Monday, 16 March 2015

Can you hear body language?

Clients frequently challenge the idea that body language makes a difference in telephone communication. It's easy to resolve their challenge. Having worked briefly in a contact centre, I remember the floor being filled with people sending non-verbal signals during every phone call; even though the non-verbals were invisible to the person on the other end of the telephone.

My favourite example to illustrate the point, is to talk about my voice over work. When I record, I'm in a booth by myself. I don't just stand there. I embody the words and convey the message with my whole being. Only my voice will be used, so what I look like is irrelevant. But I do know that if I just stood still my voice would sound different. 

My brother said something to me the other day which was the perfect example. He was talking about a pretty tricky phone conversation and at one point he told me he could "hear the other person raising their eyebrows". This phrase gave me a very clear picture about what was happening in the phone call, even if I didn't have all the details about what was being said. My brother couldn't really hear the other person's eyebrows being raised - I can't imagine anyone having eyebrows that noisy - but he could hear their tone of voice. It's highly likely that the person to whom my brother was speaking was actually raising their eyebrows and this is what influenced their tone of voice.

Next time you're speaking on the telephone, check in with the picture you have in your mind. Most of the time, we "see" this picture unconsciously as part of our interpretation of the message we are receiving. 

You might even go a step further and try this out with a friend or colleague: ask them to adopt different postures (eg slump, stand up straight, smile, frown, check their Facebook page) and then speak. See if you can describe their body language. I've noticed that people are usually pretty good at deciphering the visual channel of face to face communication, even when it's invisible.

What are you conveying when you speak on the telephone? Check your body language. You'll be sending a message loud and clear; just make sure it's the one you intend to send.


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Singing beside the seaside - Airey's Inlet Music Festival

Because of interstate travel this week, I missed my vocal group's rehearsal. It was our last in preparation for two performances at the Airey's Inlet Open Mic Music Festival, taking place this weekend.

I'd been diligently recording all our rehearsals so that I could listen and go over my parts in my own time. I don't usually do this, because I have a piano and just rehearse that way, but I'm not usually booked into the hotel suite that comes equipped with a piano, so did it this way instead.

On the four hour flights to and from Perth I spent the time listening and rehearsing. I thought I was doing it in my head, until the man sitting next to me said nothing, but conveyed, with a look that said, "What the hell are you doing? Please stop bouncing around in your seat!" (This man also failed to respond to the humour being offered with the coffee by one of the flight attendants.)

Vocal Group rehearsal - the devices come out.
© 2015 divacultura
A beautiful day dawned. I stood out in the sunshine waiting for my lift to arrive with my music, doing some last minute reviews. As we snuck around the back of a cafe, right on the highway, to warm up, the passing traffic gave us some strange looks. A lone cyclist looked as though he was about to ride right off the road.

One of the songs we sang is "Waiting on an Angel" by Ben Harper. When rehearsing and thinking about this song I attached it to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australian men awaiting execution in Indonesia. It was all I could do to get through without tears taking over.

If you can get to Airey's Inlet tomorrow, it's worth visiting. There are nine music venues, ranging from marquees in car parks to corners of cafes and gallery spaces. The festival culminates in a performance by a "mystery guest" whose identity is a closely guarded secret.

I was so pleased to be a part of Mood Swing's performance today. Our happy, relaxed vibe created a beautiful exchange with the audience. Singing with and for other people is such a special gift.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

What's your mindset?

"Mindset" is a recurring theme in my work these days. Whether I'm working with leaders, a team or individual coaching clients I've noticed so many of the questions and uncertainties stem from mindset; get that straight and good things can happen.

Coaching someone about career transition the other day, I asked them about what the point of a job interview is. "To trap me with hard questions," came their answer. I've had someone else describe job interviews as a necessary evil. "No one likes going to the dentist, but you have to do it."

These two responses say nothing about what happens at job interviews and everything about the mindset of the person I was coaching. Take the first response about using questions as traps. This response attributes motive to the interview panel (to trap me, to show me up, to make a fool of me etc). There's also a sense that the questions will be difficult or test knowledge that you don't have. Neither of these two things is necessarily true. Employers don't use the time of many people in the interview process just to torture outsiders! Employers with a vacancy to fill, have a problem to solve; they need someone to do the job. By inviting you for an interview, they're saying "we think you could be the very person who can solve our problem and fill the job".

But what about those hard questions you'll be asked? I've been a contestant on a few game shows and I love trivia quizzes. I'm often asked about how I came to know the answers to such hard questions. "No question is hard if you know the answer." Unlike most game shows, you know the main topic of the questions you'll be asked at an interview: YOU! The key to dealing with questions at an interview is to prepare. Think about the role and the organisation and think of relevant examples from your life (at work or other settings if relevant).

Imagine if my clients adjusted their mindset. Imagine what it would be like to go into an interview thinking: "I'm so pleased this company thinks I might be the person for this role. I think I am and it's great to have the opportunity to talk to them and show them I am exactly the person they're looking for. While I don't know exactly what they're going to ask me, I'm a subject matter expert about the main subject (me) and I've prepared by thinking of some examples. I'm confident that this will be a great conversation."

Suddenly, an interview is something to look forward to, rather than an ordeal.

So what? Whatever your mindset, it will show up. Whether you're in a job interview, talking to your teenager or negotiating an extension of time to pay your electricity bill, your mindset will be evident.

The other day I had to call a government department. I was on hold for 30 minutes before someone took my call. I really needed to talk to them, so was just eager that that happen while I was available to talk. I put my earpiece in and went about my business while I was on hold, so that was okay. When my call was answered I expressed relief and said I was really pleased my call had been answered. The response of the woman on the phone was to say, in a very clipped, harsh tone, "Yes, well it is a very busy time of year." I instantly felt put off. She didn't sound like she was having a very good day. I don't know what was in her mind, but she was displaying her mindset:"Oh great, another caller who has to talk about how long they've been on hold instead of just getting to the point. Doesn't she know we're busy!"

If her mindset had been about customer service and helping, she might have said something like, "Oh sorry you've had such a long wait, but I'm here now. How can I help you?" Right there, the mindset changes everything.

I won't go into all the details of the call here, but it was harder than it needed to be. My needs weren't being fulfilled and she told me that she could put me through the process but there was no point because she wouldn't be changing her mind. It's pretty clear what her mindset was likely to be.

I find that mindset is often closely aligned to purpose. Clarity about why you're doing something, or why someone is asking you something, helps resolve anxiety about motivation and just get on with it.

So, next time you're wondering how to approach something, especially if it's feeling difficult or scary, forget about the "thing" and get your mindset straight first.

What do you think? What's your mindset?


Monday, 2 March 2015

50 Shades of loneliness

February always flies by! It seems it only started a week ago and now it's over.

Over the weekend a woman I didn't know excitedly shared the news that she had just been to the movies: all by herself. I was chatting to a friend in a shop and this woman came in and started talking. She seemed to be well into her sixties and very excited at the realisation that it was possible to do things alone and enjoy the experience.

She was so excited and appeared in good humour so I asked her if the film she saw was "Fifty Shades of Grey".  It seemed possible, given she was dressed from head to toe in several shades of grey.

"Oh no! I wouldn't go and see THAT! I'd go home all thingy!" she proclaimed.

We all knew what "thingy" meant in this context. I imagined her husband observing her upon arrival at home and asking what the bloody hell was wrong with her.

"What did you go and see?"

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," she beamed. "It was really good. Really enjoyable. Funny, but there were things that made you think about things, you know?"

We all nodded sagely.

I confirmed my suspicion that Richard Gere is a feature in the film.

Her enthusiasm went up a notch.

"Oh yes. I tell you what, there's a man that makes my toes curl."

It seemed that more than one of the current crop of films could send a girl home feeling thingy.

"But you know, I got sick of waiting for my girlfriends to be ready before I could go out and do anything. I'm glad I just went and now I know I can go to the movies on my own."

Underneath the bravado, there seemed to be some social isolation. She walked out of the shop smiling and laughing and so did we.

I can't stop noticing my toes.

(According to IMDB, Richard Gere's middle name is "Tiffany".)


Monday, 16 February 2015

Tuning into your inner coach

In November 2011, I wrote this post about the voices in my head. I'd been thinking about the critic who often shows up just when I really need the supportive voice of my coach. I went back to this post after a coaching experience I had last week.

Just last week I was working with a client who had a very loud critic screaming in her head. In fact, her critic was so loud, the critic's voice often came out of her own mouth. This client could not sit comfortably in silence and the critic would happily fill the space with negativity.

The client could not hear her coach at all. I think her coach had gone to sleep because the fight was just too hard.  She was also skeptical about the impact of the critic's voice.

Once I stopped the critic from speaking out loud through my client, I noticed the critic speaking non-verbally - the client would pull faces, roll her eyes, shrug her shoulders and fidget instead. The critic was still sending a very clear message.

I asked if I could try something. I asked her to write down three of the most prominent phrases that she could hear her critic saying and give me the paper. I then asked her to complete the speaking task she was working on while I sat beside her and repeated the critic's phrases in her ear.

The impact was profound: my client could barely speak and certainly could not complete the simple task with any level of competence.

On reflection, my client agreed that it was very hard to think.

I asked her to write down three phrases that would help her if she heard a coach say them to her.

This time, I asked her to complete the speaking task while I said the coach's phrases in her other ear.

Remarkably, she not only completed the task, but had more energy, focus and confidence as she completed the task.

It became clear to me that the concept of the coach and critic voices was too abstract for this client to grasp. (She probably had the critic rubbishing the idea while I explained it!) By giving actual voice to the coach and critic, this client was able to understand the impact her critical voice was having on her. It also gave her the tools to breathe life back into her coach's voice.

These moments are life changing for the client, and profound for me as the coach as I see their potential for success and confidence grow. It's always good to check in and see which station your voices are switched to. I choose "coach" every time!

What are you tuned to at the moment? How have you silenced your critic?