Questions and Presentations

Communication skills are needed to be able to provide an excellent presentation. Without being able to verbalize your ideas and opinions there is very little chance of having a successful presentation. We will begin by looking at listening and hearing skills, asking the correct questions and finish with communicating with more power.

Listening and Hearing: They Aren’t the Same Thing
Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning.
This is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words. Listening skills, however, can be learned and refined.

Asking Questions
Three types of questions are useful in a presentation; open questions, clarifying questions, and closed questions.

Open Questions: Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how. A statement such as “describe the characteristics of the car” is really an open question. Examples of open questions include:
• Describe the style of the leader of the meeting.
• How do you feel when you hit a home run?
Asking questions is both an art and a science.

Your questions in a presentation should be:
• Clear and concise, covering a single issue
• Reasonable, based on what participants are expected to know
• Challenging, to provoke thought
• Honest and relevant, eliciting logical answers

Clarifying Questions: A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides you as you answer a question. Below are some examples:
• You said you liked apples more than oranges, why is that?
• What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions: Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does.

Below are several examples of closed questions:
• Who will lead the meeting?
• Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?
Phrasing: To evoke an answer, your question should use phrasing that is:
• Clear and concise, covering a single issue
• Reasonable, based on what participants are expected to know
• Challenging, to provoke thought
• Honest and relevant, directing participants to logical answers.

Directing Questions appropriately: Should you direct your questions to individuals or to an entire group? When you direct a question to an individual, you:
• Stimulate one participant to think and respond
• Tap the known resources of an “expert” in the room
If you choose to direct your question to the group instead, you:
• Stimulate the thinking of all participants
• Provide participants the opportunity to respond voluntarily
• Avoid putting any one person on the spot.

Communicating with Power
It’s been said that you have between thirty seconds and two minutes to capture your participants’ attention. It’s critical to engage people from the beginning.
Voice: 38% of the message received by a listener is governed by the tone and quality of your voice. The pitch, volume, and control of your voice all make a difference in audience perception.

Characteristics Description Tips
Pitch How high or low your voice is.  Avoid a high-pitched sound. Speak from your stomach, the location of your diaphragm.

Volume The loudness of your voice must be governed by your diaphragm . Speak through your diaphragm, not your throat

Quality The color, warmth, and meaning given to your voice.   Add emotion to your voice.
Smile as much as possible when you are speaking

Command: Selecting a good opener is an important way to take command of an audience. Making judicious use of certain types of remarks will endear you to the audience from the moment the program starts.
• A dramatic story
• A reference to a current or well-known news story
• A personal experience
• A rhetorical question
• A historical event
• Adventure, either past or present.
More Tips
• Did we say practice? And practice again?
• Smile
• Stand up straight and tall
• Rivet your participants with eye contact
• Dress like your audience, or one level above it.

River Street Consultant

Source: Presentation Skills workshop

Social Cues

Social cues are verbal or non-verbal hints that let us know what someone maybe thinking or feeling. When in a social situation, it is important to keep an eye out for these social cues and ensure our behavior isn’t contributing to them. While some cues can be obvious, other may be very subtle, so we must train ourselves to be able to recognize them when they do appear.

Recognize Social Situations

Social situations are not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Because the people in each situation are different, we must learn to adapt ourselves to this ever-changing group – and know how to handle them. This does not mean we have to change who we are or hide our own personality, but rather we can change how we present ourselves around other people. Some of the best hints we can use are the ones we get from other people around you. How are they behaving? How are they ‘working through’ the event? Do you know all of them? Are there faces you do not recognize? With this information in mind, determine what type of social situation you may be in. Is this a formal gathering? Is it a business meeting or function with coworkers? Maybe a few friends catching a bite to eat? The key is to recognize your surroundings and the people involved to help determine how to present yourself.

Questions to ask in a social situation:

  • “What is the gathering for?”
  • “Who is present?”
  • “Do we share common interests?”

The Eyes Have It

Not all cues from others can be seen right and may be well hidden, but the eyes will always give them away. Without blatantly staring at a person (of course), try to observe how they are looking at you and others. Do certain words or phrases make them blink more or dart their eyes in another direction? Are they staying focused on a subject for a long period of time? Unfortunately, the eyes cannot lie – often. Many feelings or behaviors we try to hide in ourselves will often be shown through the eyes. Common eye behaviors such as rolling the eyes or looking around frequently can be signs of boredom or discomfort. If a person looks at you while talking or moves their eyebrows while listening to you talk, this can be a sign of interest or curiosity. But since these feelings may not be said out loud, or even gestured, it is a key tool to remember when gauging the people around you.

Common eye behaviors:

  • Eye rolling
  • Blinking too much or too little
  • Wandering eyes; not looking directly at a person
  • Long blinks

Non-Verbal Cues

It has been said that non-verbal communication is the most powerful form of communication since it can expand beyond voice, tone, and even words. It accounts for over 90% of our communication methods. Although the differences in non-verbal communication can be different in certain situations (amount of personal space or use of hand gestures), most cues can send the same message across the board. Nonverbal cues can include facial expressions, body movements, eye movement, and various gestures and usually are not associated with supported words or phrases.

Common non-verbal cues include folding the arms, gripping or moving hands while speaking, rolling the eyes and even misusing the tone of voice. Do you notice these gestures when speaking with people around you? When thinking of your behavior, do you find yourself making any of these gestures when you are in a social situation? If so, think of ways you can try to eliminate some of them and replace them with more welcoming or outgoing gestures instead.

Common non-verbal cues:

  • Folding the arms
  • Looking around frequently
  • Tapping the feet or clasping hands
  • Fidgeting
  • Moving closer/farther away

Verbal Cues

Verbal cues are cues that we are more likely to pick up on and notice right away. They are usually done with some sort of emphasis or tone that causes an effect within us, and is mostly likely to stick with us in the future. Phrases such as “Did you see the new rules in the handbook?” or “I can’t wait to see the projections for this week” add emphasis to certain words to stress a point or effect. Other verbal cues can include appropriate pauses when speaking, pitch, or volume of the voice or even speaking too slowly or quickly. These are cues that we can control and use with our voices (hence the term verbal) to get a message across.

When in a social situation, listen to those around you and determine what verbal cues you can pick up on. Do they sound positive or negative? Do they appropriately portray the message being sent? Do you find yourself using these verbal cues on others? Maybe you emphasized the wrong word or spoke in a higher pitch when trying to speak with a group of people. When we can recognize these cues in others and learn to adapt ourselves to them, we can learn to identify them in ourselves and ensure that we are not putting the wrong message out there.

Common verbal cues:

  • Voice tone or pitch
  • Word emphasis
  • Volume
  • Uncomfortable pauses or word inserts

Social cues can often enhance, or even downplay, what is being said or portrayed in a situation. But the social cue needs to be interpreted in the right manner for it to better a social situation – not make it worse. People who are better equipped to identify and understand these social cues are more likely to act appropriately to them, and will be better prepared to respond to them and adapt their behavior.

Spectrum of Cues

As in all situations, there is always a possibility for going to one extreme to the other without having any middle ground in between. For social cues, it can be a fairly wide spectrum with plenty of variations. On one side of the spectrum, a person can be very obvious with their cues, such as speaking very loudly or making very large and awkward hand gestures. These types of cues are easy to spot and can often make people feel uncomfortable right away. On the other hand, there are cues that are more subtle and can often be missed if not recognized right away, such as excessive eye blinking or adding a tone to their words.

Unfortunately, these types of cues may go unnoticed and can portray the wrong message when they may not be intended to. They key point is being able to recognize each side of this spectrum and the different ways a social cue can go wrong and right at the same time. When you learn the extremes they can reach, you’re better equipped to catch the cues in between and adapt your behavior faster.

Review and Reflect

It’s a natural behavior to want to react to a cue we may recognize and want to confront right away. Are you bored? Did I offend you? Did you understand? But these approaches are not the best solution to connect with people and better understand their behavior. When you notice a social cue, such as someone rolling their eyes or speaking in a shrill voice at you, take a moment to stop and review the action. Take notice if it is being directed at you or if others around you are subject to it as well. Does the behavior continue? Maybe the behavior was a onetime occurrence?

Reflect on what you can do to adapt yourself to the situation. Was there something you said to trigger this feeling? Does this person have something they want to share? Or maybe you just need to take a step back from this person. Sometimes they need a moment to review and reflect as well, and may need some personal space to do it. Whatever your results, remember to refrain from jumping to conclusions about the cues we encounter. Always take a minute to two before responding with your own actions.

Being Adaptable and Flexible

Even though there are times we can pick up on these social cues, we may be able to change them or even get away from them as soon as we’d like. These are the times we must learn to be flexible and adapt to the situation. We all know that not all situations will be comfortable for us and we may need to find a way to adapt until it’s over. Sometimes the room can have more people than we are comfortable with or maybe the other visitors are sending cues of boredom or annoyance, but don’t let these cues sink you. Be flexible to the group and reflect on what you can do to help the situation. Try to start a conversation with people that seem distant or unsure. Lead by example and speak in lower pitches or in casual tones. Many times the people around you will catch onto the cues you are sending out and will become adaptable as well. This great trick doesn’t always work in all situations, but it is one way we can help ourselves adapt and manage through a difficult situation.

Personal Space

Edward Hall was one of the first people to define and characterize the space around us – our different level of spaces. The outer most space around us is our public space, such as in a large room. Coming in closer is our social space, such as talking with a group of friends. The next inward space is our personal space, which is usually within arms’ reach of us. This space is usually on reserve for ‘invitation-only’, meaning we do not like for people to be in our personal space unless we initiate it and welcome them over.

In social situations, this can be a hard thing to maintain. The key is to refrain from being rude to someone who may have encroached on your space. If this person is too close, take a few steps to the side instead of backwards, which creates subtle distance and doesn’t appear as though you are backing away. If you must leave a group of people, or even just one, that are too close, always excuse yourself politely and move to an open area. If possible, take a few steps around the room every so often, which keeps you mobile and doesn’t allow for crowding. Remember, this is the time to be adaptable, so you may need to be flexible with your surroundings to feel more at ease.

Tips for keeping your personal space personal:

√ Excuse yourself politely when leaving a group

√  Step to the side a step or two to create subtle distance

√  Walk often or roam about the area – if possible

√  Opt for a handshake when greeting people – it allows for the other person to stay at arm’s length

√  Be aware of cultural differences in personal space

Source:  Social Intelligence Workshop

River Street Consultant

Replacement Planning

Succession planning and replacement planning are two different things. Replacement planning is focused on identifying immediate understudies, while succession planning is focused on developing talent to move forward.

What is Business Succession Planning?

Successful succession planning is related to leadership development. It develops a pool of talent so that there are numerous qualified candidates throughout the organization to fill vacancies in leadership. Succession planning used to concentrate on developing leadership at the top level, but now it is building a strong talent base, which helps to increase employee loyalty and ensure the longevity of the company. This strategy requires recruiting qualified talent, creating a talent pool, and instilling loyalty.

Benefits of succession planning:

  • Decreased turnover
  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Improved commitment to company goals
  • Enhanced image of the organization

What does succession planning require?

  • Identify the long-term goals and objectives of the business: The long-term goals directly relate to succession planning. Is the company’s goal to grow or maintain its current position? Will it expand into other fields? All of these questions need to be addressed before creating a succession plan.
  • Understand the developmental needs of the company and identify employees who fit these needs: The responsibilities of employees change over time. Some positions may be eliminated in the future while others will be added.
  • Recognize trends in the workforce and engage employees to build loyalty: Understanding workforce trends will help you predict the needs of your organization. For example, are your key employees nearing retirement? Have you invested in talented employees to take on additional roles?


What Is Replacement Planning?

Replacement planning works under the assumption that the structure of the organization will not change. This is easier to apply in small family businesses that do not have any goals to expand or grow in the future. There are typically two or three “replacements” identified in the organization chart. Each backup is listed with his or her ability to replace an existing leader. The employees are not necessarily developed to understand the new working environment or smoothly transition into his or her new responsibilities.


Differences Between

Many executives believe that they are engaging in succession planning, but in reality they are still using replacement planning.

The Main Differences:

  • Replacement planning focuses on finding suitable replacements only for top executives.
  • Succession planning means that the company is easily able to fill vacancies throughout the business because employees are being empowered and developed.
  • There is a short list of candidates in replacement planning.
  • Succession planning builds a large talent pool.

Succession planning takes a little more time and effort from those in leadership, but it yields a high return on such an investment.


Deciding What You Need

There are several different factors that indicate when a company needs to implement or re-evaluate succession planning.

  • Turnover becomes critical: The number of high-potential workers leaving is higher than average workers leaving. (This can happen in any economy.)
  • Employees feel undervalued: When a majority of your employees feel that there is no room for advancement or that you choose too many outside hires, there is a succession-planning problem.
  • There are no replacements for key talent: Should a valued member of staff suddenly leave, there is no one able to take his or her place.
  • Managers notice that there are not many candidates for promotion: Employees who are not developed for leadership will never be promoted.
  • The time to fill metric is high or unknown: The time to fill metric is the average length of time that it takes to fill a position. A high number means that the company needs to focus on succession planning.
  • The retention risk analysis is high: A risk analysis uses different factors to determine the potential number of employees who will leave. These will factor in retirement and other trends.

Source:  Business Succession Planning

River Street Consultant



Traits of Women Management

While it is important not to overemphasize gender differences, studies show that women often do lead differently than men do. By examining some common traits of women’s leadership, it is possible to see how having women in leadership positions can benefit your organization. Not every woman will lead exactly the same way, any more than every man leads the same way. The traits that are common to women’s leadership styles, however, can be highly valuable to your organization, both in terms of employee development and in terms of the bottom line in a rapidly globalizing business world.

Women Lead By Uniting Diverse Groups

One of the common themes in women’s leadership is a focus on uniting diverse groups. Because women in general tend to be more collaborative, they focus on finding common ground and getting everyone to buy in to a common vision. This has clear advantages when working in a fast paced, team based environment. Getting diverse groups to work together rather than compete increases the chances of ultimate success and also helps to alleviate conflict. Women leaders have been shown to focus on people’s commonalities rather than their differences. In this way, they are able to get people who are on the surface very different, whether in terms of culture or function or background, to pull together toward a common goal. This builds workplaces that are more collegial and collaborative, in which interpersonal relationships are valued and maintained.

Women Value Work-Life Balance

Perhaps because they so often struggle to achieve it, women tend to value work-life balance more than do men. Women in leadership positions tend to create workplaces where work-life balance is easier to achieve (or at least work toward); including offering flexible work arrangements (work from home, flex time, shared positions), family-friendly benefits, and otherwise acknowledging that employees’ non-work lives are important and should be respected. Women leaders may also be less likely to penalize employees who take time off for family obligations or who do not work overtime due to the need to care for children when it comes time for advancement. Broadly speaking, women leaders foster a work environment where excellence is important, but employees are not expected to sacrifice their families and personal lives for the sake of the bottom line. This tends to lead to higher employee morale, which in turn can foster greater job satisfaction and employee retention.

 Women Value Interpersonal Relationships

Much research has shown that women tend to be more relationship-focused than are men, in all aspects of life. Women leaders tend to focus on interpersonal relationships in the workplace much more than do their male peers. They do this by seeking to build rapport and relationships with colleagues and direct reports, and engaging in “rapport talk” – conversation in which they check in with others, talk about feelings, or otherwise connect. In contrast, men tend to engage in “report talk,” where they are interested in facts and getting a task done. Employees tend to respond better to a leader who seems to be personally invested in them, and for this reason may respond better to women’s leadership style of building interpersonal relationships. This focus on interpersonal relationships gives rise to workplaces where employees feel heard and valued, and where they are much more likely to build healthy collaborative professional relationships as well. While women’s leadership style has sometimes been critiqued as inefficient compared to men’s, studies show that workplaces where there is a focus on building and maintaining interpersonal relationships may in fact be more productive and may have better employee retention.

Women Value Accountability

One of the most intriguing findings to come out of studies of women’s leadership is that women tend to value accountability more highly than their male peers appear to. Organizations with women in leadership positions tend to have cultures of personal and group accountability, and in general to foster honesty and transparency. Women’s focus on interpersonal relationships seems to foster this sense of accountability. When people are invested in each other, they are more likely to want to hold themselves and others to high standards. A culture of accountability is one in which people take responsibility for their mistakes, are acknowledged for their efforts and successes, and do not seek to undermine others. The greater collaboration that is found when women are leaders further fosters this sense of accountability, as people who work together are invested in each other’s success. A culture of accountability also fosters respect for others, which may lead to fewer interpersonal problems (up to and including harassment), as well as honesty, which can lead to fewer incidences of theft of other such issues.

Source:  Women in Leadership Workshop

River Street Consultant


Employee Termination

Every manager is familiar with how to identify high-performing employees and know various ways to keep them motivated. However, many managers are unaware of how to identify employees that will need to be terminated from the company. When certain traits and behaviors become easy to recognize in problem employees, the manager will know right away who to eliminate from the team, when necessary.
Feeling of Entitlement
There is always that one, or many employees that will develop some sense of entitlement during their career time with the company. Entitlement can manifest in several different forms, but have the same usual, noticeable traits, such as overestimating talents or achievements, an overbearing or demanding attitude, blaming others for personal mistakes, a low sense of team loyalty and a resistance to receive or give feedback. The sense of entitlement can hit any employee, but is typically seen in either the younger generation, who were raised to always be a winner, or in the tenure employees, who feel as though their many years at the company make them invaluable and require less work from them. While it is important for employees to feel confident in their duties, a sense of entitlement can damage the team from within. It is important to correct this problem in the beginning, or the employee will need to be removed.
Cannot Perform Job Functions
When an employee is hired, they are expected to be able to perform certain job duties and functions; most of them are even outlined in the interview. Many companies have a training period and some sort of probation period in which the employee has time to learn and adapt to their job roles. However, whether the employee is new or experienced, they must be able to perform their essential job functions. If an employee is part of the team, they must be able to work alongside co-workers and do the job they are assigned to do. If they cannot, for any reason, they can be terminated since they are no longer a functioning part of the company.
Of course, it is wise to consult with a lawyer or consultant regarding the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure the company is following all guidelines possible in the workplace. While some employees may need some accommodation to effectively perform their duties, they must still be able to essentially perform their job functions. If they cannot, even with special accommodations, they can be terminated without legal recourse.

Can’t Function with Other Employees
The company and its employees are essentially a functioning team in which all employees and departments depend on each other to perform correctly. However, sometimes the ‘team’ has one member that is unable to work or function with the rest of the group. This can occur for many reasons, such as if the employee has behavioral problems, if they refuse to work with co-workers, or if they feel some sort of superiority and attempt to ‘boss around’ their co-workers. A person with these types of traits can harm the team function, causing employees to turn against each other or fight with one another. Additionally, the employee that is not functioning with the group is most likely contributing the least, so they are not pulling their own weight and are not working to the same extent as everyone else. These types of employees must be eliminated from the group before they are able to ‘poison the well’ of the company employees, so to speak.
They Overpromise and Under Deliver
While having employees that are confident and assure you that they can get the work done, be sure to notice which employees will make promises, but not deliver them. Unfortunately, these employees will often develop some form of inflated self-image and begin to believe that they can make large, boastful promises and then not follow through with them. The employee will make promises of performance, and when they cannot deliver, it ruins the functionality of the team or department. Other employees are forced to pick up the slack and deadlines cannot be met on time. The behavior can be accredited to the need for attention, or the thought that the sheer promise of something will benefit them. Whatever the reason, the employee will continue this behavior until they are ultimately stopped.
Blatant Disregard for Customers
Whether your company is large or small, customers are the main component that keeps the business open and working. In the business world, it is said that customers are hard to gain but can be easy to lose. Employees that do not share this belief will soon show in their blatant disregard for the customer and the customer’s needs. While the employee may work with the customer for a short period of time, they will not engage with the customer, take concern with their needs, nor will they do what they can to keep the customer satisfied. The employee will most likely avoid or even ignore customers, pass them off to co-workers, or simply refuse to help when asked. Other employees can begin to pick up on this sense of disregard and come to believe it is acceptable behavior. Therefore, this employee must be terminated from the team – not only to improve employee conditions in the office, but to also gain and keep customers with the company.

They Are Unreliable
A manager must be able to depend on their employees when needed. A manager must be able to trust that an employee is able to complete their job responsibilities with little supervision and without having to ‘micro-manage’ them. However, when employees become unreliable, they fail to contribute and become a poor asset to the team in general. Employees can become unreliable for a number of reasons, such as failing to show up for work, refusing to pitch in or complete their daily work tasks, or being unwilling to help and work with co-workers. Many managers will offer the employee several chances to correct the behavior, such as giving warnings or some sort of demerit. However, if the behavior does not change and the employee remains unreliable to the manager, they will need to be terminated from the team and the company.
Don’t Adhere to Code of Conduct
Every company has some form of conduct policy, which defines how employees should act among each other and with customers and guests. Having an employee code of conduct not only helps protect the company, but it ensures that the employees know what is expected of them as an employee of the company, by outlining expectations and acceptable behaviors. It is important to uphold this code of conduct for all employees of the company, from the entry level employee all the way to the CEO. If an employee decides that this code of conduct does not apply to them, for whatever reason, they can begin to act out of line by being rude, malicious or even disrespectful to their co-workers and customers. Their actions can influence other employees to follow suit, causing not only poor employee morale, but also poor customer service, so it is important that these employees should be removed from the company.
Use Company Property for Personal Use
When employees are at work, it is expected that there may be some personal use of the company equipment, such as using the desk phone to make a call or using the company printer to print some personal documents. But, when the use of company equipment becomes excessive, it puts a strain on the company and takes away the use of this equipment for business purposes. When employees excessively use company equipment for their own use, it causes the equipment to malfunction sooner, takes away from employee productivity, and can cause a liability when the equipment breaks. Every company should have some sort of policy that addresses the excessive use of company equipment. If an employee ignores this policy and continues to use the telephone to make their own calls, use the copier to copy their own flyers or even use the internet to access social media, then they are becoming a hazard to the team and to the company. If he/she does not cease their actions after being addressed by management, then they must be terminated.
Source: Supervisors and Managers Workshop

River Street Consultant