5 Reasons Why Some People At Work Have The X-Factor

Have you ever felt a sneaky pang of envy because someone at work has been promoted ahead of you or scored a great project? Maybe they’ve been put in charge of a team and you’re left as one of the worker bees – or, if you’re in business, there might be someone doing similar work to you who seems to hit more home runs.

Even if you’re technically brilliant at what you do, if you don’t have that extra something that gets people on side, you’re likely to be watching opportunities slip through your fingers and into the grasp of that other person.

There’s no doubt, some people are born with it. They’ve had that charisma since toddlerhood and it’s with them for life. For the rest of us mere mortals, being able to engage – even captivate - other people is a learned skill. The great news is, we can all learn it.

The pay-offs can be huge. It’s no secret that people prefer to do business with those they like. Liking someone at face value is a stepping stone to deeper trust and respect, the kind of relationship you need if you’re going to win more business or get those golden opportunities.

What does it take to inject a bit of x-factor into your business life? These five behaviours come naturally to charismatic people (the rest of us need to work that little bit harder):

1.    They see the conversation from the other person’s point of view.

Many people take an "I"-centred approach to communication. Every experience is seen solely through their eyes. Most sentences to come out of their mouths have a heavy dose of “I” and “me”.

Those who lock themselves into this type of communication are rarely aware they do it, but it’s obvious to everyone listening! Nothing builds a stronger barrier than having a conversation that’s all about you; the other person just happens to be in the same physical space.

They’re likely to be feeling uncomfortable, alienated, bored or downright annoyed. This is not the way to win hearts and minds.

Charismatic, influential communicators know at their core that effective interactions are all about the others in the conversation. They frame their communication as if looking through the other person’s eyes, using language and examples that make sense to the other person. This is basic stuff, and it’s amazing that most people don’t do it.

It can be interesting to consciously listen to yourself when you converse, and look at the way you write emails. How many times do you say “I” or “me” without any reference to the other person’s perspective?

If you’re guilty as charged, set yourself an exercise to focus on the other party to the communication. You might be surprised at the different response you get.

2.    They make great eye contact.

Most of us learn to make good eye contact when speaking in public, but that lesson can get forgotten during everyday interactions.

Some people get eye contact very wrong. They either avoid it, looking decidedly shifty as they stare at the floor or gaze around the room, or they fix an unblinking death stare on their unfortunate victim. There’s nothing like that rabbit-in-the-headlight-gaze to lower the comfort level of a conversation.

I marvelled at this when I was a television reporter. During on-camera interviews I would hold the other person’s gaze while I was talking to them. Some people clearly found this excruciating and couldn’t maintain natural eye contact throughout the process.

Want to be perceived as open and honest? Be prepared to look the other person in the eye regardless of the topic of conversation; but rather than staring them down, look away occasionally too.

3.    They smile and use body language to really listen.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the research that shows how little our actual words impact the overall effectiveness of our communication. Our tone of voice and body language make up the vast majority of tools we have to get our message across. Yet, most of the time we operate from a default position where we’re not conscious of what our body is doing and whether it’s helping or hindering our message.

I’m not suggesting fake or overdone gestures, but be aware of basics such as whether you’re leaning towards or away from the other person, whether your feet are pointed towards them or off to another part of the room, and if you are smiling and nodding at appropriate times.

If you’re sitting in a meeting room across a table from someone – and there are only two of you in the room – be aware that you have a physical barrier to communication. If you can, move your chair to the end of the table nearest the other person to enable you to talk diagonally across the table end.

Remember, it’s a fine line between a respectful distance and getting too close. We’re going for warm and friendly, not suffocating and sleazy.

4.    They approach every situation having already seen a positive result.

The power of visualisation is well documented. Yes, you can visualise positive outcomes for your life on a large scale, and you can also use this technique for very down-to-earth situations including specific conversations.

Here’s how it works: imagine you need to talk to someone about a sensitive or unpleasant subject. You’re probably dreading it, and already imagining it going pear-shaped. Now, try a little brain-washing on yourself and focus on seeing the conversation in a positive light. Try to play out the whole scene in your mind, and make sure the ending is exactly the way you want it. Even if you don’t believe it, give it a go.

Going into that meeting having imagined a positive result, will influence everything about your approach. Your tone of voice, mannerisms, the words you choose, how you use your body, will all be influenced by your mindset which in turn will affect the immediate outcome of the conversation. I have seen this demonstrated many times by participants in my workshops.

You obviously cannot control what the other person says and does, but they will respond to your cues. You will have much more influence over the outcome than if you go in passively, or with a negative mindset.

I love the story about the opening of the first Disneyland, when someone purportedly remarked to Walt Disney’s wife that it was a shame that Walt hadn’t lived to see the momentous opening day. Her reply? “Oh, but he did!” Even while Disneyland was still a dream, Walt Disney saw it in its completed state. That coloured his every action and, in turn, influenced everyone around him.

We can apply this to our everyday conversations and get better results.

5.    Rather than whinging, they find solutions.

If someone gets a great opportunity there’s a pretty good chance it’s not by accident. Perhaps they’ve put their hand up or shown they’re willing to take a risk. Maybe they put forward an idea when everyone else had a blank look on their face. They suggested something at the right time, or weren’t afraid to challenge another opinion.

Nothing pollutes a business environment more quickly than an infestation of whinging. Rather than adding to the cesspool, be the one who breaks free of it and comes up with solutions. Who knows, you might even motivate your colleagues to get on board. You're certainly more likely to stand out in a positive way if you're a source of inspiration.

 

Some of these ideas are simple, others take more practice. They can all be implemented in baby steps. It’s a matter of being conscious of the way you interact with people and choosing to try something different.

Naturally, you need your technical skills and expertise; froth and bubble alone will quickly subside. However, there’s no doubt that pumping up your charisma quotient will have a positive impact on your business and career. 

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

How avoiding cheap words gives you better business relationships

A year ago I was invited to quote on providing services for a large government project. It was a complex brief, and a lot of elbow grease went into my submission.

Then…nothing.

Time went on and I was busy with other work. I followed up the submission once or twice and received the “we’ll get back to you” treatment. I well and truly lost interest, chalking it up to what appears to be a communication norm these days; non-responsiveness.

Guess what? A few weeks ago a letter arrived (yes, a printed one!) letting me down gently to the news that, unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in my submission. What a massive surprise!

I have to give them credit; at least they eventually got back to me – not that I was hanging out for a response 12 months on. It’s an interesting observation, though, that the more communication channels we have in our information-saturated world, the less we seem to consider it necessary to exercise some of the more courteous behaviours like responding to people.

I hear similar comments from those around me; whether it’s an invitation to an event, a job application or general business communication, people don’t reply like they used to. In an age when it’s so easy to answer by flicking back a response or posting a comment, words have never been so cheap. Their value has plummeted further than the Aussie dollar.

And with those cut-rate words comes a slump in accountability. Following through, getting back to people, taking responsibility for actions and being willing to admit to mistakes seem to be viewed by many as old-hat.

It reminds me of a story I heard from a friend with a long and somewhat colourful career in many industries. He once worked for a giant telco where a colleague spent years using a false name to sign large contracts (the name was pretty obviously fake, at that). When my friend asked him why, his response was, “I don’t want those bastards holding me accountable for anything!”

Amazingly, no-one picked him up on it and he got his wish of never being held accountable for the contracts he signed.

Do you know people, businesses, government departments like that? They mightn’t exactly have fake names or false social media profiles, but their words count for little and they don’t step up to be held accountable for what they do. Generally, those types hide behind arms-length communication rather than building the solid relationships that have never been more important in our furiously-paced digital environment.

To further your career or business, you need to build credibility. Start with airtight relationships with the people in your network - and those beyond it - who matter most.

That’s not going to come through hollow words and lack of response. It’s more likely to be born of direct contact, meaningful conversations and honesty.

Let’s take care not to get swept up in other people’s bad communication habits. It’s important to get back to people when they ask for something, close the communication loop (oh, and perhaps don’t take a year to do it!)

Our words don't need to be cheap. Used well, they’re a rich and powerful tool, helping us succeed and make a positive difference to everyone around us.

 

Image: courtesy of shutterstock.com

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

How To Kick Goals This Year By Backing Team You

I was catching the train to an early morning meeting in the city this week, joining everyone else in their corporate uniforms; variations of suits and laptop bags, heads bowed, phones firmly planted in faces.

The doors opened at a station and in she stepped, immaculately dressed and groomed. Like most passengers she was holding her phone in her hand, and as she moved into the carriage the device slipped from her grasp and clattered to the floor.

Her response was a loud “whoops-a-daisy!” – which drew smiles and giggles from those around her. Do you remember that scene from the movie Notting Hill, where Hugh Grant lets out a similar exclamation and is paid out for it by Julia Roberts?  As Julia’s character points out, "No one has said 'whoops-a-daisy' for fifty years and even then it was only little girls with blonde ringlets."

Who knows how many years ago those words were implanted as a go-to phrase in our well-heeled train traveller’s mind. Was it something her mother said to her, or maybe a grandparent or teacher, or was it a saying she picked up from other kids as they repeated what they’d heard from those who influenced them?

Whatever the source, that particular string of words became lodged in her bank of reflex actions, so that all those years later it was the first thing to come out of her mouth well before she thought about it.

It’s no secret that we all have the experiences of our formative years imprinted within us. Those situations might find instant re-enactment through innocent phrases as in the phone-dropping scenario, or their long-lasting effects might be revealed in more negative ways; behaviour that doesn’t serve us, mannerisms that undermine our confidence and credibility now that we’re operating in the business world. Perhaps it’s an underlying belief that if we’re to succeed, we need to make everyone like us. Or, it could be a nagging idea that everybody is out to take advantage of us or we aren’t good enough to put ourselves forward for new opportunities or business ideas.

We’re operating in an environment driven by reputation and credibility. While our reputation is what others think of us, it starts with self-belief. If we don’t believe we can do it, how can we expect anyone else to back us and our abilities?

Negative stuff will stick if we let it. I had an art teacher at school who laughed at my enthusiastic - and apparently very ordinary - attempts at painting. The result; I stopped trying to draw or paint in any form. Even much later, when I recognised it as a belief imposed by someone else that I innocently accepted at the time, it still had a strong hold on me.

What mental habits have you picked up along your journey? No doubt many of them are harmless, but some might be hindering you from nailing what you really want to achieve.

Sometimes we’re not even aware we have blithely accepted someone else’s negativity as truth. If you were to record all the conversations you have with yourself during the day (now there’s a scary thought!) what would the main themes be? Do you think you’d be encouraging Team You, or simply mimicking the common (usually negative) phrases you heard in the past that are now part of your continuous feedback loop?

Undoing a lifetime of habits might sound like a tall order, but we can take the relatively simple step of just being aware of what generally comes up in our thoughts and words every day. Being aware enables you to take small actions that can mean a big difference to your confidence. That confidence will translate into your behaviour, transforming your relationships and expanding your credibility bank.

Don’t let your version of ‘whoops-a-daisy’ trip you up in your business endeavours. Embrace the positive elements you’ve picked up so far in your life, and weed out the ones that detract from the awesomeness of you. Make 2017 your Year of Credibility.

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

The one thing I’ve learned about Christmas (and it’s not written on a card)

The last time I spoke to my mother was December 2014. She had called me in her usual cheery way to make final arrangements for Christmas day.

“I’ve made the cake and pudding,” she announced, referring to the culinary staples she produced every year that were a favourite in the family. We discussed other details; who was bringing the prawns, the bonbons, the cherries, and whether we’d risk it and set the tables up outside or believe the weather forecast and stay indoors.

A few days later – exactly one week before Christmas - Mum died. She’d been feeling “a bit crook” (in our family parlance) and ended up in hospital for tests. After a while hospital staff sent Dad home, telling him to come back after dinner when Mum would be feeling better. He reported to me that she would be home in a few days, and I planned to visit her over the weekend.

Dad left the hospital and drove the short distance home. He’d just got there when the phone rang, heralding the terrible news that Mum was gone. There were no last words or goodbyes, no opportunity for final arrangements.

Just nothing - and the empty expanse of Christmas now stretching out before us.

There were other factors too. This happened in the same week as the Lindt Café siege in Sydney. Because Mum died so suddenly there had to be an autopsy, but Sydney’s morgue was very busy and the abrupt death of an elderly lady wasn’t considered a priority.

I spent Christmas Eve arguing with morgue staff about whether they would release Mum’s body so we could go ahead with her funeral the day after Boxing Day. At about three minutes to their closing time on Christmas Eve, they agreed to release her.

I also spent the few days before Christmas calling Mum’s vast network friends (details neatly alphabetised in her Teledex). Every one of them reacted with shock and denial, as they had just received her Christmas card in the post. She sent them out each year like clockwork. “No, she can’t be gone – I just opened her Christmas card this morning!” or variations of the theme, over and over.

I explained the circumstances as patiently as I could. By about call number 20 I had the spiel perfected.

Hardly surprising, then, that our Christmas Day was subdued. The family gathering was more an opportunity to finalise funeral details. But what we did have were Mum’s Christmas cake and pudding, lovingly and efficiently made in advance. She never got the chance to ice the cake, so my sister took on the challenge of replicating the icing with that special, familiar flavour.

Those traditional treats usually vanished quickly in our household, but this time I wanted to keep the last traces of Mum’s Christmas efforts forever.

Everyone has a story at this time of year. Maybe yours is full of joy and expectation, with all the sentiments encouraged by the advocates of the festive season. For many others, this is a time of sadness, loneliness or painful reminders of loss.

What I’ve learned is that the close of one year and the dawn of another is a gift; an opportunity to regather and plan for all the wonderful possibilities that will unfold over the next 12 months.

I didn’t have a great Christmas two years ago. The whole experience made me reluctant to even look at a Christmas tree, let alone feel excited by it. But it has taught me that inner strength has a marvellous way of showing itself when you most need it. While I haven’t decorated my house or sent any cards this year, I’m looking on Christmas with a sense of optimism for my life, my health, my family and my business.

Life is fleeting, but it can also be wonderful. How we shape it is up to us. You have an opportunity to reflect on your 2016 and craft an incredible 2017.

I encourage you to seize that opportunity - and if the sentiments of the season drive you a little crazy, use that energy to drive you forward into the future you deserve. 

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

Switch On The Spotlight To Boost Your Reputation

In today’s social media world, reputation is more precious than diamonds. If anyone wants to know about you or your organisation, they can track you with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

While you can’t control what people think or say about you or your business, you can contribute to your own reputation by making sure your internal house is in order. For example, do your values, words and actions all line up?

Demonstrating consistency is essential to earn trust, and that’s a fundamental building block for a healthy reputation.

Understanding your external environment is also critical for building sound reputation capital. That might sound straightforward, but many people and businesses overlook this and end up blindsided by negative issues.

Lets look at a couple of examples.

Be aware of what’s going on inside your business

Recently, I was speaking with a high-level business advisor who is often called in to help struggling organisations. He told me about a large utility company whose board couldn’t work out why the place was bleeding money when they should have been making a healthy profit.

He didn’t need to be Einstein to quickly identify that two senior managers were having an affair. The pair would disappear for several hours each day – which was bad enough – but they were also syphoning money off to fund a luxury apartment for their dalliances.

He also discovered that an enterprising employee had built a false wall inside one of the organisation’s technical departments. Anyone visiting that section would have walked past without noticing that something was amiss, but one of the rooms in fact extended beyond the false wall. Everyone was shocked to learn what lay behind it.

The employee had turned part of the building into a drug laboratory. This semi-government utility was, in fact, facilitating a drug dealership that was supplying the local community. The story went even further. Once the drug lab was shut down, the employee who instigated it was seriously assaulted by some of his customers who weren’t impressed at having their supply cut off.

This is an extraordinary story with a serious message. Many organisations don’t actually know what’s going on right under their nose. They behave like ostriches with their head in the sand. I see this myself when I’m called in to manage issues and crises. Make no mistake; building a great reputation involves taking an honest look at what’s going on within your walls and addressing it, warts and all. This applies to businesses and organisations of any size.

We should never underestimate the potential for people to do things we would never dream of doing. It’s easy to assume everyone behaves the way we were brought up, but unfortunately that’s not realistic. An outsider coming in to the utility organisation could easily identify where the issues lay, yet leaders on the inside had tried and failed to put their finger on the problems.

So, take a good look around. Ask the right questions and you’ll be able to uncover potential problems before they turn into disasters.

Remove the blinkers in your external environment

I once did some work with a local council that had a huge project happening in their region – the construction of a major bridge that was being funded by their state government.

The bridge was built in a spectacular location and when it was finished there was a lot of publicity and community interest. Visitors to the area were keen to take photos, while others wanted to walk or cycle across the structure. Commercial car manufacturers wanted to film television commercials on it. However, there were no parking areas at either end of the bridge. Overnight, a relatively quiet regional area became the home of traffic jams, cars blocking roadways and angry local residents. Just as quickly, the whole thing became a PR nightmare for the council. 

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Their response was, “it’s not our fault. We didn’t build the bridge, we didn’t ask for the bridge, we didn’t fund the bridge, it was simply built in our geographical area.” All valid points, but none of them diminished the problem. Planning for the bridge had taken years, and it was hardly a secret. Rather than being proactive and planning for facilities that would be needed in association with the bridge, this organisation took a blinkered approach and then had to deal with the consequences.

Sadly, this type of situation is common. Even though it’s obvious something in our external environment is going to affect us, we wear our blinkers and fail to recognise the likely impacts. The fall-out is usually so much worse than if we’d identified the potential issue and taken action.

Often, we jump into branding and storytelling mode without having a good look around our organisation. Remember, the first step to building reputation capital is awareness. Be proactive in heading off problems before the headache takes hold.

Check out what's happening inside and outside your organisation. You might be amazed at what you discover. 

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

Reshaping The Role Of The Communication Professional

The world is one giant review agency.

Innovation has empowered people with internet-enabled devices to say anything about your business, and there is little you can do to stop that.

When I first started working in corporate communication, I was a “reputation gatekeeper”. No communication of any importance passed in or out of the organisation without first coming to me for vetting.

Added to that, many businesses preferred to practise a “decide and tell” approach, where they operated behind closed doors and occasionally emerged with a carefully crafted positive message to fuel their reputation.

Those approaches won’t cut it today.

With the growth of social media and other forms of digital communication, there’s no such thing as a reputation gatekeeper. Businesses are under constant scrutiny and information is flowing to and from every pore of the organisation.

The idea of the gatekeeper has truly been blown wide open. So, what description fits the role of today’s communication professional?

The best way we can serve our organisation is to embrace our new responsibility as a facilitator - the conductor of a reputation orchestra, if you will. Alongside managing an endlessly expanding array of communication channels, we must establish an environment where each section of the business understands the importance of reputation and their own roles as reputation ambassadors.

A business or organisation can’t control its reputation, which is made up of what other people think. But that reputation can be influenced – by how the business behaves, what it says about itself, and how it demonstrates its values each day.

Whatever their role, the people who make up your organisation now hold the keys to your reputation kingdom. Give them the tools and skills they need to tell their stories.

Far from being obsolete, communication experts have never been more essential. You're no longer a gatekeeper; you're an influencer, advocate and leader. Grab that conductor's baton and give it a good whirl.  

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

How to Boost Your Credibility With Two Layers

In our reputation-driven economy, the currency to success in any endeavour is credibility. Establishing yourself as a trustworthy, honourable and authentic person to deal with requires two layers of action.  

In my experience, most people focus on one layer more than the other. I’d like to encourage you to work at striking a balance between the two and noticing the difference it makes to your progress.

 

Layer 1: Your digital persona

The first test of credibility is how easily people can find you and what they discover when they get there. It’s surprising that many people still haven’t established a strong online presence for themselves, their business or organisation.

If you’re not working on ways to make yourself stand out across various platforms, you’re missing out on potential opportunities. Generating unique content that brings value to your audience is a great place to start.

Do you look at hotel reviews on TripAdvisor before making a reservation? In our digitally-dependant world, the opinions people share online will often influence what decisions we make. Take that into account for your own sites.

Make sure to display any testimonials, endorsements and positive media coverage you receive. People need to see a sample of credible offerings wherever they look for you. Think of this as a slow-burn practice. You probably won’t get the business offer of a lifetime in the first five minutes of someone checking you out online, but an overall picture will form over time. One day, that may well translate into something tangible.

Conversely, it will count against you if something negative or half-baked comes up. Don’t underestimate the power of establishing a stand-out digital persona.

 

Layer 2: Your personal offering

Credibility

Thankfully, we’re still multi-dimensional humans (although watching people crossing the street with their eyeballs glued to their phone does make you wonder sometimes!). Having a strong digital persona is great, but we can’t forget about forming and maintaining real life relationships with others.

Face-to-face interactions are still very important for success. Communicating clearly and persuasively about what you offer is essential, after you have built rapport over time. If that isn’t your strength, seek some training or do whatever is necessary to feel comfortable.

My own business was built on the solid foundation of existing relationships. People who already know and trust you are much more likely to offer you opportunities; whether that’s a promotion within an organisation, an opportunity for a great project, or a business proposal.

 

Maintaining solid results

Avoid limiting your potential for success. If you want to supercharge your reputation capital, routinely evaluate whether your in-person performance is on par with your digital persona. If you’re stronger in one area, make sure you improve the other. As with most things in life, balance is key.

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

The Simple Ways To Stop A Crisis

Plenty has been written and said about the communication response to last month’s Dreamworld tragedy. I’m not going to comment on the specifics of that situation, but it highlighted that no organisation or business is immune to the risk of a crisis.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves that small day-to-day issues that remain unaddressed have the potential to grow into catastrophes.

When I work with businesses on addressing serious problems that have spilled into the public arena, I find the vast majority could have been avoided if the organisation had recognised and managed the issue early on. Instead, it seems to be a default position to look the other way and pretend it’s not happening. Even when an issue is recognised, it’s tempting to blame someone else rather than stepping up and taking action.

Rather than waiting until an issue spirals into crisis, it makes more sense to take action before something goes badly wrong. Prevention is better than crisis.

Taming negative issues starts with having great relationships

While it’s true that some large-scale disasters can’t be predicted, making sure you have outstanding relationships with everyone in your ecosystem of influence is a critical first step in identifying negative issues early and being able to quickly address them.

Everyone in our circle and network can be impacted by what we do and say, and those actions have an ongoing ripple effect further into our ecosystem.

Take a look at your network and pinpoint the key relationships that can impact or be impacted by your organisation.

In the past, we used to do a “stakeholder analysis” in a very linear fashion. We’d put our organisation in the middle of a circle or on the top level of a chart, and have lines flowing out or down to our stakeholders.

However, today’s networked world is more like an ongoing grid, where our so-called stakeholders interact with each other and their own networks as well as us.

Either way, certain people and groups have the potential to have a higher impact on - or be more seriously impacted by - the actions of your organisation. It’s a good exercise to map these out. Really think about those relationships and how much time you spend nurturing them. Do you know what those groups need from your organisation? Are you making sure you’re meeting their expectations?

Hand in hand with that, you must maintain outstanding communication at all times.

Get your messages across the first time - every time - to prevent confusion, misunderstanding, offence, anger, time-wasting or people simply taking the wrong action. Regardless of job description, it’s never been more important for everyone in your business to have solid written and verbal communication skills.

Fostering outstanding relationships and communicating well with your ecosystem will go a long way towards preventing niggling negative issues from taking root and growing.

Constant weeding

At the same time, you need to be on a constant lookout for emerging issues.

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As I’ve said, many so-called crises are completely preventable. It needs to be someone’s role to continually scan your organisation inside and out to ensure that promises are delivered on and issues addressed promptly. Think of issues as little weeds that must be plucked out before they get a stranglehold.

Be aware of what’s being said about your business in the external environment, including on social media. That doesn’t mean you need to respond to every comment, but it’s important to first know what’s being posted so you can then consider whether to respond.

Some organisations even choose to ignore negative comments on their own social media pages, and that can be a recipe for disaster. Be authentic, correct misinformation and address comments that could harm your organisation’s reputation.

The key here is alertness and vigilance. Take small steps to stop small issues growing. It’s much easier to do that in the early stages than to battle a full-scale problem that’s grown out of proportion.

Cover the bases

It’s a reality that you can’t control what other people say, think and do. Even with your best efforts, some issues might get away from you.

If a problem has blown up, leave the spin doctoring to the politicians. You should first cover all your communication bases - and not just the obvious ones. Go back to your ecosystem of influence and identify who is most affected. Ensure you’re communicating directly with them through a channel they can easily access.

The true test for an organisation when responding to a major issue is whether they can be authentic, transparent and stay true to their values. That groundwork is laid long before an issue arises, so it pays to get the inside of your organisation right. Know what you stand for, and be sure that all responses during an issue are consistent with that.

If you’ve made a mistake, own it. Explain what happened, what you’re doing about it and what will happen next. Don’t wait until the problem flares up before taking action.

Manage issues well, and you’ll be building reputation capital along the way. Get it wrong and you’re likely to find yourself standing out – but for all the wrong reasons. 

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

How To Be Selective And Successful In A Channel-Saturated World

Right now, there are so many channels we can use to communicate with others in our sphere of influence.

From more traditional methods such as meetings and emails, to social media and blogs, online videos and everything in between, there’s no shortage of ways to communicate.

However, we often default to the communication method that suits us best. Perhaps you prefer email or a particular social media platform, but we have so much choice and need to carefully identify the most effective way to get our message across to our audience.

Every communication decision starts with thinking about who is going to receive our message. 

In my experience, we mostly plough into the communication process, knowing we’ve got something important to say without thinking about who we’re talking to and how they might prefer to receive our information.

Taking a few minutes to plan and prepare can mean the difference between your message getting across the first time, every time, and you wasting a lot of time answering queries, dealing with missed information and all the issues that can arise from that. 

When selecting your method of communication, there are three key factors to consider:

The urgency of the information

If you need to reach someone quickly, you’re not going to send a snail mail or an email and hope they’ll access it instantly.

The sensitivity of the information

It’s very difficult to communicate emotive information or anything sensitive in nature by email or other forms of written communication alone. You are cutting out the vast majority of your communication tools, including body language, tone of voice and facial expressions, as well as your ability to also receive those signals from your audience.

That’s a sure-fire recipe for miscommunication, misunderstanding and all the timewasting that creates.

There are some situations where you just have to see the whites of the other person’s eyes. At the very least, organise a video call. In the worst-case scenario, a standard phone call will do. At least they can hear your voice.

The quantity of information

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If you’ve got a long-winded message to deliver, you might need to break it up into smaller chunks or give people a quick summary with a link leading to more information. If it’s something quick and easy, then a text or a Facebook message might suffice.

Remember that channels are tools for you to use. A channel should complement but not overshadow the message.

Every communication interaction is part of a relationship. It’s never done in isolation, and the person we’re communicating with will form an impression of us that will contribute to our reputation. If it’s a negative experience, they’re likely to tell other people. If it’s a positive one, they might speak highly of us and come back for more business.

Don’t underestimate your choice of channel. Along with that, be wary of your tone and the way you approach people, particularly if you haven’t met them before.

Well-known speaker, Jane Anderson, recently shared a great story about this that’s stuck with me. Not long after being divorced, she reluctantly agreed to go on a date set up by friends.

She was surprised to see that the guy rocked up wearing a backpack. She asked him, “Oh, have you just come from the gym?”

He replied, “No, but I was thinking if it works out well between us… Well, you never know.”

She thought he was joking and said, tongue in cheek, “Oh right, so you’ve got a change of clothes and your toothbrush.” It turned out that he did! He wasn’t joking at all.

Not surprisingly, Jane sent this over-eager suitor on his way – but it did give her a colourful analogy for how some people communicate on platforms like LinkedIn.

Have you ever been approached by someone on a business networking site who cosies up to you like they’re your best friend? It’s like they’ve got their backpack on and are ready to stay the night! Trouble is, you’re a long way from ready. You don’t know them, have never heard from them before, and need to learn more if you’re to consider building a connection. In these situations, business relationships need to strengthen slowly so trust can be established. The same applies to any form of communication.

Choose your channel wisely, along with an engaging tone that hits the mark rather than giving that creepy feeling. Make wise choices and your communication will be more effective.

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel

Three Ways To Be A More Confident Communicator Today

As a speaker on communication and reputation I often get asked how to have more confidence during important conversations or when speaking in front of others.

There’s nothing new in this question; people over the centuries have struggled with nerves and anxiety when they have to get up and speak. There’s also no magic solution; it starts with self-belief and I could write an entire series on how to kill off those negative thoughts that sabotage our attempts to speak confidently. In this post, I’m focusing on three quick, practical tips to help you boost confidence straight away (the self-belief part might well be a work in progress!)

 It’s all in the preparation

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” That man knew what he was about. As well being a lesson on life, those wide words apply to communication situations where we feel nervous or stressed.

Sometimes our nerves stem from not doing the right preparation. Now, I can hear you saying, “I don’t have enough hours in the day as it is – now you’re telling me to allow for preparation time every time I want to communicate?” but I’m suggesting you will actually save time in the long run. A small amount of preparation will get you a better result. You’ll get your message across the first time; those you’re speaking to will understand you clearly and there will be less misunderstanding, frustration, confusion and unnecessary questions.

Preparation starts with thinking about your audience (by audience I mean the individual or group you’re speaking to. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be up on a stage). Really think about them; what do you know about them, what do they need from you from this communication, what to you need them to take away, how do you want them to feel, how do you want them to act as a result of the communication?

Often, we plough in without thinking about the person or people we’re speaking to and wonder why we’re getting inferior results.

Once you’ve considered our audience, it’s time to think about the specific key points you need to communicate. I’m a great believer in the deadly simple but very effective “rule of three”, where you simply group your information under three key headings. Put simply, our brains enjoy receiving information in three pieces. Four points are a little too many and two aren’t quite enough. Three is just right.

Think to yourself; if my audience could walk away with three key pieces of information and nothing more, what would those points be?

This approach works well if you’ve delivering a presentation, and it’s also great for important conversations. Having a simple framework to hang your information on make it easier for the other person to follow you, and takes the pressure off you to know what to say.

I use this myself when presenting proposals to clients; I go into the meeting with three very clear points and a desired outcome. During the meeting, I’m then able to say to the client, “I’ve been giving your issue some thought and here are some ideas I’d like to suggest.” Rather than taking part in a meandering conversation that you hope will get the outcome you’re seeking, going in with a firm structure gives direction to the meeting and leads quickly to the outcome. At the same time, you’ll come across as professional, proactive and well organised.

Of course, in a conversation the other person will probably respond and ask questions throughout, its not like you’re delivering a monologue. However, knowing your three points up front will increase your confidence, and you’ll be able to address their question or comment knowing where you want the conversation to go next.

Once you’ve got the structure and key points sorted, it’s time to get your head space right. I said earlier that self-belief is a long-term project, but in the short term you can at least manage your immediate attitude.

Before you go into an important meeting or presentation, listen to music you enjoy, tell yourself positive messages and spend a few minutes thinking about times when you’ve succeeded at something (which could be anything, it doesn’t have to be related to communicating!) Think about the result you want to achieve and imagine yourself achieving exactly that. Say the word confidence to yourself, as an instruction to your brain. This will influence you’re body language; you’ll stand taller and convey more confidence (even if your insides are doing a jelly roll). Doing this for just a few minutes before a conversation or presentation can make a huge difference to the way you come across, and your audience will pick up your cues and respond accordingly.

Focus on them

People will forgive you for a few ums and ahs if they feel a part of the conversation. Rather than focusing on yourself (which will only make you feel self-conscious and zap your confidence), put your attention on your audience - whether that’s one individual or a group of people.

Make sure you’re using lots of eye contact and “you” focused language. Try not to communicate just from your own point of view. If you can hear yourself using a lot of “I” and “me” statements, it’s time to do a quick adjustment. Focus on your audience and try to see the communication from their point of view. 

This works really well if you can feel your nerves or anxiety rising during the discussion or presentation. Shift your attention outward; think about your audience, ask yourself “what do they need from me and how can I best serve them?” That stops you worrying about whether your voice sounds funny or you’re hair’s not right, because you’re now genuinely thinking about what the others in the interaction need.

Use whatever techniques you can to keep your audience engaged; ask questions, get feedback, use open hand gestures, make sure you’re not turning your body away from the audience, smile, keep your tone warm and friendly. One of my favourite quotes from Hugh Mackay is this:

“It’s the message people take away not the message we send, that determines our success as a communicator.” Another very wise man.

Our job isn’t done until our audience walks away with a clear impression of our key points and what action they need to take next.

Shift your perspective upwards

This is the part that many people neglect, and it’s all about your higher reason for doing what you do.

Many people are focused on the day to day grind and don’t stop to think about the bigger picture; why they do their job or why they’re undertaking a particular activity. If you think about it long enough, you’ll come up with an overarching reason. Usually it will have more to do with others, and less to do with you, than you think.

I did an exercise recently with a group of early childhood teachers where I asked them what they did in their roles. Their answers sounded much like a short job description; they told me the tasks they performed rather than the results they actually achieved. When we looked into it more deeply they were able to see that, in fact, they were making a huge difference to children at a very critical stage of their development. While they initially gave answers like “I teach pre-schoolers”, in fact they were shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

When they started to really get this concept, there was a dramatic change in their body language. Shoulders went back and they collectively sat up taller. Suddenly they were seeking their role in a whole new light.

I encouraged them to take this feeling into all of their communications, including when speaking to parents of the children in their care. That injected a whole lot more confidence and presence into their conversations - previously many had reported feeling intimidated and inadequate when liaising with parents, many of whom were corporate high-flyers.

Interestingly, I received feedback that the parents in their child care centre noticed a positive difference in the way the staff were communicating. This came about just from changing their perspective of their role from a low-level task-driven view to an over-arching, powerful vision.

Think about your higher role – what you’re bringing to your clients, your community or even the world as a whole - and align your communication to that. Shifting your perspective upward will inspire you with confidence, which in turn will be conveyed in everything you do.

So, there are some quick tips for more confident communication. Be prepared, focus on engaging your audience, and think of yourself from a higher standpoint and communicate from that space.

Confidence is one of those rare elements that you can fake a little as you learn and grow. The more of these principles you put into practice, the more confident you will actually feel and you'll be on your way to being a genuinely confident communicator.

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel