Tips to Be a More Effective Listener

Effective Listener

There is no doubt that communicating well with others, whether it’s your coworkers, your spouse,  a waiter at a restaurant, or your boss, can have a significant impact on your life in the short, and long run.  Listening is a big part of the equation.  Let’s take a look at some tips to be a more effective listener.

 

  1. Give all your attention to the other person

Whether it is a work relationship or personal relationship, it is important to mindfully give all your attention to the person with whom you are communicating.

 

  1. You have to actually WORK at listening

You may need to remind yourself that you are listening to someone and that what they are saying is important.  Focus on what is being said and actively try to process and retain their message.

 

  1. Show interest in what the other is saying

No need to make a big production out of it but provide some feedback after they speak.  You can also practice mirroring where you subtly but intentionally mimic their body language and speech patterns.  Not interrupting is another way by which you can show genuine interest in what the other person is saying.

 

  1. Eliminate or minimize distractions when possible

Most often it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to control the environment around you.  But if you are at home, or in a private office at work, you may be able to take steps to minimize distractions, such as turning down music, turn off the tv, reposition your body away from your computer, etc.

 

  1. Be patient

No one likes an interrupter.  Just shut your mouth and listen to what the other person is saying.  Wait until they are done and then respond.  Unless the building is burning down around you it’s very unlikely you need to interject your two-cents at the expense of what the other person is saying.

 

  1. Have an open mind and consider what the other person is saying

Perhaps the reported schism in our country can be mitigated by people having a more open mindset.  Remove the preconceived notions in your mind before a conversation and open yourself up to learning.  Actually think about what the other person is saying and why.  Is it possible it actually makes sense?

 

  1. Pay attention and listen for ideas

We learn through communicating.  The person standing in front you, speaking, may have a groundbreaking idea, and if you are only holding your breath to spit out whatever is on your mind you may miss a message.

 

  1. Listen to the content and the delivery

It’s not always WHAT is said but HOW it is said.  Pay attention to the delivery of the message.  Take into account their mood, the emotion behind the message, and their body language.  These factors can reveal hidden or true meaning.

 

  1. Check your ego at the door

The percentage of people that find someone with a huge ego charming or charismatic is very limited in my estimation.  We all want respect and to be heard.  When communicating with someone else lose the ego and get on their level.  You will be a better listener for it and may even earn some respect from the speaker.

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Power Writers USA wants to know what you think of this, and other blog articles we post.  Your career change is unique and PWU is here to help you along the way with Resume Writing Services, Cover Letter Writing, CV’s, LinkedIn Profiles Updates, and more.  Contact us now for a free consultation and resume evaluation!

Reminders About Effective Communication

Communication

Every single day we all engage in some form of communication, be it verbal, non-verbal, or written, and sometimes we need a reminder of how important communication is, that we shouldn’t take it for granted and what we can do to improve our own skill set.  Being an effective communicator can have very positive effects on your social life, marriage, and your career.  In this context we will explore a few tips to increase your communication skills to benefit you at work, in a job interview, and beyond.

Be a Good Listener

Focus on what is being said instead of waiting to speak.  This takes practices, but it will go a long way in an interview and work. Your boss and coworkers will feel more respected and you may just learn something!

Think Before You Speak

This is probably something your parents told you when you were a kid, but it’s important, especially in an interview.  Think carefully about what is being asked, make sure you consider the implications your words will have.  In an interview, also think about your delivery before you speak; do you want your tone to be flat and emotionless?  Do you need to convey enthusiasm in your response?  Are you smiling or frowning?  It seems like a lot at the time but make time to remind yourself of this before an interview to prime yourself to think of these things.  It is amazing what your brain processes in the background.

Be a Mirror

To show the person you are speaking with that you are respectfully listening and are in tune with what they are saying, be a mirror and share their ideas back to them.  This helps validate their position and gains you respect as a good listener.  Once your bounced their own idea back at them, it’s your turn to speak.

Watch Their Body Language

When you are speaking you should be observing the body language of the person or people around you.  This can give clues if you need to adjust your speech pattern to make yourself more engaging, or if you need to wrap up your point to let someone else speak or wrap up a meeting.

Keep Your Cool

This is a big one.  Keep yourself in control if the issue you are communicating about gets heated for any reason.  Keeping a grip on your words, body language, and tone, while listening to the other person can be a challenge, but it will make you the bigger person and you will learn a lot about the person you are dealing with.  If someone blows up in your face, listen, wait, and respond in a cool, calm, and collected manner.  This will go a long way.

Ask Questions

Asking questions can show the person you are communicating with that you are interested in what they are saying, or that you are interested in the topic you may be discussing.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask a question when you are being interviewed, so long as they are thought out.  Your future employer may perceive this as a strength, that you are trying to get as much context and information about the question you are being asked to answer.

Read Things

The more you read the more you will learn, and the more subtleties of communication you may pick up.  Reading books, news stories, magazine articles and blogs, will not only give you more to talk about with coworkers but will also help you with your verbal written communication as you are more exposed to (hopefully) proper grammar and potentially new words.  Reading quick blogs like this are great refreshers!

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Power Writers USA wants to know what you think of this, and other blog articles we post.  Your career change is unique and PWU is here to help you along the way with Resume Writing Services, Cover Letter Writing, CV’s, LinkedIn Profiles Updates, and more.  Contact us now for a free consultation and resume evaluation!

Warren Buffett and the Benefits of Plain English Writing Techniques

Plain English

This is an excerpt from an article that highlights the benefits of plain English writing techniques as developed and implemented by Warren Buffet.  Even though Buffet’s writing techniques are geared more towards financial documents and business proposals, the teachings can be applied to how we communicate to coworkers, clients, friends, and family.    

Original article click here.

1. Start Early

Developing a Plain English document takes time – the first time! For your first Plain English proposal, allow extra time to write, edit, and revise. Add more time than you would expect to your usual schedule if possible. The next time it’s easier.

2. Study the principles of Plain English

Remember: you want your request for proposal to be understood in one reading. This means you need to:

3. Promote Plain English amongst your Staff

Once you’ve seen the benefits of plain English compared with other writing styles, you can promote its values to your own staff and senior management. You need to get your staff onside so that they will begin writing in this style. Likewise, you also need to convince your managers of its values and possibly funding for a training program. Explain to both camps how they will benefit. Outline a high-level roadmap with timelines for the overall program.

4. Contact an experienced proposal writer

The first time you write a plain English proposal, you may find it time-consuming and more difficult than you thought. If this is the case, you’re on the right track! Everything worthwhile is difficult the first time round – soon you will get the hang of it.

You can also approach a writing consultant, especially someone who has a proven track record of writing good, clear English.

5. Review previous Proposals and see where you can improve

Before you start writing, consider the following:

  • Literacy level. What level of education is required to understand the Proposal? Use the Fog Index to test your proposal’s readability.
  • Clarity. What parts of the Proposal are hard to understand? Are the sentences too long and complex? Does it use technical terms and acronyms that the target audience will not understand?
  • Organization. How easy can you find relevant information? Would the Proposal be clearer if you reordered the main sections and possibly the sub-sections within it? Does the table of contents and index need sharpening? Are there too many/too few levels of information in the TOC.
  • Repetition. Is the same information repeated in several sections? Does it have any real benefit?
  • Headings. Should the headings be re-written in the form of questions that each section answers?
  • Format. Do you need to add more bullet-point lists? Put keywords in bold? Use more white space?

6. Create an outline to help readers find information faster

One very effective writing style is to write headings as questions,which each section answers. If you include sub-sections, use a numbered outline format (e.g. 1.2, 1.3) for the section headings. This helps the reader find the main sections quickly and see the relationship among subsections.

7. Write the RFP, section by section, using plain language techniques

If some sections are hard to write, read them aloud and see where they are difficult to understand. Go through the document section by section.

Write the first draft of key sections first, and then work on the inside sections. Once you’ve written these, refine the text by editing each section tightly. However, make sure your text does not become too cold and dry. Write as if you were speaking to a colleague whom you respect; this often helps control the tone of the document.

8. Review and Revise

Once you’ve finished the first draft, get it reviewed internally by colleagues who can add value to the review process. Don’t choose colleagues who are too close to the Proposal, as they will not see errors. Instead, get a neutral reviewer if possible. After getting the feedback, make the required edits.

If possible, ask volunteers from the target population to review the draft Proposal. Ask them if they can locate information easily. When interviewing ask open questions and you will get a better response.

Avoid closed questions, such as, is this a great RFP? Most will say Yes, just to please you – and make you go away!

Ask how much they could read in one sitting. Again, revise as needed.

9. Create an easy-to-read format

Format the document to make it easy to read and attractive in presentation. If you have time, prepare a template that can be re-used for all future RFP’s. This will reduce the time spend on preparing the document.

  • Leave a blank line between paragraphs
  • Use bulleted lists
  • Highlight main points with bold and italics
  • Use boxes for examples
  • Use white space generously
  • Include margins of at least one inch all around the page
  • Use two (2) columns to increase readability, if practical

Use several different type sizes for headings. In many documents, the headings are in San Serif font (i.e. Verdana) and the body is in a Serif font (e.g. Times New Roman). Use a contrast in style to add emphasis.

10. Get feedback – and share it

Lastly, see if the Proposal works! Ask the external reviewers how they felt using the ‘new’ plain English Proposal. Get feedback from personnel involved in the review process and collate it for distribution.

  • Did they find that the plain English Proposal made a better application?
  • Was it easier to write the application, and what made the most difference?
  • What worked and what needs more refinement.

Summarize what you learned and share this information with colleagues. Encourage them to try writing plain English Proposals.

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Power Writers USA wants to know what you think of this, and other blog articles we post.  Your career change is unique and PWUSA is here to help you along the way with Resume Writing Services, Cover Letter Writing, CV’s, LinkedIn Profiles Updates, and more.  Contact us now for a free consultation and resume evaluation!

20 Tips for Project Managers

Project Manager Career Advice

Yes, we must focus on success! This article is from Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Project Management

Original article click here.

The Top Twenty List

Twenty items may seem like a lot, but I’ve actually made five short lists: one for project planning, one for applying the nine knowledge areas, one for doing, one for using stages and gates, and one for following through.

 

Four key planning points:

Do the right project. Using benefit cost analysis or ROI, and looking at opportunity cost, look at the project that gives you the biggest value for your effort and is most aligned with your company’s strategy, moving you in the direction you want to go.

Define scope clearly and precisely.

Plan the whole project. Make a plan for each of the nine areas.

Do good architecture. Work with words and pictures to bring people with different perspectives onto the same page, contributing to and committed to the project.

Prepare your team in just two steps:

Get the right team. Using the WBS, define the skills needed, and get people with those skills. Be honest about gaps, and close them by taking time to learn to get it done right.

Get the expertise you need. Know that being expert in one area means not being expert in other areas—sometimes closely related disciplines. Recognize that project, being unique work, require learning from and collaborating with experts. Remember, hiring experts you can work with is less expensive than not hiring experts you can work with.

 

Cover all the bases with the nine knowledge areas:

Scope. After defining scope clearly, teach the cost of changes to reduce change requests, then manage all changes, adding to the project only when it is essential.

Time and cost. Use unbiased, accurate estimation techniques. Set up systems to gather, track, and analyze time and cost information, so you can keep them under control

Quality. Focus on quality at all three levels to ensure value. At the technical level, trace requirements and design checking and testing throughout the project to reduce errors. Then design a test bed, and implement the tests. At the project level, work to prevent error, then find and eliminate the errors that slipped through. Do as much testing as you can as early as you can. Allow time for rework and retesting to ensure you’ve eliminated errors without letting new ones creep in. At the business level, include customers in testing, and remember that the goals are customer delight and added value.

Risk. Plan for uncertainty; prepare for the unexpected. Perform risk management with your team every week of the project.

Human Resources. Help each team member step up in self-management and technical expertise. Teach everyone PDCA so that they can improve. Then teach them to work together, until you have a great team of great people.

Procurement. Get the supplies and resources you need. If your project involves contracts, be sure to keep the contracts in alignment with project value and specifications, not just generally associated with goals and work.

Communications. Have a communications plan, and follow it so that you are in touch with all stakeholders throughout the project. Make sure everyone knows what they need to know to make decisions and get work done. Analyze status information to create status reports. Be prompt and decisive.

Integration. Constantly direct corrective action. Evaluate all events that could change the project schedule, and all scope change requests. Review the effects of any change on all nine areas before making a decision, and then implement a revised plan with rebaselining.

 

Keep the project on track with stages and gates:

Use a life cycle. At a minimum, put a gate at the beginning to clearly launch the project, and then a gate after planning, a gate after doing, and a gate after following through.

Every gate is a real evaluation. Bring every deliverable—parts of the product, product documentation, technical documents, the project plan and supporting documents—up to specification. If a project can’t deliver value, be willing to cancel it.

 

Use feedback with your team and focus on scope and quality in the doing stage:

Use feedback at all four levels. Teach workers to stay in lane and on schedule; ensure delivery of milestones; manage project risk; and manage project change. Watch out for continuing problems that indicate a serious planning error, such as lack of attention to one of the nine areas or a poor architectural decision.

Focus on scope and quality. Get it all done, and get each piece done right.

 

Follow through to success:

Deliver customer delight. Seek to exceed customer expectations while leaving customers delighted with every encounter with your team. Use every success and every error as a chance to learn to do a better job.

Remember ROI and lessons learned. Compare actual ROI to planned ROI, so you can be honest about the degree of your success. Compile project historical information and lessons learned to make future projects easier.

 

Five Ways to Project Disaster

Success is a matter of moving ahead and steering clear of failure. Here are five fast tracks to failure, so that you can avoid them.

 

Five ways to get it done wrong, or not at all!

Scope-less is hopeless. Don’t decide what you are doing—just throw money at a problem.

Focus on time and cost, not quality. Get it done yesterday. Never let anyone spend money. Don’t waste time checking anything—just get it done.

Know the right thing to do. Don’t analyze problems. Don’t listen to experts. And—absolutely, above all, whatever you do—be sure to ignore the customer. You wouldn’t launch a project if you didn’t know everything, and what does anyone else know?

Don’t thank the team, push them harder. Don’t waste time with planning, People ought to know what to do. Just tell the team to get it done now—or else.

Avoid big problems. All of our projects fail. And we’ve got no time for them, either—we’re too busy putting out fires.

Bonus Tip!  If you are already in project management or are looking to transition into a project management role, invest in some courses, workshops, or a certification.  The knowledge you will gain will be invaluable and your newfound knowledge will be sure to impress hiring managers!

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Power Writers USA wants to know what you think of this, and other blog articles we post.  Your career change is unique and PWUSA is here to help you along the way with Resume Writing Services, Cover Letter Writing, CV’s, LinkedIn Profiles Updates, and more.  Contact us now for a free consultation and resume evaluation!