust is paramount to good worker-employer relationships.

Be congruent. If you’re happy about something, smile. If you’re not, don’t. There’s nothing wrong with a frown accompanying a “please don’t goof off any more” message. Same thing when you say “We’re going through a rough patch” or “Sales have been down.” Don’t attempt to liven things up by smiling through these messages! Certainly, when you get to the “I have faith in our department’s ability to weather the storm” part, or the “I know we can get sales up” part, a smile is appropriate.

Be aware of what your body says. Body language always trumps words, whether in the wilds of nature, or the wilds of your business.

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Management Success Tip #51: Be an Early Bird: Catch—Less Stress!

We are all flooded with demands of every kind on our time, and the higher up you go on the success ladder, the more is asked of you. With greater success comes more responsibility. And that responsibility is not only to your own work–what you must do to keep your department doing well–but also to keep your business on track, your goals within sight, your employees engaged and motivated.

With all that comes stress. Lots of stress. And a simple secret to alleviating a significant portion of that stress is—be early.

Get in to work a half-hour before your employees. Use that half hour to organize your day, have an uninterrupted cup of coffee and to ease into your day—as opposed to rushing in, barely making your first appointment, and gulping your coffee on the run hoping you don’t spill some down your shirt/blouse since you certainly don’t have time to deal with that mess!

Get to required meetings 10 minutes early. Use those 10 minutes to sit in your preferred chair, organize your papers, take a deep breath and settle into the matter at hand. Now you’re focused, truly present, and ready to contribute meaningfully to the session.

You’re also setting an example to your team members of quiet focus. Of self-disciplined control, a genuine leadership quality.

How different from the manager who whirls into a meeting, meeting papers buried in amongst other documents, and spends the first 10 minutes just getting into the meeting. That’s a waste of manager time and sets a poor example.

No, this isn’t a fairy tale hope. You can do it. You just have to plan accordingly. So yes, it means turning off the TV or DVD or whatever a half hour earlier so you don’t short-change yourself on sleep. Actually, I cheat and do the dishes during the last part of my favorite show, so I can get to bed earlier without missing the end of that episode.

It means getting off the phone or stepping away from your computer 10 minutes earlier than you would usually in order to get to a meeting 10 minutes early, but oh the difference in your stress level! Plus, you’ll probably be the calmest, most together person at the meeting, at least for its beginning, and as we all know—first impressions matter.

Try being the early bird at work for a week, and watch the difference in your stress level. Your habitual anxiety will decrease and your happiness factor increase.

Management Success Tip #50: GenXers: Support Excellence In Our Next Generation of Leaders!

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Baby Boomers may linger–seemingly forever–but they are indeed leaving the ranks of leaders, and in a decade or two at most, will be gone entirely. Well, all right, there may be a few stalwarts hanging on, but they will be very very few . . .

Savvy businesspeople have known this and have been cultivating the best and brightest of the upcoming GenXers for years. But what about the rest of them? What about the 90%+ of your GenXers not currently groomed for promotion? Are they to be forgotten again, as has happened so often to this generation?

That would be a dreadful waste of human potential and business capital! There are phenomenal employees within your unexplored GenXers who just need some nurturance to become good supervisors, department heads and upper management. To support their growth, consider the following:

1. Provide lots of on-line and on-site training (as budget allows) in a variety of disciplines. GenXers enjoy learning, and are more responsive when learning isn’t solely targeted to their immediate job.

2. Give your GenXers opportunities to learn what goes on in different departments, whether that’s by having them assigned to an experienced “buddy” for a short stint in an unfamiliar department, or by encouraging lateral moves through the company.

Trader Joe’s” employees literally rotate positions throughout the store during the course of a single day, such that every employee learns most of the store’s positions. This is good for the company, but also for the employee, who doesn’t get stale and bored manning the cashier booth day in day out, for example.

3. GenXers are the most entrepreneurial generation that’s come along in quite a while. Encourage your GenXers to head up projects, or take the lead on teams. It’s good training for future leaders, and will allow those who are particularly adept to rise to the challenge and provide you with yet another valuable pool of leaders.

Management Success Tip #49: Make it Easy for Employees to Hear You: Slow Down!

You have too much to do, so what else is new? Which means the pace you set for yourself is rushed from the moment you hit the office door. Everything about you is fast: your walk, your emails, your talk. Sure, your department gets a lot done in a day, but you get more from your employees if you would simply—slow down.

Yup, you read that right. Slow down. Not with everything necessarily, just with the way you talk and listen.

You see, when you talk too fast, you may save time, but your employees have probably missed half of what you said.

It takes time for the human brain to ingest information. It doesn’t go straight from your mouth into your employee’s brain. What you say goes from your mouth, into your employee’s ears, into their brain, where it has to connect up with something already meaningful to your employee, at which point what you said is actually understood and can now be acted upon.

When you speak too fast, often without engaging eye contact, you don’t allow for that information processing to take place, and your employee then has to play mental catch-up for the information to connect up. Which the employee may not do accurately, or at least not exactly how you would have wished.

Slow down. Take the time to engage eye contact before you speak to an employee, use his or her name, and speak in phrases, not run-on sentences. Take a brief pause (count “1, 2” silently to yourself) before you check in with your employee to make sure they understood.

Your chances of being correctly heard and your directives properly acted upon will be greatly enhanced.