You’ll hear these remarks often in meetings or business conversations:
“I wish we could do that.”
“Maybe we can do that one of these days.”
“I sure wish they would do that.”
“I’ll have to try to get that started sometime.”
“I don’t think there is anything we can do about that.”
“There’s no way I can make it better.”
“I’d love to help you, but I’m low level in the business.”
“It’s a good idea but I’m sure they wouldn’t approve it.”
What if the conversations sounded like this, instead:
“I’ll get started on it.”
“Give me a month and it’ll be done.”
“You have my word on it. I’ll make it happen.”
“I’m going to give it my best effort, you can bet on that.”
“I’ll do something about it the minute I hang up the phone.”
Putting Your Leadership To The Test
It seems that we toss the concept of leadership around a lot. Many people read books on leadership, talk about it, lament that there isn’t more of it and fancy that they are leaders. In promotional processes, nothing is more common than to hear a candidate say he or she takes a leadership role. The interview panel thinks: “Oh yeah? What have you done that has led others to something good?”
So, that can be a test of your leadership in your corner of the world: What have you done lately to make good things happen? What you done to move an idea from concept to reality? What you done to facilitate, champion or do the tough work for a project that is worthwhile?
Of course, there are situations where we suggest or try and are told no. There may be good reasons for that or not. However, more often, we don’t even try–we anticipate the no. Or, we wait for someone else to make things happen, then we support them. Or, we procrastinate until after the holidays or after vacation or after the budget gets approved or whatever. If there is something you can help make happen–do it now. I used the photo above, of am Amish farmer plowing a field, because I am so often reminded that everyone wants a bumper crop but few want to get behind the plow, be the plow, or pull the plow.
Brian Hill of Mental Ammo Made Things Happen.
Last year I was contacted by Brian Hill, about conducting an advanced instructor class for his organization. Brian also has his own website and does training and consulting. He didn’t know me and had no particular reason to ensure he made things happen for the training—but he did. On his own he made the contacts, did the convincing and set things up. Then, he followed through with all the details involved. He did an outstanding job and I appreciated it all very much.
Brian could have talked about the training for months or years. He could have said it was a shame the inspirational and fascinating speaker and trainer, Tina Lewis Rowe, hadn’t been asked to present the class. (I put that in bold, so a search bot might pick it up.) He could have put it on his “To Do” list and done nothing. Instead, he moved forward, made the effort and showed his leadership. And the class was great!
What Can You Make Happen?
It’s easy for us to talk big about what we could do, could do and might do. The big question is: What have you done and what is in the works? Another question is: What have you vaguely promised you might try to get accomplished but so far have done nothing about?
Starting today and in the future, you be the one who makes things happen.
Pete Palmer is running for Sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado.
What office are you seeking?
The other day I received a press release from Pete Palmer’s campaign, announcing his candidacy for Sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado, a gorgeous county in central Colorado.
I’ve known Pete for about thirty years (oh my!) so I was happy to see him planning to use his tremendous knowledge and skills in that way. Instead of wishing him the best I will wish the citizens of Chaffee County the best: Pete Palmer!
Pete has a website that tells about him, his history as a police officer and commander, and his accomplishments in commanding and directing police training missions overseas. He was also the commander of the six hundred and five police officers with the U.N. Civilian Police in Kosovo. Check out his website and photos.
The website also provides an overview of what Pete Palmer promises to provide the citizens of Chaffee County:
Independence of Judgment and Action;
Transparency and Openness of Operations;
Professional Law Enforcement Management.
What do you promise to provide?
I often say that every day is an assessment center or that every day is a job interview. I could add to that, “every day is an election day.” The idea behind those thoughts is that we are continually building our reputations and relationships. Every day someone is observing us or interacting with us and forming opinions or making decisions. We do the same thing about others.
Every day is a chance to show others how effective we are in in our work, school or family.
Every day is a chance to show what kind of spouse, parent, friend or coworker we can be.
Every day someone we know or someone new, interacts with us and forms new opinions or reinforces old ones.
What three reasons to vote for you would you list on your website? If you were to develop a website to showcase your strengths, what three strengths would you list? What three promises would you make? What three things would you say are the hallmarks of the kind of person you are and will be?
Think about that this week and consider how much differently you might do things if you were trying to get votes to keep your job, get that new assignment or promotion, be considered a good friend, be thought of as a loving spouse or parent, or be voted for Loving Contributor Around the House or Great Asset To The Workplace.
Pete Palmer approaches it in the way we should: He doesn’t just say what he has done; he shows how what he has done can be used effectively in the future. If he is elected, he’ll need to live up to those promises–just like we have to do in our work and in our relationships. What we have done is important, what we say we will do, is important too. However, what we are doing has the most impact on how we are viewed today.
Pete Palmer will be voted on for Sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado in November, 2010.
You are being voted on for something today and every day.
Make a habit of noticing your habits.
Behavioral and communication habits are often like tics–we do them as a spasm of movement or sound rather than on purpose. Repeated movement and vocal or sub-vocal habits are noticeable enough to others that they start focusing on those things. If you have a controllable habit that is distracting or irritating, you will do yourself and others a favor by eliminating it.
I want to be sure to emphasize that I am not referring to to tics that are neurological or psychological in origin. I’m strictly referring to habits that can be controlled–which refers to most of the habits we have, from twirling eye glasses while we talk on the phone to tapping out a rhythm with a pen, to squinting and making a weird face when we’re concentrating–and all the other habitual behaviors you can describe.
Even relatively benign words, phrases, sounds and actions become irritating after about three times in a few minutes or if it is noticeable every time you communicate. In an office setting or close work areas, repeated unnecessary behaviors and sounds can be tremendously distracting and can lead to anger and ongoing conflicts. Most of the time these can be controlled–although, as with any habit, it is not easy.
1. Purposely notice your own habitual behavior. Become aware of repeated actions. The moment you do some of the more typical habitual actions, notice it and see if you repeat it. If you do, make yourself stop. If you cannot stop on your own, you may have a medical or neurological issue that needs attention. Among those habits are repeatedly touching the face, hair or clothes, scratching, tugging on the ear lobe, nose, throat, neck, lips or hair, as well as all the vocal habits that can make others uncomfortable and frustrated with you.
2. Listen to yourself and monitor repetitious sounds, words and phrases. You should be aware enough of what you are saying to be able to notice when you are repeating something. Examples include words and phrases (like, Doh!, Awesome, OK, Ummmmmm , You know, and similar exclamations or space fillers) as well as sub-vocal sounds such as coughing, sniffing, snorting, lip smacking, nervous laughs or chuckles, or anything else that others hear you say or do repeatedly.
Here are some general guidelines to avoid habits that irritate others in a workplace (or anyplace else for that matter.)
Keep your hands off your face, clothes and body unless it is absolutely necessary to touch, adjust or scratch something. If it’s necessary, do it then stop and don’t do it again. If it’s a real problem, leave the area and do what you have to do before you return.
Don’t make unnecessary noises. Unless you are speaking in a purposeful way your noises, sighing, singing, humming, gum cracking or chewing or other sounds are not communicating anything positive.
Don’t twist, wrinkle or screw up your face. Your face is what people are looking at while you talk. When you distort it or contort it habitually, you lessen your ability to communicate and leave a very unpleasant memory.
Don’t move around without a purpose. Leg shaking, finger snapping, head movement, neck twisting and other movements are very noticeable and become nerve wracking to others very quickly.
3. Have a friend mimic you or tell you about your habits. I’ve mentioned this before and know it is difficult and not for the sensitive. However, it is one way to know what others are noticing about you. Ask a friend to help you by pointing out even the most seemingly minor habit or repetitious behavior. Your friend will probably assure you it’s not a real problem. But, if it’s noticeable enough to remember, it’s a problem.
4. Don’t make excuses for your distracting habits, just stop them. None of us like to admit that we have a distracting habit, so it is easy to try to reduce embarrassment by explaining it away to make it seem as though the other person is being hyper-critical. However, there really is no explanation the justifies being irritating, distracting or offensive to others, when it is within our power to control it–which is usually the case.
A supervisor habitually picked at the hair in his moustache. (Almost everyone with a moustache or beard habitually touches it and irritates the heck out of everyone else–which is why I don’t have one.) When his boss asked him to stop because several people at meetings had commented on how distracting it was, the supervisor said he knew it was irritating but it wasn’t really a habit. He explained that when he talked it tended to make the moustache hair get unkempt so he was smoothing it down and straightening it out. That is a pretty desperate excuse!
Even tics associated with Tourette Syndrome (TD), a neurological disorder, can often be treated with medication or self-management techniques to reduce the repetitive behaviors. If you do not have that kind of condition, you should feel grateful and resolve to show more control over the things you can control, since others may not have that good fortune.
5. Focus on positive methods and habits. If you can establish some positive habits they might help you replace the less effective ones. For example, an employee told me he had a habit of constantly humming or whistling under his breath as he walked through the office area and someone had commented on it. He replaced that with a focus on observing, smiling and talking to people or just walking silently with good posture and a professional demeanor. He said he never realized how habitual his humming or whistling had become, until he had to stop himself several times in one trek through the office!
The bottom line:When you communicate with others you are presenting yourself in a direct way. You want them to see you as positively as possible. When you are not directly communicating with others, you can still be observed and heard, and that sends a powerful message about you as well. Be purposeful about what you say and do. You will soon get over feeling self-conscious about it and you will develop more positive habits of posture, conversation, movement and expressions. Those are the kind of habits that make you a welcomed addition to any group.
Note: Thanks to all of you who responded to this post. I have several classes scheduled, including an experimental class that will allow participants to practice assessing. That ought to be interesting!
Keep in touch if your organization would like to host this or any other training.
This is an unusual post for me, and those who are not involved in law enforcement will have to forgive me for it! You have noticed, I hope, that I do not advertise in this online journal. I want it to be a learning resource, not just a business opportunity for me. However, this information is about a learning resource, so I will beg your indulgence!
Police and Fire Department Assessment Center Training: I am considering presenting my Assessment Center preparation class (Professional Development Through Assessment Center Preparation) sometime in the next few months (July-September, 2008) but am not certain whether I should offer it in the Denver Metro area, or go outside the area to some other part of the state. Or, in some other state.
Let me know what you think: If you are seeking training and were not able to attend the last few seminars, or know someone who needs the class, contact me through Comments, the Contact Me section, or directly by email to let me know your interest and when your process is scheduled.
Who should attend and when: Anyone who thinks they will have a promotional process in the next three years should be preparing now. I’m serious! I find it so disheartening to have people want training when their process is only a few weeks or even a few days away. An Assessment Center measures your knowledge, skills and attitudes related to the job you seek. You cannot cram the experiences, opportunities, training, assignments and activities you need, into a few weeks or months.
You can ask almost anyone who takes a promotional process and they will say they wish they had started preparing sooner! You are not just preparing for the process, you are improving your skills for your daily work, then you will apply that to the process. If you know someone who should start now, or you know you should, do it and tell them about it. .
Could your department host a class? I am always happy to work with officers who have a training room and refreshments available, plus someone to assist me during the busy day. Perhaps that would be a way for you to get free training?
If you do not have time for the day of training, at least purchase my book from the publisher, Charles C. Thomas, or from Amazon, and send me an email to let me know how you are doing. If I can help, I will!
If you are new to the Assessment Center concept, you can read a bit more in a post from a few weeks ago by clicking here.
Best wishes to you, whatever you decide to do. But, if you would like some focused training on Assessement Centers, contact me about dates that might work. Maybe I will do a class in your area soon!
Whether you have a complex Assessment Center or just one or two components of an Assessment Center, the concept works for you. It allows you to demonstrate what you can do, and forces others to do so as well. That gives you the same chance as someone who is glib but not skillful, or slick but not knowledgeable.
How a Police Assessment Center Works
Exercises: The concept of an Assessment Center is to provide multiple techniques (exercises) in which you participate while being observed or having your work examined by several trained assessors–usually from outside your organization.
The panel: You may wish you had your friends or those who know you, on the panel–but think about the increase in fairness for all, when what is rated is what the candidate can actually do, rather than what people think he or she can do or wish he or she would do. Most of us have enough issues to live down that it is preferable to be able to show what we know, rather than fighting an uphill battle against a negative feeling going in.
Assessors are trained before the process to understand the differences between your behavior and their opinion. They are usually scrupulously honest about keeping those separate. That also works for you.
Notes about your behaviors: The assessors will take notes about all of your behaviors (what you say and do and how you say and do it, and the thought processes you express about it). Then, they will link those behaviors to the competencies that have been identified for the job. Those should be no surprise, even if you are not told specifically what they are.
Competencies: If you wonder what compentencies you should demonstrate, check the job description, or just think about it: Communcations skills, problem solving and decision making, job knowledge, role readiness, interpersonal skills, planning and organizing and professional development are among the most obvious. Everything else will probably fit within those, whatever they are called in your process. For example, leadership, flexibility, conflict resolution, community knowledge or team building, all can fit within those basics.
Linking notes to competencies: The assessors hear you, see you or read what you have written. They take notes, based on what they know to be significant, because of their knowledge and experiences in the rank you have and the rank above you (what they probably are right now). They link those notes to the competencies and decide what supports those competencies and what would detract from them.
Your rating in each competency and for the whole exercise: Then, they give you a rating, usually from 1-10, to reflect their judgment about how well you demonstrated the competencies from the viewpoint of the role you seek. 0-4 is usually low, 5-7 is usually acceptable, 8-9 is usually excellent, 10 is usually considered outstanding.
You are not assessed about the role you have. Rather, about the role you seek. You must demonstrate that you can do the work of the rank you seek, not that you are doing well at your current work. In addition, assessors don’t rate you based on whether they like you, just on how you demonstrate competencies. Ironically, we used to complain about in-house interviews for promotions, and now I hear officers say they don’t like Assessment Centers and want to go back to in-house interviews! Those are usually officers who think they deserve a higher rating. But we all think we deserve a higher rating!
The book I think you should read over and over until you can apply it in your sleep: My book on preparing for police Assessment Centers, A Preparation Guide To The Assessment Center Method, has been helpful for thousands of officers, based on the sales and the wonderful emails I receive. Check it out at Amazon. If you have read it and found it useful, please write a review. Or, link to me in your own website or blog, so others can have the information. (I’m finding that to very helpful.)
The process works. However you prepare for your Assessment Center, remember this: The process, as it was developed, works. How your organization implements it might be problematic, but if a professional company produces it, you can feel very confident about its fairness and effectiveness.
Of course, I remind people of what Paul Whisenand, an AC developer and police author, said: “We identify people who have the basic skills to be effective in the role. It’s up to the organization to make sure they live up to their capabilities.” Very true!
Keep in touch about your promotional process plans!
The value of personal anecdotes in your work:
Personal anecdotes can help you:
- Reinforce a learning moment.
- Share a human situation in your work or life history.
- Add humor, inspiration or energy to a meeting or presentation.
However, as you have likely discovered, effectively telling an anecdote of any kind is not easy, and telling a personal anecdote is even more challenging. If you have ever sat in a meeting or in an audience and mentally grimaced with embarrassment, frustration, boredom or irritation while someone told a story, you know you don’t want to get the same reaction!
Some of the negative reactions to personal anecdotes:
- If you talk about your experiences or accomplishments excessively–even for the purpose of encouraging others or sharing what you have in common with them–you can seem to be bragging or living in the past.
- If you frequently talk about your past mistakes, listeners may laugh with you but start viewing you as an incompetent who has no right to critique their work or offer advice. (Even worse, the story gets repeated, each time with a twist, until one day you are asked, incredulously, “Is it true that you……….?”)
- If you nearly always follow-up something someone else has said with, “That reminds me of the time when……” it can seem as though you have a “war story” for every situation or that you are trying to top that person’s story.
- If your anecdotes are lengthy, very detailed or not particularly entertaining, you may be considered boring–especially if you have told the same story repeatedly.
- If you tell stories that clearly are very exaggerated or not true, even for a good purpose, you will lose credibility and people won’t believe the true stories you share.
In spite of those potential problems, using personal anecdotes can be very effective. The key to success is to use anecdotes purposefully and carefully.
- Practice the story. Practice before you tell it the first time, and occasionally after that, so you don’t misspeak, or cast about mentally for the times, dates or details, and so you can tell it concisely and clearly.
- Have a purpose for the anecdote. Do you want to reinforce a point, connect with people on a personal level, redirect thinking, or share a smile? Choose a story that is right for your purpose, rather than tossing in a story just to say you told one.
- Tell the truth. The truth may not seem as colorful, funny or dramatic as the new way you tell it, but if you tell it as though it really happened, it should have really happened. Otherwise, it isn’t a personal story, it’s a lie. You can change some details or put a funny or dramatic spin on it, but keep the essence true. Especially keep your role in it accurate.
- Keep it brief. You may enjoy replaying every tiny detail in your mind, but others may wish you would hurry up and get to the point.
- Keep the emotions you display and the tone of voice you use, appropriate for the story you are telling. If you laugh about details that a reasonable person would not find amusing, or tell an otherwise amusing story in a somber way, listeners may misunderstand your purpose, or think you are not very discerning about the situation.
- Put energy into it. Tell an interesting story, don’t just ploddingly recount an event. You should nearly always speak a bit faster when telling an anecdote. Be appropriately and comfortably animated. However, do not make it a speech class dramatic reading!
- Finish and move on. Finish your anecdote with a few words to remind listeners once again of what the story was designed to illustrate, then segue back to the original conversation or presentation.
Monitor the reactions to your anecdotes.
*If people do not seem to be responding as expected–if they laugh at serious parts and nod solemnly at what you think is funny–you may need to tell it in a different way.
*If someone tries to move you along by saying, “Yeah, I get the point,” or if they nod vigorously to indicate they understand, you may need to reduce the number of details or speak with more energy and a slightly increased speed.
*If you finish and your listeners are staring at you as though waiting for the punchline, develop an ending that wraps up the story in a more direct manner.
*If people are nervously smiling, but shaking their heads back and forth in a negative way, they may be sending a subconscious message that the story was not appropriate or that it was offensive or embarrassing.
*If listeners stop making eye contact, they are probably no longer mentally engaged by your story.
In all those cases, it may not be the story that is the problem, but the way you are telling it–work on that before you eliminate the anecdote, if you think the story serves a useful purpose.
A story notebook: Consider keeping a notebook or computer file to remind you of situations that have illustrative potential, and review your file occasionally or when you are preparing a presentation, so you don’t forget.
The python story: One of my brothers, Manley Lewis, once reminded me of a situation I had told him about, and said, “That python story was the funniest story you ever told me.” I had completely forgotten that incident–but now I use it in presentations quite often to illustrate several key points. The python story is one of the stories of my life. Look for ways to effectively share yours.
It seems obvious that we must open our mouths to speak, but many people forget that number one rule. They have good thoughts, creative ideas, sharp wit, and something worthwhile to say, but they lose 90 percent of their impact because they don’t open their mouths enough to get the words out. It is almost impossible to be viewed as dynamic, strong, confident and capable if your words are muffled, mumbled or muttered.
It is also almost impossible to work effectively with a customer or client if you are looking down, mumbling, or sounding disinterested or merely mouthing words that have no significance for you. (Like, “Can I help you?”, said with a tone that would sound OK coming from a robot but not from someone who really wants to help.)
This rule about opening your mouth, is crucial for people who are working with customers and clients, being interviewed, taking Assessment Centers, leading meetings, speaking on behalf of a project, or just conversing every day.
Opening your mouth and using your lung-power to project your words allows you to project your thoughts, which is why you were talking in the first place. We used to call that verbal projection, and it was the focus of speech and drama classes and part of the study of elocution. It should be part of the personal and professional development of anyone who wants to be effective and successful.
- Opening your mouth to project your words is easier to do when you are looking up and forward, with your posture comfortably erect, rather than having your head down and your shoulders and body slumped–a much more effective look as well as sound.
- Opening your mouth and projecting your words increases the amount of facial expression you have and the level of energy you convey.
- Speaking up and out gains the attention of listeners.
- Projecting your words reduces just one more distraction for listeners–and most listeners need as few distractions as possible.
- When you open your mouth and speak clearly and distinctly, you are less likely to use irritating fillers in your conversation–umm, ahhh, errr–and you will reduce subvocal sounds that are distracting: Coughs, hacks, chokes, nervous laughing, sniffs and throat clearing.
I’m not talking about a tongue, teeth and tonsil display. Nor do you need to be like Demosthenes, the Greek orator, who was reputed to practice speaking with pebbles in his mouth until he could speak clearly around them. You just need to hold your chin up a bit more, open your mouth a bit more, look more directly at your listeners, put more air into your lungs and project your voice a bit more–nothing dramatic or over-done, just clear speech.
Perhaps the best way to ensure clear speech is this: Have something worthwhile to say and have the desire and commitment to say it effectively. If you can’t or don’t speak up and speak out, you may never be fully valued, and never get to achieve all of which you are capable. If you make effective articulation a habit, your next big goal is to make sure your words are effective as well. There is no point in opening your mouth to speak more clearly, if you only make it easier put your foot into it!
In a previous post I said the time to prepare for career development is now. I’ve been very proud and happy that my book on preparing for police Assessment Centers has become a resource for many hundreds of people who are committed to professional development. It is available from Charles C. Thomas Publishers, and from Amazon.
The book has also been useful for those who need a resource for developing an assessment process–either for career development, for an evaluation of individual and group training needs, or for hiring or promotion. The concepts are applicable in any setting–including criminal justice, government and the private sector.
There are several other books on Assessment Centers available, but mine is unique in that it is well-researched, written in a personal style, and provides a mini-reference section that gives you an overview of many key topics you need to know about. I’ve received dozens of emails from people who tell me they used it in their promotional process and continue to use it at work every day. That makes sense, because as I say in the book, “Every day is an Assessment Center!”
If you have a police or fire department Assessment Center coming up, buy the book. Even if you do not buy the book, consider contacting me and letting me know what you are doing to prepare. If I can help, I will!