Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Last week I taught a class on contact management for Professional Organizers in Canada (POC).  Who knew there were so many systems out there?  And, we only touched on a few of them.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, as they are often referred to, can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to an extremely robust system such as ACT!  Personally I’m a fan of the Outlook contact management system that comes with the software I already have.  It seems to do everything I could possibly need it to do.  I can enter as much information on a customer as I wish and the system will keep track of every email, appointment and task I have related to that customer without me having to do a darn thing – I like that!

What you need your system to do is obviously the key when choosing a CRM system.  If I needed to track conversations and be able to analyze my customer base and print detailed reports then I could see the need for software such as ACT!, Goldmine, Maximizer, etc. 

Any organization with a sales force needs to have one of these systems in order to allow multiple users to access customer records and keep detailed information on prospects and opportunities.  And, from what I understand, these systems are essential when you need to generate regular reminders that it’s time to contact a customer.  Somehow, when I was in sales, I managed to keep track of all this information manually – looking back I have no idea how we did it!

I have a few thoughts on how to choose the right system:

  1. Keep in mind the complexity of the system and how much time it takes to maintain accurate records.
  2. Base your decision on what you need the system to do for you.
  3. Be certain that the system you choose integrates seamlessly with your email management program, calendar and tasks.
  4. Talk to an expert before making your final choice (check out The Red Group).

All that to say I have now discovered that I am so far from an expert on this subject it’s not even funny.  Perhaps something to add to my professional development list for 2011?


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I’m so excited this week because I get to share the final one of the four webinars I attended on Your Brain at Work with Dr. David Rock.  This one was my favourite.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m all about action.  How do I implement what I’ve just learned?  How do I change myself and help my clients change as well?

One way to achieve change is to focus your attention.  Quantum physics tells us that you change the nature of physical reality through attention.  If you think about anything regularly you can re-wire your brain circuits. So, I think we had better watch out what we think about and put our attention on, don’t you?

Dr. Rock spent some time in this session focusing on Mindfulness.  Just thinking about it is making me more mindful – ha!  Anyway, developing the skill of mindfulness (or paying attention) requires us to do 3 things:

  1. Pay attention to incoming information
  2. In the present moment
  3. In an open and accepting way

Now, there’s this nasty tendency our brain has to intefere with our ability to be mindful by turning on the narrative circuity.  You know what I’m talking about – that little voice that says, “You are crazy, you can’t do that!” and so on.  The key to paying attention is to learn to turn down the narrative and focus on the incoming information right now in this moment.  In this way we can become better at switching attention and choosing what to focus on.  The idea, the way I understand it anyway, is to use your power to veto the thought you don’t want as soon as you notice it and get back on the right train of thought.

The final key to facilitating change in ourselves and others is to create a feeling of safety.  We can do this by focusing on where we are going, not what we are avoiding or where we’ve been.  We need to be careful to minimize status threats, we need to create certainty, we need to give people choices and help them connect.  In the end, by asking ourselves and others the right questions we can move away from focusing on the problem and move toward the solution and a new reality. 

Here’s the reason I’ve been blogging about this for the last 4 weeks – Dr. Rock says that if I focus my attention on what I’ve learned by speaking about it, thinking about it and writing about it, I will create new circuits in my brain.  Say what?  Just kidding!  Hope it’s been as much fun for you as it has for me.  I’m off to put some of these concepts into practice with my clients.  Wish me luck!

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Alright, where were we?  I’ve been on vacation and I think my brain went to sleep over the course of the last week.  As you can tell I’m back to digging through my notes from the webinar series ‘Your Brain at Work’ with Dr. David Rock.

Our third session was all about how we know, understand and get along (or don’t) with each other and even more interesting, about how we influence each other.  Dr. Rock introduced us to the SCARF model.  S = Status, C = Certainty, A = Autonomy, R = Relatedness, and F = Fairness. 

Let’s start with status. Wow, does this subject speak to our ego or what?  Status is all about our perception of our position relative to another person or our pecking order.  We attempt to make ourselves feel better by trying to raise our status. We do this be being taller (I’m all over that one!), more attractive, the way we dress, etc.  The expectation of a status increase is rewarding hence the reason we crave it.  Sometimes we can raise our status by being better than we were before.  Most arguments ensue over right and wrong which is really all about status.

Now to certainty or perhaps uncertainty.  Uncertainty makes us anxious.  In general we raise certainty by understanding which is why we are often looking for more information.

Autonomy is one term I am familiar with – it’s all about being in control and making my own choices.

Relatedness is our connection with others whom we trust.  We classify people as friend or foe, people we trust or distrust and we connect with some people and not others.  When we are working in a group we feel the emotions of others and often the person with the strongest emotion (either positive or negative) will take over the group.

Last but certainly not least there is fairness.  I don’t know about you, but I was always taught to share my toys or chocolate bars.  Splitting anything fairly makes us feel good.

In what order would you rate the 5 elements?  Which is most important to you?  Which is least important?  Here is how they stacked up for me:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Certainty
  3. Fairness
  4. Status
  5. Relatedness

The decisions I make when I am working with others are based on my preferences.  We all need to ask ourselves how we can be mindful of the 5 elements and make changes  to help minimize threat and maximize reward for others.  How can I raise the status of the people I work with to maximize the reward they feel? Not how do I raise my own status thereby making others feel threatened. 

Oh my, all so very fascinating.   Stay tuned next week for the final entry on this subject where I’ll attempt to tie this all together in my brain.

If you want to learn more, check out the Results Coaches website.

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During our second webinar on The Brain at Work, David Rock focused on our emotions and how our brain regulates emotion and how we might be able to have some control over that.

The first piece of the discussion that I found interesting was the concept of how our limbic system works.  The limbic system helps us decide if something is good or bad for us.  Our brain wants to minimize danger and maximize reward.  Therefore, we run away from danger faster than we run towards reward.  

In addition, a threat causes more adrenalin and alertness.  Uncertainty is a threat – so does that mean that in a sense we crave uncertainty?  I think about the work I am doing now with overcoming procrastination and discussions I have had with clients about the rush they get from doing things at the last minute.  Perhaps it is related to the way our limbic system functions – fascinating, no?

Here is the part where this discussion related to our ability to be organized and manage our time.  When we experience a threat response here is what takes place:

  • Reduced working memory – we hold less information
  • Increased motor funcitons – fidgeting, etc.
  • Reduced field of view – you see less information
  • Generalizing of threats – you make accidental connections with negative things
  • Erring on the side of pessimism

Are those not all productivity killers – holy cow batman!

Therefore, if we want to learn to perform at our best we have to learn to regulate our emotions.  When you are threatened and feel an emotion, you can do 1 of 3 things:

  1. express your emotion – we are taught not to express emotion, but to suppress it
  2. suppress your emotion – when you suppress emotion it either stays the same or gets worse.
  3. cognitive change – this involves invoking the brains’ braking system

Cognitive change happens most successfully through reappraisal.  This involves changing the interpretation of the situation that causes the emotion.  Since I am certainly no expert on this topic, I suggest you visit David’s website or pick up his book ‘Your Brain at Work’ to study these techniques further.

What I did find interesting for me personally on the subject of reappraisal is that apparently realistic, logical people (that’s me) have trouble with reappraisal and tend to suppress their emotions instead.  I’m doomed, people!

One technique that many of us apply is setting expectations, which is  like regulating our emotions in advance.  If we meet our expectations then the dopamine in our brain goes up and this gives us a small reward.  If we exceed our expectations we get even more of a reward.  However, if we do not meet our expectations our dopamine drops and that poses a threat.

OK, so we run away from threat faster than we run toward reward so, therefore, do we set lower expectations for ourselves so that we always feel good?  Now I’m confused again.  This stuff is not easy, is it?

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One of my projects for this year is to do some research on possible technology for delivering webinars as well as working with clients from a distance.

Now we all know that Skype works well for one-on-one communication. We just need to each have a Skype account and we’re rolling.  Pretty simple all round.  However, what I’m looking for are several capabilities:

  1. One-on-one communication
  2. Producing short video clips for my website
  3. Video conferencing with several business associates from across the country 
  4. Offer webinars to a worldwide audience

So far I have discovered several options that are worth investigating.  Tokbox (www.tokbox.com), Camtasia Studio (www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp), COMF5 (www.comf5.com), GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar (www.gotomeeting.com). 

I’m quite sure there are dozens more, but a girl’s gotta draw the line in the sand somewhere.  The next step is figuring out how much all of this is going to cost me.  Of course, like most small business owners, costs are always a concern so I’m looking for the most affordable option.  If it’s not affordable, it makes no sense from a profit perspective, does it?  At this point I really have no idea how often I’m going to be using each of the items I’ve identified so buying a package at this point is a bit tricky.  I’m tempted to start small and go from there.

Anyway, kiddies, if I don’t procrastinate too much, I’ll get back to you on what I decide to do over the next few months.  If anyone out there has any advice they’d like to offer, please join the conversation.

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As I write this post on the shortest day of the year, I look forward to a good long 24 hours of sleep over the holidays.  I figure if I can organize my time to allow me to spend 24 hours doing absolutely nothing, I’m in a great place.  If you’d like to join me, here goes.

That means:

  • No computer
  • No telephone
  • No cell phone
  • No text messaging
  • No people
  • No cooking
  • No cleaning
  • No, no, no . . .

As my friend Sheila Kelly is fond of saying, “When you say ‘no’ to something, you are saying ‘yes’ to something else”.  What are you saying yes to when you say no to all of the above?

I am saying yes to one day each year just for doing nothing, thinking nothing, and accomplishing absolutely nothing!

Happy Holidays to All!

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This past week I co-facilitated a workshop with my friend and executive coach, Sheila Kelly, called ‘Unleash the Best’ you.

As I was preparing my piece for the workshop I thought about how we can all unleash our best selves at work by being fully present.  I believe that in order to do that we must get absolutely everything out of our heads and into a reliable ‘capture system’ as David Allen calls it and we must plan daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.

Did you know that new brain research shows that we can only hold 4 items in our current memory at one time – yikes, we better develop a system to capture the rest or we’re certain to forget things! When do you empty your brain – everytime something pops into it?  Daily? Weekly?  Do you find that your brain reminds you to do things at the worst possible time?

Think about that for a few days and I’ll perhaps we’ll ponder what some good capture systems might look like and how they can work for you . . . stay tuned!

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