How People Learn

Can you remember when you first learned how to drive a car? Before you learned how, you were in the Ignorance stage. You didn’t know how to drive the car and you didn’t even know why you didn’t know how to drive it.

When you first went out with an instructor to learn how to drive, you arrived at the Phase 2:Awareness. You still couldn’t drive, but because of your new awareness of the automobile and its parts, you were consciously aware of why you couldn’t drive. You may have felt overwhelmed by the tasks before you, but when these tasks were broken down one by one, they weren’t so awesome after all. They became attainable. Step by step, familiarity replaced fear.

With some additional practice and guidance, you were able to become competent in driving the car through recognition of what you had to do. However, you had to be consciously aware of what you were doing with all of the mechanical aspects of the car as well as with your body. You had to be consciously aware of turning on your blinker signals well before you executed a turn. You had to remember to monitor the traffic behind you in your rearview mirror. You kept both hands on the wheel and noted your car’s position relative to the centerline road divider. You were consciously aware of all of these things as you competently drove.

This third phase is the hardest stage – the one in which your people may want to give up. This is the Practice stage. People tend to feel uncomfortable when they goof, but this is an integral part of Phase 3. Human beings experience stress when they implement new behaviors, especially when they perform them imperfectly.

In Phase 3, you must realize that you’ll want to revert to the older, more comfortable behaviors, even if those behaviors are less productive. At this phase, you must realize it’s alright to make mistakes. In fact, it’s necessary so you can improve through practice, practice and more practice.

Returning to the car example, think of the last time that you drove. Were you consciously aware of all of the actions that I just mentioned above? Of course not! Most of us, after driving awhile, progress to a level of Habitual Performance. This is the level where we can do something well and don’t even have to think about the steps. They come “naturally” because they’ve been so well practiced that they’ve shifted to automatic pilot. This final stage, Phase 4, is when practice results in assimilation and habitual performance; where your productivity increases beyond its previous level and reaches a new and higher plateau.

This four-phase model for success can help you break out of the rut most of us dig for ourselves. By experiencing success and encouragement at each level, change can be exciting instead of intimidating. The bottom line is this: skills and attitudes will both improve by taking one step at a time.

Does Your Competence Shine Through?

Do You Exude Competence?

Competence means being knowledgeable and skillful in your field; but it also means possessing a problem-solving ability that goes beyond your own specialty. If you don’t know the answer, or how to fix the problem, with strong competence, you know how to go about getting someone who does. Competence means having a can-do attitude and following through on it.

Exhibiting competence in knowing what you’re doing, or knowing how to get something done, is communicated to others in a variety of ways. There’s the obvious level of actually being able to do what you say you can do.

Your “nonverbals” – how you look, the sound of your voice – go a long way toward conveying competence. So does the style of behavior you choose – whether you come across as a very casual person, or as someone who’s a professional and takes herself seriously. Notice I said “the style of behavior you choose,” because you do have a choice.

And that’s my tip on competence: you can choose to behave in a way that exudes competence, or you can choose to undercut what skills you do have by looking and acting as if you’re not sure of yourself.

Your ability to gain influence with other people is dependent on how they see you – whether they judge you to be trustworthy, whether they think you really know what you’re talking about, or whether you can manage the tasks you claim you can. You’ll go a long way toward gaining that trust when you’re able to impress them with your competence.

Effective Communication Skills-Do You Know How To Listen?

Effective Communication Skills-Common Sense Listening Tips

We all do it.  We get excited about a topic, and forget to pay attention to those we are speaking with.  Or we get so wrapped up in voicing our opinion we fail to listen for others.  Remembering some simple rules will improve your communications, not to mention your relationship.

Let others tell their own stories first. By letting them speak first, you save time. When their interests are revealed you can tailor your discussion to their particular needs, goals, and objectives and can avoid useless, time wasting conversation.

It is impossible to listen and talk at the same time. Don’t rush to say your piece. Why not wait until the speaker’s point is made? Then you will have your chance.

Listen for the main ideas.  A good listener tries to guess the points the speaker will make.  Then get feedback.  If you guess correctly, your understanding is enhanced, and your attention is increased.  If you are incorrect, you learn from your mistake.

Be sensitive to your emotional deaf spots.  Deaf spots are words that make your mind wander off.  Everyone is affected by certain words so it is important to discover your own individual stumbling blocks and analyze why these words have such a huge effect on you.

Fight off distractions.  Train yourself to listen carefully despite external distractions. Through practice you can improve your power of concentration and block out external and internal distractions and attend totally to the speaker.

Don’t trust your memory if you hear data that may be important.  Take brief notes because listening ability is impaired while you are writing.  Write notes in words and phrases rather than complete thoughts.  All you need is something to jog your memory later in the day, and then you can recall the complete content of the message. 

React to the message, not the person.  Don’t allow your mental impression of the speaker influence your acceptance of his/her message. 

Try to appreciate the emotion behind the words (vocal and visual) more than the literal meaning of the words. 

Use feedback. Do not only hear what you want to hear. Check to see if the other person wants to comment or respond to what you have previously said.

Listen selectively. Critical messages may be hidden within a conversation. Listen to weed out “the garbage-in” so there is less “garbage-out” in the conversation.

Relax. When another person speaks, try to make him/her comfortable and relaxed. Give him/her a chance to speak his/her mind. You’ll get your turn.

Try not to be critical, either mentally or verbally, of the other person’s point of view. Keep those emotions in check. Allow the speaker time to finish his/her thought. You might find that what you were initially going to disagree with wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Listen attentively. Face the speaker, lean slightly forward. Establish gentle, intermittent eye contact.

Create a positive listening environment. Try to have that conversation in a place that is conducive to effective listening.

Ask questions. Ask open‑ended questions to allow the speaker to express his feelings and thoughts.

Be motivated to listen.  Try to keep in mind that there is no such thing as an uninteresting speaker, only disinterested listeners. The effort to listen is worth, you’ll see.

Mentor Support-Finding the Right One for You!

Find a mentor who can be your role model and your friend!

A mentor is someone you admire and under whom you can study. Throughout history the mentor-protégé relationship has proven quite fruitful. Socrates was one of the early mentors. Plato and Aristotle studied under him and later emerged as great philosophers in their own right.

I was fortunate enough to have several mentors – each for a different purpose.

  • Dr. David Schwartz, author of The Magic of Thinking Big, was my doctoral dissertation chairman and was the impetus and the motivation to finish my PhD in Marketing and to enter the world of public speaking as a profession.
  • Bill Gove, the first president of the National Speakers Association, mentored me to speak from my own style – a NYC Italian – rather than a stiffer, more professorial style. The results were dramatic and my speaking career and success moved into hyper-speed.
  • Jim Cathcart, my close friend, confidant, and former business partner, taught me how to prepare for speeches and his unsurpassed business ethics served as my guiding light in my business dealings.
  • But, most of all, my main mentor was my mother – who taught me to always strive to be the best – to always be constantly improving myself and my abilities. My mother gave me the drive to succeed.

Some basic rules I’ve learned about mentors:

  • Be suspicious of any mentor who seeks to make you dependent on him/her. It is better to have him teach you how to fish than to have him catch the fish for you. That way you will remain in control.
  • The best mentors are successful people in your own field. Their behaviors are directly translatable to your life and will have more meaning to you.
  • Turn your mentors into role models by examining their positive traits. Write down their virtues, without identifying to whom they belong. When you are with these mentors, look for even more behaviors that reflect their success. Use these virtues as guidelines for achieving excellence in your field.

Don Hutson, CEO of U. S. Learning in Memphis, TN, offers these mentoring tips:

  1. Select people to be your mentors who have the highest ethical standards and a genuine willingness to help others
  2. Choose mentors who have and will share superb personal development habits with you and will encourage you to follow suit
  3. Incorporate activities into your mentor relationship which will enable your mentor to introduce you to people of influence or helpfulness
  4. Insist that your mentor be diligent about monitoring your progress with accountability functions
  5. Each party – mentor and protégé – should commit to confidentiality, when appropriate, due to the closeness of the relationship
  6. Encourage your mentor to make you an independent, competent, fully functioning, productive individual

 Questions to ask. Acquiring good habits from others will accelerate you towards achieving your goals. Ask yourself these questions to get the most out of your role-model/mentors:

  1. What would they do in my situation?
  2. What do they do every day to encourage growth and to move closer to a goal?
  3. How do they think in general? In specific situations?
  4. Do they have other facets of life in balance? What effect does that have on their well-being?
  5. How do their traits apply to me?
  6. Which traits are worth working on first? Later?

Under the right circumstances mentors make excellent role models. The one-to-one setting is highly conducive to learning as well as to friendship. But the same cautions hold true here as for any role model. It is better to adapt their philosophies to your life than to adopt them.

Who have been the mentors & role models who have impacted your life?

Customer Interaction: Do You Hear Me Now?

Telephone Communication: Can you hear me now?

With Cell phones fast out numbering the landlines we use, using them to our advantage may in reality be a disadvantage with our customer interaction objectives. Considering the different ways we use phones these days: to find your significant other when you’re separated in the mall, to keep tabs on the kids, chat with family and friends we may be losing the “formality” and therefore the manners we were taught when using the land line. Keeping a few tips in mind can help.

When answering the phone you use for business, immediately identify your company, department, and your name.

  1. Call your customers by name. Not only will the customer be pleased, but by repeating the name you’re more likely to remember it.
  2. Know yourself and how you sound to others. Record your voice then critique your tone, manners, friendliness, and vocal quality.
  3. Always use the hold button if you must temporarily leave the phone.
  4. Reassure the customer every 20‑30 seconds that you haven’t forgotten him/her when you’ve placed them on hold.
  5. Know your customers. Know how they prefer to be treated. Then deal with them in their preferred mode.
  6. Know your product or service. Your product mastery should shine through.
  7. Keep a note pad and pen handy so you can quickly write messages or notes.
  8. Plan your calls ahead. Try writing a summary of everything you need to know before making the call.
  9. Let the customer hang up first.
  10. Choose your words carefully. On the telephone, your words and vocal quality carry your message.

More Resources From Dr. Tony Alessandra:

Job Interview: The Hiring Process

Charisma: How it applies to the job interview & hiring process.

Charisma – Who needs it?  You do!

We hear a lot, especially these days, when it comes to the qualities that are considered “must-haves” to be considered for a job interview or moving up the ladder from the job you have.  Almost any job or job interview, be it a top executive at a Fortune 500 Corporation or a frontline employee at a fast food restaurant, touches on the importance of having charisma, at least to some degree. It is part of the hiring process.

The list seems endless, but let’s looks at just a few of those characteristics:

  • Integrity
  • Dedication
  • Magnanimity
  • Humility 
  • Openness
  • Creativity
  • Fairness
  • Assertiveness
  • And of course, a sense of humor

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

What really makes that difference?  On a job interview and in the workplace, why do some people stand out and others seem to fade into the background?   What we are talking about is “CHARISMA”; that immediately recognizable quality that one senses, big time, when one meets someone who has it.  But for many of us, it seems intimidating at times and, all too often, out of reach.

But fear not, everyone can raise their charisma quotient for the job or the job interview.  You just need a few tips and understand how charisma plays a crucial role in the hiring process.  Here are just five that anyone can work on to become more influential, yes – more charismatic and make the hiring process work in your favor!

  1. Be aware of the Silent Messages you send.  Do you look people in the eye?  Do you have a firm hand shake?  Do you listen intently, or do you try to “multi-task” while someone is talking to you?  These all send messages you might not really intend to send.
  2. How persuasive are you?  More importantly, can you boil down even a complex idea to something everyone can understand?  Now, that’s a skill worth practicing.
  3. It’s simple, but can you articulate your message?  If you can’t explain it, you’re sunk.
  4. Can you adapt to the folks you are dealing with?  Can you treat people the way they want and need to be treated?
  5. What’s your vision?  Everything else aside, you have to have something worth sharing that you’re passionate about. If you don’t have anything to say, being charismatic doesn’t really matter does it?

How about you?  Do you boil down or boil over?  We all know people who are masters at making a “mountain out of a mole hill”; these folks are not charismatic by my definition. How about you? Do you consider yourself charismatic?  What qualities do you see in others who you feel are charismatic?  What can you do to turn up your charisma for the job interview that shifts the hiring process in your favor?

Hiring Practices & Hiring Policies

How to understand employers hiring practices & hiring policies

Guess who’s getting hired these days?

Now, no one needs to tell you how rough it’s been in the job market the past few years.  You already know that.  We all know that.  If you’re not unemployed yourself, count yourself lucky but chances are you know someone or several some ones who are.  So who is getting a job?

We all have heard about the jobs being created and are painfully aware of those that are not.  So in the midst of this recession, who do you think is getting hired?  Here’s a hint:  if you’re 55 or older you’re going to love this.  You guessed it!  It’s the 55 and older crowd, the Baby Boomers!

The Employee Benefit Research Institute released its report recently stating that increasing unemployment, current hiring practices and hiring policies has not kept the older worker out of the job market. In fact, the participation rate for professionals 55 years and older actually increased during much of this recession, until recently when it leveled off. Increased participation for older workers is seen for both men and women. As you might expect, work force participation for other age groups — especially youths — have lost ground since the beginning of the recession.

Despite the recent slump, the increase of the Baby Boomers in the job market is more than likely a long-term reality and a result of modified hiring practices and hiring policies. This same group represented only 29% of the workforce in 1993.  It reached a high of over 40% in 2009 and that’s the highest it had been in over 37 years!  Although it leveled off at this point, it’s held at 40% into 2011.

That’s good news for Boomers but, as you might have guessed, it’s not a cake walk for the 55 and older crowd. There are challenges, some big ones, but that’s the topic for another blog.

What have been your experiences with current hiring practices and hiring policies – personally or with friends and family?