Wednesday, June 24, 2009

5 Practices to Help People Have a More Positive Experience of You

PICTURE THIS: Somebody just finishes interacting with you. Phone, email, in person, Twitter, whatever. And this person could be a customer, coworker, colleague, manager or employee.

Five minutes later, she walks into the bathroom with her best friend. And she starts telling her friend all about how she experienced you, AND how she experienced herself when she was with you. From five minutes ago.

Now, here’s the twist: During this conversation, the only other person in the bathroom is YOU. Silently crouching on the toilet, eavesdropping on these two people talking about … YOU.

And so, the two questions I want you to honestly ask yourself are:

1. What would they say about you?
2. How surprised would you be?

If you want the answer to the first question to be positive; and the answer to the second question to be “not very,” consider these five practices for helping people have a more positive experience of you.

1. Assure you don’t leave people feeling unheard. Towards the end of your interaction, it might be helpful to ask summary or clarification questions like:

o Is there anything else?
o What questions have I not answered yet?
o What questions did I not ask that you were hoping I’d ask?
o What questions did I not ask that I probably should've asked?

REMEMBER: Let people know that if they think of another question in the next day or two, they can reach out to you. Even a follow up email a day or two later wouldn’t be a bad idea. As long as the impression is that you’re curious for clarity and not an overwhelming micromanager.

2. Create the space people need to exert their distinctiveness. “Relate to people as unique individuals,” says Bob Lefton in Leadership Through People Skills. “Get to know each person for who he is, then interact on that basis.” Consider the following Permission Questions as a test of how well you execute this principle:

o Are you granting others space to BE?
o What questions are people afraid to ask you?
o Are you giving people permission to talk to you?
o What feelings are you not allowing people to have?
o What feelings are you not giving people space to feel?
o How are you resisting or suppressing the creativity of others?
o Are you giving people permission to feel playful around you?
o Are you giving people permission to make their own choices?
o What does the group have permission to discuss and make decisions about?
o When was the last time someone told you something they hadn’t told anyone else?

REMEMBER: Find a safe space to understand people’s unique reality; then give them permission to reveal it to you. And that might be as simple as pausing; then listening for greatness to show up in each person.

3. Paint a picture of what happens when people are marinated in your world. This can be accomplished by: Considering the communication climate you create around you. Noticing how you come off. Understanding what people get when they get you. Discovering how most people feel when they’re around you. And, by deciding how you want people to describe the experience of interacting with you.

Here are a few self-assessment questions to assist you in this discovery process:

o What do people hear when they listen to what you do?
o Is communicating with you a relaxing or stressful experience?
o When interacting with you, what is this person’s immediate physical experience?
o When you meet people, is your first thought about what they think of you or how you can make them more comfortable?

REMEMBER: Watch people’s physiology. Step outside yourself and honestly observe the way they’re reacting to you. And listen to the exact words people use when they introduce or describe you to other someone new.

4. Recognize, embrace and respond to the value others place on you. That the constant challenge (and my personal biggest screw-up) of proactive approachability: Understanding what “time with you” is (really) worth to other people. Because if you don’t recognize this currency, you may never think to offer yourself as much, or at all, to those who need you.

Then, others might think, “I hate to take up his time when so many people want time with him.” Don’t assume that if people want to be with you they'll just say so. People will seldom take the first step and ask for your time, especially if you're in a high visibility leadership position. And as a result, you’ll miss out on encounters with some VERY cool people.

REMEMBER: People are waiting for YOU to initiate the next meeting. So, be proactive. Offer yourself more consciously, actively and directly to them. If you can practice this strategy, people will appreciate your recognition of the perceived value they place on you.

5. Remain open to positive AND negative feedback about yourself. Jerry Seinfeld said it best, “There are only two types of feedback: ‘That’s great!” or “That sucks!’ Either way, when someone takes the time to offer you REAL feedback or constructive criticism, try this.

Even if you disagree with it, even if you don't value it, THANK them for it. Without this expression of gratitude, you run the risk of shutting down the flow of valuable information that (could have) helped you become more effective in your role.

And often times, it’s just a matter of asking. Try these Phrases That Payses:

o What can I do to become a better…?
o How do you perceive my expectations of you?
o Can you tell me more about what you’re feeling?
o Will you give me some feedback about what I just said?
o Can you tell me specifically what I did that made you think to that?
o Will you tell me more about what you didn’t like about what I said/did?
o Can you tell me about a time when it happened so I can better understand?
o How might I recognize when you have something difficult to express to me?

Also, here’s an approach I’ve used for years to demonstrate openness to feedback about myself: “Would you be willing to share with me a list of specific points about (x)? And I request this not in a ‘tell me why I'm so great’ way, but rather, ‘tell me what worked so I can replicate it in the future.’” Works every time!

REMEMBER: Find out where the rock created the ripple and either: 1) Throw more rocks, or 2) Stop throwing rocks all together. After all, finding out where you suck is the only way you will improve.

How do people experience you?

For the list called, "33 Daily Practices for Boosting Your Managerial Magnetism," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!