Archive for November, 2012

Beyond the Cubicle: Building Personal Relationships with Your Colleagues

By Jessica Xiong

Business students and professionals today understand the importance of networking to their career development. Regardless of our industries, we learn from day one that success results from more than just good performance on the job. To scale the corporate ladder, we build relationships with our team members, our managers, and leaders at top companies. However, many of these relationships are “strictly professional”and tend to end once we reach our objectives. In a recent CBS News poll, only 45% of Americans find satisfaction at their jobs, despite the average age of vice presidents at companies like J.P. Morgan being 25 years old. From a recent conversation with my cousin, an executive at a financial powerhouse, I learned that reaching the vice president status at a young age may actually be a curse in disguise; many such individuals stay in their positions for ten years or more before they see another promotion. Clearly, we need more than professional liaisons and networking for promotions to find fulfillment and success at work.

In the current economy, employees and managers alike need trust in their organizations to find job satisfaction, retain valuable talent, and have motivation to perform. To foster trust, we need to build lasting relationships with our colleagues and communicate with them on a personal level. According to a Nobscot Corporation survey, the lowest employee turnover rates in U.S. service industries exist in the education and consulting sectors.  Fortune Magazine also consistently ranks companies like Google and Zappos.com among the top 100 companies to work for. While compensation and employee benefits are factors to consider, a common theme to these research results is that job satisfaction and growth come from extended personal interactions with coworkers. In addition, with the increasing presence of globalization, we see that corporate success in some countries rely on personal relationships with coworkers and managers. But how do we establish personal rapport at work without seeming too casual? We will now explore some communication techniques to balance professionalism and personal relationships in the workplace.

Challenges in Establishing Interpersonal Relationships

To begin, we must recognize the challenges that we may face in interacting with our colleagues due to our personalities, their backgrounds, or the organizational structure:

  • Generational Gaps: Differences in age may deter our efforts to understand our colleagues on a personal level due to differences in values, work ethic, and professional outlook.
  • Cultural Gaps: Differences in race, gender, nationality, religion, politics, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation may also hinder our ability to establish interpersonal understanding because of differences in interests, views, values, and norms.
  • Power and Seniority Differences: Organizational hierarchies may impose a barrier in upward, cross-rank communication due to their power structures. Differences in the numbers of years at a company between two employees may also cause problems in forging a common ground.
  • Personality Differences: While not always true, introverts may have a harder time reaching out to their colleagues than extroverts.

To create rapport with our coworkers and managers, we must tailor our communication strategies according to these differences.

Communication Techniques for Improving Interpersonal Relationships

Through my professional experiences here and abroad, I noticed some techniques that may help to break the ice and strengthen relationships between you and colleagues:

  • Exert Confidence and Assertiveness in Your Actions and Speech: Taking the initiative to approach your colleagues and introduce yourself is a great way to start a relationship. Your proactivity shows your confidence, openness, and agreeableness as a person. Being assertive in your written and verbal communication also gives you an upper-hand at the start of the relationship and helps you gain respect from your colleagues.
  • Take Advantage of Social Media: Engaging coworkers and managers outside of the workplace through social media will help you learn about them on a personal level. Through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can learn about their interests, hobbies, and professional and personal backgrounds and respond to them accordingly. Remember to always be respectful of the content on their social media pages.
  • Use Nonverbal Cues Effectively: Keeping in mind that your stance, facial expressions, posture, and eye contact can impact other people’s perceptions of you is important. When you stand up straight and make eye contact with your colleagues, you show confidence and have presence. Using nonverbals will also help you convey empathy, respect, and compassion for the other person, motivating them to open up to you and want to connect with you on a personal basis. Keep in mind that socially acceptable nonverbal cues vary by culture.
  • Remove Workplace Communication from Computer Screens: Physically interacting with your colleagues will help you convey your personality and messages more effectively. With the omnipresence of computers, the Internet, instant messaging, and email, workplace communication tends to be informal, brief, one-dimensional, and therefore distant and impersonal. Misconstrued tones and contexts also hinder interpersonal understanding.
  • Develop Different Communication Strategies with Different People: Keeping in mind that people are different will help you better connect with them. In developing these strategies, think about the challenges we explored above and tailor your tone, word choice, and non-verbal cues accordingly. Be sure to observe cultural etiquette and nuances in language differences in your approach. Following up with colleagues through thank you notes and simple pleasantries will also help you seem more personable. In addition, determining the right communication media, whether written (electronic and handwritten) or verbal, will also depend on the formality of the relationship.
  • Learn to Listen Actively: Recognizing the difference between hearing and listening is crucial for any sound interpersonal relationship. When you listen, you show compassion, empathy, and understanding to the other person. On the other hand, when you only hear others, you seem inconsiderate, impersonal, and apathetic. To measure whether you listened to a colleague, ask yourself if you can recall everything he or she said an hour after your conversation. This step may be a more difficult challenge for extroverts due to their active natures.

Business relies on both technical and soft skills. To succeed in any industry, we must possess strong analytical skills and exercise effective communication skills. Because of its volatile and ever-changing nature, business is a living and breathing entity that reacts to economic, social, and technological trends. To develop our careers and succeed in our professions, we must rely on teamwork and strong relationships with others and extend beyond our own performance and professional networking to achieve our goals. People are more than who they appear to be on paper and in a professional context. Recognizing the importance of building personal relationships with your colleagues through effective communication will help you achieve fulfillment and further development in your professional aspirations.

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November 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment

Behind Enemy Lines: How to Deal with a Hostile Audience

By Steve Sinclair

In a perfect world, any time you had to present anything the audience would attentively listen to your speech and accept all of your data at face value; both you and the audience would leave with a feeling of satisfaction. Unfortunately, in the real world, a time will come when you must present to an audience who does not want to buy what you’re selling. How should you prepare for tough questions? What should you do during your presentation to avoid being sidetracked? How do you avoid getting flustered and shouting obscenities at your interrogator? Answering those questions will help you present successfully.

Preparing for a Presentation

Always do your homework before a presentation. Carmine Gallo of Bloomberg Businessweek offers a five-step system for preparation that he calls the “bucket method”:

  1. Anticipate likely questions or controversial points. If you think about sticky topics beforehand, you will not be surprised when someone asks about them during your presentation.
  2. Place these questions into “buckets” that correspond to the category of the question.
  3. Create an answer that fits the category as a whole. You cannot memorize the answers to every possible question someone might ask. Using a broad response that covers the category allows you to either answer the question easily or transition seamlessly to another point while freeing you from having to think up a complex answer on the spot and saying something regrettable.
  4. Listen for a key word or phrase in the question itself to choose which bucket to draw from.
  5. Answer the question.

Writes Gallo, “Instead of just answering specific questions, your goal is to persuade your audience about the point you want to make.” By answering a question using prepared statements you can reinforce your overall message to the entire audience instead of losing everyone’s attention while you focus on framing a specific response to a specific question.

Presenting on the Stage

Your presentation date rolls around and you enter the (probably figurative, possibly literal) arena. You carry your (probably figurative, possibly literal) buckets in with you, and start your speech. Things go well until some jerk in the back launches curveball after curveball at you, interrupting you and throwing you off your game. Frank Damelio offers useful advice to handle such a situation.

  • Control the flow. Make it clear at the start of your presentation that you will take questions at the end and reassure the audience that your presentation will cover many questions they might have if they pay attention. Lay the ground rules for questions at the start to minimize interruptions.
  • Do not hand out your slides. If you hand out your presentation before speaking, you lose the audience’s attention. You invite them to nitpick or otherwise try to find ammunition they can use to question your credibility. Having an inattentive audience hinders your ability to reach them and persuade them of your message.
  • Avoid downtime. A tight presentation that minimizes pauses and moves briskly keeps any hecklers from interrupting you. Keep the ball in your court; do not allow a hostile audience member to bog you down during the presentation.
  • Arrive early. Arriving early allows you time to chat with audience members before the speech. Connecting with audience members helps them relate to you and can ease tension before your presentation even begins.

The Q & A Session

Provided you’ve made it through your speech unharmed (or without harming anyone else), the final step is the dreaded Q&A session. Regardless of how carefully you practiced and planned your presentation, odds are someone will ask a difficult question that you cannot deflect easily no matter how many buckets you brought in with you. Murphy’s Law all but guarantees such a scenario. Sandra DeLazier offers several suggestions for talking your way out of a corner.

  • Stay cool. Responding to a harsh question with aggression of your own aggravates the situation. The questioner will likely respond with more hostility and, in the worst case, the rest of the audience will turn on you. Defusing the situation with a phrase like  “I can see that you are upset,” and then following up with a statement about not wasting the audience’s time pressures the questioner (because it forces them to consider the other audience members) and keeps the audience on your side.
  • Listen to the question and clarify. Showing that you can listen without interrupting and that you care about the question demonstrates your respect for other viewpoints. Asking clarifying questions, rephrasing the question before you answer, or empathizing with the person serves to calm him or her. Furthermore, these actions prevent you from answering a leading question in a stupid or embarrassing way.
  • Do not act defensive. Immediate denials or justifications cause you to appear guilty or weak. Instead, force your opponent to defend his or her view by asking “What do you think should be done?” When your opponent defends himself or herself, you can attack his or her points. Odds are he or she did not prepare to be interrogated when he or she showed up to your presentation. Turning the tables can make him or her back off.
  • Develop exit strategies. Sometimes none of the other options discussed above will stop the heckler. DeLazier recommends using the audience. A phrase such as “I would be happy to speak to you afterward but right now there are other audience members who would like to speak,” lets you utilize audience peer-pressure as a defense. Should that fail, ending the presentation by calling out the disruptive person’s determination to waste everyone’s time allows you to leave while making the heckler look like a terrible person. Shame is the nuclear option; it can be powerful but also disastrous if the majority of the audience is unsympathetic. Use discretion.

Handling a tough crowd begins before you even set foot on the stage. Preparing for questions before your presentation, controlling the audience during your presentation, and gracefully navigating the Q&A session all come together to present a strong front to a difficult audience.

If all else fails just remember that flipping the table over and inviting the audience member outside to engage in fisticuffs is frowned upon in most settings and should be avoided when possible.

November 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm 1 comment

The Art of Listening: Saving your money and your marriage!

“If we’re supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” – Mark Twain

By Tori Barnes

The average adult spends about 70% of his or her time engaged in some sort of communication. Of this time, a whopping 45% is spent listening, followed by speaking (30%), reading (16%), and writing (9%). These statistics suggest that we spend roughly 32% of our lives listening to others. However, how often during our time at college or in the professional world do we intentionally explore ways to improve our listening abilities? What does it even mean to “critically listen”? How will it benefit us any more than just your average hearing skills? If we do see significant benefits, what steps can we take to become an effective listener? Let’s dive into these questions…

What is listening?

Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is simply acknowledging sounds, while listening requires a desire for understanding. Being a critical listener means actively engaging in what the speaker is saying. It goes beyond grasping surface-level messages and delves into the true meaning of the words being spoken.

Why Bother?

As we learned before, we actually spend more time listening as compared to speaking when communicating with others. But, why bother learning how to “critically listen”? How will a seemingly simple act help us?

  • Life. In our day-to-day lives, listening helps us build social networks and maintain relationships/friendships. As Rachel Naomi Remen stated, “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we can ever give each other is our attention.” Listening shows our support to others while also helping us resolve conflicts. These benefits have been shown to lead to improved self-esteem and increased health and wellbeing.
  • Work. In the work environment, listening is so important that many top employers give regular listening skills training for their employees. Effective listening has been linked to fewer errors and improved accuracy. It decreases wasted time and provides a more innovative and creative workplace where employees can share their ideas.

The Big Picture 

Effective listening is a tool so powerful that it can save your marriage and save millions. Currently, the second leading cause of divorce is “communication breakdowns.” Being able to listen will increase understanding of your partner and decrease your likelihood of experiencing a communication failure. Learning how to be a successful listener can also save you big bucks in the future by decreasing miscommunications. Take NASA for example. In 1999, two engineering teams were responsible for collaborating to design the Mars orbiter. The two teams failed to communicate with one another; one team used metric units while the other used English units when determining key spacecraft operations. This miscommunication led to the Mars orbiter burning in space and the loss of the 125 million dollars invested in the program.

Listening is an ability that flows into all aspects of our lives. By perfecting this skill, we become a better communicator, employee, and friend. The following list, compiled from Forbes’ “10 Steps to Effective Listening” and Skills You Need’s “The 10 Principles of Listening”,  offers tips to help us improve this skill and promote us from being simple “hearers” to “effective listeners.”

Tips for Becoming a More Effective Listener

  1. Prepare yourself to listen by removing distractions.
  2. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
  3. Keep an open mind and avoid personal prejudice.
  4. Stop talking! Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your solutions.
  5. Be patient and wait for the speaker to pause to ask questions.
  6. Ask questions and give feedback only to ensure understanding.
  7. Empathize with the speaker and try to feel what he/she is feeling.
  8. Pay attention to nonverbal cues and tone of the speaker.

November 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm 4 comments

Wait, did you say “video” interview?

By Ryan Ramsey

The day of the interview you walk into the room. You don’t acknowledge the interviewer; you just sit down and open your laptop to look through your email. Typically that strategy is not an effective beginning to an interview, but it is becoming a common experience for job seekers because more employers are adopting one-way video interviews as a first interaction with applicants.

The Process

You first receive an email informing you that you got the interview. The email contains a link to a website where you perform the interview. The email also contains your personal candidate login code which verifies your identity. Once you begin, the software runs a test to ensure that your camera and microphone are working properly, and you will likely be given a practice question to get a sense of what the interview will be like. The video of the practice run is then discarded, and the interview begins when the employer gives a prompt. The prompt is a typed question that you have time to read and think about. After a short planning time, the actual interview begins, and the software records the candidate as he or she answers a set of questions.

Employers are turning to video interviews for several reasons:

  • They are less expensive since they eliminate travel costs.
  • Scheduling is simpler because the candidate can perform the interview when his or her schedule permits (so long as it falls within the time frame that the employer allots), and the interviewer can evaluate the video on his or her own time.
  • The interviewer can control what and how much of the interview he or she sees by pausing, stopping, and fast-forwarding the video.
  • Comparing prospects is simpler because the interviewer can replay and rewind each interview with ease.

Use video interviews to your benefit

While this method is more efficient for employers, potential employees can also benefit from the one-way video interview by strategically utilizing the added freedom. Start by researching the company’s interview format. For instance, many companies use Hirevue to conduct their video interviews, so explore the interview service provider’s website to learn more about their specific process.

Give yourself ample time to prepare, but know when to stop. Once the employer notifies you that you got the interview, you have a set amount of time to complete the interview, typically a few days. Use this time wisely. Study the company. Consider possible interview questions. Think of strong examples of situations when you utilized characteristics that the company may find attractive based on your research of the position. However, don’t overthink it. Once you feel confident, go ahead and complete the interview rather than waiting until the deadline. Completing the interview when you feel aptly prepared will make you confident and at ease knowing that you are not rushing to meet a deadline.

Find a place where you are comfortable. You have complete control over the location. Use it wisely. Go somewhere that you are comfortable, but make sure the setting is professional–not your bedroom. By choosing a comfortable location that you are familiar with, you ease your anxiety during the interview, and you relieve the stress of scrambling to find a location typical of traditional interviews. By choosing a professional location, you send the message that you thought and planned ahead and are taking the interview seriously.

Record yourself. Unlike face-to-face interviews, one-way video interviews don’t offer eye-contact or non-verbal cues. A video interview is exactly like recording yourself, so practicing alone is easy. Whatever you see is exactly what they see. You may feel strange and uncomfortable watching yourself, but the video doesn’t lie, and you can see yourself as the interviewer sees you. However, practicing alone makes it easy to lose focus, so do a mock video interview. Have a friend give you an unexpected, potential interview question. Take 30 seconds to plan your answer, spend two minutes answering the question, and review the video with the friend to get a sense of having someone else evaluate your performance.

Take advantage of the planning time. Having a moment to plan and organize your thoughts is the most beneficial aspect of a video interview. After the question is asked, you will typically have 30 unrecorded seconds to plan your response. In a face-to-face interview, you have to think on your feet, and you have to respond immediately.  Develop your answer, organize your main points, and write them down. Put the notes out of the camera’s view. Once the recorder begins, maintain eye contact with the camera, but glance at your written notes if you forget what you are going to say next.  By capitalizing on the planning time, you can provide a well-organized and effective response.

A video interview may seem like an intimidating and foreign concept, but you can ace the interview by using the freedom of the process properly.  Also, understand that many of the strategies we have learned for performing traditional interviews also apply to a video interview, so consult Kyra Harakal’s post to review some tips about how to interview well. And relax.

November 28, 2012 at 9:25 am 5 comments

Battle of the Sexes: Male vs. Female Communication

By Noni Harrison

What is wrong with you?!  Ever ask that question about the opposite sex?   Have you ever had a frustrating conversation at work where you and a partner of the opposite gender just can’t reach a common ground? Your frustration is probably not because the other person is crazy or that he or she comes from another planet. (Although we would like to think so.) The problem is that men and women tend to communicate differently. Our differences in communication styles cause us to often misread, misinterpret and make assumptions about what is expressed to us by the opposite sex.

Early Stages of Gender Differences

Most people do not consider that from the moment you are born, you become entwined with the process of gender socialization.  Unconsciously, parents select clothes, toys, and games for their children to reinforce gender roles.  For example, young girls are often given dolls to socialize them into their potential role as a mother.  They are taught to nurture and care for the doll, which indirectly teaches them the value of caring for others.  Boys, in contrast, are given action figurines to promote aggressive characteristics.  As children grow up, gender norms and expectations are consistently strengthened based on the ethical, cultural, and religious values of their native society.

As a result of socialization, men and women learn to build relationships differently. Typically, young girls start building relationships based on making connections. Girls talk! Young girls sit on the phones for hours, probably running up their parents’ phone bill, to share experiences and secrets as well as discuss problems and possible solutions. Boys, in contrast, do not focus much on building relationships.  Boy-friend groups tend to be centered around activities rather than talking. Boys connect and become friends over things like sports or video games. These early differences in socialization cause young girls and boys to grow up with different interpersonal approaches.  Men’s and women’s  different interpersonal styles make it hard to communicate between genders, especially in a work environment. Understanding gender communication differences makes it easier for men and women to reach a common ground.

Understanding the Differences

Nonverbal Communication. Gender differences in nonverbal communication are often a result of differing purposes for communication. John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, states that men generally communicate to transmit information and solve specific problems, while women usually communicate to express feelings and achieve emotional intimacy. Consequently, men and women tend to develop different nonverbal communication styles.

When it comes to nonverbal communication, women are expressive. The article “Do Men & Women use Nonverbal Communication Differently?” by David Carnes states that women use facial expressions to “convey their meaning on the intensity of their feelings.”   Women provide eye contact as a means to establish an emotional connection. Women typically use nonverbal communication more than men, and as a result they are effective at picking up on non-verbal cues. The same article states that men, on the other hand, are less expressive: “they are more conservative in facial movement and body contact.” [1] Men often require spatial distance; this space is what allows them to exert physical presence and maintain their masculine dominance.  Men also prefer face-to-face contact to maintain that spatial proximity.

Verbal Communication. Like I said before, girls love to talk. Author of the book You Just Don’t Understand, Deborah Tannen, states that females “use conversation to negotiate closeness and intimacy.”  In contrast she states that for boys, “conversation is the way you negotiate your status in the group and keep people from pushing you around; they use talk to preserve their independence.”  Differences in verbal communication have a lot to do with the way that boys and women are initially socialized.  Boys typically grow up playing games such as video games and sports. These games require low communication, with the ultimate goal of seeing who the best is. Girls tend to grow up playing games such as house, jump rope and hand games. Girl games require more team-oriented interaction and detailed conversation; this being the reason girls tend to talk more.

Relationships vs. Goals. With the need for intimacy women are typically relationship-oriented. They have a need to develop strong relationships.  Forbes’  “4 Skills that Give Women a Sustainable Advantage over Men” states that women seek to be relationships specialists.  The article alludes to the tendency for women to focus on healthy, long-lasting relationships.  The article further states that “women are masters at facilitating connection points between people, resources, and relationships.”  Men, on the other hand, are goal-oriented. Their eyes are on the prize.   John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, says “a man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results.” These two different objectives can often cause a problem when men and women work together, especially in a team setting. While women are more concerned with building relationships and coming to solutions collectively, men are more concerned with making sure they offer the best solution first.

Self Value.  According to Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., of the Business Analyst Times, women have to feel cherished. They need to feel like they are an important factor within the workplace.  Men want to feel needed.  These differences in needs originate, as before, from the way we are socialized. Culture teaches men to be the providers and the protection for their families. Therefore, they typically are most content when they can fulfill their role as a provider for those in need. Women are typically socialized to nurturer or the care-giver of the family. Cherishment is reinforcement of that role.

Along with being cherished, women demand respect. They feel the need to make sure they are being well respected and taken seriously in all situations. Because of this need, women tend to exert their power, which can sometimes be mistaken by men as being too aggressive or overly emotional. Men want appreciation and admiration. Men strive to achieve results so that can be admired by their counterparts.  Men’s desire to be admired often makes them overly confident and arrogant to many women. This further complicates the communication process between men and women.

So where do we go from here?  We must recognize that men and women do have communication differences.  These distinctions are often a result from the different ways in which we are socialized. We shouldn’t take certain gestures or words from the opposite sex to heart, because there is a big possibility we just don’t understand them.  The article “Closing the Gender Gap: Communication Styles of Women vs. Men” by Beverly Y. Langford offers some solid ground rules for interacting with the opposite sex. Hopefully, you will take them into consideration next time you interact with the opposite sex. Remember we all can’t be crazy; we just have to take the time to understand each other.

Ground Rules for Women
Here are Langford’s points to remember when communicating with men:

  • Don’t misread certainty as an unwillingness to discuss. Challenge the authoritative statement.
  • Minimize hedging. Realize that it can undermine your authority.
  • Be brief. Not many men think women don’t talk enough.
  • Hold your ground. If your male colleague interrupts you, politely remind him that you weren’t finished.

Ground Rules for Men
Try Langford’s communication tactics:

  • Don’t misread hedges or frequent questions as uncertainty.
  • Take time to build relationships.
  • Never patronize or talk down to your female colleague.
  • At times, ask rather than tell.
  • Remember that “please” and “thank you” go a long way in establishing rapport

[1] http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/10-ways-men-women-comminucate-differently.htm

November 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm 2 comments

The Bloomberg Way: Chairman Peter Grauer’s Insights on Successful Leadership

By Reddin Woltz

Peter Grauer is a successful leader. As chairman and CEO of Bloomberg LP, he leads his 10,000 colleagues by example.

Throughout his ongoing career, Grauer founded an investment firm, served as a managing partner at Credit Suisse, and served on the board of directors for over 20 companies. Grauer has dedicated himself to Bloomberg since 2001.

In his September 2012 presentation to Kenan-Flagler Business School students, Grauer gave advice on how to work with and lead a team. So what is his formula for success? Keep reading.

Hard Work

Looking at a successful person who seems to have it all, we might dismiss his or her success and attribute it solely to a lucky break or a fluke; but Grauer asserted that one cannot achieve success without drive and determination. In his presentation, Grauer cautioned, “Don’t think you’ll get rich overnight. There is no substitute for hard work.”

Having interned for Bloomberg LP, I can attest that employees work diligently, efficiently and frequently. Bloomberg values its employees and rewards their dedication and contribution. Grauer is a firm believer in rewarding employees’ successes to promote a productive workplace.

Humility

Grauer exhibited modesty in his opening to the audience by referring to how his stomach flipped and his heart pounded as he stood to present to KFBS students.

Humility in business is important because companies are founded on collaboration. Regardless of the industry, teamwork is crucial to corporate success. No one person will ever master every skill needed to run a company, and everyone will eventually need help. The key to solid leadership is to remain humble in success and appreciative of assistance.

“Trees don’t grow to the sky—we have to be humble about what we do,” said Grauer. Humility at Bloomberg is necessary; Grauer noted that the men and women he works with never know how good they are until he tells them.

Collaborative teamwork among modest employees is the key to Bloomberg’s success. The company culture fosters humility through its flat corporate structure. All employees, from managers to interns, work side-by-side, and all of the meeting rooms have glass walls. Employees do not have official titles.

The idea behind how Mayor Bloomberg created the unique work atmosphere was to foster a productive environment that discouraged hierarchy and encouraged team collaboration. Thus, humility at Bloomberg is necessary.

Clarity of Vision

Solid leaders have clarity of vision and the ability to relay their expectations to co-workers. Because Bloomberg runs on collaboration, leaders must clarify what they want from a colleague so that they can do their job. If an employee is unclear on what the manager needs, how can they deliver a successful product?

Grauer asserted that leaders are responsible for clarifying their goals and then communicating them to their team.

Luck

Grauer attributes part of his role as Chairman of Bloomberg to his daughter and her desire to ride horses at the age of six. As a loving father, he found the closest stables to New York City and took his daughter for her first lesson. Grauer stood watching his daughter in her lesson when a man walked up and introduced himself; his name was Michael Bloomberg.

“It’s all about being in the right place at the right time,” said Grauer.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Goldwell discusses how luck—a serendipitous meeting, for example—plays a part in most success stories. Hard work is still a large part of the equation for success, but Grauer believes that luck has a hand in success.

Relationships

Chance, and their daughters’ love of horses, brought Grauer and Bloomberg together at those stables over 25 years ago, but the men developed their relationship into a friendship and ultimately a business partnership. In 1996, Bloomberg asked Grauer to join his Board of Directors and, in 2001, Bloomberg named Grauer the chairman.

Despite his status, Grauer spends time reminding his co-workers of their importance to the company. He spends as much time as possible with his co-workers in order to build relationships and encourage interaction. His office, like those of all Bloomberg employees, is open and makes him accessible to everyone because Grauer believes in the power of building relationships among colleagues.

“Never underestimate the development of relationships,” said Grauer.

Through heeding his own advice, Grauer is a successful leader, and, by instilling these characteristics in his employees, he has made Bloomberg the top financial data company in the world.

Photo Credit: Jessica Newfield, MBA 1st Year, Kenan-Flagler Business School

November 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm 1 comment

Public Speaking, Anyone?

By Valerie Eng

Having just returned from a weekend at American University in Washington, D.C., for a Mock Trial tournament, I feel compelled to share my experiences with public speaking.  I’ve always been involved with public speaking of some form – competing in speech competitions as a child and working towards law school as a student.  I’ve consistently thought that I conquered the art of oratory and that my peers found this art as thrilling as I did.  Recently, I quickly learned the flaws in both these assumptions.

I have by no means mastered public speaking as I’m always learning new ways to improve.  So, please take this post for what it’s worth – an undergraduate writing about her experiences.  The following points are merely those that challenge me and those that make me love the art of public speaking.  To reassure you that my ideas are at least half legitimate, I’ve also sprinkled in some supporting references to The Wall Street Journal articles.

“Quit slouching.”  For as long as I can remember, my parents have showered me with orders like this one and “Stop shaking your legs” and “Don’t roll your eyes at me when I’m talking to you.”  While I resented them as a child, I am incredibly thankful that my parents raised me with the fundamental rules of posture.  Effective posture surprisingly can lead to feeling and sounding more confident.  In “Improving Your, Um, You Know, Public Speaking,” Elizabeth Garone reasserts private coach Jezra Kaye’s advice of standing up even for interviews via Skype.  Not only does your posture send your audience nonverbal signals, it also makes you aware of how you appear.

Nervousness vs. Adrenaline.  Before my first tournament, my Mock Trial coach in high school reassured me that nervousness was good to an extent.  Since then, I’ve calmed myself and others by remembering that we can transform nervousness into adrenaline that keeps us sharp.  Garone cited public speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite’s parallel between public speaking and competitive sports.  We can treat our nervous energy like “the adrenaline rush athletes get before a big race or competition.”  The initial nervousness overwhelms some people, but it can be manipulated, with practice, for the better.

What do you want to hear from me right now?  If I had a nickel for every time I wanted to ask my audience that question, I’d be rich.  Within the past couple of years I realized how crucial it is to gauge what your audience wants to hear.  When preparing speeches, keep in mind who is your audience and in what context are you speaking.  Ultimately, people want to feel special and to hear things with which they can relate.  In her article “The Gift of Gab,” Barbara Haislip recommends sticking to real life – using actual examples whenever possible.  While I find myself speaking in the courtroom, which is not the typical setting for many, I still reassert Haislip’s advice.  Your audience, after all, is the purpose of your presentation.

I love public speaking and realize I am probably one of the few.  The many different facets of this art make it an incredibly dynamic one.  Mock Trial challenges me to think on my feet and to present my ideas eloquently; these challenges are why I have competed in Mock Trial for over five years now.  However, nearly everyone in the professional world today deals with public speaking in some way.  Thus, I hope you finish reading this post of mine with a newfound passion for oratory.  Or at least an awareness of some useful tips.

November 16, 2012 at 7:58 am 2 comments

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